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Monday, October 15, 2007

Christmas Comes Early

This was a good weekend for gamers - Valve drops the Orange box and Epic releases their "demo beta" for Unreal Tournament III (I'd say demo and beta is redundant, but I guess some people need reminding that demos are rarely final code).

The Cheapbox++ can play UT3 at about 800x600 with a framerate decent enough for online matches. That's to say, for those scoring at home, that it has a decent margin of requirements over that of BioShock. This isn't terribly surprising - Epic always pushes the hardware as much as they can on their releases. I got my old Radeon 9700 specifically to play UT2004. This time, though, I'd probably me more likely to wait out until I get a 360 or PS3 than to spend any more money on the PC. The Cheapbox should be sufficient to do any modding on the game, should I fancy, even if it isn't going to the show the game in all its glory any time soon.

UT3 essentially plays like a pretty version of UT2004 - which is to say a lot considering UT2004 still looks good three years later. I'm not thrilled with some of the new vehicle mechanics (the Scorpion doesn't feel like it is as much fun to drive and some of the trucks are downright difficult) and the team glow feels somewhat annoying to me (not to mention a concession to the pro gamer crowd). Still, should the console implementation be solid enough - I see no reason why UT3 shouldn't be a worthy alternative to Halo 3 ... especially once the campaign mode hits.

I spent most of my time this weekend with Team Fortress 2, however. It's a rather remarkable upgrade on the old classic, maintaining all the original fun while giving it a great new design and few new tricks as well. Plays great on the Cheapbox too, which is definately another draw for me. I think I finally got the hang of the Engineer (its now my highest scoring class) - but the real fun of TF was always trying to jump between role to role to see how your tactics change with the game.

Two complaints - it needs more maps and it is buggy as hell. The biggest problem with the map glut is that if you get a team of people who have played certain ones enough, the game is over before it even begins. With some maps if the team knows how to get to a specific point and get a turret built - while the other team is floundering around wondering where the control point is ... well, might as well go make a sandwich.

And while I've only hit a few bugs while actually playing the game - the bugs around the browsing and loading functions are numerous. If I swap to headphone settings on the audio, for instance, I lose all audio until I flip it back and restart the app. The game browser doesn't refresh properly on load, I have to manually force it to refresh right away to see any servers. Plus, if I do anything at all during a level change, there's a decent chance that the whole game locks up and I have to kill the process.

It's a great game and lots of fun - but Valve needs to throw some resources and fix it. It doesn't feel finished to me right now.

And yes, this is really RegularX's blog.

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