Visually, the game has very high production values. Terrain looks realistic, the environments are fantastic, players are rendered well, and weapon special effects look like they’re supposed to. Similarly, the game’s sound is satisfying and immersive. However, I found that the user interface, while adequate, could easily have been improved upon – for example, the mini-map is a little small, the icons to determine friend from foe are unintuitive, and there’s a bit of a learning curve when figuring out what sort of commands a player has been issued by his commander, or where he should be going on the battlefield.
And that brings me to one of my big gripes about this game – Nuclear Dawn has no playable tutorials at present. Even though there are a few excellently composed video tutorials that explain the basics, I personally have always found short playable tutorials to be vastly superior to videos in regards to introducing a player to the features of a game, such as the user interface, controls, gameplay design, class handling, and others. For a game like Nuclear Dawn, which has a fairly unique command structure and RTS gameplay element, I find the lack of playable tutorial to be inexcusable, and an unnecessary handicap that new players must overcome in order to really sink into this game.
With that aside, the gameplay itself is still highly enjoyable, albeit a little unremarkable. The basic concept of gameplay is similar to what may be expected in a typical shooter – each team fights for control of various strategic points, and each point yields a value over team, helping your team to turn the tide of battle, and ultimately win the war. This somewhat tried and true formula is spiced up through the implementation of build-able defensive structures, though I personally felt like the developers could have pushed the envelope a bit more with the introduction of a few more destructible buildings. As it stands, the battlefield just doesn’t quite seem dynamic enough, and the buildings that a commander can construct are visually underwhelming at best.
Nuclear Dawn has four standard classes, each of which has access to a number of different load-outs. As an example, the light class can choose either a light machine gun “infiltration” kit, or switch to a long range sniper build. Unfortunately, beyond being able to select different load-outs and minor item tweaks, there really isn’t much depth to the customization available to a player – which, for a game like this, is a real shame. However, it’s important to note that each of the four classes serve surprisingly well defined and balanced roles, and help give the game something of a rock-paper-scissors sort of feel. Heavy beats medium, Medium beats light, light beats heavy, and support does what it can to keep everything from falling apart.
Nuclear Dawn does have an unlock system, enabling the player to level up, earn new enhancements for their weapons and devices, as well as gain unique achievements along the way. Each match played yields experience points, and what the player accomplishes in a mission determines how much experience they earn – as an example, killing other players yields a small amount of experience, while killing a player with a headshot yields more. Similarly, the player gains experience for completing tasks, capturing points, and destroying enemy infrastructure. There are about 60 levels at present, so even hardcore players will find themselves capable of spending many hours working on unlocking all of the game’s content.
The lifeblood of any multiplayer shooter is in variety, and unfortunately, Nuclear Dawn feels woefully lacking in that department, especially in regard to map variety and distinction. At the time this review was written, only a handful of maps are available, and each map available is thematically very similar – tight winding corridors through vaguely urban settings, with chest high boxes scattered throughout. I feel that the lack of map diversity really handicaps Nuclear Dawn, because, after all – there’s only so much fun that can be derived from playing a set of maps that all play the same. Hopefully future maps employ a little more vertical design, and break away from the hardline symmetrical corridor combat, maybe even adding a few maps that have a more open feel to them.
With my criticisms aside, I would like to reiterate that I feel Nuclear Dawn is a refreshingly polished product, making excellent use of the Source engine. I didn’t encounter any glaring bugs, never once crashed out of the game, and truly can’t remember seeing any oddities regarding graphics or physics. The controls are responsive, intuitive, and simple, while the gameplay itself is easy to understand and easier to enjoy, even if playing Nuclear Dawn gives the overall feeling that the whole thing could somehow be improved upon. The game also comes with all the major features considered to be standard in a modern shooter, such as iron-sight aiming, a sprint button, realistic ballistics, and momentum / crouching effecting accuracy, giving Nuclear Dawn an overall modern feeling to it.
All things considered, I would say that I think Nuclear Dawn will be a difficult sell at the current price-tag. In this era of gaming, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see either the price come down or even more likely, see the developers adopt a free-to-play business model for this game, similar to Global Agenda, League of Legends, or Team Fortress 2. Furthermore, so far as I’m concerned, Nuclear Dawn would be an absolutely perfect title for the free-to-play market, and because of that, I’d say the game is still worth buying if you’re interested in a different gameplay experience.
Is Nuclear Dawn a game for everyone? No, probably not – but it’s certainly original enough to warrant any gamer’s time, and fun without a doubt – even if it’s impossible to ignore that this is a game with room to grow.
|Great game. Fun to play and above average in quality. You should try it.An ambitious game with high production values, though still leaves a little to be desired.|
E3 will likely be known as the shooter’s show. The best games on display were all games involving the aiming and firing of weapons in one way or another. And while it was incredibly hard to leave behind any of the titles on display this year, we feel this list best exemplifies the absolute prime examples from the show floor. We can only hope they all turn out as compelling when they’re actually released in more than demo-form. Without further ado, here is FPSGuru’s Best of E3 2011.
Best of Show: Bioshock Infinite – Irrational Games
We were all set to give this to Battlefield 3… until 4pm on Wednesday when we sat down to see Bioshock Infinite in action. Words don’t do this game justice (though there are plenty here), and we feel we’ve just barely scratched the surface of what Irrational Games’ next masterpiece has to offer. From the art direction to the animations, the voice work, and the sheer sense of exhilaration and awe to be had aboard the Columbia this is a game to safely get excited for.
Best Multiplayer: Battlefield 3 – DICE
Move over Call of Duty… the original bad boy of modern warfare is back. Battlefield 3 is poised to dominate the competitive shooter market when it launches, and after getting our mitts on it at this year’s E3 we can understand why. Everything from the tweaked classes, controls, and destructible environments make every single second of combat in BF3 a heart-pounding experience. I for one can’t wait to see how the returning use of jet air-fighters makes a difference.
Best Concept: XCOM – 2K Marin
The original X-Com was loved by many, but forgotten over time. 2K Marin is bringing the venerable alien invasion series back to the forefront of gaming with an intriguing blend of RPG, RTS, and FPS and it simply has to be seen to be understood. Throw it all into an idyllic 1960’s America torn apart by the unknown Outsider forces and you have the makings of a true classic. Let’s just hope all the pieces stay in place through to launch.
Best Visuals: RAGE – id
It’s a little silly, because I’m pretty sure RAGE has been winning this award across media outlets for a while now, but id’s Tech 5 engine is capable of some truly stunning visuals. RAGE is an extremely fun game in its own right, but the world and its characters deserve special mention this year. Seeing it all in an actual gameplay environment makes the entire staff here at FPSGuru pretty confident that October 4th is going to be a good day.
Best Sequel: Prey 2 – Human Head Studios
Let’s face it; sequels are kind of the lifeblood of the industry. But it’s no secret that some sequels are up to snuff while others leave a bad taste in our mouths. Well at this year’s E3 there was one sequel which made everyone take notice because of just how greatly it expands and improves upon its predecessor. Prey 2 from Human Head Studios ditches the linear adventure of Tommy from the first game, and instead thrusts the player into the role of a former US Air Marshall turned Alien Bounty Hunter in a city that would make Ridley Scott very proud. It’s massive, it’s epic, it’s “insert buzzword here”. Human Head and Bethesda could strike gold when this comes out in 2012.
Biggest Surprise- Hedone – Acony
We reserve this spot for the game which kind of jumped out and surprised us the most at E3. Developed by German studio Acony, from the ashes of the recently cancelled Parebellum, comes a fantastic concept for a F2P online shooter called Hedone. Basically in the game cloning has been perfected so that when you die your whole mind can be uploaded to a fresh new body and this discovery leads to the ultimate sport of killing on live TV. Your job as a player will be to take part in these officially sanctioned and televised matches and to kill and win with grit and flair. What we saw controlled quite well, and had some pretty gorgeous visuals to boot. The idea is solid, and the game’s in a very playable state. We’re certainly looking forward to seeing more.
Best TPS: Warhammer 40K: Space Marine – Relic Entertainment
I know it might seem like heresy to not put Uncharted 3 in this spot, but simply put: Space Marine stole a lot of our collective drool at this year’s E3. We all know Drake’s next game will be great, but giving credit where it’s due, Space Marine looks to be a massive success for the guys and gals at Relic. There’s just something incredible about laying waste to hordes of orcs with your machine gun and then sawing them in half with your Chainsword… all in glorious Zach Snyder slow-motion.
Most Innovative: Payday: The Heist – Overkill Software
We’ll admit that more than a few jokes concerning the recent hacks ran through our heads when we heard SOE was publishing this co-op online shooter where players break into banks and rob them dry. It’s a pretty simple idea in some respects, but when you play the thing it becomes apparent that this is an idea we should have seen long ago. It’s very dynamic and re-playable with deep and varied skill trees for each player. It’s essentially the lovechild of L4D’s cooperation and Grand Theft Auto 4’s bank robbery mission. In short, it’s a lot of fun and could be very addictive when it launches later this year.
Global Agenda has come a long way since it was first released. Originally designed to be a subscription-based pseudo MMO, the game has since shifted directions and adopted a completely free to play business structure. However, unlike most other so-called ‘free to play’ games, Global Agenda doesn’t cop out with a ‘pay to win’ business structure, nor does it limit what sort of content the player has access to. This is a refreshing change of pace in the world of free to play gaming, and something I hope other developers follow suit on.
But, enough about that, let’s just get right down business.
Global Agenda is a class-based third person shooter, and places a strong emphasis on fast paced team-oriented gameplay. What sets Global Agenda apart from the pack is the use of an excellent melee system, coupled with the fact that every class has access to a jetpack. As a result of all of this, the game bares a striking resemblance to the cult classic shooter Starsiege: Tribes, albeit with generally smaller maps to compensate for the smaller maximum number of players.
Players gain experience from completing matches against other players or the computer, gaining access to new devices and earning additional talent points. There are four classes at present, each with their own unique customizable talent trees and appearances. Each class serves a unique purpose, and all four are capable of playing defensive, support, or assault roles, though each in their own unique way. As an example, the medic class can be spec’d into a support healer role, an offensive plague-bringer role, or a melee hybrid capable of group healing & melee face smashing. Similarly, a Recon can be spec’d to be a dual-wielding, back-stabbing melee beast, a stealthy long-range sniper, or a bomb-chucking, mine-laying maniacal lunatic.
As a man who lives to watch the world burn, I’ll let you guess which of the above examples I play most.
Each class has a limited number of equipment slots, meaning that the player must decide what sort of weapons and devices they bring into battle. This equipment limit plays well with the game’s customizable talent tree, ultimately resulting in players honing their characters to fit their own unique style of play.
The gameplay itself is very well refined, fast paced, and enjoyable. The classes are all properly balanced, every class spec serves a purpose in battle, and the matchmaking system is fantastic at creating balanced matches between players of largely equivalent skill. Jetpacks give the game an extra dimension of combat to exploit, and the maps all reflect the added freedom of movement through the use of tall vertical environments. Melee weapons break up the norm of typical ranged warfare, providing a unique and visceral experience that I have yet to experience in any other shooter, free-to-play or otherwise.
There are currently 50 levels in Global agenda, though one feature that I really appreciate is that leveling up doesn’t mean necessarily mean gaining additional power. While it’s true that the player gains new talent points every so often prior to level 30, the player doesn’t gain flat out extra damage per level, or extra hit points. Instead, the player simply gains access to a broader variety of weapons and devices over time, as well as somewhat improved combat abilities through the use of talents. The end result of this is that a level 10 play is just as capable of topping the scoreboards as a level 20, and that level 30 players are just as good as level 50s.’
While the game does have player vs. environment content, it’s not at all a mandatory aspect of Global Agenda, since leveling and gearing can be done entirely through PVP mercenary matches. However, it’s important to note that crafting materials can only be acquired by either buying them off of the auction house, or by prying them from the cold dead hands of PVE robots. Fortunately, the PVE combat is nicely done, though it can admittedly get a repetitive if you overdo it.’
Currently there are several different forms of PVE gameplay ‘ the player can run a solo dungeon, tackle a dungeon with a group of friends, participate in a dome defense ‘raid’, or roam the desert in an MMO-themed open zone. Each match type offers a different style of play, through the instanced dungeons are the most commonly played PVE types. In addition, the solo & group dungeons can be played under a number of different difficulty settings, with higher difficulty settings posing an extreme challenge, as well as providing the best loot.
There are also several different PVP matches. Players can queue up for 4v4 arenas, participate in the Agency vs Agency global conquest system, or join a casual 10v10 Mercenary match. However, mercenary matches seem to be the most commonly played form of PVP, and consists of several different game types ranging from point defense, capture the robot, payload, and more. Each game type has a host of different maps, and while there’s plenty of variety overall, it would be nice to see a few more maps added. Hi-Rez seems to agree, and has been putting in an effort to release new maps on a semi-regular basis, even if the new maps might not be coming out as frequently as I might prefer.
The graphics are smooth, colorful, and vibrant. Explosions look decent, but are scaled back so that the player doesn’t need a top of the line PC in order to run the game smoothly. The sound is similarly appropriate, and while it won’t be winning any awards any time soon, it’s more than satisfactorily to get the job done.
The user interface is easy to understand for most MMO veterans, but may take a moment or two for FPS gamers to get the hang of. However, the UI as a whole remains surprisingly intuitive, and the built in tutorial does a fantastic job of introducing the player to both the general user interface, as well as the general concepts behind both gear and gameplay. Even a complete gaming newbie should fully understand how to play the game by the end of the short and well-designed tutorial.
The biggest gripe that I have with the Free Agent model is that, while you can play the game to the max level for free, it’s an extremely slow, albeit enjoyable, grind. Paying to play the game solves this problem by increasing the rate at which the player gains experience, credits and loot, as well as granting the player access to the game’s Auction House system. So while paying to play isn’t really mandatory, it does make the overall experience much more enjoyable, and is something I can’t imagine any serious players forgoing.
I’ll also note that a number of veteran shooters who tried Global Agenda with me were pretty vocal about the fact that the game doesn’t have separate hit boxes for head shots. While I can understand their complaint, I just don’t really feel that headshots are required for a game like Global Agenda, especially given the nature of the third-person perspective style of combat. However, despite lacking headshots, the game does at least have back shots, meaning that if a player hits another player in the back with a melee weapon, they’ll deal bonus damage and inflict a secondary effect. As an example, if an Assault player hits an opponent with their fire axe, it will set that opponent on fire.
And I hope we can all agree that the ability to wield a giant flaming axe of doom that incinerates all who stand before you makes up for the absence of headshots, even if only slightly.
Honestly, there’s not much I can say to criticize Global Agenda: Free Agent. It’s a fantastic game, you can play it for free with your friends as long as you want, and while it can get a little repetitive if you play it too much, it’s the type of game that you can play every day and still enjoy it. If you’re looking for a casual shooter that you can play with a group of buddies, do yourself a favor and give Global Agenda a try. You won’t regret it.’