Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Mini-Review

I intended to include this in my post about reaching 100%, but that turned into a story about sneaking into a base armed with trousers.

So here’s the mini-review I was going to include with that.

The good: Controls and gameplay are (for the most part) deliciously smooth, and this strongly complements the organic gameplay possible- attacking a military fortress as a super-soldier with high tech gear plays as fluidly as ambushing an outpost wearing nothing but a pair of trousers. I ended up enjoying the story, but that’s going to be variable for others.

The bad: It’s only 2/3 complete, thanks Konami! Why do I have to stare at the Boss in a chopper every time I want to do something from the ACC? The grind for 100% was tedious, though optional. The animations and controls, while smooth were on occasion a bit slow- I kept getting into AA emplacements rather than fultoning them; and during certain fights, dodging some attacks failed because snake wanted to lie down or/or crawl instead of dive-dodge.

The ugly: At this point I’m not sure if Hideo Kojima is trying to illuminate/draw attention to sexism/misogyny etc, but uh, there were some highly questionable bits.

100% in MGSV:TPP

I finally got there! I have mixed feelings, as I no longer have an excuse to load the game up and mess around; but on the other hand I am happy to be done with some of the slog.

Even towards the end, after a hundred hours the game could still surprise me. I’ll give you a quick example: I was attempting a Subsistence mission (where you start with nothing but a pair of trousers and your wits). Some careful sneaking at an outpost netted me an AK and a bit of ammo, and so armed I went for the main objective- a small base that served as a radio relay station. I dispatched their forward patrol non-lethally and made my way through a pass that lead to a ledge directly above the base.

I do like the non-lethal approach, which has been consistently rewarded by other titles in the Metal Gear series. My normal approach would be to methodically and silently tranquilise the various patrols and guards without arousing suspicion; but with my only ranged weapon being unsilenced this wasn’t an option. Could I lure the guards somewhere secluded and incapacitate them? Perhaps! I made a bit of a movement on the ledge and the guard decided he would run the several hundred meters around the hill and through the pass to get to me. A quick bit of CQC and one down! Okay it took a few minutes but the theory was solid. Another guard was similarly lured.

There my plan stalled. No matter what wild, strange dance I did on that ledge, I couldn’t attract anyone’s attention. It being night probably didn’t help. There was nothing to do — aside from firing my gun, but that would have attracted a little too much attention — but drop down into the base proper. I was able to knock out another guard when I got the harsh musical sting and slowmo (which will forever belong to Max Payne in my head) meaning someone else had seen me. What’s more, they were too far away to silence before the brief window that lets you prevent a full-blown alert closed. Whoopsy.

I was determined to roll with the punches. Even if the punches were in the form of many automatic rifle rounds to the not-armoured-trousers.

So, there was a full-blown alert! I ducked behind the small building housing the objective (some radio comms equipment), peeking out to exchange fire. I soaked up a bit of damage — trousers are not as good armour as you might think — and was seriously considering reloading from checkpoint. But by this point in the game I had already achieved the S rank for the mission (which generally depends on either speed or being super-stealthy or both) so I was determined to roll with the punches. Even if the punches were in the form of many automatic rifle rounds to the not-armoured-trousers.

Combat was faring less well than I hoped. The guards were well-armed and well-armoured. Ducking around one end of the building was rewarded with a warning of a missile lock on me (!), and the other had a shotgun/machine gun duo who were surprisingly effective. I was low on health, low on ammo and lacking a weapon that dealt sufficient damage to those who wished to do me harm. Then I was thrown a bone.

Warning: Sandstorm approaching

A very windy, sandy bone; but a bone nonetheless. Sandstorms limit visibility to about 2 feet, so this was an opportunity to scarper. Which I did, in the direction of a nearby mortar.

In the nigh-on 100 hours of gameplay, I don’t think I’d used a mortar before. They just didn’t mesh terribly well with the whole stealthy-and-non-lethal approach I so heavily favoured. As I could still see marked enemies in the sandstorm, I was able to take out most of the guards that had previously been gunning me with great effect. And some of the guards I hadn’t spotted before and couldn’t see through the sand. And some of the radio transmitters. And the anti-air radar.

Mortars are great!

After that finishing off the last few non-mortally-wounded (or is that non-mortarily-wounded?) soldiers and completing the objective was a relative breeze.

MGSV:TPP had many of these moments, when things didn’t work out the way they were planned; but the outcome was even better than expected.

tl;dr: good game, would recommend.

Closing in (95%)

Nearly there!

It’s getting annoyingly grindy now! I spend most of the time in the chopper, either:

  • deploying to an area to put down capture cages then immediately leaving
  • returning to the medical platform on mother base to hand over photographs

The latter is especially irritating as there’s no indication that you need to do it, and you can’t give all ten photographs at once! So chopper in, run to room, cutscene into room, hand over photo, run back to chopper, leave; repeat.

krusty_groan.wav

I have a sheet of paper that I’m crossing off the things as I do them. It’s slightly illegible due to my broken fingers, but usable.

On “Back up, Back Down”

The gods of irony got together with the gods of gaming after my recent gripe about having to do and redo things in MGSV:TPP:

Some missions have mutually-exclusive objectives – I’m looking at you, Backup, Back Down – so may require more

Well, I played through the “Extreme” version of Back Up, Back Down to do the additional objectives, and the team searching for the prisoner got there, stood around him and then… very kindly didn’t execute him.

So I ran up, stunned them all with a non-lethal assault rifle and fultoned him out! All optional objectives complete.

Seeking 100% in MGS V: The Phantom Pain

I’m getting close to 100% completion of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. I’ve completed the story (more on that in a follow up retrospective when I’m done) and achieved S-rank in all of the missions, which is easier than it seems at first glance. So I’m chasing the other things that need done:

  • achieve S-rank on every main mission

    wait, I said this already, weren’t you paying attention?

  • complete 157 side ops

    most of the time spent on this is taken on getting to the side-ops location; highly repetitive

  • capture / save a specimen of every animal

    Can you say ‘fetch quest’? I thought you could!

  • complete all important combat deployments

    click a button on the menu and wait? sure

  • collect all blueprints

    should be achieved if doing all the other stuff anyway

  • collect all key items

    similarly, most should be gained in the course of things, except the first aid kit (off the top of my head)

  • collect all 10 Paz photographs

    all but one gained via side ops

  • complete all mission tasks

    last but not least! practically speaking, this means missions need ‘around 3’ plays: first time its new, second time for s-rank, and third for the remaining objectives. Some missions have mutually-exclusive objectives – I’m looking at you, Backup, Back Down – so may require more

The final one is probably the biggest time sink; though the side ops come close. a rough guess, I reckon I’ve done all the mission objectives in at least 25% to 40% of missions, maybe more. Some of the objectives take a while, particularly the ones which involve following a target and listening to their conversations.

The Good

Playing without care for rank or speed generally means more fun! The optional objectives reward things that are a little more out of the way to do (like capturing patrolling armoured vehicles, or recovering a blueprint) but are in themselves rewarding.

But the most time-consuming ones, ‘listen to a series of conversations’ I’ve found the most interesting as they reveal more about the plot, so are cool in retrospect. Having completed the story, its a bit like rereading a book and going “oh, so that’s what they were foreshadowing!”.

The Bad

It’s a grind. Redoing things you’ve already done, watching the Boss (in the guise of whichever character) fly into the AO over and over again gets repetitive quickly. I’ve seen Hideo Kojima’s name in the credits more times than I count, though that’s in every mission a few times so is pretty repetitive in itself.

There’s also the nagging feeling that chasing a meaningless number in a game is a huge waste of life, but I try to push that to the back of my mind. I’m having fun!

The Ugly

There are occasional bugs; one mission (Lingua Franca) is prone it it. I’ve also had people/outposts/bases get spooked and never leave the heightened security state, necessitating a restart.

Am I still enjoying playing the game, even though I’ve completed the story? Yes, but only just.

[Fixed] FTL – Blank Maps & Invisible Ships Problem

Update: fixed! The recently-released FTL by Subset Games has a problem with the 12.8 AMD Catalyst Drivers, whereby the jump map and enemy ships are not rendered See below) due to an issue with edge detection in anti-aliasing. The fix is to create a custom profile for FTLGame.exe in the Catalyst Control Center to over-ride the settings (support thread with instructions, and setting).

Example:

FTL Game - Invisible Ship

Update: Now with video!

(yes the overlaps the menu, but there’s not much interesting there anyway!)

Nostalgia is Playing Wipeout 2097 Again

Let me paint a picture for you. It’s 1996. Clinton is in power in the US and can do no wrong, while on this side of the pond John Major’s grip on power is weakening. One bright grey afternoon at my sister and brother-in-law’s flat my sister pointed out a new device on the floor of their living room. “Do you see what we’ve got?”. Not being familiar with the device in question, I asked “A Nintendo 64?”. The reply came smugly: “No… a PlayStation.”. Ace! I’d heard of that! It was supposed to be really cool. “Can I see?”.

So in due course Wipeout 2097 was loaded (I should say wipE’out” 2097, or Wipeout XL for our American friends) and I gazed in awe at the marvellous 3d graphics and smooth gameplay. Soon enough I was playing it myself, even more in awe of the power of this new machine.

So I took a trip down memory lane today and relived my first PSX moment. Despite being very rusty I breezed through the first four levels, but on the final two my lack of practice started to show:

It’s still a really good game, in my opinion. And while the music wouldn’t be my first choice for a lazy Sunday afternoon, it definitely complements the game.

Plain Sight Dedicated Server Crash Fix

Plain Sight was on sale for the staggeringly low £1.60 / £1.20, so I decided to get a copy. It is a very fun, fast-paced game, with lots of great moments – where you pull off an attack a split second before an opponent does the same, or when you detonate just as three people come gunning for you. However, it is not without issues. I am writing this post as I wait for the master server to let me log in and play, and matches will occasionally crash half of the people on the server to the desktop with what looks like an array out-of-bounds exception.

Frustratingly, the dedicated server software itself has problems. One problem occurs even before running – where do you get it from? It is not well-signposted on any of Beatnik Games’ websites. As it stands, you have to go to the members’ area of plainsightgame.com (http://accounts.plainsightgame.com/), where you can download both the server and the client.

(The TLDR version: If you have Steam, use the dedicated server included with that. Strip out whitespace and comments (//) from the example dediconfig.txt on the wiki. If you don’t have Steam or don’t want to faff about, use this zip.)

Now, it is good practice to have an example / default config file available for those that want to just run the server… which the dedicated server zip doesn’t have. So if you run it, it complains about not being able to find the config file and then crashes. Right, no problem, just copy from the wiki page on setting up a dedicated server and paste into the new file dediconfig.txt. Ah, hang on, that crashes the server on launch with a System.FormatException.

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Problem signature:
Problem Event Name: CLR20r3
Problem Signature 01: plainsightserver.exe
Problem Signature 02: 1.0.0.0
Problem Signature 03: 4bc74e1c
Problem Signature 04: mscorlib
Problem Signature 05: 2.0.0.0
Problem Signature 06: 4a275af7
Problem Signature 07: c43
Problem Signature 08: 59
Problem Signature 09: System.FormatException
OS Version: 6.1.7600.2.0.0.256.1
Locale ID: 2057

Stripping out the whitespace and comments lets the server run. I would be more specific, but I can’t actually tell what is causing the problem. It disappeared when I got down to two / one comments, and reappeared when I added another. My debugging skills couldn’t detect any commonality though. Anyway, it runs… briefly. Checking the log file (plainsight.log) shows that it is exiting due to not having the “Updater” directory present. eg:

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0 Connecting to master server(s)...
0 New master server connection status: AwaitingChallenge
633 New master server connection status: VersionCheckFailed
633 New master server connection status: NotConnected
633 New master server connection status: AwaitingChallenge
650 Error Updating: System.IO.DirectoryNotFoundException: Could not find a part of the path 'D:Gamesplainsightdedicated4UpdatercwRsynccwRsync.cmd'.
at System.IO.__Error.WinIOError(Int32 errorCode, String maybeFullPath)
at System.IO.FileStream.Init(String path, FileMode mode, FileAccess access, Int32 rights, Boolean useRights, FileShare share, Int32 bufferSize, FileOptions options, SECURITY_ATTRIBUTES secAttrs, String msgPath, Boolean bFromProxy)
at System.IO.FileStream..ctor(String path, FileMode mode, FileAccess access, FileShare share, Int32 bufferSize, FileOptions options, String msgPath, Boolean bFromProxy)
at System.IO.FileStream..ctor(String path, FileMode mode)
at PlainSightServer.Program.LaunchUpdater()
650 New master server connection status: NotConnected
650 New master server connection status: AwaitingChallenge

Now, you can get this from the directory in your Steam directory that contains the dedicated server (!), or from this zip file: Updater.zip. Now, if you want to continue down this path that’s grand, but for me it *royally* screwed up permissions on that folder, to where I couldn’t even run the server executable file! It is possibly due to the rsync updater running as System / nobody, but even still I feel it’s a bit harsh! Of course, it might just be a Windows 7 thing. Despite that, even when I (think) I had sorted out the permissions, the game was still crashing with an error in KERNELBASE.dll (see below). Eeep. So, what I did at this stage was to make a copy of the Steam version of the dedicated server, copy over my dediconfig.txt file and run that. Then it ran.

For those of you who don’t have Steam, I have created a zip containing the dedicated server with a working dediconfig.txt file: DedicatedServer.zip

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Problem signature:
Problem Event Name: APPCRASH
Application Name: PlainSightServer.exe
Application Version: 1.2.0.0
Application Timestamp: 4c6e7ef9
Fault Module Name: KERNELBASE.dll
Fault Module Version: 6.1.7600.16385
Fault Module Timestamp: 4a5bdbdf
Exception Code: e0434f4d
Exception Offset: 0000b727
OS Version: 6.1.7600.2.0.0.256.1
Locale ID: 2057

Playing The Steam Version of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis

As someone who still has the original floppies for Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (or IJatFoA, it’s easier that way), I thought I’d give the Steam version a whirl. I picked it up (along with The Last Crusade) probably when it was on sale as part of a bundle.

My initial thoughts are: “what have they done to the music?”, “since when did the characters have voices?” and “this is a lot simpler than what I remember playing as a 7 year old”.
Continue reading “Playing The Steam Version of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis”

Little Rocket Man / Get Some Grub

A6BQXSMBXD9S [for Technorati, please ignore]

If, like me, you are looking to round off your Half Life 2 Episode 2 achievements, you’ll want to have a look at the following two guides:

Get Some Grub

Not tricky, just time consuming. Have a look at Nibbles’ guide on GameFAQs (link), which painstakingly walks you through all 333 of the grubs. My advice is to save regularly on different slots, and if the number you have doesn’t match what the guide says you should have, reload. It just saves on headaches further down the road. Should only take you about 3 hours, and that’s if you’re carriny the gnome with you…

…which brings me nicely to:

Little Rocket Man

This one is time consuming as well, but not particularly difficult. Just set him down when fighting and carry him with you the whole way. The tricky parts are the car segments, as the gnome tends to slide out. I would recommend wedging him in the back window; this way he doesn’t slide out while you are driving (unless you hit something, which releases the ‘wedge’. Or you can put him under the steering column and drive slowly.

This is all fine, until you get to the bit with the gunship. Oh, the gunship. It will fire at you and knock the gnome out your hands, hurt you plenty (even on easy), and if it could sspeak I’m pretty sure it would taunt you all the while. What I ended up doing was driving for say 300 metres, getting out, picking up the gnome, carrying him from behind cover (eg under trains), wedging him in, driving for another short bit, leaping out and getting him again, and so forth. The key is cover.

Have a look at Tommy Gun’s guide at Cracked Rabbit Gaming. It gives more useful info, like where you can safely leave the gnome for certain segments.