On Balance: Beta patch 2.505 is live!

October 30, 2008

It’s been a really long time coming, but Relic finally saw fit to release the 2.505 patch for the balance beta. So few players play the beta that it seems almost pointless — more players are simply trying to find ways around the most OP tactics in retail COH. Who can blame them — you want to play the game when your life gives you time, you don’t want to wait 20 minutes in automatch in the beta. Anyway, my journalistic instincts were aroused by the timing of Relic’s 2.505 release. Right on the day Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 was released… hmmm…

Moving right along, here’s the changes in 2.505. A few additional balance changes have been tacked on since Relic released the tentative changelog weeks ago.

v2.505 10/29/2008

Online
– Further optimizations & fixes to the new network code.

Fixes
– Fixed some issues with Repair Station Engineers.
– Fixed a number of quite obscure in-game crashes.

Audio
– Fixed incoming projectile sounds.
– Collisions between physics objects now produce material-specific sounds. *this system is not perfect, and is meant to supplement the regular destruction audio (ie: a sound will not play for every collision, only those with a large enough velocity/mass). It’s fun to push around debris with vehicles though.
– Check out the Nebelwerfers… can you say Katyusha?
– Reduced volume on BAR to sit better in the mix, as well as many other smaller mix refinements.

Note: Due to technical reasons, some of the audio changes listed in the last patch didn’t make it in (ie. distant arty), but they are included in this one.

Gameplay
– Removed Riflemen Veterancy bonuses granted through researching grenades
– Adjusted cost of British Glider HQ to 200 MP from 100 MP
– Adjusted cost of American HMG Nest to 200 MP/15 Fuel from 240 MP/10 Fuel
– Reduced cost of Firestorm to 160 munitions from 175 munitions
– Reverted cost of Wehrmacht Panzer IV back to 80 Fuel
– Adjusted MP40 medium range accuracy to .45
– At Vet 2, Volksgrenadiers get a +10 sight range addition.
– When a Wehrmacht Bunker is upgraded to Medic Bunker/MG Bunker/Repair Bunker, it can no longer be garrisoned.
– All Panzer Elite Vehicle veterancy curves now escalate (previously many obtained veterancy 2 much slower than they would obtain veterancy 3)
– All Panzer Elite Soldiers obtain Veterancy 3 at a slightly slower rate (they’ll now have to kill 2 more Engineers)
– Wehrmacht Sdkfz 234 Armoured Car Weapon Range bonus at Veterancy 2 replaced with a Sight Range bonus
– Wehrmacht Panzerfaust no longer deal double bonus damage to American and Commonwealth Heavy Armoured Vehicles
– Wehrmacht Knights Cross Holder Entities now capable of camouflaging
– Commonwealth AT Armor Piercing Round ability will now only show up for Commonwealth Players
– American AT and MG gun Armor Piercing Round abilities now will only show up for an American Player

Maps
– Road to Montherme – Fixed the garrison problem with the upper wooden bunker near left VP
– Road to Montherme – Replaced the lower building near right VP to balance building capacity and fix garrison/shooting problems

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Red storm rising

October 29, 2008
This game would sell faster if a bottle of Hammer and Sickle vodka was included...

This game would sell faster if a bottle of Hammer and Sickle vodka was included... EA could call it the Socialist Edition!

Like most self-respecting RTS fans, I’m at this moment playing and loving the hell out of Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3. Having been a long time Red Alert fan, I’m just eating up the hammy action — good God does every actor ham it up in spectacular fashion! It’s just awesome.

I don’t want to write a whole review here on Rifles Ready!, but I’ll just venture to say you should probably consider getting this game. It’s a blast and the graphics are even more gorgeous than in C&C 3. The whole package has been done so many times before, even by Electronic Arts alone, but EA has managed to shine the C&C RTS to a mirror polish after so many iterations. That benefits RA3 considerably, and it feels very solid and fun straight out of the box.

I’ll be swinging back into the thick of things in a couple days, after the thrill of arcade-like tank and infantry battles get boring. COH’s signature 1% health bug on armor will soon seem refreshing rather than frustrating.


Battle Report: Nystrom vs. SayNotoStim, redux

October 29, 2008
REPLAY: Nystrom (Airborne) vs. SayNotoStim (Terror) RETAIL 2.301
Stim wins via overall army tonnage.

Stim wins via overall army tonnage.

The first match between blast-from-the-past legend Nystrom and current pro SayNotoStim wasn’t quite the thrilling slugfest everyone expected. Nystrom teched to tanks, but too slowly to have any real effect. To quote Nystrom himself, “I was a noob with my tanks.” Yes, you were, my friend. But all that is past and gone, for these two champs slug it away a second time on Angoville.

It’s a better match this time, more evenly rounded in the early game, but it’s like an arm wrestling match that lasts a long time: one guy is clearly winning, but his opponent puts up a meteoric effort, lasting a long time but never able to reverse the tide.

Nystrom opens with a little wire and swings right; Stim goes left and builds a sandbag or two near the high fuel to give his Pioneers an edge over any Engineers. This is quite common in maps where the first thing you do is go for a valuable resource point in an open area. Early fights are often very important, particularly in high-level play, where few mistakes are made, meaning each small mistake puts a player behind for a long time, because it will take a long time for a good opponent to slip up and make things even. Having a sandbag also means you can cap while benefitting from green cover, which somewhat offsets the extra damage your squad takes while capping. This is great for stalling just long enough to cap that high resource point, meaning that even though you’re forced to retreat, your opponent must first decap it and is delayed.

Moments later there’s a very instructive early fight at the top left high ammo point, just at the mouth of Nystrom’s base. Stim has a Volk squad, a bike and a Pioneer. Nystrom has one Rifle squad and one Engineer. He is outgunned. Both players target their opponent’s weakest unit, the unit most likely to die quickly to massed fire before it can be retreated: the Pioneer/Engineer. This is a great way to reduce early game capping power, plus it prevents synergy from happening because a dead Pio or Engy can’t repair bikes or Jeeps. Unfortunately, Volks and a bike do a ton of damage when focused on a single target, and Nystrom’s Engy takes extra damage while it tries to charge closer to Stim’s Pio. This quickly causes Engineer squad members to drop, and Nystrom is forced to retreat. Both armies here have equal yellow cover, and with his Engy gone, Nystrom knows his single squad won’t last long under that combined fire. But this is a pro we’re talking about here. He wouldn’t leave a squad fighting a fight it can’t win for no good reason.

His refusal to retreat the first Rifle becomes obvious: Rifle squad number two approaches from the rear and now Stim is solidly outgunned. The good thing about yellow cover from bushes is that it’s omni-directional. Terrain elements like walls, fences or vehicle carcasses only protect your men if your men are BEHIND them. But if your squad is in the middle of bushes and foliage, they’re considered in cover regardless of the direction of attack. But of course this small advantage isn’t enough for Stim to win; he retreats. This tiny little skirmish illustrates a lot of concepts crucial to COH (or any RTS, really): 1.) focus-firing the right target at the right time, 2.) retreating a wounded unit at the right time, and 3.) equalizing a fight however you can, so you don’t give up territory needlessly.

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Review: Black Book (DVD)

October 27, 2008

Photobucket I’m no movie critic, neither am I qualified to give opinionated advice on the tricks of the trade on movie-making (even though I minored in documentary film-making back in university days). But if there’s one art house war flick you need to watch before 2008 starts stirring in its grave, do yourself a favour and go rent Black Book.

It was one of those cold winter nights not three months ago when I was channel surfing on my cable network. This might be a gross understatement but I’m assuming anyone who plays COH has a remote interest in all things war-related. Or more specifically, events in the last Great War. The Black Book had just started and I sat through it because of several premises (which I’ll use as my brief review as I am no Roger Ebert):

Firstly, the plot. A Jewish lady survives a botched escape attempt from Nazi-occupied Netherlands and starts working with Dutch resistance fighters. She infiltrates the Gestapo HQ and starts a relationship with a high-ranking German officer. What happens next? Now if this hasn’t gotten you excited and driving down to Blockbusters, I don’t know what will.

Secondly, most WW2-related movies we’re aware of are churned out by the mega-production factory that is Hollywood. That means a whole load of pro-USA movies. The Black Book barely makes any reference to the Americans, and the story is told from the Dutch point of view. If I dare add, half the movie’s focused within the confinements of the Gestapo HQ. Great eye candy.

Thirdly, the Black Book was Carice van Houten’s big break. An established actress in the European circles, it was this performance as Rachel Stein that caught director Bryan Singer’s attention as he casted Carice opposite Tom Cruise in this American summer’s blockbuster Valkyrie. Coincidentally, Valkyrie’s plot is set against the backdrop of WW2.

Oddly enough, I could not find a copy of Black Book at my local dvd store. A great movie like this needs to be part of my dvd collection.

Go check it out guys.


Shooting down Henschel overflights

October 26, 2008

This is a little random, but somebody mentioned the other day they weren’t sure if the Panzer Elite’s Henschel ground-attack planes could be shot down by Allied anti-aircraft fire. Well, they sure can. Check out this clip from the retail version (where Henschel accuracy is badly bugged). My friend and I had bottled two British players into the middle of St. Hilaire, and kept attacking with heavy armor. NOTE: Sorry for the bad bass, I had my speakers turned up. Won’t happen again.

I had so much ammo I could spam Henschel patrols as soon as they cooled down. With the Henschel’s guns bugged, the planes will shoot totally random targets, which means a cluster of British buildings, armor and even infantry can be hit, as well as neutral buildings.

Two Henschels go down to the two British Bofors; one hits a Vickers nest and takes out some kind of building (I forget which one). This HAS to be annoying for Allied players; even more so when Relic releases the balance patch and Henschels can shoot straight again.


Review: Band of Brothers (DVD set)

October 24, 2008
Which one of these actors is actually British?

Which one of these actors is actually British?

Nothing quite shouts “World War II epic!” as loudly as HBO’s now-legendary television miniseries, “Band of Brothers.” Based on historian Steven Ambrose’s nonfiction novel of the same name, “Band of Brothers” is probably the finest 12 hours of World War II cinema you’ll ever watch. It’s based on the actual historical exploits of Easy Company, a paratrooper outfit that was part of the 101st Airborne. What makes this series stand out is the very deliberate attempt to avoid cliche and Hollywood histrionics. It’s not Tom Hanks and Tom Sizemore (Hanks is involved in a producer/director role) storming the beaches to save Private Matt Damon — it’s a bunch of no-name actors who act like real men fighting a real war, not actors quivering with heroism. Don’t get me wrong, Saving Private Ryan is a great film that avoids plenty of cliches itself, but the limitations of a two or three-hour film up against a 12-hour mini-series are very apparent when you compare the two.

For the record, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg helmed both Ryan and “Brothers,” but it’s clear they saw what the former lacked and used the latter to complete their tribute to the soldiers that liberated a continent and gave America its claim to being a beacon on a hill.

“Brothers” manages to highlight America’s contribution to history by never mentioning it in a blatant manner. There are no speeches about freedom, justice and the American way — instead there are a bunch of guys who complain about having to go on patrols. Guys who recognize that at least 50% of the war involved small, pointless skirmishes that cost many lives for no real gain. Guys who have to dig foxholes in the snow, shit in them, sleep in them, then wake up the next morning to charge into a deafening maw of fire from Flak 88s, mortars, MG42s and Tiger tanks.

That’s what happens in this 10-minute clip of “Brothers” — and I guarantee you’ll want to read the rest of this review.

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Site Update: What it feels like to get robbed

October 24, 2008
Photo just for show. Reporters cannot afford Jaguar convertibles.

Photo just for show. Reporters cannot afford Jaguar convertibles.

Sorry for the slow updates this week, but the night before last, some person or persons unknown smashed the windshields of more than 40 cars on my street. They rifled through glove compartments and were apparently stealing only name-brand GPS units. Both my car and my parent’s van had their windows smashed; they left my off-brand GPS lying on the seat but stole my old man’s Magellan GPS unit. So, between giving the cops a statement and filing lost items reports, and cleaning up a driveway and two carfuls of broken glass, I have been unable to really post anything on Rifles Ready!, for which I apologize. Nevertheless, with the weekend nearly upon us, I do have assorted material planned.

First off, there’s a review of the HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers,” which I’ve owned for a long time but have been waiting to review. Then there’s a rematch between Nystrom and SayNotoStim, both players fresh and feisty from their first match, which Stim won.

So sit tight, sports fans!