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   Recently i completed number of games made in ex-Soviet republics (Russia, Ukraine) such as Vivisector, Timeshift, currently going through Collapse and aim to re-play Cryostasis: Sleep of Reason. Add here a Metro 2033/Redux and Metro: Last light (all completed) and i am probably will do a general post about action games of this part of the world.


   But now - Vivisector, or Vivisector: Beast Inside, Beast Within.


   Shortly about a plot, so we can get to the game itself:


   Inspired largely by the movie Island of Lost Souls and the story The Island of Doctor Moreau, which the movie was based on, the game is set in 1987 on a covert military installation on Soreo Island, where a riot has broken out by renegade geneticist Dr. Morhead's experimental human-animal hybrid soldiers against the corrupt general that ordered their creation. It is the player's job, initially, to help the General suppress the riot and regain control of the hybrid soldiers, but the player eventually switches sides against the General halfway through the game.




















   Vivisector is a 2005 first person shooter that have oldschool genes and habits popping out almost everytime enemy appear on a screen, but tries to be modern in other parts of gameplay  - basically it is a mix of Serious Sam/Painkiller with a Far Cry. You start in a tropical enviroment and go through several different places/terrains, while fighting animal-human hybrids (primarily), with small amount of cutscenes time to time breaking the action and very few bosses. 




   During first 20-30 minutes Vivisector tries hard to look like some sort of Serious Sam knockoff - devs put you in a wide semi-open "corridor" of jungles where they literally trap you in a cages periodically and forces to fight in those arenas against first generaltion of modified animals that spawns 20 meters or less from you (they are just animals with weapons glued to them or surgically put inside like tigers with flamethrowers mounted in their mouths teleported right next to player_1 tasty limbs).




   Eash such section is a little bit unique as each time designers add something to those cages, like firerings with cool items in them, with number of lions trapped with a player, firing energy balls at you and running around (so you jump on a lion, ride it until get close to a ring on fire with something cool like M-60 covered in blood and jump through that ring to pick up that cool item) until one of last of them is multi-stage fight with several cages opening after certain stage of fight is completed and last cage moving up into the trees and open a hatch to jump out of it on a tree nearby to dodge flames from tigers on the ground trying to make a human fry out of you.



   After those sections game no loger use those cages/traps and fights/enemy spawns become more organic, without those theatrical performances with cages, arenas created by leaked burning fuel and so on. Main hero goes through jungles, factories and labs, tunnels, mines, diffierent facilities in mountains, fighting with creations of local Dr Nutso and soldiers of General McMilitary, while being guided by a completely uninteresting and pretension plot (devs hired a well-known Russian celebrities and theatrical actors to voice characters). 








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   For 2005 graphics of this game were pretty bad compared to Doom 3, HL2 and Far Cry (all of which were released in 2004), but today it doesn't really mater as game became one of those "one from old times". Technically it is nothing interesting.



   But there is something were Vivisector gets points back - it is art direction\level design. At first player see just standart jungle-like enviroment that looks like it was taken from one of those old Delta tactical/military shooters.



   But after that level designer decided that he is too bored and started to make some not-bad looking and memorable enviroments.
















   Gaint walls that go through big part of a map? Yes. Gaint trains that have size of a skyscraper but put on the side with attached train wheels? Yes! There are many more, but it is better to see them in-game, because graphics is not good, screenshots are not representative.  



   This transforms enviroments from totally bland into rather interesting too behold and i was interestind too see what level designers will do in the next map/mission.



   Vivisector have no reloading of guns, you always run at max speed (not counting upgrades), killing enemies give you health, single/low level enemies with "hitscan" weapons are easy to kill (you can just walk to them bouncing bullets from your steel chest with a knife in hands while laughing and just 1 or 2 hit them with said knife). Sounds familiar?





   This is what Vivisector gameplay is about when you fight low and mid-level monsters. Fights against high-level enemies (Overbeast/Overbrutes IIRC) are less "meaty" and more cover-centered.

   There is a upgrade mechanics that you can use to boost health, resistance to damage, accuracy and speed of your avatar, points are given for finding secrets and for being utterly crazy mothefucker (dealing critical damage to enemy corps in short amount of time after their death gives points - "fatality", multiply kills gives points and so on). Devs want you to not just shoot non-stop, but to continue to fill enemies with shower of bullet during their death animation as well! 

   Murdering monsters and humans in Vivisector is a little less bland that in most B-games thanks to their mechanics that allow to remove flesh and some parts from bodies. And this system is dymanic - holes are generated in real time and are not pre-made pieces that you can shoot out (not counting equipment on bodies like helmets and visors). It also matters for point system - shooting killed enemies give a lot of points, but hits to bones/places that were already damaged don't count.














   You also can shoot weapons from hands of those animal-humanoids to leave tham only with their claws. I wish this system was developed futher, so you could damage some internal mechanism on bigger enemies. Interestingly enough, this gore system makes shooting feels more impactfull (as it leaves traces on their bodies like giant gaping holes in their stomachs).

   Essentially game whants you to sprint around and fire your MG/AR endlessly at enemies until they will become a colander while throwing many points at you. I approve.




   Same system is also applied to boxes with ammo and health - you need to poke a hole in them to get what you want. And if you (or enemies) use those boxes/crates as cover, you (and enemies) can shoot them enough until both sides of those crates have holes big enough to shoot trough them without problem, so Vivisector at times have destructable cover (devs in some levels intentionally put enemies behind such boxes).


   AI and enemies.

   AI is at bare minimum in this FPS. Enemies sometimes strafe left-right trying to dodge fire, sometimes lay on the ground/crouch and that is all. It is not bad for a animal enemies, but when tactical soldiers shouting tactically in their radios some tactics, it is becoming disappointing. After first stage of the Vivisector is completed, spawns switch from arena- teleportation right next to you to more bland trigger-based, spawning scripted amounts of enemies from behind corners, next rooms and so on like in some sort of Call of Duty.

   Monsters variety is pretty good - 3 levels of creatures - animals with mods, Humanoid-furries, Overbrutes. Some are flying, some are big ass bears with tank gun on top of them, some are Tactical furry wolfs with HMGs.

















That is not exactly an enemy, if you will act a little smart.






   Sometimes enemies are humans, but they are mostly boring.



   Vivisector is B-level FPS that tries to annoy you in first 20 minutes, but after you get to Rams (with shotguns) base in mountains, game opens up and start to be creative with enviroments, game mechanics start to work (upgrades are becoming viable, double barrel shotgun and M-60 helps a lot with point grind) and this is where a bland and boring gameplay start to go away (at least for me). Try to get M-60 as early as you can (during that section with lions in arena with firerings), this gun really changes how game feels, which was surprise for me. I guess much higher damage per shot and 300 round belt gives you ability to shower yourself in upgrade points and mow down furries like in a scene of Animal Mother charge from Full Metal Jacket, but with concrete walls of building are replaced by Furries chests. Later devs give you PPSh for maximum communism spreading, and upgrade M-60 to sci-fi rapid fire HMG that fire at least 5 bullets per mouse click because reasons.

   I had fun with it, wish for a second, but with much better engine and budget. Next game of Action Forms - Cryostasis: Sleep of reason, showed that they could get into better graphics and better engine. Recommend to play it if you are in the mood for obscure old-school/old FPS with few interesting things going for it, can ignore uninteresting plot (game allow to skip cutscenes) and bored with some of modern sterile FPS designed by accounting department with team of 100s of people. Vivisector does feel like hand-made action by relatively small amount of devs and have a momentum and even a drive in combat parts. I played on maximum difficulty, but I was replaying it, so normal should be good for newcomers.


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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

So i finished Collapse in mid-december, but only now have a time to write a review.




   Collapse is 3rd person shooter/slasher from Ukrainian game developer Creoteam set in Kiev that suffered some sort of interdimensional monster invasion/cataclysm/Maidan, relased in 2008. You are playing some boring protagonist that use guns and sword to go through enemies to his final destination, as you stumble across some cutscenes with camera work done by somebody drunked. Game is trying really hard too look like a movie, and those cutscenes are there to piece together a non-existant plot about YOU bieng important and connected to that event somehow. Collapse at times is trying so hard to look like a movie that even just pressing "aim button" makes camera not just zoom, but move closer to Rodan while shacking as it was held by invisible asshole guy that can't move camera for a 0.5 meters without misstepping and nearly falling down.



I bet Putin is somehow invloved in all this


   Main hero is a big muscle guy with 100% Ukrainian name Rodan, a 3rd person shooter protagonist that ate Prince of Persia before game event starts, suffer an autism seizures and on top of that have suffered traumatic lobotomy, which may explain why he can't move left or right when crouch. He also stole a piece of armor for his right arm from Gears of War soldiers. And there is a girl that helps you time to time while dressed in vacuum-sealed suit riding oversized motorcycle with exhaust pipes from local steel factory.  





   Game looks not bad for 2008, although majority of the time artdesign is ok-ish at most with very few sections having interesting visual component. Vast majority of time you spend in abandoned and destroyed Kiev after Maidan from other dimension spills in our reality. If you think Stalker, than you will be wrong - Collapse doesn't have such atmosphere as Stalker, it feels like Half-Life 2 knockoff: 

  • Big ass tower in the middle of the city
  • A mix of Soviet-styled buildings in bad shape or abandoned and sci-fi looking structures mixed together
  • City underground and remote places filled with alien-looking monsters
  • Linear levels
  • You fight with soldiers in military-grade gear that look kind of sci-fi 
  • Even lighting is somewhat similar - temperature of sunlight is close to HL2 





   Sometimes main hero goes to other places, like undeground research bases, perimeter walls, etc., which add a bit of variety:

















Orange and blue. How original.




   Levels are detailed,  most of the time they looks pretty good. Some of them are set in real places like Independance square, or Kiev railroad station (although it was rather bland-looking). Overal, visually Collapse is slightly above average as some nice-looking and a little bit atmoshperic places are mixed with totally bland and quickly-made boring sections. Vivisector had way more moments of "wow, that look dope" (Mountain base, Temple, Train, Factory, trenches to name a few), in Collapse there were probably 2 such wow moments - when you see Perimeter walls with guard towers overlooking vast flooded areas and Big ass HL2-esque tower (and its interiors) in the end of the game. 




   Collapse is 3rd person shooter with couple of slasher genes stuck in it's body for no reason. And some (rather lame for almost half of the game) superpowers. And QTE-based boss fights. It have levels devided in "shooting" bits and "hit those guys with a sword 12 millions times" bits, mixed together awkwardly (will descrbe why this mix is awkward later). Rodan have no idea what cover system is, although map designer, while working on levels, stuck fingers in his ears and yelled "me wants cover based shootah like those Americans have!" and never pulled them out during whole time of game development. Interestingly enough, AI programmer catched a drift and made enemies with guns act as they are in cover based shooter, so they are sticking to walls and boxes while firing from them as in Gears of War and similar.


3 enemies, all in cover and Rodan is in the open. Well, at least getting health points is not really a problem in this game




Screenshot from early biuld. Yes, some cover is destructible



Slasher side o Collapse



   And you may ask why i mention that game lacks cover system and if it matters if player have normal controls. Well, as i mentioned, Rodan apperently is a victim of brain injury and his control scheme is not really intuitive for both shooting bits and slasher bits.


   When bad guys fill a room in front of you, your first reaction will be taking cover, but when you almost reach it (let's say a box) you press crouch button. But resulting action will depend of which moving keys are pressed, if you press strafe keys with move forward, Rodan can deiced that it is time to do a roll instead of just crouching, so you are now in the open and need to go back to box behind main hero. But if you press only forward (IIRC) he will just crouch. Another example is that you can't move left and right while crouch, so Rodan stands up, move left/right and then crouch back. Or jump button - it also changes results of your input if moving keys are pressed. If you press jump and forward Rodan will jump forward (although depending if you have sword or gun equipped he can jump differently, with different animation and distance, height of a jump). But pressing left/right/back and jump will make Rodan roll instead of jump. WHY? 



   Collapse have destructible cover, although only when and where level designer wants.  Example is in pic above, done by using pre-designated parts that when they are hit buy bullet/sword/explosion, they are deleted from a model with cloud of debris masking that. This is neat system for this game, i wish more of cover would have been made destructible. Interestingly enough, destruction of objects is rather detailed, for example a simple chair don't just disintegrate into 3-5 pieces of debrie after one hit, but you can destroy individual parts like chair legs independendly or each individual wooden plank in chair seat, which surprised me a bit. Well, we can give it 10/10 for chair destruction physics.



Well, fights at least look cool


   3rd person shooting is rather bland in itself - shoot enemies in the heads for increased damage while trying to use cover. Majority of firefights are in room/box-shaped areas or arenas with little progress towards end of campaign. Each "shooting bit" area is designed as in Call of Duty or any other bland action game - you move forward until trigger is "pressed", it spawns enemies in such combination and at rate that level designer decided during a day when he was working on the levels, although having fingers in his ears limited his abilty to make something sophisticated or unusual. So you walk futher until next trigger is pressed and so on to make game happen.


   I am not fan of this type of spawns as when player enter a designated "fighting" place game starts spewing enemies at you without indication of which number of them will be spawn, where or which type. Sometimes bad guys or monsters are spawn based on timers, sometimes killing enemy is a trigger to spawn another one. This mean that player don't have information to work with before getting stuck into those fights. Good indication of how well-made fights are in Far Cry/Crysis, FEAR or Metro (and some other games) - all enemies that you can face are usually already on the map/in that place and you can see them, count, make a plan, basically play the game with intentionality. Not every action game should have this system (look at Painkiller or DooM, or just Vivisector itself), but in Collapse this system makes fights less interesting or mind-stimulating, while in said Painkiller and Doom devs go all the way to change arenas into "frying pan" for a player, creating specific challange with clear rules (destroy Nest to spawn enemies in Doom or enter area just after checkpoint rune was reached in Painkiller).


   In this part those monsters with reversed skullfaces are spawn in waves and each individual enemy during each wave spawns based on timer. Maybe one of not many fun fights as after first wave you basically have a general idea on timing and places from which those creatures are coming because level designer didn't changed srcipts for each wave, as it would require pulling fingers out of his ears. So during 2nd and futher waves you can try something to counter attacks and increase your chances to get through with minimal damage and used ammunition.


  Sometimes you get into an arena where game become either a grind, or a somewhat fun, depending on exact situation and map dev mood. I remember a firefight IIRC in one of rooms of railroad station level, after game spawned all bad guys (hard ones, with a lot of health and rather powerfull "Grom" assault rifle) which was noticeable for being remotely fun. Arena was designed in such way that majority of cover where closer to the 2 opposite ends of arena and there was rather open area inbetween, creating "trench"-like situation. So i drawn enemies to one side of their "trench" by moving to the leftmost part of my own "trench", which resulted in enemies leaving their right part of arena exposed. I rushed from left to right side of my own "trench" and commited to attack on their positions via running/rolling through open area, taking cover on enemy side of arena, which allowed to flank them. And AI in Collapse programmed to respond to their cover becoming useless and tryied to relocate, taking new positions. Fight in this arena changed from middle-range shooting at small visible parts of enemies in cover while being pinned down, to rushing attack using AI behavior in your advantage (they tried to take closest covers to Rodan), flanking and rather fluid and mobile fight between plentifull covers in end of fight killing last of soldiers.


   Weapons are not really interesting, you have 3 types of usual weapons with each having "tier 2" version and just 3 slots for guns, one being sidearm only, second for almost all others and 3rd for "super guns" like gattling guns, plasma/rocket launcher. Pistol - Compact SMG as your first gun that can recharge on its own if you run out of ammunition, Futuristic AK - Grom assault rifle, Double barrel - Void semi-auto shotguns, 1 sniper rifle, and thats almost all arsenal of this game. No grenades ( i guess sword fighting would be harder to forces on players if you had grenades with you).


   Collapse is trying to mix shooting with slasher gameplay, when Rodan is supposed to use sword. "But wait, why you would use edged weapons when you have futuristic AKs and rapid fire SMG with ammunition that regenerate out of nowhere?" you will ask. Well, thanks for this question, my own voice in the head - devs just made enemies that you supposed to slash to be very resistant to small arms fire. 


Your bullets will bounce from their pumped biceps and very dence head parts visible in their helmet, doing very little damage. USE YOUR SWORD, PLAYER_1 yells game designer with his finger still stuck in his ears.


   And how you will know which enemies to hack with a sword and which one to kill with a gun? Easy, they will carry a type of weapon you supposed to use against them. See a knife? Use your sword. See a rifle in enemy hands? Use guns. See mutant-thing? Use everything. 



Even their necks are hard to puch through.










   Slasher gameplay in itself have some meat - Rodan have basic attacks, combos, finishing moves. Some combos that you unlock futher give your sword new attacks - they turn your "basic" sword into a big Claymore, or separate it into 2 small but fast swords, or Rodan unleash a deadly whip with pieces of basic sword spread across in length (i think it is most powerfull). Each combo is simple to execute - it is done by pressing LMB several times in specific order/timing and movement buttons (like Press forward and LMB LMB _Pause_ LMB LMB). Add here super powers (3 out of 4 of them are more usefull in close combat) and you will see that this part of gameplay is not underdeveloped. 



   But enemies, when they get hit, don't respond much to hits (just short "i being hit" animation sometimes is played). This sort of damages feel of the weapon, making sword a looking fancy - but not doing fancy / not creating a fancy reaction on enemy. Animations are good, though. If they had some sort of dynamic animation of similar quality for enemies, and decreased number of HPs, sword combat would have been great. 




   Still, even if slasher part is not totally bad, transition from Gears of War to Devil May Cry in matter of single level, multiple times, is done very awkwardly, especially for the first time when they "introduce" this completely arbitrary mechanics of melee enemies with only protective vests being almost immune to small arms, and forcing players to fight with melee attacks just seconds after player used his guns to clear half of fucking level from soldiers in heavy bodyarmor and helmets.


   As plot progresses, Rodan get's superpowers, and after defeating number of human bosses he gets 4 of those magic attacks - first is wave of energy that pushes away and stun enemies in close proximity to protagonist, second is creating your phanton/double/distraction, 3rd is directional energy blast with like 10 meters at most range amd 4th is slow-mo. Not much, although all of them are usefull (at least i used them). 



QTE monster is attacking, Rodan!


   Speaking about bosses - here is where Collapse open it bullshit box and shower player_1 in shitty QTEs. Every boss EVERY SINGLE ONE is defeated ONLY with QTEs.

   Worm is encountered like 4 times and he is unskippable, BTW.


   Each QTE is well animated, but because button proms located far from center of the screen your attention is not concentrated on cool action, but on pressing buttons to continue cutscene. This is capital offencive, game should be dragged out and put in front of firing squad for this.




Stab this QTE monster with a sword, Rodan or it will unleash cutscene attack!



This is only semi-boss enemy that you don't need to QTE to death.


   So in short - Collapse gameplay is ok 3rd person shooter that have controlls made by random number generater with rather well-developed slasher game bits surgically inserted into 3rd person shooter using stapler and glue, and all this is dressed into linear level design with QTE bosses, cutscenes, phonecalls (Metal Gear-style) and upgrades that you can't get through in-game meachnics, but only as plot-given upgrades after pressing enough buttons in yet another QTE cutscene boss fight. 


   AI and enemies

   Collapse have some variety of bad guys - humans, vehicles, monsters.

   Monsters are usually melee type of enemies, with some of them having range attacks. Humans are 2 types - melee and range attackers (soldiers, snipers, turret gunners). Vehicles are sort of minibosses, very rare to see. Most of melee enemies are defeated in exactly same way. Turret gunners and snipers are pretty much the same - they stand still in one place and shoot, difference is a weapon.

   The real annoying part of melee enemies is huge HP pool they have, making even melee combat (that you supposed to use against them) feel weak.

   Vast majoirty of mooks in Collapse have basically same very simple behavior of a guided missile.  


   The only enemy type that posses some level of computing power above pathfinding from point A to Rodan arse are soldiers with guns.



   AI of those guys is rather standart cover-based shooter enemy AI - run to cover, duck, shoot, with way less polish than in "AAA" level projects. Although they are actually a bit more sophisticated than in others similar 3rd person actions and have some features that you can see in AI praised by players (like in FEAR).

   First, it appears that cover system is partially dynamic, as i saw enemies moving through certain area, but after destruction of piece of the level above that area enemies used those debries as cover. They also take cover not in specific spot behind box (usually done by placing cover node by level designer), but in area near the cover, which result in slight differentiation in enemies taking cover behind exactly the same box, sometimes leading to hand/bits of body visible. They also are able to navigate to places that don't have obvious way to it by doing multiply jumps, which i observed myself by pushing soldier with magic attack into a 3 meter deep hole in the ground. They do it dynamically, and do this with covers as well when they can't get into said cover object fast enough by simply running, they can jump over it and then jump down behind it. It leads to sometimes not-very human looking set of actions, but still, unusual level of independent navigation through maps.


4:18 have example of this behavior. Also shows what i mean under "unpolished" just seconds after with second soldier acting stupidly.



"Deploy our mildly capable enemies, sergeant!"


   They also can recognise when being aimed at (at least later into the game) and try to dodge, roll from aim circle if cought in the open. If they are in cover and being shot at, they switch to blind fire. Enemies also understand when their are flanked and exposed, leading to quick cover change. Generally they are somewhat competent and have number of features that could have been developed futher and used by level designers (like their above average navigation/moving abilities), sadly it was not done. Some of their actions look unpolished because their set animations is not enough for needed actions, like quick change of cover is done via several standart animations of standing, running, slowly walking to cover when enemy is very close to it and running animation is too fast and will push AI to far from aimed point - instead an seprate animation of leavng cover, running and taking cover would make it way more flewed and quicker.

   In middle-sized arenas, where those soldiers AI can work well, shooting part of Collapse become fun, quick and hectic, as those guys are aggressive and guys with shotguns trying to rush your position. 



   Collapse is action game stuck between "A" and "B-level" 3rd person mix of shooter and melee fighting/slasher, trying to put Devil May Cry into Gears of War, while also trying hard too look like a movie at times when dev team had budget. Would not recommend to anyone outside of those who are interested in gamedevelopment in ex-USSR countries, as it is rather bland, empty and shallow game. If you are trying to get some culturally-affected "features"/views/etc, you will not really find them here (Metro and Stalker are way better for this), game have sense of product that was supposed from early part of creation to be marketed to Western players and tries too look like western-developed game. With many charachters names, behavior, diologues and visual design looking distilled from features (with small exception of early level soldiers looking like Russians in Sfera helmets and futuristic AKs) and feeling like "everyhuman". It also feels like a HL2 knockoff not only because visuals, but also because some parts of Collapse are almost directly "inspired" by HL2, like fight in a tower being rather close to end of HL2 tower fight.

   If you are trying to just play something unusual, this is also product not for you. Or if you are searching for fun/engaging story/gameplay - Collapse is far from being anywhere near the top 10 list of what i can recommend to you. It doesn't have any original bone in it's sceleton and meat on those bones is not really tasty, sometimes tasting like dry cardboard. 

   For those, who decided to install it i recommend to play on average difficulty, play in 1 hour sessions and not every day, with something in between those sessions. 


   I liked sountrack for Collapse made by NewTone very much.


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  • 2 months later...

Well, I've been having a smashing time with two games that went through Kickstarter and Steam's Early Access program: War For The Overworld, the spiritual successor to the Dungeon Keeper series; and Planet Coaster, the spiritual successor to the Rollercoaster Tycoon series. I'm delighted to say that both series appear to have landed on their feet from an impressive aerial cartwheel. Both are worthy successors that have been snapped up by dedicated developers who are continually adding interesting new things, and both enjoy a good supply of Steam Workshop custom content. On top of this, the developers of Planet Coaster are now working on a new Jurassic Park management game, which I feel the urgent desire to hawk at you:



5/5, life has indeed found a way.



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  • 2 weeks later...

Managed to launch Venom: Codename Outbreak today after several attempts. 

   It is a FPS from GCS Game World, released in 2001 IIRC. Later those guys will create a STALKER. Venom is tactical-ish FPS set in future where you fight humans under alien parasites control and alien parasite themselfs who can develop into rather big creatures. Venom is essentialy a Crysis in many ways, but instead of suits with several mods you get a futuristic gun with several mods.

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   I probably should review Timeshift as i played it several months ago. Cryostasis became so fucking boring that i don't even want to try it for some time. Venom is kind of fun to play, although it is somewhat not stable. 

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   Timeshift is FPS developed by St. Petesrburg-based Saber Interactive and published by Sierra. Saber is a stuido that was and currently is involved in different well-known projects and made few not bad games and couple of crappy shooters. Currently they are involved in Quake Champions, in 2017 they made also relatively well known Spintires: Mudrunner offroad car/driving game, or "Russian roads simulator".


   Timeshift was somewhat ambitious project and early concept art was interesting. Game was promising Steampunk FPS with timetravel theme and ingame time manipulation mechanics. It was released in 2007. So today i will review it, after completing it like 4+ months ago and 11 years after it's release date (very timely review!)










TimeShift Screenshot







   Imagine a bad mix between Doom 3 and Half-Life 2 visuals - Doom 3's dark grey metal corridors with Half-life 2's concrete/brick buildings and tunnels. Maybe even FEAR endless industrial maps. Add here even more darkness and non-stop rain, make everything grey and this is how game begins and continues for some time. Later it switched to color pellet of a turd, adding brown to grey and this combination of grey mixed with brown continues for almost whole singleplayer with few outdoor episodes that breave life in Timeshift's grey body.


   Grey soldiers hiding behind grey chesthigh walls while skies are covered in grey clouds makes Timeshift look boring as fuck, and capable to sneak into any Soviet concreate building as this amount of grey can work as a good camo. 

   Technically it is not bad - bump mapping everywhere, shadows are rendered on everything from every object like in DooM 3, but overal picture is not great for human creature to behold as it invokes all those boring rainy days behind the window.



   I think a reason for such choice was to make grim atmosphere of opression (as main vilian time traveled back in time and became HronoHilter). But Half Life 2 was colorfull, and still managed to pull 1984 in the begining. This game do manage to opresses 2 things - my eyes and my desire to play it.



   Majority of the game is like this:  




















A sad story of robot being in such known movies like Robocop and then... went to Russia to continue his acting career.



And for several levels Timeshift decides to have a color:














   Buildings, locations, enemies and so on through a whole campaign uses 1.5 colors- grey-ish green, grey-ish blue and grey-ish grey. In case of HronoHitler's basic soldiers - they have exactly same gear in every level of the game made out of generic armor painted by same 1.5 colors as everything else.





   Animations of enemies are good and feel very smooth, which surprised me, facial animations - not so much. 

   Overall - technically competent, but art design is lacking. 





   Usualy i don't mention it, but in Timeshift devs decided to make player uncomfortable with some of sounds choices. Main weapon for a big portion of Timeshift is a Generic Assault Rifle that during firing shoots grinding sounds. Quadbike also managed to poop some seriously generic soundfiles out of its exhaust pipe. Music is so generic that i would expect to hear it in movie that RLM watches in their Best of the Worst series. It is like everything was made to be grey, even music!



   In the far future people created 2 Crysis suits that are capable to turn on Maximum time manipulation superpower, and 1 of them was used by HronoHitler to sneak back in time and appear in Valve's Half-Life 2, where he created his Reich that painted City 17 in grey, made music generic and created a machine that make endless rains in Oppressedburg. Knowing what XXXGordon_FreemanXXX made to City 17's previous main villian, HronoHitler put his own Evil Tower of Evilness on top of giant grey metalic spider robot that walks around Oppressedburg by stepping on innocent childrens.




   Our main hero - Mr. Silent protagonist, discovered what HronoHilter done via unskippable cutscene and in his furious unexpressed emotion jumped back in time through cliche threshold to fight HronoHitler. HronoHitler than done something against main hero, Silent Protagonist done something back, but i don't remember what, why and where, as story writer of Timeshift also jumped back in time before he became competent. 

   After jumping back in 2004, Main Hero discovered that not only he travaled into Half-Life 2 maps painted grey, but also in Half-Life 2 game structure where time traveling supersuit wearing scientist have few driving sections, solves puzzles, attacks Nova Prospekt jail (or something similar), have another driving section, then fight main villian. But during penetration through cliche threshold Main Zero clothes managed to catch few of cliches mixed with low budget, so he discoveres himself to be locked in crappy turret sections, but sadly his time bending powers don't allow him to skip them. 



   During his tourism through Grey 17 Main hero also found rebels that mixed up our time traveling scientist with the other time traveling scientist with beard and glasses. They try to help us to fight endless waves of generic Comb... i mean Magistrate soldiers that got part of their AI brains snugged by HronoHitler from FEAR because he heard that FEAR AI was better than any other choices he had. Rebels are lead by Secondary NPC 1 and Secondary NPC 2, who are custom models of guys in grey with grey assault rifles speaking grey mission objectives onto main hero. 


I don't remember if he is important or not

   After completing those mission objectives by pressing endless buttons our suitcarrier have a climax fight with HronoHilter that doesn't happen inside of EvilTowerBottm as it would require to model it and accounting department is already very angry because of amount of budget used.




   Timeshift for almost first half tries not only to wear parts of Half-Life 2 maps and structure as a sweater, with surgically implanted Doom 3 metal corridors with labs and FEAR's industrial levels as pants, but also tries to play like Half-Life 2 with it's action-puzzle gameloop. It gives us rather generic guns, slows down speed of our silent hero, and than spawn squads of not stupid enemies from FEAR in generic grey levels and claims that this is a gameplay of the FPS based on time travelling abilities. 



   Than those firefights are mixed with very basic time-powers puzzles, which games allow to solve by pressing "solve puzzle" button.

   Time travel powers are Max Payne's bullet time, time stop and rewind. In the rain those powers look cool with raindrops stopping or starting to move back depending on powers used. All those time manipulations are limited - you can't rewind much or stop for too long. During this moments game became slightly interesting as during slow mo you can move faster, during time stop you can take enemies weapons from their hands (not always), fire many bullets in them, kick them and after time stop ends they fly away as impulses are summarized.





When you took all their weapons:



   Rewind is for psychos that want to kill same guy several times, but usually used to solve puzzles like "bridge was blown up but you need to cross it! What you will do, Player_1?"... and this game is so terrified of player not being able to figure things out that before bridge explodes your build-in AI (one of plot devices stuck in your suit from cliche fields travel) will say to you what to do next and gametip will point at "solve puzzle" button. During rewind you can't do anything with obejcts around. And this is all powers you get through whole game.

   Shooting itself become not completely bland after getting Fully semiatomatic crossbow with explosives bolts and SMG that fires incendiary rounds and have underbarrel flamethrower, with first and secondary firemodes setting enemies on fire. But all other guns are bland and what you expect from FPS.


SMG from early build of Timeshift before devs deleted details and painted it in grey  


   AI and enemies

   AI in Timeshift is rather good, well animated enemies doing some competent things. They communicate with each other, although in low-budget bad acting kind of way. AI can take cover, mooks move around, throw grenades and remind me FEAR Replicals a bit. Hell, in an inteview one of devs directly said that they were looking at how other games were programmed, and seeing some of familiar behavior of FEAR replicants i am almost 100% sure they copied at least part of AI system from FEAR. One of enemies even have a copy-pasted helmet design from FEAR, haha.


Some of them could be easily mistaken with bad guys from FEAR based on their looks and some parts of behavior





















   Vast majority of main hero opponents are those soldiers. Sometimes there are snipers, turrets and robots, but it is rare. Near the end part of Timeshift devs introduced special types of grunts with time powers that result in... grunts moving faster. Well, at least they move very fast in bursts, which mean some sort of variety as they can run past you and you will have hard to time to catch them without using slow mo. It is rather obvious that devs wanted to do FEAR-like shooter and bad guys, but enemies in FEAR had character and emotion in actions and speech, while those guys - not so much. When you kill those special time powered mooks they die and voice their death in bored "i guess i am dead now" way, :mellow: Also any action in FEAR, even a fart, resulted in series of explosions and human babies sized pieces of walls flying around in uncountable amounts. In Timeshift you get some sparkler here and there with devs standing near and saying "sorry mate, this is what we can get for a budget".


For Vladimir Putin!!!

   As already was mantioned i was surprised by quality of work done with visual part of models/AI movement - animations not only feel smooth, but i never saw (or can't remember) AI jerking/interrupting animation is some very inhumane way or to brake and not work properly, stare at walls and so on.



   Timeshift have very little original inside. Sabre used other popular FPS to frankenstein their creation mixing themes, pieces of plot and gameplay loop from Half-Life 2 with FEAR firefights, adding little with basic time bending powers. Result is mostly bland shooter with very few moments of potential looking through layers of grey paint. Sad part is that technical skill is presented - game is polished, no serious bugs and even small problems were spotted during playing Timeshift. But for what it is, Timeshift is well made block of grey concrete.



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So instead of doing reviews of Venom and Cryostasis, i will do SWAT 3 review!




   SWAT 3 is tactical shooter from 1999 about SWAT unit work in LA during de-nuclearisation summit between US and Russia (and maybe China, but i don't remember). You are team leader of 4 SWAT officers (you are 5th) responding to different situations before and during summit. Operations can warry from simple arrest to battle against terrorists taking summit participants (up to Russian president) as hostages in a hotel. All missions are CQB, game is focused pretty hard on this type of combat. SWAT 3 have pretty advanced bullet simulations for 1999, very advanced AI that still shows a lot of competence in CQB, even open-ish gameplay (depends on a map) and general aim at representing tactical CQB action of police officers. Game also have pretty good mod support (easy to install) for maps, skins, weapons and so on. Last Resort mod is a must, BTW.



   Well, this is game from 1999, it have HL1 level of graphics. Same goes for audi. Last Resort mod introduce much higher quality texture and more modern screen resolutions, which will help to make it look better.



With Last Resort




   One cool thing about graphics is working mirrors, they are used time to time by level designers and are helpfull for a player as you can scan room using mirrors without moving yourself into chokepoint or peaking your head too much. Taking into account that you also carry mirror on a stick (or camera on a stick?) to search rooms, you can look at mirrors through a mirror to scan hard to see corners.





   Plot is non-existent in this game. Missions are based on it, but you can complete a whole campaign and never even understand what happened in story, as it is also almost don't exist. I sort of understood that your enemies are Russian terrorist group PLA (People Liberation Army IIRC) and Sovereign America. But there is no difference between them (from gameplay point of view). Although during playing mission devs did sometimes give you some storytelling through what bad guys are screaming, and also some context to situation, for example during one of missions a lot of terrorists were wearing kitched staff clothing, hinting at how they manage to infiltrate.





















   SWAT3 is CQB FPS with a twitst - you are police officer, so you are not supposed to smash through doors and machine gun everything inside. You are there to save civilians and arrest people, and only if criminals are resisting - open fire. 






   Each operation starts with briefing pre-mission screen where you can equip your team.





   After that player picks entry point and actual mission starts. Maps are usually enclosed spaces - houses, different buildings - hotels, banks, shops, private property and so on. Levels are pretty realistic and believable, layout make sense. Levels are not even perceived as game levels but more like somebody made a virtual representation of real places and made a SWAT/terrorist scenario based on it. So if you enter a house, expect it to have living rooms, bathroom, basement, attic and so on. Banks have eleborate ventilation systems and offices, hotels have pretty big amount of premises for service staff - laundries, kitchens, etc. Basically - here is place where shit happens, here are bad guys and scenarion, here are you, resolve all this crap.  




   You and your team then enter area and start to bring order into it by doing SWAT thing - breach and clear rooms, arresting, incapacitating or killing criminals, securing civs, disarming bombs. SWAT 3 allows to use different gear like CS gas grenades, flashbangs, C2 breaching charges or lock picks and other to make your job. Changes in status/situation needs to be reported to HQ/TOC (like each arrested or killed criminal, secured hostage, etc). 

























   So where is exactly "meat" of this game or fun? It is in how exactly situation unfolds. All participants of event are spawn in the begining of mission and they are all active during whole play session. This mean that your actions may lead to situation changes a lot from what you expect, like exploding into uncontrollable mess of civilians running around whole building in panic, or your team being surrounded by terrorists, or last terrorists trying to flee using hostages as shields. This game have this "poke anthill with a stick" kind of feel to it. This lead to feeling that all actions are important as many systems, AI and gamemechanics are made in order to reinforce that feeling. Just bullet penetration for example - you shoot bad guy with silenced weapon and he goes down, but if you miss and hit wall made out of light material, this bullet can go though it (or even several walls) and hit near one of hostages, who will panic and try to run away. He will open doors, running into room that don't have terrorists in it, those terrorists may start to invastigate this shot or move from their positions to patrol/search and so on. Even just shooting bad guy in an empty room can lead to bullet penetrating wall and killing hostage, leading to mission failer. So every actions feels impactful for a scenario.






   As expected in realistical CQB FPS player can't take many shots from powerfull rifles. Sometimes 1 hit can be deadly. High damage, complex layout, verry short distances lead to high-risk gameplay.

   But this can be cheated by saving/loading you may ask? Well, during operation you can't save progress.

   Mmm, than playing each scenario several times and memorizing location of each bad guy, maybe? And "no" for this one - each time location of bad guys is randomized.

   In this situation your skills and teammates actions is a key to complete all operations in reasonable time. And here we come to SWAT 3 AI system, which is IMO is one of best CQB AIs i saw in very long time, better than a lot of other games and even old Rainbow 6 tactical shooters.


   AI and enemies

   I already described it in General PC games thread, so i will copy-paste it here.


  This is a screenshot of moded SWAT 3 with AI reaction time increased to 200 ms from 20 ms. I will explain later why people increase reaction time in SWAT 3.



And here it is.


   About several months ago i saw that youtube video with old FPS that i knew existed but never played it (SWAT 4 on the other hand was on my computer for some time before seeing that youtube clip).

   It was pretty unusual to see AI doing deliberate actions that i never saw any bots doing in other games like taking positions near closed doors (i supose they were not cleared yet), watching sectors and corners. Room breaching at 1:25 looked visualy clunky (old animations), but they did it pretty well and it looked almost scripted (which is not BTW). And after clearing that room 1 officer took cover, keeping eyes on one door, second took another entry to the room while 3rd was overwatching whole room. Pretty cool, i wanted too see more if it was some sort of script/mod.






   This is 1999 FPS about a SWAT that have AI that is sometimes not very polished, but still is much better at CQB than any DELTA FORCES NAVY SEALS shooter/action game i saw since.


   Unlike R6, SWAT doesn't have pre-planning mode and don't provide you with accurate map (without accurate map in R6 you would not be able to make a plan for AI to execute). SWAT 3 instead relies on real-time execution of commands (given by a player via easy to use menu during actual gameplay), and rather advanced AI behavior to execute them pretty well, as player don't have ability to plan room assault for 15 minutes. AI in SWAT 3 is capable to understand to some degree enviroment around it, and take into consideration featues of terrain around it during executing templates. Not only they know some tactics, but there is an AI that can replace team leader, so SWAT 3 can play itself without player inputs. And he is not bad at this, which is hilarious for me.


   Let's look at how SWAT officers AI work using first operation as an example, screeshots i made just before writing this post, mission was played several times to get more pics and show difference because of random location of criminals spawning.


First run


   Element is stack up and prepared to entry the building. 1 suspect according to briefing is expected, potentially have firearms including sniper rifle. That man is randomly placed in the building and he can be located just behind this door or as far as possible from it. There is number of special hiding places where he can be - at least 2 on the first floor, 1 at second floor if my memory is right about that mission.


   SWAT 3 AI navigation system have very simple hierarchy of some sorts. A network of waypoints are placed on the level by level designers to allow AI bots to move and navigate through buildings, they are used to just designate areas where AI can walk and where it can't (boiling down complex layout and geometry to easy to operate number of nodes). In SWAT 3 a number of waypoints of this network can be assembled into a "group" to designate a special area like a "room". If you play this game, existance of such system becomes obvious because of button 5 ("area clear"). It is active in areas that AI did not "clear" (you also can designate areas as "clear"). How AI decide if area is actually clear? By establishing line of sigh with each waypoint during "room clearing" command execution. During room clearing AI tries to "mark" each waypoint of designated group ("Room") in a framework of area clearing behavior and during it AI is walking and looking at next nearest "unmarked" waypoint until LOS is established and mark it, than continues to the next one until all waypoints inside of group was marked as "cleared". Pretty simple, isn't it?

   Even more impressive part of their behavior is that they clear all cabinets, lockers big enough for criminal to hide, as those criminals use same navigation system and same waypoints as SWAT officers. And if there is waypoint in a locker, it means that during room clearing (if waypoint in that locker is part of designated area) SWAT officers will check it as well. Some waypoints can be individualy designated, for example as "hiding spot" for suspects or civilians. Some waypoints are not used to designate a walkable surfaces, but as point of interaction/nodes - doors, windows, traps, etc.


   Element is moving into 2-storied house with rather spacious attic. Officer on the left part of picture is watching opening to the right, while officer on the right is entering building. He is crouch to allow second officer behind him to have LOS with potential gunman. There is nothing to the left from him behind doorway, so he moves in while watching stairs and corridor to the kitchen in front of him.


   Each door have special interaction point attached to it for AI to recognize that this is a door that can be interacted. Doors can be locked (will require tools or explsovies to be opened) or unlocked, depending on the mode of AI (stealth of dynamic) they can use tools (stealth) or just blow up it to get inside. Room breaching during stealth mode is conducted in specific way - after door is opened 1 AI officer will try to "slice" doorway and see what is behind doorway/in the room without actually entering room itself by moving from left to right (or vise versa) and after some very short time team/element is moving in and start to clear it. IDK how AI judge if "slicing" is complete, as they can perform it for very short amount of time, or for something closer to 3-5 seconds.


   In this run suspect was hiding under staircase inside of storage area of the first floor. Was found by AI, on the right officer with handcuffs is arresting our unfortunate gunman. BTW, this guy can leave his hiding places when he thinks it is safe enough, sometimes he run to the attic for his hunting rifle. You can see that one officer is peeking into second floor, while one on the left is leaning right and use staircase as a cover while watching suspect being arrested.


   Apperently same system that is responsible for "marking" waypoints during area clearing is also used somehow to designate areas where AI should watch, with each AI agent marking waypoints in his LOS and next AI tries to pick different place to look, but AI also take into account nodes that designate doorways/openings/chokeponts and so on. Usually doors are prett high in their list of things to keep an eye for, together with unarrested criminals (if they surrendered). 



   Blue team is clearing last room on the first floor - kitchen, red team automatically (without my order) relocated to watch staircase. You can see than previously blue team officer was looking into second floor, now he was changed by red team member. If you don't give a specific order to stack up or cover area, Red and Blue teams can move around on their own. Sometimes team can leave their positions if another team is under fire and help them, or if one team is leaving area, second one will try to cover places/angles that were under watch by first team.


   After area is clear AI can either leave it and move to area from which they started to clear room, or reorganise and cover all posible entry points to next areas. This behavior depends on amount of interaction points and waypoints connected to cleared room (except one that they used to enter from). AI can understand when room have more than 1 entry and can spread forces to cover each of them by establishing LOS to each interaction point. If room have 1 entry point, AI will leave it after clearing and designate dead end with lightsticks.



   For the sake of experiment i ordered only red team to clear second floor. As you see first officer keeps his eyes on 3 doors in this corridor on my righ (house entrance is just under me), while second keep his eyes on a door to the attic that is not visible for the first officer. Don't know how exactly they decide where to place themselfs to watch x amount of interaction points. Probably after first officer picked chokenode to watch it, and 2 other doors were in his LOS, second officer went to a door that was not in LOS of the first officer.



   Blue team also was given an order. As you see they placed themselfs differently, probably because a 2nd door and entry to attic was already "marked" as covered by Red team members. Here you can see a tactical mistake - blue team member on the far side of the floor should have switched positions as right one in the way of second officer to the left. Although it not that bad, as guy behind can just lean and shot, while first one can step to the side.



   Red team was ordered to stack up to 1st door, but because there were no place near it, they moved futher almost up to 3rd door, while Blue team was ordered to stack up to 3rd door. Stacking up is dynamic and looks like level designers didn't put specific waypoints to use during executing "Stack up" command. AI bots are trying to stay away from interaction point or/and several waypoints near it. Don't know how exactly it works, but it works pretty well. In this particular case because 2nd door is near 1st one and there was not enough space for team to stand without getting into "restricted" waypoints/area, which resulted in team choosing other place to prepare to enter to a bathroom.



   In stealth mode opening door is separate command to allow to use mirror/optiwand for recon after than with separate command. Red team opened a door, AI usually do it while standing outside of the deathfunnel. Here is Red team is clearing the bathroom. Officer is leaning left to see more what is inside, while "slicing".


   There is a lot of leaning done by AI in this game, which is actually usefull as accuracy of some of bad guys is not that great. I have only one explanation of how they almost always pick correct direction of leaning - probably there is 2 additional points to the left and right of officer body that "represent" places of where AI head will be if he leans, and if one of those 2 gives higher number of visible waypoints with direct LOS - than AI leans in that direction. This algorithm also allows to AI use leaning in order to mitigate obstructions like poles/pillars/different enviromental stuff like TVs, boxes, etc and sometimes - another officer/gangmember.



   Officer almost completed "slicing" from right to left, prepare to entry room. Inside of it there is a bed that can be used by suspect as a hiding place (under it there is enough space for him). A locker which i am aiming at is another hiding place.



   One of hiding spots for civilians is located in that room as well. This is a wife/GF of our bad guy. Sometimes this spot can be used by him as well to shot from his Glock.


Second run



   Entry team prepared to do second run. As you see, their positioning is different for this run, they are always stack up to a first door by a script in this mission and each time there are small differences.



   Entry. As you see it is slighty different in execution, but AI again is watching for this opening to the right. In SWAT3 AI actions are highly affected by surroundings, unlike R6 RS.



   CS gas in case our bad guy is again in the first floor. AI is "slicing" storage area under staircase. This time he is not here, but not far either. Rest of team is outside of pic - 2 of them in room to the right, one is near doorway to the right from me.



   Blue team members are prepared to entry kitchen, 1st member is visible here, 2nd is near door from room to the right. Red team leaving that room to cover blue.



   This time Reds don't peek to the second floot from stairs. Asphalt is keeping his eyes on it, though. Blue team member to the right is visible, covering door between kitchen and room where he is. In this case having more people in stairs area is logical - there are more entry points/interaction points here to AI to cover.



   Modern AI can't do that without being scripted by level designer. And this is automatics, as only order at this point i given is clear room during initial entry.



   Sadly, missied a moment when they were clearing area and opened this cabinet to see our suspect. Well, after seeing 5 guys with guns he dropped a weapon without firing even once. AI collected his gun (criminals can pick weapons, those who surrendered can "unserrender" and start to shot) and now handcuffing him. If you are too close to suspect, they will not do that without order, but if you are far, AI automatically will do that and only thing left for you to do is report about arrested armed man.



   Officer with M4 is watching arrested guy, while SWAT member with MP5 is covering corridor near stairs. Rest of the team is on the left, not visible.



   I ordered them to follow me. At this point there is no danger in this mission as there is only 1 bad guy, as this is suposed to be your "learning" mission. As you see they are wathing back. Second team is to the right, and again not visible here.







   Criminals and civilians can hear steps outside of the door and react differently. This one opened it and saw a gun pointing at her. Generally civilians are not problem until they hear shooting, after which their behavior become erratic. They can start to run and open doors in random rooms, and if there is militants/gangmember/SWAT officer inside, they can run to next room. This lead to sitaution when rather safe corridor become nightmare of firesectors and death funnels as futher missions have more "advanced" bad guys to the point of competent assholes that also cover doors and sometimes watch sectors.



   Arresting everyone is probable one mechanics that mainstream audince may not like. Although it is not a problem - just press 8 and AI will figure out who will arrest civ/suspect. And AI not always pick closest team member to do that, as closest can be busy with watching doorways/openings, etc.



   AI will also lean to see more around object during clearing of the room itself. Sometimes there is a bug when both teammembers lean for some reason, as you can see here, but this is not a problem. Officer that enter room already checked right corner.





   "Slicing". Originally i thought it was based on a timer when AI have time to move from one side of the doorway to another for set amount of time, but trying to count time used for "slicing" i can say that it is not a timer-based (although they might have one for "maximum amount of time avaliable for slicing" in order to avoid bugs with endless pre-entry tactical shenanigans). No idea how exactly they decide that it is time to get in. During this step they also try to see maximum amount of space inside of a room.



   Cleaing is done. They sometimes throw a lightstick, i think they do that only if AI detect that area have only entrance and it is not special hiding spot/waypoint like a locker.



   Clearing the attic. As you see this place have sophisticated layout for AI, but they clear it almost perfectly. Also, notice that they clear areas that were not visible from doorway during pre-entry phase. 


   BTW, Colli, i have good picture that shows that stacking up is dynamic. Officer on the right is standing in a doorway.



   Suspects AI is also well developed, although i wished they went futher to MGS levels when there is an AI that command all units on the map, in case of bank robbery by criminals that look orgnised and well-equipped it would make sense to give them a leader to guide them.


   Criminals in this game are as aware of enviroment around them as SWAT AI is. Bad guys also can interact with same amount of objects and use same waypoins, but in different way. 

   Bad guys are made different using morale system that dictates their behavior and reactions to what they hear and see. In case of 1st mission our suspect is not very agressive and can flee at the moment he see several SWAT assault team members. If their pathfinding does not give them a way to flee to hiding spot or "unmakred" set of waypoints (aka room), they might either surrender (like in a kitchen in 2nd run of 1st mission) or fight if morale is high. Flashbangs, CS gas, shooting, number of visible SWAT members and number of visible comrades does affect morale. Game devs assigned noticeable changes in behavior if morale is decreased/lowered or otherwise. If morale is high, suspects can start to move and re-occupy previously cleared rooms. If low - they can flee to nearest group of their friends or hiding spot. Suspects without a weapon can run around in a search of a weapon, in case of gunman in first mission he can run straight to his hunting rifle in the attic.



   Bad guys can arm themselfs pretty easily in later operations, as there is plenty of avaliable guns around. It is interesting that sometimes you can find yourself between suspect and a gun, for example he can be on a first floor, exiting his hiding place and you can be on a second floor. And here is where things might get interesting as sometimes AI can try to break LOS (get to waypoints that are not visible for player and other officers) and lay an ambush. In case of more aggresive guys they even can charge you.



   Bad guys also lean to see better when is happening. Enemy AI also can react to gunfire, i shot a bit to the left of him and this guy run to the right, probably to the waypooints not visible from my position. 



   Here he is back to fire at me. 10 rounds mag, and bad guys in SWAT do reload their weapons.



   AI continue to move in attempt to find a way out of this situation, although this guy will move back under cover.



   Here is an example of AI trying to ambush me. You can see his hands just above aiming triangle. Criminals can lay ambushes when they hear you doing something outside or near the door. They can ambush you at the door (using cover avalible inside of the room or using same "stack up" algorithm as SWAT guys) or inside of room. 



   SWAT officers have access to 100 round mags for their M4 for a reason.


   As i already said, both SWAT and Criminals AI use same set of waypoints/interaction points, but differently and they were programmed in order to either counter or mitigate actions, or replicate some realistic situations. Officers are preparing to enter a room? Enemy AI, if hears it, will try to ambush you, flee, hide, sometimes fire through the door. You entered a room without gasing or flashing everyone inside? Well, enjoy your shootout and civilains running around, giving you this "i am lost control of this shit" feeling. Sometimes, if criminal is facing SWAT team, is located near a doorway that is not secured and there is a civilian near him, that bad guy will "interact" with civilian and put him as life sheild (same navigation algorithm used as one that stack up SWAT team members one behind another in line during movement). Yes, criminals in this game can use civilians as shield, dymanically. And your guys will react by yelling at him to release the hostage.

   And again, all what was used are waypoints and what i call - interaction points, same as SWAT AI uses. Bots behavior is designed to be a result of specific situation and enviroment around, actions of criminals are dictated by your actions and avaliable "resources", while your actions and the way you try to complete a mission is attempt to counter those actions, counter possible way for AI to react to your actions that is not beneficial, which is where some sort of tactics may start to appear, unlike R6 AI that do templates with no idea what is happening around.


   I probably will post more on that when will get more pics from later operations, if anybody is interested. 

   Also, a small-ish rant about modern AI.

   SWAT 3 AI is sensitive to surroundings and layout of places they are operating in, which is very crucial for tactical CQB action games. Rainbow 6 AI failed in this regard, and many other action third and first person games. The only game that does somewhat similar-ish that i played is Splinter Cell Conviction, but their area sweaping tactics is rubbish and it have plenty of other problems, including during combat. Their system for space designation and abstraction for AI is called TEAS, according to GDC talk by lead AI programmer. 20 years between those games and AI didn't advanced much in action games. I even tried to make a screenshots showing 2 groups of AI doing exactly same thing in those games, but Joxi apperently didn't liked SP:Conviction for some reason and turned me just black pic. Sad!



   Our AI programmer took on the daunting task of modeling the behavior of SWAT officers and other characters, coming up with a true 3D pathing algorithm in the process. He was self directed and worked with very little supervision. While the AI didn’t really come together until the last month of development, many reviewers rated it as one of the best in the industry.

   Near the end of the project, our QA lead jumped in and helped us place character start points and AI path nodes. He came up to speed quickly and became an integral part of the development team. This was pretty typical of most people on the team – they were dedicated to the project and put in the huge amount of time and effort required to ship the game.

   Yeah, this CQB AI, which i considered one of best and still probably is very advanced in terms of actual CQB, was made in about a month by 1.5 guys with not much supervision. AI lead on SWAT 3 was John D. Anderson, who is no longer working in the gaming industry AFAIK. He also worked on Close Combat series of games, BTW.


   It is interesting that in options menu of SWAT 3 you can change reaction time of AI (separate configs for officer and suspect AIs). Common sense say that shorter reaction time = harder enemies as they react faster or better teammates as a result, but apperently it is not a case. AI reaction time looks like responsible for time peroid, in which AI can "process" orders. WIth 20 ms officer reaction time i had frequent situation when AI team leader walked to a door and order to breach it, but would not get out of death funnel. WIth 200 ms this bug is kind of fixed. They also appear to pic better positions before entering rooms and there are other small changes, but i am not sure.




The amount of time the AI has to determine its actions can be safely increased on modern computers beyond the normal 20ms maximum for much-improved AI.








Officer in the front of team started to kneel a lot after changing AI reaction time to 200 ms. Don't ask me why, i have no idea how AI exactly work.












   In short - AI is what glue all gamemechanics together into interesting game. Without it game would have way lower replayability and variations of situations and fuck ups would have been way lower. SWAT officers AI allows player to feel as a team leader, thinking about tactics, fire lines and arcs, secured zones and so on and not "excort those 4 brain dead idiots to the end of level" virtual babysitter simulator. Suspect AI, weapon/health mechanics and layout of environments make this game a tactical shooter in it's soul, and not just genre description that devs put on their site. Combination of player actions; officers, civilian and criminals AI interaction make each playthrough somewhat unique and unexpected, which is why SWAT 3 is still on my PC after more than a year.



   Old game for a specific type of player that like hardcore CQB-orientated FPS, and thanks to it sandbox-ish gameplay it is still more than just playable. Mod support still exist for it, after almost 20 years from release, which says something about SWAT3. I found this game to be better than SWAT 4 and older Rainbow 6 tactical shooters. 

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SWAT 3 Last man standing against AIs is pretty fun gamemode. Civilians work as healthpacks, :)


Note amount of spent cases on the floor, this was serious shootout with this SWAT officer. He (and me) even switched to pistols.

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   Decided to make another series of screenshots during some SWAT 3 action. I wanted to look at AI positioning in more complex layouts than what was shown in my review. AI is moded (200 ms reaction time limit for orders), i placed just 1 criminal and few civilians (as i wanted to have time and ability to move around to do screenshots). Post is long-ish, so almost everything is in spoilers.


   As i noted with moded AI first team member in a group started to crouch, especially after doing some actions with doors like opening them or checking for suspects using mirror.




   Team is clearing stairs. Note than majority of group watch in tactically right way, while last guy is kind of fanky. Happens because team AI during clearing area "mark" waypoints/nodes as "cleared" and last guy on stairs usually don't have good LOS to other "uncleared" nodes in a room, which leads to sometimes strange looking behavior of 1 or 2 last officers in the team. Although this is not gamebreaking, it is one of those visual bugs/problems that are expected with 20 year old game. Officers are looking not just in same way as they move, but in direction of next visible node, which means that they are pretty effectively at spotting danger.



   After reaching end team automatically took single door under aim. I didn't gave any order other than "clear room" when we were on top of the stairs.



   After player order, team prepared to enter the room, all officers are outside of death funnel. In Rainbow 6 RS you have to play around with several waypoints in planning phase to make this formation happen, in SWAT 3 - pressing "1" 2 times (Element -> Stack Up) while pointing at a door and AI does everything else.



   In stealth mode opening a door is separate action that allows you then to pick what you want to do next. Currently - first officer is using mirror to see what is inside. He will call out any contact he saw inside. 



   "Slicing" door before entering. 



   This is where AI can be improved somewhat - during enter they are becoming kind of messy group. Although solution will use some sort of higher detailed navigation graph/node network that was not a good idea for 1999 and better animation system. As you probably can see first 2 soldiers are aiming at opposite direction because there is corridor to the right and small hall to elevator to the left.



   After checking hall and elevator team automatically split up into 2 groups and search 2 corridors simultaneously. 



   Searching is done, i ordered red team to stuck up to that door, and second officer picked place behind the corner. Strangely enough after team was ordred to open door same guy went to do that, instead of a guy right next to it. No idea why, but it works.



   Red team was ordered to follow me after searching of small storage was complete. They automatically orient themselfs in order to cover openings and doors. Officer to the right is covering corridor behind us, while second SWAT member is keeping eye on a WC door.



   Door opening. SWAT member that was covering our backs after order to Stack Up just turned around and said that they are ready. Lazy ass. 



   And here starts some of more complex layout. Red team prepared to enter hotel staff dining room from the door on the left, while Blue is visible next to second door. In R6 coordinated room entrance is possible thanks to some level of control of waypoints, in SWAT 3 there are no separate buttons to do that, but if first team to enter will find criminals inside second team will automatically breach inside room if not ordered to do otherwise. As you can see one of officer of Reds picked place near me to prepare for entrance.



   Room is cleared by a Blue team, as you see they are already covering doorways. Guy in a gasmask wanted to throw a lightstick to mark room, but after he turned with lightstick prepared and saw me right next to a door moving inside he put it back. Kind of funny that developer instead of just make them magically know where i was located made this small behavior "I mark this room for team leader as cle.. oh, here is here. Nevermind" 


z66bNNh.jpg   Last door in those corridors. 



   Inside of this room (you can see opened door from which we entered). Civilian worker inside of this office for hotel staff surrendered. That guy, after he heard us, runned out of small and separate room of manager just behind me, and saw us pointing guns at him. Officer in gasmask is aiming at opened doorway to manager room, same goes with Red team member in the front. Guy with face protection is aiming and control civilian. After about 10 seconds he arrested him on his own. Team was moving in the middle of the room in a line, but after door opened and somebody appeared those 3 soldiers in the front stepped sideways, closer to tables/cabinets/chairs. SWAT officer (or FBI agent to be correct, as those are moded skins) behind overwatching whole room, i guess.



   One of doors from previous room lead to reception of the hotel. FBI agent in fromt of me is leaning and watching one of WCs.



   Another example of how SWAT 3 AI deal with complex spaces - uncleared areas above us and 2 WCs near us (behind stairs) are also unsecured. Officer with mirror stick visible is watching chokepoint on top of the stairs, same goes for soldier left from me (partially visible). Soldier just in front of me is watching one of WCs. I did not gave them any other order than to clear this room.



   Note that almost all of them are aiming at that opening on top of main hotel stairs. Doorway to the right from Gasmask officer are corridors that we cleared. Also, TOC (tactical operation command, i think) reported that they saw suspect activity on 2nd floor (those reports are not scripted). Maybe thats why they pay so much attention to it.



   When i moved a bit futher, soldier that was kneeling changed his position and now is aiming on second WC door. Probably because i changed position he also changed his to better control situation, and i didn't gave him any order either to move somewhere. In fact, there is not order to move AI to specific spot in SWAT 3. Also note that he is using this table and vase as cover. This is both dumb and smart - dumb because it is not good cover (bullet penetration mechanics exist) and SWAT 3 AI system don't understand how good cover is because it can't take into account materials and geometry detection is not accurate enough, but in the same time SWAT 3 AI can find some sort of cover in almost any CQB situations, unlike modern shooters where devs position cover nodes only in which AI can take cover and play those "i am shooting from cover" animations. SWAT 3 AI and Arma 2 and 3 AIs are not limited to those, although SWAT 3 AI is way way way way better than Arma 2 and 3 AIs in that aspect.



   Element ordered to throw a gas grenade and clear what is on top of the stairs. Agent with mirror stick and face shield continue to stand on his position, only red team is advancing to opening above.



   Blue team is standing with me while Red team is executing my order. Order was given to both teams, so AI seems to me decided to separate forces. Maybe they figured out that jamming 4 people there is not good idea or that blue team need to do overwatch of some sorts, but IDK for sure why. 



   We advanced in that corridor (which goes futher right and turns to the right), Red stucked up to the left door, Blue - to the right one. This is very good formation, BTW. Soldier on the left is using mirror.



   During opening of that door Blue spotted our suspect, grenade is out. Red team is stacked up to a door between their room and this one.



   And here is what happened when both AI teams are stucked up to different doors/openings but to the same room - they breached it together. Our suspect is now dead thanks to crossfire.



   Clearing WC on second floor by whole element. Team separated and cleared different toilets instead of 4 officers going into one for higher comedic value.



   AI is following me, note how they are trying to cover all openings and corridors. There is 2 doors in a hall behind me. Soldier at which i am is in the way of officer on the left part of screenshot, which is tactical mistake. Although, thanks to leaning and how officer respond to a contact (trying to take cover) this (and similar sitautions that can happen time to time) was not problem for me during contacts.



   Element is prepared to breach second WC on second floor. Note how they picked all those different places, and this is best angle at which i could catch them all on a screen.



   Checking for bad guys. 



   That place was behind me. FBI agent on the left picked good position, as during breaching civs/suspects can try to flee through second door from that room on the right (not visible, but corridor leading to it can be seen on screenshot). There is clearly a place for 4th member in a group to the right, BTW.



   I went with blue team back to main stairs on first floor to clear remaining places, in this case - a bar. We are searching for last civilian at this point.



   Note how they separated and search from both sides of bar counter in the same time. AI can not only spread element into 2 individual teams (Red and Blue), but it can go futher and spread forces up to individual soldiers. Pretty usefull, but again, i am not sure how exactly they decide when and how to separate.



   Comrade gasmask did not forgot to check inside of a bar counter, as criminals can crouch there and be well concealed. Those small things is what adds to realistic feel of this game compared to Rainbow 6s. Unrelated - SWAT 3 AI loves to lean.



   And again, clearing WCs. No, this is not WC clearing simulator 1999. There is a rare bug when team member after opening a door will stand there instead of going back to his position, which is what happened here. This bug can be caused by AI not being able to find valid node from which he can get LOS to chokenode in doorway, and which will also be near cover and in set distance from choke node, IMO. Rest of team picked not bad positions, with guy on the left standing near reception counter.



   Second WC - element stucked up and cleared it fine.



   After clearing that room, they marked it with green lightstick. Only rooms with 1 entrance or several entrances from same area are makred by AI in such way.


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Finally found screenshot software that don't make Venom vomit player out of game and it was.... Fraps. Why i never thought of it earlier?














Joxi in Splinter Cell Conviction was making only completely black screenshots, fraps also solved that with SCC.














No idea what game i will review next, but SCC is Jason Born: the game made out of a bit of cringe, mixed with fun and hate; while Venom is old, cute, buggy and fun. 

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Speaking about SC: Conviction.




   I can't translate what is wrong with it. In Russian language words have different forms to match other words and meaning of sentence. Everything on this placard is broken - conjugation and matching of words. It should have said "Accept only victory!" but it is broken and phrase "get only victorious" can describe how wrong this is. And all others are the same.


Adolf Lenin


It says "COUNTRY".



"Fight! for benefit of our country"




Work [Noun]"



Truck of "Truck" brand of trucks. Probably named by Captain Obvious.


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9 minutes ago, Bronezhilet said:

I may or may not have had the same version of the game. And a friend may or may not have had the same version too.


We may or may not have had a blast playing the co-op

I didn't tryed to make coop work on such version of the game.

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