Stolen Pixels #205: The Bullet Massage

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Jun 23, 2010

Filed under: Column 64 comments

I forgot to link this on Tuesday.

I’m picking apart all the little flaws of Alpha Protocol, but there’s really only one that’s really daunting me: Instead of having long loading screens, the game loads levels a few rooms at a time and brings in more as you progress. You’ll hit a trigger in the middle of hallway and the game will cache the room you’re about to enter and unload the room you were just in.

The problem is that this mini-load takes about a quarter second, and the input logic doesn’t account for it. If you’re moving the camera slightly (which is very likely if you’re using the mouse) then it will take that movement and repeat it over the entire quarter-second lurch. The upshot is that you’ll end up spun around in a single frame. If you’re still holding down the forward key, then you’re likely to blunder into the trigger again going the other way, which will cause it to dump the room it just loaded and load the room it just dumped, and also toss you through another quarter-second lurch where your camera ends up aimed someplace random.

This can happen in the middle of combat. I can’t properly express how much rage I feel when I line up my shot on some dude’s noggin and suddenly I’m facing the other way and staring at the floor and desperately looking for cover so I can get my bearings again before I get shot to death.

This bug is infuriating because it’s so pervasive and so easily fixed. Assuming I’m right about the cause, then this is a simple input bug that is 100% reproducible on the PC. (I know I’ve seen other people complaining about it as well.)

A more esoteric bug is the one I ran into last night, which I suspect is related to the same room-caching system. I ran into a huge ballroom but then decided to double-back and check some other corridors before proceeding through. I hit another lurch in the process, and then returned to the ballroom to find it was gone:


All of the room geometry was missing. There were dudes and furniture floating in thin air. I figured I’d try to just dash through the room to the next and hope the problem would sort itself out at the next lurch. Even though I couldn’t see it any more, the staircase was solid enough and I remembered where it was. And I could see the door on the far side.

But while the staircase was solid, the floor was not. I got to the bottom of the steps and fell out of the level entirely, skydiving (in a standing position) out of the level and into the abyss. Had to re-load the game.


Contrary to previous Obsidian games, the plot keeps getting better as I go. And there are a lot less bugs than in either KOTOR 2 or NWN 2. But there are bugs, and they are an annoying killjoy.


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64 thoughts on “Stolen Pixels #205: The Bullet Massage

  1. Gandaug says:

    This still makes me sad. So much potential in the game.

    Here’s hoping for patches that fix the worst of it.

    Oddly enough I never ran into the crazy number of bugs people talk about in KOTOR2 and NWN2. Though with NWN2 I couldn’t ever bring myself to keep playing after Chapter 1.

  2. Keeshhound says:

    Forced boss fights suck, but if you specialize in handguns you can at least end them with one or two uses of the Chain Shot skill.

    1. Nihil says:

      I’ll go further: once you have the Chain Shot skill, there are no such things as bosses any more.

      (Brayko is the exception here, since after being a standing target for five minutes he gets the gall to try to engage you in melee. Which means you’ll have to – shudder – actually go and hide somewhere so you can finish him off.)

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Or just run around until he sniffs himself to death.

    2. Mari says:

      There’s something worse than forced bosses. Forced bosses whom you PUMMEL to within an inch of their lives, only to have your victory negated by a forced retreat. “No, he’s too strong for you now. You run and I’ll hold him off by sacrificing my hand.” “WHY?!?! I took off 3/4 of his hit points in TWO HITS! I could kill him into little meat bits in one more!” “No, he’s too strong for you now. You run and I’ll hold him off by sacrificing my hand.” “I hate you old woman! I hate you so much!”

      Sorry. KOTOR 2 flashbacks.

      1. Calatar says:

        Darth Sion really was too powerful for you when you first met him though. And you didn’t actually get to fight him, it just triggered a cutscene. See? Is that the part you were talking about?
        I don’t recall when there was a pushover “unbeatable” boss in KotOR 2.
        I didn’t really have that much of a problem with KotOR 2 until the ending, though the “suddenly, Sith Troopers! A hundred of them!” at the end of Peragus was a bit strange.

        1. Jirin says:

          There was a bit like that in the first KOTOR, though. Malak would have been a much more serious threat if he hadn’t been such a pushover the first time around.

          “And now… I go hide behind some locked doors! Mwahahaha!”

  3. Tizzy says:

    You mean they did not plan overlaps in the various areas to be loaded? I can see how there might be technical reasons why you would be reluctant to plan this way, but still, I would have thought this was the natural thing to do.

    1. Robyrt says:

      The best explanation I can think of is that they were under tight memory constraints, and the levels were already laid out so that too many rooms were next to each other to be loaded all at once, so they just stuck some loading screens on the stairways or doors.

      If you’re going with this kind of streaming load system, do it like God of War: Let your level designers know they need to pad their designs with empty hallways every 3 or 4 rooms, and overlap the entire hallway. This gives you 5+ seconds to load whatever you want.

      The “don’t clear input buffer while loading” bug is inexcusable, because it seems really easy to find. Maybe it only affects the mouse and not the analog stick?

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Actually,you can stealth that first boss.You even get an extra perk for doing that.There is also one more boss that you can trick into killing himself(brayko).Oh,and the three triad mini bosses can all be stealth killed as well.

    As for the rest,I found out the best tactic is to have chain shot,then switch to ap bullets,get close to them,and unload all the shots in their head with a critical hit.Omen deng was easy with chain shot.Took him under 10 seconds.I took out the last boss with 2 chained shots,but I guess youll have lots of problems with him using a shotgun.That is,if you decide to fight him.

    Pistols+stealth gives you the best abilities to take on anything.Invisibility(was it called hidden assassin?)doesnt get canceled when you stealth kill someone,so when it is maxed out,you can just use silent running+invisibility and clear whole rooms.If someone gets left over,you just trigger chain shot and shoot them all.

    Also,pistol is the only weapon that allows you nonlethal take downs at range(not counting the gadgets),which is excellent for missions where you dont want to kill enemies(cia headquarters,for example).

    The weirdest bug Ive found out was enemies not spawning.Which pisses me off,since I want all the xp!Though it does make levels easier.

    1. Jarenth says:

      The skill you mention is called Shadow Operative.


    2. SnowballinHell says:

      Clearing whole rooms with Silent Running (Master)/Shadow Operative (Master) was extremely satisfying (for me at least, being a “hardcore” stealth gamer…SCREW YOU SHOTGUN :D )
      The peak moment for me with this combination though:
      Enter room, 5 targets, all relatively on open ground, stack my skills, take out first target with CQC/Stealth Kill
      And hear another target say:
      “Watch out, SNIPER !!”
      Laughed myself silly
      Good times

    3. Corran says:

      I too managed to stealth the lieutenant on the bridge in Saudi Arabia.

      I can’t remember exactly but I think I had a silencer by then which made it easy; headshotting the flunkies on the floor and then going up.

  5. Zukhramm says:

    That first boss on the bridge can actually be taken out with stealth, hapilly assuring us that stealth can get us through the game, making all the other no-stealthable bosses all the more annoying.

    The plot though, I thought was quite boring.

  6. Narrow24 says:

    You actually can sneak up on the first boss. If you stealth kill the three guys on the ground and then move up to the bridge without him seeing you you simply toss him off without a fight. I didn’t discover this until my second play through when I decided to go stealth because it was much more fun than a direct assault. I do however have a sneaking suspicion that you aren’t given the stealth option on later bosses because those setups on my first play through didn’t really allow for it.

    Overall I find the game enjoyable, and getting through a level undetected can be very rewarding. The camera issue, detailed here, is wholly infuriating and has led to more than a few frustrating deaths.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      You dont even have to stealth kill those guys on the ground.I used evasion to run past them invisibly.

  7. [d20]thegrinner says:

    I found the game unplayable at first due to mouse stutter. Had to go in and edit an ini file using a fix that apparently lots of people needed. I never could figure out why I still occasionally spun when on stairs or whatnot, so thanks for explaining that.

    The thing I find best about the story is it reacts to you – what your character wears, what his past actions were, who he killed/let live.

  8. Hal says:

    Hm, this is in response to the comic, but it is rather frustrating when games give you options that are not helpful. It’s like a trap.

    I’ll use Deus Ex for an example, because it was the first thing to come to mind. There are several levels of training in, say, hacking. At the first level, you can bust into any computer or security console, but your time in them is very limited. At the second and third levels, you have more time to do what you need to do; these are largely useful if you intend to read emails. At the highest level, you not only have an almost unlimited time while hacking, but you can also take over any turrets that are attached to a security console you’re hacking.

    The problem is that this is almost worthless. By the time you have enough skill points for this, you’re not going to run into hardly any turrets that you can avoid on the way to their security console, hack into, and then direct at an enemy.

    Oh well. Still an awesome game.

  9. Leinadi says:

    I don’t think the plot itself is particularly interesting (though I’d say a lot better than most RPGs at any rate). What makes it interesting is how convos and all that stuff is customized to your own particular playstyle and how you’ve decided to treat people.

    I generally prefer huge branching in games but for AP (which is *very* story-driven) I find it very impressive how much the game “rewrote” itself based on what I decided to do.

    Even though many of these changes are quite small, I found it rather hard to go back and play other story-driven games after because they feel very… stiff in comparison.

    All my playthroughs have been pretty bug-free (actually a smoother ride than most RPGs) which I’m quite happy about. There are some design decisions that I really don’t like however. Nevertheless, AP is a game that drew me in like no other game has done in a really long time. I think it’s Obsidian’s best after the Mask of the Betrayer expansion.

  10. Goliathvv says:

    Actually, I’m waiting for the right time to play this game. Which means: let obsidian take it’s time to correct the bugs, and hope some good souls will use their spare time to ballance the game, and by good souls I mean modders.

    1. Abnaxis says:

      Seconded. Here’s to letting all the Crash Dummies who buy the game at launch field all the bugs :D

      1. SnowballinHell says:

        Well it’s good to know I’m good for something :)
        The big reason I bought it on launch (no pre-order), was I wanted to support Obsidian
        Help get a little money the programmers (who knows, maybe even to some Fallout: New Vegas techs)
        I’ve enjoyed most of Obsidian’s games despite the bugs, I figure if I send money they’ll eventually improve/be happier in their work

        I’m such a wussy :D

  11. Tizzy says:

    11 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passà¨.

    Sorry Shamus, but it should read passé; (acute accent).

  12. Nonesuch says:

    Oh god! The taunts! Can’t they just stay QUIET!

    When I played through the second time I used the recruit option (which means no skill points) and Omen wasn’t too hard. Steel Core bullets, chain shot and punches to the face.

    No, my biggest problem was the bit in boss fights (Omen and Brekyo were the main offenders) where you would be punching them in the face and the boss in question would run away. In the middle of you punching them in the face. The spotlights in the fight with Breyko were quiet obnoxious.

    And the way they’d bring in minions wasn’t quite the best. The fights with Sis and Omen were awful for that since they’re quite capable of ripping you to tiny shreds if you slip up and let them start shooting you.

  13. LintMan says:

    Does Alpha Protocol really only cache one room at a time? I was going to say “that’s what you can expect playing on X-box”, but this is on the PC? WTF?

    I recall Deus Ex having that same problem of the getting turned around at level load and re-triggering the load of the last area, but they at least had the grace of putting the load areas away from anywhere you’d be fighting. You’d think this problem could have been solved in the 10 years since Deus Ex came out.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Alpha protocols main problems do come from it being developed first for a console,then ported to a pc.And these loads are usually away from enemies,but some levels have weird designs where you can run in a bunch of enemies during the load time.Its not common,but it is very annoying.

  14. Andy_Panthro says:

    I had almost no bugs, and only one crash through an entire playthrough.

    Perhaps I was an outlier, but I imagine that it may be more likely that those with problems will make them known more often than those without problems.

    However, even with the bugs that other people have described, the game itself is pretty good.

    I really enjoyed the branching storylines, and the characters were generally well done.

    I’d probably give it an 8/10

  15. Jarenth says:

    Counterpoint: A lot of the game seems to be built specifically around this idea of a-few-rooms-at-a-time-in-memory. When you pass certain checkpoints without killing all the guards, they disappear (along with the rest of the rooms), thus limiting the amount of potential enemies that can be alerted to your presence at once should you at some point screw up. It seems to serve as a sort of difficulty limiter.

    All conjecture, of course, but this is how I experienced it.

  16. macil says:

    Heh, I hated this game and I’m (was) a big fan of Obsidian.

    The bosses are possible with stealth characters if you use several exploits (at least on the 360 version). I beat the game a week ago with a character who had nothing but Stealth, Sabotage and Martial Arts as a “Recruit” on “Hard.”

    Spoilers incoming:

    There is a jump off point in the fight with Brayko at the front of the stage. If you can get Brayko to follow you over it and beat him back to the top of the stage, his path-finding will be incapable of getting around the stage and will just run into the wall, allowing you to shoot him to death at your leisure.

    In the fight with Marburg, you can combine flashbangs and “Shadow Operative” to whittle him down to death. At the start of the fight, cloak and then he will be “stuck” looking forward. Move behind him and wait for stealth to wear off & cooldown. When it has, throw a flashbang in front of him and unload on him while he is stunned. Before he gets out of the stun, you must cloak again, otherwise he will see you. Rinse and repeat until dead.

    Darcy is the easiest of all: take an assault rifle for that mission and snipe him out of his range. You can do this right behind the rock at the start of that zone. Wait for your reticule to get the red “X” and plug ’em. You might have to guess where he is, because there are branches of a tree are in the way — generally, this is pretty easy, though, because his laser sights give his position away.

    Other bosses shouldn’t be a problem: Martial arts were effective on Omen Deng for me and he often breaks combat to give you a small respite.

  17. mikle says:

    Shamus, it’ll be helpful if you point out the game in the comics page (not only in a tag). I heard about this game but from the comics, it seems like half the pixels are black. It looked kinda like Mass Effect.

    1. Shamus says:

      Yeah, that was an oversight.

      Someone mentioned this at the Escapist and I had to look back at my post, “Really? I didn’t mention the game even ONCE?”

      1. SatansBestBuddy says:

        Wow, you must be slipping; forgetting to post the link to your newest comic on your own blog, forgetting to mention what game you’re talking about in both the comic and the couple of hundred words to go with it, spelling passé as passਅ

        What next, a “his” instead of an “is,” huh?!

        1. Sekundaari says:

          How about forgetting to link to the newest Shamus Plays: LOTRO? Does that count? I’m not sure of the linking deadline…

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Indeed.Where am I to laugh out loud about the escort quest now?For shame!

  18. Bobknight says:

    Alpha protocl has a wonderful spy story. A terrible story from an absolute sense(it was convoluted, confusing and many bits of it doesn’t really do much to push the character forward) but its enjoyable in a sort of ‘license to kill’ kind of way

    1. Tizzy says:

      I believe the rule is: if it’s not confusing, it’s not a spy story.

      1. Will says:

        Which makes sense when you think about it.

  19. Valaqil says:

    “23 comments. Highly cototient!”

    When did you ever learn a word like that? Did you need one of the properties for some programming, or was it something else? I’m _quite_ curious. I’ve never heard of it before now.

    If you’re not already familiar with cototient, like me, what follows is a hasty explanation cobbled from Wikipedia. If you are familiar, or just don’t care, feel free to skip it.

    First, we need to understand coprime: Two numbers share the greatest common factor of 1, i.e. the greatest integer that evenly divides both numbers. Next, the totient of a number is the number of integers <= n that are coprime to n. So, the totient of 23 is 22. (23 is prime and 1 is the GCF with any number below it.) Now the cototient of n is n – totient(n), or the number of positive integers NOT totient to n. In this case, 1.

    1. Shamus says:

      I actually stumbled onto that in Wikipedia, and put it there in the hopes that someone else would dig it as much as I did.

      Computer Science was married to mathematics for years, which shaped how the discipline was taught. Even when I was in school in the 80’s, complex math courses were almost always prerequisites for computer courses that didn’t involve much math at all. These days computer courses are front-and-center, and they aren’t walled off behind advanced classes like some sort of cult or priesthood.

      Having said that, if you plan on programming with 3D graphics, then you need to get a book on trigonometry, and you better put that sucker inside your brain.

      1. Valaqil says:

        Still true to some degree, at least where I went to Uni. (Graduated last year, in grad school now.) If you major in CS, you _must_ minor in Math, which ended up being ~7 courses. In order to take certain CS courses (on the Sophomore level), you needed to have passed at least Calculus and Linear Algebra, and more advanced coursework required others.

        Ah. Lucky me, then. I’ve never liked trig, and I’m not _anticipating_ doing much in the way of graphics.

      2. acronix says:

        I had to quit my attempt at becoming a university programmer thanks to my brain being incapable of sort of complex-ish mathematics. Down here, if you want to have an university title, you need to survive two or three years full of maths, algebra and physics, and THEN you start to do stuff with a computer.
        Why couldn´t I like something simpler, like physical education (aka, punches to the student´s brains)?

      3. Jon Ericson says:

        At UCLA programming classes for non-engineers were taught under the mathematics department. For a long time, I thought programming aptitude was related to mathematical aptitude, but I no longer believe it. Both disciplines are far too vast at this point to make any real generalizations. One skill that both employ, as a matter of fact, is the ability to generalize a problem.

        Another spot mathematics helps is when you get down to optimization. Sounds like the programmers of Alpha Protocol could have used some help at that stage.

      4. Tizzy says:

        This can be partly chalked up to the exponential growth in computer presence that has taken place since their invention. The 80’s saw a lot of self-taught hackers, but any professor who had credentials to teach CS in the 80’s would have had to have learned CS in a very academic science-y or business-y environment.

        (People who have seen 1970’s computers will know what I mean: weird knobs and switches, no keyboard, punchcard inputs… serious training was required to do anything with them, you wouldn’t even know where to start otherwise.)

      5. pneuma08 says:

        I was taking Comp Sci at Urbana, and while most Computer Science classes aren’t “walled off” behind math classes anymore, they do have a lot of dependencies. Linear algebra, graph and group theory, logic, abstract algebra and infinite series come up often enough in certain disciplines, although they’re distinctly separate from Computer Science-specific classes like comp architecture and data structures.

        My favorite classes (discrete math to algorithms) actually made no excuses whatsoever about being hodgepodges of pure math, though. In some cases, even identical to a MATH class.

        They still wanted every Engineering student to take Physics, Chemistry, Differential Equations and Calculus 1-3, though (to be fair, Calc 2 is useful, and physical sciences are good general education).

    2. Kacky Snorgle says:

      Eh? But that would mean 23 *isn’t* highly cototient at all, since its cototient of 1 is the lowest value acheivable under that definition. Are you sure you’re not leaving out a “not” somewhere, or something…?

      1. Tizzy says:

        What the definition means is that the number of solutions (i.e. the number of possible values of n) to the equation


        is larger than the number of solutions to:

        Apparently, the first equation in the list has 4 solutions,
        n=95, n=119, n=143, and n=529.
        You would have to check that all the other equations have 3 or fewer solutions.

        I don’t imagine any of this is obvious (I used brute force, and I am not even 100% sure of what I wrote above). So the highly cototient property is not something easy to read off a number.

        BTW, this has nothing to do with 23 being prime (having cototient equal to 1). Some highly cototient numbers are prime, some are not.

        1. Valaqil says:

          At first, I didn’t check for a Highly cototient number. You’re right. I only checked for “cototient” at first. That’s what I get for commenting a spot quickly.

        2. Kacky Snorgle says:

          Ah, okay. So it’s about 23 occurring *as* the cototient of other numbers, rather than about the cototient of 23. It’s all so clear now! :)

    3. Jarenth says:

      Lemme see if I get this right:

      – For any prime number n, the Greatest Common Divisor that number has with other numbers is 1.
      => For any prime number n, the totient of that number will be n-1.
      => Any prime number n has cototient 1.

      Is this correct or am I making incorrect assumptions here?

      1. Tizzy says:

        Yes, you are correct. More generally, if you know the prime decomposition of a number n, you can deduce the totient of that number. It is
        n multiplied by a term of the form (1-1/p) for each prime p that divides n.

        So if n is prime, the only value of p that works is p=n, and you get:
        totient(n) = n(1-1/n) = n-1.

  20. SnowballinHell says:

    The loading of one room at a time was pretty weak, even just from a stealth angle, let alone a explore and find stuff angle
    And the mouse view turning 180 degrees at any random time made me seriously consider abandoning the game (I praise you for sticking to it)
    I will say though, the moment I switched from mouse/keyboard to X-Box controller, the bug went away…perhaps we were just given an EXTREMELY bad console port…
    why do they hate us so much :(

  21. sree says:

    Shamus if u have the time you should check out the new ME2 “Overlord” DLC it’s all I wanted Mass Effect 2 to be…being ME1 only better!! has a really good story… visual design better than anything in the game especially the last 30 minutes (Ghost in a Shell meets Tron)…how i wish ME2 had ended with something like this instead..

    yeah still waiting on that Mordin post..

    also, i forced my brain to rationalise ME2’s ending by saying that they built the Big Human Reaper because they’re like Brainiac…only they want to preserve DNA of the “dominant” organic species at the end of each cycle…

    maybe Sovereign was made from Prothean slushee and left there to activate the conduit… and since they’re coming back they thought they might save time and go ahead and prepare a Human Slushee Reaper to activate the Conduit the next time around? just a thought

    thanks for the posts!! also english is not my first language so, sorry for the mistakes

  22. Solid Jake says:

    It started out a bit iffy (possibly because I’m using the Recruit class which begins with NO AP which leads to a lot of sucking and dieing at the start) but as the game has gone on it’s really grown on me. I love the dialogue and how nearly every choice comes back to reward/haunt you, although Yahtzee was right about how some of them are not clear enough (“Joking” can mean both “friendly ribbing” and “vicious unprovoked mocking” and there’s no way to tell which you’ll do).

    I’d say it’s a lot like most Black Isle/Troika/Obsidian games: alternately brilliant and retarded with nearly nothing in between. Probably not worth full price, but I got it for $35 so I ‘m pretty pleased.

    1. Leinadi says:

      I think the starting segment is very weak. Now, I quite liked Saudi Arabia myself (though many don’t like that either) but the very start/tutorial completely fails at drawing in my attention.

      Given the location I suppose it makes sense that it’s rather sterile, but having an environment like that at the start is just a really bad move.

      Even though the level design is fairly linear, I think they did a good job on the levels visually speaking and making the hubs different from one another and appealing… Again, except for the very beginning.

      But, I am very glad I bought the game (even at full price). The companies you mention do have a track record of buggy games and occasionally iffy design elements, but I think their games almost always feel very creative, bring something fresh to the table and pushing for RPG elements. For that, I’m willing forgive much, especially considering how RPGs (and most games in general really) tend to turn out today (pretty, polished but no depth whatsoever).

  23. Marlowe says:

    Looking at the last picture: what if someone stole the entire world and held it to ransom?

  24. Corran says:

    I too ran into the mouse/loading issues. It was the worst right in Greybox (when you enter the locker room).

    There is a fix fortunately.

    For those who haven’t found it yet:

  25. Axle says:

    It seems like this game suffers from the major disease of most RPGs – Balancing the game so it will fit and challenge all gamestyles.

    I will wait awhile before I get this game myself. Hopefully it will be patched/modded to be a great game for the PC (and it seems to me like it has the potential to be one).

  26. Valve solved this room-loading issue with Half Life (1 and 2) in a clean way (to be fair, they do have more on-rails type shooters). But the trigger point is not a single location – each room/level section that is loaded includes a little bit of the level section you were previously in and you have to move further back to get to the trigger point again so you are never ever standing on a trigger point. Once you hit it, the trigger point is moved to a location further away and generally behind you.

    Considering the numerous other bugs that seem to infest the game, I can almost understand why they didn’t patch this up – it’s also the kind of thing that requires planning for from the very beginning in order to do the little bits of geometry replication per section.

    1. Ian says:

      In general perhaps but I had a huge issue with it in a specific place in Half Life 2. Way back when it was new and the loading would take several seconds on my PC of the time.

      When I was in the car driving through a long dark tunnel, it started to load so I knew I was in for a bit of a wait I would let go of the keyboard. My lack of pressing accelerate caused the buggy to spin out fast when the load was done. Now I’m in a tunnel not knowing which way I need to go to get out and avoid the load. I’m just playing through again now so almost look forward to seeing if I do it again.

  27. Jeffry Degrande says:

    You can turn of AP’s background streaming by setting the pUseBackgroundStreaming to False in, I believe APEngine.ini. It will increase the amount of `mis’ loads though. I’m on my first playthrough and stuck at Marburg. About 3/4 of the time it loads the zone without any Marburg at all.

  28. Felblood says:

    In Obsidian’s defense, this is the most robust loading system I’ve ever seen in a 360 shooter. It copes with the horrible grinding of my decaying 360’s drives without ever locking up, unlike Mass Effect, Fallout 3 and Dead Rising. The load times get longer, and more frequent as the system gets hotter, and you notice textures loading slower, just like other 360 games, but hour after hour after hour, it keeps plugging away without needing a break.

    Looks like all the talented loading programmers got allocated to the 360 release.

    This does nothing to stop the abject stupidity of the boss fight design. Which I will now lambaste, with barely controlled fury.

    As is my tradition, I made my first character a freelancer/commando/human-tank (save stealth characters for after you know where all the bosses are, because they always have to have one, even if they have the good sense to make him stealth killable). The boss fights are still tooth-grinding anti-fun festivals, that once had me stuck on the same guy for an entire 24 hours. I never touch normal mode in an RPG, and even hard mode has been insultingly easy, but these boss fights are so extreme that it’s a wonder the guy who designed them hasn’t been stabbed in the back, and fed into a wood chipper.

    Speaking of the guy who designed them, he can’t possibly have had anything to do with the rest of the game. Who put all these lame references to bad 80s movies in my gripping spy drama? If every action has a consequence, then he should be made to face the consequences of his actions: unemployment, and hopefully getting shot in the face as many times as it takes to kill one of his startlingly insipid creations.

    Also, the guy responsible for the escort mission AI in Moscow needs to die with him. If you don’t buy the single-mission sniper rifle or save all half of your grenades for the very end, even a combat specialist has no real chance of victory. It’s like hard mode is only for people who already played the game once, and know what to expect, but isn’t that what the unlockable difficulty levels are for?

    It’s as though an idiot looked the game over and decided that every level needed more a more violent climax, and so a cliche bossfight from some other, much less fun game was pasted onto the end of each major stage. The game itself is freaking awesome BTW, the bossfights are just something that get’s between you and all the awesome. Having such an awesome game just barely out of reach, due to a really stupid bossfight is so frustrating that you are likely to chew on your controller and kill your neighbors.

    Players who find the regular game difficulty just right will be stumped at the end of each operation, and even the ones that are easy take too long, and run out of power. They aren’t balanced by any stretch of the imagination; did somebody decide to double all the boss’ HP the day before launch?

    After sneaking through a pitched battle where my nominal allies will shoot me on sight, not seeing me as a friend, but still being not-good-to-shoot, I should be thinking “Whew, that was intense, but I pulled it off!” not “Just great! Now I have to fight a literal truckload of armored cyborgs, while defending a man who can only be the offspring of a lemming and a kamakaze pilot.”

    Honestly, the tank boss at the end of the first Arc was really good, why spoil it with this over-the-top, Saturday-morning idiocy. This is an action movie not a superhero comic parodying action movies, like the boss fights seem to think.

    1. Jarenth says:

      Lemme guess, you just had to defend Surkov at the embassy?

      I feel the guy who designed that fight should be forced to play that. While on fire. And he only gets put out once he beats it.

  29. Bobknight says:

    Guess I’m lucky that I bought the sniper rifle then. But I think if you had shadow operative and brilliance to atleast expert, you can beat it too. Just run around assassinating everyone.

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