Living up to the rolling hype-ball generated by Fallout 4 seems nearly impossible. After reminiscing about Fallout 3 for years, living through false rumors, and the non-stop recent postings pertaining to Bethesda’s latest game, expectations are at an all-time high.

Fallout 4 is the much-anticipated continuation of the Fallout series. The first-person shooter, role-playing game is based in a futuristic world similar to our own, but diverging on a timeline wrought with nuclear war.

The newest game in the series is set in Commonwealth of Massachusetts -- Boston, specifically. Fallout 4 has been in development since the release of Fallout 3, a late 2008 launch, and uses the same engine as Skyrim. The basic storyline (note: this only covers the very beginning and initial storyline setup, nothing more) behind Fallout 4 is that a family is cryogenically frozen in Vault 111, after getting in just as the nuclear bombs go off. We’re then awoken, and see our child being taken by two unknown NPCs who’ve just killed our significant other. After waking up again, we discover that we’re the only one left alive in Vault 111. So begins the game, setting forth on a journey to find a child.

Now that the background is established, let’s cover some of the features Bethesda did well on: settlement building, FPS mechanics, weapon and armor modding, and game atmosphere. We’ll later visit subpar performance for average graphics and irritating bugs.

Activision's latest in its seemingly undying shooter franchise launched with fairly simplistic graphics settings, but still has a few items that may raise questions – like Order Independent Transparency and Subsurface Scattering. We talk about some of these at a top-level in our Black Ops 3 GPU benchmark, found here, but dive deep in this latest guide. Ignoring difficulties encountered with VRAM and memory, the heavy LOD scaling and graphics controls allow for scalability across the $130 to $1000 GPU range.

Our Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 optimization guide shows the best graphics settings for improving FPS, including screenshot comparisons of the settings. We independently benchmarked all of the game's settings. The screenshots below show texture quality (resolution) comparisons, preset & texture VRAM consumption, FPS performance for each setting, and more. We also define Order Independent Transparency, Volumetric Lighting, Subsurface Shadows, Mesh Quality, Shadow Mapping, and more of Call of Duty's options.

All of these tests were conducted using the patch released on November 7, which contained some bug fixes not addressed at launch. The latest nVidia (358.87) and AMD (15.11) drivers were used for testing. More below in the methodology sections.

Each setting will be listed by severity of its impact on FPS. Higher severity FPS impacters will be listed first.

We're in the final throes of our Call of Duty: Black Ops III content before moving on to the next game – you know the one. While processing data for our forthcoming graphics optimization guide, we realized that Black Ops III is among the most VRAM-hungry games we've ever tested, consuming upwards of 10GB GDDR5 on the Titan X.

Our GPU benchmarks included some initial memory benchmarking, stating that the 980 Ti saw full saturation of its 6GB framebuffer at 4K/max settings. We also showed that the game commits 15.2GB of memory under max settings (pageable address space), with an active physical consumption of about 6.7GB (working set) in Multiplayer. Our testing presents that the singleplayer campaign is far more intensive than multiplayer, to the tune of 38.6% lower FPS on the GPU side.

During tests of all Call of Duty: Black Ops 3's graphics settings, we uncovered a VRAM consumption approaching 10GB in campaign mode when using 4K & “Extra” settings.

FPS games are shrouded in arcane mythology pertaining to the accuracy of mouse input, with never-ending debates over acceleration, smoothing, mouse input filtering, and raw input detection. Call of Duty: Black Ops III doesn't escape from this.

One of the first questions we encountered upon publication of our Black Ops III benchmark related to mouse smoothing and acceleration. Namely, “how do I get rid of it?” 

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 arrived on PC at midnight, bringing with it high-fidelity graphics that stress PC components – all the way down to the memory. We set forth on benchmarks for Call of Duty: Black Ops III immediately, with our first FPS tests focusing on GPU performance, alongside some RAM & VRAM insights. More tests are forthcoming, so be sure to follow us for those.

Before jumping into the BLOPS 3 benchmarks, let's explain the game's graphics settings. Until our graphics optimization guide for Call of Duty arrives, this detailed list of game settings should assist in determining which options can be disabled or tuned for a higher framerate.

Update: Our Black Ops III graphics optimization guide is now live for per-setting analysis.

The ever-increasing pile of computer hardware coming into our labs has been backing us up lately, as is usual for this time of year, and we've had to pull-on some additional help to clear the review inventory. As a part of this, we thought it would be a fun idea to start running a recurring “In the Lab” segment to provide a sneak peek to active hardware being tested. This content will provide some introductory technical coverage of the products, talk about testing methodology, concerns we're encountering, and initial thoughts, all before publication of the finalized reviews.

Out first episode overviews the Steam Link & Steam Controllers, for which our reviews go live next week, the Corsair VOID headset, MSI's B150A Gaming Pro motherboard, and some Skylake CPUs.

 

Sword Coast Legends is a newly-released D&D cRPG that has entrenched itself deeply within Wizards of the Coast territory, all the way down to adoption of the 5th edition core ruleset. For those of us who haven't yet dug our way out of the insurmountable pile of 3.5 books, the ruleset may be unfamiliar, but it's still D&D.

We've previously covered Sword Coast Legends, with our first round of coverage from GDC – near the game's unveil – and the most recent at PAX Prime. Until recently, our only hands-on sessions with the game were as players, with one limited on-the-fly DM session. This DM session dropped me in to a premade dungeon crawl with my staff (“with,” not “against,” because we're playing co-operatively to enable a good experience); my role here was limited to staying one step ahead of the players, trying to plant mobs and traps according to current challenge. I did not get to look at the actual DM toolkit – the utilities used for making longer campaigns and custom modules – until the last two weeks.

This time, I spent about eight hours building a fully fleshed-out module, complete with back-story, multiple levels, and custom quests. The objective was to give my old D&D group a run that'd remind us of the tabletop days.

Kingdom Game Review - Capitalism in the Feudal Age

By
in Games
Published October 21, 2015 at 9:00 am

Kingdom is a 2013 flash game by developer Noio, greatly expanded and brought to PC/Mac/iOS/Android with the help of fellow developer Licorice. As we noted back in our August preview, despite being an indie game, Kingdom was, for once, not funded by Kickstarter --surprise! Let's see if the retail release keeps that overly-addictive-flash-game charm.

In the beginning, there is a King (or Queen) and a pile of money. Such is the way of life. The "tutorial" is short and sweet: ten coins are enough to light a campfire, build two walls, and hire/equip a builder and an archer--after that, there's not much else to learn. Coins are the only resource in the game, and are used to create buildings, upgrade the settlement, hire workers, and buy tools. At night, mischevious green creatures scurry in to tear-down buildings and run away with tools (or brutally devour innocent townsfolk, as the game progresses). If one snatches the crown, that's it--time to start a new kingdom. This is a permadeath game.

Epistory - Typing Chronicles is an “atmospheric action/adventure game” from developer Fishing Cactus, available on Steam Early Access since September 30th. The game mechanics focus on two of my favorite things: typing long words as fast as possible and riding a giant fox. What more do you really need?

The basic premise of Epistory is that you’re a girl who’s lost her memory, and—again—you’re riding a giant fox. The forest is in danger, and it's the player's job to clean house by ridding of various patches of bramble and giant snakes. That was about as far as the narrative got in the time that I played, and there was no indication that it would get more elaborate than that, but possibilities abound in a title so early in development. Additional “chapters” of the game will be released over the course of its time in early access, leaving plenty of room for expansion through its 1Q16 release target.

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