The Beautiful Canadian Rockies: Part 3 (Photos)

For the third installment of this rather amazing collection of photos I’m going to share the bear essentials (…ha?). Prepare yourself for a selection of decent pictures, that didn’t end up being blurry or just plain obscure, in which I hope you can enjoy. On our journey through the Rockies, we were lucky enough to witness 15 bears – 3 grizzlies and 12 black bears, including one cub. Not all of these bears were captured with decent pictures or video, though. There’s definitely a bear behind that berry bush, trust me.

Alexander Jones

P.S. If you’d like to use my photos for any reason, please contact me first!

 

The Beautiful Canadian Rockies: Part 2 (Photos)

Here is the second part of my Canadian Rockies photo collection. I’ve uploaded all of my photos to my computer and guess how many I took – over 1600. That’s a lot of photos, so luckily I’m only going to share the highlights in these blog posts. As I stated in my last post, I really hope you can appreciate the natural beauty that the Rockies have to offer.

Alexander Jones

The Beautiful Canadian Rockies: Part 1 (Photos)

Here is a collection of photos I took on my Canon DSLR in the Canadian Rockies, August 11-26th. Some shots aren’t that focused (I’m an aspiring amateur), but I hope you can appreciate the magnificent beauty – that I still can’t really comprehend – that is very much REAL.

Much more photos to come!

Alexander Jones

 

Review: DOOM (2016)

I survived the hellish onslaught on Mars, and kicked demon butts in Hell. Ripping and tearing, shooting and obliterating everything in my path. Rock music blasting in the background, it’s difficult not to enjoy the terror.

Not without its fair amount of challenge – DOOM succeeds in establishing itself as a classic arcade shooter with advancements across the board.

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Suit up.

As a newbie to the DOOM scene, I don’t really have the faintest idea in regards to the plot. There’s demons and guns, right? Well I must admit, I am hooked on this installment. I can confirm that DOOM 4, dubbed neatly as DOOM (2016), is indeed a reboot of the series. Created by id Studios and published by Bethesda, DOOM is back with impressive graphical and gameplay enhancements.

Playing as the famous unnamed ‘Doomguy’ you awaken in a room, presumed to be your holding cell, surrounded by Possessed Union Aerospace Corporation (UAC) personnel. Breaking free from your constraints you utilise a standard pistol, clearing the room of hellish zombie-like men, continuing to reunite with the very satisfyingly chunky Praetor Suit. From here you embark on your journey to rid the demon presence from Mars. The campaign stretches to around 12-15 hours, depending on how much of the beautiful (yet, disturbing) visuals you want to take in. Separated by chapters (essentially mission levels), you will transcend back and forth between the UAC facility on Mars and Hell, following your own demon-slaying desires and the instructions of influential individuals, the campaign is interesting enough alongside the great gameplay to solidify the intense and satisfying package.

Without spoiling the plot-line, there are a number of set-pieces that appear later down the road which surprised me. DOOM feels like the kind of game you’d expect to run into a boss stage at the end of each mission, this is not the case. Instead, about three quarters through the game you are met with what feels like an abundance of boss fights left, right and center. Definitely not a bad aspect; it actually exaggerated the intensity of the oncoming conclusion, which actually felt rather abrupt. With so many boss fights so close together I was actually expecting a little bit more after the sudden end-game cinematic. In no way does this really subtract from DOOM however, as I found the whole experience very satisfying all the same.

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Moving on to the most important factor: the gameplay. If you previously read my DOOM: Open Beta Impressions then you’ll already have a general idea of how combat and movement works. It’s fast, fluid and gruesomely vivid to watch. Your movement is swift, complementing DOOM’s arcade origins, no sprint button here folks. It feels like an arena shooter, which I have little experience with, but if DOOM is anything to go by, I’m sold by it. Following from the lack of sprinting, there’s also a lack of reloading. Weapons have different shooting rates, but they never require manual reloading, this is after all reliving the arcade, arena feel. You accumulate ammunition, health and armour as pickups (old skool FTW).  It’s a nice change of pace from contemporary FPS games which are littered with regeneration.

Obviously one of the main additions that’s got everyone talking is the Glory Kills. Brutal, so brutal, but so fun. How do you spice up a notoriously bloody and violent franchise? You add even more blood and violence, and make it look amazing. Glory Kills add some fruitful new ways of finishing off those pesky Possessed soldiers but even more so for the big baddies. Chainsawing a staggered Baron of Hell is insane, and makes you feel rather omnipotent for a brief but rewarding moment. These impressively animated kills can feel like a nice breather before continuing to slaughter dozens more demons in one of the arena stages. After performing one of these animations you are given extra pickup items (health at first, armour with a Rune upgrade, and ammo with any chainsaw demise), and also a short speed boost that aids the seeking of your next victim.

That Rune upgrade I just mentioned refers to one of the extra segments within the campaign that the player can interact with. These Runes can be found throughout missions, often hidden behind doors and gates, and grant the player with special abilities after the completion of a relatively tough but simple combat trial. This area of gameplay was probably the most frustrating for me, but I’ll blame myself for being impatient with the trials. One petty complaint regarding this would be the amount of loading screens. I wish it was a little more seamless to repeat trials after failing them. They are very short and can be easily failed, but I lost my patience waiting for the trial to reload several times. I guess I should just get better at games, oops.

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 As well as these Rune abilities, the player can acquire weapon mod upgrades using weapon upgrade points rewarded for completing mission challenges and also combat efficiency. Adding some more dimensions in your arsenal of wiping out the occupants of Hell. These mods can be mastered following specific challenges such as killing multiple enemies with one shot. Additionally to these upgrades, Doomguy’s Praetor Suit can also be upgraded using tokens found on the corpses of Elite soldiers throughout the campaign. These improvements aid survival via movement speed, lessening damage consumed by explosive barrels, enemies and yourself, and also enhancing your map by displaying collectible items. The final feature that strengthens your build is the consumption of Argent Energy. Findings a number of pods containing little balls of the Energy (I call it candy), your player can crush the container and utilise the Energy to put a single point into upgrading either Health, Armour or Ammo.

All these features work well to make daring situations a little easier without totally removing the need to think. No matter how buffed you are, there will always be a challenge. This can be found in the campaign with harder difficulties – try Ultra-Nightmare if you want to get annihilated with perma-death and extremely tough baddies, or in the multiplayer. The multiplayer feels much more fleshed-out from the Beta, adding three more demons, several new maps and game modes, and tonnes of character customisation. There’s plenty of content here for those seeking some cooperative slaying.

Not only are we given a solid traditional multiplayer arena experience, but we are also treated to Snapmap. Snapmap allows players to create, publish and play user-created missions, competitive maps and much more endless possibilities. It’s surprisingly in-depth, despite the simple and easy-to-use UI. I’m looking forward to investing more hours into this entirely under-appreciated (in my playthrough) segment of the game.

Overall DOOM (2016) proves to offer players dozens of hours of gory mayhem, be it online with others, or ripping through its tight and enjoyable campaign packed with content. Collectibles, upgrades, easter eggs and references, they’re all here. Suit up, rev that chainsaw, and prepare yourselves for the next DOOM installment (subtle spoiler there).

Alexander Jones

Doom – Open Beta Impressions

Fast-paced, gory, arcade fun is how I’d describe Doom’s multiplayer.

Holy moly! Who expected this game to be so fun? Simplistic, yet dense enough to entice you into further levelling up your character and customising various weapons. It’s punishing if you’re slow on the draw, but hugely satisfying when you successfully perform a killing streak. This may very well be my next big multiplayer game.

I was already pretty excited to dive into the single player onslaught of Doom, but this open beta has proven to me that the multiplayer is something that I can equally look forward to. E3’s gameplay demo showed a promising revamp into the Doom series, a series I have neglected for far too long. Clearly, I have been missing out on some messy, bloody action. Luckily, this open beta (available for all you fellow gamers until 17th April) gives everyone the opportunity to experience hell like never before.

 
The gameplay is extremely fluid and encourages players to keep moving. Camping does not bode well for you in this world, and you are sure to be penalised – either by being repeatedly annihilated by players who have acquired power ups, or simply from lacking any reasonable amount of points to progress or flaunt. From my own experience, players are eager to engage with enemy players constantly, yet thinking tactically and dodging attacks with worrying ease. The double-jump feature complements these evasive maneoveurs, opening up new tactics when approaching or escaping threats. Initially the trailers for the multiplayer convinced me that this experience would be very similar to recent Halo games and Titanfall, but it is different. There are similarities of course, but Doom is very much it’s own game and certain gameplay aspects prove this.

 
For example, the way in which ammo and health is acquired from pickups dotted around the map is a fairly nostalgic jump backwards. But in a good way, it’s fresh and scary in a way. When you’re punishing newbies with your super quick reflexes but find yourself low on health, it’s exhilarating sprinting for the health pack. There’s no actual sprint button, this is a very arcadey experience, fleshed out with very promising additions; such as demonic runes and more traditional power-ups. Power-ups appear at a number of set locations around each map, buffing the players with unique abilities such as increased speed, quad-damage and shields. My favourite is faster movement because this game relies a lot on how quickly you can react to situations. I personally find this very fun – for others this may not appeal so much. But each to their own.

Some low-res Twitch stream captures from my own archive (will edit these on my computer when I get my hands on it):

Lastly we have the demonic runes, which spawn a couple of times each game. These are the pickups people are likely to camp around, and likely to cause arguments among players – very much like the hero pickups of Star Wars Battlefront (see my review if you’d like). On full release I believe there’s meant to be a total of three demons you can play as, but in the beta you can only use the Revenant. The Revenant is the iconic jet-packing, missile-firing, skeleton beast that appears on numerous ads for the game. It’s a scary monster; and even more frightening in the game. The playstyle is pretty simple: one button to jet-pack, and one button to shoot dual-rockets from his mounted rocket launchers. What surprised me was the lack of close combat options, I guess that’ll be the focus of another demon, the Revenant is clearly the run-gun-snipe beast. You’re given one full minute to annihilate other players, and this does happen. The rockets just leave numerous piles of limbs in their wake; which makes it highly entertaining (and tactical) to hide behind the Revenant whilst pursuing capture points in the gamemode ‘Warpath’. It’s not invincible though, players can swarm and over-power the Revenant with some difficulty. When the demon is slain the rune becomes available again for anyone who claims it, however the timer continues from where it stopped. I look forward to trying out the remaining demons in the full release, this feature looks very promising.

 

With only two games modes: Team deathmatch and Warpath, there’s enough content here to decide if Doom satisfies your crave; be it gore, graphics or a new multiplayer experience. Personally I find both game modes compelling enough to confirm my purchase of Doom next month. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how hooked I actually am by the competitive online segment of the game. Now my expectations for the very interesting looking single player campaign have only stretched higher, and I believe Doom won’t disappoint. It deserves to do well and I hope nothing significant brings it down. Guess I can only wait until May the 13th to find out, but until then, back to slaughtering people with my shotgun!

Alexander Jones

Below: my very own Twitch live-stream capture, enjoy!