Monday, November 25, 2013

GunZ 2 - EU CBT Impressions

At long last, MAIET Entertainment is finally giving the English speaking world a taste of their long-awaited TPS title: GunZ: The Second Duel (GunZ TSD). "ProSiebenSat.1 Games", the same publishers that host Alaplaya, has recently launched their second closed beta test back in Novemeber, and this time with very little signs of IP blockage. While I could have waited for the upcoming Steam version that’s set to be released this December, I rushed for the nearest beta key I could get and hopped in, because as some of you know, I’m a complete and total GunZ fanatic.


For those that have been living under a rock: GunZ: The Second Duel, sequel to the original GunZ: The Duel, is a third-person shooter that’s all about doing things with style. While it may look like just your average third-person shooter, GunZ TSD throws in a bunch of its own unique mechanics that will make you feel like acrobatic action hero, such as being able to climb and run along walls, knock enemies into the air and then gun ‘em down all Devil May Cry-style, and plenty of other neat tricks that come straight out of a Hollywood popcorn flick.

One of the biggest changes to GunZ: The Second Duel compared to its predecessor, however, is the removal of K-Style: A popular playstyle that significantly changed the overall flow of gameplay by allowing players to jump, dash, block and shoot all at the same time. While this made the gameplay a lot more intense and exciting, it also brought weapon imbalance, made latency issues more apparent and even brought about health concerns from prolonged performance of K-style techniques, such as Carpal Tunnel.

MAIET thought long and hard about wanting to bring K-style back for the release of GunZ TSD, as shown in the game’s alpha footage: Players were able to perform moves including shotslashes (rather than slashshots), light steps and more. But in the end, MAIET came to the conclusion that it was too much of a hassle to bring it all back if they were going to achieve a more balanced shooting game.

So now, GunZ TSD lives on as a game that’s (literally) sticking to its guns to provide a TPS experience that’s fast and accessible to all gamers, but will it be fast enough for hardcore fans of the original?

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First off upon logging in, I had access to three different character classes, including the Silent Avenger, Gunslinger and Shield Trooper, just like in the previous versions. New to this version, however, is a list of different active and passive skills that can be gained while leveling up. While the idea of having some RPG style character progression was decent enough, some of the skills that could be unlocked made me scratch my head a little in confusion…

Some basic evasive and defensive maneuvers such as recovery attacks and recovery rolls can only be used when unlocked at LV5. And even when you do unlock these moves, they can only be performed whenever your character has at least one pip of z-gauge meter to work with. It’s strange how these options aren’t available from LV1 and the fact that they require meter to use is even stranger, but if I would have to guess as to why these moves cost meter, it’s probably because they want to emphasize the importance of map knowledge and location of z-gauge power ups on each map.


For my first class, I went with the Gunslinger, even though I was itching to play as a Shield Trooper once more. Once I confirmed my character selection, I played through a quick tutorial that explained all of the basic mechanics. This tutorial was completely revamped from the South Korean test build, as it was even shorter than the original one, and I was able to breeze through it with even less time than before.

Interestingly enough, one huge change that was mention in the tutorial was the ability to press and hold forward (W Key) in order to perform a running sprint on the ground. This was somewhat of a game changer for me, because this move was previously a unique trait to Shield Troopers, which gave them the best ground mobility out of all classes in the game. But now that all classes can perform the same running sprint, I feel like Shield Troopers have lost a bit of their luster…


Once the tutorial was complete, I was awarded some gold to spend on the game’s item shop. Sadly, however, the item shop did not have a lot to offer new players, as many of the items were locked away. The only way players would be able to access them is by completing certain achievements (such as a set number of kills with a particular weapon) or by using platinum, a form of currency that can only be obtained with real money.

Also to note: Some of the more exciting weapons were absent from the European test build, including Dagger & Pistols for Silent Avengers, Blade & Revolvers for Gunslingers, Cleavers for Shield Troopers and Shotguns for all classes. It’s a real disappointment considering how unique and versatile the dual weapon combos were, which allowed players to switch from gunplay to melee in a matter of seconds.

After picking a few weapons from the shop, I fired up the game’s matchmaking system and was set up with players within seconds. First match was on the original Abandoned Mansion, which fans of the original GunZ would easily recognize.


One thing that I would like to mention is how much they changed the interface… Just taking a look back at the old interface, I would have to say that the old one was a lot better…


Like the Z-gauge in the bottom left corner that looks like a speedometer, and small details (not shown in the picure) like flickering theater lights that pop up whenever you defeat an enemy. Now this interface actually fits the stylish vibe of GunZ very well.


And now when you look at the newer interface for GunZ TSD, it’s a lot plainer in comparison. Sure, it may be more neat and detailed to look at, but it comes off as “cheap”.

As a gunslinger, I had lots of new moves at my disposal, including a new field scan ability that temporarily shows the location of all enemies on screen. This allowed me to assess situations a lot easier, like this one time when I was pinned down by some annoying Silent Avenger who was camping somewhere in the mansion with a sniper rifle, and I just couldn’t figure out where the shots were coming from since the sniper was constantly changing his position (which, I admit, is a pretty smart thing for a sniper to do.) In order for me to get the upper hand on the sniper, I used my field scan ability to figure out the sniper’s position, moved into his blind spot and took the bastard down.


Matches were fast and frantic, but the pacing was still a bit off compared to the original GunZ. Because of the removal of K-style, and move cancelling in general, it’s harder for players to switch their tactics on the fly, since they would have to wait for most attack, defense and evasive animations to finish up before switching weapons. Also, the delay effect for dash movements are still in place from the previous Korean beta, so it’s impossible for players to travel long distances in the air like in the previous GunZ.

However, in the previous Taiwan and Europe CBT1 test, they experimented with the gameplay a bit by removing the dash delay, allowing players to dash as fast as they could double tap the movement keys, just like in the original GunZ, and it looks absolutely awesome. I could understand that they kept the delay in for the sake for ranged weapon balance, but it really makes the game feel slow in comparison. I’m really hoping that they’ll remove the dash delay before the game’s official release, or at least shorten it.

After a few more matches, I switched over to my old love: Shield Trooper! While they lost the advantage of having the best ground mobility, they still had the advantage of being able to use Riot Shield while sprinting, which is great when you’re trying to move in on pesky snipers. To make up for the loss of ground mobility, Shield troopers got a much bigger game changer: Now shield troopers gain super armor from attacks whenever they fire a ranged weapon (except from attacks that cause flinching such as grenades and sniper shots). This makes Shield Troopers incredibly dangerous when in close to mid range.


As it stands, the core gameplay for GunZ TSD is good fun, as it retains a lot of the GunZ feel without all the needless move cancelling. However, the pacing still has me concerned. If they could just remove the dash delay, then GunZ TSD will official be nice and fast paced like the original, which I feel is what the hardcore GunZ veterans truly want. MAIET recently stated on their Facebook page that they're hard at with implementing Steam's SDK into GunZ 2 for the North America release, and early access testing should start sometime this December or January.

Can't wait!

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