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Sunday, August 17, 2008

S4 League - Review

Here's a link for my original encounter:

Now that I'm at a point where I've played for a bit, I'll give you the review.

To start this off, I'd like to say that S4 is in NO way related to Gunz. I'll explain some obvious differences.
First off, S4 requires a TEAM. Yes, TEAM. In no way can you go in a room full of enemies and hope to kill them all and live. Not only is your HP at 100 or slightly over if you have extra equipment boosts or have the +30 HP skill but weapons deal a LOT of damage.
And nearly everything in the game was intended, meaning that you can't exploit any glitches and link them to create alternative moves to add to the game (K-style). There ARE glitches but none that change the game, they're exactly what they are...glitches.

Now for the actual game.
S4 League is an alternative third-person shooter in that it doesn't follow the standard "rules" of a "normal" shooter. S4 stands for Stylish eSper Shooting Sports. Save the jokes for later.

So as I said before (in the previous post), S4 is meant to be very stylish and very "cool." The game is supposed to be played in a way that is not only appealing in gameplay but to the eyes, and ears. I'm sure we all love watching and playing gun-fu stuff. Think about Wanted, how cool was it to see Westley (James McAvoy) pull of the stuff he did? I'm not going to say, "now imagine that in a game," because that's not what S4 is.

In the actual game you get 3 weapon slots which you can load up melee, ranged, long range, and support weapons (Mind Charge, a healing weapon, and Sentry Gun would count as a support weapon). In addition you must have a skill equipped to enter a room and play. Skills are what change up the game play and add teamwork into it. There are some skills that create shields, while others create physical walls. Then some skills are passive and add stats while others change the way you move: such as flying, and anchoring (think hookshot from Legend of Zelda).

Obviously the European version has yet to have all the content Korea has such as invisibility and bind, along with miniguns but with what they have now is a very good start.

Your character generally revolves around 1 gauge excluding HP and that would be SP. The gauge that determines how many "points" you have to be able to use skills. Almost everything requires SP even the "normal stuff" such as dashing and wall jumping, meaning that you need to balance your normal skills with your specialized skill well.

There are two game types, Team Deathmatch and Touchdown with a total of 12 player slots. Everyone knows what a deathmatch is so I'll explain Touchdown. Touchdown can be either really fun or really frustrating. There's no in-between. The reason for that being this mode is where utilization of teamwork is extremely important. The main goal for touchdown is to get the "ball," (A mechanical creature named "fumbi") which usually starts in the middle of the map, and score it in the goal post at the other team's base, which is usually close to their spawn. Considering respawn times range from 4-7 seconds teamwork is essential is scoring since you would need the rest of the team to keep the other team busy as the ball holder scores. This is where skills come into play. You could try to block the ball by setting up a temporary wall or protect your teammates from bullets by setting up a shield. Some players could be responsible for healing teammates and some could be responsible for rushing by having the SP boost skill. Then you have some players provide long-range support with sniper rifles (railguns) or long range cannons (cannonade). While the European version has disabled it temporarily, S4 League has voice chat which allows strategies to be planned out as well as a "half time" which gives players 5 seconds to switch characters (have up to 3 characters that all serve a different purpose) and then an additional 15 seconds to plan out the next strategy.

This, I believe, is the heart of S4, not the deathmatch. Touchdown utilizes everything S4 has and what it stands for into what I believe is a very good game. Graphics are surprisingly demanding. First of all the characters are given a certain type of cel-shading that seems popular nowadays (Persona 4, .hack//G.U., Team Fortress 2) and has some really nice blur effects along with modeling. The clothes you can choose from definitely define your character. While there are some characters ripped off from DJMax (it's ok, it's from the same company), a lot of the styles are actually from the current "modern" style in Japan and Korea while others have a futuristic look to them.

In terms of networking, I actually think Neowiz did a good job in mixing Peer-2-Peer (P2P) mechanics with Peer-2-server-2-Peer (P2S2P) mechanics. The P2P aspect allows faster chat and a better sense of where players are while the server helps maintain the overall stats (HP, etc.) and takes over a player's connection if the ping is too high. There are some issues where the ping gauge doesn't reflect that lag I see (meaning the interval between pings is much too far) and some players get over a certain point in delay where it borderlines and the server freaks out in taking over and letting go where then the player is temporarily invincible. I'm fine with this as I can just run away, but this seems to be aggravating some of the community.

Now for the bad parts.
While I'm not usually one to compare versions one major issue that comes to mind is the timed weapons in the European version. The Korean version gave two weapons and a 30+ HP skill that you could keep to help start you off however it's timed for 10 game hours in the European version. What this means is that people CAN'T go off and buy their clothes first. They would have to plan out their weapons and skills before caring about style. What does that mean? You get the first day or so (24 hours of playtime) looking like a generic character because you have to save up for weapons. In addition, prices for weapons are very expensive compared to clothes, so regardless of how tempting it is to buy that set of pants that just looks awesome, you can't. This is a major issue as you can't play if you don't have a skill. While you can stall for "time" by buying license and getting a 5 hour trial version of what you just received a license for it just barely helps. Now to me, this isn't too big of a deal since I'm quite good at it (if I say so myself, I'm almost always in the top 3 of any game, not just my team) so I get a decent amount of PEN (the currency in game) and be able to buy the equipment I need. I'm pretty sure others aren't so gaming inclined and probably wasted a lot of game time for a little PEN or blasted those initial 25,000 PEN on clothes and didn't save up an additional 3k or 4k to get a skill.

Next would be how monotonous and uninformative the tutorial is. It does a good job explaining very basic movement and how to fire a gun, and a demo of what TD is like (actually not really). While it does stop players from asking "how you play this game?" I feel there could be more added to it.

Mission lists are very terse. They simply say the objective and that's it. You have to play a trial and error game with it to see what the conditions are. I don't want to have to guess what I need to do when they tell me an objective. For example. There's a "Playing Deathmatch" Mission. It honestly, just says "Play a DM game." No where does it say that you have to be a DM waiting room and be present for the entire game. Nor does it say that conditions for fulfillment include the game time being 20 minutes and that the room has to have at or over 10 players by the end.

Other missions don't explain the terminology they use. One says to faint 3 times. They never explain fainting in the tutorial so there's a large group of people wanting to know how to beat that. No where does it explain that fainting is when you use a dodge attack immediately after a stun to avoid extra damage.

What annoys me a lot however is the way S4 connects to the server and other players in game. It runs a P2P AND a P2S2P connection for each room so that player movement is recorded P2P while all stats, damage, and points are managed by the server. In theory this looks like a good idea. IN THEORY. What ends up happening is that at any point you or another player is experiencing lag, they are now at an advantage since the time it takes for information to travel from player to server to player is longer. It was fine if it was just P2P because you could aim ahead, but now you can hit the avatar regardless of where they actually are and you will die by a lagger. You see, what happens is you see the movement and data manipulation by the server, so any damage you deal to another player is sent directly to the server and then sent to that player (aka. Client-side really). People consider this to be a double-edged sword meaning that you can also kill those laggers with much more ease since all you have to do is shoot them, but this double edged sword is weighted towards you.... In particularly for the counter-sword. The counter-sword is focused on dealing combo damages (think dealing multi medium hits as opposed to a strong one hit by the plasma). Regardless of how well you dodge if for a split second you stand still, the lag will take over and all a lagger has to do is pummel your standing avatar to kill you. This generally drops any effort required to kill with most melee weapons or weapons in general. Once again, this works on a very small scale and fails on a very large scale.

The general problem here is that despite all parties having broadband connections, the distance lag between nations still affects P2P games. In time intensive games such at this fractions of seconds are too important, and unfortunately, not all players of S4 even have 2Mbit connections...


Jade said...

Hey! Great review, man.

I love S4 but I agree with everything you said.

I'm also one of the unfortunate newbies who went and bought a wardrobe to realize his time with his weapons/skills were increasingly dwindling.

So I had to make a second account, I really wish the initial starting weapons were permanent (mainly because I use +30 HP and Plasma swords, would be freebies for me heh)

And Counter swords like you explained are ARGH, especially for a Plasma user like myself, I hate when I've dodged and I'm a mile away and still die.

Anonymous said...

dont play this game its complete shyt loaded with hundreds of fckin bugs and its a dam waste o time wen u cant even log into ur fckin account after a week or less! the submit a ticket section for this game is complete bull no help nothing

ditch this piece of cr@p and play exteel =]

Fireblaster said...

Exteel is a giant flaming shithole of a game. S4 destroys Exteel in every way imaginable.

DreamingWolf said...

I agree, great review. I went through 7 accounts before I finally hit the right balance for my character, and even then it was hard.

Thank goodness for the update that decreases repair costs!

Anonymous said...

who tf would believe exteel is better than s4? exteel is too 'i cant aim' friendly and not enough skill/action involved

Anonymous said...

I belive that both games are cool concepts but s4 plays alot sother than exteel and has a bit more action overall. They bothe have their pros and cons but I think s4 takes the cake. Exteel is a little slower and is hard to aim. s4 requires alot of playtime to maintian your weapons and laggers in TD are not cool. On the other hand. Exteel has Giant robots w/ guns and swords......nuff said. S4 has guns and wall-jumps, cool melee weapons, and alot of action. Overall they are both cool to play.

Anonymous said...

"On the other hand. Exteel has Giant robots w/ guns and swords......nuff said"

So do Armored Core 4 and Armored Core for Answer, and they do quite a bit better a job of it.

Zerreth said...

I have an exteel review because of these comments.... At least comment over there....

Tony Crowe said...

As much as you say you like this game your review seems to be focused on the negative. Even so, this document is accurate and informative.

skateboyjay said...

Exteel isn't available in every country so I cant use it because i'm in Jamaica that is total garbage S4 league owns nice review.

Anonymous said...

Ok man, you seriously need to update this. We have two more battle types. More weapons. And more skills. UPDATE.

Anonymous said...

exteel was never meant to stay and its gone now i liked it s4 is good but not enough items or range of abilities in clothin

EarthbroS said...

personally in my opinion to really get a feel of this game and beat players with extradinary ease is haveing a good broadband speed speeding up that will increase of your chances of hitting spam laggers and over comeing the weird shooters. but still as a concept of game play you need skill so i cant forget that ^^"