The Microsoft presentation was impressive. Looks like after some stumbles with the current-gen, they're doing the next-gen right.
The key to the Project Scorpio debut was that its graphics looked like real next-gen, and boy did they ever. From the Forza 7 footage, to the new Assassin's Creed, to a new BioWare game called Anthem, the 4k footage wowed, in every sense of the world. The eye-popping specs of the new Xbox One X do show up on the screen, and that's what will ultimately drive sales.
Microsoft's decision to have full backward compatibility, including accessories, is going to help soften the $500 price of the new box. When Scorpio was first whispered about, people threw around much higher prices, given the specs, so though it won't be cheap, it'll be a significant bang for the buck.
Of course, for people like me, purchasing a 4k TV will be a must. That's going to be an additional $800-$1,500, though I'm sure they'll have package deals at the end of the year.
What really impressed me though is that Scorpio is designed to make current games looks better. And on top of that, MS announced that several developers are going update current titles to 4k just for the new box. I think this will be huge, especially if the biggest games of the day are updated (Titanfall 2 & Witcher 3, please).
Microsoft had a lot on the line. Because they focused on the Kinect with the Xbox One instead of raw power, their sales significantly lagged behind Sony's. I think that's going to change since the Xbox One X will be far more powerful than any other console.
So I'm saving up. I don't know if I'll buy one right away since Red Dead 2 has been delayed until Spring. But it sure would be fun playing Star Wars: Battlefront 2 on a 4k TV come Christmas.
Microsoft, you've done good.
I jumped online last night to play some Titanfall 2. The new DLC just dropped, and I hadn't played the game for quite awhile, for a few reasons. I've been trying to study chess almost every day, the pool at my complex is warm enough to use, and I've been playing the new Xbox version of Skylines. So, not much time for Titans or blogging.
Since I just regened for the 8th time, I decided to finally start learning how to use the Scorch Titan. It is by far my least favorite Titan, but I see so many people using it, it's about time I put some hours into it. Tone & Ronin are my favorites by a long shot. I also played the first few games with cannons. I don't have a lot of weapons left to regen, and I want to get the pro-screen on all the weapons, but I'm horrible with the slow cannons (as everyone else must be since they're rarely used).
The result? Being rusty and using weapons & a Titan that don't fit my style caused me to go severely negative for the first handful of games.
I'm not a great gamer. But I'm pretty decent—definitely good enough to have a positive K/D with the better weapons, and well into positive territory with the best weapons.
The problem, at least for me, is when I'm not really helping my team, the game becomes a lot less fun. And that got me thinking: what's going to happen when my skills inevitably decline?
Being in my mid-40's, I can compete with the 12 year olds. But at some point, I won't be able to. These little runts will be able to kick my ass. And my fear is that at that point, my love of the first-person shooter might decline. It's a scary thought.
Gen-X grew up with the advent of video-gaming, so along with me there will be millions that will have to deal with it at the same time I do. It'll be uncharted territory. I think 10-20 years from now, publishers will have to include separate servers for the people who have aged to the point that their skills aren't competitive anymore.
Some of my other hobbies won't be affected as much. As a writer, I only intend to get better. With reading, I can just adjust the font size on my Kindle. Chess matches take rating into account. But with something as reflex-intensive as first-person-shooters, the downhill will have to start at some point.
This is a topic I don't hear many people talking about. You do hear about research that proves that video-gaming helps keep the mind sharp. But what about the depression that comes as one's skills decline? The industry needs to start thinking about that.
It's been a couple of years since CD Projekt RED released The Witcher 3, a game which won multiple Game Of The Year Awards, and was my favorite video game of 2015. I still play it regularly.
There's a card mini-game within The Witcher 3 called Gwent. It's an outrageously fun game that is a bit more complex than similar card games because players utilize three ranks: a close combat rank for swords, pikes, etc, a ranged combat rank for archers and such, and a siege rank for catapults, ballistae, etc. Players can gain weather cards that affect different ranks, use leader cards that can give bonuses, and start the game with one of five different decks, each based on a group (like a kingdom or monster) each of which has unique abilities. There's a nice, but not an overwhelming amount of complexity to it.
It's a tremendously well-thought out game that is very fun to play. Once you sink a hundred hours or so into The Witcher 3, you kind of run out of challengers to play. Thankfully, CD Projekt RED announced that they were going to make a stand-alone Gwent game, that would have a free-to-play aspect to it. It was supposed to come out late last year, but was delayed. This week, the closed beta came out. When I first tried to play it, I was able to get through the tutorial, but it would lock up every time I challenged someone to play. Today, I tried again, and was able to play a few people.
CD Projekt RED has taken an excellent game and has expanded on it, making it even better. There are many more types of cards. So when you first start playing, it goes a bit slow, as each new player has to figure out what the cards do. I'm sure that after playing for a few days, the cards will be thrown down at great speed. Overall, it works smoothly, and it's fun to see the strategies that actual humans use when playing a round or two.
I can't overstate how fun this card game is. I can't wait for the actual game to come out. I'm assuming you'll be able to win better cards and buy packs of superior cards. I'm probably going to be one of the guys forking down a little money on this one.
The beta is cross-play between Xbox, Playstation, & PC. They have to bring this to Android soon. It'll be a blast of a game to play on a tablet, or even a large phone. I'll definitely write another post once the final product comes out. But, by the looks of the beta, CD Projekt RED doesn't have much polishing left to do before releasing what should be a huge hit with the Hearthstone crowd.
The history of weapon balance in video games has been fascinating to me.
In the early days, there were large variations in the balance of power and effectiveness of weapons. Think Counter-Strike. From its inception in 2000, there were ridiculous differences in the various guns—so much so that the vast majority of players only used the slight few of them that were most effective. As video games evolved, more balance was found, and guns started to become adjusted after the game release to find what developers considered to be the sweet spots.
After several years, as people got better with sniper rifles, it became harder to keep a good general balance. The problem with sniping is that a small percentage of gamers got really good at it (including quick-scoping), so it worsened the flow of games, because it was too easy to die quickly after respawning. Nerf the sniper rifles too much, and they're of little use to people who haven't sniped for years.
Although I loved sniping in the first three Halo games, it wasn't until Black Ops 2 that I started pouring dozens of hours of sniping into a current-day-themed first-person-shooter. That was in 2012, which was many years after most gamers fell in love with the sniper rifle.
Fast-forward to today, and I really love what Respawn has done to weapon balance in Titanfall 2. The main guns are more or less balanced. But the sniper rifles are slightly weaker and/or slower compared to other games. Since you unlock a pro-screen (which shows lifetime kills with the weapon) once you regen it, you still want to attempt to level up every weapon. But since the sniper rifles are much harder to use effectively than the regular guns, it's never a snipe-fest, so the flow of the game isn't negatively affected often.
This also goes for the Titanfall 2 cannons (which they call grenadiers). They're powerful, but they're unGodly slow. It's almost impossible to get the first shot off. But, this lack of balance creates a challenge for the better players, who are going to sink hundreds of hours into the game, and who are going to want to regen every weapon at least once.
I see a sniper rifle maybe every two rounds, and a cannon maybe every ten rounds that I play Titanfall 2. I've regened all of the guns except for a couple of the sniper rifle and cannons, which are a fantastic challenge at this point. I love the fact that they're so hard to compete with.
So we've come full circle. At first, pure weapon balance wasn't important in FPS'ers. Then it became too important. Now we're settling into a time where the longer-range and the more powerful weapons have to be nerfed or slowed down so that they're underbalanced. It's been a fascinating history.
The Hemlok BF-R, to me, is by far the most effective weapon in Titanfall 2, like the M-16 was in so many FPS'ers. But, to my surprise, it isn't used much more than the other weapons. I think gamers have advanced too. As K/D ratios become ever less important, and as developers work on giving us nice goodies for regening weapons, variety of weapon use is alive and well, and that's great for gaming. The overall gameplay of FPS'ers keeps advancing, and weapon balance is a huge but oftentimes understated part of that.
I'm glad developers have gotten it right over the twenty-five-year history of the first-person-shooter. For all that I loved about Counter-Strike, all those hours that I sunk into it, it got to a point where I never wanted to see an AK-47 or a Desert Eagle ever again. Thankfully, in modern games, we rarely run into that problem.
I had a mild interest in a game that was released on Tuesday. Ubisoft Montreal had been working on For Honor for several years. It's not exactly my cup of tea, since it's a third-person game, but it does happen in the Middle Ages, of which I'm a big fan. The trailers looked good, and the Beta went over okay. But...
Ubisoft refused to allow reviews before the game's release. In fact, the reviewers didn't even get advanced copies. To me, this is just absolutely unacceptable.
There is one, and only one reason why you wouldn't let advanced copies get into the hands of reviewers: you think the advanced reviews won't be good, and that they'll tank sales.
So now most game sites have reviews-in-progress for the title. My chances of purchasing the game dropped from about 40% to 5%. In fact, if those reviews aren't 9.5's, I'm not spending the $65 to purchase it. I'd rather protest Ubisoft by not buying it at all.
There's an ongoing online movement to not pre-order games that don't have reviews out. I'm solidly in that camp. If I can't get multiple reviews of what I'm buying, then I'll pass on the sale. It's that simple.
I think the only exception to this rule would be a game the magnitude of Red Dead Redemption 2. Rockstar, unlike Ubisoft, has a long history of ridiculously high-quality releases. Their reputation speaks for itself.
This was a horrible move by Ubisoft, which I'd bet cost them more sales than it gained. Whether it's a video game, TV show, or film, give us reviews. Otherwise, don't expect us to pay for the product.
Gamespot's top five games of 2016 are:
5. The Last Guardian
4. Dishonored 2
3. Titanfall 2
2. Unchartered 4
I don't play the Dishonored or Unchartered series, though obviously they're well liked. I didn't play The Last Guardian either.
I am very glad that Titanfall 2 and Overwatch scored so high. I love them both. I'd give the strong edge to Titanfall 2, though Overwatch was designed for a much broader audience. Both games can easily be played for dozens, if not hundreds of hours and still feel fresh.
Overall, 2016 was a solid year for videogames. 2015, to me, was the year of The Witcher 3, Fallout 4, and Star Wars: Battlefront. 2017 is the year of Titanfall 2 and Overwatch.
What will 2017 bring? I think Red Dead Redemption 2 and the new Battlefront will be early contenders for game of the year. What I am pretty sure of is that a year from now, I'll still be playing Titanfall 2 and Overwatch, just like I still play The Witcher 3 now, a few months short of two years after its release date.
It is free trial weekend for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, the 13th installment in the series which started way back in 2003. I had been a long-time COD fan, from the beginning. I gave up after Ghosts and Advanced Warfare because it became obvious that Activision was putting the series into profit mode and out of innovation mode.
I really loved the Infinity Ward versions (COD-IV, Modern Warfare 1 & 2) back when Vince Zampella was still around, but after he left to form Respawn, Titanfall became the obvious FPSer series to jump to.
Although I haven't been happy with COD for some time, I decided to download Infinite Warfare to see if it was as mediocre as the reviews claimed it to be. It was Infinity Ward, after all, so maybe it wasn't so bad?
I could only play a few rounds. It was horrendous. The graphics, the map design, the game flow: it felt like something straight out of 2006. I stopped playing it, and went back to Titanfall 2.
To be clear: COD: Infinite Warfare isn't worth the price of free. It's garbage. The series is dead to me.
Thankfully, Respawn and DICE are still pushing the genre forward. Call of Duty had a terrific run. The series is a significant part of videogame history. Unfortunately, after Black Ops 2, it started a deadly quality slide. I hold out no hope for a return to glory.
In its heyday, nothing was better than Call of Duty. It'll be missed. It's highly unfortunate to see it suffer so badly in its later years. Activision should put it out of its misery. Unfortunately, as long as there is a penny to be made, that is unlikely to happen.
Total time put into Infinite Warfare: less than 30 minutes.
Total time (so far) put into Titanfall 2: over 40 hours, and still loving every minute of it.
There has been a noticeable shift in first-person-shooters to not include, or to make it somewhat difficult to view, a player's Kill-to-Death ratio. The old Call of Duty syndrome, where too many players focus on their own K/D's over their team's goal, made shooters less fun to play over the years. The players who took great pride in their K/D often camped or sniped, even if it was hurtful to their team. The great thing about FPS's that have small teams, is one person can oftentimes make a big difference—but can be a great hinderance, as well.
Blizzard's Overwatch has no visible sign of any K/D, and that's a good thing, as the game modes are non-Team Deathmatch in nature. I never feel stressed about dying in Overwatch. The penalty for dying is a time fine, because you don't get back to the battle very quickly. This can hurt your team, but it has no lasting effect beyond the current game.
When Titanfall 2 first came out, there was no visible K/D stat. In a recent update, they added it, both a total K/D and a pilot vs. pilot K/D. The stats page is not hard to get to, but it's not brightly highlighted either.
I've noticed that having the stats available has caused me to adjust my play. During the first prestige of any FPS, I'm always under 1.0 with my K/D, regardless of the game. Not knowing the maps or weapons burdens me more than the average player. Then in subsequent prestiges, I tend to turn positive. During those first couple of prestiges, I tend to check the K/D stat far too often.
When the Titanfall 2 update hit, my total K/D was 2.5, and my pilot vs. pilot K/D was 0.8. Now they're both, as expected during the second prestige (regen), creeping upwards. But what's changed is my anxiety when I have a horrible game. It tracks the last ten games you played, and I'll go a game or two where I'm 3.0/1.2, and then one where I'm 4.5/2.5. But when that one awful game hits where I'm 1.5/0.6, it definitely affects my play for the next few rounds, as I become more conservative with my play, and as I switch to weapons/Titans that I'm better with. My gaming brain doesn't accept that I was just having a bad game, probably against better players. The odds of going up against a stack of superior players in the next few rounds is low. And sometimes the flow just works against you for a game, even against average players.
I think a wise thing would be to put the winning percentage up front and center. For a game like Overwatch, or any game without Team Deathmatch, K/D doesn't belong at all. But for something like Titanfall, it's useful. I don't hear people bragging about their K/D or their worry over it dropping. It would nice if it was burried further though, so its psychological ranking would be below other stats that are more important to team play.
Kill-to-Death ratios had their heyday. The time has come for them to be put in their place, however. How good of a FPS player you are, especially in our current gaming era, depends on far more than your ability to live and die. It depends more on your ability to achieve the objective of the game mode. We probably need a whole new order of stats to measure our competency at doing this.
And for the love of God, game developers, please come up with a way, even if it's minor, to punish frequent campers. Having a camping stat that everyone can see, so they know how awful of a human being you are for sitting behind that doorway because you're too much of an ass to play the game like it was meant to be played, would be much more useful to the gaming world than any K/D stat ever was.
I haven't written an official review of Titanfall 2 yet, because I haven't finished the campaign. It's hard to stay with the campaign because the multi-player is so fun. It's the best FPS multi-player I've ever played.
Respawn is simply world-class at FPS innovation. I just wanted to mention a few of the innovations in the new Titanfall.
The grappling hook is a game-changer. It makes travel a breeze. Once you get used to it, you're able to hit the right spot with the hook to fling yourself great heights and distances. Combined with the double-jump, it gives pilots incredible paths to scale vertical parts of the maps. You can also use it to grab an opponent, snap them back towards you, and finish them off. It's so useful, especially in movement, that it's hard to imagine an FPS going forward without a similar device. I'm pretty sure we'll see it in next year's COD.
The new gravity star is such a fun object and such a push forward in the genre as well. You toss it where needed. It can curve projectiles around corners. Better yet, if you see a group of NPC's marching towards you, you throw the gravity star above them, they get pulled into a ball around it, and it's easy pickings. It adds such a fun dynamic to combat.
The L-STAR is one of the best guns in recent memory. It shoots energy particles, but at a little bit slower rate than bullets. It's the smoothest gun I ever remember using. It runs out of ammo via an overheat, so you have to manage your bursts. There's no physical reloading. If you manage your shots wisely, it can be incredibly deadly, and makes all the others guns feel antiquated. It's a beast in close to medium combat situations, but the challenge of using it at longer distances is even more fun.
These are just a few of the many things that make Titanfall 2 special. The game is a blast right out of the box. However, with the Respawn innovations, it gets better and better as you unlock these news things and learn how to use them. It's such a shame that COD will just copy the innovations in a year or two and make most of the money off of them.
I'm really hoping that some holiday price cuts boost Titanfall 2 sales. Respawn deserves to make good returns on it. Their thoughtful innovation, as expected, will help the whole FPS genre going forward.
Analysts have recently adjusted their sales predictions downward for Titanfall 2, from 9 million copies to 6 million. This is awful, and I hope that they're wrong. But I fear that they're right, and that's a shame.
Most of the blame is being put on the horrible release date for Titanfall 2, squeezed in between the highly-rated Battlefield 1 (which has surpassed launch sales predictions), and the new Call of Duty (which is somehow still a sales juggernaut). To make matters worse, TF2 was released on the same day as the remastered Skyrim, and a week after Civilization VI. That's just a whole lot of competition.
I feel a huge chunk of the sales damage was done by Respawn itself, however. They released that horrible pre-Alpha Tech Test that all but ensured that many gamers were not going to put down their money on TF2. If they had released that tech test 8 months ago, and released a solid Beta a few weeks ago, it would have propped up sales considerably.
The first Titanfall suffered from low sales at its onset. Being an Xbox/PC exclusive didn't help in that matter. And it did sell close to 3 million units in the long-run. But it was only months after the launch that it became hard to find enough people to play some of the more unpopular modes, especially in non-peak hours. This reputation can only hurt TF2.
My hope is that the Christmas sales will be strong, and that after price cuts the game exceeds sales expectations. Having announced that the DLC will be free, should help. The reviews have been solid, and hopefully, word-of-mouth helps as well.
Titanfall 2 is exceptional. Respawn deserves to have a financial success on their hands. My worry is if it falls several million copies short of expectation, the budget allowed for the third installment will be reduced. That alone could collapse the series in the long-run.
Competition in the first-person-shooter realm is fierce. Respawn deserves credit and good sales numbers because no one is innovating the genre like they are. I love DICE and Blizzard too, but I can't stand what Activision has done to the Call of Duty series. I can only hope that Titanfall 2 grabs some sales away from them. Respawn is all about making a great videogame, not maximizing short-term profit. For that alone, I hope Titanfall 2 somehow becomes a massive hit.
I've had a chance to play several rounds of Titanfall 2, the successor to my favorite FPSer of all time, and my initial take is that the Gamespot and IGN reviews of 9.0 are well deserving. The game is an absolute blast to play, and all the worries caused by that train-wreck pre-Alpha tech test were for naught. Respawn delivered, and thank God that they did.
Two of the primary problems with the tech test: the slow-moving pilots, and the lack of Titans, are completely gone in the final game. In fact, it's easier to move around as a pilot now because you have this kickass grappling hook that makes it a breeze to travel vertically. And every round I've played had plenty of Titans in it. In fact, there are new Titans now, including one that hovers. A few minutes into each round, they're everywhere.
Attrition is back, thankfully. Hardpoint, Capture the Flag, Pilot vs. Pilot, are in the mix. And there's a new mode called Bounty Hunt, where you earn points, and try to hold them, in order to bank them. But the banks aren't open all the time, and you lose points every time you're killed. It's a cool mode that adds another strategic layer to multiplayer.
Now, the lack of Burn Cards is troubling. They're replaced with boosts, which are must simpler, but frankly not as cool. That part sucks. But I think there's enough new stuff to make up for the loss.
Titanfall vets can jump right into Titanfall 2 and have a blast right from the start. Learning the new maps and modes are fun. Starting at level 1 with everyone else is too. One thing that worries me is that on the Saturday right after launch, there were only 38,000 people online on Xbox Live playing. That seems incredibly small to me. I think the awful tech test hurt initial sales. I can only hope the stellar reviews prop them up.
Respawn delivered. What a relief. Titanfall 2 is clearly awesome, and will surely be played by me until its successor comes out. DICE might get the bigger sales, but after playing several rounds of both Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2, in terms of fun, it's not even close. Titanfall 2 is the big multiplayer FPSer winner of the season.
I'm probably not even going to buy COD this year. I'm guessing Overwatch and Titanfall 2 will be my go-to FPSer games through 2017 and then some. They're both that good. One wouldn't expect anything less from Blizzard or Respawn, two of the best creators in the business.
There are two upcoming releases I want so badly to be great, that I'm nervous that either one will be.
1. Titanfall 2
The reviews should hit in a few days, with the release coming on Friday. Why am I nervous about it?
The original Titanfall, created by Respawn, was simply the best first-person multiplayer shooter I've ever played. It made me not to want to play Call of Duty anymore (and I've been playing COD since COD 1). Though I've enjoyed Battlefront and Overwatch greatly, and I'm starting to like Battlefield 1 as I learn to play it, none of these games are as supremely polished and fun to play as Titanfall. Not even close.
I just assumed that Zampella & crew would not possibly mess up Titanfall 2. They obviously had a much greater budget. They didn't have to change the game all that much. A few enhancements would have been great. But then that 'pre-Alpha Tech Test' came out, and the collective gaming community starting wondering if this thing was going to be a huge debacle.
I can live playing these other recent FPSer's if Titanfall 2 turns out to be a dud. But I will not be happy about it. I would love nothing better than to be putting a few hundred hours into Titanfall 2 during the next few years. However, if those reviews aren't solid, I won't even buy the game. A few months ago, that was unthinkable, so I'm nervous.
2. Hardwired...to Self-Destruct
I've been a Metallica fan since the '80's. The Master of Puppets album is my favorite piece of art, ever, by a country mile. However, post-And Justice For All, which followed Puppets, my favorite band has shown pieces of brilliance on each album, but none have compared in whole to their first four releases.
I liked the last two albums more than most people. Many had a problem with the tinny drum sound on St. Anger and the drop C tuning. I think the album, like Hetfield has said, is misunderstood. It was so much better than their previous three. And their last album, Death Magnetic, was another step in the right direction. In fact, there're a couple of songs on it that feel like they could fit on Master. So, after so many years of disappointment, I feel the band is trending in the right direction. Hope is a great thing to have.
However, they're taking so long to make albums now. They seem to be on the road for years at a time. Their first four albums—their masterpieces—were made in a six-year stretch. And now it's been eight years since the release of their last album. So you have to be nervous, because it feels like if they had enough time, they could return to the pinnacle of metal that they once were at, but you don't know if time will run out before they get there.
The first releases of off the new album, Lords of Summer, Hardwired, and Moth Into Flame, are all excellent in my book. They're not Master of Puppets excellent, but they sure as hell are better than most of the songs the band has put out since Justice. This new album has the potential to be fantastic from start to finish. But, Metallica has let me down before. I've waited so long for this album, I'm nervous as hell. The November 18th release date can't come soon enough.
My selfish self just hopes I'm not let down. It doesn't get better than Respawn or Metallica. Please, be as great as you're capable of being, and give us product that is worthy of the gods.
In preparation, just in case the Titanfall II reviews aren't sub-8.0, I've been playing a round or two of the original game every other day or so. Having not played it much for almost a year, I fell right back into it, and instantly remembered why it's my favorite first-person-shooter of all time (the Bioshocks remain my favorite narratives).
All of the components of the original Titanfall are so well calibrated, that it's a pure joy to play. The speeds and power levels of the Pilots & Titans—perfect. The amount of NPCs, and their strengths—so good. The complexity added with the tremendous variety of burn-cards, all of which players can keep and use, or sell, depending on which ones work better for them—terrific. And the gorgeous maps, with their ample size, both horizontally and vertically, so well designed for the type of combat in the game—such well-crafted staging is a rarity in gaming.
There was only one huge drawback, one that afflicts far too many games: a hard level cap. Get to that level 50, and players start dropping off the game in droves. It killed off the Titanfall player base just as it does with every other first-person-shooter that it afflicts.
Oh, I so hope that beyond all odds, the pre-Alpha tech test was a bunch of garbage compared to what Respawn is going to release in a month. Just in case that slight possibility actually happens, I'm going to continue to sharpen up my Titan and Pilot skills. Besides the waiting around for enough players to fill a lobby, it's an absolute blast.
It was about nine years ago that Bioshock was released on the Xbox. It was developed by Irrational Games, and its co-founder Ken Levine. It played like the best classic dystopian novel you've ever read, and was an experience unlike I'd ever had. In 2010, Bioshock 2, developed by 2K Games, was released to very good reviews, but remains an underrated chapter in my opinion. Then in 2013, Irrational released Bioshock Infinite, which won Game Of The Year in 42 publications, and remains my favorite video game of all time.
A couple of days ago, 2K released Bioshock: The Collection, a remastered version of the trilogy and their expansions. I've been playing it for about an hour every night when I get home from work, and all I can say is that it's an amazing experience.
Never has the underwater city of Rapture looked so beautiful. Knowing the story, but having forgotten the details, playing through the remaster is a chance to absorb all of the amazing visuals and game designs that blew by so quickly during the first run through. It's a whole different experience, like reading a dense classic for the second time, being able to catch all the nuance that was impossible to absorb on the first read. And it's oh, so good. In the realm of videogaming, it just doesn't get any better. And as narratives go, of all types, the Bioshock story ranks up among the greatest.
The original Bioshock has a 96 rating on Metacritic. Bioshock Infinite, a far-too-low 94. Even with all of the perfect tens and multiple awards, I can't state how strongly I feel this series is underrated.
If you haven't played through the Bioshocks, please get the Collection. And if you have, consider buying the Collection for the wonderful replay experience. Making those games almost broke Ken Levine as a human being. But what he and his team accomplished is simply some of the best fiction that has ever been created.
The new Madden has been out a couple of weeks, and I've finally played enough to give some brief thoughts. The last Madden I purchased was 15, and since there's no college football game any longer, I have to stick with the NFL. There are rarely any major improvements year-on-year, so I feel comfortable skipping a year or two between purchases. (I'm praying that the college game returns soon).
I like most of the changes that have been made the last couple of years. Here are some of them:
Some of the stuff I don't like:
Due to lack of competition, Madden has been far too sluggish with positive change. I think the lower-than-should-be sales have finally convinced EA to put some money into the development of the series. We're finally seeing some of the positive change that should have happened years ago. Let's hope they keep it up.
My rating: 8.4/10
My gaming time took a major hit the last few weeks as a result of my moving combined with the Olympics being on. I've finally got everything going and have been starting to get in some quality time. Here's what I've been playing:
1. Overwatch - Been getting into more of the characters. This is a great game if you only have 20 minutes or so to play a couple of rounds.
2. The Witcher 3 - Been roaming around The Skellige Isles.
3. Minecraft - Only playing for a couple of hours a week, but I'm sure it'll pick up here and there.
I've ordered Madden NFL 17 because the reviews have been the highest in years, and because it's been a couple of years since I've bought a Madden Game. Man, do I miss the NCAA Football series. Praying that'll come back. 17 is set to unlock tonight, so I'll be able to dive into it after work.
1. Bloons TD 5 - best money you'll ever spend for your phone. I play a few rounds or so every day.
2. Table Tennis Touch - purchased this recently, and it's a gem.
3. Magnetic Balls Bubble Shoot - Best bubble shooter I've played.
4. Candy Crush - I'm fading now that I'm in the level 800's.
I'm still crushed by the Titanfall pre-Alpha tech test. I'll be glued to the gaming sites to see what's happening with Respawn. Man, do I hope they somehow pull this off, but hope is fading so fast...
Sometimes, after artists have had incredibly successful runs, you put too much faith in them, and then they end up breaking your heart when they inevitably let you down. I still remember the day in August of '91, when I rushed home after purchasing Metallica's Black Album, and became more enraged after every song I listened to. It was such an incredible slap-in-the-face to the band's hardcore fans who thought they'd never sell out. Well, it's real life, and they did. And to true metal fans, the result was garbage.
I also remember September of 2007, when I started playing the beta for Infinity Ward's Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, the day it was released. It was easy to see that this was a huge step forward in the development of first-person shooters. Then came Modern Warfare 1 & 2, both tremendous games. Soon thereafter, came the firing of Vince Zampella and Jason West from Infinity Ward. They decided to start their own studio: Respawn Entertainment. In 2014 they released Titanfall, which exceeded the unbelievably high expectations I had for the team. It quickly became my favorite FPS of all time, and was the genre's most innovative game in years. It took Activision two cycles to copy the game mechanics of Titanfall within their Call of Duty series.
Needless to say, my hopes for Titanfall 2 where as high as Mt. Everest. A few days ago, I told a friend "There is no way this game will not be great." Well, now I have my doubts.
For some completely incomprehensible reason, Respawn, instead of releasing a Beta, released a "pre-Alpha tech test," just weeks before the game's release date. Why on Earth would someone do that? What good can come of such a thing?
Well, while I worked yesterday, I watched Redditors release one comment after another on the tech test. The comments slowly trickled in, and they were brutal:
No Titan timers!
No Burn Cards!
Titans are too slow to get into!
People don't move!
There are barely any Titans!
The maps are horrible!
What happened to Attrition?
This gameplay isn't fun!
I'm canceling my preorder!
Please, Respawn, delay the release, and fix this thing!
Then the articles started coming out, confirming how bad things were. I got home late last night, set the tech test to download, and went to bed. I woke up at 8am, and gave it a try.
I played a couple of hours throughout the morning, and I can confirm, it is absolutely no fun, whatsoever.
We have no idea what Titanfall 2 will be like once released. What I think we can safely say is releasing this version, at this time, was an unbelievably horrible idea.
First off, if you're using the Source Engine--something that is older than sin, don't release a test that doesn't look sharp. It's just going to lead to criticism for the eight weeks up to the game's release. People were already criticizing you for not using a modern game engine.
Secondly--why would you release something that isn't fun at all? Everything that made Titanfall so great has been stripped away. Every, single, thing. If you're going to release something that's pre-Alpha, do it six months before the release so you don't scare the living daylights out of people. Release a tight Beta going into the final stretch.
Third. If you strip all the intriguing strategic aspects out of the game in this test release, such as burn cards, let people know that they'll be there in the final product. If they're not, you've just killed the game for a huge chunk of players.
This version is a knife blade to the gut of Titanfall fans. It will do the exact opposite of what it was intended to do. Instead of creating positive buzz, it's forcing people to question whether or not they're even going to buy the game.
I am the biggest Titanfall fan in the world. Nobody loved that game more than me. But I've been burned before. Even the best creators drop horrible bombs now and then. I'm not sure what the hell Zampella is thinking. Even if the game comes out with 9.0 and 9.5 reviews, the release of this tech test will sour sales. To make matters worse, DICE, which is coming off of the much-loved Star Wars: Battlefront, is releasing Battlefield 1 a week before Titanfall 2. We all have seen the amazing footage from B1. Millions of people are going to be laying down their $65 on DICE before the reviews for Titanfall 2 even come out.
What an epic disaster. I'm not confident that Respawn survives this, unless the game is an absolute gem and they're just doing this to lower expectations going into the final stretch.
All I know is if those reviews aren't incredibly high, the biggest Titanfall fan in the world is going to go with DICE's product. And that's a crying shame.
The worst kept secret in the universe turned out to be true: 2K Games is releasing a remastered collection of Bioshock, Bioshock 2, and Bioshock Infinite. It drops on Sept. 15th for $60.
I can't state strongly enough how great this is. I played Bioshock all the way through twice, Bioshock 2 once, and Bioshock Infinite twice. I replayed the last 15 minutes of Infinite about ten times. There has never been a stronger trilogy in my opinion. Bioshock is easily in my top 5 games of all time, and Infinite is my absolute favorite game of all time.
For those who love a strong narrative in their gameplay, you cannot beat the Bioshock series. These games looked great on the previous generations; I can't imagine how wonderful they'll look on current gen.
I still remember the mind-blowing reveals that happen in these stories. The characters are absolutely world-class. The action is good too, and blends into the narratives well.
I'd easily give Bioshock a 10/10, Bioshock 2 an 8.5/10, and Infinite a 10/10. If you haven't played the Bioshock series yet, make sure you get the remastered version on Sept. 15th. It's as good as gaming gets.
Ranked in order of how much time I'm currently playing them:
2. Witcher 3
3. Tropico 5
5. Bloons Tower Defense 5 (Android)
Games I'm most looking forward to:
1. Titanfall 2
Those are the only two I know that are coming out in 2016 that I'm certainly getting.
Last May, the Polish video game developer CD Projekt RED released The Witcher 3, a third person, open-world medieval fantasy game, that won over the critics, receiving several Game of the Year awards, on its way to shipping over 10 million copies worldwide. CD Projekt followed it up with two highly-rated expansion packs.
Even though the game has been out well over a year, CD Projekt is still improving it. When the game was originally released, I sunk a lot of hours into it, before Fallout IV and Battlefront came out later in the year. Lately, I've been back at it, wanting to finish the game and both expansion packs before Ubisoft's Watch Dogs 2 comes out in November. When I booted it up a couple of days ago, I was surprised to see that the interface had been redone, even though the game has been out for so long.
The whole map/crafting/bestiary/inventory/etc., menus have been redone. Little improvements have been made as well. For instance, when you pick up a letter or a note now, you just have to down-click the right controller stick to read it, and it shows you a list of all the notes you haven't read yet. I had several unread letters. Once I read them, several new quests popped up.
I wish every game developer was like CD Projekt. Start with a fantastic game, and then keep improving it. You don't need all two or three hundred employees constantly working on it, but have a few stay with it for awhile. Not only will the gamers appreciate it, they'll be much more apt to buy your next game.
Within Witcher 3 is a card game called Gwent. I never got into Magic: The Gathering or Hearthstone, but as I made my way through the Witcher 3 world, I found myself falling in love with Gwent. I wasn't the only one. CD Projekt found that there were many Witcher 3 players that ignored the whole game except for traveling around from town to town to find other Gwent players. It's a seriously addictive game within a game.
At E3 this summer, CD Projekt formally announced that an updated version of Gwent was coming out for the PC and consoles. I'm sure it's just a matter of time before they bring it to the phones and tablets as well. This is a very smart move by the developer, and will bring in steady revenue while they develop their next large game.
I'm glad that CD Projekt is doing things right. Winning many top awards wasn't enough for the company. They just keeping on delivering. There're a lot of great gaming companies out there, each with its own strategy. I think most of them could learn a thing or two from CD Projekt RED.
I've played enough of Blizzard's Overwatch to finally feel comfortable writing a short review about it. Like I've said in previous posts, I wasn't planning on buying this game at all, mainly because of its fast pace and cartoon-ish look. Because of the fantastic reviews, however, I had to plunk down my $60 on it.
I'm glad I did. Blizzard crafted a fine multiplayer first-person shooter.
Overwatch is a 6vs6 game in which players choose one of twenty-one different 'heroes' to play as, each with very specific weapons, powers, and attributes. Some are more geared towards offense, some defense, and some support. The balance between them, which Blizzard is still fine-tuning, is pretty amazing.
It's this rich supply of characters which makes Overwatch so special. Some people like characters that can fire missiles, other's ones that shoot arrows. It's your choice, and if one character isn't working for you, you can change it within the game each time you die. You quickly find characters that match your skill, and it's fun trying to compete with characters that don't.
Beyond the character diversity, one thing I love about Overwatch is that how it de-emphasizes k/d ratios. There are essentially two game modes (with different variations of each). One is a headquarters mode, which Blizzard calls 'Assault,' and the other is an extraction mode, which is called 'Escort.' You work as a team to accomplish the goal, and there's no k/d showcase to distort players' behavior from accomplishing that goal. It's a relief, because you don't have to worry about that stat dropping, just because you're trying to hold a territory. It's exactly what the FPS genre needed.
The maps, although cartoon-ish, look gorgeous. And while the pace feels chaotic at first, once you get comfortable with it, it's not bad at all. It's not COD-slow, but it's not UT-fast either.
The major penalty in the game for dying is a time-penalty. You respawn away from the action, and you have to travel back towards it. With slower characters, this is a real pain. But, then again, that's the price you pay. It's not BF-bad (much less CS-bad), but it is a slow-down, and sometimes it feels like it's too much of one.
I don't find myself playing Overwatch for hours at a time, but I do try to play a few rounds every day. For the time being, it's replaced my Battlefront addiction. I seriously think I'll be playing this game for a couple of years, and I'm anxious to see how Blizzard expands it.
So far, it's very fun. Overwatch will definitely be my FPS of choice for awhile--at least until Titanfall 2 drops later this year.
My Rating: 8.7/10.
There's a browser game, made by GameForge, that I've been playing for many years. It's called Ikariam, and it's a super-addictive massive-multiplayer online strategy/war game that takes place in ancient Greece.
I've tried many other browser games throughout the years, but none have come close to sticking with me like Ikariam has. It started out as a pretty basic build-your-cities-and-fight-others type of game, but over the years, Gameforge has added layers to it that have made it much more complex and satisfying to play.
There is a multitude of buildings to build, but you only have limited space, so you have to choose the types wisely. There's research that you must earn points to partake in. There are open markets and the prices of goods fluctuate depending the current day's supply and demand. There's spying and a whole separate combat system (apart from the main troops & ships combat) called the Pirate Game that allows players to search and steal other people's points in order to win resources. Alliances form and try to rise up the ranks. Some survive, many do not.
It takes years to build up your cities. But because of wise balancing, someone who plays for four years isn't likely to be twice as powerful as someone who's played for two. They will have military advantages, but there's decreasing marginal returns on gaining those advantages as time goes on.
The game is free to play, but you can pay for certain advantages--and if you pay a lot, those advantages can turn out to be huge. I've sunk very little money into the game over the years, and although I haven't grown as fast as those that do, the game has still been a blast.
You can log on once a day if that's all you have time for, but in war time, you probably want to log on several times a day. Overall, it doesn't require a bunch of time to play.
For those who like long-term build, strategy, and war games, I'd recommend Ikariam. Though some players don't last years on the game, many do. And once you play for a while, you realize it's a fun community to be a part of.
When I first heard that Valve was making a 'Steam Machine,' I actually got a little excited. The idea was to have a box, similar to a console, but that was just tailored towards PC gaming. Valve was going to make an innovative controller, and best of all, it was going to cost much less than the horribly expensive PC gaming rigs.
Since I do all of my work on a laptop, I have no reason (or room) for a desktop PC. But I'd still like to play PC games. A Steam Machine using the living room television seemed like a perfect solution for me. Since it was Valve putting out the boxes, they'd have to be good.
But it took two years for the Steam Machines to come out. The launch was less-than-spectacular, and there was hardly any marketing for it. Hell, you'd be hard-pressed to find many articles about Steam Machines on the most popular gaming websites.
Now we've learned that after 7 months, Steam has sold under 500,000 boxes. That's not a good number at all. In fact, you could call it a disastrous number. Valve really messed up, something they don't often do.
What makes matters worse, is that the Xbox One.5 and PlayStation 4.5 are coming out soon, probably within a year or so. That's another $500 we're going to have to plunk down sooner than we thought.
I don't know where Steam went wrong, but I think they offered too much of a product line with far too little marketing. Their controller caught my interest. But the ultra-low sales just makes me think like this whole plan is a lost cause.
Perhaps they'll refocus and come out with something that'll be more bang for the buck and give us a solid reason to buy it. I was leaning towards purchasing a Steam Machine, but now my money is going to sit in the bank for the Xbox One.5. That being said, if sales pick up, maybe at some point down the line, I'll pick up a Steam Machine too. I like what they were trying to do. The implementation just seemed to be a disaster from the start, which is something that one does not expect from Valve.
Yesterday I got all my errands out of the way in the morning. Took my car in to get the tires rotated, did my laundry, sent out my emails, paid my bills, and then by 3pm I was ready to sit down and enjoy the rest of my day off by doing a little gaming.
I fired up Tropico 5, and then before I knew it, it was 3:30am, and I decided to go to bed, so as to not upset my sleep cycle too much. Twelve hours flew by so fast, I can't even describe it.
As I've said before, I'm a long-time fan of the Tropico series. In fact, I started playing Tropico 5 on my laptop before Windows 10 killed it. The game is so much more fun on a console, though. It's easy to learn, and Haemimont Games does such a great job at making simulation actions a breeze to do on a controller.
There's a huge amount of tongue-in-cheek humor and blatant humor that's well-paced throughout the game. It's full of color personalities, to say the least. It looks amazing as well, especially on a TV that excels with warm hues. On normal settings, it's not the hardest game in the world, but you will find yourself losing on occasion.
The big question is, is this game worth $50? For me, the answer is 'yes.' For others, there may not be enough material to warrant that price. I think most people are better off waiting for it to get down to the $35 price point. But, if you like playing easy-to-learn construction strategy games, Tropico 5 is probably a great buy for you. It's not something that you'd play as long as SimCity, assuming that a decent version of that existed. But the time you spend playing it will be very enjoyable.
I think the GameSpot 8/10 rating is right on the mark.
Jon David Rosten, author of
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