Video Games

Halo Infinite: Death or Revival?

After taking a couple of weeks to allow the gameplay reveal of Halo Infinite to simmer in my thoughts, I confidentially can say I’m excited about what I have observed. However, not without a certain degree of reservations. Expectations are sky high, and the internet is ablaze with memes of Craig the Brute, but the real question is where does the flagship title for the next generation of Xbox go from here?

In truth, the next generation of Xbox is more GamePass than it is Series X. And Halo becoming a live service, or a platform that will be continually updated over a ten year period, fits in with a GamePass oriented future. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. The lore of Halo is rich and expansive, and the fact that Infinite begins on Zeta Halo delights my inner child to no end.

My main concern here is the rating: please let it be Mature as opposed to Teen. Considering this is the home of the palace of pain, Mendicant Bias, and the Primordial, not to mention a simultaneous war against the Banished and Cortana-led Prometheans (honestly, I think she’s been corrupted by the Flood). Will the precursors return? Will the flood invade from the far reaches of space? What of Atriox? So yeah, this is some rich soil for story to be grown over a prolonged period of time.

I adored the gameplay they showed off on July 23. I really did. It felt far more like Halo than Halo 4 or 5. I dig the grappling hook and the drop shield. I also thought the interaction between the pilot and Master Chief was well crafted. The AI appeared solid, and this Escharum figure got my blood pumping. Halo Infinite is hitting the right notes so far in regards to story and gameplay, two of my key ingredients in developing a good game. It’s a solid foundation to build on.

Also, the multiplayer going free-to-play doesn’t bother me. I’m hearing rumors of a Battle Royale mode being added, and as long as they include classic modes the series is famous for, this should fit in just fine. Going free should, in theory, create the largest player base in the history of Halo. Will there be Mircotransactions? Possibly. I saw a rumor of a Battle Pass and I’m not overly worried about it. I’ve also heard if you buy the physical copy of the game you won’t have to buy a battle pass. While this is unclear, a 120FPS multiplayer Halo packed with all the goodies the series is known for, plus a battle royale mode and the largest player base in history, leaves me satisfied for now.

Last bit of the good feels: knowing story expansions will be free also makes me happy. Not to mention this is a OPEN WORLD Halo game with RPG elements. Yes, please. New weapons? Check. Will there be new vehicles? Dual wielding? Assassinations? Space combat? Different worlds to explore? An entire ring to transverse? The musical score is already shaping up nicely. Honestly, I feel the negativity online towards this game thus far has been misplaced to a large degree. Plus, give me more Craig! And on a side note, I’ve heard rumblings that Forge is going to be epic.

Ok, now on to the negative. The graphics, while colorful and definitely a call back to CE, were still flat. There was no ray tracing (and apparently this will be an add-on? Needs to be day one). I did see some improvement between the gameplay reveal and the trailer they released right after. Still, a lot of work needs to be done. And the sound from the weapons also left me underwhelmed. My gut feeling is a lot of this will be fixed over time after the game is released. I think this is a mistake. This title should be a graphical powerhouse. It doesn’t have to wow in the “realism” factor, but it needs to be the best looking Halo ever, while keeping in line with the series art style. I feel like I’d be beating a dead horse if I continue on this line of thought, but seriously, 343, you have a $500 million budget. Improve the visuals.

Losing two legacy weapons, the magnum and shotgun, is unacceptable. I like the idea of customizing weapons and introducing new variants, but don’t remove legacy weapons. They are staples of the franchise. Include them.

The gameplay area they decided to present, underwhelmed. It felt lackluster when taken in the context of: here’s the next evolution of the biggest franchise on Xbox. The pop-ins were concerning. The fact that this was the most “stable” demo the game has thus far is concerning. Will it be released with bugs? Memories of the MCC launch come to the forefront of my mind. Will this launch be drenched with glitches and broken elements? Will the game be delayed?

Overall, I tend to lean more on the positive side of things. I am optimistic regarding Halo Infinite. I have faith that 343 is doing all in its power to do the series justice. Microsoft has essentially granted them a blank check, giving them all the financial backing they need to be a success. I would love to see destructible environments, the ability to create missions in Forge, and a more in-depth melee system. I’m also still waiting for the day I can take out an enemy base, jump into a starship, fly into orbit, engage in space combat, land on an enemy ship, blow up the enemy ship, and head back down to the enemy base where I get shot down and parachute onto an enemy tank in the middle of a massive ground conflict. Am I dreaming? Maybe. But isn’t that what next-gen console launches are supposed to do? To cause you to dream about the possibilities? To imagine the limits that will be pushed? Here’s hoping that Halo Infinite is everything it needs to be and should be.

Xbox July 2020 Showcase

The oddness of this next gen transition cannot be overstated. Some of it has to do with the wild circumstances we find ourselves living in: pandemic, protests, unhinged politicians, and rising global tensions. Few of us go untouched by it. Additionally, Sony and Microsoft have completely different marketing strategies. It’s mind blowing how different they are. Meanwhile, Nintendo must have taken a vow of silence, choosing to stay mum on just about everything. It’s frustrating sometimes.

The Ubisoft event a couple weeks ago proved to be a letdown. The Nintendo Direct earlier this week delivered plenty of meh. That Sony Conference last month? Ok. Not bad. Nothing heart stopping. The Xbox May Conference showed some low budget titles, but nothing spectacular. The July 2020 Xbox Showcase? Solid. 8 out of 10 even. Still, nothing jaw-dropping. Nothing screaming next gen. Where is the game justifying the purchase of these next gen systems?

The half a dozen trailers presented in the pre-show accomplished a glimmer of hope. After all, they had some solid surprises with standouts like Hello Neighbor 2 and Balan Wonderworld. And the main event itself offered a refreshing splash of diversity with a multitude of genres being touched upon. But if it failed in one arena, it would be the obvious lack of gameplay.

Halo Infinite opened the show and the gameplay blew me away. I actually loved what I saw. Upon closer examination, I was a bit disappointed in the texture pop-ins, and the graphical detail (not to mention the lack of Ray Tracing). Everything else though felt like classic Halo, only smoother and bigger. The trailer they threw up after the event did a better job of getting me pumped up for the release. Overall, I’m satisfied with what I saw and am not overly worried about 343 touching up the game before release. But exactly how has this game taken advantage of being on the Xbox Series X as opposed to the Xbox One? I don’t know.

After that opening, the rest of the games didn’t bother with extensive gameplay demos. Hellblade 2 is getting inspiration from Iceland. That’s it. No other update. Forza looks like a 2022 title. And while Avowed and Fable were two of my favorite reveals, I’m going to assume 2022-2023 release windows for both. No gameplay teaser.

State of Decay 3 looked terrifying, but again, another short trailer. The Medium looks good. I liked most of the games they showed, to be fair. However, not once did my jaw hit the floor. Not once did I stop and exclaim this to be a next gen revelation. And I left what should have been an eye opening showcase, perhaps the most important showcase in Xbox history, feeling the show was just solid. Not great. Not excellent. Not revolutionary. Solid.

From my understanding, Xbox held a lot back. Time will tell if this strategy pays off. Banjo? Perfect Dark? Elder Ring? Apparently Xbox wants to counter the Sony event taking place on August 6. At this point, will either of these companies rise up and show us what next gen gaming is truly capable of? Will they stop trying to outwit and out maneuver one another long enough to impress the masses? Right now, neither system has convinced me a purchase is warranted. Maybe that’s something they need to keep in mind.

Let me end on a brighter note. Listen, the pro-consumer things that Microsoft is doing are incredible. Xbox Game Pass is the best deal in gaming. All gamers should support it. Xbox Live appears to be going free. Smart Delivery is awesome. The backwards compatibility (that includes an uptick in graphics and frame rate) is exciting. Seriously, I wish Nintendo and Sony would take note. Xbox is doing a ton of things right. They’re listening to fan feedback. They interact with their fans! They also have games now. All they need to do is show off that killer app, that God of War level tease. That’s all I’m asking for.

Insightful Gaming: PS5 Reveal!

No e3? No problem. The Sony Reveal Event delivered one of the best “directs” to date, and led me to wonder if e3 will even be necessary in 2021.

First, the design. I hate it. I love the fact there are two skus, a disc and disc-less option, but the thing looks like Alienware made a router – futuristic and wacky. No price. No release date. And I’m still curious about how loud the thing is going to be. At least the controller is slick.

So, disappointing design aside, the games are where it’s at. And Sony delivered. Spiderman: Miles Morales. Horizon Zero Dawn 2. Resident Evil 8. Ratchet and Clank. Kena. Pragmatic. Twenty-five in all. Anything mind-blowing? No. But enough great games to elicit a genuine sense of glee in me. I enjoyed what I saw. The games looked fun. Partially because they actually showed gameplay. Partially because they showed a bunch of games exclusive to the PS5. And the rest because I’m finally excited about next generation gaming in the fall.

After being on the receiving end of a one-sided fist fight for the better part of a year, Sony has captured the momentum for the next generation. They got the games, while hinting we haven’t seen everything yet. Xbox has the bigger beast, the better online service, and a Game Pass with no equal. Their backwards compatibility is ahead of the curve, and they have an ace in their sleeve by the name of Phil Spencer. But can they answer with a gaming showpiece in July? Only time will tell. For now, consider this as Sony’s way of saying, “Rumors of our demise were greatly exaggerated.”

Insightful Gaming – How Xbox Wins NextGen

I’m pretty stoked about next gen. 60fps? True 4K? SSD? Unreal 5? Ray Tracing? Sign me up. I have a feeling RPGs, stealth games and platforming are going to be huge. We also might see some incredible PC style strategy games finally hit consoles. And maybe, just maybe, a good Superman game. We have three systems: Xbox Series X, PS5, and Switch Pro (come on, it’s a given). In this quickie post, how can Xbox win next gen?

This is nothing more than a wishlist. I am not using any “insider info.” Nope. Just thirty years of gaming, my skills as an analyst, and my thoughts on where the industry is and where it can go. With that mumbo, jumbo out of the way, let’s get down to business.

June Event:

All about the hardware. Xbox Series X. Maybe the cheaper version, Xbox Series S. Elite Controller 2.0. Talk about Game Pass and X-Cloud. Demonstrate how Xbox Live is bigger and better. Then do a full power presentation.

If I were in charge of marketing, I’d press the following: Most Powerful System. Best Online Experience. Best Controller. Full Backwards Compatible. No censorship. Then emphasize Smart Delivery. I’d also ensure the event was only a day or two after Sony’s June event.

Lastly, I’d show-off some 3rd party titles. New Batman from Montreal? Superman from Rocksteady? Cyberpunk 2077? Harry Potter RPG? New Splinter Cell? Talk about how Xbox is the premiere choice for all third party titles. Then announce a bunch of timed exclusives. Hardcore gamers hate them, but it makes a significant impact on the market in general. Also, make the Flight Simulator the showpiece. End the presentation blasting the theme song from the 1990s X-Men animated series – yeah, Sony has Spiderman. We have the X-Men.

July Event

This first one is a long shot, but it makes sense. EA makes most of their money from live services. Live services work well with sport titles and Dice war games. They do not like single player experiences. Xbox wanted BioWare before. Plus, Respawn and Visceral Games would be perfect fits. Lastly, EA has never been a big fan of the Star Wars license. So they can unload it.

So the conference opens up with the announcement BioWare is now an Xbox studio. The Original Mass Effect trilogy, the Dragon Age trilogy, KOTOR I & II and Jade Empire are all being remastered alongside Saber Interactive. 4K resolution. 60fps. New content. Better gameplay mechanics. They show teasers for a new Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Anthem 2.0, and Jade Empire 2. But no rush. They then announce they are making KOTOR III alongside Obsidian.

Obsidian shows off dlc for The Outer Worlds, Grounded, and Pillars of Eternity 3. They also tease The Outer Worlds 2 and Alpha Protocol 2. Sega makes a statement that all of their new games are coming to Xbox: Persona, Yakuza, Sonic, Virtual Fighter, Phantasy Star, Atlas, and Total War. Then Total War announces they are working on a Halo RTS. This is followed by a string of 3rd party exclusives: Alan Wake 2 (Remedy), Marvel vs DC (Capcom), Dying Light 2 (Techland), Scalebound (Platinum), and Elden Ring (FromSoftware). This leads then to showing off a host of JRPGs that are finally coming to Xbox.

The Coalition show dlc for Gears Tactics, and then tease Mech Assault, Gears 6, and Jedi Academy. Ninja Theory show updates for Bleeding Edge, and then show Hellblade 2. They finish with teases for Project Mara and Odyssey 2. Trailers for Age of Empire 4 (Relic), Forza Motorsport 8 (with teaser for a new Forza New Horizons), Killer Instinct (no longer made by Rare), and then a bombshell: Bungie is once again an Xbox Studio. They drop trailers for Destiny 3 and a new IP and they tease they will be tackling Battlefront.

Rare shows off Sea of Thieves 2.0 with NPC crews and a host of improvements and additions. They show trailers for Everwild and Banjo and hint that they are not finished with Conker or the Battletoads.

The Initiative blasts onto the stage with a futuristic spy thriller reboot of Perfect Dark. They also tease they are working on X-Men and Deadspace. Then the trailer for Fable 4 is dropped by Playground Games. This segment is finished off by ReSpawn showing off Titan Fall 3, Apex Legends 2.0, and Jedi Fallen Order 2.

People Can Fly announces they are now an Xbox Studio. They show off a new IP and then tease they are tackling a reboot of TimeSplitters. Cause why not? Xbox then drops teasers for what multiple in-house studios are working on. A nice ten minute showcase of multiple games spread across multiple genres.

We then get teasers for Starfield, a new Witcher game, and that all dlc for LA Noire 2 is time exclusive for Xbox. Larian Studios comes out to say they are now an Xbox studio and Baulders Gate 3 and Divinity 3 are coming to Xbox. And then a partnership is announced: Xbox will be working with Bandai to create a Full Metal Alchemist game. They show off improvements to MineCraft and Fortnite before ending on a full reveal of Halo Infinite.

New weapons, new vehicles, improved melee, dual wielding, more assassinations, bigger environments, better stealth mechanics, and your armor takes on battle damage. You can also smash throw walls and drop a building on enemies – options are almost limitless to how you want to tackle missions. Hundreds of npcs make for huge set pieces. More WOW moments. The banished, the flood, new alien species, massive boss battles, space combat, and awesome Halo music. They reveal the biggest campaign ever with improved multiplayer and even a battle royal mode. 343 Studios then ends with a teaser for ODST 2.

August Event:

Obviously, this is where they should announce the price – $400 for Xbox Series X and $300 for Xbox Series S. They then announce a September release for Series X and a November release for Series S. They wrap it up with a showcase of the return of Summer Indies. A host of indie games will release every summer, starting with a ton of exclusives in August. Lastly, they mention that Game Pass, at least a limited version, will be coming to the Nintendo Switch in addition to Xbox Live for Switch. It’s a rad partnership and gives Xbox some serious momentum.

Summary:

Ok, so 90% of this is fantasy for sure. There could be curveballs, like ZeniMax or CD Projeket Red becoming an Xbox studio. Or maybe nothing happens and we get all hyped for nothing. But this is my wishlist, and I’m sticking to it until my dreams are dashed to pieces.

My e3 2015 Predictions

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The “Re-mastered Generation” has stumbled out of the box. When I look over my PS4 collection and observe that its best games are The Last of Us, Diablo 3, and Tomb Raider, an issue arises. Where are the games that define this generation? Super Mario 64 pushed the N64 off selves. Super Metroid rocked our world when it popped up on the Super Nintendo. Sonic the Hedgehog breathed life into my Sega Genesis. Remember Shenmue and Powerstone for the Dreamcast? What about Metal Gear Solid for the PS1? I took a dive onto the Xbox for Halo. I plunged face first into the Xbox 360 for Mass Effect and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Dating back to the original Atari, I don’t recall a single time in gaming history where so many recycled titles dominated the shelves.

Destiny was rubbish. I can say that. For everything the game accomplished, it managed to do a lot more wrong. Let’s review: no story, a bare bones competitive multiplayer mode, a boring grind system, and a repetitive mission structure make for a dull experience. An experience that not even great core mechanics, beautiful visuals, and an excellent frame rate can overcome. Shadow of Mordor hinted at greatness, the nemesis system was real innovation, but its true potential remained unknown, held back by being produced for last generation consoles that are now ten years in age. Dragon Age: Inquisition was a return to form for Bioware, but nothing about it screamed, “This is the future of gaming!” Too many fetch quests combined with unimaginative side quests produced an experience that was good, but not great. I felt I could have enjoyed a similar experience playing it on the Xbox 360 as opposed to the PS4. This generation’s library of games remains average at best.

Add to the dearth of titles the rise of releasing half-finished products and the non-too subtle attempt at inching towards always online connectivity, and I am left wondering if it is worth continuing this hobby? What about virtual and augmented reality? Shouldn’t you perfect what you already have before moving on to the next big thing? Or is sinking into a pool of mediocrity to be the accepted norm? Don’t worry true believers: re-mastered versions of God of War 3, Alan Wake, and Final Fantasy X are set to join the re-mastered versions of Sleeping Dogs, GTA V, Devil May Cry, and the Master Chief Collection that already populate the shelves. Recycle. Recycle. Recycle.

Hope exists. Another e3 is on the horizon. A chance for redemption may be in play. Perhaps this sinking ship can be righted after all. Or maybe it is time for this old guy to put down the controller and move on to reading. Here are my top predictions/wishes for e3 2015:

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Bethesda Steals the Show

They are already making history by announcing their own floor presentation. What do I expect? The Doom reboot, Dishonored 2, a dlc expansion for the Elder Scrolls MMO, and a new IP. I am hoping for Elder Scrolls VI. I think we may be surprised by what Bethsaida decides to do with Fallout. Many are expecting a sequel much in the vein of Fallout 3. What we may get is a trailer for a Fallout MMO instead. Not saying I like the idea, but there is evidence…

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Bioware Continues their Resurrection  

An expansion, similar to Awakening, is shown for Dragon Age Inquisition. A trailer is shown for Mass Effect 4 with a release date pushing it to holiday 2016. Another teaser is flashed for their new IP, and their segment is ended by the announcement that the Mass Effect trilogy is coming to the PS4/Xbox One. My hope is not just for the routine 1080p/60fps with all the dlc treatment. I wish they would also fine tune the combat, give it another level of polish, add additional cut scenes, extend other cut scenes, and transfer the sound effect lessons they implemented in Mass Effect 3 into Mass Effect 1 and 2. A steel case, the soundtrack for the entire trilogy, an art book, and a disc that goes behind the scenes into the making of the entire trilogy would be an added bonus. Alas, I feel my expectations have me set up for a major disappointment. Hey, if you are going to re-master everything, might as well get it done right.

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The Wii-U Swansong

My biggest hesitation last year with Nintendo was my worry that they would abandon the Wii-U and make a run on a new console. They haven’t abandoned the Wii-U, yet. The writing, however, is on the tombstone. The next system will be unveiled next year. If they’re smart, not only does it match the PS4/Xbox1 while introducing a remarkable innovation, it also hits store shelves holiday 2016. This creates a cloud over everything Nintendo decides to show at this e3. My mind is already looking to next year. What tricks do they have up their sleeves to recapture my attention to the Wii-U? Or is it already a lost cause?

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PS4/Xbox 1 Come out Swinging…

With what? PS4 will likely tout exclusive games like Deep Down, Street Fighter V, and No Man’s Sky. Xbox will be all about Halo, Crackdown, Tomb Raider: Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Quantum Break. More re-masters will be shown off. More boring stats that no one cares about will be recited. My hope? PS4 shows off that top secret RPG that Guerilla Games is supposedly working on, a new IP is shown off by Quantic Dream, and a classic like Syphon Filter is reborn. Throw in some more indies, another third party exclusive, and cap it off by showing more footage from Uncharted 4 and a teaser for the next God of War (time to take on the Japanese pantheon), and you’ll have a winner. Xbox needs to hit the first party exclusive scene hard. Perfect Dark? Kameo? Banjo? The next Gears of War? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. How about bringing Starcraft and Overwatch over from Blizzard? Throw in a brand new killer IP, and they will be golden as well. Why? The taste of being burned in the last half of the Xbox 360’s cycle is still fresh in my mouth. The part where they shifted their focus from games to TV. Blow it up with first party exclusives for the second year in a row and that taste may be gone for good.

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VR/Augmented Reality take Center Stage

This is unfortunate. Too many gimmicks have fallen flat on their faces over the last few years in the industry. Right the ship you’re sailing before you tether another boat lest both end up sinking. At least, that’s my take. I expect this season’s technological darling to receive an awful lot of limelight. We will see big promises. We may even be wowed by presentation. Just bear in mind reality. If the history of e3 presentations are anything to go by, looking at you Watch Dogs, keep yourself grounded in fact and do not be swayed by fancy fiction.

Destiny

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 Pros:

-Excellent Game Mechanics

-Tight Controls

-Beautiful Visuals

-Fantastic Soundtrack

-Plenty of Potential

-Nicely Polished

Cons:

-No Story

-No Wit or Charm in Dialogue

-No WOW Moments

-Lack of Mission Variety

-Poor Voice Acting

-Barebones RPG Elements

-Barebones Multiplayer Modes

-Unbalanced Multiplayer

-Lack of Vehicles

-No Hijacking Vehicles or Assassinations

-Lack of Melee Weapons

-Cheap AI

-Bullet Sponge Bosses

-Quietest and Least Social Online Game Ever

-Broken/Uninteresting Loot System

-World’s Lack Life

The Rundown: While fun at first, its many shortcomings left me bored and frustrated.

Score: C

I think comparing this to a Free-To-Play title is not without merit. The game feels like the meaningful content has been reserved for expansion packs and dlc. The loot system lacks the depth and enjoyment of a Borderlands or Diablo 3. The multiplayer is subpar when compared to the likes of the very series Bungie created (Halo). With no story to speak of and an overall experience that left me quite unsatisfied, this game has been sunk by the weight of its own hype. I doubt I will remember it a year from now, much less the expected 10 year life span that has been advertised. Grinding and/or farming may be enjoyable to some people, but for me, I don’t see the point. I made it to a level 25 Warlock and have no desire to pick it up again. That speaks volumes to Destiny’s failure to live up to the awesome amount of potential that exists here. To sum it up: fun for a few missions, but mind numbingly boring soon after.

System: PS4

e3 2014 Review

Conferences

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Grade: C+
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Review: I was thrilled that Microsoft dedicated an entire e3 conference to games. And they managed to deliver a solid showing. As a big Halo fan, the Master Chief Collection should keep me satisfied until next fall’s Halo 5: Guardians arrives. However, it’s everything else that remains suspect. Scalebound looks promising, but Fable Legends appears to have lost all the magic that made the original so good (in my eyes, the series has been in serious decline since Lost Chapters). Crackdown 3…well, I am still aching from the mediocrity that was Crackdown 2, so that title has a lot to make up for. Project Spark looks like fun, but I have a bad feeling it will not live up to expectations. Sunset Overdrive looks funny, but I am still not sure what to think especially after hearing from numerous sources the game felt “floaty.” It hurts knowing that all the third party titles shown, given previous history, will look and run better on a PS4. Yea, they finally did the right thing by getting rid of the Kinect, but where does that leave the Xbox One? The entire system was built around the Kinect. Microsoft left this dilemma untouched for folks like me who have yet to purchase an Xbox One to ponder. And it is worrisome. The biggest highlight of the conference was Ori and the Blind Forest, which looked beautiful, but it’s not enough to justify a $400 purchase.
Next Time: The original Xbox had Halo and Knights of the Old Republic to convince me it was worth a purchase. The Xbox 360 had Halo 3 and Mass Effect. The Xbox One is in sore need of another AAA franchise. They really need a WOW moment. What about the Samaritan demo Epic showed off a couple years ago? A huge selling point for me would also be to make backwards compatibility a reality.

Sony
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Grade: B
Review: Another solid showing even if the conference lost some steam with the awkwardness in the middle. Bloodborne, The Order 1886, Driveclub, and Little Big Planet 3 all look to be fine exclusives. I am not sure what to think of the exclusive title Let It Die, but at least it shows Sony is not afraid to take risks. The highlight of the show for me was definitely No Man’s Sky. And after confirming that the trailer showed for Uncharted 4 was running on the in-game engine, yea, that is a must buy title for next year. But that’s next year. What about this year? I am still left wondering what all the other Sony in-house studios are working on. And really, nothing shown made me think I need to run out and purchase a PS4 right this instant. The most exciting titles announced were multiplatform.
Next Time: Where was Last Guardian? How about that open world RPG Guerilla Games is working on? Games, games, games. That is what this system sorely needs. The potential is there and I know the games are coming. Offering up more teasers, surprises, and wow moments will knock the next conference out of the ballpark.

Nintendo
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Grade: B-
Review: Welcome back, Big N. Legend of Zelda certainly offered up the WOW moment Nintendo needed to make the Wii U pop up on my radar. And with the success of Mario Kart 8 and another Smash Bros game due this fall, things are finally starting to look up for them as well. However, 3 major things give me caution: 1. The void that was third party support is deafening. It makes me wonder if this system will go the way of Gamecube. I would hate to purchase the system this year and next year have Nintendo release a new system. I can’t shake the feeling that this is a major possibility. 2. Hearing from a few sources that the Star Fox that was announced may be nothing more than a glorified tech demo disappointed me for sure. 3. Where was Metroid? Yea, as the conference came to a close we were left with a little tidbit that an announcement may be made in the near future. But here is the problem: delays. Everything on the Wii U feels like it is being delayed. Xenoblade. Smash Bros. The system is on life support as it is. It needs games, not delays. And see, this is where third party support would come in handy in keeping the system afloat.
Next Time: I need assurance that Nintendo doesn’t plan to abandon ship with the Wii U. This conference was a start in the right direction. But its baby steps when really Nintendo needs to be running. Unveil the games. Open the wallet for third party support. Oh, and how about allowing more than a single gamepad to work per Wii U?

Top 5

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1. Witcher 3-It’s beautiful. The cities are thriving. The environments are so colorful. The combat looks fluid. This game continues to wow me with every showing.
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2. Batman Arkham Knight-Batman done right. Everything I have seen from this final chapter of Rocksteady’s epic trilogy screams awesome. My only worry is story. Arkham Origins has had the best story of any of the Arkham games and that was even done by Rocksteady.
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3. Dragon Age Inquisition-Bioware appears to have a megaton hit on their hands. I have loved everything I have seen and greatly appreciate that Bioware’s pledge to listen to fan feedback wasn’t lip service. My only gripe? The cities. Or lack thereof. Will there be cities to explore? And will they be as thriving as they are in Witcher 3 or will all the NPC’s be stuck in mud?
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4. No Man’s Sky-The idea of exploring an infinite galaxy sounds incredible. The atmosphere looked beautiful. And every player starts the game on a different planet? How cool! But will this game live up to the ambitions of its creators?
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5. Evolve-I came into this e3 without a concern or care in the world for this game. After watching it in action, I can safely say I was so wrong for ignoring it. Fun is the word that best describes it. An incredible amount of fun.

Surprises

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1. Lego Batman 3. Ok, don’t laugh. I loved Marvel Superheroes. And this comes from someone who is not the biggest fan of Lego games. So color me surprised when I saw this and thought, “Wow, that looks like a blast.” I’m keeping this on my radar although I am not guaranteeing a purchase. Not just yet.
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2. Shadow of Mordor. I’m sold. The Nemesis system is one of the best things to happen to this new generation of consoles. The game looks and feels great. If the story can be on par from the gameplay that was shown than this will end up being the LOTR game I have always wanted.
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3. Rainbow Six Siege. I’m a little sad that Patriots was canceled after showing so much promise. However, the hostage situation multiplayer matches looked fantastic. It made you think. It made you sweat. If this game can continue down this path it will not only distinguish itself from COD and Battlefield, it will also be a blockbuster hit.

Honorable Mention

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Far Cry 4-The game looked beautiful. I have major concerns with story. I also question Ubisoft’s ability to create a living world. And does there need to be so much profanity? It may be an attempt to come across as cool, but to me it is just lazy writing.
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Assassin’s Creed: Unity-Perfect time period selected what with it taking place during the French Revolution. Four player co-op? Yes. I was particularly intrigued by the murder scene investigation the player stumbled across. However, I am a bit turned off but what I feel is too much hand-holding in Ubisoft’s games. Also, after Assassin’s Creed 3, I am still fatigued with the series. So much so that I never bothered played Black Flag. This game has my attention, but it is surely divided at this point.

Disappointments
1. Mass Effect Trilogy-So maybe I got my hopes up. But seriously, this would have been awesome to have on the next gen consoles. 1080p/60 fps, all dlc included, and the combat in ME 1 tweaked to perfection. But the conference came and went without even a whisper of its existence.
2. Mass Effect 4-Concept art? Really? The game is playable, but all we get is concept art? Listen, I know you don’t want take the attention away from DAI, but still. A teaser trailer would have been significantly better than a few pieces of concept art.
3. Bioware’s New IP-Ok…what did I just see? A building. Day and night cycle. Right. What’s the point? Give me a name. A teaser trailer. Something to latch my excitement upon. This felt absolutely pointless.
4. Star Wars Battlefront-I get it. You went to some locations. You’re staying true to the Star Wars brand. But this feels like a theme that was pretty consistent with the entire EA conference. We have lots of cookies in the oven, but nothing to show right now. Like, nothing. No teasers. No game footage. Nothing. I don’t know whether to be excited or stumped. Therefore, I am left disappointed.
5. Last Guardian –You vehemently defend the notion the title is not canceled, but can’t so much as show a building with a day and night cycle. Man, we got that from Bioware’s IP. And what, Last Guardian has only been in development since the rise of the Grecian Empire under Alexander the Great. If it’s canceled, admit it. If it’s in development, then show it. At this point, you need make a decision and stick with it.

Overall, e3 2014 was a “Play It Safe” event. I understand the reasons. However, the lack of WOW moments has made what was a solid show mostly forgettable.

Not the ‘One’ I Was Looking For

 

I’ve been gaming since the days of the Atari. I remember Pong, Asteroids, PacMan, and Invaders. I migrated over to the NES at the ripe age of 8. It was then I was introduced to the likes of Mario, Donkey Kong, Zelda, and Contra. Does anyone remember Commando? I owned a SNES and a Sega Genesis. I played an NEO-GEO (Bonk’s Adventure!) and the terrible Virtual Boy (Mario Tennis bathed in red). I owned the original Gameboy and clocked in hours on Metroid II and Tetris. I did the same with Sonic on the Sega GameGear. Remember Mario 64? My N64 rocked my world with its 3-D gameplay.

I beat Metal Gear Solid on my PS1 and dominated my friends at PowerStone on the Dreamcast. My PC gaming days date back to the likes of Wolfenstein, Doom, and Command & Conquer (you know, before EA ruined it). I owned the first Xbox and have played on both the PS2 and PS3. The GameCube may have been my last Nintendo-owned console but that hasn’t stopped me from playing the Wii from time to time.

I currently own an Xbox 360 with an extensive library of close to 60 games. That number doesn’t reflect the number of games I have either borrowed or traded in. At its peak, it was the best console I have ever owned. Mass Effect, Halo 3, Bioshock, Super Street Fighter IV, LOTR Battle for Middle-Earth II, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Fallout 3, Dragon Age Origins, Red Dead Redemption, Crackdown, Alan Wake, Fable II, Borderlands and cult classics like Super Meat Boy. Then Kinect came out and the gaming world as I knew it changed.

Sure, there are still a lot of great third party games coming out. Bioshock Infinite, Tomb Raider, Dark Souls, Skyrim, Max Payne 3, and the like demonstrate there is still creative juice left in the industry. Halo Reach and Halo 4 upped the campaign effort but lost the magic of multiplayer. Fable 3 was a travesty and Fable The Journey a joke. Crackdown 2 was flat out mediocre. Kinect Fit and Dance Central received more attention than sequels to Halo Wars and Alan Wake. New IP’s were ignored in the face of expanding entertainment services.

Let’s get one thing straight. Thanks to poor quality choices on Mircosoft’s part, I have owned as many as four Xbox 360’s. It was worth it, in my mind, because the library of games was that fun. Because Xbox Live was that much superior to the PSN Network. And because I really enjoyed my gaming hobby.

Times change. I have grown up and matured. I’m married now. I write novels, work full time, and look forward to doing more university work. I read books, watch movies, and chill with friends. I have lots of hobbies that include martial arts, snorkeling, disc golf, fantasy football, traveling, weight training, biking, and board games. I still love good storytelling. Therefore, I still enjoy a great game. But the announcement of the Xbox One has all but killed my enthusiasm for this next generation of consoles…

 

A Forcing of Gimmicks

            What started out as kind of a neat, tricky gismo is now a required element for the Xbox One. Namely, the kinect. So far, 0 kinect games have so much as registered a notch in my interest scale. Star Wars Kinect continues to give me the shivers to this day. Did they really manage to top Superman 64 is sheer terribleness? I’m sorry, but dancing around my living room like a drug crazed chimp doesn’t excite me in the least. Yelling at my TV and then having it talk back to me conjures images of Skynet and I hear that voice, “Hello Dave.”

Then there are the privacy matters. This is a big issue for me. The Kinect is always on, always watching, and always listening. Ok, so Mircosoft said that there will be an option to shut it down. They also gave a speech in similar fashion to what the President said this past week. “You can trust us. We are not listening. We promise.” And now 1984 is coming to mind.

I don’t need a device, made by a company that has already been shown to be handing over personal information to the US federal government, in my home that can be used to spy on me. Here’s the thing, I have nothing to hide,but what do you think are the benefits to such a device? You’re munching on a Domino’s pizza and a bag of Classic Ranch Dorritos and washing it down with a can of Mountain Dew. Your gameplay time is suddenly interrupted by, gasp, a commercial for Domino’s Pizza! Then another one for Mountain Dew! And then a third one for Dorritos! What a coincidence, right?

What really bothers me is the patent that Mircosoft spent $20,000+ on for Visual DRM. The Kinnect can detect heartbeats and body heat. It can be used to determine how many people are in a room watching a TV show, a movie, or playing a game. It can also recognize voices. It can then be used to force you to pay extra if too many people are watching said movie, TV show, or video game. No way a corporation would ever try to pull a stunt like that on consumers, right? Making you pay an extra $2 per person over a restricted limit set on DVD, Music, and Video Game purchases? Think again.

I have this thing in my house that can be used to monitor everything I say and everything I do. A thing that can be used to sell my information to advertisers and restrict my use of the entertainment I purchase. A thing that already makes me look like an idiot when I’m dancing around the living room trying to get it to work. And I wish that was the worst of it.

 

Always On, Rights Lost

 

The Xbox One must connect to the internet once every twenty four hours. People who don’t have the internet or can’t get it are simply out of luck. But there is a deeper issue here, namely, my rights as a consumer. It is already bad enough that my games have a mandatory install programmed into them. Just how long is that 500gb hard drive supposed to last before it is filled and needs to be upgraded?

To put it simply: making me check in once every twenty hours to play a video game is absurd. If the Xbox servers go down for any reason, I can’t play my games. How long will it be before companies like EA and Activision decide to kill servers for a particular game to force people to buy the new installment? That would never happen, you say. Think again. Suddenly you can’t play Battlefield 4, Madden 13, or Dragon Age 3 because those servers are shut down and your “digital ownership rights” to the game could not be verified. Not only is a $60 purchase down the drain (not to mention money spent on DLC), but the game is completely useless and can never be played again. Period. What’s to stop publishers from doing that? The kindness of their hearts? Really?

What if my internet is out? What if I’m in a location that gets no internet? Since when did a game I purchase become a loan instead of a purchase? What gives Mircosoft the right to force me to check in once every twenty hour period? And am I supposed to believe that Mircosoft is on the cutting edge of technology? Yea, Zune was a real hit. And Windows 8 only caused the biggest decline in sales of PC’s in a single quarter in the history of that industry.

Tell me again, oh great innovator, why it is that I should trust your “innovative approach” to how I am to enjoy my entertainment? And since when did you take it upon yourself to dictate how it is I am to experience my entertainment? Rules and regulations for borrowing a friend’s game? Restrictions on the used game market? I don’t receive money on used book sales, why should publishers get funds for used games? It sounds like a system of nickel and diming that will lead to the complete demise of the industry as we know it.

 

But Wait, There’s More!

            Oh yes. 15 exclusives and eight of them will be brand new IP. Given Mircosoft’s history, I do not expect much in the way of quality. Ryse, Lobocycle, Quantum Break, Fortnight…yea, not all that interested. Killer Instinct…but will the original team be working on it (likely not). Halo 5? Gears 4? Fable MMO? Crackdown 3?

The most unique, creative expressions in gaming are found in the indie market. That same indie market that Mircosoft not only has a poor reputation with but they will continue to forbid self publishing. Therefore, all those great indie games will be steered straight into the laps of PC and the Playstation 4. Meanwhile, the Xbox One gives achievements for watching Real Housewives and has a button for ordering pizza. Terrific.

 

Is This It?

            I don’t know. The Playstation 4 might be just as restrictive. We won’t know until all the smoke and dust has cleared from e3 next week. In the meantime, the Xbox One, a console that comes across as a glorified cable box, has done all it could to dampen my enthusiasm for next generation consoles. PC gaming is costly but is making a whole lot more sense to me right about now. At the end of the day, I want a good game with a great story and stellar gameplay. I don’t want to be nickel and dimed to death. That’s why I avoid F2P games like the plague. And that’s why I may be avoiding the Xbox One in similar fashion.

 

 

e3 2013 Review

My Top Ten:

The Witcher 3 (Best of Show): This open world gem looks to define what next generation consoles are truly capable of. Rich in story, incredible sword play, and a stunningly realistic landscape make this my number one most anticipated game-period.

 

Watch Dogs: As a person who studied film and met his future spouse in the Windy City, this is somewhat of a biased pick. I love that Ubisoft has completely recreated the city of Chicago. It is gorgeous. I adore the sci-fi thriller story they have cooked up for this new IP. This game has so much potential. It is one to watch for sure.

 

Batman Arkham Origins: All my fears about Rocksteady not working on this one have been washed away. The game looks terrific, plays like an old friend, and will undoubtedly have an awesome story to boot. I am not sure how they intend on incorporating the multiplayer feature. I am also saddened that Kevin Conroy will not be voicing Batman in this one. Still, I have been satisfied by how this one is coming along.

 

Dragon Age Inquisition: I owe it to Bioware for allowing me to attend e3. This was the main reason I was there-to see the progress that has been made on the new Dragon Age title. I am disappointed that no game play was shown (it would be higher on the list if some was shown). However, the trailer was beautiful. The musical score top notch, the graphics improved, an epic tale was teased, and old friends were revealed. I am also glad that the team is being given plenty of time to do this one justice. Fall 2014 cannot come fast enough.

 

Final Fantasy XV: I have never been a fan of Final Fantasy. The last one I played was VII. However, this one intrigued me. It had plenty of escalating conflict and tension. The action was fast paced and looked like fun. I was sucked into the story from the onset. For the first time in years I am actually looking forward to a FF title. Color me impressed.

 

Metal Gear Solid V: My hope here is the story will actually make sense and will not be too over the top. Everything else I saw from this title wowed me to the core.

 

Kingdom Hearts 3: This one bleeds all kinds of awesome. It has been a long time coming and fans of the series will be pleased for sure. Will Marvel and Star Wars be making appearances since they are now Disney property? Maybe. Either way, I love RPG’s and this was icing on the cake for me.

 

Destiny: Before e3, I was not really feeling it for this one. But then they showed off the game play and I was reminded of Borderlands on steroids. If they can add the magic of Halo to the sheer enjoyment of Borderlands, with a solid sci-fi story to boot, I am sold.

 

Battlefield 4: I was not expecting this to make my list. I am not a military FPS sort of person. However, I loved what I saw of the intense 64 player matches. The game looks like a lot of crazy fun with plenty of suspenseful moments. If it can do it all at a full 1080p at 60fps, I may just have to give it a shot. If it can also deliver a gripping campaign with a great story, I am 100% in.

 

Titanfall: I really liked this one. The idea of jumping in and out of giant mechs was super cool. The game was action packed and the sci-fi feel was great. I am hoping this beast decides to grace the PS4 in the near future, but for now Xbox fans have a nice little exclusive gem on their hands.

 

Honorable Mentions:

  1. Infamous Second Son-The game play filled me with a whole lot of excitement.
  2. Assassin’s Creed IV: Blackflag-I’ve been waiting for a decent pirate game since Sid Meir’s Pirates!
  3. Killzone: Shadowfall-I have never been a big Killzone fan but this series may have finally hit its stride.

 

Biggest Surpise: The Sony E3 conference, of course. I really don’t need to include any detail here.

 

Biggest Letdown: Mircosoft’s Attitude. I’ve been a loyal customer of theirs since they entered the gaming market. That’s going back to PC days. They really have this sort of arrogant attitude that causes me to lose interest in anything they have to say. It was weird.

 

Top 5 MIA:

  1. Bioware: The trailer for Dragon Age was nice, but what about the game play? We heard nothing about their new IP, Mass Effect 4, or whatever new Star Wars game they happen to be working on. Also, we heard nothing on any updates for the Old Republic. It was rather odd to tell you the truth.
  2. RTS Void: Ok, Total Rome II showed up and wowed me, but where was everyone else? No Warcraft 4? Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-Earth 3 (I loved the second one)? Star Trek Armada 3 (best Star Trek video game series ever)? What about Age of Wonders III which is due this fall? It was odd to have this entire genre sort of glossed over.
  3. Fallout 4: I can understand Elder Scrolls VI being a no show, although I want that one more than just about anything else. But I know The Elder Scrolls Online is taking center stage right now. Still, why no news on Fallout 4? It seemed like a missed opportunity.
  4. Superman: The Arkham series has shown the world that superheroes can be translated into great video games. Man of Steel is proving to fans that Superman can be converted to the silver screen and totally rock. So why no Big Blue in video game format?
  5. Fable IV: Yea, I know they announced a Fable Anniversary Edition. And yea, it looks ok. But this series has always had so much potential and has never quite lived up to what it could be. You know, a funnier, light hearted Zelda with customization options. Fable 3 was mediocre at best. Fable The Journey was utter rubbish. Fable IV needs to come along and redeem this once promising series.

 

Hype-Train:

  1. Star Wars Battlefront: Sign me up. I’m all in.
  2. The Order 1886: Alternate history? League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? Booyah.

 

System Wars: The Sony Playstation 4 won the PR machine hands-down. It has a lot of steam. Now they just need to throw in some more substance.

 

DC Injustice: Wish List

So we know the full roster of DC Injustice: Gods Among Us. The 24 characters are: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, Raven, Flash, Shazam, Aqua Man, Deathstroke, Joker, Harley Quinn, Catwoman, Black Adam, Doomsday, Hawkgirl, Ares, Killer Frost, Green Lantern, Sinestro, Solomon Grundy, Nightwing, Lex Luthor, Cyborg, and Bane. We can safely say that it has been confirmed there will be only 24 characters at the launch of the game (Click here and scroll to the 12:50-13:10). We also know there will be at least 4 DLC characters and that one of them is 99% likely to be Martian Manhunter (based on the silhouette that can be found here and compared here). Devs have noted that there will likely be far more DLC characters than the 4 they have said will be coming. I figured it would be fun to think on some great characters that I would love to see join the roster at some point:

Martian Manhunter

Martian Manhunter

Yea, I know. He is likely already DLC. But he is such a missing piece of the Justice League in this game that he deserves being mentioned again.

Lobo

Lobo

Ed Boon hinted about him on his twitter account. I would LOVE to see it happen. The sheer craziness and comedy of his character are golden.

Huntress

Huntress

She’s my favorite female superhero character. The fighting skills of Batman mixed with the ruthlessness of Punisher, and staff skills that make Nightwing jealous.

Black Canary

Black Canary

Incredible martial skills. Super banshee like screech. Plus, she’s a Justice League staple.

Powergirl/Supergirl

Powergirl Supergirl

Story wise, it makes no sense to not have these characters in the game. They are essentially family to Superman. Yes, their abilities would be similar, but so what? They need to be in the lineup.

Clayface

clayface

Just thinking of his abilities…man…this would be so much fun!

Black Lighting

Black Lightning

His abilities with electricity are even more spectacular than the magical lightning of Black Adam and Shazam. Yea, I could see Livewire or Static Shock in this slot as well, but, I think Black Lightning is more iconic.

Star Sapphire/Atrocitus/Larfleeze

lanterns

One of the cool powers of the lantern rings is that it reacts to the emotions of each user differently. Kyle was more of an artist. John was more military. Hal is an Airforce pilot hotshot. More love for the lanterns would be welcome.  Atrocitus is blood thirsty and Larfleeze is crippled by greed. Star Sapphire is just an awesome character.

Beast Boy

Beast Boy

His ability to transform into different animals would be so cool. Again, more love for the Teen Titans needs to be shown.

Starfire/Blackfire

Starfire_vs_Blackfire

More female characters are sorely needed and she presents one with some unique abilities. Her greatest foe, Black Fire, would also be a good addition.

Circe

Circe

One of Wonder Woman’s greatest enemies and an all around awesome character!

Mongul

Mongul

I can picture fighting him in an alien Colosseum. The crowd is chanting for your death. And Mongul is giving you a serious beat down. That stage could have some killer and imaginative interaction. A must-have villain.

Brainiac

Brainiac

One of Superman’s greatest foes. One of DC’s best villains. And the stage could be on his killer ship!

Maxima

Maxima

Story wise, makes a ton of sense. She has a serious thing for Superman and would love to exact some revenge on him for rejection.

Darkseid

Darkseid

Perhaps DC’s greatest villain. He is pure evil. His stage could be on Apokolips. It could involve the New Gods, Granny Goodness’ gang, and a whole lot of awesome. Yea, he makes a cameo in the game as of now but he needs to be playable.

Red Robin/Robin

robins

I’m one of those Batman fans who can never get enough. So what if their skills are similar to Nightwing? It would rock and you know it.

Hawkman

hawkman

Because you can’t have Hawkgirl without Hawkman. Plus, their fighting abilities are actually different. Hawkgirl loves to just beat people down with her club. Hawkman loves to use gadgets…that have the power of hitting you with the impact of an entire planet! And the stage could be on his home world!

General Zod

Zod

It ties in with the Man of Steel movie. Zod coming with an army of Kryptonians to bring the world under his own command.  Yea, his powers would be similar to Superman…but even more violent.

Mary Marvel

Mary Marvel

Yea, her powers are essentially the same as Shazam. But, story wise, it makes sense. She would be there to support her brother. Plus, she is an old school, iconic DC character. And the game lacks female characters.

Poison Ivy

poison ivy

One of Batman’s best villains who would not only give the game another female character, but also one with some truly unique abilities including MIND CONTROL!

Zatanna

Zatanna

Last, but not least, a master of magic. Zatanna is a Justice League staple. She is to DC what Dr. Strange is to Marvel. Yea, Dr. Fate might be that in reality, but Zatanna is far more well known.