Monday, April 28, 2014

Console's Showdown: Strengths/Weaknesses & E3 Approaching

Sony's PS4
Currently has
  • Strong emphasis on Gaming, slick interface, Indies, Netflix & other apps don't need PS+, 1st Party Exclusives & 3rd Party Support
Current Good Exclusives: Infamous: Second Son, Killzone: Shadowfall, flower, Resogun, Towerfall: Ascension, Don't Starve

​Needs work with
  • 1st Party Games
  • Robust Features
  • Robust Online system
Future Exclusives to Look Forward To: The Order: 1886, Drive Club, The Last of Us Remastered, future Uncharted title in dev

Microsoft's Xbox One
Currently has
  • Strong emphasis on entertainment, slick interface, Live & TV services, 1st Party Exclusives & 3rd Party Support
Current Good Exclusives: Forza Motorsport 5, Dead Rising 3, Ryse: Son of Rome, +Titanfall, Killer Instinct, Powerstar Golf, Zoo Tycoon, Xbox Fitness, *Peggle 2, *Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare *Timed Exclusive, +Microsoft Exclusive

Needs work with
  • Games
  • Price
  • Indie support
  • Robust Features
Future Exclusives to Look Forward To: Kinect Sports Rivals, Halo 2 Anv., Quantum Break, Sunset Overdrive, Halo 5, Fable Legends, future Gears of War title in dev, rumored Halo 3 & 4 HD ports/Forza Horizon's sequel/Crackdown 3

Nintendo's Wii U
Currently has
  • Strong emphasis on Gaming, 1st Party Games
Current Good Exclusives: Super Mario 3D World, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD, Pikmin 3, New Super Mario Bros. U, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, The Wonderful 101, Nintendo Land

​Needs work with
  • Games
  • 3rd Party Support
  • Robust Features
  • Robust Online system
Future Exclusives to Look Forward To: Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros Wii U, Bayonetta 2, Hyrule Warriors, X, Zelda HD title in dev

Current Good Multiplatform Games: Battlefield 4, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, NBA 2K14, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare, Call of Duty: Ghosts, FIFA 14, Rayman Legends, NFS: Rivals, Strider, Lego Marvel Super Heroes

Future Multiplatform Games, most spill into PC too, To Look Forward To: Child of Light, Wolfenstein: The New Order, The Elder Scrolls Online, Watch Dogs, Destiny, Evolve, The Evil Within, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Alien: Isolation, Dying Light, The Crew, Project Cars, Mad Max, Mirror's Edge, Batman: Arkham Knight, Tom Clancy's The Division, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Looking forward to E3, it's coming up pretty soon. What will we see there, what's going to be announced and what is going to send ripples in the current console showdown? Games, lots of games since last E3 was all about the hardware, this year's E3 is all about the games!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Powerstar Golf, A Good Fun Golf Game For The Xbox One

Powerstar Golf
The short and skinny:
  • $20 Digital (3.88 GB in size)
  • Platform: Xbox One
  • Developer: Zoe Mode
  • Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
  • Genre(s): Arcade: Family, Sports & Recreation
  • Strength: Fun Diablo-like looting & addictive golf game, pleasing visuals & gameplay
  • Weaknesses: Random item unlocks could frustrate some, no traditional multiplayer
  • Uses the traditional 3-Click Swing Mechanic with shot and spin options
  • Recommend

Extra Reading:
Powerstar Golf Developer Interview (link available in the game's Meld, the game's sub-Menu thing.)
The 11 Best Games for Xbox One according to Kotaku (scroll down to middle of the list)

The long and meaty:
So I decided to pull the trigger on Powerstar Golf because I heard a lot of good buzz after the middling reviews when the Xbox One launched initially back in November. It seems, like many launch titles for the Xbox One, that this game has been supported and updated to address the feedback the developers received. I enjoy virtual golf games, (have played many Tiger Woods titles, Hot Shot Golf, Let's Golf 3D on my 3DS and can go way back to the Links days on the PC even), and Powerstar Golf has an unique style while throwing some interesting spin and cool features to the mix.

The biggest thing you'll notice as soon as you start playing is that this game feels like it was inspired off Hotshot Golf and it uses the traditional 3-click swing mechanic. The other thing you'll notice is that there's a certain style achieved here. The developers, who previously have only done Zumba & other casual dance games, call Powerstar Golf's style a sort of Future Past or "forward-thinking nostalgia" with the setting taking place in an alternate history timeline. You'll notice one of the main characters as a chisel jawed well built male Astronaut inspired from the 1950s and the game's tonal setting inspired by Norman Rockwell paintings. There's also the slinky and slender female characters as well as a few caddies to match the game's unique artstyle. The game itself has character while still feeling relatively realistic. That's in large part to the gorgeous visuals and the pretty decent physics engine working under the hood.

Another performance piece you might notice under the hood is the way the game builds on the strengths of the Xbox One's cloud-infused social features with leaderboards, friend records and Rivals Mode where you battle out your friends in a live turn based fashion. I found myself trying to beat my friend's longest putts and closest to the pin records, with much joy in accomplishing such tasks, because due to being a level 1 golfer, yeah this is a Golf RPG game actually, I played to my strengths and ignored my weakness, (in this case that would be longest drive records). That'll come in time, as over the course of playing you'll gain experience based on how well you hit the ball, where it lands, if you had a good recovery from a bad previous swing or just simply related to your final score for the whole. There will also be optional challenges that'll pop up from time to time in order for you to gain additional experience if completed. After the round is over you'll get a final tally on XP and currency, which you'll be able to apply to the in-game store.

Set up like the packs purchased with random items and power-ups from say Mass Effect 3, or recently Plants vz Zombies: Garden Warfare, Powerstar Golf let's you unlock new power-ups, balls, putters, irons, drivers, etc. It's all about the gear, which boosts the player's specific stats, and that's the biggest love it or hate it thing with Powerstar Golf. The gear obtained via store packs, purchased with the currency you earn playing through a round of 18 holes, adds to your character stats, increasing your number of abilities you can use, allowing you to hit the ball harder and farther, gain more accuracy on your shot-which in turn gives you more of a sweat spot to hit while swinging your club, and ultimately betters your golf character in getting a higher probability of a better score. The abilities are tied to the character currently being used and also the caddie accompanying them.

For example, your character can use his ability to hit the crap out of the ball. Use this to drive longer, boost your power in a time of a shot that's going over an obstacle like water or a sand trap, or just trying to get to the pin in less swings. One character can also guide a ball to the hole via Tesla Power, which obviously you can see how crucial that can be. Caddies all have their own perks to use as well as will relay information such as a cautionary wind direction. They'll allow you to use Shot Preview, see where your shot will end up, and Putt Preview, see how your putt on the green will end up. Those abilities haven't been new to the Golf genre but what makes them unique is they're not handed to you every time, these are abilities that will come in handy when you really need them since their quantity isn't unlimited.

Anyways, the overall gest of the matter is that this is a fun arcade golf title with some very appealing visuals and enjoyable social features, that at times feels like the Mario Kart to Forza analogy. When it comes to Powerstar Golf's abilities, boots, and use of stat improved gear the normal golf game gets a little bit of fun infused arcade sense. Stat improved gear isn't anything new for sports titles, the NHL games have done this well in the past, but the RPG infused design of the game will have you swinging away for many hours to come unlocking better gear, more courses and new characters & abilities (wait is it 3AM already?). Seriously, it's no different than dungeon running in a Diablo like RPG looking for legendary loot, well maybe just at a bit more relaxed pace and less the gates of hell have opened haha. I recommend this game, it's fun, gives something new while also keeping the strengths of previous titles of the genre.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Metal Gear Solid Fame or Metal Gear Solid Shame

Big Boss is angry, contempt, it's kinda hard to tell?

Recently the masses got their hands on the latest Metal Gear Solid game called Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeros. When I say masses, I really mean it, as this game's release is available on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. The game is a prequel and a starting point for the much bigger Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, coming later sometime in 2015. The events take place right after Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and the focus this time around is with Big Boss in an action-adventure stealth environment set in a new shiny open world Fox Engine. With the game releasing for either $30 (physical copy) and $20(digitally copy) many have questioned the legitimacy of such a short demo, which is said to have 2 hours of gameplay for the main story, at such a high price.
Each system has its own exclusive bonus or visual flare.

No matter your opinion on the price and value of this title, one can positively say that it doesn't feel like a full fledged video game release. What the masses are getting is a little snip-it of what and how developer Kojima will be utilizing the Fox Engine to bring a whole new era of Metal Gear Solid. In my eyes though I feel like this is the console's first version of "early access" which has been a staple on the PC marketplace for some time now-and an opportunity for a struggling studio to take advantage of their fans. Developers are allowed to charge players an early-access charge in Valve's Steam program and digital giant distribution service. In trade, players get to toy around with the latest game still in progress, as given like VIP passes to experience all of the game. Often or not these games are at such an early process in their development that many key features are still missing or the developers go back to the drawing board wiping their current progress to start a new. Here Kojima has allowed people to toy around and mess around with Metal Gear Solid's new engine and get a piece of the story puzzle along the way, for a price.
Starbound is a notorious early-access game available on Steam, which has seen many server wipes over its development.

As the game came out there were reports that a speed run had clocked in the game in 10 minutes. Other reports were that if you did everything in the game, side missions and collectibles and all, it would go around to 6 - 8 hours of play. In my eyes, that's not much of a value but diehard fans have jumped on board to what I hope doesn't become an industry trend. Critical reception have also poured out for the game as many are hailing the game since it's behind the Metal Gear Solid franchise pedigree veil, eager to get more from the impending release of MGSV: The Phantom Pain. However take for example how Capcom, yet another Eastern developer and publisher, allowed players to sample a bit of the next installment of the Dead Rising franchise.

Dead Rising 2: Case Zero, a downloadable Xbox Live Arcade game, which ties the story from Dead Rising 1 to Dead Rising 2, allowed players a glimpse of what to expect with the next installment, acquire XP to bring over into Dead Rising 2 and all for a $5 digital entrance fee. At that time some people thought $5 for a demo, something you'll no doubt hear some echo about the MGSV: GZ release, was too much. You can think however you want on the value for MGSV: Ground Zeros, as that can always be debatable, but one things for sure, "early-access" has breached the console environment. Games are expensive, publishers don't want to take high risks and if they can get some cash from gamers eager to play the latest while a future game is in development then they'll no doubt continue this trend. It's just smart business, although due to it being relatively new a business that's taking advantage of gamers at the moment.
Dead Rising 2: Case Zero, let players experience the improvements over Dead Rising 1 in a small bit sized Xbox Live Arcade chunk.

I don't think this is advantageous for gamers out there. Even though many would love to test-drive a new game that's in development, as we're seeing more and more closed and open Betas for titles about to launch, I just don't get that motivation as I'd rather play a finished/polished product. However with a Beta program, you're not paying 30 or 20 dollars to play. The developer of Rust on the PC for example even urged players not to buy into the product he was still working on and stated it wasn't finished, had plenty of bugs that needed to be fixed and wasn't the final experience that he wanted gamers to experience. That didn't stop millions from plopping down their money to join in on the latest talked about the video game, as after all video games are in the entertainment medium sharing such other water cooler topics with movies and TV shows.

If anything I'll laugh if this "glorified demo" is included in the release of MGSV: The Phantom Pain , as the demo of MGS 2 was included originally with the copy of Zone of the Enders for free! It just strikes me funny when critical sources harp on how a game like Titanfall or Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare feel "bare bones" due to no meaty single player questioning the full asking price, $60/$30 respectively, yet when it came to the MGSV GZ game you rarely heard such acquisitions. It's a slippery slope we're heading down here and it's apparent the industry is changing, sometimes you hope the non-advantageous shifts come out being trends and not standards.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Titanfail 360: Microsoft's Silence Causes Concern

The latest must-have game is a somewhat questionable purchase on a last-gen system.

With Respawn's Titanfall on Xbox One already out and kicking, it's within two weeks now and we've still  not seen any footage of Titanfall on the Xbox 360. In an industry that loves to tease or build up hype by showing off footage or even screens months-if not years- in advance from the game releasing, is this a sign of caution or a sign of greedy marketing? Microsoft assures us that the Xbox 360 version of the game will be good. When does it become a common courtesy to consumers and not a legal action in hindsight? Do publishers, developers and hardware manufacturers have the right to not show any footage of a game?

Other than having the information that Bluepoint will be handling the Xbox 360 version of Titanfall, very little information is known. This is oddly suspicious as in either that version pales in comparison, there's not a whole lot of difference between the Xbox One and Xbox 360 versions or rather they would like to show you the "next-gen" version of the game to sell Xbox One consoles as a marketing strategy. I'm thinking the latter since Microsoft pulled this marketing move previously with Halo: Spartan Assault and to tell you the truth as a Halo fan, that game isn't anything special. That game didn't come out onto Xbox 360 until a week after the Xbox One version launched. Considering that the Xbox 360 player base is vastly larger than the Xbox One player base, I think people have the right to know what's going on with the Xbox 360 version of Titanfall.
Strangely enough, this also applies to the Xbox 360.

Now I have a lot of faith with developer Bluepoint, as their previous ports were good - porting over HD collections of such classics as the Metal Gear, God of War and Ico & The Shadow of Colossus Collection - but no screens, no video, not even a press release of the Xbox 360 version has me wondering can they do this? Can companies hold off information of a product, a product that many people have probably already paid or set aside pre-orders for, and still follow acceptable business acts? What happens if the game launches and it's in serious disarray? Will we have another Batlefield 4 case on our hands? Time will tell, and that time is closing ever but so very slowly. I can't wait til the 25th and I can get my hands on my Xbox 360 copy of Titanfall - and hopefully this blackout of Titanfall on Xbox 360 is just a marketing move by Microsoft and not hiding an unplayable game.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Does a Cheap Game Deter Its Fun?

Many of you have probably taken part in the all glorious Steam sale or any other digital and/or physical discount event, perhaps Black Friday? While you can save a ton then, the timeframe a game’s price drops over time has decreased over time dramatically. A game used to go down in price after 4 to 6 months after release, I would sometimes be able to hold off by then, but now we’re seeing things almost as soon as a month on average where you’ll see significant discounts on those release prices. These are said to be the “Golden Years of Gaming”, it’s a great time to be gaming as the industry is thriving and pushing onto untold developments. Does this abundance of cheap games take away from the fun factor of a game and ultimately hurt the gamer’s experience when playing such a title?

A while ago, according to the site I signed up in October 2006, I joined a gaming community and deal discovering hideout called Everybody loves finding a good deal on games right. Not even talking about dollar mobile games, you can pick up new titles in the $10-$30 price range, lower if it’s a downloadable indie title perhaps, in a few months after release if you know which retailer is doing the deal or who’s got a promo code.  The site is great, I've found so many games at a reasonable price that it’s helped fuel my gaming hobby, nah lifestyle. So the other day, a few days after the last Steam sale actually, a thought hit me, what if picking up cheap games takes away from the game’s quality and experience.

See I say this as I've got a huge backlog piling up. I pride to be knowledgeable about the industry and what each developer is doing to push the player and make an awesome gaming experience. I heard so many people say "I didn't know anything about the game but it was on sale on Steam so I picked it up." With this abundance of games, digitally or physically, at your fingertips you've got a cornucopia of options to choose from. There’s even more distractions to take you away from playing one game. The amount of an attention span you have to have to devote to one game these days is pretty impressive and with all the second screen experiences out there I’m guessing gamers’ attention spans are not improving. Maybe it’s just me but I've lost track of how many games I had started, played for a few weeks or a few months and never got back to as some other game came out to grab my attention.

I've been going back through my backlog lately, it was actually one of my gaming resolutions to finish or complete (get all achievements) more games I have in my backlog before playing new titles. I wonder the psychology of playing a game that I picked up for $10 used a while ago (figuring I wouldn't get that deal later or that it would be that much when I got around to playing it) compared to playing a game I picked up on launch day for the full price of $50 or $60. I know if you pick up and play a game when it releases and you paid a little extra to get that swanky new Collector’s Edition, you build up some weight to your appreciation of the game already. I know this psychological trick is a known fact that publishers use for their games because more and more games keep coming out with their own special editions to cash in on the passionate fan base that is the gaming populace of the video game industry. I remember the games I’d pick up as a kid, often only one for a long period of time, and devote hours to, the gaming experiences were magical. 

I still remember diving head first into Super Metroid when I was a kid. Playing the game straight through my summer vacation finding every little nook and cranny, secret, unlockable and beating my best time. Obviously as you grow up you’ll find less time to devote hours to a game, the main reason I don’t play Counter Strike  anymore, but you’ll also have a steadier income than when you were a kid – the average age for gamers now is 35 years old- - so picking up 3 to 5 games at one time isn't unusual but is this a good thing, we do get to enjoy more, or is it a bad thing, we’re diluting the gaming experience with so many games. Food for thought.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Top 5 Games of 2013, it's the Top Downloads!

Ok so first off we've all read, or watched, all the best of awards or nomination discussions with the video games that came out in 2013. I figured I'd do something different and give you my top 5 games in the download category. Now I had thought of retail games that you can also get in virtual form -- let alone I picked up Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds digitally with that new sweet sweet 3DS XL bundle --, as downloading games is already the future of now, so those however will not be on my list. Also my list is in no particular order although you can totally think it is and get all upset over a list. Whatever floats your boat. Onwards!
Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes

This one is kind of cheating since it originally came out in 2009 for DS, although I played it on XBLA in 2011, but the game did come out for iOS this year which is great because everyone should play it. Mixing strategy and puzzle forming gameplay this intricate RPG is unlike no other. With memorable characters, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, brain teasing challenges, and even with multiplayer, there's sure to be something for anybody playing this addicting good beautiful puzzler. The story was pretty good but I really enjoyed just discovering each character's levels. Each world is seen from a different character's perspective which gives a perfect example of how each character's playstyle and abilities compliment such a fun and addicting game design (hmmm GTA V comes to mind now). This game is one of my favorites, lost many hours playing it and will occasionally play a match against the AI to get my puzzle RPG fix, since I'm not playing Puzzle Quest anymore (god I wasted even more hours playing that one). This is a good mobile game although I played it on Xbox Live Arcade on my decent sized TV.

State of Decay

When I first started the demo for State of Decay I was not sold on what I thought was going to be yet another zombie game cashing in on the whole zombie craze (hey we were burned a few times). Boy did that change fast and I went from zombie fatigue to fully loving being fully immersed in a post apocalyptic setting trying to survive the zombie hordes while keeping everyone I was shepherding in check at the same time. This is not really a world you want to live in but the way the gameplay and character development carried on, the deeper I got into this game the more I connected with it. Keeping track of supply lines and other stats also took priority as each factor in the game that has a stat needs to be watched in order to have a successful little pocket of zombie resistance, known as civilization at this point. For example, need food? Aside from creating a garden at your little base, you could search for food on the radio and set out for a little raiding party. Need ammo, fuel, companions, etc well continue to scurry for supplies around your base and make outposts and alliances to achieve them. Build and upgrade your base and outposts to help contain the zombie horde until you have grown too big and need to move on. Anyone who's watched AMC's The Walking Dead should play this game. The biggest thing that held back State of Decay was its buggy launch and the omission of co-op play, initially promised, unfortunately. Taking a friend with you into this pretty big open, this is a downloadable title by the way, zombie infested world would have given me hours of fun (and fright). So a lot of talk goes to Telltale Game's The Walking Dead when it comes to emotional zombie games but for me it's hands down State of Decay. From the time that I lost survivors that I had been living with for a few weeks, to unscripted events of emergent gameplay I still remember to this day, all the way to that ending, there's plenty of game here. Never before did I feel so defeated and yet satisfied at the same time. This needs to become a franchise.


Talking about a game that benefits and should be solely played with a co-op buddy or more is Terraria. Following the successful popularity of Mojang's Minecraft comes Re-Logic's Terraria, an open world sprite based game calling back to the 16 bit days infused with charm. This retro RPG, and sometimes platformer, is all about exploring and crafting in the game's world. There's plenty to do in Terraria and even more so if you're planning on summoning large bosses to battle.While initially releasing for Windows back in 2011, recently this title made it to XBLA, PSN and is now available on iOS and Android. Dig down to discover an intricate system of tunnels under ground, mine for materials, return back to your house and craft everything to your heart's content with said material. Create a village and watch helpful NPCs move in to aid you on your journey. The game consists of many hostile creatures and it's a fight for survival. This 16 bit take on being alone in the wilderness couldn't be more fun and whimsical and would let anyone play out their dream of being a 16 bit Bear Grylls. With a beautiful artstyle and score Terraria shouldn't be missed, especially if you liked playing through Minecraft. Tack on a buddy or more and you'll have hours of enjoyment to be had.

Battleblock Theater

Well if you want to talk whimsical and really fun co-op experience look no further than Battleblock Theater. Made by the same studio behind Castle Crashers, The Behemoth, this game has the same frantic yet fun gameplay with the studio's humor to boot. Set as a prisoner among a cat civilization you have to run the gauntlet of good ol' fashioned gaming arenas that have a series of obstacles and collectibles along the way. If a game were ever to be criticized "too gamey", this might be such said game. However I felt the gamey-ness of Battleblock Theater actually made the game. Never had I had so much fun with a platfomer and if you take along a friend you'll both be cooperatively helping each other out to race to the finish or to squeeze that extra second off your best time. Consisting of a single player campaign, online multiplayer, time trials and a level editor there's plenty to be had with this one. Oh and the story and narration is a great touch, I really couldn't stop laughing and grinning my face off while playing this game. I'd say if you liked the humor and gameplay from Castle Crashers and the humor and narration from Bastion, then you'll like Battleblock Theater.

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

The 80's were awesome, we just didn't know it at the time. As someone who grew up in the 80s well I have an excuse I was too little to get it. It only took how many years to look back, at the good parts mind you, at the awesomes (what I'm calling the 80s from now on). Ubisoft Montreal decided to give us a stand alone expansion originiated off of their other superb game, Far Cry 3, as a satirical "retro-futuristic" open world first person shooter and for this I applaud them. So many funny one liners, so many awesome moments, so much badassary in this game - while also poking fun of pop culture, gaming references and even itself at times. Taking what many loved from past shooter games and infusing in modern elements of what we've all been blessed with as of today's gaming evolution, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is the perfect mix of nostalgia and modern game design. Set in an open world players choose however way they want to take down the bad guys and get the girl in the end while leveling up and upgrading themselves and their weaponry. One of the best things about this game to me personally, the soundtrack. Yes, from the title screen music to combat induced adrenaline pumping moments throughout, the score for Blood Dragon is dripping with 80, ah ness. From the sprinkled collectibles scattered throughout, from the set amount of outposts you have to overthrow, to the hilarious and cringe worthy segments of the game, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon was the best faux April Fools joke made video game ever (small category there but you get my point).

Honorable mentions: Plants vs Zombies 2: It's About Time, -- ruined by touch controls and free-to-play microtransactions design although has the PvZ formula intact -- The Stanely Parable, -- I have not played it but from others say it's a great game that breaks the 4th wall constantly and will have you laughing before the end -- Rogue Legacy, -- again have not played it but others say it is a good game (check out the best game picks from Rev3Games for example) -- Gone Home, -- not played but is a new and unique story-telling method -- & Path of Exile -- also not played but is a great game along with one heck of a customization tech tree. Whatever your pick is, it's clear there were some great downloadable bite-sized games to choose from.