Board With Video Games MetaFall Contest

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Are you interested in winning a free video game? Of course, you are! How can you do it? Simple! Participate in the Board With Video Games MetaFall Contest!

The rules are simple. Try to predict the Metacritic scores of the 10 games listed below coming out this fall. Accuracy is what matters, so the closer you are, the fewer points you get. At the end of the contest, the person with the fewest points wins! Need an example?

Say your prediction is Battlefield V is going to get a Metacritic score of 85 and the actual score ends up being 89. You would receive four points. If you had predicted 88, you would receive one point. So, the person who scores the lowest total number of points has the most accurate predictions and will be the winner of the contest!

How to Enter: Send an email to boardwithvg@gmail.com with your scores for the 10 games below.

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There is this moment in one of my favorite TV shows, Living Single, where Overton watches the girl he cares for (Synclaire) going on a date with a veterinarian. In the middle of the vet and Synclaire’s date, the vet receives a phone call that eventually leads to him having to leave the restaurant early for a vet emergency. As the vet walks out, Overton strolls up looking dapper and fly and proceeds to go on a date with the girl he loves, Synclaire.

Why does this moment stick out in my head? Well because I think that Phil Spencer is in the process of pulling the same move with gamers. As Sony has all the games, exclusives that have already come, and a huge install base you know that it is established i.e. the vet. Gamers aka Synclaire would be happy to settle down with Sony.

But Xbox is playing Overton and playing it like a champ. Xbox knows that you gamers are great. It has spent the last few years showing gamers that they care about games and you. They care about making amends for past mistakes where they didn’t have gamers in the forefront. This was in full display at E3 this year.

The thing that keeps getting at me though isn’t that Microsoft had a great conference–conference of the year type stuff. No its the following two things:

 

Microsoft-Xbox-E3-2018-Phil-Spencer

Shortly before this moment, Phil Spencer teased the shadowing of a console. I tried to find a picture of it but was unable too. I watched the conference five times to confirm it. This is where I noticed his shirt. It seems at first glance just to be a cool shirt, right? Hello, Xbox swag store.

But, when you look at it, it’s the development and break down of a controller. Man how crazy is that? Its like a hidden message in a bottle except on the bottle it says, we are working on a new system and it is coming sooner than you think. Why do I think this? Is it because I spent four hours in the sun today in Florida and am a little dehydrated? Is it because I didn’t sleep well and am running on fumes? Or is it because many of the shirts Phil has worn at E3 and Gamescom have turned out to be IP that came to and out of Microsoft and I think its Phil’s cruel joke to foreshadow and hide secretes in plan sight to mess with us? I’m not sure which one is more accurate, but something tells me the console shadow during his ending speech was more than just for dramatic effect and that this shirt was chosen for a reason.

We will see. As Lobo and I say, All Hail the Chief, In Phil we trust!

Red Dead Redemption 2 New Trailer

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America, 1899. The end of the wild west era has begun as lawmen hunt down the last remaining outlaw gangs. Those who will not surrender or succumb are killed.
From the creators of Grand Theft Auto V and Red Dead Redemption, Red Dead Redemption 2 is an epic tale of life in America at the dawn of the modern age. Coming October 26, 2018 to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One systems.

Destiny 2: A Return to Form?

So here we are, on the cusp of the final DLC of year one of Destiny 2. I know its been a while since you have heard from me about Destiny, (heck heard from me in general) and well, this latest dev update warrants me speaking on it. Bungie has finally dated and named the upcoming DLC, we have a road-map for the summer, and a tease for the large Taken King style update slated for this September (man September is gonna be busy). So let’s break this all down, shall we?

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WARMIND

That’s it. That’s the name of the DLC. While there were a ton of rumors about what the DLC would be called, with The Fallen Warmind, and Ghosts of Mars being the most prominent it has settled on just Warmind. While this was definitely unexpected, it creates a very ominous tone in my mind as well as leaves it open to possibly being a story of all of the Warminds instead of just Rasputin, which most people were expecting. Just to add to the speculation of what this may be, if you look closely at the image, you have what looks to be snow or ice on the left and then red dunes on the right, as well as what looks to be Phobos in the sky-box on the right-hand side. If I had to guess, I would say this image is of Charlemagne who is the Warmind of Mars. Looks like Mars is back on the menu boys! This particular take hearkens all the way back to the Pre-Destiny 1 release era info and a little thing called Charlemagne’s Vault. In some of the pre-release content, it was hinted at that Charlemagne’s Vault was located deep in the Dust Palace on Mars and contained vast riches as well as a little gun called Thorn. For my lore nerds, this could have some huge implications on the story, as well as the possibility of one of the most deadly and fun Hand Cannons from Destiny 1 returning to the game. We will have to wait for the reveal stream on April 24th on twitch and then the actual release on May 8th for more info. Until then this is my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

SUMMER LULL

OK, so unless they flesh out the summer a bit more or the content drop in May has just an overwhelming load of things to do, it could be a bit of a drag to play through the summer while waiting for the update in September. We will have a new seasonal event, changes to the faction rallies (please add PVP faction wars), as well as the addition of bounties (thank God!) and some much-needed changes to exotic armor. While this seems like just a tiny bit of stuff, it could be potentially game-changing, especially if the seasonal event lasts all summer and the faction rallies are meaningful. Exotic armor needs a definite overhaul as there are really only a few pieces of exotic armor that are really even worth the effort to put on IMO. So while the summer seems to be lacking, it could have a really great lasting effect on the game in terms of things to chase in the summer.

 

SEPTEMBER

This is what we have been waiting for. This will either be the coup-de-gras, or it will be what brings back the masses and puts Destiny back on the map. While we know almost nothing about what this is, the 4 items that they have labeled: Gear Collections, Records, Weapon Slot Changes, and Weapon Randomization, are the things the overall community has been asking for the most. The most frustrating part of all of this is that adding these 4 things basically takes us back to where Destiny 1 was in its greatest form. While I love that we are going to get some of the things that made D1 great, it’s a shame that we had to wait a year to get a return to form instead of just being able to pick up where we left off.

 

So there you have it. Will you be getting back into Destiny come May 8th? Hold out till September, or is Destiny 2 dead to you like it is for our fearless leader? Let us know here in the comments, holler at us on twitter or come jump in our discord and chat with us.

Sea of Thieves: Rough Seas turn into Pirate Legend

sea-of-thieves-kraken-screenThis won’t be a long story but I felt it important enough to share. This morning, my wife and I were sipping our coffees and just talking about what all we have to do today in preparations for the upcoming sale of our home. Normally when we have these couch confession sessions, I or her will turn on a system and one of us or both of us will navigate the menu to give our hands something to do. This morning it ended up with her trying Sea of Thieves out on her newly reactivated Xbox Live account.

As she loaded the game, I could see the frustration in that she couldn’t create a character that looked like her. She eventually settled on a haggard looking lady with a cloth mummy wrap top that made my wife chuckle, and scars all over. She named her Scared Aces and I chuckled. As the game loaded up I saw my first server issues in the game. Now the downstairs Xbox one is on the best 4K TV we have, a Curved 70 inch Samsung that checks all of the 4K boxes when you set up the X. However, it has wireless internet because the router is upstairs in our game room.

As I watched the character jump all over, glitching and freezing, I could tell this was about to be rough. But my wife pushed on. She eventually got in the boat, sailed to the first island with some help and got her first chest. Then chaos and the reason I love this game all came in one fell swoop.

As I helped her set course for the next Island, she glitched out and had get back on the boat, luckily the wind turned it so she was able to swim back on board, catch her bearings and continue on. Then as she was sailing to the island, a crazy set of events took place. She saw a boat already there, freaked out and was trying to decide what to do. In doing so she rammed her ship into the island. With one boat leaking and a chest on board, she tried to frantically bail water. Then she heard a voice.

“You Ok?” Vapes2 said. “I’m friendly I promise… I’m coming to help you with the boat ok, don’t shoot don’t shoot.”

We didn’t have a mic hooked up so we couldn’t respond. I feared that this glitch-filled experience was going to sour everything as she had only then dropped the anchor, fixed one of the three holes and was bailing water as fast as she could only to have the lag/glitch have the water that was being thrown off the boat end up being thrown back in.

Vapes2 (or that’s the name we think he had) began to fix the boat, help bail water, and once it was finished jumped to the top of the ship.

Grateful, we showed him our map. He led us to the spot and helped dig. A skeleton popped up as Lacey was digging and he killed it before it got her. As she picked up the chest, he watched as she boarded the boat and took off to turn in her treasure.

Vapes2: You are the legend we need.

Thank you for helping make this first experience a better one that we have been talking about ever since we stopped and began working on our house. These moments are what can make Sea of Thieves one of the best games this year and I hope to someday repay the kindness we got from Vapes2.

Thank you again to our Pirate Legend.

The Long Reach dated for Switch, Xbox One, PS4 & PC

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You know how every now and again a trailer or a screenshot comes across the screen and catches your eye? I just had one such moment when I watched the trailer for The Long Reach for the first time and rushed over here to make sure I shared the experience. The game immediately reminds me of other video games like Lone Survivor and The Coma. And as our listeners already know, you don’t have to try too hard to get me interested in a horror video game.

The game is arriving on Nintendo Switch! (and yes Xbox, PS4, and PC lol) on March 14th for around $20. Here’s the quick breakdown from the game’s website:

The Long Reach is an intricate adventure, where you solve puzzles, run, and hide. The story takes place in Baervox, fictional American town. The scientific institute designs a revolutionary system of accelerated knowledge transferring. As it usually happens, everything went wrong. Technology went out of control. As an aftermath, Institute, and the whole town turned into a real nightmare, and the experiment participants grew into… well, we cannot tell you that for now, because we hate spoilers! 🙂

 

Furthermore, the developers (Painted Black Games) goes on to provide some motivation and extra features.

History

We wanted to make a meaningful story for the gamers, after completing it, to breathe out: “Wow, I should think it over!”, instead of getting into the fridge to take some snacks. Listing all sources of our inspiration is hard. We’ve taken a little from Matrix, from Resident Evil and Lone Survivor . We’ve been inspired by The Last Door, True Detective, Fargo, etc. As an aftermath, our narrative designer Evgeni made one hell of a story. In a nutshell, the idea of The Long Reach game is that any progress indirectly leads to unexpected consequences. The consequences that can be terrible. Indeed terrible.

Features

  • Magical realism. We’re going for a usual and mundane exposition parts that are trashed and twisted and as the story unfolds.
  • Your enemies aren’t faceless zombies or possessed puppets. They are humans whose lives and stories matter and we make sure the player knows that.
  • Solo mode for adventure lovers. Control Steward, the junior researcher at the scientific institute. He is an ordinary person who will have to untangle the story, save the world and survive.
  • Unforgettable narrative. It is a thrill story, flavored with sci-fi idea, psychological context, and skeptical view on the progress and human actions.
  • The Long Reach is the almost 100% classic adventure game but dressed up with a little haunting element.
  • More than fifty locations.
  • For about twenty main and background characters.
  • More than sixty items, which you will have to collect and apply.
  • More than 12 000 words in dialogs and script.
  • Mad folks will haunt you. There are few of them, but they won’t let you relax.
  • Handmade pixel art, created pixel by pixel from scratch.
  • Original atmospheric music. Our composer’s indeed music maniac. He brings strange things into the studio and turns them into the pieces of music. We don’t understand what he’s doing, but his work can’t be overestimated.
  • Lots of game platforms: PC, macOS, Linux, Xbox, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch

 

Why Are Current-Gen Games Still $60?

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With all of the controversy going on with Star Wars Battlefront 2 and micro-transactions, this question crossed my mind. We all know that development costs of Triple-A games can be in the millions. Yet with the rise in cost to produce these titles, the cost of a game in the United States rarely eclipses the $59.99 USD price. That is unless it’s a special edition or a collector’s edition. To recoup these high development costs, developers have begun to implement micro-transactions more often within games. These micro-transactions allow a person playing a game to spend real-world money for in-game credits for use to purchase in-game items such as weapons, costumes, or other cosmetic enhancements. In some cases, micro-transactions can provide a boost in a player skill level or provide an upgrade to give a player a foot up on their opponent.

One could say that this trend started with developers offering season passes. Season passes allowed players to pre-purchase any future downloadable content released post-launch of a given game. There were times when season passes cost almost as much as the game itself. I can remember specifically of the cost of the season pass for Fallout 4 costing $50 USD, whereas the game itself cost $59.99 USD at launch. My apprehension on buying the DLC came when the developer stated that they were not sure what would be included in the season pass, but only that it would be well worth the $50 price tag. For me, that isn’t a satiable enough reason to entice me to spend an additional $50 after I already paid $59.99. In my opinion, the developer spent a lot of money promoting and creating this game and they knew that only charging $59.99 would not provide the return on investment that they were seeking. So, therefore, they felt the need to create the season pass and to price it as such. Initially, when first revealed, the season pass for Fallout 4 was $30. However, over the course of development of the extra content, the developer realized that price point was too low. They did offer consumers a chance to purchase the pass at the original $30 price point; however, this would be only for a limited time as the season pass would eventually go up to $50. I honestly considered getting the pass for $30 but I didn’t like that I felt forced to buy it immediately or pay the higher price down the line, so I decided against purchasing the extra content even though I really enjoyed Fallout 4. Now looking back I do not regret my decision to not purchase the content. In this case, I voted with my wallet. Something I feel if done correctly will allow consumers get what they want from developers. This way they know when we like or do not like something by not purchasing it.

This brings me to my point. If game development costs more and more, why haven’t companies raised the price for games? In the 90’s, NES games costed around $50 USD. With inflation, that figure is $90 or more today. So if we were paying that much for games that are far less technologically advanced than the games of today, why are they so cheap? I feel that if developers raised the price of games this may negate the need for micro-transactions or season passes. Maybe this is naive but hey, it’s a thought. At least for the time being, it will detract from the controversy of micro-transactions being considered gambling. In fact in Belgium they have deemed loot boxes/micro-transactions as gambling and they want them removed from games. In my opinion, this is a huge blow to companies such as EA and Activision. These companies make so much money on micro-transactions that decided to incorporate them in all future titles moving forward. As a consumer, I have no interest in supporting the micro-transaction model. I would rather pay a higher amount for the game than be nickel and dimed for content. The only way paying to play or to win makes sense to me is if the game were free to play. But when there is an entry price to play the game it just doesn’t seem fair to consumers to have to keep pumping money in a game to advance or to explore content locked behind a paywall.

Unfortunately or fortunately, however you want to look at it, Star Wars Battlefront 2 is being made a martyr for the sins of micro-transactions. With the bad press this game is receiving, developers may need to re-think their approach to making games more profitable. I for one do not intend to purchase Battlefront 2 because I do not like micro-transactions. I can only wonder how many others feel the same way. Only time will tell once sales figures are released. Let’s just hope that for the sake of all gamer’s that a resolution to this growing issue is made sooner rather than later. Even if means raising the standard prices for games, all options should be explored.

 

 

Griff The Winged Lion: Back To Basics

Kickstarter is a hit and miss and a mixed bag, especially in recent years, which sees the birth of phenomenal successes such as Rad Rodgers, Shovel Knight, Undertale and Shantae: Half-Genie Hero (despite it’s inferior to its predecessor, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse) and dumpster fires like Bangarang: A Short Film Before Rufio (starring Dante Basco and directed by Jonah Feingold, a butt of a shameful, unprofessional, disrespectful and downright rude director who I have the displeasure of speaking to on social media), Mighty No. 9 and Yooka-Laylee (well according to numerous naysayers and critics) deemed to fail to deliver on (and literally not deliver the backer rewards to the backers, in Bangarang’s case) the promises the developing teams set out to do in the first place. The aforementioned worst Kickstarter (possibly of all time) projects will be forever go down in history and be named, shamed and frowned upon.

Enter the beacon of hope, Griff The Winged Lion, a retro-inspired, open-world 3D platformer in the vein of Spyro The Dragon and Crash Bandicoot. It’s developed by Breakerbox Studios and published by Spiral Summit Games. If it all goes well in the future, it will show the failed trash heaps how a Kickstarter campaign is REALLY done (with finesse and pizzazz).

Joined by his sidekick, Gargle, Griff embarks on an adventure to uncover his destiny.

Does “Griff The Winged Lion” ring a bell to you? Of course it does! Thanks to Cliqist, I knew of the game’s existence last year. It debuted last year on Kickstarter on 8th September 2016. Unfortunately, it failed to reach its goal as 48 backers raised $1,021 of the $15,000 goal. Since then, the alternative way to support the game is through Patreon at the time. Little did I know it would return to Kickstarter in the (near) future when I least expect it for the second time to take a second crack at crowdfunding?

At the time of writing, it raised $2,935 of the $25,000 goal. Whether it will reach its Kickstarter goal or not is still up in the air but only time will tell.

If you’ve played the Spyro and Crash Bandicoot games during the 90’s, you’ll feel right at home and you’ll be no stranger to what Griff the Winged Lion lays in store for you. In fact, this game contains everything you come to expect from Spyro and Crash Bandicoot back in the good old days ranging from going through a gate that grants you the ability to fly for a short period of time to charging through your enemies with ease as if they were nothing.

Entering this circular gate will allow Griff to fly temporarily for a short period of time.

Within the medieval magical kingdom of Autumn Terrace (clearly inspired by the Summer Forest and Autumn Plains homeworlds of Avalar from Spyro 2: Gateway To Glimmer/Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage!), a young Griffin prince, simply named as Griff, is summoned to take part in a mythical tradition. Once every generation, an elderly mage predicts the future leaders’ destinies and present them with their roles. When it’s Griff’s turn, unfortunately his role is hidden from the mage. To rectify this, he sets out on a quest of epic proportions all in the name of self-discovery while he’s accompanied with his sidekick, Gargle the Gargoyle, and his friends (Gavin the Griffin, Terra the Unicorn and Mia the Phantom Cat) and uncover the answers of why he is denied of his role.

Main Characters from left to right: Terra, Griff, Gargle, Mia and Gavin.

Long, long ago in the olden days, a horrible curse struck King Midas. As a result, everything he touched upon contact turns to gold much to his dismay. In desperation, he seeks help from a sorcerer to help him control the terrible spell he is under. The mage used his magic on a seemingly ordinary pair of gloves and bestowed them upon the monarch. When he puts them to good use, they were no longer a pair of old gloves but powerful, special artefacts. From that moment forward, these all-powerful gloves had the ability to control the ghastly enchantment and prevented the user from turning everything to solid gold. Best of all, he can control the curse and utilised it whenever he needs to. Objects and living beings can be transformed into gold with a single or a few punches. Once struck, they are shattered and can be collected. However, not every everything in the scenery can be converted into gold.

After the sovereign died, the golden-coloured gloves are taken to a shrine and are concealed away for centuries. Since then, the greedy individuals who are bent hunt them constantly on wealth and domination at the cost of crushing the weak creatures for their own selfish gains.

Taking advantage of Midas Gloves will change anything to rock-hard solid gold.

 

The Breakerbox Studios developing team consists of the following members: Jake Pawloski (Director/Designer/Lead Artist), Tera Townsend (Co-Designer/Level Designer), Kelly Corcoran (Programmer/Tools Designer) and Branden Townsend (Quality Assurance/Controls). Along with the team members are the talented voice actors who lend their voices to the characters such as Steven Kelly as Gavin, The King and various characters, Griffin Puatu as Griff and the various characters, Aimee Smith as Mia, The Queen and the various characters and Brittany Lauda as the various characters.

 

Ratchet & Clank may be the unofficial spiritual successor to the Spyro series in some gamers’ eyes but Griff the Winged Lion is already shaping up to fit the bill. However, it also contains a few familiar and nostalgia-fuelling Crash Bandicoot elements and references such as Griff running from a ginormous tiki log towards the camera judging by the trailer.

Running from a log towards the camera is reminiscent of the Crash Bandicoot games of old.

And dare I say it? It looks more promising than Yooka-Laylee and that’s saying something. And this is coming from a long-time, die-hard fanatic of platformers. In my opinion, Yooka-Laylee is inferior to past and recent platformers I’ve played throughout the years. It can’t hold a candle to its predecessors, Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie (despite I’m not a Banjo fan but I did grew up with the former, minus its sequel), let alone Ratchet & Clank or Crash Bandicoot for that matter.

Let’s hope it will deliver on its promise (or promises in terms of the backer rewards) and hopefully, the developing team will treat their backers with the utmost respect, unlike a certain lacklustre, dull, boring, drab and dreary Kickstarter film, Bangarang: A Short Film Before Rufio.

According to the Kickstarter campaign, Griff the Winged Lion is slated for Steam, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One but their official release dates are yet to be confirmed. Regarding the Nintendo Switch, the developing team is also planning on bringing it to the console. Though, it depends on whether the stretch goals are met and how much money said campaign gathered. Regardless, Breakerbox Studios and Spiral Summit Games are doing their best to achieve this and meet everyone’s demands.

Griff the Winged Lion is coming to a preferred platform near you.

If you want Griff The Winged Lion to become a reality, you must back it on Kickstarter before it’s too late! For more information, visit its Kickstarter page and follow Breakerbox Studios and Spiral Summit Games on various social media (Discord, Facebook and Twitter) known to man! If you’re still unconvinced, the demo is already available to download from the game’s Kickstarter page so you know how the game and controls feels.

Destiny 2 Leviathan Raid: Let’s Play & Commentary

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HEADS UP, GUARDIAN! (Spoilers Ahead)

99 hours into Destiny 2, here we are: the Emperor’s throne room. The exiled Calus sits upon his throne, drinking wine (let’s hope that purple crap is wine), and mocking the countless hours that our fireteam has endured to get here. Shooting off Calus’ gauntlet ignites the last trial of the Leviathan Raid. This is a trial that will test your friendships, leadership, compassion, and tactical ability. This is it. You’ve made it this far. Don’t choke…and pray that the multiple random elements of this trial don’t screw you over. After fighting off a wave of grunts and elites, Calus sends you and your comrades into the Shadow World. Only three can come back at that moment. The three that remain on the shadow world face multiple waves of sign call outs, tricky Psions, glowing Psions, glitch (seriously glitchy) game mechanics, and the willingness to rely on your teammates fighting in the throne room.

This raid will take everything from you and leave you exhausted. Your team will wipe and all you can do is look at the floor of your living room and…sigh. Surviving the Shadow World phase brings you to the boss damage phase. Congratulations! Time to unleash your team’s full arsenal of kinetic, primary, and power weapons. You will phase the Emperor as waves of ads surround you seeking your blood. The Light has brought you here. This is your fight Guardian!

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ONLY MIGHTY GUARDIANS FROM THIS POINT FORWARD

Two hours into Calus wasn’t enough. Whether running out of revive tokens or small but critical mistakes, the trial punishes you for it. Sometimes it isn’t even your fault. You or your teammates will be pulled into Calus’ mouth for no apparent reason, except for the game’s desire to glitch out. If you watched through the two videos below, you will notice that our fireteam got really close one time…one heartbreaking time. However, the smallest mistake will ruin the try and force you and your brave comrades into a wipe (everyone kill themselves…we can’t beat him this time around).

Don’t be fooled by the game, you will need to be strong for this trial and the rest of the raid. Your ability to absorb and deal damage are game changers. Your ability to pick the best loadout for each circumstance will highlight your level skill. At times, you will wonder why the hell are you still playing this thing. But you must push ahead. The end looks so near.

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CALUS UNCONQUERED

It’s tough when you have the right amount of fire power (DPS), the right method (tactics), and the right team (personalities plus skill), and yet you fail. Calus remains unconquered in my Destiny 2 universe. His rewards for me remain locked away. However, once we defeat him (which won’t be easy), loot awaits. If anything, let’s hope that the loot beyond Calus wipes away the blood and tears of the journey there. After all, Destiny loot would never disappoint…right?

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NBA 2K18 MyGM/MyLeague Detailed

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The NBA 2K series is, quite possibly, my favorite annualized franchise. I love watching basketball, and think the series continually does a great job of representing the game you see on TV.

Today, Erick Boenisch from 2K Sports outlined a lot of enhancements to NBA 2K18’s MyGM Mode — which is my preferred way to play the game. What isn’t mentioned is whether these additions apply also to the Nintendo Switch version of the game. (If not, I won’t be getting the game on Switch. If it’s included, I will be grabbing the game on Switch).

Check out the full post over on Operation Sports at this link, but here are my top highlights from the new features:

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Story

The MyGM mode will now include a base story for your created general manager, who was a top-tier NBA Player before injuring his leg 6 years prior. In the post, Boenisch mentions that customization and player choice is still the most important thing, but it will be wrapped in a slightly different package. This is great news, and I hope the cutscenes and player interactions will be more varied and interesting this year. (I also hope that player motivations and expectations can be fixed. If If I have LeBron James on my team, sorry Kyle Korver, but you aren’t my starting SF.)

Collective Bargaining Agreement

Basketball nerd stuff that a lot of people playing the game won’t care about, and yet it’s exciting to see the actual NBA rules making it into the game, from mid-level exception increases, to the Stretch Provision, the Free Agent Moratorium Period and the inclusion of the Ted Stepien Rule (look it up). Also kind of related, you can now “stash” international players you’ve drafted overseas until you’re ready to bring them over.

G-League Integration

The newly renamed former D-League will be a little bit more important now. As the GM, you can now send young players to the G-League for playing time — not unlike how the Cavs sent Kay Felder back and forth to Canton a few times last season. Two-way contracts will allow your young players to gain actual playing experience, while you have the ability to bring them up to the NBA team for occasional progress checks or injury relief.

Custom branding

One of the coolest features in NBA 2K17 was the ability to add expansion teams, on top of being able to relocate an existing team or rebrand the team in the same city. In 2K18, they’re adding the ability to create an alternate uniform, which will give an extra available look. You can also now rebrand in an existing arena — meaning if you want a new-look Timberwolves arena to go with your new additions, you can stay in the Target Center with a new floor instead of building a whole new arena. Finally, they’ve added 10 new cities for relocation, including Virginia Beach, Colorado Springs and more.

There are a lot more exciting additions in the post as well. Head on over to Operation Sports to learn more! NBA 2K18 is just about six weeks away!

 

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Xbox Live & PlayStation Plus – Free Games Update for August

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PlayStation Plus


 

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First up, Just Cause 3. Take Rico Rodriguez on a truly wild ride to liberate Medici from military dictatorship. Your greatest weapon is your ingenuity. And explosions.

Also included in August is Assassin’s Creed Freedom Cry, the standalone adventure, set after the events of Black Flag. Guide Adewale on an emotional story, using his skills as an assassin and his deep convictions to free oppressed people.

Full lineup:

  • Just Cause 3, PS4
  • Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry, PS4
  • Super Motherload, PS3
  • Snakeball, PS3
  • Downwell, PS Vita (crossbuy with PS4)
  • Level 22, PS Vita

PS Plus Summer Movies are here! Enjoy six weeks of 99¢ rentals – selected for you from this summer’s hottest blockbusters. Starting us off with a bang, The Lego Batman Movie – handpicked for the whole family to enjoy. Check out the full schedule of movies below, then head over to PS Store each week to enjoy 99¢ rentals.

 

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Games With Gold


 

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It’s time to harvest some great titles this August thanks to another stellar Games with Gold lineup. On August 1, the open-world farming simulator Slime Rancher will make its console debut on Xbox One, where you can care for your own galactic farm full of cute (slimy) creatures. Then starting on August 16, take on the wide variety of platform-racing stunt challenges in Trials Fusion.

The Summer fun isn’t over yet! Coming to Xbox 360, and Xbox One through Backward Compatibility, we’ll have the modern-classic Bayonetta available from August 1 to August 15. Then get your butt to Mars and fight for the future in Red Faction: Armageddon from August 16 – August 30.

All games will be available for a limited time only as part of Games with Gold, so get Xbox Live Gold today to get in on the action!

  • Slime Rancher ($19.99 ERP): Available Aug 1-31 on Xbox One
  • Trials Fusion ($19.99 ERP): Available Aug 16-Sep 15 on Xbox One
  • Bayonetta ($19.99 ERP): Available Aug 1-15 on Xbox 360 & Xbox One
  • Red Faction: Armageddon ($29.99 ERP): Available Aug 16-31 on Xbox 360 & Xbox One

 

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So there we have it folks, both the PlayStation Plus and Games with Gold announcements for this upcoming month. Personally, for the first time in many months I’m excited for the PlayStation Plus offerings. Just Cause 3 alone has me excited and makes me feel like I’m getting value from my PlayStation subscription. That said, Xbox’s less stellar lineup has the quantity as all four games I’m considering downloading, especially the Bayonetta and Trials games.

Which lineup do you think is best? Let us know in the comments below.

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Madden 17: A Review, Reflection, and look to the future.

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13 days. What could you do in 13 days, friends? As a teacher who is wrapping up a summer of yard work, house projects, movies, and more I feel that in 13 days I could accomplish almost anything. But the 13 is not just an obscure number thrown out to get you thinking; instead, it is the amount of time I have put into Madden 17 on the Xbox One alone. I tend not to play online, except for the multiplayer achievements in the game, as I prefer the franchise mode. Here I get to build up a dynasty in the image I would want–a tough defense, a good running back, a team that limits turnovers, plays fast in all their phases (offense, defense, and special teams), and has the best defensive and offensive lines in the league. In my opinion, teams like this can’t lose.

This year was unlike any other year in Madden for me. My friend Dan and I have played ten seasons so far in this league. The Bears have won 9 Super Bowls, and the Jets have won 1. Our league started with four people–Dan, Brian, our very own Nathan Thomas, and myself. After a season, it expanded to 5 with the great Alex D. replacing Brian (who left under mysterious circumstances) and another friend, Cory. Cory and Alex stayed two seasons, and Alex through some great drafting handed my Bears one of the two losses I have had in 10 seasons in the NFC championship where he fell to Dan’s Jets in the Superbowl.

Below you will see a quick video of some of my favorite moments.

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For those of you who watched the video above, man that last second touchdown was one of my favorite games ever. For those of you who didn’t, you missed out and its only 2 minutes long.

I will go more into this franchise after the review portion, so if the franchise stuff is interesting to you, go ahead and skip to the heading labeled reflection.

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Review:

What makes a football game great? To this gamer, gameplay, customization, control, and modes all mix to create a great experience. Madden has grown from the early days of box-like players to looking completely real. (My father-in-law saw the TV screen when I was playing and asked what game I was watching.)  Players look different–thinner, taller, smaller, bigger. Speed is a premium, and the guys who have it can change the outcome of a game quickly. The game play has changed from my early days and here is what I LOVE and don’t love about Madden 17.

The Good:

  1. A mix of game modes for all players: want to have a 10-year franchise with some great friends? Check. Want to play by yourself in a franchise you control? Check. Want to play with a fantasy draft format? Want to play solo, online, or with friends with that fantasy team? Check! Every mode from online franchise to Draft champions and Madden Ultimate Team (MUT) are all improved on and offer new features to keep them fresh and fun.
  2. Gameplay is King. This is the best playing Madden game so far. The hit stick button, or stick, works well and is determined based on your player’s skills. For example, if you have a great tackler, he will bring the heat. If he’s not so good, you may miss… bad. Passing is the best I have seen, and the control you have as a quarterback is exceptional. Being able to read the coverage, adjust the route, and throw to the proper shoulder have made passing vastly improved from years past.
  3. O-line does their job! The most important part of an offense is the line. If they can get off their blocks, working together, to chip and climb to the backers, you should never get tackled for a loss if you are reading the defense properly.
  4. Defense swarms to the ball! I am so thankful for this. I love building a defense that plays fast and everyone pursues (my favorite skill to add XP too). This game is the best defensive improvement in Madden history (again so far) because I will see 5 Bears jerseys swarm to the ball. Ask Dan, it’s annoying to be on the receiving end.

The Bad:

  1. The fullback still chooses wrong on run plays. The TE’s and O-line being so improved I thought for sure that the fullback would be better. However, often on outside runs, he will not go to the nearest threat and instead climb to the second level leaving you one on with a defensive end or linebacker. This drives me nuts as the mechanic still seems like he should easily be able to take on that threat instead of leaving me out to dry.
  2. Madden Ultimate Team needs to have some form of carry over. I would be much more interested in this game mode if my two favorite players carried over from year to year. I don’t know how hard that mechanic would be, but I would be so down to keep my 99 Jay Cutler from 2015 and carry him with me till the end of time.

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The Reflection:

Ten seasons. I can honestly say this has been my favorite thing I have done in gaming and I got to compete in it with some great folks whom I hold in the utmost esteem. We have played countless games, set records, and had some fun trash talking each other here and there. My Bears became revered, and an almost Yankee-like hatred came towards them from the rest of the league.

Below are some screen shots of the awesome things we have done. Go ahead and look through them. I will have more at the end and will be diving into more of what made this so much fun for me overall a little later.

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Those are just a few of the records we have broken since we started this league. Now on year 10, as we wrap up week 17 with the Bears and Jets 16-0 respectively, I felt the need to write about how much fun this has been for me. Finding a group of gamers that love games the way I do is rare. Finding a group of gamers that enjoy playing Madden as much as I do is even rarer. Before I met Nathan, Dan, Ray, Brian, and Josh thanks to MTTG two years ago, I played games solo. I could have never imagined the added bonus this game has when played with friends. Being able to trade players between teams (thanks Dan for Leonard!), working on draft day deals, scouting out the best players, and occasionally swiping players off of each other’ practice squads has led to an experience I won’t soon forget.

There are three moments that are my favorites, and I wanted to share them with all of you great folks at PSVG.

  1. The turnover bowl. Around year six or seven of our league, Dan and I were playing in the Super Bowl, and for some reason, our offenses refused to score points. By halftime, it was a 7-0 Bears lead, but we had both thrown at least 6 INT’s combined. The game did not get better as we were close to 10+ TO for the game, and it was a narrow margin of victory for the Bears.
  2. Dan and my team met in the regular season, and I played awfully. I was making bad decisions, couldn’t get a read on his play calling, and I was losing by 10 with 3 minutes to go in the game. I was forced to kick a FG and then hope my defense could get me the ball back. It did, but with less than a minute on the clock. I got down the field and scored with seconds left on the clock. I then went for the win, 5 WR,s and I hit Zeke on a slant to score the two-point conversion going up 1. I kicked off and made a tackle for the win as time expired.
  3. Battling Gronk. As you can see in the pictures, Gronk and Nathan are doing work together. He might be the only player who touches the ball; in fact, on the Patriots as Lord Vader (Nate’s created coach), he gave the ball to the big man so much that he was setting record after record. Not to be out done, I decided one season to change my philosophy and went after the record myself. I was able to get the single game marks but fell short some of the season ones set by Gronk and Nash (a drafted QB for the Pats). The rivalry was fun and one that added an extra element to the game for me. Not just to win, but to win and chase these records I had never thought of chasing before.

These were great memories for me as a gamer, and I am so excited to see what Madden 18 brings. I am hoping for some cool features that they haven’t announced to pop up when I pick it up early and dive in (thanks, GOAT edition). With a story mode, draft champions, MUT, and of course Online Franchises to look forward to, I can’t wait to spend 13 more days of the year playing this game with friends. Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you on the field this fall.

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Le Tour de France 2017 Review

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As you look around, men and women are cheering, the buildings are climbing the horizon in front of you, and you can spot the pace car ahead. Your breath is fading, your chest is pounding, and that jerk behind you who has been using you to draft behind for the last stage is making his move. As you rapidly pedal as fast as you can you feel your muscles screaming in unison with the ever growing crowds of fans. You arrive at a cross road. Go for the win and risk a blow out? Or play it safe for the points? The decision is up to you.

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Over the past few years the Le Tour De France franchise has become a staple in my household. As a lover for all sports games, I just always felt it necessary to purchase and play. This edition continues down the same path as the others in that it tries to recreate a series of races that are almost 3000 Kilometers in length and have over a few weeks–not an easy task for any game designer. This years installment offers some very user friendly additions in the mandatory first tutorial which was done well and easy to grasp for new gamers to the franchise, the ability to save progress mid race allowing for easy pick up and play, and adjustable difficulty at the start of the race.

 

The Good:

  1. Easy gauge for race stamina is set in two circles Blue (overall) and Red (burst or attack). Your blue gauge slowly decreases during the course of the race and acts as an all encompassing stamina gauge. As your rider goes through the various stages, it will decrease. To boost it up takes the proper use of an aerodynamic pose on the bike or slower pedaling pace. The Red or attack gauge is smaller and is used to push for a lead, going up a tough hill, etc and is replenished for simply pedaling below max speed.
  2. The level design is beautiful. Great open landscapes, beautiful horizons, fun little cities with fans cheering. These combine to help make a great overall look for the game.
  3. Physics. Hills are tough, declines are easy, taking a corner too fast leads to slowing down or falling down. I never once ran into a bug that hindered me racing the roads of Europe, and I am appreciative of that.
  4. User friendly bike controls allow for players who have never played, to dive in and be able to navigate fairly well.

 

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The Bad:

  1. Lack of customization. Every racer looked the same to me at the start of races. This lack of detail may not be the biggest deal as the bikes and outfits are very unique, but it really brought down the ownership for me as a racer. I wasn’t able to go, yeah that’s my guy! Lets do this. Instead I asked, “Is that me?” I would love to see a create a player option so you could play as yourself added to your favorite team or country.
  2. Team mechanics still a miss. The ability to interact with your team is something I have wanted improved in the Tour de France games. Its still a convoluted process that leads to more aggravation than anything. It’s not easily explained even in the tutorials and the overall lack of explanation of these details on why its important is something that must be addressed.
  3. Lack of modes. Though you have several races to choose from, not adding to the race styles is a huge miss for this game. Yes, it is a Tour de France game, but you can add some fun games that allow for the player to learn and practice skills outside of the tutorial.
  4. Broadcast hurts more than helps. The broadcaster makes a lot of comments during the race. Some are helpful, some are jibber jabber that you don’t understand because you aren’t a bike racing aficionado. This drove me nuts and actually made me turn off the volume more than once so I didn’t have to listen. It wasn’t that it was mixed poorly, its that I didn’t know what he was trying to tell me and it wasn’t presented in a way that helped me change the way I raced.

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Final Thoughts:

The team over at Cyanide Interactive has tried to undertake a huge passion project. Creating one of the biggest races (might be the biggest but my brain hurt even trying to consider doing the math between this and Nascar) is huge and they deserve a shout out for that. But with a race this big and their almost too-realistic interpretation of it, the races are long and very difficult to be competitive in even at the lower levels. The meters and refills come so sporadic that even drinking your boost (blue and red mini game in the game where you hold Y to drink/use it and it slowly replenishes) are too few and far between to help the gamer find footing in the uphill climb of a game.

What I would love to see in the future for this franchise is customization of the racers allowing the gamer to feel a part of the action and make a stronger connection to the team, adding more boosts (drinks) to help with stamina management, a user friendly team communication set up, and two game modes for each race; realistic and a sped up version to condense overall race time for gamers with less time to devote to the game.

Though, I did have some fun moments playing the game overall, there is a lot that needs to be fixed in this very niche game to make it more user friendly. This led to a lot of frustration on not being able to understand what the game was asking me as someone who isn’t a huge racing fan but instead wanted to jump into a sports game.

Thank you for your time and reading my review and let me know if you play Le Tour de France 2017 and your thoughts below.

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Perception – Xbox One

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Perception is an adventure/horror game in which you play as a blind woman… If that doesn’t grab your attention, I don’t know what the heck will!

Let’s go through a quick checklist before we begin the review:

Large creepy vacant house? – Check
Doors opening and closing by themselves? – Check
Creepy Ghost children? – Check
Wait, what’s this, an engaging and well written story? – Check

Before I continue, I want to let you know I’m going to leave out a lot of details regarding the story. I truly think that covering gameplay will get you interested enough to give this game a shot, so I don’t want to spoil anything for you.

Right off the bat, this game gets me with two things. 1: It says it’s based on a true story (whether that’s true or not I will let you decide) and 2: you start in Logan Airport, which is in my home state, so extra brownie points for them!

The setup of the story is that you play Cassie, a blind girl, who has been having dreams of this strange house that she has set out to find. You make your way through Logan airport, very briefly, you then find yourself on the walkway leading up to “the house” which is located in Gloucester.

So, you are probably reading this and saying to yourself, “Ok, you play as a blind girl and this guy hasn’t mentioned how that is possible!” or maybe you are not thinking that and I’m just projecting.

Cassie uses her walking cane to assist in echolocation. By tapping your cane, Cassie is able to “see” her surroundings based on said echolocation. Be warned though, using your cane too much in the house can attract unwanted attention…  THE HOUSE IS ALIVE!!!! Or is it?

I’m a big fan of this mechanic. Playing a horror game in which your experience is mostly a dark or a pitch black screen is incredibly tense. Knowing that every time you need to “see” your environment could also attract something terrifying is an element I don’t think I have experienced in game in quite some time.

Perception does a great job in sound design as well. Your environment will often provide you with vision, whether it be a heater running, a scary record player that suddenly turns on, or even the wind will give you a cool pathway while outside of the house. You will also see how much, or how little, attention you can attract by interacting with many household objects by means of your cane. Be sure to locate rugs so you can “see” without creating too much noise. Your cane can also echolocate off of hardwood floors, steel objects (like heaters, fireplaces, doors, etc.), and even just the air itself. Each one of those creates a unique sound and vision.

At one point I was playing the game and thought, “This isn’t too scary,” just to have a jump scare right around the corner. It’s very subtle and would often catch me off guard, which is great! Once I came across my first object I could “hide” in, I knew I was in for more scares in the future.

The game is pretty linear, but I never felt that I was “on rails” while playing the game. You can pretty much explore to your heart’s content, but there is always an option to hold on a button to see where you should be headed. One of the cool things the game has to offer is right at the very beginning when you start your game, it gives you two options (pictured). You can have your main character, Cassie, be more or less “chatty”. Basically talking to herself to give you clues or to just hear her inner dialogue. I obviously chose the chattier version so I could enjoy the story, but I imagine the less chatty version is basically “hard mode” (I could be wrong).

The game plays out in acts, with each one ending at the conclusion of a story, so to speak. Like I said earlier, I don’t want to spoil anything. The character development is fantastic, and you really start to get into the character as you play. I felt very connected to Cassie, and often felt empathy toward how she must have to live her life. She is supported by a small cast of friends via her cell phone. I should mention this as well because her phone has a program called “Delphi.” This is what you use to “read” notes and documents you find while exploring the house. I will say this game really reminded me of Resident Evil (the good ones) in its exploration and puzzle solving.

Overall, Perception is a must play! Fantastic gameplay, a unique story and play style, engaging character and story development, and not to mention it’s pretty gosh darn terrifying!

Let me know in the comments what you thought of this game.

 

Opinion: Premium Consoles, Premium Service – The Thing of the Future

Why cross-play between PC and Console has led to premium consoles.

By Matthew Everson, Guest Contributor

One of the biggest news stories at this year’s E3 was the release of specs, price and launch date of the Xbox Scorpio, now officially named the Xbox One X. With a price of $500, it sits atop of the console market as the fastest and most expensive console in 2017. However, these announcements have not been without controversy; some are questioning who will pay that much for a new console with the One S now a measly $200 (with current sales). Is the ‘Premium Console’ a needed or wanted device?
Looking at a few industry trends, we can get an idea where this concept of console tiers is coming from and why, I believe, this is both a good thing. First, one of the big trends is cross-platform play. Gamers on both PC and console want to be able to play with their friends regardless of the system they are using. If my friend games on PC, why shouldn’t I be able to play our favorite game together even if I’m on an Xbox One?
Second, mobile gaming has grown substantially; because of iOS and Android, almost every person owns a mobile game platform in their smart phones. This no longer relegates mobile style games to dedicated systems but allows everyone to quickly download and play. This mobile market has quickly grown to be one of the most lucrative and profitable with top developers making hundreds of millions of dollars off games that cost a fraction of what a standard AA or AAA title cost to develop and publish. This has lead to AAA developers feeling pressure to compete with the profitability of their mobile brethren through lower costs. These developers are advocating for ecosystem uniformity for the PC and console markets as a way to lower development costs on these AAA titles.
Console-makers, in pursuing these shared ecosystems with cross-platform play are now directly connecting their players with PC players. The consoles market is now more closely competing with the PC market (or in the case of Microsoft, unifying for increased profits). Sure, there are gamers who are dedicated to PC or a particular console but, many gamers, like myself, are left with a choice of where to play.
Since the beginning of PC gaming, customization based upon budget and other criteria to obtain allowed gamers to achieve different levels of game performance. This trend has only increased because of the relative ease of building a computer from scratch. Have thousands of dollars to spend on a gaming system? Buy a PC that runs your favorite game in 4K at 144Hz. On a smaller budget? Buy a system that will run the game but at 1080p with lower textures and 30-40 frames per second.
However, in the case of multiplayer games (both cooperative and competitive), players with a wide variety of PCs are matched together. Yes, it was always the case that people with better PC’s had a small advantage in many games; this has become accepted as par for the course. For instance, in many action MMORPG’s I’ve played, the lower the ping and higher the frame-rate, the better damage or healing a person was able to do, regardless of skill. PC players acknowledge this and do not balk that developers do not off solutions to this inherent hardware quandary.
Console manufacturers see the PC market, the gradual reduction of differences between the PC and console games, the shared marketplaces and homogenizing communities. I believe they realized there is economic rent available and want to act to capture some of this from their gamers. Yes, some gamers want to spend $200 on a console to play their favorite shooter with friends. However, there are likely hundreds of thousands, even millions, of console gamers who, like PC gamers, will pay more for better graphics, performance, and an overall experience. Why not allow these gamers to make that choice?
Microsoft in particular has done a very good job of marketing the Xbox One X, calling it a premium device for a specific type of gamer. No, it is not required; Microsoft has repeatedly said there will not be any exclusive content or games for their premium platform. An Xbox gamer does not ‘need’ a One X. However, many gamers like myself, want better performance, higher frame-rates, faster load times, etc. and are willing to pay to get it. While I do not need it, I am willing to spend the extra $300 in order to get it, just like a PC gamer willing to invest in a NVIDA GeForce 1080 over a 1070 or 1060 does.
So, is this a good thing? Yes, it is. It gives console gamers the choice to spend more to get a better experience. Likewise, I do not believe premium consoles will get games that their standard brethren cannot run. Instead, it moves the console marketplace closer to the PC marketplace, letting gamers choose what features and how they choose to invest. For those who want the best experience and have the funds, we can now get a premium console gaming experience, much like PC gamers have been accustomed to for over a decade.
Matthew is an avid video gamer playing on PC, Xbox and iOS.  He loves investment games dabbling in a variety of MMO’s and MMO-lites like Elder Scrolls Online, Destiny, and The Division.  When not gaming, he helps run a marketing and media production company.  You can find him on Xbox with his gamertag Elium85 or on Twitter at msog85.

Xbox e3 conference didn’t sell me a console – yet

I went into this year’s e3 event looking for a few different things, but possibly at the top of that list is that I wanted to be sold on buying an Xbox One — whether the S console or the Scorpio.

Microsoft is doing a lot of great things over on Xbox. I wrote a couple weeks ago on the new Game Pass, and how that service makes the prospect of switching from Sony to Microsoft more palatable. Xbox does have a good gaming library available, and the Game Pass makes it wide open. Combined with EA Access, which I still believe was a huge blunder for Sony to turn down, the Xbox could be the most budget-friendly way to game as long as you don’t feel compelled to play the very newest releases.

The backwards compatibility offerings also continue to be a huge feather in the cap for Xbox. Microsoft is being creative and aggressive in its efforts to capture back some of its 360 audience, and much of what it is doing is working.

In the days since that column, I’ve been keeping an eye on the price for the Xbox One S, which is now available for $250 with a game and the 500GB hard drive size. I even bid on a couple of used systems in the lead-up to the conference, but didn’t want to go over $200. A stellar conference with multiple upcoming exclusive games would have absolutely gotten me there; combined with a more affordable price on the Xbox One X might have also made me jump over.

Now, by all accounts here at PSVG, Microsoft put on a great show. Our hardcore Xboxers are super excited for the One X (or OX, per Q), and I’m excited for them! Check out Q’s favorite parts of the conference here, and of course listen to our Xbox e3 reactions podcast.

But for someone on the other side of the fence, Xbox did little to show me why I would swap my PS4 Pro in for either version of the Xbox One, given that pure, raw power is not supremely important to me. I’m going to do a quick dive into two things that don’t work for me, before closing out with a brief look at a couple games that looked absolutely awesome, and that I’m sad to miss out on:

The Opening 15 minutes, name and price

The beginning of the show was an absolute slog for someone in my position. The sizzle reel was fine, and then we had something like 10 minutes of talking about a black box before they revealed the newest Porsche. The rest of the conference was better as they mostly let game trailers and gameplay show off the system — though I could do without the shoutcaster.

After revealing the name and date, Microsoft held back on revealing the price, for some reason that I can’t imagine. The price point of $499 is actually a fine price. It seems like you’re getting good value for your dollar on a powerful system. But it’s higher than I want to pay for a new system.

In the end, pizzazz only counts for so much. Heck, the PS4 Pro event last fall completely lacked pizzazz and I eventually bought in when I found a good deal. A console purchase simply comes down to…

Exclusives…?

The most confusing part of the conference, for me, was the constant barrage of “exclusive” and “console launch exclusive.” I understand what it means, but in the moment I think it caused more confusion than anything else.

It’s a big deal that PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is coming to Xbox, and I went for a couple minutes thinking of it as a full exclusive. But it’s only Xbox First? (Right?) There are other games I’m not entirely clear on, either, and I would have liked more specificity. Instead, I’m coming out the other end of the event wondering what is a full exclusive, and most of the games I’m interested are also coming to PS4. Deep Rock Galactic, The Last Night and Ashen in-particular look awesome, but all will eventually come to a system I already own.

I’m sure the gameplay experience will be great on the OX, but I’m also sure the experience will be pretty darned good on my PS4 Pro.

What I’ll Miss

If I don’t hop on the Xbox bandwagon right now, there are definitely some titles that I’m missing out on. Cuphead continues to astound me with its visual aesthetic, and I hope the game is awesome. I love games like Tacoma, and I’m disappointed that it’s a console exclusive — it’s absolutely a great get for Microsoft.

The big exclusives they showed yesterday each interested me more than I thought they would, but they ultimately aren’t quite enough to win my dollar. Crackdown 3 looks action-packed and I love Terry Crews; Forza looks predictably amazing; and Sea of Thieves looks like an awesome pirate fantasy, and could truly be a killer app.

Xbox put on a great show, and there are a lot of reasons for current owners to be excited about the ecosystem’s immediate future. I’m not sure exactly what I was looking for to convince me to join the empire, but I didn’t find it in this show. I remain open in the future, and hope to be drawn in again.

 

What is Bioware’s ANTHEM?

“Follow us into the unknown.”- Anthem Official Twitter

            A blurry scene, powered by Frostbite. A worn-down wall, but was it once a fortress? A marketplace in a city or town. Is this a last refuge or a beachhead for future offensives and exploration?  An alien beast walks in the wild. A brutal storm ravages the surface with mysterious “T” shaped structures in the background. A metallic mask. Golden glowing eyes. An exo-suit opens. It’s empty. A shot of the full suit takes over the screen as the camera slowly retreats, its menacing glowing eyes capturing our attention. This is Anthem. This is Bioware’s new IP.

“Allies unite to explore what’s beyond…”

            For several months, we’ve known that the Bioware studio that worked on Mass Effect 3 was also working on a huge, massive project. However, not until the EA “EAplay” presentation this past weekend, did anyone have a clue to what this new IP entailed. Anthem was first teased at EAplay, followed on Sunday by a full gameplay demo at the Xbox 2017 E3 brief: wow, what a demo that was! Considering that this has been Bioware’s best kept secret for multiple years, the demo looked respectfully polished and complete. Sure, I am certain that between now and release date quite a few things may change; however, the gameplay felt solid. Staged, yes, but solid.

            The demo begins in a human marketplace, set in a town or city—we aren’t told where or if this is even Earth. A human, from a first-person angle, makes his/her way across the marketplace and is engaged by a man looking worried. A conversation ensues. Moments later, our protagonist enters her (she looks female) exo-suit, teams up with her ally in a “Titan” exo-suit, and launch into the Wilds, the unknowns beyond the City (I know—keep your cool Bungie fans). The following two minutes are a combination of exo-suits flying through a rainforest-looking landscape and engaging in several combat sequences. Anthem, more than any other game this past weekend, was meant to show the true power of the Xbox One X. Our protagonists team up with two other players that seamlessly “drop” into their game sequence and “party up” for the rest of the demo. We are teased with that looks like the entrance to a raid or other coop content. The demo concludes with our protagonist and her team or exo-pilots looking over a cliff and staring at what seems like a storm from beyond this world.  

“Enter the Wilds”

            Bioware, at this early stage, describes Anthem as a “shared-world action-RPG” in which you are your friends are “Freelancers,” those bold enough to leave behind civilization and enter the wild—the unknown. The game promises, and the demo depicts, loot—yes, loot. Content allows parties of up to four players to band together in cooperative (competitive?) content to enjoy with your friends. Your exo-suit is called a “Javelin,” and you can customize this bad-ass ride with the gear you earn and craft throughout the game. What is your mission? To delve into the forgotten and the unknown, battling beasts and marauders along the way, and to defeat the forces plotting to conquer humanity. I guess our protagonists are humans after all.

“Rise to Any Challenge”

            As a Halo and Destiny fan, the opportunity to jump into a super-suit, become a super-soldier, and kick butt is absolutely delicious to me. I can’t explain thoroughly how excited I am for Anthem, even though we have no clue what the final project or gameplay will look like.  Anthem looks sexy, in a way that Destiny 2 didn’t look sexy, or simply hasn’t yet. Anthem looks mature in a way that few games can embrace or truly depict. As I watched the gameplay, I couldn’t help but betray the Halo fan within me and ask myself: “what if Halo looked more like this?”

            Anthem promises to be an interesting ride for the gaming community, regardless of what the final product looks like. It captured our attention early this E3, and we are hungry for more. Is this Bioware’s new Mass Effect? Is this the new path forward? Is this EA’s answer to Activision? I surely don’t know. I am asking too many questions here. I am certain of this: sign me up for all the alphas, betas, and demos, because I am ready to enter the wild. Suit up Freelancers!

For more hype on everything video games, ANTHEM, and Xbox, following me, Q Herrera, at www.twitter.com/UnratedPodcast

XBOX 2017 E3 Brief: 5 Things I Loved

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The Xbox E3 2017 Brief ended only moments ago, and we got a lot of stuff to talk about. However, here I will present and expand on the 5 things I loved from the presentation.

1. Xbox One X: $499

People like Ryan McCaffrey may hate all day at the $499 price tag on the Xbox One X; however, I am fan. This console is going to sell because of the power that it brings and the way that it will empower gamers and developers to have and deploy the best gaming experience available on console. I will personally be purchasing the One X at $499 because it is the price tag that makes sense. Sure, you can but an inferior console such as the PlayStation Pro, but why would you do that if you already own a PS4? So you can play the same games at a hardly better experience? The One X will bring all the best games at an increased quality, deliver the best gaming network on the best machine, expand your library with exclusive and ID@Xbox, and deliver your multi-platform games well…better.

2. ANTHEM (Bioware)

EA’s Anthem is everything I was praying it would be. This isn’t the Bioware that made ME Andromeda. This is the Bioware studio that brought the high-quality gaming experience of Mass Effect 3 (not talking about story, but about gaming mechanics and dynamics). Anthem not only looks beautiful (and it will look even better on the One X), but it promises to deliver that Co-Op, open-world, immersive experience that made Bungie’s Destiny great. Is this a Destiny-killer? No, and I don’t think that’s the point. For those of us that enjoy cooperative and competitive open worlds, it is another great option that we will have access to in 2018. That has been the best game demo I’ve seen at an E3 in years. This is the game I am most excited about this E3 and it will take a lot to take my mind off it.

3. ID@Xbox

Complimenting your Triple-A releases, ID@Xbox brings us a wave of independently developed games coming to the Xbox One family. I couldn’t keep up with all the titles shown during the brief, but the lineup for Xbox includes games like Osiris, Raiders, Unruly Heroes, Path of Exile, Battlerite, Surviving Mars, Fable Fortune, Observer, RoboCraft, Dunk Lords, Minion Masters, BrawlOut, Ooblets, Dark Light, Strange Brigade, Riverbond, Hello Neighbor, Shift, and Conan Exile. Whew. I’m smoked.

In between rounds of Destiny, Halo 5, Rainbow Six Siege, and Overwatch, ID@Xbox games make my heart sing, and I saw plenty in this lineup (and the ones I missed) to lead me into hundreds (if not thousands) of hours of entertainment. Xbox’s support for independent developers has been highlighted before, and Phil Spencer made sure to highlight it today.

4. Sea of Thieves (Rare)

Even though I haven’t participated in the Sea of Thieves alphas, the footage we saw during the today’s extended demo was absolutely amazing. Hunting for treasure, fighting off skeleton soldiers, piloting our ship, swimming under water, battling other players’ ships, and BOARDING enemy ships (launching from a cannon!) and killing their crew…wow! More than ever, I am on board with Sea of Thieves and I am excited because, alongside Destiny and Anthem, I will dump hundreds and thousands of hours in 2018 playing this game. It is 2017 going to 2018, and at this E3, co-op gameplay is the name of the game.

5. Original Xbox Backward Compatibility

Fan service. Fan service. Fan service. Fan service. More than any other console in the market, Xbox understands that gamers love their games, including old games. PlayStation executives may not understand why people want to play old games, but Phil Spencer, the gamers’ executive, gets us. Xbox has publicly committed to bringing original Xbox titles to the Xbox One family, and even if that isn’t your thing, it is a tribute and a fan service to the millions of gamers that have called Xbox home for the last sixteen years.

For more hype on everything video games and Xbox, following me, Q Herrera, at http://www.twitter.com/UnratedPodcast

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Coach is Jacked for Madden: Responds from the Sideline

See the source image

Today was an amazing day. I love EA. For years they have made games that I derive so much pleasure and enjoyment from. There have been some bad days following them for sure, but a lot of good ones too thanks to the games they make. Most of you know, my favorite of their franchise is the Madden series.

So as I watched the EA conference with with my wife, I literally jumped out of the seat when I saw the drumline all decked out in their Patriots gear. My Madden hype meter had already blown past 10! As I tweeted out my excitement and hype for this new installation of the series,  I saw a lot of comments that I will sum up below that seem to come every year. My goal being to respond to them and hopefully clear up some of the misinformation.

 

I cant wait for them to swap the 8 in for the 7 on Madden 18.

Comments like this are a norm for non sports gamers. You would think that in an industry trying to be taken seriously as a medium, that’s trying to breed love and inclusiveness, that is wants respect for all… would try harder to stop these comments. Every year on IGN, Kotaku, and the rest I am forced to see a group of on air personalities whom could care less about the these million dollar franchises that compete for large portions of sales in the gaming market every year. Their lack of education and continued indifference just breeds this wall of hate that surrounds these storied franchises.

The second thing I would like to point out is best said this way. To say that Madden 18 is similar to Madden 17 or any combination of these games over the past 27 years is the same as saying Mario Bros is the exact same as Mario 3D world. That is the level of incompetence that is being spewed and agreed upon.

“Oh its just an updated roster.”

Oh Mario can just jump on different things.

The Madden games are refined, intricacies of the game dove deeper into, every single year. They have new layers that allow the player to engulf them self in the sport that they love. I have seen playbooks and block schemes go form being basic, to following modern day trends in the passing and screen game. The ability for a defense to really run the Cover 4 is one of the greatest achievements in gaming for AI in my opinion of the last 10 years. This huge feet in Madden 17 changed the ways professional Madden players played from a year ago.

So when I see this phrase uttered and agreed upon by the voices I respect in so many other areas it just breaks my heart. Not because it contradicts my own believes, but because the ignorance that is shown creates hypocrites of those people I looked up to and makes it hard for me to trust them. Please don’t comment on things you don’t know about. I try so hard to make sure I play every game possible, so that when I have an opinion, my play through is the proof behind the words I write.

 

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Coach, I hope to someday love a game as much as you love Madden.

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The game job simulator is one of my favorite games on PSVR. Its fun to just goof off in. My work life revolves around the game of football. Its why I live in Texas. Football is king here. I study the game, go to clinics, talk to coached, draw it on my white boards, teach it to my players, watch the games on TV with my wife. I love my Chicago Bears, my Oregon State Beavers, and Notre Dame Fighting Irish. I spent most of my life, dedicated to the game of football. Madden allows me to connect with that game even more. It lets me build a dynasty, compete against friends and strangers, and have a common connections with my student athletes as we play together almost every week.

Madden is the one game that I know every year, will get a tone of my time. The last 2 games of Madden I have been blessed to play with great friends, build dynasties together, and enjoy a time of fellowship that I can only compare to when I played football in college and semi pro. If you have never played at that level, I am sorry but I lack the skill to properly paint the picture with my written words of what that feeling is like.

 

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I don’t understand your undying love for Madden. Sports games and I have a hard time seeing eye to eye.

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Now I am not saying that I 100% understand the context from my dear friend Lobo. But here is what I felt when I heard it.

  1. The games aren’t fun for me
  2. I don’t understand how to do what I want to do inside them

Sports are not for everyone. That’s ok. I am not asking everyone to love the game that I love. There are plenty of games out there that I don’t like and that’s ok too. But if you haven’t played my game, then don’t comment on it. Don’t throw shade at it and call it just a roster update. If you love sports in real life and don’t understand how to play the game, the key is going to be finding what part you like which leads me to point two.

For point two, the interworking’s of the Madden game have come so far that you have to have the ability to process information, learn from mistakes and dive deeper into the content (grinding) to get good on it. When a new Raid comes out on Destiny or you fail a mission on another game, you don’t just keep trying the same thing over and over again. If a new Madden player is playing on Rookie level and only runs two plays, you are not going to get better. You will not learn how to use the pre snap reads to find passing and running lanes. You wont learn how to stagger a blitz for an easy sack, you wont learn how to trick a QB into throwing into coverage. This game takes time, effort, and most of all a willingness to discover new avenues to be good at. If you don’t you are doomed to repeat the mistakes and be frustrated by it.

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I know that was fairly long winded so I will wrap it up by saying that Madden 18 is looking to give me another great year of football fun, with a franchise I love, playing with amazing friends. I am so excited for this game and if you want to play, talk about the game, learn some ins and outs I would love to help. And if its not for you, I hope we can find something else to play together. That’s why this website is here, so we can all play some games.

 

Madden!!!

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ICYMI – New Trailer for Kingdom Hearts 3

This is the first footage we’ve seen from Kingdom Hearts 3 since its original unveiling over 3 years ago so that’s exciting. Unfortunately this trailer didn’t include a release date. Continue to expect KH3 in 2018 until otherwise noted as that was the window published during Square Enix’s last investors call. http://www.hd.square-enix.com/eng/ir/library/docs/170511/page02.html

Maybe we’ll see more about KH3 before the E3 show concludes this week.

Late Thoughts on Firewatch and Storytelling in Video Games

Through solid and efficient character development and a well thought-out and structured story, Firewatch made me care in a way that few games lately, if ever, have made me care about…well, anything. Firewatch is a video game by Campo Santo that has released on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. This is not a review of Firewatch. Please check out Kyle’s review of the game here on PSVG. However, having recently finished the game, the emotions that it provoked in me convinced me to sit down and write some thoughts about the experience.

Firewatch is an interesting game because you spend the first 10-15 minutes making “life” choices about Henry, the character you play. You spend the following 3-5 hours, depending on your playstyle, in first-person mode, hiking and rappelling around a national forest, chasing down skinny dipping teenagers, and talking on the radio to your supervisor, Delilah. Firewatch is a first-person mystery thriller. There is no shooting. The closest you get to a weapon is an axe that you end up using three to five times. Firewatch is a short but well-built game that made me care deeply about the characters, their choices, their words, and their fates. If it taught me anything is that video games have yet to learn much about storytelling, and that many series that used to do a good job at it, have forgotten much.

Joy, laughter, fear, anger, sadness, pity, happiness, anxiety and hatred (maybe?) were all emotions that I felt at some point playing Firewatch. In some games, I regret feeling such emotions. For example, I don’t play scary games or watch scary movies because I don’t enjoy fear. I simply don’t. I have a lifelong personal policy that I will not pay money or waste time on an experience that puts fear in my heart. I simply don’t understand the appeal. I’ve always said to other people, “why would I make myself afraid when there is real evil out there in the world? There are real terrorists, murderers, rapists, and tyrants out there. Why would I ever choose to be afraid or fearful?” And yet, when Firewatch made me feel scared, I didn’t regret it. When Firewatch made me anxious, it gave me purpose. When Firewatch made me angry, it drove me to push ahead. Campo Santo spent an incredible amount of energy and creativity into making a very short game that is packed with character development and first-person experiences that made me care about Henry and Delilah, the main characters, and about Ned and Brian, secondary characters. How did they do it? By finding ways to use every single “mission” and quest in the game to help me learn more about each character and helping me better embrace my own role-playing as Henry.

There is a growing frustration within me with modern video games, but maybe this has been happening in video games for a long time. Let me pick on one of my most-played games: Halo 5 Guardians. When I finished the campaign for Halo 5, on legendary difficulty (damn right), I felt extremely proud of what I had accomplished. Boom! Legendary mode conquered! Woohoo! And yet, even though I was proud, I didn’t care about it because even though I had conquered my in-game enemies, I felt nothing for the characters I had portrayed throughout the experience. I didn’t care much about James Locke or even Master Chief. I didn’t care about the fact that (spoiler alert) at the end of Halo 5, you are one of the last hopes left against your AI enemies. I didn’t care because 343 Industries didn’t build in-game mediums through which I could have learned more, and by extension care more, about the characters I was playing as. What did I actually feel? I felt frustration. I was frustrated at how a super budget game like Halo could spend so much energy on graphics, mechanics, and dedicated servers, but fail to understand that at the heart of any story with characters in it you need…good storytelling! Good writing for Pete’s sake! You need good writing in video games. You simply do. I don’t know how else to say that.

By now you have realized that this article is about much more than just Firewatch. It has to do with my outlook on games, television, and film in general. However, I target storytelling in video games because to me it seems like it is easier to get away with bad writing. When watching a film, you pay $10-$15 and go watch it. If it was a bad movie, well, at least it was just $12. With TV, most of the costs are sunk costs: cable or service memberships (TWC, DirectTV, Netflix, Hulu, blah, blah). If we watch a bad TV show, don’t watch any more episodes. Choose something else to watch. However, with video games the price tag exists around $60, on average. Also, even though there are plenty of good reviewers out there, video game reviews try to cover so much (gameplay, mechanics, storytelling, multiplayer modes, connectivity, graphics, etc.) that it is often hard to determine how good a story is until you are playing it. By the time you beat Halo 5, 9-10 hours and $60 later, it is too late. They profited from your experience. They could listen to my feedback and rants, or they could just not give a damn. They already made a lot of money from me. Who cares.

I hope the gaming community is forcing developers and publishers to think twice about their products. 343 Industries took a lot of heat for delivering a bad story with underwhelming characters, even though they have never truly apologized for it. However, I look at yearly games like Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, among others, and realize that as long as chumps exist, there will also be bad writing, bad character development, and bad storytelling. Trekking through the bottom of the valley of despair, Firewatch was a refreshing moment this summer. Unfortunately, it was just a moment—a blink. Triple A game developers need to take a page from Firewatch. What did I care so much about Henry? Why did I feel fear and anxiety for his life and fate? Why did I suffer with Henry? Why did I laugh and smile with Henry? Much like Halo’s Master Chief, I never got to see Henry’s face. I saw drawings and depictions of it, but I never actually got to see his (my) actual face in the game. And yet, the emotions I felt playing Firewatch reminded me of the same emotions that a much younger version of myself felt playing Halo: Combat Evolved (Halo 1) many years ago.

Storytelling and character development are extremely important, at least to me and many other gamers that I know. So powerful and long-lasting is the impression left behind by a great story and narrative, that experienced and picky gamers like I will even forgive glitches and bugs, if we are rewarded with living out great writing. I thoroughly enjoyed and will forever cherish playing Campo Santo’s Firewatch, not because of a multiplayer mode, incredible mechanics, or incredible graphics, but simply because it made me care. Thank you for reading.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter at @UnratedPodcast and for stuff beyond video games at @Quauhtli360

Walking Dead A New Frontier Review: (with a spoiler free crust)

When I first heard I would not be playing as Clementine in the Walking Dead season 3, I found myself upset. I played as Lee begrudgingly. He was fine as a character but if he really had that little girls future at heart the whole issue in the city would have never happened and he and she would have been fine!

But after his sacrifice at the end of the season and then playing as Clem in what was a roller coaster of a season and experiences, I just fell in love with her as a character. She had grown before our eyes into a strong lead character who made you want to keep playing. She became my Link, a character who I had no idea what she was thinking despite our choices, and I had no idea if we were going to survive this horrible world.

That however, is why this installment wasn’t called Walking Dead season 3. Instead we really are traveling down a “New Frontier” in this game. New characters, new stories, but that same scary, fear filled world surrounding us.

So for me to say my disappoint was palpable, would be as big of an understatement as saying I only kinda like Madden. So I sadly pressed on and started to play the game. Enter our now character Javier.

As you begin the game you get the feeling Javier is spoiled. Dad’s favorite, running around trying to find himself after being kicked out of major league baseball, never home to help with his family. Why was this so important to me? Because it shows that this is not your normal person who is about to get his world flipped upside down.

Unlike the older games, where your “group” was made up of strangers  you choose to join up and work with, this game starts us with an actual family unit. You play the game as Javier who is traveling with his sister in law and his nephew and niece. You can see that surviving has been hard on them and they are tired. Living out of a van they end up stopping at a junk yard to scavenge for supplies and unknowingly leads them into a set of crazy situations as they are ambushed by raiders, split up, make new friends, and you are forced to save the lives of your family and new friends in the hardest of times.

Trying to stay as spoiler free as I can, I will tell you that this is one of my favorite Telltale games ever. What I like the most is that they got ride of the walking simulator and made the game more choice/action scene centered. I found myself making choices that mattered, choosing who to side with, who to trust, and responding at the particular moment in fun quick time events. There is some walking but not like the first two walking dead games where you can spend hours lost trying to solve those almost puzzles. Why this is a huge plus in my book, is that it lets you dive into this awesome story. Story is the thing that makes Telltale and few companies in my book do it as well as they do.

Another thing that I love about this game and the steps forward it has taken is in the replay-ability. In all the games I have played from telltale, I have never replayed the game on the same console the way I have this one. I have replayed all 5 episodes between 2 and 5 times. Not because I missed something, but because I wanted to see how the outcome would change. I will tell you, loved ones are saved and lost from choices made through out the game. Choose wisely.

The last thing that makes this game so great is timing. The timing and quick button play is smoother than its ever been. No forced moments, no arduous scenes were you are searching and searching for the right combination of things to look at. Just a great over all flow for the gameplay that made it easy to play over and over again. I haven’t rain into any delays or bugs and to reference I have been playing it on Xbox One (the Elite and S models). Some of you might think this is a restatement of my praise from earlier but this is a reference to game play. The controllers are better, timing, etc.

With a great overall story  and the ability to have replay ability and better mechanics, I really think this game is on its way to being one of the best telltale has made so far. Lets hope for more to come from Javier and family and our girl Clem. This gamer was left with all the feels and wanting more from this story line in the future. Here’s hoping E3 and Telltale hear my cry.

Thanks for reading and I hope this helped you want to play some video games.

Xbox Game Pass is a System Seller

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Being a gamer is not a cheap hobby, especially if you are trying to stay relatively current with modern trends and games.

The price of entry to the current generation of home consoles is already $250, and up to $400 for the “premium” PS4 Pro. We will find out (hopefully) at e3 just how much the Xbox Scorpio will set gamers back. And a powerful PC can push even closer to quadruple figures.

As someone with limited means and time, finding ways to stretch my dollar while still playing the latest games is always a challenge. Xbox, with the brand new Game Pass, may have a satisfactory alternative to the constant buying, selling and trading cycle I am perpetually entwined in presently.

The Game Pass, which is available for a free 14-day trial for Xbox Live Gold members, will cost $10 per month moving forward. It provides access to 110-plus games, with a list that promises to grow. According to Eurogamer, games could be added and taken away similar to how Netflix handles movies and shows. Games are also downloaded rather than streamed, and you can play a game for up to 30 days offline.

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As a PS4 owner who has been with the PlayStation ecosystem for 17 of the past 20 years — I did initially go with Xbox 360 last generation — one of the barriers to me considering switching to Xbox has been the sizable library of games I’ve amassed digitally that I would be forfeiting. The Game Pass would provide a similar sized library out of the gate, including both games I own and console exclusives I’ve never played.

I could spend $30 on EA Access for a year and $10 per month on Game Pass, and essentially not need to buy another game. For the price of one indie game per month, I can play Halo 5, Sunset Overdrive, Massive Chalice, Gears of War, Fable 3 and much more. This is a major selling point for me, and one that has me paying closer attention to the Scorpio and potential Xbox One S price cuts.

Now, these services aren’t the only thing that matter. I love playing on PlayStation. I prefer the controller and the ecosystem. I love the exclusive games I’ve played and I’m looking forward to many Sony-exclusive games expected over the next few years. But Xbox has my attention with these forward-thinking services. If they can deliver on exclusive games in the future, then Xbox may have more than just my attention.

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How do YOU XBox?

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The Xbox is so much more than a gaming console, but it doesn’t have to be.

 

For me, my Xbox is my hub, my daily routine. I wake up and I turn on my Xbox. My main page doesn’t feature the last game I have played, it shows me YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, HBO Now and Blu ray player. I’m not saying I don’t game on it, of course I do, but it’s not my main use for the console. That has changed over time.

As the Xbox evolved, so did I. I only ever used my 360 for gaming and it was a phenomenal experience. That’s really when Microsoft got their claws in me, where they gained my loyalty. As they implemented new “apps” and functionality, I adapted and learned to incorporate it into my gaming experience. Sure, you could argue that someone on the PS3 could have had a similar experience going into the PS4, and you wouldn’t be wrong. I just never enjoyed the UI and also, that’s not a fight I’m trying to stir up.

I remember very clearly when I opened my day one edition Xbox one. There was this thing called “one guide” and the idea of it blew me away. I could plug my cable box/satellite box into my Xbox and it would be incorporated into my system instead of having to change inputs between the two. Now, I must admit, this did not function well for me, but I did now a lot of people who had no issues. So this is not how “I” Xbox. Plus I cut the cord on cable a long time ago. But it’s an option for those who are interested.

Until I recently upgraded to the Xbox One S, I also used Cortana (formerly just referred to as “Xbox”) very frequently. The ability to just say “pause” or “play” or “record that” without having to pick up a controller and turn it back on was a huge option for me. Something I actually miss with my Xbox One S. There is still an option to use Kinect on the console, but you need an adapter. I opted to spend the $20 on a Xbox media remote……. which is so good! Motion makes the remote light up, which is very handy when watching a movie with the lights out. It’s fully functional with the “one guide” and is super easy to navigate through menus.

My wife uses Pandora on the daily with the Xbox and we each have our own custom home screen. Each with our own saved screen shots as backgrounds and custom avatars. She does not game too much, and the Xbox is still very much part of her daily routine as well. Between music and watching either Greys Anatomy on Hulu or ER on the DVD/blu ray player, she thoroughly enjoys her experience with the console.

As far as gaming goes for me, Xbox is always my first console of choice for games that are available on multiple consoles. I have so many friends on Xbox live that it only makes sense. For me, Destiny was my big Xbox adventure game. The first year of that game I ranked among the top 1% of all Xbox gamers in time spent playing Destiny. It was all because of the amazing online experience I had from Microsoft. You see, you’re not just getting free games with your subscription fee, you are getting solid, dedicated servers. One of the things that I think give Microsoft a leg up on the competition. (Just my opinion, don’t yell at me)

The future of Xbox gaming looks good to me as well. I can’t wait to jump into the new game pass that is launching as I write this article. Also, with EA access still exclusive to Xbox, I find myself constantly checking and downloading the new games they add to that library.

There are a lot of you out there reading this and are saying “ya, we know all this”, and I’m not hear trying to sell you an Xbox. I really just want to know one thing…….

How do YOU Xbox?

Please share in the comments. I’m genuinely interested in the different ways this console effects other people’s lives. Let me know how your Xbox is incorporated in your life, or if it is at all.

Injustice 2 Review – PS4/Xbox One

Every now and then, a piece of entertainment sneaks up on you and surprises you in a good way. While it’s hard to argue that Injustice 2 has snuck up on anyone, I personally wasn’t expecting to jump into the game until the crew here at PSVG kept talking about their excitement for it. I’m typically terrible at fighting games, and my knowledge of superheroes basically starts and stops with movies and games — I’d never heard of Blue Beetle or Firestorm, or Gorilla Grodd, prior to this game.

Thanks to others here at PSVG, and my enjoyment of the first game’s story mode, I decided to give Injustice 2 a try. I was smitten from the beginning.

Story Mode

The first thing you will notice is just how good this game looks. The cutscenes are amazing, and the fighting animations are fluid and fun to watch.

The story jumps right in with the destruction of Krypton from Super Girl’s point of view. The timeline jumps forward to a post Injustice: Gods Among Us world as Bruce Wayne and other DC superheroes are still dealing with the fallout of Superman’s evil ways. The story told in Injustice 2 is filled with twists and fun reveals and is a fun romp, if a bit dark.

Throughout the campaign, you fight as your favorite DC heroes, as well as some lesser known ones I loved (Blue Beetle) or hated (Firestorm). The central conflict of Batman’s philosophy versus Superman’s in dealing with criminals plays out amidst an alien invasion from Braniac and his followers.

The pacing as the story builds up to its final climactic battles is tremendous, and I grew far more attached to Harley Quinn, Black Canary and The Flash than I’ve ever been. The main story also has some inherent replayability, as many fights can be fought with one of two characters, and there are two vastly different conclusions to the game depending on a decision you make in the last chapter.

Welcome to the Multiverse

As much as I enjoyed the story, the Multiverse is what has pushed Injustice 2 over the top for me. Through the multiverse mode, you are given various ladders of enemies to fight while upping your characters’ experience and unlocking new gear and shaders.

As part of the PSVG Guild on PS4 — find us by searching this ID: XQN38 — I am working toward something as a larger part of a group. While I am still terrible playing online against other real people who know what they are doing, I can contribute and work toward various goals thanks to the Multiverse and Guilds.

Injustice 2 has a similar loop that has also hooked me in games like Diablo 3, Destiny and Overwatch. Play game, unlock loot boxes (here called Mother Boxes), open them, equip items and repeat. I love how my version of the Flash can look different from someone else’s, and have slightly different stats. I currently have a purple Flash, a white Batman, a Red Black Adam and more.

Final Thoughts

Although it wasn’t on my radar even a few weeks ago, I’ve absolutely loved my time with Injustice 2. The game does feel overwhelming to a fighting-game noob, as I still find it tough to string combos together. And as good as the story is, I could see the ending coming from a mile away — though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The currency system is also somewhat confusing, and there is a definite feeling of being pushed for microtransactions.

But the game is just plain fun to play, and I look forward to continuing to play it in the coming months.

What the rest of the PSVG Team Thinks:

Nathan:

I would not consider myself a fighting game fan, but when I saw the first Injustice I decided I wanted to try it. I really enjoyed it, just because of the story and the smooth gameplay. When Injustice 2 was announced, I already had a bit of built in hype from the first.

I purchased the Ultimate Edition, which comes with instant character skin unlocks for Power Girl, John Stewart Green Lantern, and Reverse Flash, as well as 2 sets of exclusive “shaders”, and the upcoming slate of nine downloadable characters. Safe to say, I went all in on this game! My purchase feels justified, as I write this, I have played over 20 hours on the Xbox One version of the game.

The combat feels right, the moves are not too complicated, and it just looks spectacular! I would say that it serves novice and experienced fighting genre gamer fans, as it is easy to learn, but harder to master. The story is fantastic, paired with absolutely stunning visuals in the cut scenes make you want to progress past each fight to find out what happens next, and find out which character you know from the comics will make an appearance! In my opinion, the story in this game is better than the recent DC movies, and superior to the story of Captain America: Civil War.

In all, this game is a must play. I’d recommend at least seeking out the stitched together cut scenes of the first game so you can understand the story going in. Past the story mode, the multiverse mode offers great arcade-type challenges, as well as character endings for each fighter in the Battle Simulator. As you play, you also unlock “Mother Boxes” which give you random gear for your fighters that adds to the unique experience you have. This customization lets you fight unique versions of characters in the Multiverse, as they are randomly given appearances. It really keeps things fresh and interesting! PLAY THIS GAME!

 

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Kyle H.:

Fighting games are the genre I wish I could wreck house in, but I usually just get wrecked. Despite that, I like jumping into fighting games as the thrill of the one versus one combat is something difficult to replicate in other games. Injustice 2 capitalizes on this sensation and throws in just about everything and the kitchen sink to keep you engaged.

The campaign is surprisingly robust, you can join in evolving multiverse events, participate in a guild to take on challenges as a group, unlock unique gear to customize your favorite combatants, oh, and you can also do traditional online competitive battles against other (almost always better) players.

Tight controls, slick visuals, and unique additions to traditional fighting games make Injustice 2 an easy game to recommend, even if you are not deeply knowledgeable about the DC comic universe.

There are a few drawbacks: the multiple types of in-game currency, expensive DLC characters, and a plethora of different loot crates you can earn (or purchase) all point to a game that is looking to squeeze every cent it can get out of you. If you are patient, there will likely be a “Game of the Year” addition in a year or so with everything in it at a far more reasonable price. However, if you can handle the cost, or are free from the compulsion to have every piece of content for a game, Injustice 2 is a fighting game that will punch its way into your heart.

Kevin:

With a storyline so good that the DCEU should pay attention and get these guys to write their movies, this is the most fun I’ve had with a fighting game since Smash Bros. Great roster with more coming down the pipeline, no character seems to be overpowered, it’s all about balance and knowing your opponent. Very deep online and gear mechanics, lots to do and keeping you coming back for a long time.  Good for strategists and button-mashers alike, a must have for any fighting game fan or super hero fan for that matter. Now if we can just get them to use some of the CW stuff. 

Injustice 2 was purchased and reviewed by the authors on the PS4 and Xbox One consoles. You can read additional information about PSVG’s  review policy..