Checkpoint: E3 2018 Edition

posted in: Editorials & Features | 0

E3 2018’s press conferences are finally over. I actually liked that the big publishers and platform holders got out of the way of each other and spread out a bit.

It gave me more time to digest it all and meant I was spending less time binging on the barrage of news and announcements that didn’t leak beforehand.

There were many leaks this year including one from Walmart Canada that spoiled so many publisher’s fun. It didn’t spoil my fun though, knowing a game’s existence isn’t the same as seeing the titles in action.

With that in mind, here are some thoughts I had on the press conferences that I watched since Saturday, June 9th.

I graded them with entertainment, news, and games shown in mind. Was it a fun watch? Despite leaks, did they shed light on anything interesting? Did they show games that I wanted to play?

Electronic Arts

Electronic Arts’ press conference was awkward. It was good to see Anthem in action but they took such a long time fluffing it up.

The Battlefield V was a looker but I have very little desire to revisit realistic World War II shooters like Battlefield V or Call of Duty: WW2. Maybe I’ll give it a go when a multiplayer beta hits but as of right now? It’s a non-starter for me.

No one is expecting Electronic Arts to make a real-time strategy game in 2018. So what can EA do? A MOBA? They tried in 2014 with Dawngate. So seeing Command & Conquer Rivals in action makes a lot of sense to me and it was the big surprise coming out of EA’s event. And that’s disappointing.

The reveal of Origin Access Premier and a peculiar interview with Vince Zampella about his team’s upcoming Star Wars game does not make up for the fact that EA’s offerings were poor this year.

D-

Microsoft

Microsoft brought it this year. They’ve been refining their formula for the last couple of E3’s but I felt they nailed it when came to reassuring people that Microsoft is committed to the Xbox brand. I don’t know if announcing sequels to familiar first party properties is enough to sell people on the idea of buying an Xbox One but their future looks brighter with their recent studio acquisitions.

But if you ignore hardware sales angle and focus on reasons to subscribe to Xbox Game Pass, I think Microsoft did a bang up job.

Forza Horizon 4 looks like a spiritual successor to Test Drive Unlimited which is very intriguing. Gears 5 looks to continue the strong start of Gears 4. Crackdown 3 looks like dumb fun. And Ori and the Will of the Wisps is shaping up to be a fantastic sequel to one of my favorite games of the generation.

There will be another Halo game named Halo: Infinite. Not much else to say about that trailer besides that it looks pretty. Gears Tactics (title pending) looks like a match made in heaven; combining Gears of War with XCOM style gameplay sounds phenomenal.

Although they weren’t exclusives, the reveal of Devil May Cry 5, Cyberpunk 2077, The Division 2 and longer looks at titles like Kingdom Hearts III made for a very entertaining showcase.

They showed games and lots of them!

A

Bethesda

Bethesda sold me on RAGE 2 which I didn’t think was possible after the weird reveal. Did we need another post-apocalyptic title? Well, it turns out the answer is “yes” if they’re invoking the frantic pace of Doom (2016).

Teasing the existence of Doom: Eternal was welcomed and so was the reveal that they’re bringing out more Wolfenstein content with Wolfenstein: Young Blood. They also reminded me that I haven’t played Wolfenstein: The New Colossus yet which is shameful of me.

I doubt I’ll pick up Fallout 76 but seeing it in action was interesting. Were they going to ape other survival games? How much “traditional” Fallout are we going to see in this? It’s not going to be just another Fallout game which is intriguing for me but it may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

The super early teasers for Bethesda Game Studio’s upcoming projects: Starfield and The Elder Scrolls VI were a bit awkward. They sound very far off and I’m not sure why they needed to tease both of those titles so early.

C+

Ubisoft

Ubisoft knew how to have fun with their dance number for Just Dance. I thought that was a fun way to acknowledge that game’s existence.

I don’t know what to make of the Beyond Good & Evil 2 trailer. The CG trailer looks like a sales pitch to recruit the community to help generate assets for the game. I want to know how those assets are going to be used and if there’s a worthwhile game in there.

The Division 2 and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey are known quantities. They look like newer and shinier versions of the games you may or may not like. I’m partial to The Division so more of it is okay with me. AC:O looks very pretty. Almost enough to entice me back.

I like seeing games continue receiving support but after Bethesda’s showcase, I was growing tired of seeing games I don’t play being trotted out again. I can’t say I’m particularly fond of seeing repeat appearances for games I like.

C

Square Enix

Speaking of known quantities, here’s Square-Enix showing off Kingdom Hearts III again. Little did we know, there would be three trailers shown across three press conferences. (Microsoft, Square, and Sony). I am not against this game but that’s a lot.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider looks like more of the same and since I haven’t even played Rise of the Tomb Raider yet, I don’t know if I want that. She looked like a ruthless killer though and a far cry from that reluctant heroine from Tomb Raider (2013).

Dragon Quest XI looks very pretty and it would be on my list of games to pre-order but I just started Dragon Quest VIII and barely put a dent in it.

Square Enix showed a lot of known quantities and while some resonated with me, I just didn’t see why they waited until E3 to reveal these.

C-

Sony

I missed the first half hour of Sony’s which meant I missed The Last of Us: Part II. That’s fine because I don’t need to be convinced to buy that game. I was already sold. Just like I was more or less already sold on Spider-man.

Ghosts of Tsushima was the big reveal and I thought Sucker Punch did one hell of a job with that demo. I was impressed with the reveal but I’m curious how it plays.

Death Stranding was weird and I’m sure it will abide with some internal logic that Kojima stitched together. I just hope this game is more than celebrity guest stars doing weird things.

Seeing Resident Evil 2 remake in action was eye opening because of how much effort Capcom is putting into this and seemingly nailing it.

Remedy Games are making another time manipulation third person shooter but this time it stars a red haired woman. I’m in. It reminds me of Quantum Break (which I haven’t played yet) but without all the bad TV science fiction.

In many ways, Sony followed Microsoft’s event but instead of showing new installment to the same old franchises. They showed off more of the same game that we’ve already seen. Death Stranding is just as weird as when we saw it last year. The Last of Us: Part II is still the Last of Us. And Spider-man is still Spider-man. They showed well and I will likely play them all but they’re still known quantities.

B-

Nintendo

Nintendo was the most disappointing only because it looks like their software lineup looks barren compared to last year’s. A new Fire Emblem, Super Mario Party, and another Smash Brothers with every single character should be enough for most folks but they’re not Super Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild.

Spending so much time on Smash Bros. Ultimate was exhausting. I can appreciate the changes they made but I don’t play Smash Bros. often enough to even notice. It seems like they were pitching to a very specific demographic of the Smash fanbase and that’s just a very weird thing to do on the “big stage”.

I will likely pick up Super Mario Party just to have a nice party game. And the same with Smash Bros. Ultimate but their lineup so far feels lacking from a first party perspective.

On the plus side, the release of Fortnite on Switch did out Sony for being scum bags on cross play.

C

A Decent E3

It was a decent showing as far as the press conferences are concerned. Lots of promising titles on the horizon and many of them debuting early next year. I doubt I will have time play all of them but this is a good problem to have.

Dragon’s Crown Pro Review

posted in: Editorials & Features | 0

I try to finish the games I start. I really do. It may take me a while to do so but I try to watch the credits roll on all the games I start. Every once in a while, a game like Vanillaware’s Dragon’s Crown Pro comes a long and just bounces off me. No matter how hard I try, there’s a sensation of dread when playing these games. It doesn’t appear immediately but it eventually seeps in and I just want to stop playing.

I tend to find Vanillaware games to be lookers and generally pleasant on the eyes. Most of Dragon’s Crown is appealing but a sizeable chunk of it was decidedly not. I would go as far as to describe these parts of the game grotesque. I’ve seen my share of questionable boob physics in my day but Dragon’s Crown depictions are just off-putting. I caught glimpses of the eclectic exaggerations in Odin Sphere but Dragon’s Crown took it to a whole new level. I just didn’t like how they portrayed humans in this game. Somebody should have reigned in the boob and muscle sliders. I’m fine with larger than life characters once in a while but this was too much.

Of the six available, I chose the most normal looking class: the elf and her trusty bow. By the third mission, I was already growing bored of her skillset. Compared to the sorceress and other classes, the elf was tame. Her moves weren’t flashy or bombastic. I felt that because she was a normal looking class, her skills reflected that. The other classes were given flashier spells that buried the poor elf’s arrows with an avalanche of special effects. I found having to scrounge up arrows to be especially tedious when other classes could just stand in place a recharge.

I am an optimist so I didn’t let my relatively boring class choice deter me from pushing forward. I was curious what each new level would bring. It turns out, I was moving from locale to locale slaying enemies, collecting loot, and vanquishing bosses. What I didn’t expect was that I would be forced to revisit those locales again, and again, and again. I have no problems revisiting locations but to revisit them so soon, and so frequently was too much of an ask. I needed to grind out quests and run through the same levels and scenarios that were presented to me the first time around. I think it would have been easier to accept retreading the same levels again if I didn’t have to go through the exact same motions. Dodging lava waves is silly the first time around, but having to repeat it is too much of an exercise in patience for me. 

I would have felt a greater connection to the loot grind if it didn’t feel like busy work. I felt like I was going through the motions to stay competitive. The armor or weapon selections didn’t yield visual changes neither so it was very apparent that I was going through the motions to make the numbers bigger. 

I would have tolerated all the above if the moment to moment gameplay was exciting but it wasn’t. I don’t like how the characters moved on screen. I felt their movements felt stiff and awkward while shifting up and down the plane. I would have preferred if they stuck to the fixed 2D plane like in Odin Sphere. Glimpses of fun juggles and attacks could puffed up here and there but my class wasn’t meant to deal high flying action from the get go so I was limited. I felt like I was flying and free in Odin Sphere. I felt the exact opposite with Dragon’s Crown. 

I don’t know who thought it would be a good idea to interact with the background with a cursor but I cannot think of a more jarring and disconnected feature. It was like someone saw all the beautiful backgrounds and was convinced that people should spend time pixel hunting. Thankfully it’s largely optional. 

I tried playing this game via co-op with my girlfriend but she lost interest rather quickly. I don’t blame her. I stuck around until my character reached level 16 and the game “opened up” but I didn’t see anything worth drawing either of us back. It’s a shame. On paper this sounds like a fun romp but, in reality, I cannot think of a game that actively repelled me away from it..

Verdict:
I don’t like it

Ratings Guide

Checkpoint: Enemy Within Edition

posted in: Editorials & Features | 0

It’s been quite some time since I’ve sat down and dished out some random thoughts/updates. This is what happens when life gets in the way huh? No I haven’t just been spending time doing couple activities; I’ve actually just been spending more time playing video games with the girlfriend. 

I watched her play through all of XCOM: Enemy Within after being inspired by GiantBomb’s The Exquisite Corps series. She never played a strategy game like this before so it was interesting to watch her figure it out and grow attached to the soldiers she recruited along the way. She too realized the overpowered nature of snipers in the game. We played it on normal difficulty and left Ironman mode on which made losses on the battlefield more entertaining to watch from my perspective. Like most new players, there was a lot of recklessness early on. 50% probability to hit? Those were good odds to her. However, by the time we reached the latter stages of the game, she was hemming and hawing over 70% hit probabilities and constantly worried about being flanked. 

I had forgotten how buggy and unstable this game was. Between the glitches that I witnessed in our playthrough and on The Exquisite Corps, XCOM: Enemy Within crashed or glitched about a dozen times. That’s not how I remember it at all. But if this is how the game actually was, it’s no wonder XCOM 2 was a bit of a mess when it debuted.

I don’t know what I’m going to introduce to her next but it’ll be something she’s never played before and hopefully, we have just as much fun playing through it.

LTTP: Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Campaign Review (PS4)

posted in: Reviews | 0

I gave Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty titles a couple of chances after the studio’s implosion in 2010. The single player campaigns in Modern Warfare 3 and Ghosts failed to garner any lasting impression but Infinity Ward’s output continues to intrigue me. Although I initially passed on Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare for its lacking multiplayer, the glowing impressions from its single player kept reborn Infinity Ward’s third game in the back of my mind. So a year and a deep discount later, I finally saw what the fuss was about. Infinite Warfare is one of the best Call of Duty campaigns – I might go as far as to say it’s Infinity Ward’s best work since Modern Warfare.

The tale told in Infinite Warfare was a tale as old as the USMC we know today – but now it’s told in space. It’s not going to surprise anyone to discover Martian born colonists are upset at Terrans. Faithful fans of the series should not be shocked to see playable protagonists and regular NPCs perish. The shock comes from how these Call of Duty studios build up to those moments and for the first time in a long time, I felt Infinite Warfare put in an effort to earn its fatal moments. They invested more time giving side characters screen time and roles throughout the game. I started to realize the crew around me were sticking around for more than a few missions which gave their inevitable demise some weight. I knew the good guys were going to win, I wasn’t surprised by Reyes’ sacrifice, but I wasn’t sure how it was all going to go down.

They put Mass Effect in my Call of Duty. I loved the ability to choose my next mission and explore the little bit of the ship available. I could progress from story mission to story mission but I wouldn’t be getting the added perks/upgrades from completing side missions. I also wouldn’t be taking down all the most wanted SDF “scum” laid out on the whiteboard in Reyes’ quarters.

The actual moment to moment game found in Infinite Warfare is well worn territory. I still find it entertaining in spurts and the gadgets and twists added in this release add enough of a wrinkle to differentiate itself from its brethren in the franchise. Pretenders have come and gone but nobody does bombastic campaigns like the Call of Duty franchise.

I did find this campaign a lot more terrifying than other games primarily because of the setting. Space is terrifying. Being sucked out into the darkness of space is unsettling enough but seeing countless others and Reyes himself struggle with retaining oxygen within their spacesuits was enough of a reminder that space is frighteningly dangerous. I found the moment when they decided to breach and clear the bridge of an SDF carrier to be especially cruel. I may have been playing as the “good guys” but these people are ruthless.

I really appreciated the time they took to transition between different facets of a mission. The take off and landing sequence bookending each dogfight was a grounding touch that I enjoyed despite the fact that it was easy. Details like this brought me into their universe and any game that spends time balancing ridiculous action with the mundane deserves praise in my books.

I also have to give a nod to their use of guest stars. While I didn’t find it as captivating as Spacey’s performance in Advanced Warfare, I did find Kit Harrington’s performance to be solid. I even thought the inclusion of Lewis Hamilton in a minor bit role cute. Colin McGregor slotted in his minor role surprisingly well. In fact, I think his was the most natural – perhaps it’s due to the fact that these games tend to feature a lot of roles for angry Caucasians.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare gave me a glimpse at a very plausible future for humans. Old stories and conflicts will undoubtedly repeat themselves once humans stretch out across our solar system and beyond. While I would like to imagine a Mass Effect or Star Trek styled future, the reality is that we’ll likely still be firing bullets at one another in vacuum of space. But unlike Infinite Warfare, I doubt reality will be anywhere as pretty as Infinity Ward envisioned though.

 

Verdict:
I liked it

Ratings Guide

1 2 3 4 677