Game of the Year 2018 Day 3 of 3

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  1. God of War
  2. Astro Bot: Rescue Mission
  3. Marvel’s Spider-man
  4. Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII
  5. Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee
  6. Yakuza 6
  7. Forza Horizon 4
  8. Dragon Ball FighterZ
  9. Monster Hunter World
  10. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

How many franchises can pull these kinds of drastic changes between games? God of War’s formula was working. It was getting stale but it was working. Sony and Santa Monica Studio didn’t have to shake things up but they did, it worked, and I loved it. 

Astro Bot: Rescue Mission sold me on PlayStation VR. It was a fantastic fusion of 3D platforming and virtual reality gimmicks. By the end of it, I felt it validated my purchase of the PlayStation VR. 

Marvel’s Spider-man is easily the best Spider-man and rivals some of the best superhero games of all time. It’s also my favorite adaptation of Spider-man and that includes the movies. 

I didn’t buy a Call of Duty title since Call of Duty: Black Ops III. I initially skipped the two Call of Duty games that featured single player campaigns. I eventually picked up Infinite Warfare on sale for it’s campaign but I realized that I was just here for the multiplayer component. And it’s worth it. 

The Kanto region has never looked as good as it did in Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee. It’s the ideal blend of old and new. 

Yakuza 6 did right by Kiryu Kazuma. Coming from the heights of Yakuza 0 was never going to be easy but this grizzled yakuza still managed to entertain despite the age.  

Forza Horizon 4 was my first foray into the Forza spin-off and I had a great time. I didn’t see it until the end but I still enjoyed what I played. I’m not the biggest fan of open world racers but Forza Horizon 4 won me over. 

Dragon Ball FighterZ was a childhood dream come true. I just wished I dreamt of solid single player and online modes as well.  

Monster Hunter World showed there’s a lot to like about this long running franchise. Capcom built a solid foundation for the future and I look forward to the sequel that allows me to play co-op without jumping through cumbersome hoops. 

There’s a lot of love of video game history in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. I have yet to sink my teeth into it but what I tasted was enough to keep me wanting. 

Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII PS4 Review

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I took a two year break on Call of Duty multiplayer. I enjoyed Treyarch’s Call of Duty: Black Ops III and didn’t see the need to play Infinity Ward’s take on that formula. As much as I enjoyed Sledgehammer Games work with Advanced Warfare, I just didn’t find the idea of revisiting World War 2 appealing. Now I’m back into the thick of it with Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII. 

I normally would split these Call of Duty reviews into multiplayer and campaign reviews but I don’t have to for this year’s installment. Black Ops IIII doesn’t have a campaign and while it’s a bit of a bummer, my confidence in Treyarch to deliver a fantastic campaign was shaken after their last outing.  

Black Ops IIII was multiplayer centric but it still has three pillars including classic multiplayer shenanigans the series is known for. I spent most of my time with in this mode which feels good to play. It’s reminiscent of Black Ops III’s multiplayer sans wall running. The “story justification” for the regression was that this game takes place before Black Ops III. If I cared enough about the story, I could go into the Specialist missions and play through some matches with A.I bots to unlock cutscenes.  

I have little to no interest in that. I also have very little interest in the Zombies mode and the brand new Blackout mode. I’ve tried Zombie modes for years now and I just don’t enjoy them. I tried Treyarch’s Blackout mode but I just don’t think I like battle royale games regardless of how it plays. I just don’t like how these modes have relatively long match times compared to the traditional multiplayer.  

I keep coming back to the multiplayer trying to improve and learning to love Nuketown after all this time. (I find it okay now) The regular shuffle and mixing of featured playlists kept multiplayer relatively fresh. I personally love the Kill Confirmed and Team Deathmatch Mercenary playlists when I’m playing solo.  

I found the spawning and maps in this game solid. The number of times that I’ve spawn into an instant death is so few and far between now. The maps seem varied and flowed very well. Scorestreaks did not dominate their overwhelming firepower unless a match was already completely lopsided. In fact, the number of close matches that I’ve experienced in the Mercenary playlists should be a mark of pride for Treyarch’s matchmaking.  

The introduction of manual healing added much needed nuance to the flow of Call of Duty combat. Couple that with the slight bump in health, firefights feel like it’s more than just who shot first. Tactical retreats have never been this viable before. After I’m wounded, I can now flea heal up quickly and not need to spend time waiting for my life to eventually regenerate. Knowing that a person can be doing the same, I can rush them down and catch them mid-heal. That is if they didn’t choose to use the faster heal equipment. Making healing a tactical decision was brilliant.  

Here’s an unpleasant realization that struck me immediately after my first match: Black Ops IIII was an ugly game. I found this game’s visuals stylistically and technically ugly. I felt every single asset (except for the guns) sported some very muddy textures and some of the most lame character designs to date. I think the guns are the only things that I didn’t have issue with. On top of the built-in shortcomings, users are putting together some of the most garish and gross design combinations on these character models. This is such a far cry from the relative realism of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. I don’t blame Treyarch for enabling personalization (it probably leads to people spending money) but it just kills any semblance of narrative cohesion.  

The audio mixing seems to require headphones to appreciate because on my surround sound system, it is very poor. Unless it’s a gunshot hitting something, I cannot distinguish what’s going on. Even more disappointing? Black Ops IIII’s menu music which is probably the weakest selection to date for Treyarch. I miss Adrenaline (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGLYpYoXkWw) and Ignition (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5NxjraldwE). 

Unlock weapons, build classes, string a series of scores together to unleash annoyances, rinse, and repeat. On paper, this loop was like any other Call of Duty title but this one is thematically relevant to my interests. Treyarch created a very refined version of their Black Ops formula. They’ve given people what they want in a variety of ways and while I may not partake with the Zombies or Blackout modes, the multiplayer itself was more than enough to justify the price of admission for my brother and I. It’s good to be back. 

Verdict:
I liked it 

Ratings Guide

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

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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

Game of the Year 2015 Day 2 of 3

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You can tell it’s a good year for games when I have more difficulty whittling down my list of surprises than my list of disappointments. I even had to cheat a bit and cut Black Ops III in half in order to give my list of disappointments three nominees.

Most Disappointing Game of 2015

Winner: Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture

Everybody's Gone to the Rapture Box Art Logo

Dear Esther was one of my first forays into the “Walking simulator” genres. It was beautiful, fascinating and I felt encouraged to explore a space. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture seemed to following down the same path as Dear Esther but it became the deliberately slow movement speed and ugly performance issues ballooned to the point where I just didn’t care if I finished it or not.

The plodding movement speed ran against the exploratory nature of the game which is insane when that’s the only means of interaction.

Call of Duty: Black Ops III’s campaign was a significant step down from Black Ops II’s which was surprise considering Treyarch’s track record. However, I wasn’t as bummed out by it as others because I played it in a co-operative setting.

As for Xenoblade Chronicles 3D? It’s my fault for even buying this game. I knew it had MMORPG trappings but I felt compelled to buy a New Nintendo 3DS game after picking up the refreshed handheld earlier this year. The surrounding praise didn’t help but I should have known better. I’m more disappointed at myself than the game, really.

Runner ups: Call of Duty: Black Ops III (Campaign), Xenoblade Chronicles 3D

Most of Surprising Game of 2015

Winner: Rocket League

Rocket League Box Art Logo

Soccer with cars. I heard rumblings about Super Acrobatic Rocket Powered Cars being a fun game I didn’t bother pursuing it. Rocket League was given away through the PlayStation Plus Instant Game Collection and if it wasn’t for the slowish summer season and the fact that it was “free”, I may have missed out on this simple and incredibly deep game. It’s a game that comes closest to matching the spirt of soccer. I wasn’t controlling a player who manipulated the ball based on his dribbling ability, I used a car and exerted force to manipulate the ball; it was my skill (or lack thereof) that determined if I scored, how well I blocked, how accurate I passed or how fast I dribbled a ball. It was both frustrating and satisfying.

Hitman: Sniper looked like the myriad of other Silent Scope knockoffs on iOS but since it was Square Enix Montreal, I gave it a try and discovered a surprising amount of depth and challenge. I even made my way onto the top 100 or so.

I didn’t think Life is Strange was my kind of game but what did I know? It didn’t matter if it starred high school girls, a heartfelt story was great no matter what.

Runner ups: Hitman: Sniper, Life is Strange

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