Tag: Video Games

Hey there everybody!

Man, it’s been a while. Hard to believe it is already June. The year truly has flown by.

I figured I would throw together a post to give a bit of an update on where we are at and where we are going.

Bad news is that there has been such a long break. Ultimately, I have had a ton of things going on with work and the personal life and for lack of a better term motivational issues have limited production on the various projects I’m working on with this blog.

The good news? I plan for that to end right now! So here is the plan for the various aspects of this site so you all have an idea.

Long Distance Drinking: Will continue on as it has been going. This really has been the only thing that hasn’t dragged to a halt. The goal is to get it to release on a more regular, every-other-week schedule, preferrably on Tuesdays. We have a few ideas that we are going to be messing around with on the cast, so as always, let us know what you think!

GOON Gamecast: It has been a long while for this hasn’t it… Well, Game On Oblivous Noobs, because we are getting back in action this month. We have one veeeerrrrrryyyy old episode that has our in-depth review of Rogue Legacy. The goal for that is for it to be live in the next week and a half (aiming for June 7). At that point, GOON as you knew it will be complete…

The New GOON Gamecast: Given the long wait between episodes, we wanted to get things moving with the podcast and have revamped it a bit. We are aiming less for the marathon sessions of some of the previous episodes and settling in on approximately 1 to 1.5 hour episodes with a bit more of a traditional set of segments. The goal is to also hit a every-other-week schedule for releases, either on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. We’re aiming for Episode 1 to be out shortly after the Rogue Legacy episode (it is already recorded, just need to get the beast out of the way). It will still include Tom, Lance and myself, so no worries there. Just a streamlined focus to the shows from our initial aims.

Videogame Posts: One of the biggest struggles I have had was finding a structure for how to write about the various games I’m playing. Coupling this with my huge gaming back-log, I ended up coming up with an idea. My focus each month will be playing through games on my back-log, focusing on working through games of the same series each month. So, starting with June, I am playing through the Borderlands series. So, there will be at least one post a week (aiming for two) that will be relating specifically to the things I am seeing in games from that series. Aside from that, there will also be posts of other random things I am playing too if I get a good idea.

Tabletop Game Posts: There has been a lot happening with Tabletop gaming recently… My goal is to put up a post a week about a topic that strikes me on those. I am aiming for Wednesdays or Thursdays with these posts. Plan on the next few to be about the Warhammer Fantasy new edition on its way and my thoughts or speculation about it. I am also hoping sometime in the future to do some video content of various tabletop gaming topics and those will be shared here as well.

Movie and TV Show Posts: These will probably be a bit fewer and further between. Similar to before, I am planning on throwing out my instant opinions if a movie really strikes me. Then, I will see what other topics or ideas I find interesting with that and write about it about once a month.

June may be a bit of a struggle, but I’m really hoping to get more stuff written and out there. There will be some rough edges on the posts, but if I’m going to be looking at getting a quantity of things posted, there will be a few errors here or there. Similar to terrorism, if you see something, say something and I’ll fix it.

Also, if there are any ideas you want me to weigh in on, just throw it out there. I am also sure Tom will be throwing some posts up from time-to-time as well to get things out there.

So, I hope I can get more stuff out there moving forward and utilize this space much more effectively. There are a lot of things I know that I want to do past what we are talking about, but this is the baby steps to get in that direction.

Cheers!
Joe Burns “Hobby Box” Burns

Welcome back drinking buddies!

It is upon us yet again, another Trailerpalooza! Even with Brent on location in Hot-lanta for work, we discuss the most recent reveals of information and how we feel about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic World, Terminator: Genysis, Fantastic Four, and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

We also discuss the new pictures of Jared Leto’s Joker from Suicide Squad. Plus, we get into a bit of a talk about WWE vs. WCW in the late 90s and early 2000s, the Nepal Avalanche and David Hasselhoff’s new song True Survivor from the movie Kung Fury.

But, most importantly, Burns does a double-book-end of Coors Banquet Beer and Shiner’s Birthday Beer. And the guys drink and drink some more! Prost, clink ’em and drink ’em and join us for more Long Distance Drinking! P.S. – Apologies for some slight audio volume issues in the very beginning of the show, it goes away by the 10 minute mark.

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Game on!

After a bit of an editing hiatus (sorry about that), we are back at it! Over our summer vacation, we had the first opportunity ever to get together as an entire GOON group and play some games, so we played a bunch of board games!

Many games were played – those we discuss on this episode is Deadwood by Fantasy Flight Games, Tokaido from Passport Game Studios, Boss Monster by Brotherwise Games and Battlestar Gallactica from Fantasy Flight Games.

We also discuss what we’ve been playing for video games, as well as preview our next game for the Gamecast, Rogue Legacy.

Also, we’re having a… SHOW NOTES CONTEST! If you’re reading this, you can win! Just email gameongoons@gmail.com with what games and/or TV Shows each of our five break music songs are from/referencing (the last one is a tad tricky). First person to guess correctly gets a free month of PS Plus! (more…)

***WARNING***
This episode contains complete spoilers of the end of South Park: The Stick of Truth

Game On, Oblivious Noobs!

We’ve finished the game and oh what an experience it was! Listen to us break down the final day of South Park: The Stick of Truth in all of its glory. We each also give our reviews of the game and let you know whether you should Buy it, Skip it, or Rent it! And we have a few laughs along the way, as always…

Sorry for the delay! Summer vacations and hectic work schedules affected the time and sanity needed to complete the editing process. But it’s here so enjoy!

No matter what, join us in our discussion of the game in this final part of our three episode arc.
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***WARNING***
This episode contains complete spoilers of the first half of South Park: The Stick of Truth.

Game On, Oblivious Noobs!

We’re back and deep into our playthrough of South Park: The Stick of Truth! Listen to the gamecast to find out our thoughts on all of the trials and travails in the middle portion of the game. Plus, we discuss what our summons would be if the kids could call on us in battle!

So join us in discussing what happened and our thoughts on where the game is going as we continue to delve almost as deep into the game as our enemies do into Mr. Slave’s ass!
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Game On, Oblivious Noobs!

We’re off-topic once again as we wanted to finish up our thoughts on E3 and then discuss the Destiny First-Look Alpha that happened right before that!

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Game On, Oblivous Noobs!

Welcome to Episode #3 of the Gamecast!

This time, we’re off-topic, discussing our gaming consoles and why we have them along with why we don’t own the other consoles.

Then, that branches into a larger discussion about Nintendo – what we think about them and if we believe they are in trouble and need to try to right the ship in some way.

We also talk about the games we have been playing as of late and we also listen to some listener email!

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Every now and again, a person has that moment of clarity where they recognize how truly blessed they are. Everything combines to formulate a feeling of euphoria that excites and exhilarates.

The past fortnight (and then some) has been one of those times, especially when it comes to video games. I have played a few games that have re-kindled my excitement for video gaming. On top of that, E3 has gotten me truly excited for a couple of games on the horizon that have me stoked.

So, I felt it best to go through this fortnight of gaming euphoria (including one non-video game item) that made it such a memorable time period!

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After walking through the nine best games of the year that I haven’t played yesterday, today we’ll jump back into one of my favorite games of the year (even though it came out last year). Coming back down from the cosmos, we find ourselves entering a lawless world where violence is the name of the day and success means you’ve found a rarer, more elaborate gun in…

Game #10

Borderlands 2 is one of the most fun and action splattered first-person shooter games that has ever been made. It advances the scope of the original game by taking everything and ramping it up another few notches, including the action, the difficulty and especially the humor.

Whereas Gearbox Studios’ original title in the franchise introduced us to the world of Pandora and the lawless, wild west nature of the world, the sequel brings us into the gold-rush, with vault hunters scouring the planet and battling each other to find the biggest vaults and all of the treasures within.

One of the first innovations you will uncover in this game is the change-up of the four main character classes in the game. Whereas the first game created character classes with the basic sniper, heavy support and other typical online game classifications, Borderlands 2 takes the classes and develops them a bit. The focus seems to be on making it so character classes aren’t tied to specific types of guns as much as ways to play the game based upon their special class ability.

The characters you play aren’t the only thing that have abilities – the guns you find throughout the game also add special effects you can utilize at the right times to get you through some of the more difficult battles.

And there are plenty of difficult gunfights, early and often. I hadn’t played the game more than five minutes and I was  struggling to take down a group of baddies. We quickly learned that we couldn’t play the game the same way as the beginning of the last game. And after only two of those battles, you also learn that ammo is scarce and needs to be managed well to succeed in the game.

You may have noticed that I mentioned “we” there. That is because Borderlands 2, similar to the previous game, is best experienced in co-operative (co-op) play with one to three extra players joining you in the mayhem. Journeying with just a second player to assist makes Pandora that much more interesting and exciting. And unlike other FPS games, the experience with co-op is seamless with the single player action, not some tacked-on mode that is not as in-depth as the main game.

Ultimately, I have only played about four hours of the game so far, so there is still much more of the world of Pandora for me to discover. But, I can already tell that the game is a much more enjoyable and rewarding game than its predecessor. I am definitely looking forward to journeying through with some friends and taking out wave after wave of psychos with my exploding-bullet loaded assault rifle.

Have you played Borderlands 2? If so, let me know if your experience is similar to mine. Also, let me know what character class you enjoy the most and why.

Where to Buy

Borderlands 2 can be found pretty much anywhere for about $25 – $30. It is available on the PC, XBox 360 and PS3. Currently, for the month of December, Borderlands 2 can be downloaded for free for all PlayStation Plus members, which is well worth the subscription cost alone.

The game is also available for 75% off, including all downloadable content on Steam for the holiday sale (thanks for the heads-up Dale).

Sticking with the space theme of the past two days, today we move on to the war for survival and salvation in one of my favorite games of the year:

Game #8

The key to great game design is creating a game that is simple enough in concept, allowing the player to  just jump in and play while still being complex enough to keep them interested, immersed and coming back for more. Sony second-party developer Housemarque, with games like Super Stardust and Dead Nation, has proven their design mettle.

Resogun is a remarkable example of old school game design, throwing storytelling out the window, choosing to players into the action, giving them incentives to push deeper into the game. It is no surprise that this “little” indie game is widely regarded as one of the best games available on next-generation consoles.

Resogun is all about gameplay. All you get for a plot is an annoucement, delivered through the speaker on the DualShock 4 controller, to “Save the last humans” at the beginning of each level. In this day and age, this may seem like this is a key mistake.

Things can get pretty hairy pretty fast

But it is quickly realized what Housemarque’s goal is: make a gameplay experience that is fun and difficult and let nothing get in the way of that.

The first time I loaded up the game, I looked around at the options and thought to myself, “is this really all that there is in this game?” There are three different ships to pilot through five worlds. And that is it; there are no secret levels and no unlockable extras.

Starting playing with the average ship on the first world on easy difficult, the game seems simple enough. Use the left stick to maneuver the ship and the right stick to shoot. Going through the level, text overlays explain the other special functions – boost, overdrive and bombs – that the ship has.

The waves of enemies keep scrolling from left and right at you, creating some basic, but fun, gameplay, hearkening back to arcade classics like Defender and Galaga, only with vibrant and crisp graphics and a frantic frame rate that never stutters one bit. This is what distinctly defines it as a next generation game; there is no way the PS3 could handle the amount of action and enemies occurring on screen without melting down its innards.

Getting to the end of the first world, I face a boss and easily figure out, thanks to onscreen clues, how to defeat it. Sounds totally simple.

The first boss battle

But continuing forward, the difficult ramps up, leading to the fifth and final world where, even on “easy” difficulty, it is a challenge to complete without losing all of your lives. Finishing the game, the player starts to think, “is that it? That can’t be everything that the critics are raving about?”

But, that is where Housemarque’s skill in giving nuggets of motivation to players reveals itself. Having beaten the game, as in those classic arcade games mentioned previously, you see your high score and how it compares to the top of the leaderboard and your friends for that difficulty level. Incentive number one to play through again.

The level select screen deftly displays the high score list, taunting you to do better.

Incentive number two is trophies, where a nice balance is struck between trying cool things – like juggling humans to try to save two in one second – up to more game maximization based incentives – saving all humans in the different worlds or beating the game on each difficult level – pushes players back into the game.

Speaking of saving the humans, this also becomes a motivator. There were many times where finishing a level, I would notice that I missed saving the a couple of humans. Saving all humans, other than unlocking trophies, also helps to boost your score. This pushes you to go back through, focusing on which keepers release which humans and trying to save them before abduction or death. Saving each human also gives you an instant bonus, from an extra life or bomb to boosting your overdrive, which then helps continue deeper into the game.

Starting the game at another difficulty ramps the action up even more. Finishing the fifth world on easy is harder than all subsequent worlds, but jumping into the first world on intermediate ends up building upon that difficulty.

If one gripe could be made, it is that the game does become ridiculously hard. The fifth world on the second of four difficulty levels is an insanely difficult challenge, especially with the end boss, which is near impossible to beat without losing at least one life, if not all of them.

But this ramping  of difficulty pushes you forward and alongside the high score rankings, makes you want to go through again and again to topple all of your friends or everyone else in the world.

The last piece of the puzzle are the different ships. There are three different ships to choose from and you will find that each one changes the strategy used to go through the game and how best to complete the objectives at hand. One is more nimble and has some auto-locking lasers, while another ends up being more of a gunship, using high powered weapons to destroy more foes in less shots. But, playing through the game with each of the ships ends up being a different experience and challenge.

As you progress through the levels, power-ups add more laser streams and other add-ons to each ships weaponry. And you will need these advances to combat the difficulty moving through the game. If there is one opportunity that the developer missed out on, it would be allowing you to control or customize the weapons or creating power-ups that changed the way the ship fired for the time being. This change could have helped to add a little bit more variety and personalization into the game.

As you can see, what starts off as a very simple concept and gameplay experience evolves the more you play into a frantic shoot ’em up, forcing the gamer to think about multiple things while playing through the level. This fully immerses him/her into the gaming experience unlike almost any other game out there today. It may only take a bit over an hour on the first play through, but with the number of variations and difficulty levels, as well as the outside motivation of high scores and trophies, it is very easy to spend fifteen hours or more.

Too many games these days get themselves lost in their own convoluted storylines or fall down a rabbit hole of control issues or frustrating gameplay sequences. Keeping it simple but including layers of immersion is what makes Resogun a fulfilling experience as well as one of the best games of the year.

Rating: Six Stars out of Seven – Great

What are your thoughts on Resogun? Did you enjoy it as much as I did? Let me know in the comments below.

Where to Buy

Resogun is a PlayStation 4 exclusive game and can be purchased for $15 on the PlayStation Store. Resogun is also currently free for PlayStation Plus subscribers, so you have no excuse to not download it and play it right now if you own a PS4!

Today’s iteration of the 12 Days of Christmas will stay in the stars. Although it has been in beta for three years, today’s game is one of the most ambitious and technical games I’ve played in a long time. So, without further ado…

Game #7

On December 13, Kerbal Space Program celebrated its 3 year anniversary of being released to the public in its beta stage. The game is still in beta.

In many instances, this would be a giant red flag; in the case of Kerbal, one of the more ambitious games in recent history, all one needs to do is play it to find that entirely acceptable.

Kerbal Space Program‘s goal: to be a realistic simulation of rocket science while remaining fun and accessible at the same time. Kerbal has developed a decent-sized cult following among hardcore PC gamers. I must admit, I haven’t sprung for the beta as of yet, but after playing the demo, I can see why folks are flocking to this game.

In the game, you are tasked with running the space program for the planet Kerbal. Your first goal: landing on the Mun. In the Demo, you only have access to building fairly simple rockets, but within the purchased beta, you are able to run all aspects, science and development, construction, flight and consistent operations of the space program.

At its core, Kerbal is a variation of a sandbox game. Whereas true sandbox games, like Minecraft, give you a sandbox to build, explore and play in, Kerbal gives you all of the tools needed to build spaceships – you just need to figure out the best way to make them fly where you want them to fly.

Early on, you will spend the main portion of the game jumping between the launch pad (seen above) and the design area, where you work on putting your craft together.

This makes the building phase sound simplistic, but trust me, this isn’t just sticking Legos together to make your dream ship. It isn’t even your junior high science class where you built rockets.

This is a trial and error version of rocket science. You must determine the type of fuel to use, the type of rockets to attach to the main ship and what kind of capsule to use. Along with this, you also determine the different phases the rockets will fire in to add the correct amounts of propulsion at the right time.

I’m not sure if even Jebediah Kerbal wants to ride in this ship…

Once the build phase is complete, now its time to take your ship for a test drive. Once out on the launch pad, you have control of navigating the ship and putting it through the different pre-planned phases of the launch and flight.

This is where the fun and skill comes into the game. The moment you launch, all the decisions you made in the building of the vessel are now realized in (as far as I can tell) realistic aerodynamic physics. And let me tell you, it isn’t very easy to handle all that propulsion deftly.

Its all in your hands now!

My first ten flights (at least) ended up in sheer and utter disaster. The first time, I didn’t decouple it from the launch platform and the ship veered into the tower and exploded. Next, I positioned the wings on the ship incorrectly, throwing the aerodynamics out of whack and creating a weight imbalance, causing the ship to uncontrollably veer right back into the earth after rising only a few hundred meters. After that, I didn’t have my separate rocket tubes stabilized enough and they flew apart, smashing into each other, exploding and leaving the main vessel to fall back to the planet without any propulsion to slow it down. And always, I was able to watch the sheer horror of my Kerbal pilot in the bottom right of the screen as he flew towards his doom.

It will go really, really bad early on…

Even though I encountered failure after failure, I still enjoyed the game, which is a testament to its design, allowing the player to get back to designing quickly. Slowly, I figured out how to improve on my design. Soon, I made it through the atmosphere and into outer space. That progressed to me getting the ship into a shallow orbit, and eventually achieving a near synchronous orbit. Looking at the bottom-right of the screen, the awe and happiness in the Kerbal pilot’s face was an additional reward for a job done better.

 

We made it to space!

Accomplishing that much came with a massive feeling of accomplishment. And it pushed me to want to try more variations and tweak with my design to push the boundaries even more. I started to feel what it must have felt like to be in the 1950s and 60s, pushing constantly for the next achievement and learning from and improving on previous flights.

The demo is fairly limited in the tools you have to experiment with. In the full beta, you have much more at your disposal: you can send up satellites, larger space ships, and eventually a space station. As this is a beta, the developer, Squad, is continuing to add more on a regular basis. Their most recent edition is the science package, which allows you to develop more technology and progress more through the game.

Space Stations are one of many advancements in the full beta

I really cannot recommend playing the demo enough. I bet that once you give it a shot, you will become quite hooked by the experience and want to be able to do more and more with the game. Additional appeal lies in joining the game at this pivotal point in development and watching it continue to grow into a more sophisticated experience leading up to its full release.

Hope to see you on the Mun sometime. God speed!

Where to Buy

Kerbal Space Program can be purchased for you or as a gift code for $27 via the game’s website. The game is also available on Steam and is currently priced at $18.99 until January 2nd in the Holiday Sale.

Yesterday, we focused on the huge, modern day open world adventure that is Grand Theft Auto V. Today, we’re going to change gears, drastically. Instead of the massive fictional world that Los Santos, we will now be journeying back in time to the Cold War era in the fictional world of our next game:

Game #5

Papers, Please takes place in a fictionalized version of Cold War era Eastern Europe/the U.S.S.R. You play a character who just received a job via the labor lottery on the border checking passports of those attempting to enter your country, Arstotzka. Your job, to determine if the people are entering your country legally or illegally by validating their passport and other (increasingly complex) immigration information.

Just another day on the job…

As you can see, Papers, Please uses a simplistic art style. The gameplay mechanics are also nothing new; you review the information the prospective immigrants present and determine whether to approve or deny their request. You get paid for each correctly processed person. Make too many mistakes, and you get demerits (or even fired, arrested and/or executed).

“What is the point? This game looks like work. Why would I want to play a game that is about working?”

Although the gameplay mechanics are simple in a Diner Dash sort of way, the storyline and the overarching concept of the game adds more to the experience than any other game I have played in a long time.

As I mentioned before, you make money for each immigrant you processed correctly. This doesn’t just go toward buying a better passport stamp or nonsense like that. Instead, you need to be able to pay for rent, heat, and food for your family of six.

This alone becomes motivation to do your best to avoid being a dead-beat dad (or son or spouse). However, making enough money is not always within your control and when times get tough, you need to decide what is more important, heat or food. If this happens too often, your family gets sick and needs medicine and you need to decide which family members receive the medicine and which ones don’t. Neglect family members for too long and they will die.

Which family member gets the medicine?

This use of RPG=lite elements help to make the “grind” of the office a bit more interesting.

Speaking of the job, the game does a fantastic job of ramping up the complexity from beginning to end, starting you off with checking basic passports but then building to adding work visas, diplomatic papers and other sorts of identification. Directives will be passed down on a daily basis adding these new paperwork restrictions as well as other decrees from on high (such as not allowing anyone through the checkpoint from specific countries).

You must check all information with your guide to validate the authenticity of documentation and notate any discrepancies before denying entry.

As you advance through the game, small story events will come up that force you to make decisions. Do I allow the director’s buddy into the country without the proper credentials? What will happen to me if I don’t? Should I assist a secret order with their attempts to infiltrate the country and perform attacks on the government? If a person attempts to use falsified documents, do I arrest them or just deny their passport? These decisions help to build towards the 20 different endings within the game.

While performing your job and making these difficult decisions, the game continues around you. Every now and again, a terrorist will attack the checkpoint, causing destruction and closing the border early that day – which makes it that much more difficult to earn the money needed for grandma’s medicine. Eventually, you are even given access to defensive weapons (a sniper rifle or a tazer gun) to take care of attacks before they are entirely carried out.

What is most intriguing about this game, however, are the parallels that the developer Lucas Pope draws between the dystopian world of the game and present-day complaints and issues in America.

One parallel drawn is the price of terrorism and its affect on personal freedom. Similar to the TSA agents at all American airports, you gain the ability to scan people with revealing X-Ray scanners to determine if they have any weapons on them. After scanning, you are presented with a naked, front-and-back image of the person to inspect in order to see if any weapons or contraband is on their person.

Clearly, the most blatant subject the game covers is immigration. No matter how different the world may be in the game from the world we live in today, the game characterizes those immigrating and how their ability to enter the new country may (or may not) make a huge difference in their lives. The game plays with these concepts, showing all sorts of different people seeking entry and gives the player a unique perspective on the immigration debate in American that not seen in any other game (or any other fictional work for that matter). My guess is, based upon your discussion with some of the characters in the game, you will think twice about following the rules blindly and give their passport the green stamp.

The ways that this game is able to broach some of the most integral and serious topics in our world today within this simplistic looking game is a testament to solid story telling and game design.

Possibly this is why when I started playing the game – only planning to toy with it for about an hour – I became engrossed to the point that my short play session was in actuality five hours long. And I wanted to keep playing. Why? Because in its simple mechanics but complex, branching story, I just wanted to experience more of the world that was crafted.

The game succeeds in doing everything it set out to do and so much more. And that is why no matter how mundane this game sounds to you, I implore you to play it for just one hour – a few hours later, I believe you will feel the same way I do about Papers, Please.

Rating: Seven out of Seven Stars

Where to Buy

Papers, Please can be purchased at the game’s website via paypal or on Steam for $9.99.

 

Yesterday, we ventured into how inappropriate a card game can get with Cards Against Humanity. Today, we will look at how inappropriate a video game can get with:

Game #4

Now, the chances of a loved one being a video game player that hasn’t purchased this game already is probably pretty slim (it did make $1 Billion dollars in its first three days on the market). But, if they haven’t and they are old enough to play Mature-rated games (17+), you have to buy them this game.

The fifth installment in the series isn’t just more of the same; it is bigger, badder and online-ier (?).

That is right: the game’s storyline branches between three different characters (seen above in order: Trevor, Franklin and Michael) and includes 69 direct missions with nearly as many side missions, races and other unique quests that add up to a far longer experience  than that of GTA IV. And it is also a much more cohesive story, with characters that are unique and make sense doing the things they are doing.

The world of Grand Theft Auto V (GTA V) is also gigantic – at least triple the size of GTA IV and probably larger than all GTA games combined since GTA III was released on PlayStation 2 in 2001.

The world of GTA IV (inset) compared to GTA V

Other than being larger and more extensive, this game also does tend to take the content to the extreme as well. I will say it again, this game IS NOT FOR CHILDREN. The game includes large amounts of swearing, many instances of characters making questionable actions or comments, a strip club with partial nudity, and one unskippable interrogation scene that draws many similarities to an early scene in Zero Dark Thirty (it may also be taken from Dick Cheney’s dreams). This game pushes the envelope, intentionally, so make sure the person you are buying it for is ready for a game with these types of experiences.

The other major addition in this iteration is Grand Theft Auto: Online, which acts as a separate always-online, open world experience. The player creates their own character and then plays online with up to 15 other people, both friends and foes, facing off in deathmatches, races, missions (both cooperative and competitive) and unorganized hi-jinx.

Having logged about 12 hours, there are always things to find in this mode, though it is quite a bit less directed than the single-player experience. It is ultimately best traversed with a buddy or two to add to the enjoyment. The most fun moments have been just tooling around town, trying to break into different areas with a pal in tow, something that is much more rewarding than “going solo” in the single-player game.

And the game’s developer Rockstar is planning on adding to the already existing content with online heists, new game modes and possibly even new cities (Vice City anyone) in the future, which makes it another gift that keeps on giving the whole year round.

If you’ve enjoyed the previous games in the series, this is a no-brainer of a buy. If you played the previous games but tended to get bogged down in the story as it progressed, give this version a go as it does a much better job of keeping it interesting with set-piece moments and switching between characters. If you didn’t like GTA before because of control issues, many of those are resolved, so I would also recommend giving the series a second chance.

Check back after Christmas for our full review of GTA V and our thoughts about GTA Online thus far.

Have you played the game? If so, what are some of your favorite parts of the game? I know the heists are probably my favorite. Let know what your favorite things are about this game in the comments below.

Where to Buy

This game is available for XBox 360 and PlayStation 3 and can be purchased at all retailers that sell games.

Purchase online at Amazon here (it currently is discounted by $20, so pick it up now!).

Yesterday we started off the 12 Games of Christmas with a program that allows subscribers to download multiple games for free. Today, we are getting down to a specific game from a widely recognized franchise that is quite amazing. Well, enough waiting, here is:

Game 2 of the 12 Games of Christmas

The Walking Dead is based in the same world as the comic book series created by Robert Kirkman and the AMC Television series created by Frank Darabount. However, it is a completely original story within that universe and other than a couple of cameos from a couple of characters popularized by the TV series, it stands on its own.

The game, created by Telltale Games, was built as five episodes released incrementally over time that tells the story of Lee Everett, a college professor on his way to prison for murder when the zombie outbreak began, and Clementine, a child separated from her parents and alone in the world.

The story, similar to the series and comics, focuses around these two characters and the people they meet (both friend and foe) as they attempt to survive a zombie infested world. The one difference is you as the player have the ability to alter the chain of events in the story as well as the relationship that Lee has with other characters.

The Walking Dead hearkens back to more traditional interactive adventure games. Within each environment, Lee is given basic interactions with objects and individuals to find a way through that area. At each level, you have a basic problem to solve. One may be how to escape a room while avoiding zombies, while another can be deciding which characters plans are right and which ones are wrong.

To give you a better idea, here is a walkthrough of the demo for the game, which pulls pieces of the first episode and visualizes what I am describing..

While the gameplay itself isn’t revolutionary, the branching story that changes as you go through the episodes feels new. For instance, in Episode 1, A New Day, you have to choose one of two characters to save, which affects who you play alongside through a majority of the game. Also, in the early parts of the game, you will decide which characters to support in their decisions for the group, which has an impact near the end of the game as to which characters will help you through to the end.

It is a very interesting concept and makes it feel like the experience is something you played a part in creating. Along with that is a phenomenally well-written and touching story.

Season 1 along with add-on content 400 Days, are widely available now. Season 2, which picks up the story where it left off in Season 1 Episode 5 No Time Left, will be available on Steam and XBox Live Arcade on Tuesday, December 17.

I cannot recommend this any more highly as it is an incredibly touching game.  You cannot help but become invested in both Lee and Clementine and some of the other supporting characters.  Which makes it that much more crushing when bad things happen. A full review of the game will be coming in the near future, so keep tuned in.

Have you played the game? Do you have any questions? Let us know in the comments below.

Where to Buy

The Walking Dead: Season 1 is available for the majority of gaming systems. It is purchasable for download for gaming consoles on XBox Live Arcade (XBLA) and PlayStation Network (In fact, the full game is free currently on the XBLA, so you should definitely download it!) . It is also available on Steam and Amazon for download on PC.

The game can also be found at most game retailers in its entirety in disc form. Prices for all of these options range from $25 to $35 for the entire game.

 

‘Tis the season to be merry! It also ’tis the season to be out and about, braving the cold and the crowds to shop endlessly and tirelessly for your loved ones. Either that, or you’re looking to take a break from thinking about others and want to purchase a gift for yourself.

If you’re anything like me, you probably have a difficult time determining what to buy for other folks or even sometimes for yourself when deciding to “Treat yo’self!”

Have no fear! Over the next twelve days, I am going to be giving you twelve game related items or ideas that you can stuff into other people’s stockings or use to spice up your holiday celebrations. This also will serve as my “Best of 2013” gaming rundown.

So, without further ado, let us begin the The 12 Games of Christmas!

Game #1

If you have anyone on your shopping list that owns a PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 or PlayStation Vita, I am going to save you a ton of time: This is a Must Buy!

I know what you may be thinking, it seems kind of lame to buy them just a card to open up on their Christmas celebration, but this ends up being much more than just a card.

PlayStation Plus (PS Plus) is a subscription that comes in lengths of three or twelve months. With this subscription, gamers receive access to download games for free each month on the PlayStation Network Store (PSN Store) and receive increased discounts on downloadable games from PSN. These discounts range from 10% to 75% in some instances.

How Good of a Deal is this Really?

In actuality, this is an amazing deal. For the price of only $17.99 for 3 months or $49.99 for 12 months, players receive immediate access to what Sony calls the Instant Game Collection for each PlayStation System. If the code is entered today, here are the games that could be downloaded and played on PS3:

  • Borderlands 2 (Game of the Year Nominee for 2013)
  • GRID 2
  • Uncharted 3 Single Player (Game of the Year Nominee and Winner in 2012)
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown (Game of the Year Nominee in 2012)
  • Shadow of the Colossus (PlayStation 2 Classic Remastered in HD)
  • ICO (PlayStation 2 Classic Remastered in HD)
  • Hotline Miami
  • Zen Pinball 2: Star Wars Pinball
  • ibb & obb
  • Poker Night 2
  • LittleBigPlanet Karting
  • Galaga Legions DX

That’s a lot of games! And I can attest that both Borderlands 2 and XCOM are amazing games.

Add to that every month, one to two more games will be available to download, and you can see how this can be an insane amount of value.

And that isn’t even including the six games available for Vita and two games available for PS4 at this time. And each of those is scheduled to get at least one new game a month as well moving into the future. That increases the value that much more for someone who owns multiple Sony systems.

As an addition, if the person has purchased or is looking at purchasing a PS4 in the near future, the system requires PS Plus to play games online, so that adds to the benefit of having a membership.

What if the person is already a PS Plus member? No worries – whatever subscription amount you give them, once they enter the code, it just adds that to their already existing subscription. So if they had seven months remaining and you get them a three month card, they will have ten months of gaming goodness before they will need to renew their membership.

And what happens if the PS Plus membership lapses or is not renewed? The only downfall is any game downloaded from the Instant Game Collection will cease to work without an active account, so those games will not be available until a new subscription is purchased.

Worried about not having enough space on your PS System’s hard drive to download any or all of these games as they are available? Have no fear.

All you need to do is go to the PSN Store and begin the download. What this will do is add the item to your account as a “purchase”. You can then download these items later at any time from the PSN Store’s “View Downloads” area. This means that if you are like me and only have a very small amount of space on your PS3, just “purchase” all of the games and download them when you clear up space.

Here is another interesting trick if the user only has one system but plans to buy other systems in the future and wants the free games available now to be waiting for them:

One other item to consider: if your system only has a 4GB hard drive, you will most likely not be able to play some of the larger games from the Instant Game Collection. For instance, Borderlands 2 is a 5.3GB download. The largest game I have seen has been around 13-14GB in size, as an FYI.

If you are shopping for someone with only an X-Box system, you can still never go wrong with buying them a membership card for X-Box Live Gold. This is required for all online access on Microsoft systems and has also begun to give users access to downloading some free games, though it isn’t as complete as Sony’s service.

Where to Buy

PS Plus Membership cards should be available at all major retailers that sell video games.

PS Plus codes can also be bought from Amazon.com at the following link:

http://www.amazon.com/1-Year-PlayStation-Plus-Membership-Digital/dp/B004RMK5QG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1387035000&sr=8-1&keywords=PS+Plus

Are you already a PS Plus member? Let me know your thoughts or send me any questions in the comments below. And don’t forget to check back here tomorrow for the 2nd Game of Christmas 2013!

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One full weekend is in the books for Sony’s PlayStation 4 (PS4) and while there have been issues with the PlayStation Network (PSN) and a few reports of systems that have broken, overall, it seems to have been a smooth beginning to the next console generation for the PlayStation brand.

As you have probably suspected, I spent a good deal of time with the console and some of it’s launch games since last Friday at midnight. It is safe for me to say that I am quite happy with my purchase and would recommend a purchase of this system to anyone out there.

The System
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This is one sleek looking system. Sitting next to my launch PS3, it just looks much more refined. Most of this is because Sony went into this console cycle with the goal of making something that would be cutting edge but at the same time not rely on a bunch of proprietary electronic architectures (like the Cell processor of the PS3). Also, leaving out backwards compatability means they wouldn’t have the same bulkiness of wedging in PS3 hardware along with the PS4 hardware into the box – which was the pitfall of the launch PS3 as seen above.

The other sleek feature of the box itself is the light bar that runs from the front to the back of the system. This acts similarly to the colored lights on the front of the PS3, showing different colors or patterns as the system is performing a separate task. Usually, the color is blue, but as it is going into Standby Mode, it will then flash white until the system is powered down. It is also rumored to pulse red when the system is in danger of overheating (thankfully I have not witnessed that first hand yet).

The system is whisper-quiet compared to its predecessor. Per Sony, much of this is thanks to the proprietary centrifugal exhaust fan that resides over the motherboard inside of the system. I will admit that at one point after a long gaming session, when I felt the system, it did feel quite warm, but it still must have been operating within safe system temperatures.

The Xross Media Bar (XMB)/Menus

Once loading up the system, you will notice a much different layout than what exists on both the PS3 and Sony’s handheld gaming system, the PlayStation Vita. The best way to describe the menu is being a merger of the 360 and PS3 interfaces. There is a bit of a learning curve to get used to the layout and how to find the different pieces you are looking for.

One thing that the new layout does is it places the games or applications (apps) you have recently used to the left side of the menu. This is nice when you are switching back and forth between a couple of different applications.

Which leads me to one of the most welcome innovations of the PS4 XMB – the ability to run multiple programs at once. Similar to the PS Vita before it, the PS4 can run multiple programs at one time. This is a huge improvement and a necessary one for Sony to make, as almost all consumer electronic devices, from computers and tablets to smartphones, allows this functionality (and our ADHD culture demands it).

This allows the gamer to quickly bounce between separate games or into some of the other applications. All one needs to do is click the home button on the Dual Shock 4 and you are taken back to the menu to be able to access other functions of the system – from video services like Netflix or Amazon Instant Watch to the in-system web browser. Once you are done with the other application, just use the home button again to go back to the menu, select the game, and you are right back where you left off.

There are a couple of deficiencies at this time that are a bit of a struggle to deal with. One nice thing is that it will show all games that have been downloaded on the main menu selection bar, which is nice. However, to use Netflix, you have to go to Video Services, arrow down, then arrow over to the right to select Netflix. This process is a bit more cumbersome that it was on the PS3.

One thing that would help with this is if users were able to personalize pieces of the XMB to have certain items display in different places. For instance, I only use Netflix and I use it regularly. I wish I could place that on the XMB in a more prominent or permanent spot, so I can get to it quickly. Just a thought for a future firmware update.


My walkthrough on launch morning of the XMB (while I waited for everything to download)

System Features

There are a lot of new functions being introduced to the PS4 and all of them center around attempting to satisfy gamers and give them the tools they need to enjoy their gaming experience and share it with others.

So, let’s start with the Share button. Residing nice and out of the way in the upper left corner of the controller, this little button is innocuous enough.

However, once it is pressed, you then have the ability to share your gaming experience Live to others via twitch.tv or Ustream or record your gameplay session to show your friends just how awesome you are at the game you are playing.

Now, this may seem fairly inconsequential. But, in the evolving world of the internet and gaming, this is a huge look at where the gaming public is going, what they are consuming, and delivering that to them ahead of time.

Live streaming is quite popular with PC gamers and Sony is bringing this to console gamers and making it easier than ever to quickly stream content. I know this is definitely one tool I will continue to use quite a bit in the future.

Another related addition to the controller is the inclusion of a combination headphone and microphone jack on the Dual Shock 4 controller and the bundled in mono headphone with microphone.

With this, Sony is hoping they will be able to develop a more vocal online community, as well as making it easy for gamers to share their experience as described above. One of the largest differences between the Xbox Live and PSN communities is the lack of verbal communication between players on Sony’s gaming network.

Another new feature that Sony hopes will help combat that problem is the Party Chat function, which is supposed to ale up to 8 players chat over the PS4 regardless of what game they are currently playing. I haven’t had a chance to test this feature out, and I have heard it isn’t working optimally as of yet, but this is something gamers have been complaining about for some time.

The other big new function Sony is touting is the Remote Play ability. This allows users with a PS Vita system to be able to link to their PS4 and play it from somewhere other than their living room. So far, I have tested this out in various areas of the apartment on the same wireless network and have found very little lag at all. Granted, for most games, I would still prefer to play them on my television to fully take in the visuals, but it is a fantastic alternative.

My next test of this functionality is to try to see if I can connect from other wireless networks and still play relatively lag free. If so, it may just be one of the cooler and more useful new functions for the system.

The one last change is the altering of the social functions, which includes increasing the friend limit from 100 to 2000, giving status updates of accomplishments to friends, and being able to share your real name with PSN friends. This, together with the previous ability to link your account to Facebook, all goes toward that same direction of building a stronger community of gamers. Right now, this function is a bit weak as many of my PSN friends aren’t on the system, but it will be interesting to see if this helps to build that gamer community.

The DualShock 4
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It is widely accepted that the new version of the PlayStation controller, the Dual Shock 4, is a phenomenal step forward for Sony. And I will have to agree.

As mentioned before, the microphone/headphone jack is a huge plus, not only for using the sharing capabilities, but also for the ability to listen to the game sound on headphones if others need it quiet in the room.

A couple of other new additions are the clickable touchpad, light bar and built in speaker. So far, I haven’t played a game that has used the touchpad for anything and it doesn’t seem to work from the XMB at all either. The light bar, when playing the game Warframe, did flash in different colors to add effect, otherwise didn’t do much.

The speaker is an interesting addition. On game that has used it so far is Resogun, a downloadable space shooter game from developer Housemarque. In the game, the ships computer speaks to you through the speaker on the controller and it is a really interesting effect and has me enthused to see other uses to help create an immersive experience.

As far as usability, the new controller feels great. The sticks have a bit more of a give to them, which allows you to have a bit more control over exactly what you are doing onscreen. The new convexly concave design of the sticks also helps to keep your thumbs planted without slipping off – which happened to me a lot when using the Dual Shock 3.

Also, the triggers do feel nice as well, though I haven’t played any first or third person shooters for an extended period of time, which will be the true test.

One thing that I did notice is that the wider layout of the new controller has led to a bit more wrist fatigue than what I remember feeling on the PS3. It isn’t anything major (not carpal tunnel or anything) but it was noticeable. It could be just that I need to get used to it a bit more, so we will see if that changes the more I play the system.

It is easy to state, however, that this is the best controller to date.

The Games
Resogun in action!

One thing I think people tend to forget is that usually, launch games are quite mediocre. Of course, there are some exceptions (Halo for X-Box and Super Mario Galaxy for Nintendo). With that being said, the PS4 has a solid list of titles, from both outside developers as well as Sony owned companies that makes sure there are some enjoyable games available.

Overall, critics are quite positive about the third-party games available at launch, such as Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Battlefield 4 (even with the system issues), Call of Duty: Ghosts and Need for Speed: Rivals. Sony’s first-party developed Killzone: Shadow Fall is also receiving large amounts of praise.

At this point in the launch, I can only personally speak to a few games, but I will say that I have enjoyed myself thoroughly.

Top of the list for me is downloadable game and PS4 exclusive Resogun. I will go into more detail later on this game, but it has taken up a large amount of my time over the past few days. Its fast paced action, nicely building difficulty level and variety of options and tactics make this game one huge time-sink – and an enjoyable one at that. Also, the graphics do a phenomenal job of showing off the graphical prowess of the system.

Another graphical masterpiece is NBA 2K14. The online videos definitely didn’t lie: the graphics and television-perfect presentation of the game are phenomenally entertaining. And the game, so far anyway, also isn’t any slouch in the gameplay department. The game is very fun to play, but isn’t overly simplistic. I am not very good at the game right now, but I am looking forward to going back and honing my skills.

The game also has depth, with a full General Manager mode where you perform interviews and make roster decisions, a My Player mode with a fully developed story, as well as the My Team mode, where you start with random, lesser-skilled players and with victories, can continue to build your team to super-star status.

I also had a chance to play the first few minutes of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. At this point, I have only had one sea battle – which was a blast by the way – but the game looks brilliant. I also played the Free-to-Play Warframe, an online, cooperative space ninja game. I had a few problems with the controls in this game, but I am definitely going to give it a bit more of a go. I mean, the price (free) is right.

Value

The PS4 sells at a price of $399. This isn’t just a drop in the bucket. But, that is $100 less than Microsoft’s X-Box One (which releases Friday, November 22).

But, the price of Sony’s system can be deceptive, in a good way. Inside of the box, you get a Dual Shock 4 controller, a microphone/headphone earbud mono headset, an HDMI cable, and a micro-USB controller charging cable. Also in the box is a pamphlet giving you a 30 day trial for PlayStation Plus. This gives everyone buying the system a) the ability to play all games online via the PSN, b) two free downloads (while you have a PS Plus membership), the phenomenal Resogun and indie-game Contrast, and c) free downloads on any other PlayStation devices: PS3 and PS Vita. PlayStation Plus is one of the best deals in gaming, at only $50 a year and receiving at least one free-game per system every month and further discounts on many other titles.

Also in the pamphlet is a 30-Day free trial of Sony’s Music Unlimited Service and a $10 voucher redeemable on the PSN. I recommend buying Flower; I know I will be redeeming that very soon.

On top of the two games downloadable for free with PS Plus, there are also three Free-to-Play games available immediately as well. These are the previously mentioned Warframe, DC Universe Online, an MMO set in the DC comics, and Blacklight: Retribution, an online shooter.

That gives you five games to play immediately, out of the box, and all you will have to do is pay $49.99 at the end of your fist month. A very consumer-friendly offer indeed.

Overall, I feel that things have been great so far for the PS4 launch. Of course, launch day was filled with PSN outages and a large amount of downloads in order to play any of the games. But, once that subsided, it has been a fairly un-hindered gaming extravaganza. And with titles like Infamous: Second Son, Drive Club, and Destiny coming early next year, there are only going to be more great games coming down the pipeline.

I won’t be rating the system as a whole, because it is going to be ever-changing and the greatness of the console will not be fully realized until a year or two worth of games have passed by. But, I definitely would give it the Hobby Box Seal of Approval and recommend anyone go out and purchase the system.

What are your thoughts? Do you have a PS4? Do you have any questions about the system that you want answered? Or are there certain games that you would like to see gameplay footage of? Well, drop a line into the comments.

Also, I am planning on doing a bunch of things with twitch.tv over the next week, so if you are interested in following along, you can follow me at twitch.tv/hobbyboxburns.

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The PS4 has finally found its new home!

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What’s in the box! What’s in the box!

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My system with his new friends!

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PS3 and PS4 Side by Side Comparison!

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The newer, slimmer PlayStation!

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DualShock 3 and the DualShock4 side-by-side.

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It’s alive! It’s aliiiiiiiiiive!

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Light bar in full effect!

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Ready to play once this bad boy is done updating…

Comment to let me know which game I should play first!

The decision to buy a PS4 was easy. I have been excited to be an early adopter of a new system for a while.

The really difficult decision is what games do I buy? I am only going to purchase two games and I have been waffling back and forth a bunch in determining which ones are worthy of my hard-earned money. So, in order to make my decision, I’m going to talk it through, blog-style.

Each game is going to be given a probability on whether I will buy it or not and why.

Killzone: Shadow Fall

To be 100% honest, I have only played a Killzone game once – I believe it was Killzone 2 in a store at some point. So, I know nothing other than the Hellghasts and that they are kind of like future Nazis.

Now, as you’ve seen in a previous post, I’ve become lukewarm on the First-Person Shooter (FPS) genre. Adding to that, it would probably be even more frustrating trying to learn the slightly-different controls of another FPS series (part of the learning curve is always multiple inadvertent grenade throws at the worst possible time). And multiplayer usually isn’t my thing.

But, it looks beautiful.

That is one convincing argument in my mind.

Given the fact that this is the only big-budget game being produced by a first-party (Sony owned) studio, the development team had all of the resources to make a phenomenal game while being able to ask all of the questions of the hardware team to do it right.

And as much as I’m a little cold on FPSs, they do go hand-in-hand with console gaming. It will also be a good test and validation of the multiplayer infrastructure PlayStation Network (PSN) on PS4 will be.

Purchase Probability: 6/1

Battlefield 4

In an effort to keep both launch shooters together (remember, Call of Doody doesn’t count), the next option is the epic multiplayer action of Battlefield 4.

From what I have seen in reviews, Battlefield 4’s single-player campaign makes it look like Killzone: Shadow Fall was written by the ghosts of Shakespeare and Hemingway.

But who are we fooling; the Battlefield series has always been totally about multiplayer. And from the sound of it, EA is taking the newest iteration to 11.

One of the biggest selling points in this offering of the series is the destructible set-pieces that occur on each map, altering the tactics needed to win the match. Include with that the expanded game-types and that 64 players can join the firefight on the PS4, things are starting to look quite enticing.

So what is holding me back? Well, I usually don’t like to dip a toe in the FPS multiplayer water without a buddy. Unfortunately, the friends I usually play multiplayer with aren’t upgrading to PS4 in the near future. Since it is very rare that I will venture out without anyone I know, I’m not sure a multiplayer-centric game is the best idea.

Purchase Probability: 10/1

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Keeping with the action vibe, the other full-out, big budget action experience at launch is the newest Assasin’s Creed, the pirate adventure Black Flag.

Of the cross-generation games, this one has received the most mixed reviews. Some are happy that the series has stepped away from the confusing future-day Desmond storyline, while others are saying that the annual release schedule is starting to wear down the series.

One thing that really speaks to me in this game is the expanded open world gameplay, navigated by pirate ship.

Having only played the first Assassin’s Creed, I do not care as much about the overall story arc that branches between the games. However, I am worried about the reason I never finished the first game – the exponential difficulty ramp-up about two-thirds through the game.

But the ship combat is really tugging me in the purchase direction. Also, it sounds like the PS4 version is supposed to be quite pretty to look at as well.

From what I have heard about this game, you either love it or hate it, not a ton of middle ground. That makes it a gamble I might not be willing to take.

Purchase Probability: 5/1

Madden NFL 25

It has been a couple of years since I have played a Madden game. The main reason: I get bored with the game after a season or two. I tend to prefer the bigger complexity of the NCAA Football series (may she rest in peace). There is enough extra stuff going on that it makes what is happening on the field more interesting. That is what I wish I had more of in Madden.

So, having not purchased a football game yet this year, Madden NFL 25 is looking quite appealing. Add to that the last time I bought a PlayStation at launch I purchased a Madden game and things are starting to look up for EA Tiburon’s game.

The word on the internet is that the Ignite Engine EA is using in this game really makes for a realistic football experience. The engine allows for players to act in a more individual and dynamic way and seems like it is simulating a more realistic experience, both visually and gameplay-wise.

Ultimately, with NCAA Football being discontinued after this year, I am going to need to purchase that one last time for PS3 (as backwards as that sounds in this post). So, will it be worth it to buy both franchises on two different systems?

Purchase Probability: 11/2

NBA 2K14

I am going to be transparent here: I am definitely buying this game.

Why? I’m only a passive NBA fan (I keep up with the Wolves, but don’t watch every game). Also, I haven’t played an NBA game in ages, even though I got one with my PS3 when I purchased it off of eBay.

Why is this a definite buy?

It is simply stunning. I mean, just look at the detail of what is going on around the court. Just amazing.

Out of everything I have seen on the next-generation consoles, this game truly looks like a step up. This is one of those games that people could take a passing glance and think you are just watching basketball on television.

In addition, although I haven’t played a basketball game in a while, that doesn’t mean I don’t like them. I poured a ton of hours into NBA Jam and NBA Live when I was younger.

Purchase Probability: 3/2

Knack

From one beautiful game to another, we have Knack. This game also looks quite beautiful. Other than being visually striking, this game was developed by Mark Cerny, who also played a significant role in the design of the PS4. If anyone knows how to make the system spit out a phenomenal game, he would.

This is the only game that is on this list that I have actually played. Before picking up the controller to actually play this game, I was skeptical. After playing it, the only way to explain the experience was, “Meh.”

Granted, the game is very good looking. The particle affects displayed with Knack growing by absorbing artifacts looks really neat. The way the game got larger as Knack grew reminded me a little bit of the mechanic seen in Katamari Damacy.

However, the platforming action wasn’t fun or varied. In the couple of different areas I played at in the game, there just weren’t many ways to attack. Hit attack button to punch. Jump and hit attack button to do a jump attack. Build up and you can do a couple of different power attacks. Overall, quite bland.

Granted, if I played it from the start at home, I would probably have a different experience from that of standing awkwardly at Best Buy and playing it. Ultimately, it just didn’t grab me. And I have a soft spot in my heart for games like this.

Purchase Probability: 50/1

Well, although one pick is assured, I am still a bit up in the air between a few of the games. What do you think I should buy? Also, if you are getting a PS4 tonight, let me know what you are buying and maybe we’ll get a game in on PSN.

Well, we don’t have long to wait until it is decision time. The good thing about buying a PS4 and having PlayStation Plus, is that I will have two games for free to download once I hook the system up to the internet, along with three free-to-play titles available for download at launch as well. That will make it seven games for the price of two. I’ll take it!

Follow the blog through the night as I’ll be posting some updates as I’m picking up the system as well as photos and possibly videos once I get the system home. Also, if you’re on Twitch.tv tomorrow night, you can watch me play through a few games.

The PS4 Fortnight continues!

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As this posts, only 14 hours stands between me and the launch of the PS4. And I am stoked!

I keep thinking back to the last system I bought at launch. It was back on October 26 of 2000. My buddies, Brent and Clobes, came with me to wait outside of Target in Rochester (back when there was only one and it wasn’t super yet).

We got in line at about 2:00 am. Well, Clobes slept in the car (that’s so like him) while Brent and I waited outside, third in line to pick up our system when the store opened at 8:00 am.

Our alibi for school was that we were going to a college visit at Winona State the next day. We were set.

We got in, I picked up my system, Madden 2001 and Timesplitters immediately and we were set! While I was in the line to check out, I was helping parents pick out games for their kids (I was even offered a job by the store manager because of how helpful I was).

But then, we made the excited journey home and booted the system up and played a game of Madden. And it was awesome! The jump in graphics was stunning at that time and the detail in the players was great.

We then went on the college visit. Granted we ended up just sitting in on the 30 minute presentation and then cutting out before the tour to go grab lunch, but we went.

Then it was back home for some Timesplitters. It was a fantastic day.

This year, I am just as excited as then. I couldn’t get a PS3 at launch because it was too expensive and I was student teaching at the time (No money + no time = no system).

This year, I’ll be going solo to pick up my system at midnight. But, I’ll be sharing the whole thing with you all as a community tonight and through the weekend. Why? Because it is the PS4 fortnight that’s why!

Later today, I’m going to post on the launch games I am debating about buying – expect that around 6:00 CST. Then, while I’m in line, expect small anecdotes and posts, starting around 10:00 pm.

But then the magic happens. Tomorrow morning, I’ll be posting some photos and probably poor-looking videos of the system in action and my first reactions to the games I buy and the free games I get!

Then this weekend, expect links to twitch.tv to follow my live stream of some gameplay footage (that’s right, I’ll be getting my share button on)!

If your getting a PS4, let me know what games you’re most excited for at launch!

Yesterday was the launch of the most recent installment of the Call of Duty franchise, Call of Duty: Ghosts.   And you know what, I could give two shits about it.

I am certain that millions of ardent fans got in line outside of Gamestops and Best Buys everywhere at  around 10:00 Monday night to be among the first to pick up their copies of the game at midnight for their Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 consoles. Millions more will purchase it the day they pick up their next generation console of choice later this month, either the Xbox One or PlayStation 4.

Well, count me out. CoD is not for me anymore.

This hasn’t always been the case. A few installments ago, I was amongst the eager crowd at the midnight launch, waiting with excitement at the opportunity to pick up Modern Warfare 2 so that I could get my fix.

So what has changed? Well, it certainly hasn’t been the Call of Duty franchise.

One main issue I have with the series is that as time has gone on, for the most part, it hasn’t advanced. The past few iterations I have played (Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops 1 2) have made very minor changes over the years. 

The high point in the series in my opinion is still the first Call of Duty: Black Ops. The single-player campaign was one of the more entertaining entries in the series, even with some of the story being impossible to comprehend.

More importantly, this game featured developer Treyarch’s best iteration of the online cooperative multiplayer mode, Zombies. My friends and I invested hundreds of hours into perfecting strategy on all of the maps that came with the game as well as the downloadable additions.

Since then, the series has stagnated. Granted, they have changed the leveling dynamic of the multiplayer modes to try to give the series new legs and keep it fresh. Unfortunately for the two development teams, Infinity Ward (the Modern Warfare series and Ghosts) and Treyarch, the main reason I dislike the game is out of their control.

The biggest problem is that the multiplayer mode isn’t fun anymore. At all. And no matter how many changes the developers make, it cannot be fixed.

The limitations are in two places. That first limitation is me.

Living in The Real World (TRW as Mr. Beisel, our Civics and Economics teacher in high school, would say) makes it nearly impossible for me to succeed in the game.

This realization came to me while playing my favorite entry in the series, Black Ops. When I first bought the game at launch and jumped into multiplayer match-ups, I was able to compete because everyone else was at square one too. I could actually kill people in Team Deathmatch and was able to run circles around people in Capture the Flag.

But, as always happens, life got in the way and I couldn’t play much for about a month. And when I came back, it was a completely different game.

While I was still learning or remembering the maps, others had found the perfect strategies and were exploiting them with precision. And I could not do anything without dying in quick succession when facing people that have prestiged (maxed out their experience level progress) multiple times only a month after launch.

At that point, no matter how much I would try, a good rage quit would get in the way of me learning enough to be competitive. And it just wasn’t fun anymore. No matter what I would try, I could not break out of that. And I am sure I am not the only one that feels that way, am I right?

The second limitation is everyone else playing the game.

They are just too damn good. And unless they are in your clan, they don’t care about you. Even in team games, they don’t do anything but try to score as much as they can individually. Granted, this can help the team win, but working out strategies with the rest of the team makes the game more enjoyable for everyone and helps people improve.

But that would require you being able to talk to the other players. And unfortunately (at least on PS3), only three types of people talk over the game on microphones: Douchebags that scream at everyone else for sucking so bad, twelve year-olds regurgitating the filthiest trash talk they can remember, and people listening to music at a level that makes it impossible to understand. Sometimes it is a combination of all three!

And these are just the people on your team. The people on the other team will at least consist of one person (usually more) that will exploit every single thing they can to their advantage to get a win, which usually means sniping your spawn points to get easy kills. Granted, they are just using what the developers have given them to win the game. But it creates an annoying experience for the uninitiated or those struggling to learn.

I became so frustrated and bored with Black Ops, which was my favorite of all of them, that I didn’t even buy the next installment, Modern Warfare 3.

I gave the developers a second chance when Black Ops 2 came around. I was hoping that Treyarch would build off of the enjoyable single player campaign of the first, breathe new life into zombie mode, and level out the frustration of the multiplayer mode.

Unfortunately, that game was a step back in all respects. I never even finished the single player mode because it was just plain boring. The “Pick 10” system did make multiplayer a bit more interesting, but I still suffered to be competitive when I purchased the game a couple of months after launch.

The biggest travesty and last straw was Zombie mode. While “Tranzit” was an interesting idea and made for some fun games, the rest of the zombie maps that came on the disk were plain and uninspired. Kill waves of zombies on a farm. You can’t interact with anything on the farm and there aren’t any new areas you can open up (unlike previous iterations), just find a spot, sit there, and try to survive.

Don’t like that? Do the same thing in a town square. Or a street. Don’t like that? Pay $15 to buy something you might like more. As if surviving waves of zombies wasn’t tough enough, surviving the boredom added to the difficulty.

At that point, I decided I was done with Call of Duty. Maybe not permanently, but for a long time. I would rather spend the $60 on a game that will have a much more developed story and more diverse gaming experiences. Or split that amount to buy a couple PlayStation Network games to get more bang for my buck.

From what I have read in reviews, Ghosts is one of the better Call of Duty games and is starting to take the series in a better direction, so maybe it isn’t fair to take it all out on this new version.

But, if Activision (or any other publisher) is going to annualize a series, they risk not evolving enough to keep the casual fan interested in the series. Sports games and Assassin’s Creed have struggled with this as well and more games will in the future too. For me, I’ll spend my money on games that take the development time to make improvements and changes to their games. Like Grand Theft Auto V.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with me? Or am I just a stupid noob? Let us know in the comments below. I’ll just be waiting patiently for my PS4.