One Last Look at 2016

   We’re nearly a full month into 2017, and we at The Gamer HUD are ready and excited to start looking towards what this year has in store for us. We announced our “Game of the Year” on the podcast last week (Spoiler Alert: it’s Overwatch), Cole’s posted about his most anticipated games due to come out this quarter, and our reactions to Nintendo’s Switch2017’s first major hardware releaseshould have rolled out to subscribers this past Monday afternoon. But 2016 was a terrific year for gaming, and before my own focus shifts entirely to what’s coming ahead, I felt I needed to take one final look back at some of the best games I played last year. 

Tyranny

I didn’t have nearly enough time to invest into Tyranny before the year ended, but it’s opening sequence, in which players make a whole series of meaningful moral choices rapid-fire and shape the game world they’ll be entering before even having actually seen it, was one of the most compelling innovations in RPG gaming that I saw all year long. Add to that a wonderfully developed world in which Evil has already won the day, and I think Obsidian really came up with something wonderful. 
   I can’t wait to return to this gem and to hopefully talk about it some more in 2017. If Obsidian fumbled with anything on Tyranny, it’s that they released it during one of the most quality-saturated holiday seasons in recent memory. 

Final Fantasy XV

   As with Tyranny, Final Fantasy XV launched too late in the year to allow me the opportunity to fully formulate my opinions about it prior to our Game of the Year podcast, but it’s been my go-to singleplayer game ever since it finally hit shelves after nearly a decade of development hell. Just this past weekend, I finished chapter 7, and while I haven’t finished the game, I really like what I’ve played so far. A lot.
   Even with its massive departures from the core series, FFXV still feels like the JPRG experience I had been longing for. Better yet, it feels like the Final Fantasy I had been craving ever since I finally shelved FFXII for the last time (I dropped FFXIII after trying to love it for too long and feeling disappointed at every turn). The visuals are hit and miss, varying between breathtaking and last-gen with every degree in between. The story’s crazy, difficult to follow, and over the top. Freakin’ Cindy looks like she was plucked from the brain of a horny fourteen-year-old boy. And yet I still can’t help but love this game.
   The combat system is one of the best I’ve ever seen in a JRPG, the music is wonderful, and the core cast of characters are surprisingly yet undeniably endearing. I love that the game feels like one big, fantasy road trip, because that’s exactly the kind of vacation I felt I needed as 2016 was nearing its end.

The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine

    On my first ever podcast with the HUD, Cole jokingly asked who among us could possibly find the time to sink 100 hours into The Witcher 3. I shied away from a response then, but the truth of the matter is that far more than I care to admit of my very limited game time in both 2015 and 2016 was sunk lovingly into CD Projekt Red’s masterpiece. I’ve been a fan of The Witcher game series since the early days, and I completed The Witcher 2 three times in full despite the fact that I was a working father, husband and full-time student at the time of its release.
   Last year, CDPR said goodbye to their world-conquering series with one last, exceptional expansion pack, “Blood and Wine.” Speaking from a strictly narrative perspective, B&W was maybe weaker than “Hearts of Stone” had been, but only ever so slightly. I’m a sucker for good vampire stories (get it! I’ll see myself out), and after seeing how scarce they were in the main campaign (especially after that memorable cinematic trailer that CDPR released last year), I was delighted to see that B&W had placed them center stage.
   Even if the narrative of Blood and Wine may not have been as tight as its predecessor, it more than made up for that with a wealth of content. The expansion’s new, fantastical city, Beauclaire, was a beautiful and wondrous change of pace from the dreary environments of the main campaign, and it was filled practically to the brim with new quests, new gear, new character build options, and even a new Gwent faction. I can’t think of a better send-off to such a wonderful series, and even with a backlog of games piling up, I’m eager to return to The Witcher 3.

Civilization VI

   The sixth entry in the venerable 4X series is quite possibly my favorite, and I had the privilege to review the game last year for The Gamer HUD, which actually ended up being my only true review of the year. I’ve learned to my great joy that my review managed to convince our own Tina Marconi to pick up the game, and she echoed my recommendation for it on our “Game of the Year” podcast.
   It’d be redundant to recap my review here when it’s still available for you to look over, but the one thing about the game that I only really learned to appreciate in the months following its release was just how much fun it is to play with other people. Civ 6 easily grew to become one of my favorite multiplayer releases of the year, and I don’t foresee my replacing it any time soon in 2017.

Titanfall 2

Speaking of multiplayer titles, here’s one that managed to not only improve on practically everything that I loved about its multiplayer-only predecessor, but actually included one of the best singleplayer campaigns I’ve played in a shooter in a long while. Titanfall’s campaign is a relatively quick play, even on the game’s hardest difficult setting, but it’s a roller coaster ride from start to finish that feels perfectly paced and never really stops toying with its own game mechanics in new and interesting ways. The highest peak of the campaign sees players shifting between two different periods of time on the fly in order to wall-run, double jump, and gun their way through the mission, which ends with an adrenaline inducing plummet through spinning fans and raging infernos.
   On the multiplayer front, Titanfall 2 builds on everything that made the original so novel and enjoyable with greater Titan diversity, a grappling hook that enhances your ability to traverse the game’s humongous maps quickly, and a “kill and confirm” styled game mode that’s pure joy to play.
   As with Tyranny, the only major flaw with Titanfall 2 is that it launched in the holiday season when even dedicated gamers were already be spread thin, even going toe-to-toe with EA’s other premier shooter of the year, Battlefield One. I can’t say that Titanfall 2 is an underrated classic, because it’s been well received by critics and players alike, but it certainly wasn’t the financial hit that it deserved to be. EA promises that they’re not giving up on the series, and I hope for all of our sake that they stay true to their word on this one. I’m crossing my fingers for some quality DLC (which the devs have promised will be free to all players) to launch in the near future because I’m simply not done with this game yet.

Overwatch

   When our crew at the HUD began our discussions about what our collective choice for “Game of the Year” should be, the decision was made unanimously almost immediately and with little to no debate. What more can be said of this little shooter that managed to capture the hearts and imaginations of gamers around the world? It’s the first original IP Blizzard’s released in nearly two decades, rising like a phoenix from the ashes of the late “Project Titan,” and it was 100% worth the wait. 
   I was enamored with the game from its initial cinematic unveiling, which I included above. The game’s world and the cast of heroes that inhabit it veritably ooze charm, and Blizzard’s obsessive attention to even the most minor of details make for an experienced that is better polished than any other shooter I can think of in action today.
   I’ve not been a serious multiplayer gamer since the Halo 3 days (unless you count my brief stint as a legendary hopeful in Hearthstone last year). Having been a singleplayer gamer first for nearly all my life, I simply don’t have the time to invest into honing and maintaining my skills at an even relatively competitive level.
   But I haven’t been able to keep myself away from Overwatch since it launched last May.
   It’s fun, pure and simple, whether you’re trying to cram in a few matches before bed on a work night or signing in for the long haul on a Saturday night. It strikes the perfect balance between accessible mechanics and difficult-to-master tactical nuances, and it makes for a multiplayer experience that always feels worth your time.
   And while the game’s community is already beginning to receive some criticism for toxicity, particularly at upper competitive play levels, it’s plainly apparent that Blizzard went out of their way to construct a positive and uplifting experience for gamers of all levels, eschewing built-in stats like K/D in favor of team-focused metrics, an innovative (if flawed) Play of the Game system, and a post-game report that encourages players to praise one another. These measures don’t always work as intended, but it’s refreshing to see a developer make such a concerted effort towards crafting a welcoming game space, and the result of their efforts was a game that’s worth so much more than the sum of all its parts and so vastly outclasses its own sources of inspiration on virtually every front that it’s already made a noticeable and lasting impact on the industry.
   I know I’m not alone when I say that I can’t wait to see what Blizz does with the game in 2017. Oh, and if you needed an excuse to start playing it again, the Year of the Rooster seasonal event kicked off this week and features a capture-the-flag game mode along with a slew of new skins, emotes, and other unlockables.

Overwatch’s Halloween Seasonal Event Starts Today

Details and images of Overwatch‘s second seasonal event have been trickling down from across the web over the last week or so, but no one was quite sure when we could expect to actually play it. Today, Blizzard officially confirmed the event, titled “Overwatch Halloween Terror,” not long after Overpwn.com leaked images of all the new skins available to heroes via the event’s seasonal loot boxes.

Like the Summer Games event that ran through August, “Halloween Terror” adds new skins, emotes, and hero animations to the game that can be unlocked via special loot boxes available only between now and November 1st. These boxes can be unlocked in-game or purchased for real money like normal, and anything unlocked during the event will remain a permanent part of players’ collections after it ends.

Unlike with the last seasonal event, the limited edition unlockables may also be purchased using the in-game currency, albeit at 300% the going rate for the standard ones.

The event also features a special brawl that pits four players in co-op against waves of AI zombie robots. Overwatch’s gameplay has always been limited to PVP before, so a PVE game mode should come as welcome and fun surprise to most.

The content update is included in the game’s latest patch, which also comes with the usual bug fixes and balance changes, and is available right freaking now.

I’m really crossing my fingers for that Mercy skin, but heaven help me: that Mei highlight intro is adorable!

Real Backwards Compatibility on PS4?

During the E3 2015 showcase, Microsoft dropped a surprising announcement that many consider the highlight of the conference: Backwards Compatibility. In the year since then, Xbox has added more than 200 Xbox 360 games to the available catalog, and continues to iterate on almost a weekly basis. From classics such as Mass Effect to the recent addition of Red Dead Redemption, this feature has added a lot of value to the Xbox Ecosystem by allowing players the ability to play games they already own for fee. However, since the introduction its introduction, more often I have heard players inquire whether or not Sony is looking at a similar feature on their platform. While this would most certainly be a “win” for the PlayStation community, there are roadblocks that make the probability off this addition highly unlikely. 

Back in 2013, during what is still considered one of the most notorious E3 showcases, Sony described the integration of Gaikai with the PS4 platform and how the  technology would be utilized. Through applications such as “Remote Play” on Sony mobile devices and the Vita, then PlayStation Now with cloud based gaming in the console space, it seemed like the service was an obvious “slam dunk” for the PlayStation community. When purchased for $380 million dollars, Sony was placing a large bet on Gaikai to handle the aspect of backwards compatibility for PS4 with a subscription based service that boasts a library over 400 games. The only problem with this, is that if you don’t have internet speed that is consistently “good”, then this service cannot do much for you. 

While there are different PlayStation Classics that you are able to purchase through the PS Store, there is no emulator on the hardware that allows you to play these games if you already physically own them. So the question stands: does Sony cut out the legs from underneath PlayStation Now and offer a similar feature as the Xbox One, or do they stick to their guns and try to make their money back through the income generated off of the PS Now Subscription model?

Thus far in the console life cycle of the PS4, Sony has done nearly everything “right” in terms of messaging, product, and overall image to the gaming community- which is a quantum leap when compared to the rocky start of the PS3. Many hold on to the belief that Sony will eventually offer some type of solution that meets in the middle, holding on to the fact that Sony continues to impress. The issue that I see is that PlayStation is still a business, and Sony needs to be able to justify that $380 million dollar check it shelled out for the technology- it can’t simply push it aside for public image/service alone. Basically, Sony is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Regardless of how you want to spin it, this is an issue that we need to address for the sake of keeping the history of these games alive. Too many times I think of a game that I would love to play, however because of hardware constraints I am unable to play it (PC players I envy you for this). Whether publishers embrace the feature of full backwards compatibility or double down on the subscription style model, classic games are getting lost in the void and this needs to change. Now the questions comes to you, the reader. How would you solve this? Do you abandon Gaikai and push forward on efforts to bring an emulator to the console? Or is this not even an issue that justifies the capital lost? Let me know in the comments below.   

What PokemonGo Must Update to Stay Relevant

 Photo Credit: Forbes.com
Photo Credit: Forbes.com

     It is crazy to think that this game/application has only been on the market for less than a week and already received the response that it has. Between bumping Nintendo’s net value in the stock game more than 9 Billion dollars since its launch, to surpassing Twitters daily active user count, there is no denying the impact that PokemonGO has had across the globe. As I was sitting at a local park yesterday, among at least a hundred other Pokemon enthusiasts, I realized that this was not just a new game but a craze that was sinking its teeth into everyone that played it. Regardless of the age group, it has brought people together in a way that I have never seen before, and I don’t want this to change. However the hype right this moment, it is an entirely different feat to move from the “New Fad” category to the “Essential Staple”. While I know a few of these have been discussed high level for the future scope of the app, here is a list of the updates they need to make sooner rather than later to ensure the game’s longevity.

1.) Pokemon Trading (Obviously)

The ability to trade your Pokemon with friends and other Trainers alike are a necessity within the Pokemon space. If the entire intent of the app is meant to get you outside and work with others (hence the move to dividing players into teams), what better way to push people to go out and talk with each other at the Pokestops than to allow them to swap? This also allows for those that are having a difficult time getting invested into the game(although this is obviously not an issue right now) the ability to work with friends on gaining a backlog of creatures that allow them to level up and evolve them as well. Of all the things I want to see added, this is the feature they need to put out quickly as this will give it a shot of adrenaline it will need in the coming weeks. 

2.) PvP Battles

I think the most common question that I usually get from those inquiring of the games purpose (outside of “Can I catch a Pikachu!?) is “So can I battle other people once I have strong enough Pokemon?” While I usually go into the Pokemon Gym description at this point, I would love to be able to give people the resounding Yes! that they are looking for. I literally can’t think of a better feature that is going to drive people to great lengths of going out and finding their Pokemon, than the promise of being the strongest among your friends, as well as in the area. With the Pokestops already packed with players looking for wild creatures, imagine individuals hanging around waiting to defend their nearby gym? Make this happen.

3.) (Enhanced) Filtering System for Pokemon

While we already have the ability to filter our collection in various ways, down the road as they add more Pokemon and libraries become more vast, we are going to need a better filtering system than the one at present. Yesterday was becoming burdensome having to go through droves of Pidgeys individually just to transfer them for candy. Imagine the ability to pick and select all at once, then engage a transfer with a ‘Candy Summary’ at the end. This is just one of the many modifications they can add to clear up the clutter that will become of these backlogs, and promote a cleaner user experience.

4.) Fix Those Servers!

The promise has been made from those at Niantic, that they are working around the clocks trying to figure out a way for better server support. Although I really can’t blame them, there is no way they could have anticipated the app destroying record traffic held by Twitter and Instagram in only a few short days on the market. However, if you want to turn away potential customers, then give them a buggy product (Insert Weedle joke here). We have gotten the promise for the developers that they are refraining from opening more markets till they have this under control, so hopefully this will come sooner rather than later. In the mean time, luck be with you on spotty connections and I hope you don’t have it crash on you during the final gym battle like it did to me…. Not that I am bitter or anything…

5.) As You Enhance the Product, Provide Tutorials

While it’s been fun to walk newbies through the fundamentals of the game, I can’t help but wonder why a more fleshed out tutorial wasn’t given. It may not be a huge deal at the moment since the product is still Vanilla, but give it 6 months after some larger updates, a newcomer will need a deeper explanation of how it actually works- rather than 5 sentences and a map. The way to sell this game to your friends is by telling them “just try it out, it’s free”, but if they get in there later down the road to a more complex system- it could prove too overwhelming for those just wanting to try it out. You need new customers for a business to thrive, make sure you set them up for success. 

Enough of my recommendations- what do you think? Am I missing something more crucial, or am I on to something here? Let me know in the comments below!

Can the ‘Nintendo NX’ Keep Up With Neo & Scorpio?

 Photo Cred: Pocket-lint.com
Photo Cred: Pocket-lint.com

     Winter is coming friends… With the fallout finally clearing from the E32016 conference, we have a mostly clear vision of what the console market has in store for us as gamers. From the not-officially-announced-but-everyone-keeps-talking-about-it PSneo from Sony, to the busy 18 month period Microsoft has in store in launch not one but two consoles: Xbox One S & Project Scorpio. If it were not for the incredible showing that Zelda:Breath of the Wild gave us, most people would call that list complete and move on. However, we still have the forthcoming announcement of the Nintendo NX expected to launch March of 2017. With the official reveal imminent, one can only wonder if Nintendo still has what it takes to remain competitive in a market that seems so overwhelmed with Sony Microsoft products. After all if it is one thing that the WiiU taught us, it is that this is not the Nintendo of old.

     While there is still a ton that we don’t know about the NX, there are a few small facts that we do know. Late last year there were reports going around saying that the upcoming console will boast “industry leading chips” that should rival the power of current generation technology. However, this is was in reference to the PS4 Xbox One, not the upcoming Neo and Scorpio. If it is one thing that has been true about Nintendo platforms since the days of the N64, it is that they have trailed behind their competitors in platform capability and power. While they have found success in obvious ones like the original Wii, in today’s market where everyone is now looking at quicker platform iteration turnover just to keep up with changing technology, I can only hope that Nintendo sees similar success. 

     The WiiU was a clear indicator that Nintendo has to offer a system that appeals to not only the consumer, but to the 3rd party developers as well- without this, they will fail. Now don’t get me wrong, I adore the consoles that Nintendo has given us and I have owned a WiiU since day one (although it is definitely covered in an inch of dust right now). Before you take this as a Nintendo bash, I just merely want to see the publisher succeed. I grew up on their systems and developed friendships with most of the characters in their robust library of titles. The thing that I want to stress is that Nintendo cannot expect or afford to come out and have another half baked system launch with no 3rd party support. Nintendo is wealthy, but money does not last forever and businesses have overhead, they need to succeed with this upcoming console.

     Now I want to pass the question to you, the reader. What do you think it would take to win over the gaming community and court the 3rd parties once more? Are you already planning on buying the console? Or have you moved on from the platform, just waiting for their software to arrive on other consoles one day? Let me know in the comments below.

Will You Play COD: Infinite Warfare?

     It’s been a long time since I truly enjoyed a Call of Duty title. To this day, Modern Warfare is still one of my favorite games of all time, and easily top 3 shooters. While I dip into the franchise every year at some point or another, I have come to accept what Call of Duty is and is not. Over the top cinematics and huge set pieces are synonymous with the name, but gone are the days that I find myself dying to get one more round on multiplayer before bed. While I don’t necessarily die for the chance to play the latest title every year the way I once did, I still appreciate the space that it fills for a large group of people. I know many that don’t consider themselves “gamers”, however, put a controller in their hand for a round of Zombie mode and they love it. Call of Duty is quickly becoming one of the most accessible franchises in existence next to Candy Crush  and Minecraft, but this is not a bad thing. While I understand the frustration people tend to express when they see the franchise removing itself from what made the brand unique a decade ago, I can’t wrap my head around the hate the game seems to get every year without fail.

     Now before you accuse me of expressing the same hatred, let me clarify: I love Call of Duty for what it is. To this day, I don’t know of any shooter that feels more natural controlling and precise when shooting than one of these games. Don’t get me wrong- I love Battlefield and Overwatch, but from the second you say “GO” in the campaign of any Call of Duty title, you have come to expect a certain level of polish that you can only demand from the folks at Activision. As for the multiplayer, between world tournaments and professional players flooding streaming sites, they have dominated this area for a while now (with the exception of League of Legends of course). They have proven when you have the framework for something great, just rinse, recycle, and repeat will still move units. Regardless of what the latest Metacritic user score says, this franchise sells millions of units every year, and refuses to slow down.

     Lately I have been approached the question on multiple occasions: Will you play COD: Infinite Warfare? While the cynic in me will want to respond “no, not this year”, the truth is that I know at one point or another I will find myself making the rounds. With Activision keeping the Modern Warfare Remaster hostage on packaged copies with Infinite Warfare I will have to give it a look (I know the odds of them releasing it separately down the line are painfully obvious, but who has got the time to wait for that? Seriously?). It’s going to be a very busy fall, between titles such as No Man’s Sky and Final Fantasy XV, I will have no shortage of places to spend my time. However, just as I correlate Christmas with a viewing of Home Alone, fall has also found the same comparison with the latest Call of Duty title. I think this is true for vast majority of players that say they won’t play Infinite Warfare, most of the time you don’t plan on playing it- until launch day you see the news filled with it, all your friends are playing it, and you can’t even buy a Dorrito’s bag without having it thrown in your face. You will play it.

     Whether we want to sit here and reminisce on the Call of Duty of old, or look at the direction they are taking now, the franchise has become a staple for gaming culture. For Activision it has become a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. Change the formula, you’re criticized for messing with what made the franchise great. Keep to the same path, and people say that it’s just a re-skin and people are upset anyways. I challenge you to look at this in a different way. I understand that the timeless activity of COD hate has become a tradition in the gaming community, but is it really surprising anymore when the launch trailer hits for that years installment?

     What are your thoughts for this years iteration? If you aren’t going to play it, what would you like to see Activision do with the franchise that would bring you back into the fold? Let me know in the comments below.

     

Will Sea of Thieves dry out like Evolve did?

     It was shortly after watching the gameplay reveal during Microsofts showcase during E32016, that I really started to worry about the longevity of the upcoming title Sea of Thieves. Now let me preface that I am actually looking forward to playing the action-adventure pirate game sometime when it launches next year in 2017. I know that it will be an instant hit for me and my group of Xbox Live companions, trying to boast the baddest ship in the seven seas. As a matter of fact, we are already having arguments of who is going to be the “Music-guy” wielding musical instruments to give the rest of us a haunting sea melody as we look for buried treasure. This is the Rare developed game that I have been looking forward to playing since it’s glory days of Banjo-Kazooie, the kind of game that refuses to allow the player to stop smiling. But as quickly as my hype began to build- I immediately found myself wondering if the online community will give this the attention that it never gave other multiplayer games, such as Evolve?

     While the optimist in me wants to believe that a games fun-natured gameplay can transcend the normalities that you find wrong with a lot of multiplayer based games nowadays, the cold hard fact is that in order for this game to stay relevant months after the release of the game is entirely dependent on the players themselves, and their ability to pick up a microphone and communicate. In all areas of the game, this game demands collaboration amongst you and your team, the cheesy gameplay demo of people screaming at each other was more realistic than you probably think. From helping man the Crows Nest to watch for upcoming rocks, islands, and of course other ships- to informing the crew of holes in the side of your ship from enemy fodder, you must communicate with your team if you want your team to succeed. This is the reason that I compare this game to Evolve, many similarities follow the two in terms of player contribution demand, and we all know how that turned out for Evolve

     Now before you think I’m picking on Evolve, I enjoyed my time with that game but due to the issues that I am concerned about for Sea of Thieves, it was short lived. And from the way the community died out after a while, I know many out there had a similar experience. I feel like that could be a whole different topic in itself: is it wise for game developers to place so much trust in the community, that you the future of your title lives and dies by the online community? While there are definitely success stories for that, one right now is Overwatch; however with titles like Titanfall experiencing a similar fate, and Fable Legends was a key factor in a studios closing… It’s got to make you wonder if the reward is worth the risk. 

     I am looking forward to playing Rare’s upcoming title regardless of what the outcome may be a month or two later, but for the sake of the studio I hope that they find a crowd pleaser. The last thing that I wan’t to see is a world without developers willing to take risks in creativity to give us products like Sea of Thieves. You have to admit, although Call of Duty Battlefield are awesome annualized fall blockbusters, games would get boring pretty fast without your occasional cult classic or wild idea game. You need the Mirror’s Edge and Sea of Thieves to break the mold. Personally, I hope to find you all out on the seas, soaking up the sun, and enjoying the crew mates around you when Sea of Thieves hits shelves next year.

Release Dates No Longer Matter

There was a time not so long ago that we as gamers, could look at the release date several months out and know that regardless of what school brought our way, family drama arose, or any other of life challenges found you, that you could count on getting your hands on the game the day you were promised. While obvious that this is no longer the case with delays being announced every other day, it is important to come to grips with this pattern now for sake of your expectations and overall gaming happiness

      Video game release dates no longer mean what they once did.  Accept that. But this is not always a bad thing, and more often than not- this is actually a very good thing.  Now before you start penning your “How dare you!” email, let’s find some common ground so you can understand where I am coming from. If it is one thing that I have learned ignites a fire in the gaming community more than most things (outside of the word micro transactions), it is telling a gamer that they are not going to play a game as soon as they had originally anticipated. Trust me, I have been burned time and time again on game delays. Hell, anyone that has a PlayStation this generation should be completely used to it by now. From games like The Order: 1886Uncharted 4, and don’t even get me started on DriveClub… So yes, I feel your pain.

     We have gotten to a point in games however, that we must begin to revert our expectation of solid release dates and begin to look at them more as Release Windows. Logically, it does not make sense to announce a game release date a year in advance, and expect to hit the deadline every single time. That is just not the way that game development works nowadays. However this does not give game developers or publishers a pass in all scenarios. Games like Batman: Arkham Knight being announced for an October release date then being pushed to nearly 8 months only a few short weeks later, is more than a mere oversight. 

     Here is what I propose for all parties involved: as gamers, lets ease up on the developer that wants to take another few weeks to help realize their final product. However, as developers and publishers, try to stay away from giving release dates several months in advance. I understand that you need to build hype for your game, but there are better ways to go about that. Besides, delays will many time hurt a games reputation with the community, does Watchdogs ring a bell?

     This reasoning in itself is probably why Sony didn’t go out this past week during their E32016 showcase and hit us with a bunch of release dates. It wasn’t a mistake, they didn’t just forget to add them at the end of the demo. While I believe most of the games shown were 2017 releases (with the exception of Death Stranding- 2019 at the earliest for that game, promise), why crush the hype they have built later down the road with a delay, when they can announce it when they are ready and give the gamers something to look forward to and believe in.

     Before I hop down from my soapbox, let me leave you with one final thought on the matter. Support the developers that have the courage to step up and ask for more time; these people know what this does to us and the kinds of reactions they will inevitably receive. Our complaining doesn’t help the situation, nor does it benefit the end product. Which is why we are all here, right? Developers take your time (not talking about you The Last Guardian). Build the game that you wanted to. The gaming community is better for it.

God of War has changed, but is it for the better?

He’s back…. Kratos received a roar of applause, cheers, and “awed” shock as he emerged from the shadows during the opening of the Sony E32016 Showcase. Not surprising however, since the PlayStation hero has been silent for nearly 3 years now since the release of God of War: Ascension back in 2013. If you really think about it, since Ascension was a prequel entry to the series, God of War 3 hit shelves 6 years ago, back in 2010. No matter how you try to spin it, it’s been a long time since we accompanied the rage filled Spartan on his quest to kill Zeus, king of the gods.

Sony Santa Monica has been silent for a long time on the status of the franchise, except for your collection here and vita release there. However, this silence has officially come to an end with the introduction of the latest entry simply titled, God of War. The name alone makes you question several things about the impending reunion: will this be the same Kratos? Is this a full reboot except for the character? While we are likely months away till we receive answers to these questions, one resounding thing is clear: This is not the same Kratos that we remember. 

Events have taken place in the years (I assume) that have past since we last fought with Kratos that has left him with several traits or characteristics that were once foreign to the Spartan. Kratos is quick to cool off after his fight with the troll, resuming his lesson on catching the animal. For the first time in memory, was saw him defuse his anger when his son prematurely shot an arrow at the deer (just let that sink in, the GOD OF WAR just decided to keep his cool). And most notably, there is care in the way that he handles the matters of the dying animal with his child. In 10 minutes, Sony Santa Monica completely changed my preconceived notions with the anger driven character. Now for the first time in the entirety of the franchise, I literally don’t know what to expect from the upcoming iteration, and this lack of understanding makes me very excited for what’s to come.

God of War has always been, first and foremost, about the gameplay. This fact, I have honestly never been argued on (because I am saying this, I am sure someone will come out of the woodwork). However, when it came to the character himself, while everyone could tell me the premise of the Spartans background, none really every expressed the notion of caring about the characters well being. Don’t get me wrong, I am not implying that every game under the sun needs to have an emotional impact like Journey, but what I AM saying is the act of truly being invested in your character and their outcome can be the difference between being just another game sitting on your shelf that “You need to get back to one day”, and a game that you spend sleepless nights battling through. Santa Monica understands this fact, and I think this is why they are moving in this direction.

For those of you worried about the direction they are taking, remember that there is A LOT that we don’t know yet. The reason for the drastic change in tone, in my opinion, was to get the audiences attention that this was not going to be your average God of War entry. I have every ounce of faith that the next time we see the Spartan, he will be climbing the back of some gigantic beast (c’mon dragon, c’mon dragon, C’MON DRAGON!) and gutting the poor (?) monster in the classic Kratos Fashion that we have already come to love and know. To those of you looking for a The Last of Us style game, I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you. But if you are interested in a different type of God of War, then I think you will find a lot to be excited for in this upcoming title. 

 

 

Playstation NEO & Why Sony Needs to Address it

Sony’s very own Andrew House has finally addressed the elephant in the room, the forthcoming PS4k… sort of. Speaking with Financial Times, House confirmed the long rumored consoles existence. However, when questioned on official reveal date and cost he remained vague. 

E3 2016 will not be the stage they reveal the latest iteration, House confirmed, so one can only assume that they want a more controlled approach that the console reveal by hosting their own event. We will see if that pays off.

At this point my biggest problem with Sony’s approach at the NEO, is not that it exists; but rather the lack of information they are willing to convey to their fan base. The current PS4 console is sitting around 40 million in sales the last  time Sony revealed numbers, so at this point they are obviously not exploring new iterations for lack of console movement. However, if Sony continues to remain silent on specifications, we could definitely see a slowing  in sales due to the possibility of a “better version” being imminent. It creates confusion and hesitation for potential buyers. 

Now to clarify, I will be one of those people that buy this console day 1. I would love the possibility to utilize my TV for better picture quality. The reason for my concern is Sony see’s the confusion in the market with these rumors, now confirmed, and still sits on their hands and lets it build. Sony has done an incredible job this console cycle, in communicating to their fan base and make the PS4 an amazing place to play. I don’t want to see this trend lose steam now.

But what do you think? Is the lack of specifics driving your crazy, or could you care less? Let me know in the comments below.