Gears of War 4 Review

Gears of War Campaign Review

Gears of War 4 came out last month, and naturally it’s taken Graev and I a little bit of time to finish up the campaign. I’m going to review the story campaign of GoW 4, but not the competitive versus modes on the multiplayer side.

Overall Story

If you haven’t played the original Gears trilogy, stop and go pick it up on Amazon for $30. It’s the original game with remastered graphics + backwards compatible versions of GoW 1, 2, 3, and judgement. You can play on PC or Xbox One depending on the version you buy.

Gears 4 is the first in what will become a new Gears trilogy. GoW4 picks up 25 years after the events of the third game when the characters are all much older and mostly grey.

You play as Marcus’ son, J.D., who abandoned the controlling and martial law enforcing COG to join the Outsiders who refuse to live under COG rule inside walled-off cities. Teh game starts off with J.D. and crew fighting back against the oppressive COG by stealing their power systems and supplies.

While trying to be a rebel and mess with the COG’s plans, J.D. and his friends make a discovery: The Locust are back!

The Locust have evolved and are now looking to capture humans to evolve. Along the way we meet up with a few familiar faces to help take down the baddies.

I’ll leave the story spoilers there.

There’s an interesting revelation at the end that I think is a little bit of a reach, but overall the story is at least more interesting than the confusing story from the first trilogy.

Gameplay

For the most part, we’re looking at a continuation of the same gameplay from previous gears games. There’s lots of cover mechanics, grenades into emergence holes, and shooting.

The game takes place mostly above-ground in the wilds and ruins of Sera, with only a few missions taking place in warehouses or mine tunnels.

A few new guns introduce a few extra things to watch for, but this is still 100% GoW at heart.

Play Anywhere

I purchased the digital copy of Gears of War 4, so that means I can play it on Xbox One AND/OR PC! In fact, I can play on PC and Graev on Xbox One, and we can play TOGETHER. We played the entire campaign with Graev hosting our game on Xbox One. Windows 10’s Xbox experience is phenomenal.

Since it works so well, I wish Microsoft would expand this beyond just first-party titles.

Conclusion

Gears of War 4 is great. Graev and I both enjoyed the campaign, and enjoyed playing it co-op together cross-platform.

I’m excited to see where the trilogy goes.

My Battlefield 1 Review

Battlefield 1 Review

EA’s newest addition to the Battlefield franchise launched sandwiched between their own shooter Titanfall 2 (Which they woefully neglected to care at all about) and the latest CoD installment. Battlefield 1 takes us back to the days of the early world war era of trench warfare and guys with capes.

Lets get right to the important stuff.

What improved, if anything, over the past Battlefield games?

EA did a nice job refining the main menu and overall presentation of Battlefield compared to a few of their recent previous versions. Battlefield 3 and 4 (if I even have the right numbers there) had clunky web interfaces and menu systems. BF1 wraps what I still believe to be a ‘browser’ into an application, and presents it with a nicer bow or cherry on top.

The menu system is decently intuitive. Joining friends is simple. Getting into any sort of game appears to be their #1 priority. There’s even a server browser, and it has so far worked perfectly fine for me.

What sucks about the out-of-game menu system is the weapon unlocks or soldier gear setup. It’s seemingly non-existent. I can look at what I have unlocked, but I can’t do a dang thing about it. Compared to the in-game menus which have everything I want, albeit less intuitive, and it’s questionable why the out-of-game menu even exists. It’s more of like an achievement scoreboard.

Unlocking items in general is SUPER slow. I’ve put hours and hours into a class and I haven’t even reached the next rank in that class or unlocked a single item. Graev has dumped like 5 hours into one and unlocked the first rank, but he still hasn’t made progress on item unlocks because he has to earn lots of Warbonds (in-game currency).

Do the guns feel good?

They feel very different from recent Battlefield games. I consider that a great thing. Bad company felt like paintball guns. Battlefield 3 and 4 felt weak and clunky. Battlefield 1’s shooting mechanics are solid, realistic, and have a nice feel to them. I feel like I’m shooting the guns from the era — though I have no basis for that statement.

Bullet drop is ever present. At times I feel like I’m lobbing sniper bullets rather than projecting them in any sort of straight line. That’s okay.

Gun diversity is lacking. I feel like there aren’t a whole lot of options — and I suppose there weren’t back in the day — and customization is kept to a minimum in an effort to maintain some chance of suspending our disbelief.

How’s the match pacing?

Matches feel much slower and methodical. I attribute that to a lack of fighter planes and explosions coming from every player. There are still tanks (which are way less annoying to deal with) and grenades, etc. There’s even gas now which is annoying, but pressing T puts on a gas mask so that’s cool.

Going back and forth between Titanfall 2 and BF1, I feel like I’m moving slower than molasses as I charge up a hill to take a bunker. Again, I don’t see that as a bad thing but a definite note to make. No running on walls here.

Are there vehicles in Battlefield 1?

Yep, a decent number. Most of them end up feeling similar to each other. Lots of machine guns instead of shells, and lots of troop transporting instead of 1-man boom sticks. Again, with big maps and slower pacing, the troop transports work out nicely. There are even horses on some levels, though I have yet to see a single person use a horse and not be completely annihilated. Who brings a horse to a tank fight?

Planes are handled a bit differently than past games. Instead of waiting for a plane — which I actually liked — you have to be the first to click the button on the respawn map. When you die, there’s a chance one might be up. If you’re lucky, you’ll spawn right into one and already be in the air flying. I think this is a huge let down for those of us who enjoyed the plane experience of taking off, landing, and putting TNT on our wings.

Aerial combat is decent in BF1. I think it pales in comparison to 1942, though.

Certain maps even have special ‘super vehicles’ like a big battleship, armored train, or zeppelin. These definitely influence the battle, and are a lot of fun to both pilot/gun in and to take out.

What about the maps and modes in BF1? Are they any good?

The maps are good. Sometimes I feel like the map sizes are decent, and other times I feel like there’s absolutely no way the map should be this small. Many of the game modes I’ve played take the map and truncate it into smaller pieces which. Capture A and B to unlock the next area, then capture the new A and B.

All of the maps have felt memorable, and I think I can say that I like all of them.

The modes are your standard Battlefield modes with the exception of a new mode called Operations. These are like replaying old battles where you have objectives in a 3 part series to advance the campaign or theater of war you’re participating in. These are a lot of fun, though they are definitely the “take these points to unlock more points to take” style of play.  Operations are a nice way to battle across multiple maps in order to determine a victor.

Maps in general are all about PLAYING THE OBJECTIVE! More than any previous Battlefield game, I feel like playing the objective has 100% priority. This is how you’ll rank up, get the most points, and win.

Conclusion – Is Battlefield 1 any good?

Battlefield 1 is A LOT of fun. The guns feel great, the maps are memorable (though I want bigger maps), the vehicles are right for the era (though I want better plane combat), and the modes scratch that Battlefield itch.

My biggest gripe about Battlefield 1 is the rate of unlocking items due to ranking up classes. You’re going to need to spend time playing in order to make progress, but hey at least it’s fun.

Battlefield 1 checks all of the boxes for me. Despite not living up to 1942 in some aspects, BF1 still exceeds my expectations. Its gritty, real, and brings a great new angle of action and features to the BF franchise. If you’re a BF fan, then this is definitely one you can’t skip.

Titanfall 2 Deserves So Much Better

Titanfall 2 Review

I played the original Titanfall for two weeks. I liked it, but then quickly forget it existed. I call this the “Titanfall effect.” It’s that, “oh yeah that was a good game” feeling… followed by having no desire to play. Did EA know this, and decide to just ‘Titanfall effect‘ their launch of Titanfall 2?

Titanfall 2 Titan and PilotTitanfall 2 launched on October 28th, and I bet the world had no clue. EA decided to launch Titanfall just one week after Battlefield 1. ONE WEEK! Why? They also chose to release it the week before their biggest competition launched Call of Duty Infinite Warfare. The very notion baffles me.

Having played Titanfall 2, I can tell you it’s not a bad game at all. Really. In fact, it’s a lot of fun. It’s actually a great step up from the original. Titanfall 2 plays like Call of Duty in many ways. The maps are on the smaller side (though much larger than the original) creating more of a ‘fragbox’ feel, and you’re never more than a few seconds away from an enemy. Gunplay feels tight and actually phenomenal compared to so many other shooters too — again, I say the same thing about CoD.

This video does a fantastic job at representing actual gameplay. Take a look:

The average map has me running along walls, parkouring all over the place, and pulling off ridiculously over-the-top moves to out maneuver the enemy. I’d say 90% of the “skill” is not in shooting your guns well (Battlefield), but instead in how you can manipulate terrain and use your movement to out-pace the opponent.

Grapples, wall-running, ninja stars, you name it. It’s there. And it’s wicked fast (did I just say wicked? I feel like it’s necessary here). Titanfall 2 makes CoD feel slow to me, and Battlefield feel like a walk with my grandma.

Where Titanfall stands out as more than just a generic fast-paced futuristic shooter is in its Titans. These mech-like battle suits are taken up a notch in Titanfall 2. There are now more titans, more weapons, and more abilities.

Titanfall 2 does such an awesome job at immersing you in the Titan experience too. Jumping into one from various angles, or having your Titan grab you and pull you into your seat… it’s just so satisfying.

My gripes are mostly with map size and design. The maps are small and the gameplay is so fast that I often feel like it’s too hectic. Sniping is stupid since people move so fast, and when everyone has a Titan things become chaotic. The maps are also a bit forgettable and generic, though I’m still giving them credit for improving upon the original.

Overall, Titanfall 2 is a fantastic shooter. I highly recommend it for anyone looking to scratch that ridiculously over-the-top futuristic shooter itch, but can’t bring themselves to play another Call of Duty. Seriously, Titanfall 2 offers something different, and I have NO IDEA why EA launched it within a window akin to a death sentence. Major fail, EA.

Note: Graev and I play the PC version. If you’re a console fan, I hear great things about both communities. There are fewer PC players, but getting a match going isn’t hard. Singleplayer is actually pretty good, too.

Civilization 6 Review

I want to start off this review by saying I’m not an expert at Civilization 6. In fact, quite the opposite. I haven’t “won” a game yet, and I’m still learning how to play Civ 6 having not played a Civ game since Civ 4. However, I can talk about whether or not I’m having fun or like the game.

Civilization 6 is a turn-based 4x strategy game – “eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate.” (Some people have different X’s, but you get the idea). The goal is to take your civilization from an early civilization up through a thriving world power. To win, you have to achieve one of the conditions centralized around military, culture, religion, science, or score based if no other victory conditions are met.

There’s a lot I could say about “how” one plays Civ, but for that I’ll leave you to read the in-depth guides or the videos. Suffice it to say, the game has subtle complexities that I have come to only learn by experiencing the game myself.

What I like most has to be that no two games of Civ 6 have been alike. I can play a game like Warcraft or Starcraft, and they generally all go the same way — I make the same units, use the same strategies, and generally play the same way on every map. In Civ 6 — albeit a completely different kind of strategy game — I’m rarely going to play the exact same way. The main reason for the diversity and dynamic play has to be the resources and tech tree.

Something I’m still trying to learn to be better at is planning my civilization around what I can access. For example, I thought I’d be super cool and tech fast to munitions only to find out that I had zero niter anywhere near me. Scouting better and actually thinking about requirements for making units would have made this a much easier mistake to avoid.

Civ 6 brings a lot of new features, but the main one for me so far has been the unstacking of cities into districts. Instead of all upgrades going onto jut your main home tile, you now can place districts within your city’s influence. Placing districts on certain tiles yields better results based on that districts requirements — something I’m still trying to be better at. Districts are continually upgraded throughout the game as you unlock more technology and discover new things.

Adapting to random circumstances has also proven challenging. For example, I started my last game next to FOUR barbarian outposts. For the entire first 100 turns I was living by a thread as I was continually assaulted from all sides and surrounded by barbarians. I couldn’t even make a builder because they were captured instantaneously.

Gandhi using missionaries to convert my civilization

Different world leaders also present some fun. Just when you think you caught a break by being neighbors with the peaceful Gandhi… he suddenly starts converting your people to his religion with dozens upon dozens of missionaries. And while you try and deal with stopping him without starting a holy war, Greece offers to send a peaceful “gift” and “delegation” to your capital — YEAH RIGHT.

Military gameplay has also been different. Units do not stack until much later, and even then stack less than normal. This has required a lot more thought into how I move my units across a map, and managing the units has become a lot more challenging. Military gameplay in general is something I’m also working on — especially when it comes to sieging cities with walls in the mid-late game.

Playing for a military victory feels really, really cumbersome and even a bit annoying. Perhaps it’s mean to mimic the complexities of supporting and maneuvering large forces, but it teeters on being obnoxious at times waiting for units to unintelligently move to open hexes if another becomes inadvertently filled.

Multiplayer

Multiplayer gameplay is pretty neat. Graev and I have a game going right now where we enabled simultaneous turns. The only real downside to multiplayer is that you may end up waiting a while before that player finishes their turn, and you both can start a new turn. I feel like it has almost doubled the length of the game, even with simultaneous turns enabled.

Teaming up together to strategically choke an enemy civilization or manipulate the map’s resources makes things a whole lot of fun… as long as you can trust your real life allies…

Conclusion

Overall, Civ 6 is a lot of fun, but you can’t go into this expecting a super high-velocity city conquering game. Civ 6, like its predecessors before it, is a methodical strategy game. You’ll need to plan ahead, take your time, and realize what type of victory is within your reach — and do it pretty early. On more than one occasion, I’ve realized (1-2 hours into a game) that I really can’t win. While that’s not a fun realization, I still had fun getting to to that loss.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Review

Uncharted 4

Uncharted 4 brings to an end one of my (now) favorite gaming series. Just two months ago I picked up the Nathan Drake Collection and fell completely in love with the first three games. Something about the adventure of pirates, treasure, and glory captured my heart and I was hooked. While the first three games were very much about the adventure, Uncharted 4 takes quite a spin focusing more on a mature (meaning grown up and serious) narrative.

Nathan and Elena are a little older now. Several years have passed since the events in Uncharted 3. They’re trying to retire and live normal lives. The game begins with the two in their home where Naughy Dog immediately showcases their story-telling finesse. Uncharted 4 definitely shows the effect The Last of Us had on Naughty Dog. You can feel the tension of two people living a life that neither are happy with. It was only a matter of time before Nathan sucked them back into an adventure — one that may be their last.

Graphics

Uncharted 4 has superb graphics. You can see the dust in the air, the rocks sliding down a hill, etc., etc. It’s gorgeous. It’s 60fps on console. The engine is one of the best I’ve experienced. Underwater scenes are gorgeous. The world feels legitimate.

Uncharted 4 Graphics

General Gameplay

Gameplay is cinematic to say the least. Even the most intense combat scenarios where you’re under fire from all sides and making ridiculous decisions that no game developer should have been able to foresee end up feeling choreographed into the perfect scene. The parkour is crazier than ever with the introduction of sliding and grappling hooks that make Drake give Spider-man a run for his money. Traversing terrain still feels a little ridiculous for any human to accomplish, but the controls are such that you feel like you’re controlling Nathan’s arms and reaching for ledges.

Shooting mechanics vary game to game in this series. I tried using the assisted aim and while I’m a sucker for auto-aim on consoles, but version nearly got me killed. I quickly disabled it and found the standard gunplay very comfortable and I was making head shots without any form of assist.

Elena in Uncharted 4

The Campaign

Uncharted 4 returns to the idea of pirates. This time, Nathan is going after the pirate Captain Henry Avery’s long-lost treasure. From Monaco to the Scottish Highlands to Madagascar, there’s plenty of diversity in scenery.

The campaign itself has its ups and downs. While combat and various scenes are choreographed perfectly (the car chase in Monaco comes to mind), the game runs into several moments of rinse and repeat. Every time you find your way deeper into the adventure, suddenly the bad guys are already well established ahead of you and you have to take them all out again.

Stealth plays a larger role in this one. I almost felt like I was playing Assassin’s Creed during a few points. I like that a lot more than guns blazing all the time. Puzzle solving is also back better than it was in some of the previous games. I do wish there were even more puzzles, though.

Uncharted 4’s biggest issue is its second act. The pacing is so boring. People critique the third act, but I felt like that was Uncharted 4 getting back to its roots and rounding out that story they’ve been trying to tell over 4 games now. No spoilers will be given here, but the third act contains dialog necessary for building the emotional connection to what the characters are going through. Yes, the third act was a little slow, but I liked what it represented for the characters involved.

A  Thief’s End

The ending is perfect. I don’t want to spoil anything for those of you still playing through, or who one day will fix their mistake by not having played these games.  After the game seems to end, stick around. Play through until Game Over on the Crash Bandcioot scene. This ending was very fulfilling. I eat this stuff up. Both my wife and I thought that it was a very fitting end. There’s a reason people are calling this, “The greatest story ever played.”

Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go is all the craze lately. People everyone are playing. People who would never have even thought to play a Pokemon game are walking the streets hunting for Pokemon. I was at work and looked out the window down to the street and sure enough this lady was catching Pokemon. How do you know if someone is playing? Just watch. They’ll act really odd, aiming their phone around, spinning in circle, then suddenly stopping for no apparent reason to interact with their phone.

I went Pokemon hunting yesterday. I was on my way to a wedding with a little time to kill so my wife and I stopped off at the mall (Irvine Spectrum for people who know the area) when suddenly a wild Zubat appeared! I chased it into a Target. Then I had to take a detour into a jewelry store to catch an Ekans. Pics or it didn’t happen? Sure.

Throughout the mall I caught a dozen or so others. I went into a Sur la Table and found a Pidgey fluttering around some spatulas. Then wild Ratata appeared at the Starbucks, and a Crabby was just chillin on some lady’s purse. I had to stop and aim my phone at her — not awkward at all.

I saw several other people catching Pokemon around me. One guy in a Curse gaming shirt was having a grand ole time, and these two teenagers were running around clearly chasing Pokemon.

PokeStop Local Business

Brilliant marketing gimmicks.

An interesting feature are the PokeStops. Real world ‘places of interest’ are turned into PokeStops, or places that you can visit to get bonuses like PokeBalls. These have so far been everything from the water fountain at the mall to the tile art on the archway in my complex. The more populated the area, the more PokeStops — it’s like they want people to see you playing or something. ::Looks around nervously::

I’m more of a closet Poke Trainer… I get all shy and embarassed aiming my phone around. Bri gets excited and starts shouting “THERE’S ONE! CATCH IT!” and I’m like “SHHH” and I hide my phone and start examining the basting brushes like nothing is going on.

Pokemon Go lacks the “game” element for me. It’s a neat gimmick to use your phone camera to see pokemon in the world, but just flicking pokeballs and having it be nothing more than ‘collect’em all’ gets old. I want to battle them. I want to level them up. I want to do more of the actual Pokemon game. I get it — that’s not what Pokemon Go is about. Pokemon go is about getting random people out catching Pokemon

By the end of the afternoon I had walked just over three miles finding Pokemon. I’m already a bit bored with the whole experience. Come to think of it, that’s what Pokemon Go is all about. It’s not a game. It’s an experience. It’s a fun social experiment to see how new ways of engaging people beyond the usual gamer can catch on. Give it a shot — it’s free. Just don’t let your kids walk into the middle of the street chasing after a Pikachu.

Uncharted Collection: An Absolute Must Play

Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection Review

I sometimes feel silly reviewing these older games, especially when they’ve long been heralded as amazing and I was simply too oblivious or stupid not to try them when they came out. Even though the first game came out nine years ago, let me tell you now that it’s never too late to play these games — especially since they’ve been remastered and the newest game just came out.

I’m going to approach reviewing Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection by giving my brief thoughts on teach of the games, and my overall thoughts on the series so far.

Uncharted PS3 vs. PS4

Remastered for the PS4

Part of me rejoices in the fact that I waited so long, because playing all of them on one disc in the PS4 in HD looks a heck of a lot better than it would have back on the PS3. The graphics for all three games look great. I was telling Graev (who played them all originally when they came out) that if I didn’t know the original game came out in 2007, I would have pegged it more around 2012’ish. The graphics in Drake’s Deception are as good as many games released today on the PS4.

Drake' Fortune

Drake’s Fortune

The first in the series kicks things off strong by tickling that treasure hunter itch. You’re the descendent of Sir Francis Drake (one of my favorite historical figures since I was 7, btw) looking for his long lost treasure. This starts you down a journey that continues to unfold throughout the rest of the series.

Drake’s Fortune features a lot of puzzle solving, jumping puzzles/navigation scenes, but most of all lots of shooting scenes. Back in 2007, the cover mechanics and climbing would have been really quite a feat and were probably pioneered through this game. The story is intriguing, though definitely takes an Indiana Jones turn when it goes a bit sci-fi — a turn that manifests itself in many ways throughout the series.

Overall a very catch story that sucked me in right away.

Among Thieves

Among Thieves

The story continues, sort of. This time Drake is in a new setting. Instead of islands and pirate ships, Drake is navigating the snowy Himalayas and Asia while following the trail of Marco Polo. Unfortunately, there’s very little connection at all to the first game’s plot except for the characters and their relationships. These relationships, however, are a huge element of the game for me and kept me going.

Among Thieves featured waaaaay more puzzles and climbing with relatively less shooting than the original. The story was slightly less intriguing because my interest in Marco Polo’s adventures pales in comparison to Sir Francis Drake. Once again the series takes on a mystical plot twist that I actually feel is sometimes at odds with the rest of the game. Uncharted 2 had a weird resolution for me. With so much build up, I feel like it ends relatively short of the huge story it built up.

Drake's Deception

Drake’s Deception

Easily the best in the series so far, Drake’s Deception brings us back to the story of Nathan Drake’s ancestor and more about the treasure we may find at the end of this long adventure. We see a change of scenery once again. In fact, we see lots of scenery changes in Uncharted 3. The game begins in London and travels all over from France to Yemen to the Rub’ al Khali desert.

Uncharted 3 introduces a lot more fist fighting and a heck of a lot more emphasis on sneaky gameplay. There’s also a lot of quick time events which make for more cinematic gameplay, but aren’t necessarily my cup of tea. Gameplay overall finds a very healthy balance between puzzles, climbing scenes, and fighting. By the end, I did wish for more puzzles. Thankfully the mystical nature here ends up working a little bit better than Uncharted 2, but it still resolves too quickly to have built up for so long.

Uncharted 3 has so many breathtaking moments where the gameplay had me on the edge of my seat. Bri (who is watching me play the entire series) and I would often be like “OH CRAP!” and all sorts of exclamations at scenes where the game threw me into these perilous intense moments that somehow manages to transcend the feeling of a game. It’s crazy what they’re able to enact on the player; On more than one occasion I was awestruck by how the game was so fluid and seamless in its ability to make me feel like I was doing all of these amazing things on my own, when in reality I know that’s the course they meant for me to take.

An Amazing Journey

Playing all three games back to back in less than a month was a blast, and now I’m ready to start the newly released Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (look for my review in a couple weeks tops). Uncharted is now among the top games on my all-time favorites list, right up there with Warcraft RTS and Assassin’s Creed.

The shooting, sneaking, climbing, jumping, cinematics, etc., all of the mechanics are all superb, and only a few times was I ever frustrated by the actual ‘playing’ part of the game. The story is top notch, yet predictable at times; Yet in its predictability it still manages to be told extremely well. All-around a near-perfect series. If you like shooters mixed with historical fiction, a little mysticism/scifi, and and puzzles… don’t make the same mistake I did by passing on these for so long. All 3 games with PS4 graphics at half the price of ONE game? Yeah, that’s a no-brainer.

TMNT: Mutants in Manhattan Review

Mutants in Manhattan Review

Graev and I have been TMNT fans since we were little tykes running around with plastic swords wailing on each other. We loved TMNT on the NES back in 89, Turtles on Time back in 91, and a few of the other games in the 92-93 years. But since those days the Turtles have had a rough go of things, and unfortunately that doesn’t really change with Mutants in Manhattan.

Reviews across the web have been pretty harsh. Graev and I both bought Mutants in Manhattan well before waiting to se what the scores would be, so we were a bit leery that we may have — in the words of Gob — made a huge mistake. Luckily things didn’t turn out quite so bad, but they’re still a long ways from great.

Mutants in Manhattan is developed by Platinum Games who brought us other titles like Bayonetta, Star Fox Zero, and the (hopefully) soon to release Scalebound. Pretty good lineup. Mutants in Manhattan (MiM from hereon out that’s just too many syllables) is a beat’em-up game similar to most TMNT titles. Art style is fantastic, animations are great, combat is excellent (if not a little repetitive), etc. Where the game falls completely flat is in its execution of story and flow.

TMNT Mutants in Manhattan Combat and Boss Fights

There really isn’t a story worth commenting on, as the narrative is completely nonexistent and skips around in an almost incomprehensible way. Levels are loosely based around completing randomized/serializes objectives such as beat up the foot, deliver the stolen cash, diffuse the bombs, or find the sewer hole. These little “side quests” become so mundane and linked together that it’s almost mind-numbing. But the have to be done because doing them spawns the boss of the level which is the only way to progress.

Boss fights are well done. Once you get the hang of each boss’ mechanics, the idea of having to eliminate 4-10 health bars isn’t so bad. All of your favorite bosses and then some are there.

As I mentioned earlier, combat is solid. For a beat’em-up style it has all of the combos I’m looking for, and even some multiplayer combos as well as special abilities to unlock. Each turtle feels appropriate to their fighting style.

I wish that the world was more open like a GTA game, and that I could just be a Turtle roaming the city stopping bad guys while following a cohesive story. That would have been a lot better than the fairly dead and lifeless world they toss you into.

Graev and I both agree that the game is fun enough to play together (co-op works great) and beat up some Foot. Go into expecting a whole lot more and you’ll be disappointed. Thankfully the game isn’t quite full price (Find it on Amazon and all over in the 40’s). Maybe this is a compliment… it’s the best Turtles game in a long time. I know that’s not saying much, but maybe a step in the right direction.

Overwatch: Proof Blizzard Can Sell Anything

My review and thoughts on Overwatch will be straight forward and to the point as many or most of you likely already own the game. Overwatch is a rather generic and mediocre shooter when you strip away the Blizzard logo and look at it critically for what it really is. If this were released as a brand new IP from an unknown company, Overwatch would have gone relatively unknown and stood no chance against its competition in the space; In fact I have a feeling most would have knocked it hard for its shortcomings.

Overwatch is a straight copy of TF2 from character mechanics to game modes and even down to the zany nature of its characters personalities. They innovated some on certain abilities and attacks, tossed in more characters, but left it very vanilla after that.

There’s not much to Overwatch, and unfortunately little room to evolve the model. I’m sure they’ll add hats and gimmicks to the cash shop over the years to keep things fresh. That should work.

Team composition matters too much — probably the only legitimate comparison to a moba that I’ll allow. Have a poor team comp and you’re done. There’s also too much cheese. For example, stack a bunch of Toblerones and it breaks certain maps. Certain heroes have abilities which just aren’t balanced — and no, I don’t count having to swap heroes to take them out as balance. I had this discussion with Graev tonight about playing what you want to play vs playing what you have to play or are compelled to play. I like Hanzo the most, but I simply can’t play him when the enemy team comp won’t allow it or my team refuses to play a comp that stands a chance. If you’re on a team where everyone only picks the one hero they love to play, you’re doomed.

Summary:
People aren’t going to stick with Overwatch long, but they’ll get their money’s worth (the single biggest positive influence on my scoring). Overwatch is a ‘good’ game, but it simply rehashes what has already been seen and done before. If you look past the rage-inducing balance issues, cheese, team stacking, and overly formulaic design, chances are you’ll have a blast.

Minecraft Wii U Edition & Mario Mash-up Pack

Minecraft Wii U Edition

Graev and I picked up Minecraft for Wii U over the weekend along with the newly released Mario Mash-up pack. That pretty much explains where my entire weekend went. The digital version is available for $29.99 on the eShop, and the physical version comes out June 17.

As a veteran to Minecraft, I’ve played a lot of what the PC has to offer. Graev is a purist and refuses to touch mods — he wants nothing to do with them, and says if he wanted something more complex then he would go and play Space Engineers. I haven’t played basic MC in years. I love Feed the Beast, Sky Factory, Tekkit, and all of the mods bundled with them. Minecraft on the Wii U is about as vanilla as it gets, sitting around v1.6.4.

Getting used to Vanilla MC again took me a little bit. I struggled to cope with going from wood to stone to iron, and there being no copper or tin in between. The resources are a fraction of what’s available. Nevertheless, these aren’t things I feel that I should ding the game for since I went outside the game to mod my experience on my own. After a few hours, I finally started to come around to what was available and began to realize there’s still potential to “make cool things that do things” (which is what I like to do in Minecraft), they’ll just take a lot more imagination and be a lot rougher.

My biggest gripe about the game is the lack of gamepad utility. It’s simply a duplicate if what you see on the screen. Huge opportunity missed here for easier inventory management or even gameplay like tapping blocks and placing blocks.

We got multiplayer up and running flawlessly in seconds. Minecraft Wii U edition comes with several texture packs, including the Mario Mash-up one which transforms a lot of blocks into Mario-themed goodies. Sheeps are Koopa Troopas on all fours, Zombies are Koopa Troopas, chickens are Goombas, plants are the Mario plants, flint and steel are the fire flower, etc. The music is also swapped out for all Mario music. It’s a TON of fun. More to come on this version soon.

Lots of other DLC packs and texture packs from with the Wii U version, but there are plenty of other bits of DLC for sale. The Skyrim pack, for example, costs $3.99 and the Star Wars Rebels skin pack is like $2.99.

Last night my wife and I also started our own split-screen world together. She’s never played Minecraft, but quickly started getting the hang of how it works. The hardest part for her is managing the controller. Two sticks at once in a 3D environment was a first for her, but she’s getting the hang of it. We made a little base underground, started mining, and getting the basics all set up.

I’m trying to figure out how to stream from my couch which is across the room from my computer. I think I’ll jerry-rig the laptop to try and stream through my Avermedia Live Gamer Portable. Should hopefully work, and I’ll be able to stream my awful vanilla MC noobiness.

Overall, tons of fun. I think 10 hours was gone in a second. I definitely recommend it for people like myself who enjoy variations on a game like Minecraft and won’t baulk at buying a game you already own on PC in order to experience it differently on a console. And of course the kids will love it too. I also enjoy the Mario goodies on the new Mash-up, and highly recommend you choose that texture pack when creating your world.

I’ll call this an early review, but I intend on showcasing the game more and talking more about the Mario texture pack once I have more experience with the game.