Well, after a week of nothing but Sonic games, it's nice to actually get to write about other games for a chance, especially since this year is winding down and there are a few newer games that I want to sneak in before my project is complete. Did you notice that I said that I'm excited to write about different games, and didn't say play different games? Well that's because all throughout the week, I was actually playing a different game as well, but you know, I just couldn't write about it in order to keep the week of Sonic alive and well.
Throughout this year of gaming I've partaken in, my kids have been instrumental in helping me along the way. Granted, they didn't always know they were helping me directly with the blog itself, but they have been along with me all the way, from the first day and beyond. Sometimes they were just innocent bystanders while watching me play whatever it is I was playing. Other times, they inspired me to do an entire week of a series and rode out every minute of it with me. They have played games, suggested games and broke in new systems.with me. Sure, they haven't been around for every game or been apart of every blog post, but I can't help but give all three of them a significant amount of credit for keeping me dedicated and reminding me constantly how special video games were to me as a kid, and how much they still impact children's lives today.
The reason I brought this up is because with my daughter over at my apartment this weekend, in the midst of everything else, we played a bunch of Peggle 2, the newest downloadable title for the Xbox One. And when I say "we played a bunch," I totally mean that she played a bunch of Peggle 2 while I watched on, helping out when necessary. Surprisingly, however, it turns out my little five year old daughter is a rock star when it comes to Peggle 2, unbeknownst to me until this weekend.
She did awesome, plain and simple. I explained to her which buttons to push (simple controls are ideal for small people), and outlined the principle of the game, and she was set. Go for the red pegs, only go for the blue pegs if you have enough extra balls to do so or you need to clear a path to a red one, the purple pegs give you extra points and the green ones give you special abilities for a turn or two. Not only did she understand the concept, but she applied them perfectly. She ran through level after level, mostly without much trouble, unlocking new levels along the way for me.
Granted, she did get stuck on a couple of different levels, where I had to help her out with them, but for the most part, she cleared probably 25 levels or so on her own over the weekend. It was a fun and proud moment to see her just ripping through them, one after another. The best part was watching her face every time she beat a level, as it lit up with joy and excitement, genuinely proud of herself and her accomplishment.
For the record, her favorite character is the troll, mainly because of the giant boulder special attack it has, but also for the goat's head that explodes after beating each level. Yeah, she's my daughter alright.
I wrote about Knack for my first week with my PS4 series, specifically with how much I liked and enjoyed the game despite the criticism and overall negative outlook on it by the journalism community, which of course filtered down to the gamers, keeping many away from the game because of the review score. For reasons I just didn't understand, most reviewers just didn't like Knack, or at least didn't want to give it the credit it deserved for the great things it did. It's unfortunate, but thankfully, with my blog right here, I was able to enlighten and open some eyes and maybe convinced some people to go with their gut instead of what reviewers felt, and try the game.
Well, I can't help but feel like Microsoft has a game falling under the same hardships as Sony did with Knack. Ryse: Son of Rome has been one of those titles highly regarded and hyped up since the announcement of its existence several months ago, as it was clear that Microsoft would be leaning heavy on the gladiatorial combat game to carry their console-exclusive launch line-up. As the release got closer, however, the journalism community began to sour on the game, complaining about being repetitive, and ... well, not many other complaints really. That stigma that it was developing already was making reviewers nervous, and effectively keeping consumers wary of a Day 1 purchase.
Let's get this clear right off the bat. Yes, it is repetitious, especially in the beginning. But it's also pertinent to remember that this game is trying to showcase the Roman empire with some historical accuracy, which means it's trying to make the combat as realistic as possible. You don't use magic or crazy unrealistic weapons. You are equipped with weapons you would find in the time period, which for better or worse, didn't have a lot of diversity in their design.
The game is also very linear, as you battle your way through a pre-established path, not leaving you much chance for exploration. They never set out to make an open world gladiator game, but rather tell a flushed out story about a fierce warrior fighting for everything he believe in. With such a powerful story, especially one where the cut-scenes are absolutely gorgeous, I feel no need to wander off or do random side quests. The pacing of the game how it is laid out is perfect, and to knock the game for what it is and not trying to be more than that is a shame.
So yes, it is repetitive at the start. You only have a couple of moves at your disposal to use in order to dispatch enemies, but the more you fight and the more blood is spilled on the battlefield, the more you can upgrade your warrior to learn different attacks, executions and abilities. The game rewards you for continuing your journey, and I have no qualms with that. It really doesn't feel much different than other button-mashing brawler games, especially considering all the details the game is trying to showcase.
Oh, and this game is beautiful. Aside from the thousands of zombies on the screen at once in Dead Rising 3, or the individual beard hairs on basketball players in NBA 2K14, this game is quite the showcase for what "next-gen" technology is capable of, which is scary considering this is just the beginning for this generation of consoles.
Long story short, if Ryse: Son of Rome caught your interest at all, and you backed off because of the reviews, then you are missing out. If you can play it in any capacity, you need to do so. Don't let those always-negative game reviewers keep you from pursing your gut feelings. Allow this measly blogger to convince you to ignore them and play what you want, because you want to. That's what gaming is all about.
So when I got my Xbox One, I had this weird feeling that the launch line-up for games was pretty weak. I couldn't get passed how few retail games I wanted to buy when I picked up my system, and how it seemed like I would be relying on the XBLA to supply me with games to play on the new console.
What I wasn't thinking about at the time, which had to be pointed out to me, was that because I got so many games for the PS4 that were cross-platform, that when looking for Xbox One games to get, the selection seemed a lot more limited than it actually was. Despite my own Jedi mind tricks on myself, I also have to point blame to Microsoft for launching after the PS4, because for everyone who took the plunge and bought both systems, they hindered themselves on game sales as the opportunity to buy "next=gen" games came a week earlier on the PS4. Sure, some gamers would still buy some of those games on the Xbox One because that would be their system of choice, just as how the PS4 is my system of choice, but either way, it's lost dollars however you want to slice it.
Anyway, because I wasn't buying a bunch of retail games for the Xbox One, I did want to jump in to the XBLA games more so than I normally would. I am kind of disappointed that Sony knew how to bring attention to the PSN buy giving away two, quality games for free while Microsoft refuses to give it's uses anything worthwhile at all, and nothing for early Xbox One adopters.
Well, one of the games I decided to try out was LocoCycle, which I have heard a lot about for what feels like forever now, but seemed to lose it's own hype once it was close to release. I had actually forgotten all about it until I was browsing the store, and thankfully Microsoft decided to give it a featured spot on the main page.
The main reason why I was even interested in this game at all was because it was developed by Twisted Pixel, the development team responsible for 'Splosion Man, Ms. 'Splosion man and quite possibly the best Kinect game available, The Gunstringer. Truth be told, 'Splosion Man was the first XBLA game I ever bought, and I loved every bit of it. Back then, I was hesitant to jump in to the downloadable game market, but the premise of the game was just too compelling to pass up.
Now, with LocoCycle, the team has taken everything they learned over the years to put together a very interesting, unique game. The gameplay is constantly transitioning from one type of game to another, seamlessly I might add. Just when you get used to a driving game, it tossed you right into a shooter. From there, you might go to a brawler or some other type of game, but either way, you really have no idea what you're going to be playing from one minute to the next.
There is also an interwoven live-action short film within the game, which breaks up the over-the-top gameplay with a fun and entertaining little movie, that is almost more ridiculous than the game itself. Fortunately, the game never takes itself seriously, and seems to be self aware more so than it lets on. There are hints of mild racism revolving around the Hispanic mechanic of IRIS, the talking bike, which some people in the journalism community has taken offense to. But if anything, it just feels juvenile, not intentionally offensive. While you have to imagine the development team didn't set out to be racist in anyway, I could understand how some people could be sensitive to it.
Regardless, I have had a good time playing this game, more so than I thought I would, but as much as I hoped to. So far I have been plenty entertained with the XBLA options offered up for the launch of the Xbox One, although I can't help but feel taken advantage of instead of appreciated like I did with Sony.
Take notes, Microsoft. If you want to stay competitive in this arms race, especially in the digital download independent games arms race, look at what Sony is doing with the PSN.
When I was talking about the XBLA marketplace, with it being really hard to find games that aren't featured or given a spotlight to catch buyers attention on the main page of the store, I was talking about this game. For some reason, Microsoft decided that despite it being a launch title for the Xbox One market, they weren't going to help promote it at all, burying it deep within the search pages of the store, making it almost impossible for browsers looking for new games to stumble across it.
And that's a shame.
Of all the non-retail downloadable titles, Powerstar Golf might be the shining star of them all. While it doesn't showcase the graphical and processing power of the new console like other games might, that shouldn't diminish the value and overall charm of this game. Apparently it was originally designed as a 360 game, but Microsoft decided to hold off on it and push it to the Xbox One, of course with some more polish to class it up a bit I;m sure.
I'm glad they decided to hold on to it, because if it had been a 360 release, I wouldn't have touched it, like most other games on the 360. But being on a new new system on launch day, I made it a point to check it out. You know, once I found it in the store of course.
Once you start playing the game, it's impossible not to make comparisons to the other popular arcade-style gold game that can be found on Sony platforms, most recently on the Vita. Hot Shots Golf is a great game and has dominated the market-share for this genre. But with the emergence of Powerstar Golf, now, hopefully they two competing franchises can push each other into making the best product possible.
I really like arcade golf games for the simple fact of how over the top unrealistic they are. Tiger Woods golf games are fun, but almost too realistic, and are usually more stressful then they need to be. Just like real golf! With games like Powerstar Golf, however, I never feel rushed, or stressed or anxious to be perfect. I just get up to the ball and mash it and hope for the best.
Sure, there is a considerable amount of skill and strategy involved with this game, just like any other golf game. But the simplicity and ease of which anyone can just jump into a round makes the game very approachable by golf fans and gamers alike. In this new franchise, there is an added RPG style element to the development of your characters, as everything you do on the course nets you XP that goes to upgrading your golfer. Throughout the round, random challenges will pop up left and right, giving you a hefty payday of XP when and if you complete them while playing. And if you don't, there is no penalty, so no worries there.
The characters themselves are over the top and come with their own set of special abilities, and the option to select different caddies that have their own personalities and ways to contribute is a nice touch. Most everything in the game is interchangeable, which adds a level of depth unseen in a lot downloadable-only titles.
Granted, this isn't the best launch game you will play, but you will be hard pressed to find a better one within the XBLA marketplace. Especially since you can't find anything easily anyway.
With the release of the Xbox One, Microsoft decided to try a few new and different things in the way they market and sell games. Sure, they released a slew of full-priced retail games at launch, but they also offered up a handful of XBLA titles for their new system, as a way to draw gamers in to their marketplace and prove to skeptics that they too, like Sony, are serious about the independent and arcade game titles.
Unfortunately, when you browse the XBLA store, you are shown page after page of tiles, featuring all the games that Microsoft deemed important enough to catch your eye and demand your attention - and more importantly, your money. If Microsoft didn't determine a game to be important enough or hyped enough, you can't find it on the marketplace page. They don't even have a list of all games available to download, that I have found at least. If you are looking for a game that isn't "featured," you have to use the search function. That in itself is fine and dandy, especially if you know what you are looking for specifically. But for the common Xbox One owners who aren't browsing video game news websites and such on a regular basis, who isn't in tun with the newest and coolest games, they will never find and discover games that aren't Microsoft-loved. This is a sad and scary thought for independent developers, unless they are in good with Microsoft and can get prime advertising space in the store.
One of the games that is featured on the store's home page is Killer Instinct, which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone considering they have been leaning on the return of this franchise to hype the launch of the console since they announced it at E3. Make no mistake about it, however, that Killer Instinct is no small, independent game, but rather a long, established franchise worthy of the Microsoft spotlight. Besides, Killer Instinct was a game they wanted to try a new type of payment plan for.
You see, you can download the game for free. Just go to the store, hit download and it's all yours, free of charge. Don't get too excited, though, as while you get the whole game for free, you only get one character to play as. Essentially, you are downloading a demo, albeit an elaborate one. They want you to try out the game, hope that you like it enough to pay for more, and bet on you buying the character pack, which gives you the other five characters and the promise of two more to come.
Yes, this game only features eight characters. A stark difference from most fighting games, although when you think about it, the fewer amount of characters might give the player more of an opportunity to try and master each character. The balance for all characters could be awesome as well, as each one could have different traits and abilities, instead of a huge roster having several similar characters.
Of course, I haven't actually gave them any money yet. While I have enjoyed what I played so far, I simply have way too many games to play and enjoy before I spend time and money on, of all things, a fighting game. We all know how I feel about fighting games.
Anyway, I like the idea that Microsoft has for this payment system for this game, and it's intriguing to speculate what else they can do with ideas similar to this one. My only concern at this point is how they plan on marketing the independent games to grace their new platform. Will they continue to allow smaller games fall into the cracks of their marketplace? Let's hope not.
When I made the decision to buy both of the new consoles that were launching within a week of each other, I really had to do some soul searching about why I wanted both systems, and more specifically, if I could justify getting an Xbox One. Considering how far removed I have been from Microsoft consoles, it seemed hard for me to explain at first why I wouldn't just go the PS4 route. If anything, it seemed like, if anything, I wanted the new Xbox because it was new and shiny, and no other reason.
Thankfully, the only person I really had to justify my purchase to was myself. Unfortunately, I am my own worse critic and deterrent from doing foolish things in life, which means the only person I had to convince was also the hardest person as well.
My biggest issue I was debating with myself was what games I would play on the Xbox One, other than the Microsoft exclusives, of course. Because I had completely turned to Sony to play all the multi-platform games, I would need to make a compromise with myself, change my habits or just admit that the Xbox One would be a system to play exclusives on, and that's it. After some serious soul searching, I decided that I would give up sports games on PlayStation, and use the Xbox One for them.
The only real reason for that decision is that the way I figure it, if I am using my PS4 for all the big, really cool games, I'm not going to have time to use the same machine to play the random sports games that I pick up from here on out. Granted, the PS4 will still be my baseball console, thanks to the Sony exclusive The Show being so awesome, but other than that, sports was a genre I was willing to give up and hand over to the Xbox One. Initially, I also thought first person shooters, like the Call of Duty franchise, but that idea fizzled when I decided to go with Ghosts on the PS4.
So with that, one of my day one purchases for the glorious Xbox One was NBA 2K14. Simply put, I love this franchise, all the way back to the Dreamcast days when I played it over at my friends house. Back then, gamers had a legitimate dilemma on their hands, however, since NBA Live was another great basketball franchise. Over the years, however, the 2K franchise started to pull away from its competition, which eventually led to two big moments in the arms race for basketball video game supremacy.
The NBA Live franchise fell on its face, as EA all but conceited victory to 2K Sports. A scheduled Live game was delayed, delayed again and then flat out cancelled, and despite the constant rumors, just kept absent. Around the same time as the NBA Live franchise flop, 2K managed to do the unthinkable and secure Michael Jordan's likeness for their newest game. This was huge because MJ was extremely resistant to being featured in NBA licensed video games. With the inclusion of His Airness and the disappearance of the competition, NBA 2K was set to be king of the mountain.
Well, with the new systems came the rebirth of the NBA Live franchise, but from everything I hear and have seen from the game, it is a sub-par return the dance. As far as the 2K franchise is concerned, however, they moved on from Jordan and finally let The King sit atop their throne. Lebron James is the cover athlete, and despite my personal dislike for him, I have to admit it is well deserved.
Anyway, the game is awesome. The players look amazing, with the graphical power of the new system showing off how awesome it is. You can see individual drops of sweat, muscle definition and skin tones are spot on, and even facial hair is astonishing, as you can see all the different hairs in beards. It't quite amazing.
The controls of the game feel a lot more realistic as well, as there is a lot of resistance and a solid weight behind the movements of the players you are controlling. Everything else is great as well, from the commentary pulling real-life stats from the internet to interject to the teams playing, to the coaches animations and even the reactions of the players are fun to watch. Never before has a basketball game felt so realistic to the point of almost forgetting you are playing and not just watching. If this is just the tip of the iceberg as far as what these new systems are capable, it's going to be a great generation.
Well, I did it. I made it through my first week with my PlayStation 4, and oh, what a marvelous week it was. It should be quite clear to everyone reading this blog that the PS3 was my system of choice over the last year, and has been since I first got it almost two years ago. Before then, I was strictly Xbox 360 when it came to the big, multi-platform games.
Of course, my first love will always Nintendo platforms, but in the battle of supremacy for everything else not Nintendo related, Xbox 360 was my go-to console until the PS3 came into my life. After that happened, I all but forgot about the 360, except when it was needed for this blog or games with my kids. That wasn't to say anything negative about the 360, but I think because I spent so much time with it for so long, the PS3 was the new, shiny toy in my life. So naturally, I wanted to play with it the most.
Besides, I thought trophies were way cooler than achievement points, so that's a thing I guess.
Anyway, with both new systems coming out back to back, it would seem obvious that I would gravitate towards the PS4, right? Well, thankfully I wasn't in a position where I would have to decide between either one of the "next-gen" consoles, as I was able to get both new systems on launch day. And of course, in the interest of fairness, since I did a full week of PS4 games to commemorate the launch of the PS4, it was only fitting that I do a full week dedicated to the launch of the Xbox One. So where shall we start? How about we start from the beginning, about 12 years ago.
In 2001, the original Xbox was released. Before it came out, I was unsure about the new system, as Microsoft was new to the world of console gaming. I was skeptical about how it would preform and if it would even have a chance standing next to gaming titans Nintendo and Sony. Of course, I had only read about the Xbox, and while some things seemed interesting about it, I was having a hard time figuring out what about the system would make it worth my attention, and at the time, worth my precious money. You see, I was turning 18 just a week after the launch of the Xbox, and while I had graduated high school, I wasn't exactly walking around with an admirable bank account balance.
On a whim, pretty much the day before, I decided that I was going to spoil myself and pick up an Xbox on the release day. So my buddy from across the street and I left first thing in the morning, before we headed off to school, in hopes of picking up an Xbox. We went to three or four stores and saw nothing but lines outside them, all full of people waiting for the launch of the Xbox. For some reason, I was caught off guard by this, as I didn't expect the excitement for this unproven gaming system to be so high. Eventually, we took a chance and drove to the mall, where they had three different gaming stores. We walked right in to the closest game store to the entrance of the mall, and low and behold, there was an entire display of newly released Xbox's. I bought one, and also got three free games with the purchase of it, one of which was Halo.
From that point forward, I was all about the Xbox.
Skip ahead to the launch of the Xbox One, and this time around, 12 years later, things went a little bit different. For one, I was buying two new consoles a week apart, and fortunately, they weren't breaking the bank. Secondly, I knew better than to think I could to just walk in to a store on launch day and pick up an Xbox One, so of course, I pre-ordered it the very first chance I got to do so. A few things were very similar though as well.
A buddy of mine came over first thing in the morning, and we got the store right after it opened, so we wouldn't have to wait longer than needed. I also bought three games while I was picking up the system, although they weren't free this time, as Microsoft has enough notoriety in the industry to not have to give away games for free to early adopters.
After we got our systems, we went back to my place, where he had brought over his TV, and we set up a two-man LAN party. While we weren't linked directly to each other systems, we were using the same Internet network, so it counts. After we unboxed our systems, downloaded the mandatory system update and installed the game we wanted to co-op first, it was time to game. And game we did. All day. And it was awesome.
The first game we played together was Dead Rising 3. Before we could co-op, though, we each had to get through the first chapters individually, which was fun and weird at the same time, watching two separate games take place at the same time, showing the same thing on a few seconds apart. Once we finally got into a co-op game, however, it was on.
We had a blast running around, destroying hoards of zombies with every kind of weapon, tool and random object imaginable. At one point, when I found a clothing store, I dressed my character in daisy dukes shorts and a cut-off shirt. He didn't see what I had done until I walked out of the store, and he just burst into laughter. Talk about comedic relief.
The best part of our gaming session happened later on, however. On the screen popped up a prompt to clear all the zombies away from a survivor nearby. My friend was closer and immediately ran over to start hacking and slashing away at the undead. Me, not knowing where he was in his quest to clear out the zombies, hopped in a muscle car and sped over to the location. Once I saw the survivor was up on a roof of a house and the zombies were just gathered around the yard, I made the decision to just plow my way through the flesh-eating crowd. I took out every zombie with one pass before crashing into a wall. The best part? My friend had no idea what was going on, and from his perspective, all he saw was his character slashing away at a zombie, and the next moment, I'm speeding by, narrowly avoiding him and clearing out the pack.
It was awesome. It wasn't just the moment that was awesome though, but rather the whole day. It was fun playing games with someone else, which as you should know, I try to avoid as much as possible. Maybe it was just the excitement in the air, but I genuinely had a good time playing. What a great way to start the week of Xbox One.
XBLA = The Noyse
PSN = the_noyse
NNID = The Noyse
3DS F.C. = 3007-8109-2329
STEAM = TheNoyse
FEEL FREE TO FRIEND ME!
Games played for project : 365