If you played any of the previous Lego games from Traveller’s Tales then you pretty much know what to expect. If you saw any of the Marvel movies, especially The Avengers, then you pretty much know what to expect. The game is called Lego Marvel Super Heroes...what did you expect? That’s not to say there aren’t a few surprises along the way. Don’t discount this title as a movie tie-in as it does have it’s own storyline and it’s a good little game to boot!
Did you hear that?
Traveller’s Tales Lego games almost always entertain me. My first experience, probably like many others, was with the Lego Star Wars games. It was as if chocolate met peanut butter but in game form...and with Lego and Star Wars. The game was light, fun, humorous and, for me, set the standard by which I judge all other Lego games. I loved how they were able to tell the story through simple minifig body language. The key to those games and others was that you knew the story. You didn’t need the words to move it along. The environments and characters were familiar and when you minifig shrugged or tilted his head you knew exactly what they were saying.
Then Traveller’s Tales broke that “magic” when they introduced voices into Lego Batman 2. At first, voices from my minifigs was a tough pill to swallow. In fact, I had a hard time playing it at first and I kept putting it aside. It dawned on me one day when I was watching my nephew play the Star Wars game why TT added them. My nephew knew the Star Wars story and knew in a basic sense what he had to accomplish to get past that mission. These newer games had new untold stories and I could see how that might leave the younger players lost. I finally accepted these little plastic people talking to me and other characters in the game so when I first loaded up Lego Marvel Super Heroes and heard voices such as Agent Phil Coulson’s (voiced by Clark Gregg) it was a pleasant surprise.
That is actually how I could classify this entire game; it’s a pleasant surprise. In my opinion, Marvel as a universe on whole always had a lighter take on its characters and storylines than it’s main rival DC. If I were to compare Lego Marvel Super Heroes against Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes I would say the same thing. This game is light, fun, doesn’t take itself too seriously and maintains the better game play elements from previous games. It doesn’t try to do anything radically different but in this case that is perfectly fine. I remember constantly dying in the Indiana Jones games trying to jump to a swinging rope or onto a ledge. I wasn’t timing it wrong, I was off the sweet spot by what seemed like a fraction of a millimeter while the camera angle continually worked against me. Those games became a chore to slog through quite quickly. Not once did I feel that way about Lego Marvel Super Heroes.
The story is basically several Saturday morning cartoon plot lines back when Saturday morning cartoons were good. League of villains trying to takeover and destroy the earth. League of good guys banding together to stop them. Through the course of the main missions you will play as Iron Man, Hulk, Wolverine, Spiderman, Thor, Storm, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Mr. Fantastic, Human Torch, The Invisible Woman, Black Widow, Hawkeye, The Thing and more (watch for a recurring cameo). All uniquely voiced and all with distinct personalities based on their comic book personas.
Always look on the bright side of life
This is still a Lego game so their minifig personalities are based more on the lighter Marvel Universe comics than the other more mature versions of themselves. That should be expected as this is a game geared for kids, and the kid that thrives in some of us “older” kids, and it enhances the fun. The dialog between characters is ripe with inside jokes and even some more geared for the adults. When Director Fury commands you to get those gosh darn snakes off his gosh darn helicarrier or goes into a Pulp Fiction type rant I couldn’t help but smile and chuckle. When The Human Torch comments that the rainbow bridge leading to Asgard just makes him want to race (which is exactly what I thought when I watched the first Thor movie) I had a good little laugh mainly as I can’t stand that Rainbow Road level in Mario Kart. The best lines aren’t all saved for the heroes, the villains have a few of their own as well.
Typically when I play these games I break everything I can to make sure I get 100% of the studs needed and as many extras as I can find. I play this way so that when I play with my kids, who only like playing in free play, a number of characters are already unlocked and the mission becomes secondary to just having fun. This time, while I tried to get 100% of the studs needed I also tried to stick to the mission at hand and not venture off. When I finished the game in about 12 hours I had just over 20% complete. It isn’t a long game when looking at the main mission alone but that other 80% leaves a lot of game left to explore.
Below the line
There are a few disappointments with this game. Same couch co-op is there, like many other Lego games, but for some inexplicable reason online co-op is absent. Why would that be left out? This is the perfect game for online co-op and Traveller’s Tales included it before on other games so there is no reason why it couldn’t happen with Lego Marvel Super Heroes. Playing couch co-op is what I love to do but the rotating split screen has got to go. It sounds like a great idea on paper as it gives you the whole screen to work with but it will work against you more than a number of times while you play. As the split rotates around to follow you or your partner's character, the camera shifts as well forcing you to continually adjust aiming or you’ll risk suddenly losing sight of your target. In Free Play, which is all about changing to the right character, the selection screen flips to whatever side of the screen you are on or plunks itself in the middle. More than once Mrs. Soup and I cursed this scheme while we played. While the character selection is color coded it never seemed to pop up where we expected it would.
Lastly, the control scheme seems off. Normally, this hasn’t been an issue in most Lego games but for some reason I had a bitch of a time controlling my minifig when walking, flying or driving. At their normal pace everything was fine but when they all of a sudden get their giddy-up you had to hang on for dear life. I found myself, more often than not, easing off as soon as the minifig sped up. This annoyed me as many a time you had to walk your little yellow avatar to the next mission. I have an issue with walking in games from point to point to start a mission. I understand that there are many side missions to be discovered along the way but I should be able to just choose the next mission without wasting five minutes getting to the next start point. I know, five minutes....”stop whining Chunky”...but when my game time is getting harder and harder to carve out of my day that extra 20 minutes or so of just walking is 20 minutes I could use to finish a mission, pick up the dog crap in the backyard or do the dishes to earn some all important brownie points with Mrs. Soup!
All in all, besides the points listed above, this is a fun game. Given that Lego Marvel Super Heroes can be found for $30 or less at this point I recommend picking this title up-especially if you enjoyed other Lego games, have kids and want to play with them, have something they can play together, enjoy the Marvel universe or all of the above.
In February 2012, Double Fine made history when they became the largest crowd funded game in Kickstarter history raising over $3.4 million dollars in just three months. They exceeded their initial goal of $400,000 in mere hours; proof that the world is indeed still hungry for an old school Tim Schafer point-and-click adventure game.
The original plan in the Kickstarter pitch? The game would feature a small development team and be completed by the fall of that same year. That didn’t quite happen in practice but now, just under two years later, backers and anyone who wants to buy a copy can get their hands on Episode One of Broken Age on Steam. Episode Two hopefully follows later this year.
Tim Schafer of Double Fine and the internet’s reaction to him making an Adventure game
A Clicking of Age Story
Broken Age follows the lives of two adolescent characters, Shay and Vella, in their transition from carefree children to the harsh reality of adulthood. Denis Leary’s “Life’s Gonna Suck When You Grow Up” would be a great theme song for the game! You can play as either character and switch back and forth whenever you like. In Episode One, the stories are for the most part separate and there isn’t any interaction between the characters.
Shay appears to be alone on a spaceship that caters to his every need like an overbearing nanny. His parents are omnipresent via screens that are close ups of their faces and they frequently nag him for things like brushing his teeth and eating right.
He is expected to have a daily dose of adventures which are little contrived scenes where he plays hero to stuffed animals his mom knits for him. You quickly get the sense he is growing bored with the monotony of lone space travel and is looking for ways to go on real adventures.
Vella is a teenager from the town of Sugar Bunting. She was chosen to represent the village in the Maiden’s Feast, a great honor. It turns out the Maiden’s Feast is when the villages dress up their girls in local finery (Vella’s baking village dresses all the girls up like cakes) as potential sacrifices to Mog Chothra, a beast that terrorizes all the villages of the land once a year. Vella believes this is an absurd tradition and tries lobbying others to kill Mog Chothra instead. I’ll stop here for spoilers.
Keep It Down Now, Voices Carry
Broken Age has quite the all-star cast of characters. Shay is voiced by Frodo himself, Elijah Wood. Jack Black and Wil Wheaton play some scene stealing characters. There are also some of my favorites from cartoons such as Richard Steven Horvitz (aka Invader Zim and Raz from Double Fine’s game Psychonauts) and Cree Summer (Penny from Inspector Gadget and Elmyra from Tiny Toons). Although my favorite where the heck have I heard that voice moment from the game was trying to place who voiced Ginny Westcott. She’s been in many Double Fine games and Day of the Tentacle, but where I actually recognized the voice from was the damn talking LeapFrog Letter Factory thing all my nieces and nephews had on their refrigerators. And now, once again, the letter A song will be permanently embedded in my brain!
CEO of Harmonix Music Systems Alex Rigopulos not only voiced a character but he actually plays some version of himself (the character’s name is Alex) in the game. This honor was one of the special backer funding options and brings me one step closer to my dream of a Double Fine and Harmonix team up on a game!
So How About That Gameplay?
Broken Age is a traditional point-and-click adventure. It uses a single click context based system so you really only need one button. There are a few different cursors which you can learn the context of pretty quickly. There is no in game hint system nor does it have the special button you can press to see all the interactive objects within a room. I tend to like having that special button in adventure games but there wasn’t much trouble with pixel hunting or too many rooms with lots of interactive objects so it wasn’t too bad without it here.
According to my Steam stats, the game took me 5.4 hours to play which isn’t too bad for a two episode adventure game. 10-12 hours for the full game seems reasonable. The puzzles were about right in difficulty and I didn’t need to cheat at anything. Any time something started to get frustrating I just switched back to the other character and tried something different for a while.
The gameplay is the traditional: walking around talking to people and finding stuff to solve puzzles. It also features one of my favorite adventure game cliches: how many times can I click through options to keep getting terrible jokes? Woohoo, lots of awesome space cereal names! It also has the traditional “fun” phrases you get when trying to combine objects or solve puzzles at random. My favorite was every time I tried to use a talking plastic knife on anything I wasn’t supposed to I got:
Shay: “I don’t want to stab that.”
Knife: “I do!”
Walking Around in a Painting
Double Fine went with a very specific art style for the game that is best described as walking around in one of lead artist Nathan Stapley’s paintings. Having seen lots of concept art and screenshots as a backer, I was skeptical of it being a little too dream-scapy. However, once you are in the game it works really well and you do get lost in the story book worlds. It can sometimes be a little difficult to figure out which parts of the landscape you can interact with verses which you can’t though, especially in the cloud area.
Peter McConnell, who also worked on Schafer’s other games Brutal Legend and Grim Fandango, composed the game’s score. It really captures the mood for the different locations and actions in the game and contributes to keeping you fully immersed in the world.
If you enjoy point-and-click adventures in general you are sure to enjoy this one. It features many elements of old school ones as well as updated graphics and an all-star cast. While thus far it doesn’t replace any of my old school Lucas or Sierra Games as a new favorite, it’s solid and I can’t wait for the next episode. I give it New rating, but my only caution might be to wait until the next episode releases so you can play it altogether since Episode One ends on quite a cliffhanger!
2old2play scored a review copy of Zen Pinball’s latest table(s): Super League Football for the PS4. Before you get your hopes up for getting to sack Peyton Manning with a silver ball, by football they mean soccer. I tried looking up what European’s call pinball, but apparently its just pinball.
The table runs $2.99 USD on consoles (you get to pick your team, but more on that later) or $1.99 USD for mobile and PC. I took it for a test drive on the Playstation 4 and tried out each team.
As with anything I get to review as an early adopter of next gen systems, I had to wait 45 minutes for system updates and downloading the game itself before I could actually play. I still don’t understand why my PC and XBox 360 are lightning fast over wireless for updates but PS4 and WiiU just can’t get it together. All of the machines are within a foot of each other on the same network. Is this some sort of net neutrality precursor in the video game industry?!
Can I actually play pinball now?!
Once installed the title screen music for Zen Pinball on the PS4 is pretty annoying.Annoying to the point where I hit mute while I was browsing menus and waiting for the rest of the tables to finish downloading. The Zen interface seems pretty much the same on the PS4 as on Android or the WiiU so nothing really new there. Just a front end to download whatever tables are available and change some settings.
Super League Football is technically only a single new table but you can buy different versions (basically skins) of it depending on your team preference. The gameplay is nearly identical no matter which club you pick. The differences are in aesthetics of the table like pictures of the current squad on the playfield , team logos on bumpers, and the mascot off to the side.
The clubs in the image below are available at launch and Zen is hoping to get more to sign on in the future.
Choosing a team sets your allegiance and gains points for you club in the online leaderboards. Sales of the specific table you chose are reported directly back to the clubs as well, for bragging rights. Or you can just play as Zen Studios if you don’t want to choose a side.
I played soccer in my youth and have even been to a World Cup game but never got into the league teams. Instead of phoning it in and talking about “ludicrous displays” IT Crowd style, I checked in with my Scottish friend that actually follows soccer (because I am a real journalist unlike most “news” channel hosts) about which tables to check out. He confirmed that the problem with Arsenal is that that they always try and walk into the net. Then said something about Liverpool being tosser chihuahuas and the Italian league being corrupt. Also that Real Madrid has Ronaldo, currently the best player (and highest paid according to wikipedia) in the league. I was sad to find he was not the same Ronaldo I knew when I actually followed soccer nor is he Coach Z in the latest Homestar Runner Dangeresque film.
Since “research” did not help me pick a favorite table, I went with who has the coolest mascot. Any team with the creepy soccer head guy is immediately off the list (I’m looking at your Liverpool and Real Madrid). I was between AC Milan’s devil or AC Roma’s wolf. Final edge wolf as I can’t resist anything with cute googly eyes. The Zen table gets a bonus shout out for a sheep mascot and replacing the players with a bunch of pasty white guys who I assume are the development team. FC Barcelona gets honorable mention for least annoying club anthem.
Even if you don’t really care about the soccer theme its still a pretty cool table with a lot of interesting things going on. Zen likened it to a “modern version” of Midway’s 1994 physical pinball table World Cup soccer:
World Cup Soccer (Midway 1994), is one of the greatest pinball tables ever created, and we have long been thinking about creating a modern day version football pinball table that would capture the essence of the game in today’s climate, include the biggest clubs and players, and create an exciting level of competition that makes club football so entertaining. Working with the biggest clubs in the world and involving players like Lionel Messi, Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, Gerard Piqué, Francesco Totti, and Andrea Pirlo, really takes this pinball experience to another level.
World Cup Soccer is a fun table and would get my ultimate vote for best mascot with Striker but these tables are a good modern virtual substitute.
Play the stupid game already!
The tables have the usual ramps, bumpers, and targets you’d expect in a pin. The ball actually looks like a soccer ball instead of the normal silver. It makes it a lot easier to see when there is spin on the ball as its speeding toward you and fits nicely in the overall theme.
The really interesting part of this game is the mini playfield. It simulates a goal complete with goalie and defenders which you can decrease the number of by hitting a series of target and ramp shots.
The ball launch animation is a virtual player kicking the ball up the ramp. Being a pinball purist I don’t really like it when virtual tables do something there’s no way you could do on a physical table so I wasn’t really a fan of that mechanic. Plus the novelty wears off after like the first two balls. #thatswhatshesaid
A somewhat unique feature I did like is the table has extra flippers in the outlanes where you can take a sort of corner kick for a last minute save. I apparently have cat like reflexes when it drains down the left side but I don’t think I ever made a recovery if it was draining right.
The audio for the table simulates the din of the crowd as if you were at a real soccer match. Sounds cool in theory but is pretty annoying in practice. Thankfully they did at least spare us anyone in the crowd having Vuvuzelas or I probably would have had to play with mute on. Each team does have its own anthem playing in the ambient noise as well. There seem to be different modes in the game and sometime it focus on the crowd noise and other times it plays the anthem. Both are equally annoying. The commentating also seems extra repetitive but maybe that’s because my greatest pinball skill is hitting precisely the same shot over and over again which is usually the exact opposite of the real shot I’m aiming for. I must have heard the multi-ball comment “Its almost like there’s two balls on the pitch” about a bazillion times after playing for a few hours.
If you get halfway decent at a table, there is also a game within the game where you are actually playing matches in a season against other clubs as you play. If you can manage not to lose all three of your balls in the allotted time of the match you win or lose your match with your opponent depending on who scored more goals. Matches are set in two halves with halftime multiball session in between the two.
At the end of regulation if you lost all your balls, you see if you won your match and you’ll move on to another week of play. There are 10 matches against 5 different teams in a season and different teams have varying degrees of difficulty as opponents.
I did find you can hack your way into getting through a game by just catching the ball on a flipper and holding it till the clock runs out. I feel like they should have added a cheat rule for that that would tilt if you tried to hold on a flipper for say longer than 30 seconds.
Final Pin Spin
The table is fun even if you could care less about soccer but overall I’d say you can wait for a discount.The gameplay is solid but ultimately the sounds drove me crazy. I do however give Zen props for mixing up their target audience with this as a departure from their recent Superhero and Sci Fi tables. It's not terrible but I’ve liked a lot of their other tables better.
Capcom doesn’t mess around when it comes to its bread and butter genre: survival horror. The venerable Japanese developer may have cut its teeth on fighters and arcade classics, but zombie games like Resident Evil and Dead Rising have been its money makers for over a decade and, with Capcom’s current financial trouble, they’re doing their best to knock this one out of the park.
The game starts 72 hours after the latest zombie outbreak, in the city of Los Perdidos, California. Nick Ramos, former auto mechanic and current zombie survivor, was tasked by a group of folks holed up in a diner to see if there’s a way out of town. The military collapses the bridges and tunnels out of town, as it turns out, effectively sequestering Los Perdidos from the rest of California. Panic ensues and a couple of the diner folks decide to feed themselves to the zombie horde. Meanwhile Nick, his boss Rhonda, and a trucker named Dick haul ass farther into town to Rhonda’s auto shop. Once Rhonda gets her piece of shit flatscreen working we find out that not only is Los Perdidos cut off from the rest of the world, but the military is going to drop a shit ton of incendiary ordnance on the city...just to be sure. Now the three amigos absolutely must get out of town before the barbeque starts, and the clock is ticking.
Two’s Company, Three Million’s a Crowd
Despite instituting a law requiring every citizen to be fitted with a Zombrex-dispensing GPS microchip, the entire city is now overrun with literally millions of undead. The storyline is a bit obfuscated, and it only gets muddier as the game progresses. Fortunately, Dead Rising has never been about top-notch storytelling, so I have no intention of docking Capcom Vancouver for their ridiculous story. We don’t play Dead Rising for a story, we play it to kill a bunch of zombies. On that, Dead Rising 3 delivers.
The streets of Los Perdidos are filled to capacity with the walking dead. Although Nick is certainly no soldier boy, his mechanic skills are put to good use crafting weapons out of ordinary stuff. Nick’s skills are so superior to his predecessors that he doesn’t even need a workbench to craft his death-dealing toys: Nick can do it on the fly. DR3 also allows Nick to use his skills to modify vehicles into something that would make Grampa Munster proud. My favorite was the Rollerhawg: part chopper, part steamroller and 100% zombie flattening and burning death machine! Vehicle modification types number in the dozens, with weapon types numbering in the hundreds.
Despite the frantic ticking clock and always overwhelming hordes of undead, there are quite a few side missions at your fingertips. These missions vary from saving lone survivors, who may or may not join you, finding “tragic endings,” obtaining supplies, and securing safe rooms. Nick gains experience for rescuing folks, making stuff, killing walkers, and side mission stuff. This XP can be used to upgrade Nick’s skills and abilities.
Dead Rising For The Next Generation
What impressed me most about Dead Rising 3 is the fact that the game seems finished at launch, unlike many of its fellow launch titles. The zombies are numerous, but it rarely seems to affect the framerate. The fact that the zombies are wildly varied is another feather in DR3’s cap: you’re not fighting the same 5-10 zombies all of the time. Did you hear that, Ryse? DR3 has more than six enemy types! Jealous?
Microsoft Studios plays publisher for Dead Rising 3, so expect it to remain an Xbox One exclusive. The pure power of the XB1 is on full display as the game retains smooth action and impressive detail even with hundreds of zombies on screen. The initial loading screens are lengthy, but once the game is on deck there is no pausing to load. You can play a very long time without seeing a loading screen and loads generally indicate chapter progression...or death.
Co-op is smoothly integrated and really improves Nick’s chances at surviving and completing missions. Of course this depends on your co-op partner. At one point I had some random guy join me; he flatly ignored my request for help with dispatching the lunatic in the Zen Garden which ultimately proved impossible as a solo endeavor. Another battle, later down the road with a biker gang, proved to be too difficult without help. The boss battles are interesting and the difficulty is definitely ramped up for a two-player assault.
Kinect commands work surprisingly well in this game. Players can attract a group of zombies by simply yelling “over here.” I kind of skimmed the Kinect tutorial, but apparently it is deeply integrated into the game. I was anxious to start killing shit so I ignored much of the Kinect stuff, but what I used worked very well. It’s extra peripheral functionality for players looking to get some use out of their Kinect.
The game is good, but it’s not perfect. I don’t really like being forced to rely on some random dipshit to complete a boss battle. Not only did the dude ignore me when I tried to take on the Zen Master, but the guy fell asleep or something and died only to respawn while I was taking the Rollerhawg out for a spin. Firearms are fairly forgiving, the melee weapons miss a lot, and the head stomp maneuver only works about 30% of the time. I had a nice run on one part with a katana sword, but found myself unable to head stomp the 10 or so zombie torsos that still clawed their way after me. The combat controls are pretty simple: X to attack and Y for a heavy attack. The other stuff, such as inventory management, was a bit counterintuitive and players may need a period of reacclimation before they get back in the swing of things if they take a break to play something else. I could only play for two hours or so before I had to break off and change games. The game is best enjoyed in short sessions, preferably with a reliable co-op partner...unlike the guy I played with. I call him Sleepy the Sandwich.
The Final Verdict
Although I personally think that the market is oversaturated with zombie games, Dead Rising 3 does exactly what a genre game should do: allow the player to kill a shitload of zombies while being assaulted by and immersed in a George Romero nightmare. Many zombie games cut corners and retread games. Dead Rising 3 progresses what a survival horror game should be, cuts out what doesn’t work, and makes the good stuff better. I’m not particularly a fan of the genre but I must give Dead Rising 3 its props: it is very good at what it does and worth every penny of your sixty dollars.
Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first - If you played the PC version of Diablo III then you played the ultimate version. If, however, you thought what the PC version was missing was some local co-op action then I would suggest you may want to revisit New Tristram again.
Do you hear what I hear?
When I first heard Diablo III was being released for consoles I was mildly interested but having played through on the PC I thought it would be more of a bargain bin buy. I am a sucker for Achievements and if I can get them quick and easy the better! It was while I was writing an article on it for the Weekly New Releases that I found Diablo III supported local co-op! The kicker was that both Mrs. Soup and I love a good fantasy game so I jumped on the opportunity to play with my wife!
I always loved Blizzards games from the first Warcraft on. I was impressed not only with the quality of game play in each of their games but it’s their cutscenes that send shivers up my spine. Those scenes have always set the mood, exploited every ounce of oomph my PC had and brought me into their world. Diablo III is the same. Why am I putting importance on the cutscenes? As much as I love Blizzard the rest of the so called story between those scenes have always been a little threadbare for my liking. I have excused it in the past but we have seen large advances in storytelling in games and the dialogue in Diablo III is cheesy at the best of times.
The good thing is the dialogue is at a minimum and the hack and slack is at maximum! If you need a coles notes version of the story : The ultimate evil has arisen again and all of Heaven and Earth are threatened. It is up to you to save all of humanity and the gods above by slaying everything in your path. That is pretty much it. Simple, straightforward, no real surprises along the way.
You are gonna shoot your eye out kid!
So how does it play? Actually, I was quite surprised at how well the controls were mapped out and how easy it was to move my hero around while targeting and, in my barbarians case, hacking the living or undead crap out of everything in my path. Mrs. Soup managed to take her Demon Hunter and provide ranged support and in too many cases bail my strategy be damned ass out. Both of us picked up the controls relatively quickly but it took a little longer to find our characters strengths and weaknesses.
I am not great at setting all my hotkeys in most of my PC games. I have the best intentions but generally rely on one or two easy to reach keys and the rest of my abilities go to waste. Having all the abilities mapped to different buttons and triggers actually simplified things for me and I found myself trying more combinations than I normally would. One other major difference I noticed that may turn up the noses of those PC enthusiasts was the lack of need to replenish Mana and in most instances Health (at least on the normal difficulty).
Oh this isn’t a costume. I’m an elf!
The character customization in Diablo III is on par with the PC version. I had my barbarian made in a matter of seconds but Mrs. Soup likes to take her time. Playing on the PC I played as the Demon Hunter and thought it would be a good fit for her as she isn’t the charge ahead kind of player. She was happily surprised that not only could she choose a gender but after choosing the female version she found her to be relatively clothed! More than once I have heard about the females in RPG’s must be superior at everything as most of their outfits tend to be Princess Leah in a gold bikini while all the guys are full on stormtrooper or Boba Fett. Don’t get the wrong idea, neither of us are prudish and we both know the artists design these females for the predominantly male demographic but I was happy to not be laughed at when my character perished while a scantily clad ranger in the back ran away from the fight.
Besides the character customization, the maps, the story, the progression are all same as the PC version minus the much maligned and soon to be closed Auction House. I was never a fan of that feature and viewed it as a hive of scum and villainy so I did not shed a tear when it didn’t make it to the console versions. Diablo III added AI characters that you meet on quests that can join your party in Single Player. They are actually pretty decent AI and do help out a fair bit. These AI characters are available on the console as well but when playing co-op they join you only for a short time and basically stand around and are useless after that. I would have liked them to stick around and provide some added variety to our party but after a mission or two they hightail it back to camp and hang out with the rest of the characters you picked up along the way.
The light only lights on one side
I have highlighted only some of the differences between the PC and Console versions but there is one difference that on the surface looks like it would work great on a console but more often than not it made me angry.
The Console Version of the Inventory
The inventory screens and shopping/upgrading/crafting screens were all redone to make it easier to navigate with thumbsticks. I think Blizzard mostly succeeded at making it easier to use with a gamepad but the sensitivity seemed to be a bit off. I was constantly going to the wrong section of the inventory to look at things as I likely moved the thumbstick ever so slightly before I hit the button. We also noticed that in each category of inventory the loot you picked up would resort itself after every item you sold. This had each of us buy back a number of items we inadvertently sold. Not a big deal but more of just a pain in the ass. We did notice, however, that if you start selling from the bottom the items tended to stay in order with the rare/magical items up top and the normal items below.
The PC Version of the Inventory
If you haven’t seen it the Diablo I, II & III PC version of the inventory it is a big grid. Each item has a certain size and can take up more than one square. If your squares are full or the item you want to pick up is larger than the squares available you are out of luck. If you have enough squares but they are not adjoining you could always play inventory tetris and move pieces around to create the size you need.
The console version is more of a 1 to 1 relationship. Regardless of size each piece counts as 1. As you level up you gain more room. What I love about the PC layout is ability to see everything you have all on one screen. With the console version everything you pick up is categorized and placed in the approriate position. If you picked up a helm you would move the cursor to your helm and you could browse through all the helms you are carrying and the one you have equipped.
Then he got an idea. An awful idea.
There is, sadly, one unforgivable sin in the console version of Diablo III. One that if you only play as single player you would never notice. Blizzard forgot the cardinal rule of co-op gaming: “Giveth each player thy own menu”
According to Raptr, Mrs. Soup and I put in about 30 hours from beginning to end of Diablo III. While I believe those 30 hours were well spent in gaming and quality time with the Mrs., when I played the PC version back in 2012 I finished it in around 15. Why double? Well the easy answer would be there was two of us but in reality Mrs. Soup loves trying on all the new loot and then gazing at what each new piece of armor, ring, helm, pendant does to boost her abilities. We spent a lot of time in the inventory, shop and gem management screens. I spent most of that time napping until I heard her chime up “Done! Look at my new outfit!”.
I wasn’t napping because I was bored or had sold all my goods. I was napping because only one person can be in the bloody store or inventory screen at a time. The other person is sitting there, waiting, and waiting...and waiting until the other player is done. I don’t know if this was an artificial way of extending the game playtime but that was it’s exact outcome. Originally I would have guessed that we would take maybe 20 hours to finish as she likes to explore and expose the map but also find all the little side quests. In most RPG’s I start off a game that way too but usually get to a point where I just want to be done and start to find the most direct path to the finish line. My lovely wife has way more patience than I do but when we play together I have learned to let her direct as much as possible. That has been a hard lesson to learn but it makes our play time much more enjoyable.
Overall if you haven’t played Diablo III on PC and you have someone that you could play through on co-op I would recommend you pick up this game. I gave the multiplayer a quick try as well and if you find a good group or have a good group of friends to play with you will enjoy that experience as well. However, if you have played the PC version and looking for more Diablo III you are better off waiting for the expansion Reaper of Souls than picking up this game. Unless, like me, you have someone to play it with.
There was a serious drought of couch co-op RPG/Hack and slash type games in this last generation and Diablo III is a welcome addition to the genre. That being said, the only reason I am giving this a Price Drop, is that it has been out for some time and you should be able to find it on sale.
Welcome back to Redview County. Those of us who played Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit back in 2010 should already be familiar with the core concept and topography of Rivals, as it is essentially a sequel to Hot Pursuit. In NFS Rivals, players assume either the role of a racer, converting speed and fuel into adrenaline, or a cop, whose sole purpose in Redview County is to bust racers by any means possible. Let the conflict begin.
Why Redview County?
Due to its unusual variety of environments, Redview County has become a haven of street racing and speeding. Environments range from snowy mountain roads, sun-baked rock and desert, winding coastal parkways, forested drives, four lane freeways that lend themselves to top-end speed, and a smattering of small towns. A new racer, who calls himself Zephyr, arrived on the Redview scene and cranked it up a notch. The police, in turn, respond by escalating their efforts, causing the racers to respond in kind. Regardless of which side the player is on, game progression unlocks faster cars and better weaponry, known as pursuit tech, and progresses the ridiculous storyline.
My Life As An Outlaw Racer
Naturally, I chose to start the game as a racer. Racers are given the choice of a couple of basic cars from which to choose. I chose the Porsche Cayman over the Mustang GT mainly because it was the same car I started Hot Pursuit with, and I never regretted my choice. Through the course of my racer career I unlocked several cars, but relied heavily on my Cayman, the Mustang GT, Mercedes SLS, Enzo Ferrari, and Pagani Huayra. Other cars available to racers are: Aston Martin Vanquish, Audi R8, BMW M3, 2013 Vette, Dodge Challenger SRT8 392, Ferrari 458 Spyder, Ferrari 599 GTO, Ferrari F12 Berlinetta, Ford GT, Lamborghini Aventador, Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4, Lamborghini Veneno, Maserati GT MC Stradale, McLaren 12C Spyder, McLaren P1, Porsche 911 GT3, Porsche 918 Spyder, and the Viper TA. Racers earn speed points more quickly than cops, but racers must buy their own cars and pay for upgrades, which meant that I didn’t receive the achievement for ten cars in my racer garage until I completed the racer career. Cars are upgradeable, but not tuneable, as is the case with nearly every NFS title. Racers can upgrade up to five levels in five categories: durability, toughness, control, acceleration, and top speed. Pursuit tech options include Electrostatic Field, EMP, Jammer, Shockwave, Stun Mine, and Turbo-all of which give the game a Mario Kart feel.
Racers are tasked with completing objectives to progress in level. Completing races, participating in head-to-head races against a single racer, hot pursuits, interceptor challenges, and banking speed points and utilizing weaponry are all alternately required to progress.
The currency, used to buy upgrades, cars and pursuit tech, are called speed points. Points are gained by driving dangerously: drifting, driving into oncoming traffic, high speed, jumps, and near misses. The more of a traffic menace the player becomes, the bigger the paycheck. However, cops will steal your speed points if you get busted, so bank them at a hideout before that happens. Wanted levels act as speed point multipliers, so the higher your wanted level, the more speed points you earn, but this also makes you a more tempting target for the fuzz. Driving as a pack will also increase your income, so buddy up and take on a lobby as a team.
I Am The Law
Playing as a police officer gives players the chance to run down their friends and steal their speedpoints. Cops are tasked with busting racers, single-car interceptor events, running down multiple racers in hot pursuit events, and being first on the scene in rapid response events in order to progress their careers. Cops do not have to purchase their vehicles or performance upgrades, but they must spend speed points to purchase and upgrade their pursuit tech. Available 5-0 vehicles are: Aston Martin Vanquish, Aston Martin One-77, Bentley Continental GT, BMW M6 Coupe, Bugatti Veyron SS, Chevy Camaro ZL1, Ferrari 458 Italia, Ferrari FF, Ford Mustang Gt 500, Hennessey Venom GT, Koenigsegg Agera R, Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4, Lamborghini Gallardo LP 560-4, Lamborghini Murcielago LP 670-4, Lexus LFA, Marussia B2, McLaren 12C, McLaren F1 LM, Mercedes C63 AMG Black, Nissan GT-R Black, Porsche 911 Turbo, Porsche Carrera GT, and the Viper GTS.
Pursuit tech options are a bit different for police. Cops do not have all the pursuit tech options that the racers do, such as Turbo, Shockwave, Jammer and Shock Mines. Instead, they gain the Shock Ram, Spike Strips, Roadblocks, and the ability to call a helicopter to lay down spike strips in front of their prey. Cops also have access to the EMP and Electrostatic Field.
Most of the lower level police cars are utter shit, and I found myself sticking to single player until I was able to acquire the One-77, at which point I unleashed the unholy fury of Redview County’s finest onto an unsuspecting multiplayer lobby and started stealing speed points from my whining, helpless prey. This is no racing sim and there are no bonuses for driving clean. Rivals is a full contact vehicular beatdown. Drive accordingly.
Has EA Learned Its Lesson?
NFS Rivals was developed by Ghost, in association with Criterion, and published by EA games. Downloadable content, in the form of car packs and in-game currency, was available almost immediately, so expect to be out some cash in the future if you want to keep your garage current with your rivals. If the player does not change the settings to a single-player game, then NFS Rivals will be an always-online experience, complete with the server issues that EA players are all too familiar with: host migration, lost connections, slow loading, and endless searching for someone to play with. Many times I sat through lengthy loading screens and ended up in a room by myself anyway. Rivals, naturally, is at its best with friends in the room, some playing as cops and some as racers.
I played both the 360 and XB1 versions. I found the XB1 version looks better while the competition on the 360 is better skilled: I can run over players all day on the XB1, as either a cop or racer, without losing speed points while the players on the 360 gave me a run for my money. The environments are full of drifts, jumps, and places to wreck out. It’s a nice change of pace from my typical sim racing but the cars felt arcadey and artificial, and using the brake instead of the e-brake to initiate a drift was kind of hokey. Apparently, the e-brake is dedicated to 360 degree turns. I was a little disappointed with the lack of old school muscle on the roster, but the game doesn’t suffer much from their absence, as the cars on the list are insane and fun as hell to drive.
My biggest complaint with NFS Rivals is pop-up. It’s annoying when this happens in any game, but when you’re driving 200 mph and a minivan materializes 50 feet in front of your Veyron SS you’re going to crash. Then you’re going to struggle to find appropriately vile profanity, because not any old cuss word is going to work in that situation. Play something else if folks in the house are trying to sleep. Pop-up occurred more frequently on the 360 than the XB1, so next-gen has the advantage there. However, the game sometimes pauses itself on the XB1, which has the same effect that pausing does in every driving game in a multiplayer lobby, you drive off the road. Sometimes it would also spin the view of the car, like jamming the thumbstick to one side would do. I don’t know if this was my Day One controller going weird on me, or if it was the game, but it didn’t happen on the 360.
Need For Speed Rivals is a fun arcade-style racing experience that is best when played with friends. Nothing has more potential for fun than an hour or two of cops and robbers with some buddies. When it fires on all cylinders, it’s every bit as good as NFS: Hot Pursuit. The glitches, multiplayer issues, general EA shittiness, and monotonous single player, however, are enough to lose a full star from the final rating. Need For Speed Rivals is available on the PC, PS3, PS4, XBox 360, and XBox One. Pick it up on sale.
Blackwell Deception from Wadjeteye Games made headlines this fall with a Halloween promotion gone awry. A promotion that once again showed why the internet can’t have nice things. The indie developer tried giving fans a free copy of the game on Halloween together with Steam keys. The Steam keys featured a one per IP limit which the internet promptly found ways around. The result? More than 30,000 copies extracted in mere hours causing the developer to cancel the promotion. The silver lining (if there is one)? The gaming press picking up the story probably got the studio more publicity than the initial free game. So thanks jerks I guess…
But what of the actual game itself and the rest of the Blackwell series? Where do these fall on the scale of adventure games? Should you play through the first four before the final installment is available in 2104? Well, I’m here as your adventure game spirit guide to provide you the answer. Just take hold of this tie…
The Blackwell series began back in December 2006 with Blackwell Legacy. In the game you play as Rosangela Blackwell (Rosa for short) and her spirit guide Joey Malone. Rosa and Joey help ghosts find their way into the afterlife after they are trapped on earth and fail to realize they’re dead (Bruce Willis surprisingly does not make a cameo).
Legacy was Wadjeteye’s second game after The Shivah. It features a great story and really sets the tone for the series. Rosangela is a quirky, introverted freelance journalist while Joey, a sort of a Bogart-esque leading man, provides sarcastic commentary at its finest.
All of the episodes follow basic adventure game mechanics. Each game has a series of locations you can visit to uncover clues and objects. You can switch back and forth between the main character and the spirit guide to accomplish different tasks. You have an inventory and can look stuff up on the internet (though sadly the first few games are all set in pre-smartphone days so you have to go home to do so).
The subject matter is definitely dark (some of the ghosts committed suicide) so its aimed for teens and up. Overall, Legacy is a solid adventure game I highly recommend!
Unbound, the next game in the series, is actually a prequel and follows Rosangela’s aunt Lauren who is referenced in the original story. Joey is also her spirit guide and together they help ghosts to the other side. I played the games out of order so I knew a bit more of the backstory going into this game. There are definitely some common threads but playing out of order didn’t didn’t reveal any major spoilers or hinder my progress in other games.
Unbound introduces a recurring “villain” known as The Countess. It actually worked well for me meeting her in a later game and then returning to the back story. Unbound is very loosely based on real life characters Joseph Mitchell and Joe Gould. It’s definitely interesting in both fact and fiction versions!
My biggest complaint about the series is the dialog puzzles and this game featured some irritating dialog puzzles. It’s not often obvious that you have to keep talking to the same person. I already asked them three different things but the puzzle won’t really unlock until you finally get to the fourth thing. Usually I figure out what the fourth thing IS but it doesn’t exist in the game until I have the conversation. While dialog puzzles are definitely my least favorite adventure game mechanic, Blackwell’s stories are good enough that I eventually get over my seething rage after cheating and discovering I was mostly right.
One “bug” I found amusing in this game was Lauren’s apartment. It has about a bazillion ashtrays in it but she only seems to ash on the welcome mat by the door...
Next up in the series is Blackwell Convergence. Convergence again messes around with the timeline and returns to just after Rosa meets Joey. I played this game last.
Convergence was probably my least favorite. It features a great story arc that comes together nicely but I found most of the game’s individual characters annoying and unlikeable (in the game’s defense most of them were supposed to be unlikeable). Somehow this game just wasn’t really fun to play and, at this point, I was also sick of The Countess.
Deception was the first I played and probably my favorite. It again follows Rosa and Joey but doesn’t feature any other direct connections to characters from the other stories (at least as revealed in this game). Rosa gets a smart phone in this game so, woohoo, not as many trips home!
As with all the Blackwell games Deception has the same dialog puzzle issues. Additionally, the new smart phone search is a bit anal about exactly what you type. It reminded me of some of the old school text adventures and the hours of my life lost to Sierra’s Goldrush getting the exact phrasing of “Put Chains on Wheels” correct.
Deception features great storytelling and voice acting. The graphics are somewhat updated but still fairly old school. It ends on somewhat of a cliffhanger so I can’t wait to see what the final installment of the series brings us in 2014!
The reason why I played the series out of order is the older Blackwell games in the AVS engine don’t work in Steam Big Picture on my PC. I either get sound or video to work but never both at the same time. My system is complicated with a 52 inch TV going through receivers, HDMI, 7.1, etc. I received some troubleshooting help from the studio and the AVS forums with no luck. Ultimately, I gave up and eventually played on the 27 inch monitor with my regular desktop PC instead of the one hooked up to the TV.
Overall, I highly enjoyed these games.The strong story telling makes up for annoying dialog puzzles and dated graphics. I am really looking forward to seeing how it all wraps up in the final installment due out this year.
Released by indie developer roll7 exclusively for the Playstation Vita, OlliOlli, is a side scrolling skateboarding game with plenty of tricks up its sleeve. The game features over 50 levels and 250 challenges to achieve that will have your thumbs doing can-cans and knack-knacks in your sleep!
How can I describe OlliOlli without downplaying how great it is? In a time when everyone is looking for the ultimate HD experience, OlliOlli is both simple in design and graphics. That is not to say that the simple design takes away from the game in any way, in fact, I appreciate the simple design. I enjoyed not being bombarded with flashy explosions and a soundtrack that boasted the latest Top 40 which apparently passes for music nowadays. This game is a nice break from HD, 3D, and all the other “D’s.”
OlliOlli features a tutorial that gives you the gist of how to play this game. You’ll perform simple tricks, grinds and combos which will eventually bring you to the first stage: Urban. Each stage features a few challenges to accomplish while you try to string together all the tricks you can before the end of the stage. Using only a combination of the left stick, left and right bumper and the X button you execute your tricks and grinds-trying to land them perfectly to achieve the highest score possible and complete each stage’s challenges. Be warned though, should you wipe out, you must start the stage over. Completing an Amateur stage with a combination of challenges and high scores unlocks the next Amateur stage in the level. Should you complete all the challenges in an Amateur stage, you’ll unlock the Pro stages in that level providing you with even more challenges to complete. Each mode of play: Career, Spots, Daily Grind and Rad Mode features their own unique challenges and game play, giving you an abundance of opportunities to perfect that Frontside, Shove-it or any of the other tricks in the “Tricktionary.” Want to challenge your friends or others? OlliOlli’s Daily Grind mode gives you all the practice attempts you want but only one chance to run the course to prove your skills against others.
Personally, I enjoyed playing this game, and while I still have to hone my skating skills, OlliOlli gave me the opportunity to practice to achieve that high score. It brings back the nostalgia of Paperboy or Castlevania. Ahhh...the good ole days of 8-bit graphics! One side effect of playing OlliOlli, the unrelenting need to go out and jump on a board and shred some concrete, I unfortunately became acquainted with again! Word of advice, if you're over the age of…hell what am I saying, most of us at 2old2play should know better than to try to ride a skateboard at our age, emphasis on “should!” Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go nurse my scrapes. Seriously, I highly recommend this game, dude.
In Ryse: Son of Rome, players are introduced to Marius Titus in epic fashion as he is guided through the dramatic last stand of Rome, fighting his way through the swarming barbarian horde with a single purpose: get Emperor Nero to safety. Marius, being the competent soldier that he is, accomplishes his objective and delivers Nero safely to his panic room, but the intentions of Nero’s savior and sole protector are in question as Marius starts to tell his tale.
The tale of Marius Titus starts as he returns home just before being dispatched to join the 2nd Legion in Alexandria. The elder Titus, a former soldier and evidently a big fan of foreshadowing, presents his son with the Blade of Damocles, regaling Marius with the tale of Damocles’ betrayal and ultimate revenge. This happens literally seconds before his entire family is murdered by barbarians, spurring Marius into an unquenchable bloodlust and on the path to revenge. Vitallion, a respected general and friend of the Titus family, gives Marius his chance for revenge by pulling him out of the fruity 2nd Legion and placing him in his own 14th Legion, destined for blood in jolly old England, where his heroic ferocity in battle and natural leadership abilities get him promoted to Centurion on the first day of combat.
Unpacking my Adjectives
Ryse is both epic in scope and beautifully rendered. The CryEngine, which was behind one of the most realistic and beautiful games of the last generation, Crysis 3, utilizes the Xbox One’s remarkable power, producing one of the most realistic and visually engaging games I have ever had the good fortune to play through. Fire, hair, and water, the notorious graphical stumbling blocks, have been deftly overcome by the Crytek development team. Combat is very fluid, and even in the grandest battles there is virtually no framerate stutter. The superb voice acting is perfectly synchronized with the characters speaking the lines, resulting in some very convincing character performances.
The story itself is very well-written, exciting to play, and steeped in both history and mythology, incorporating a bit of the mystery and mythical with the more visceral aspects of Roman soldiery. There was never a moment that I felt that Marius was acting out of character: he acted exactly as I would expect a soldier of his caliber, loyalty, and morality to act. Had Ryse been a CGI movie, and not a video game, it could have been the greatest computer-made movie ever.
Multiplayer is an online-only cooperative affair inside the ever-changing environments of The Colosseum. Multiplayer takes advantage of special co-op combos and finishing moves. The environments themselves are very dynamic, with new elements and environmental dangers being constantly introduced into the arena. Despite the lack of head to head or local co-op, Ryse multiplayer is a lot of fun, albeit not very competitive.
What Went Wrong
First, despite the fact that the story is engaging and well-written, the writers went to Maximus Decimus Meridius, Bruce Wayne, Ezio, Connor Kenway, and Death Wish for motivating their protagonist to revenge: killing his family. I’m not saying that murdering an entire family isn’t a viable way to motivate a game character, but it’s been done...a lot. The writers also went a little heavy on the foreshadowing. I would like to have experienced the progression of the story without the writer spoon-feeding what was going to happen later.
The biggest problem faced by Ryse is the constrictive linear environments. Every level is point A to point B with no deviation and no room for exploration. You take the path that was written for you, complete your objectives, then move on to your next cutscene. No lollygagging. Oh, and why do all the Romans have English accents? Thanks, Monty Python, you’ve officially ruined Latin. Romani ite domum.
The repetitive nature of the combat and enemies is enough to steal a full star from Ryse’s final rating. Marius will fight the same five or six barbarians throughout the entire game, using the exact same strategies, then finishing off with special moves. Finishing moves were cool during the first couple of levels, but after using them on absolutely everybody that I killed, I started to get sick of them.
Ryse does a lot of things right: the story is immersive, the environments felt authentic, and I could genuinely empathize with Marius and understand his motivations. Co-op is a blast and the single player story is the very best currently extant on the Xbox One, with ACIV running a very close second. Kinect integration is smooth and natural, the graphics are stunning, but I often felt like I was muddling through the repetitive combat just to get to the next cutscene so I could progress the story, instead of playing the game. Gameplay should never come second to the story in a video game, and I feel that this was Crytek’s greatest error: they made such a great movie that they forgot we were playing a game.
Ryse: Son of Rome is not a bad game, but neither is it a great game. There is virtually no replay value to the single-player campaign, but the co-op may extend the life of this title a bit. You’ll definitely want to finish the game to see how it all ends, but actually picking up the controller to get there will eventually seem like a chore. Pick this one up on the cheap.
There is a large, loose affiliation of gamers who meet each night, across several different online lobbies, to drive digitized representations of real life cars around digitized tracks all over the world. Some of the races are a casual affair for fun, some have a semblance of organization to them, and some have rule books the size of a small dictionary. Regardless of how many rules, laps, or players are involved in these races, they all center around one name: Forza.
The first Forza game released in 2005, on the original XBox, with a modest roster of 235 cars and a mix of real world and fantasy tracks. The fifth installment of the series (Horizon doesn’t count), the appropriately titled Forza 5, launched on November 22nd, in support of Microsoft’s third console: the inappropriately name XBox One. Fans of the Forza series have alternately supported and condemned changes that Turn 10 has made to the Forza series over the years, but the new Forza game may be the most controversial in franchise history. Did Greenawalt and crew go too far this time...or not far enough?
Dan Greenawalt stood up on a stage at E3 2013, next to a McLaren P1, and told the gaming world about Drivatars. These digital clones of Forza players would learn their respective players’ driving habits and, through the power of cloud computing, theoretically reproduce avatars that possess both the skills and habits of the players who trained them.
At E3, and the months that followed, Turn 10 talked about Drivatars, the new physics engine, paint, reflective surfaces, new tracks, and the “hundreds of cars” that would be present in Forza 5. We were promised a beautifully realistic Forza game with realistic avatars of the folks who are our racing friends. Turn 10 delivered on half of that promise: the cars in the game are the most beautifully rendered vehicles of any racing game on any console. The tracks were laser scanned and look exactly as they look on TV. This is quite possibly the closest to real life I have ever seen in a game. The new physics engine is supposed to be more realistic, and the cars certainly feel right on the track. I found that I lost a considerable amount of grip between Forza 4 and Forza 5, and I had to alter my tuning adjustments to make up for that loss of grip. It is much easier to lose control of a car in this game than in previous entries, especially bone-stock models on street tires. If you don’t know how to tune, now is a very good time to learn.
Cooter’s smiling because you’re about to crash.
“The end of A.I.” Did Drivatar deliver on simulations of real-life players, actively reproducing their driving habits through the magic of the cloud? No, it did not. What we got instead was lobotomized versions of ourselves aggressively smashing into our friends and stupidly braking on apexes. I actually witnessed Gizzie’s Drivatar brake on a fucking straight with no one in front of him and no corner in sight: Gizzie does not drive that way in a race...I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him apply his brake. He may not even be aware that they provide one in the game.
A driver is so much more than cloud-based mathematical computations. I know which of my friends are going to stupidly run into the back of my car on a corner because they can’t seem to remember that muscle cars or luxury sedans need to brake earlier to make a turn than the exotic with full aero that they are driving. I know which friends brake late, who uses FWD, who is going to reciprocate if I bump them, who will make a mistake if I put the pressure on them, and who is going to drive off and not be seen again until the start of the next race. I received messages, both through XBL and Twitter, complaining about the aggressiveness of my Drivatar. I can be a bit assertive, but never to the point that someone felt obligated to message me to tell me I drive like a dick. So much for cloud computing: the Drivatars are not as accurate as advertised.
Turn 10 continued their long standing tradition of omitting tracks to make way for the newness. The game contains 14 tracks, at launch, and I hope that some of the omitted tracks make their way into the game at some point down the road. Tracks from previous games that made the Forza 5 cut are:
The Bugatti circuit at Le Mans, introduced in Forza 3 only to not return in Forza 4, was added back to the track roster. Silverstone underwent some changes in track configuration and starting line placement, with only the National Circuit remaining nearly the same as before.
Australia’s Bathurst, with its crazy straights, elevation changes, and suicidal turns is probably the worst track in the world to race V8 Supercars, but why would that stop the Aussies? I feel fairly certain that a good portion of this track was the inspiration for the Blue Mountain track in the first Forza game. Players may want to resist the dual temptation of Mount Panorama’s two long straights and bring a car that can handle the wicked turns in the hills instead of a straight-line monster...but only if you’re interested in leaderboards or actually winning races.
Hollywood loves Prague, with its crazy mix of Medieval and Renaissance architecture, arches, plazas, famous statues and bridges...lots of bridges. XXX and the first Mission Impossible were both, at least partially, shot in Prague. Forza 5’s Prague track reminds me of Positano with legs. Racers should expect a fair amount of bricks and cobblestones, cable car tracks, elevation changes while turning, and several sweeping turns. Bring a balanced car with good brakes and acceleration, and just enough grip to hold sweepers. Four configurations.
Belgium’s Spa is one of the most player requested tracks in Forza history. Spa sports a good mix of long straights, elevation changes, chicanes, 90s, and sweepers, and starts with a very acute hard right at turn one. Acceleration and a fair amount of grip are required to keep it clean at Belgium’s Gran Prix track.
Yas Marina in the United Arab Emirates was obviously designed with Formula racing in mind. Two nice, long straights with some very tight turns and wicked chicanes to break up the monotony of oval racing. When not driving a Formula car, bring something with a shitload of grip: the straights mean nothing if you’re blowing turns. Five configurations.
The Test Track Airfield is set at an abandoned airport somewhere in the Mojave. The single track configuration is a very tight course that runs through hangars, a parking lot, and around the outside of buildings. This track combines the imminent danger of hitting a building with a light-post obstacle course...bring something grippy that you don’t mind smashing up.
A great deal of the controversy surrounding Forza 5 centers around the tragic loss of tracks. Let’s have a moment of silence for the former Forza tracks that didn’t make it to the new game:
At launch, Forza 5 had 213 available cars for those who pre-ordered the Limited Edition. It included another ten if, unlike me, you’re the type who buys Day One DLC. Here’s the deal about that Day One car pack...most of the cars that are in it were already in other Forza games. Does Turn 10 seriously think that players are going to lay down ten bucks for fucking cars that they already had? What kind of dickhead publisher charges for downloadable content on the day the game comes out? EA, that’s who. If you’re following the insidious business model of one of the most hated companies in the world then you should probably brace yourself for some negative feedback.
The cars looks great, and there is very little fat on the roster. There are no shitty hybrids, no Pintos, no PT Cruisers, and very few dipshit daily drivers. What we are left with are the very best offerings from the respective manufacturers, and only Audi and BMW are seriously over-represented with different year models of the same car. We may be racing with fewer cars this time around, but we are also racing with better cars. However, once again, a new Forza game launches without a single Porsche in the game. Other glaring omissions include NASCAR-style stock cars, Bentley, Wiesmann, Morgan, DeTomaso, Devon, and many others. My favorite muscle car, the XXX GTO, is also a no show. Base models are also a thing of the past. If you want a Gallardo, you get the Superleggera. If you want a Veyron, the SS is your only choice.
The PI system was overhauled again. The new car classes are D, C, B, A, S, R, P, and X. D is the new F, A is the new S, S is for supercars and V8 Supercars, R is Hypercars and the GT equivalent, P is Indy and Formula car territory, and X is suicide prototype territory.
Rivals mode is about the same, with the exception of leaderboard integration. This is good news for hotlappers, who can now pick and choose their track and class and be rewarded with experience, affinity, and Forzabucks while testing tunes or chasing clean LB laps. Affinity no longer rewards players with discounts on upgrades, instead it increases monetary rewards incrementally as a percentage. The more affinity you have with a manufacturer, the greater the percentage boost on pay day.
Autovista makes an unwelcome return, but is now available for every car. Players are now able to prowl around inside, around, and under the hood of any car in their garage, without the superfluous Clarkson commentary. I don’t really give a shit about this feature. Why would Turn 10 devote developmental assets to this useless feature when they could have been laser scanning Nordschleife or a 67 GTO? Fucking ponderous.
There isn’t one.
Also conspicuously absent from Forza 5. Players, however, are free to donate tunes and designs to the public, and maybe get paid if enough people like your work.
Gone. Good thing you’re already in a clan and have folks to race with.
Do I look pleased?
Never in the history of online racing has multiplayer been such a pain in the ass. Players can only join a private match after accepting a party invite. Why do you have to be in a party to join a fucking race with friends? This was never a prerequisite in previous games. The lobbies themselves are still problematic. I was having audio issues at one point, but don’t know whether to point the finger at Turn 10 for the game or Microsoft for the console, so I’ll just flip both of them the bird. I also experienced lag and rubber banding in online lobbies...and there were only a couple of other guys in the room with me. Another race dropped a guy from the race, but replaced him with his Drivatar...while he was still in the party.
The loss of the ability to cherry pick which of my friends’ races I wanted to join, and then join that race without the hassle of fishing for a fucking invite is the harshest blow of all. It’s far worse to me, personally, than the lack of cars or tracks. After the annoyance of having to ask for a party invite and race invitation, jacking around with the party settings once you’re there, I find out the the room does indeed include the friend I wanted to race with, but the guy who dropped me off his friends list is also there as is the guy I kicked off my list because he belches into his mic every thirty seconds. At this point I feel obligated to remain for a few races just because it felt like work getting there.
The inability to share designs and tunes with people on your friends list is the final unforgivable sin. The guys in 2Old4Forza are talking about setting up a spreadsheet to share tunes amongst the clan. A fucking spreadsheet! Are you fucking kidding me? Did I just go back in time to 1995? Why can’t we gift tunes? For a developer that claims to be community minded you’re working awfully hard to alienate the community. Oh, and while we’re on the subject of community, the hub of Forza Motorsports, forzamotorsport.net, has the absolute shittiest and most argumentative fucking forum moderators of all time. Some mod named TG (testicle glutton?) Wormburner banned a 2o4f member until the year 2165...literally without explanation. If this is the hub of Turn 10’s racing community, then I am so fucking not impressed.
Forza 5 is a beautiful racing game and an awesome single player experience, but the inept implementation of key features, the inclusion of unnecessary fluff, the loss of tracks and cars, multiplayer aggravation, and the complete and sudden disregard for the social side of the game left a very bad taste in my mouth. It feels unfinished or rushed. If I could go back, I would buy a used or deeply discounted copy of this game instead of forking over 80 bucks for the Day One LE. I’m disappointed, but playing anyway. Finish your fucking game, Turn 10.