mardi 21 février 2017

What Am I Playing NOW - February 2017

For the past month or so, I've been going through Tom Clancy's The Division. I bought it on a whim during the holiday because it was about 20 bucks (CAN$), shipping included, even if it came from the United States with their silly expensive dollar. I'm usually not big on Tom Clancy's games. I liked the past two Ghost Recon entries, but I could never get into Rainbow Six or Splinter Cell. Fact is, one of the main reasons I went for it is because a gaming journalist/expert I really trust had mostly nice things to say about it. And he's not the type of dude, as far as I know, who is easily impressed.

Anyway, so I bought this game and have been playing it a few times per week, constantly, for about five weeks. I think I'm about 65%-75% of the way through, if the map and remaining missions are any indication.

I did not know that much about this game. I knew it was an always-online type of deal, you can level up, it has some sort of loot and it's set in New York City after some dramatic Black Friday event. And that's basically it, really. It's a tad like Destiny in its online-ness (fantastic word, I know, I have the best words). You're always online, but you never see anyone except in safe houses around the city and when you matchmake for missions or for fun. In my case, I only matchmake with other players for Story missions. Side missions and "Encounters" (frankly just another word for smaller "Side missions") are quick and easy, and they can usually be done alone without too much problem. The Story missions are quite longer, harder and can truly be a pain in the ass, even with three other competent "Agents" - the name given to other players.

The story itself is mostly uninteresting. The City has been overrun by criminal gangs and you, along with mostly incompetent and clueless policemen types known as JTF (I'm guessing Joint Task Force), try to wrestle back control away from them. Most of the indications and story elements are given over radio waves, and it quickly becomes white noise in your ears. The missions themselves are mostly straightforward. You go ahead, you take cover, you clear areas of enemies, you hack a computer there or activate a pump here, then it's on to other bad guys. Eventually you get a boss dude or lady who is extremely resistant and tough to kill (more on this later). Dispatch him and whoever is around and mission is accomplished. It sounds boring, but it works because the gameplay is freaking stellar. Cover mechanics work well, your gadgets (turrets, shields, healing stations, etc.) are usually helpful and fun to use, the shooting is very fun, different gun types do actually shot differently. All in all, it's very fun to play.

The RPG-like looting and leveling up leads you to better guns, better gear and basically higher numbers in categories like DPS (damage per second) and toughness (defense). The guns/gear look and sound the same, but the stats vary with the item level so you continually change your setup. For a guy like me who loves the likes of Diablo and Borderlands for the looting/leveling aspects, it's pretty fun to manage that stuff.

Enemies also have levels, they get progressively tougher to kill, do more damage and all that jazz. Exactly what you would expect, right? At level 21, level 21 enemies are a good enough challenge for you, they have more health and deal more damage than the now-easy-to-kill level 16 or 18 enemies. In a video game, this makes perfect sense, it's precisely how these types of games work.

But, it doesn't feel as right as it should. The problem is, for me, it doesn't fit with the vibe of the game. It's so realist. It's set in an actual, well-known city. The guns are actual guns used by the police or armed forces (SCAR-H, MP5, SMG-9, etc.), not magical shotguns that shoot rockets (I still love you, Borderlands). The enemies are humans, not monsters or fantastic beings. Everything is so grounded in reality it's tough to reconcile the fact that you need dozens of bullets to take down a nondescript gangster dude from a few meters away. And I'm not talking about higher-ranking enemies (usually highlighted with different colored health/shield bars), who might take, even if they're at your level, hundreds and maybe even thousands of bullets to take down.

As I said, explain that to a fellow gamer and it makes sense. And it would for me too in another setting (like Destiny, Borderlands or Diablo). But here I can't stop thinking about it.

Somewhat related to the insane tenacity of the enemies is their efficiency at killing you. They will take damage off your health bar waaay faster than you would expect. And they can do that from frankly quite unrealistic distances. And they don't miss often. You are seen, you will start losing health fast if you don't take cover. At one point - and I'm not kidding - one dude started shooting me and I took damage before the shooting animation from that dude kicked in! I was zooming with my sniper at said enemy, and he saw me. Since I was zooming in I could see every one of his movements with accuracy, and I heard shots fired at me and I started losing health BEFORE he grabbed his gun and shot. Granted, the amount of time between the first shot and him grabbing his gun was a fraction of a second, but you would still expect it to be the other way around: grab your gun before you shoot me.

What else to say about this game... Oh, it looks very pretty and I think the sound design is on point. I don't know New York City that much, so I can't speak to the accuracy of the recreation of the city, but it looks awesome. Even my wife was staggered at how great it looked, saying things like "It's crazy how they created that whole city, all the details and everything." And she's right. The map is not as big as other open-world games like The Witcher or Skyrim, but it's dense and very detailed. It really feels as if it was inhabited days before the game takes place (and it probably was).

All in all, it's a great game. I'm not done yet, but it's pretty good so far. I just have to talk myself into the way they mixed RPG-elements with sheer realism.

I have played other stuff these past few weeks, but this is, as you will have guessed, was my go-to game during that time.

I will try my best to update what I'm playing more frequently for the next few months, see how it goes.

jeudi 29 septembre 2016

Best Games I've Never Played - Part III

This choice might be a bit "controversial" when compared to the first two entries in this feature (Counter Strike and Final Fantasy) as it's not considered, as far as I know, as one of the "best" or "greatest" gaming franchise of all-time. But it's certainly one of the most widely recognizable, even in the non-gaming world.

In fact, come to think of it, I really haven't played a lot of "Sim" games in my life. I remember a friend of mind when I was 12 who played a LOT of SimCity (It was 17 years ago, I can't remember which one it was, I'm sorry) and I also remember, around that time, trying a simulation golf game but I cannot recall the name of that game either. After a quick Google search, it might be something like Golf Resort Tycoon. Although I don't remember the name being that long. And I might have downloaded that game illegally with LimeWire or some P2P software. Typing these sentences makes the whole thing feel like it happened 56 years ago.

Anyway, Sim games as a whole never really caught my attention. When it comes the The Sims franchise, I've actually never played any of them. Sure, the fact that I have been primarily a console gamer for the past 15 years has a lot to do with this, but I'm fairly certain I wouldn't even have bought or tried any of these games even if presented with the opportunity.

That doesn't anything away from those games, who have generally received (barring The Sims 4high praise from gaming websites and magazines throughout history. Furthermore, the 4 main Sims games are amongst the highest-selling PC games in history, each selling north of 5 million copies, with the first one hitting 11.24 millions. It's fair to say this is one of the most successful and well known franchises in the gaming world.

Other "Sim" games have been quite successful in their own rights, namely the SimCity franchise and its multiple iterations in the past 30 years.

It's highly possible I spend the rest of my life never trying any of these games, but I still wanted to acknowledge their existence, success and popularity in the gaming world.

jeudi 19 novembre 2015

Tales from the Commonwealth - Part I

June 2nd, 2015. On that date, noted video game developer and publisher Bethesda revealed a countdown - along with the words "Please Stand By" - which was set to expire the very next day. On that day, hundreds of thousands of gamers rejoiced as Fallout 4 was announced with a short trailer. A few days later, during Bethesda's E3 press conference, I watch, wide-eyed, as the game was shown in greater detail and, to basically everyone's surprise, was set to release less than 5 months later, on November 10th. Needless to say, I was extremely pumped and immediately pre-ordered the game (along with 3 others, therefore being handed a 30% discount by Amazon for pre-ordered games during E3). The hype train was just starting. I can safely say I haven't been this excited for a game release since Bioshock Infinite.

After all, Fallout 3 ranks very high in my personal list of the greatest video games of all-time and is comfortably in my top 3 favourite games of the last generation (along with the likes of The Last of Us and Bioshock). It's only natural for me to expect the subsequent Fallout games to be as good, if not better, than FO3 was. Fallout New Vegas, released merely two years after 3, was a fantastic game I absolutely enjoyed and would recommend in a heartbeat.

However, this time the hype I was experiencing was on another level completely. It had a lot of time to build up between 2010 and 2015. In fact, I even re-started to play Fallout 3 last year, even if it was just for a few hours, just because I felt like it and I kinda needed the fix of going back into a wasteland and walk around, discovering weird stuff and killing a bunch of raiders.

Anyway, I finally got Fallout 4 through the mail a week ago, on Thursday November 12th. Even if I still have at least 10 unopened games on various consoles (not including the PS+ titles piling up) I immediately installed the game and the now-inevitable Day One patch. That very night, I played for about 2 hours before the game crashed on me. Sure, it always sucks when a game crashes, but in a way it did force me to go to sleep. Those Bethesda games, I'm telling you, have a way of eating time away like you wouldn't believe...

During that mission when the game crashed, I obtained the first Power Armor, something you usually got a lot later in previous Fallout titles. However, the Power Armor requires you to insert a Fusion Core inside of it for it to work properly. So far, in the 11 hours - approximately - I put into the game, I have used the Armor for less than one and burned through 2 of the 3 Cores I managed to find in the Commonwealth. In case someone wasn't aware, Commonwealth is the name given to the city of Boston and the areas around it, where the game takes place.

So far then, the game plays mostly like Fallout 3 and New Vegas. There's still the always entertaining but slightly-less-useful V.A.T.S. system, which, in this game, slows down (instead of stopping it in FO3 and NV) time to allow you, the player, to select a part of the enemy's body you wanna target. We also find the Pip-Boy menu on the player's left wrist, almost unchanged and still somewhat of a hassle to get around. There are still companions (so far I've found 3 of them), although in this game I'm pretty sure they can't die, which is an improvement over past games. All in all, you'll feel right at home if you've played either of the past two games.

The biggest addition (at least that I've discovered so far) is the introduction of settlements, which act as bases for you to build upon and improve in any way you see fit. Eventually, I guess, you can have settlers to inhabit those settlements and make them prosper. I have one main settlement so far which I've worked on for perhaps 30-45 minutes in Sanctuary Hills (which is, incidentally, the main character's neighbourhood before the war). You can scavenge almost anything (cars, tires, mailboxes, ruined houses, tables, TV sets, etc.) into materials you will use to build whatever you need. Water pumps, house, turrets, workbenches, etc. Eventually  I'll make more time to dabble in a little more, but so far it seems like something you can spend a ton of time with.

The other big addition I need to mention in this first entry is the crafting system, which is a LOT deeper than I ever though it would be. You can modify your weapons and gear in tons of different ways. For example, you take that Pipe Pistol you have and you can, if you have the required materials, install different scopes, sights, grips, barrels, bayonets, etc. All of these will change the weapon's stats. It might reload faster, be more accurate, be lighter or heavier, etc. Obviously I haven't been able to change a ton of weapons or gear so far since you still require some rarer materials for modifications. Most of the materials can be found almost anywhere, in various junk you scavenge across the wasteland or modified gear/weapons you find on dead enemies. And that's the beauty of this new Fallout, every thing you pick up can have some value other than bottlecaps (the game's currency). That coffee cup is worth a measly 2 bottlecaps? In past games you would have ignored it. In this game though, that cup can be broken down into ceramic, which might help you build something for your settlement, improve a weapon or something else useful. It's a very neat and very welcome new system I really enjoy so far, even if I have a lot of trouble keeping my character under the weight limit.

Also, the shooting has improved a lot. In previous games, shooting enemies like you would do in a regular FPS wouldn't be particularly fun or efficient. You could do it with the proper weapon, but it felt off a little bit and you would usually resort to using the V.A.T.S. system all the time, which was fine since it's a great way to play, but still a tad disappointing. In FO4, the combat has taken a major leap forward and it's now a lot easier and practical to just shoot enemies like you would do in any other shooter. Sure, it's no Battlefield, but it's more than acceptable for a RPG this massive where the combat can often be an afterthought. I still use V.A.T.S., but nor nearly as often as I did in FO3 and NV.

So far then, I'm having a blast playing this game. Just look at my playing time, which is nearly 11 hours in 8 days. That's more than an hour a day. Sure, some people probably logged over 100 hours in that game so far, but for me, 11 hours in 8 days is a miracle. I have two part-time jobs in two schools, I'm a part-time student and a full-time father and husband as well as a massive sports fan (meaning free time is often spent watching the NFL, NBA or soccer). In those circumstances, I'm very lucky to be able to play this game that much. I also feel like I barely scratched the surface of what awaits me in the Commonwealth, and that's a feeling I love.

More to come soon!

samedi 2 mai 2015

I never thought this day would come.

A few days ago, I bought the digital edition of Call of Duty : Advanced Warfare Gold Edition on my PS4 during as it was on sale for 49$. Weirdly enough, I had just sold that same game, on disc, for 40$ after I bought it for 40$ and played through it once. Reading that last sentence makes me realize my thought process didn't make much sense . In the end, I tried to rationalize it by telling myself that, in a way, I bought the first DLC and the comfort of not having to switch discs for that extra 9$. It made more sense, sure, but it brought forth a new set of questions about digital distribution.

In fact, Call of Duty : Advanced Warfare is only the second "big-budget" game I've bought digitally on my PS4. The first one was LittleBigPlanet 3 when it dropped to 24$ on Boxing Day. Now the actual definition of "big-budget" is pretty vague. Usually, for me, a "big-budget" game is a game that has enough content/production value to be put on a disc and sold (Obviously that approach is only possible since the Seventh-Generation, as every console game before that was on a physical support).

As a man who loves to own many games and have them all neatly displayed in alphabetical order and by console, my rule for the past 9 years (since I first bought a 7th-generation console) has been pretty simple : If there's a physical version of the game, I'll buy the disc. If not, then I have to go digital. Free PS+ games obviously were treated differently, but you get the point. I like having physical copies, that way I actually really OWN them. You don't get the same feeling when buying something on the PS Store or on Steam or whatever mean of digital distribution you choose. There's also the fear of the console maker (Sony, in this case) deciding not to support this game anymore at one point, pulling it from the store or something. Some part of me knew this way of thinking couldn't last forever, as digital distribution was, and still is, taking over. However, I was convinced that this process wouldn't be completed for at least another generation, and that people like me were still safe for a few years, if not a decade.

At one point, two podcasters I was listening to a podcast and two of the hosts were vehemently defending digital distribution, stating how much they hated having to swap discs and even got rid of gaming cases as soon as possible. It actually ticked me off; my first reaction was : "F*** them, they don't know s***, game discs ans cases are the best!" That overreaction might have been fuelled by the fact that I had already started to not like those guys and was on the verge of dropping that podcast entirely (which I did a few weeks later).

Eventually though, cracks started to appear in my "physical" armour (bad pun intended). I started getting a bit lazy and sometimes didn't care to swap discs, so I played games I had bought on the PS Store - including free PS+ games - or I simply played the disc-based game inside the console. More importantly, I started to read and listen to arguments FOR digital distribution and consider them seriously. A few arguments struck me more than others, mainly the fact that physical copies, while more "real", are more prone to breaking and/or not working properly for some reason. There's also the environmental cost of physical distribution, which is, for me, quite important even if not astronomical. Also, I'm the type of gamer who wants developers to get their due, and not be f***ed by the likes of GameStop and Best Buy with used game sales (I'm not entirely against used games sales, but I get why publishers/developers don't like it). The last argument is purely bound to my personality. Buying digital forces me to really think about what I buy, since I can't return it or sell it to some dude on the Internet. I have to make a decision which will be ultimate if I decide to buy it. And the laziness argument is always prevalent, even with a guy like me who 95% of the time don't mind standing up, taking a few steps, swap discs and sit back down. 

Obviously, those arguments might not convince a lot of people, but they were strong enough to make me buy LBP3 and CoD : AW. I don't know what the future holds on that front and if I'll really make the jump to digital completely. I don't think so (I even got Shadow of MordorFIFA 15 and Bloodborne on disc in the past few weeks, although I paid less than 90$ for all three combined...) but the first steps have been taken.

samedi 10 janvier 2015

Bara_Chat's Non-Games of the Year "Awards" 2014

For various reasons (crappy/unstable job situation and the birth of my daughter) 2014 was the worst year for me, gaming-wise, since perhaps 2005 or 2006. I had neither the money or free time to enjoy most of the titles released in the past 12 months. I was fortunate enough to try these games though :

Games actually released in 2014
  • Hearthstone - Mac
  • Destiny - PS4
  • Diablo III : Reaper of Souls - PS4/Mac
  • Plants vs Zombies : Garden Warfare - PS4
  • Transistor - PS4
  • Trials Fusion - PS4
  • NHL 15 - PS4 (tried it at a friend's for an hour or so)
  • Borderlands : The Pre-Sequel - PS3
  • South Park : The Stick of Truth - PS3
  • TxK - Vita*
  • Velocity 2X - PS4/Vita*
  • Pix the Cat - PS4*
  • Strider - PS4*
  • Luftrausers - PS3/Vita*
Ports of games released before 2014
  • Rayman Legends - PS4
  • Guacamelee : Super Turbo Championship Edition - PS4
  • Fez - PS4/Vita*
  • Towerfall : Ascension - PS4*
  • Stick It to The Man - PS4*
  • Dead Nation : Apocalypse Edition - PS4*
  • Road not Taken - PS4*
  • Don't Starve - PS4*
  • The Binding of Isaac : Rebirth - PS4/Vita*
* - Denotes a free PS+ title

Looking at this list is pretty sad. Even sadder than I anticipated. But hey, I'm not complaining! I have many consoles, many gaming options open to me. And PS+ is cheap enough that I get to get to try many games I wouldn't have money to purchase otherwise.

Also it has to be said that I bought other games this year, but they were titles released in previous years, so they don't matter here.

Anyway, let's get to the point of the post. Since I haven't played enough of the important titles of 2014, it seems rather pointless to hand out awards or nods to a game or games without much competition. Not only that, but I don't think I have even finished most of the games! Gun to my head, I think my favourite game of 2014 is South Park : The Stick of Truth even if I'm likely only halfway through the game. It's very dumb, but it's extremely funny and has true, solid RPG-elements infused with South Park silliness. For anyone with even a fleeting interest in the TV show, it's a must-buy.

Otherwise, I really liked both Destiny and Transistor, which complete - for the time being - my yearly top 3. So far I might put Transistor before Destiny, if only for the simple fact that I've finished it (I might go for a second playthrough though, it's very fun). One of them is a gigantic AAA blockbuster with a budget that would make even the biggest Hollywood studios jealous, the other an indie game developed by less than 30 people on staff (if I remember correctly). And honestly, you kinda feel it when you play those games. Transistor feels like an intimate experience with a strong personality, whereas Destiny, while sporting excellent gameplay and great customization, feels "cold".

EDIT : I completely forgot about the Diablo III expansion!! Which I have both on Mac and PS4. I don't know whether or not it should be nominated here since DIII is a 2012 game, but I figured I should at least mention it once in this whole thing.

2014's Non-Game "Awards"

Here I'll rank - and say a few words about - those elusive 2014 titles I wasn't able to buy or even try this past year. How can I rank those games, you ask? Well, I've read reviews, watched gameplay videos and listened to podcasts covering those games all year long. That does not make me an expert on any of them, sure, but I can still point out those I'm the most anxious to try and sad I couldn't play. I counted at least 35 games I feel like I missed. And 35 is quite a big number, so I have to politely disagree with those who claim that 2014 was a weak year. It clearly doesn't feel like from where I'm sitting.

35. Halo Master Chief Collection - XBox One

I loved the first Halo on the original XBox - even as I only played it at my friends' - and I liked the hour I spent with another friend on Halo Reach. I really didn't like what I played of Halo 3 though, but it has to be said I only played the campaign for about 3 hours. Those feelings don't really fit with each other, and I think this has to do with the fact that all my experiences with the franchise have been scattered over basically 14 years. Having the opportunity to play through the whole thing in one 2 or 3 weeks run would likely give me a more solid and valid opinion on Halo as a whole.

34. Madden NFL 15 - PS4
33. FIFA 15 - PS4
32. NBA 2k15 - PS4

I rarely buy the current-year version of sports games, because the prices drop so quickly and the gameplay changes so little from year to year that I usually can live with the last-year version of the game for quite a while. But I have to say all three of these are really tempting right now...

31. The Wolf Among Us - PS4
30. The Walking Dead : Season 2 - PS4

The only Telltale game I've ever played was the first season of The Walking Dead, which won my personal 2012 Game of the Year award. I loved it. I absolutely loved it. And still, a part of me doesn't want to play the second season. Two major reasons : I mostly dislike graphic depictions of violence (especially if there's even the slightest measure gore involved, which is why I still refuse to play the third God of War, because the beheading thing is beyond what I can stomach, and I thought GoW2 was too graphic...) and I kinda steer clear of very tense and stressful situations in games. 'But, ' you might wonder 'you loved the first season!'. You're right. When I was into it, there was no turning back. While playing it, I had a great time. If I had known beforehand some of the stuff that would be happening in that game, I might not have played it. I know that if I ever get into either of those games, I'll enjoy, but my "fears", for lack of a better world, keep me from doing it and keep those games from getting a lot higher on this list. I know that's irrational, but I'll play them eventually, along with Tales from the Borderlands, which I'm waiting on to finish before pulling the trigger.

29. The Banner Saga - PC

I'll be 100% honest. I don't even know what that game is or what it's about. All I know is that I've heard so many people sing its praises that I am convinced it is great. The only reason why it's not higher is because I REALLY don't know what it is...

28. Divinity : Original Sin - PC

This pick is solely based on a few Giant Bomb podcasts where one of the website's editor kept saying how amazing this game is and on 10 minutes of a Quick Look video they made about it. I know nothing of it otherwise...

27. Dark Souls II - PS3 (Soon on PS4)

Most hardcore gamers would likely tell me this game should be a lot closer to #1, but there's a reason why I still hesitated to buy this game even when the price dropped dramatically during the fall. When I played the first Dark Souls, I was extremely wary because I had heard and read 890403 times how hard this game was. And after only an hour, I stopped and never tried again. Part of me want to fight through it and really see what makes this game so great, and the other part thinks that when something is too hard and might eat up too much time, it's not worth it. Same thing with Dark Souls II, and that's why I'm still on the fence.

26. Metro Redux - PS4

I tried Metro 2033 on the 360 but never got more than an hour in before selling the system. I really enjoyed Metro : Last Light on the PS3 and I feel like it was a mistake to sell it afterwards, seeing as I wanted to replay it not long efter. This mistake has been taken care of by this remastered edition of both games. I'm quite glad I'll get to experience this thing with even better graphics once I get my hands on it.

25. Titanfall - XBox One

That game's hype was as humongous as the speed at which the gaming community seemingly forgot about it. From what I saw in various gameplay videos on Youtube, it looks very entertaining and would probably be my third must-buy game if I ever decide to get my hands on an XBox One (the two others come later).

24. LittleBigPlanet 3 - PS4

I had that game pre-ordered a month prior to its release. I had it for 50$ instead of the 69.99$ now asked for major releases in Canada. I cancelled it because I felt like 50$ was too much for ANY game at that time considering my financial situation. Seeing as it's now regularly seen at around 35$ on deals websites, I like the choice I made. I'll get it one day eventually, LBP and LBP2 were amazing party games.

23. Assassin's Creed Unity - PS4

If I hadn't watched or read any review of Unity, it would definitely be in the top 6 games of 2014 I want to play. It looked very promising ; I loved the idea of setting it during the French Revolution, I loved the idea of running around 18th-century Paris, I loved the fact they were going back to Europe after two installments in the New World (ACIII was mediocre, but ACIV is very good so far). The reviews came and declared that the game was pretty much broken and unfinished. Furthermore, I read that it would be disappointing even if not for those technical problems. I was pretty bummed out. I guess the majors bugs will be fixed by the time the game price drops enough for me to buy it.

22. Captain Toad : Treasure Tracker - Wii U

Important revelation time : I still haven't opened Super Mario 3D World for my Wii U. You might say I'm a crazy person, since that game is, according to basically every human who played it, absolutely fantastic, and you'd be right. Apparently Treasure Tracker is inspired by the Toad levels in 3D World which were considered very fun by gamers. Might have to play 3D World before though...

21. DriveClub - PS4

Yes, the launch was a mess. Yes, I couldn't try the PS+ version since it never actually existed. Yes, the reviews were less than stellar (around 7/10). But as a (admitedly less than before because of reasons) car nut, I'm still intrigued by this game. I want to play it when it will be working full capacity, so I'll wait a bit and get it cheaper.

20. The Swapper - PS4

This game was announced as the free title for PS+ in January 2015, so I'll get it then!

19. Valiant Hearts : The Great War - PS4

Inspired by World War I letter and made with the UbiArt engine. That's about all I needed to be interested.

18. Wolfenstein : The New Order - PS4

The reviews were surprisingly positive for such an old and well-trodden franchise. I'm seriously intrigued.

17. Sunset Overdrive - XBox One

Sunset Overdrive looks both bat-shit insane and extremely fun to play. It looks like inFamous (for the free-flowing open-city gameplay) with a hint of Ratchet and Clank (for the crazy weapons). The reviews looked pretty solid (pretty much on par with inFamous : Second Son, which comes a bit later in this ranking) and the gameplay vids very fun and colorful. It looks like it is, along with next game on this list, the best reason to buy an XBox One as far as I'm concerned.

16. Forza Horizon 2 - XBox One

I really liked the first Forza Horizon when I had my 360. It was perhaps the game I played the most during the short time I owned that system.

15. Kirby : Triple Deluxe - 3DS

I just love Kirby games. I adored Kirby Epic Yarn on Wii and really enjoyed Return to Dream Land on the same console. I can't think of a reason why I wouldn't love this one.

14. Far Cry 4 - PS4

Even if the story had major issues, I loved Far Cry 3. Easily one of the most enjoyable games to walk /run/drive/fly around and do random stuff in. From everything I could gather, Far Cry 4 is basically Far Cry 3, only with different clothes and much more stuff to do. A "Far Cry 3.5", if you will. That's good enough for me.

13. Grand Theft Auto V - PS4

I have some sort of mental block with the GTA franchise. On one hand I know the games are always extremely well received by critics and fans alike and that they sell better than basically everything. On the other hand, I know that these games require you to do illegal and morally ambiguous stuff, and that's not me. But man, this one got SO MUCH praise I feel like I have to give it a go. Shit, this thing scored higher than every single game released in 2014! That must mean something!

12. Child of Light - PS4

Like Valiant Hearts, this game is made with the UbiArt engine, so it looks very beautiful and unique. I haven't seen or heard much else about it, to be honest. I know the story is dished out in rhymes, I know it has RPG elements to it and I know it was inspired by Studio Ghibli. And the music is made by one of the very few Quebec (where I live) artists whose works I don't vehemently dislike. All good points in its favor!

11. Geometry Wars 3 : Dimensions - PS4

Even if I owned a 360 for a while, I never played Geometry Wars nor Geometry Wars 2. That might be a tragedy, seeing as this franchise is revered by many gamers, but I hope to try the third one and put an end to this sad sequence.

10. The Last of Us : Remastered - PS4

You'd think that a remastered version of what I consider to be the best game of the Seventh-Generation would rank higher on this list. Maybe it should, as its metacritic score is actually better than everything ahead of it and every game released in 2014 except for the remastered version of GTAV. But since both those games were released for the first time in 2013, it seemed to me a bit weird to give them higher 2014 spots.

9. Call of Duty : Advanced Warfare - PS4

I haven't been this excited for a CoD game since forever. I loved Modern Warfare (CoD4), disliked Modern Warfare 2, didn't enjoy Black Ops except for the Nazi Zombies mode and thought MW3 was exciting at times but ultimately just OK. I skipped Black Ops 2 and Ghosts altogether.

But this one. This Advanced Warfare game looks pretty good. Looks to be the best thing that happened to that franchise since Modern Warfare all the way back in 2007. That's saying something!

8. Infamous : Second Son - PS4

I loved the first inFamous. I liked the gruffiness of the protagonist and the comics-styled cutscenes. I liked the powers you could hold. I liked going around in the city doing various shit. The second inFamous was objectively better in all aspects, but I didn't enjoy it as much, for some reason. Still a pretty good game, it has to be said. Second Son goes in another direction completely with a new city, a new protagonist and new powers. This is a game I watched many videos of. It's very gorgeous and looks amazingly fun to play.

7. Shovel Knight - Wii U/3DS (soon on PS4)

For some reason, I hesitated (and still do) to go digital on Nintendo platforms. Part of me doesn't want to, as if it was a drag to have accounts to administrate on both Nintendo and Sony consoles. I'm lazy like that sometimes...

Anyway, this gem of a retro-styled platforming game is coming soon to the PS4, so I'll get it then. I've heard so much praise about it from every expert around that I was sold even before I saw what it looked like. Now that I did, I must say it looks absolutely fantastic. Is there a nostalgia factor in all of this? Maybe. But it's part of what we are as aging gamers, we love to see stuff reminding us of our childhood.

6. Rogue Legacy - PS4

I'm not the biggest fan of roguelike games. But I like Spelunky the more I play it and found Don't Starve to be quite interesting for the two hours I put in it. I don't love the idea of starting everything over each time you die, but Rogue Legacy takes some roguelike elements and adapts them to

5. Mario Kart 8 - Wii U

The name Mario Kart is enough here. Wait. It's in HD? Mario Kart in HD? Can't go wrong here.

4. Dragon Age : Inquisition - PS4

I was never able to really get into the first Dragon Age (never felt right with a controller instead of a mouse and keyboard) and I semi-rage-quit Dragon Age II because of an absolutely impossible fight with an army of... things... I don't know what they were. I remember there was a chief/king/lord of some sort of race of anthropomorphic animals within the main city and his whole entourage. I had to kill them for some reason (It's very far in my memory, sorry!) and I couldn't. I tried dozens of time, even had to lower the difficulty to easy, and still couldn't...

Anyway, this one looks great and I'll approach it without thinking much about the first two.

3. Super Smash Bros for Wii U - Wii U

I don't know how to feel about this franchise anymore. I love the idea of SSB. A brawler with Nintendo characters!? Sign me up! I loved the ones on N64 and GCN, when I had friends to play with. Now none of my friends are gamers, so as much as I love to play SSB, I can't REALLY enjoy it as much alone as I would with a group of friends. So I know I will love it, but I don't know if I will appreciate it as much as it deserves to be since I won't be able to play it with other people as often as I wish.

2. Middle-Earth : Shadow of Mordor - PS4

Ask anyone around me and they'll tell you I'm a big Tolkien fan. It all started with the first The Lord of the Rings movie, then I had to read all his other works in this fantastic, exceptional and engrossing universe he created. The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, Unfinished Tales, The Children of Hurin, etc. I even bought an Atlas of Middle-Earth (which should be named Atlas of Arda - the name of Earth in his works) and an Encyclopedia of his works.

So when I heard there was a game coming out inspired by this universe, I was both extremely pumped and very, very nervous. Pumped because of the infinite potential of this universe, nervous because we've all seen beloved licenses getting terrible, horrible games. I felt SO relieved when I saw the very positive reviews coming through and now I can't wait to get my hands on it.

1. Bayonetta 2 - Wii U

This is it. The game that I think will end up being the best thing I'll play that came out in 2014. I loved the first Bayonetta. Sure, it was completely insane and I had reserves concerning the whole "slaying angels" thing, but shit the gameplay is perfect so you can't help but love it. From what I gathered this is even better. And crazier. I don't know what else you could ask for.

This is it! The best 35 games I missed in 2014. Four of them I own by now (Jan. 10th) that I didn't own when I started to write this entry (just before Christmas). Three of them I got with the Boxing Day/Week deals (Infamous : Second Son, Super Smash Bros Wii U and Child of Light), and one is free with PS+ in January (The Swapper). I did try Smash Bros for an hour or so and had a shitload of fun with it. The others will have to wait for me to clear some of my backlog.

2015 looks to be an amazing year with new entries in the Arkham, Witcher, Zelda, Uncharted franchises as well as dozens of other great titles. Now that I'm at least 30+ games late on this new gen already because of a busier 2014, you can assume I will never be bored, gaming-wise, in the near future.

samedi 29 novembre 2014

What Am I Playing NOW - Part VII

Considering the flurry of new titles released in the past 2 months, you might expect someone "running" a gaming blog must have played most, if not all, of the noteworthy titles. In most cases, you'd be 100% right. However, in my case, it most certainly wasn't the case. For various reasons (No free time, because I have a 3 months old daughter, and no money, because I have a shitty job that doesn't pay well enough for a man to take care of his wife, baby, rent, car AND gaming hobby. Sometimes you have to pick something to sacrifice. In this case the choice was pretty obvious!), I haven't played a more recent title than Destiny. I actually own an even more recent title in Borderlands : The Pre-Sequel! (pre-ordered with the E3 deal), but I haven't even opened it yet since I'm still not done with all Borderlands 2 DLCs. I also should mention that I played more recent games given away for free with the PS+ subscription.

The Sequel before the Pre-Sequel

Let's begin with Borderlands 2. Since my PS3 died last year and that, for some unknown reason, my saves weren't being uploaded to the PS+ cloud, I had to restart a character in Borderlands 2. I usually play as Zer0 (like I did Mordecai in the first game), but I wanted to try something different. Very different. I went with the Mechromancer, Gaige. I kinda regretted it at firt because I really liked Zer0's skills, but now I'me getting more used to her, it's not that bad. Anyway, I'm nearly done with the main game, after which I'll do the 2 DLCs (Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt and Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep) I didn't have time to play before my PS3 died. I loved the first two DLCs, so I'm glad I'll finally get to try the last two. Eventually. Hopefully before Christmas (I was not kidding when I said that I have no free time).

Destiny, still

It seems, when I listen to gaming podcasts, that everyone was done with this game 2 months ago. Not me! I'm level 15 and I did, if I remember correctly, only one story mission on Mars. It's a very fun game, although the story is very lacking. Uninteresting, to be exact. But the gameplay is so freaking solid. And I haven't unlocked all the abilities of the one class (out of three) I have tried. Looks like many hours of fun are still ahead of me.

South Park

I started South Park : The Stick of Truth about a month ago. Played it a bunch during a weekend when my wife and baby were away. It's a very, very funny game. It really feels like a South Park episode. The combat system is pretty basic and can get a little repetitive. But you don't play South Park for its innovative gameplay, you play it because it's freaking South Park. Because you get to hang out with Princess Kenny, Cartman, Butters and the likes.

No time = small and/or portable games

The subtitles says it all. I don't have much free time, so I often resort to quick little sessions of games you can start quickly and, especially, quit at a moment's notice without losing (too much) progress. Obviously portable games are perfect in that case. I've played a bit of Vita games, especially Dragon's Crown (though even after 4-5 hours, I can't "get" into the game that much) and other smaller titles like Luftrausers and Pix the Cat. But I've played a lot more 3DS during that time, most notably Super Mario 3D Land, The Legend of Zelda : Ocarina of Time 3D and Mario Tennis Open. To my surprise, the former isn't quite a great as I expected. Don't get me wrong, it IS a good game, but the controls aren't as intuitive and sharp as I would have hoped. Anyone who has ever played a core Mario title knows the controls, essential to the platforming genre, have always been stellar. Here, they're not bad, but they're not stellar. Otherwise, the levels are short and sweet, perfect for short gaming sessions.

There's not much to say about Ocarina of Time. It still is the greatest game ever, no matter the format or number of screens. Mario Tennis Open, on the other hand, is disappointing. I absolutely loved the Mario Tennis game for GameCube, it was pretty much perfect. I used to turn off the special/power shots most of the time to get a truer tennis experience. The special shots are fun at times, but in the long run, the mini-cutscenes before each one become tedious. In this one, you CAN'T turn them off. Seriously? That really sucks. It's a stupid choice by Nintendo, as far as I'm concerned. The minigames are still fun and the gameplay, other than the special shots, is still very solid. But man. That's a bummer...

Anyway, let's hope next time I'll have a newer game to write about!

mardi 16 septembre 2014

The Gamer Problem

During the last generation of consoles, I started following gaming news more intently than ever before. I subscribed to many gaming websites, podcasts and even two magazines, participated on gaming-related forums mainly on GameSpot and reddit, started following a slew of gaming channels/websites on Youtube and Facebook, etc. In other words, I dove in the gamer community/culture like never before.

The gaming community is extremely big. Bigger than it has ever been and it's growing by the minute. I've been entertained by the immense creativity of many and by the sheer madness of others. I've enjoyed some passionate discussions on forums and read the most interesting and/or hilarious comments on Youtube. I've read thoughtful letters in magazines and listened to heated debates which swayed my opinions in many ways. I've learned a truck-load about the gaming industry as a whole, the relationship between developers and publishers, how critics tend to analyse games, the meaning of terms like DRM, Third-Party, DLC, Indie, etc. I know also a lot more about gamers in general, how they react to certain companies and genres, how they interact with each other, which games they tend to venerate or hate and how they feel about basically everything gaming-related.

And that's where it started to fall apart for me.

First off all, the amount of hatred generated in gaming circles is staggering. Hatred towards certain publishers (mainly EA and Activision, but not a single one is safe), hatred towards the gamers who own that "other system" or towards the company itself, hatred towards anyone who doesn't adore whichever game/genre/franchise you love with a passion, hatred towards developers for delaying an otherwise-unfinished product, hatred basically towards anyone who doesn't think exactly like you do.

It's mind-blowing. It has become a problem to the point where I'm genuinely surprised whenever I read some love or positivity in forums and/or comments. I'm aware there are people who like to write anything just to piss off others - the so-called trolls - but it's only a fraction of the gaming population.

I've read some of the most spiteful, degrading and inhuman stuff on the Internet for video games. People wishing death, painful sickness and generally horrible things upon others for reasons such as delaying a game a few months. I've read some people on forums who received threats of bodily-harm in their private inbox because they had a different opinion of whether or not a game was good. On this very blog I received a comment which was basically "awful blog, kill urself" (Side note : I gladly accept criticism, let's just be constructive and not suggest suicide). And, obviously, we've all heard of the multiple death and rape threats developers, critics, journalists, publishers receive on public media (mainly twitter), of all places.

I mean, are you fucking serious? Really?

I know "Internet hate" is a phenomenom which has repercussions well beyond the small-but-growing world of video games. I'm a basketball and football fan, and man, the hatred in there is immense. Towards teams, players, journalists, leagues, managers, agents, commissionners, owners, etc. Hatred knows no bound in sports. I get that you don't like the rival team, but wishing painful death upon the whole coaching staff might not be the sanest thing you can do. You might not agree with this national writer, but don't go insulting his whole family whom you've never met and will likely never do. "Internet hate" is prevalent everywhere where religion is mentioned, where politics have a role to play, where movies are discussed, where journalists abound, where religion is debated, etc. Basically everywhere. But this is a gaming blog, so we'll stick to gaming.

The second problem of gamer is closely connected to the first. It has happened quite often that people will display hatred whenever they feel they're owned something. Gamers have an IMMENSE sense of entitlement. If a game is delayed, many will completely go beserk and claim that the company owes them the game or something. Which makes absolutely no sense ; since you haven't bought it, you aren't owed anything. Or when a "weaker" month of PS+ free games come around, thousands will claim that Sony owes them better games than those. Which, again, makes no sense at all. You subscribe to a service which promises two free games per month. It never says anywhere that the two games offered will be $100'000'000-budget games or that you will even like them. If you don't like the games offered, then unsubscribe or simply don't "buy" them. It's really not that hard.

I feel that people need to understand the notion of "voting with you wallet". I've read countless gamers rejecting an game because of the amount of content it proposes. That's fine. If you don't like what the game offers, don't buy it. Simple. The game isn't worth 60 or 70$ for you? Don't buy it. If you buy a game and feel like it's not enough, you can voice your opinion saying that the game isn't as complete or vast as you thought, but not that the developer/publisher owes you anything. YOU chose to buy the freaking game. Live with the consequences. Give it a low score on your blog, don't buy the sequel or whatever, but nobody owes you anything.

Finally, the constant whining in video game-related media is impossible to ignore. It seems like every single gaming-related post, forum, video, comment or other is filled with negativity. Nobody is ever satisfied with anything. That game is too short, too long, controls are too complex, graphics suck, the colors are weird, not enough guns, too many guns, killing someone isn't satisfying, too much gore, not enough gore, not realistic enough, "too" realistic, whatever.

Look, I understand the concept of "not settling for less" and "striving to be better". I'm all for it. It's disappointing when a game fails to meet expectations. However, there's a way to voice our opinion as gamers without sounding like whiny kids. Constructive criticism is what we should aim for as gamers, especially adult gamers. There's a difference between saying "Tis gaem sux ballz" and pointing out what you found lacking or unsatisfying like a normal, rational human. It doesn't help anyone to be overly negative and critical if you're not being constructive and coherent.

And that is the main reason why, instead of spending a few hours per week on gaming websites, I now try to spend less than 30 minutes, if not 15 minutes, per week. And it's a shame because I know I'm missing out on some good stuff and some great people to meet.