Friday, November 29, 2013

Game Review (Mario Party: Island Tour - 3DS)

As an early Christmas present, my sister got Mario Party: Island Tour. I had told her about the low scores, but she didn't listen -- and I can't blame her. Mario Party games never get very high scores, but still tend to be entertaining, even if based largely on luck. Mario Party: Island Tour is much of the same -- maybe a bit less.

The biggest difference with Island Tour as opposed to other Mario Party games is that most of the boards do away with stars and coins and just involve one player getting to the "finish line." This is weird and somewhat disappointing, but worse yet, you only play a mini-game every three turns, rather than after everybody has one turn. Thankfully, there is a mini-game mode for people who want to do that. While some of the mini-games are cute and good for a laugh, the big issue with it all is that at least half of them seem to be chance games, where there's no skill involved. The same can be said for a lot of the game boards, which favor luck over skill. Mario Party games and even Mario Kart games tend to do this at times to let people in last place catch up, but it's a bit much in this game. If you don't mind finishing last simply because you picked the wrong place to stand in a mini-game or happened to land on a "?" on a board, then you'll be fine. Basically, don't take Mario Party: Island Tour too seriously. As annoying as the lack of stars and coins on most boards is (as well as the emphasis on chance over skill/real thought), the $40 price tag is perhaps the biggest turn off here. This game features 7 boards to play, as well as (I believe) about 80 mini games. That seems like a decent amount, but the games don't last long while you play them. $30 would be much more reasonable, so I'd recommend buying this game on sale.

As I said, if you can tolerate getting screwed no matter how well you're playing, and like playing brief games of Mario Party, this game's not too bad. The biggest thing this game has going for it is its Mario-themed charm. A decent amount of the mini-games are entertaining, but this is probably the weakest Mario Party yet that I have played. It's a game that's not great. Really, I'd consider it "barely decent." I wouldn't run out to buy Mario Party: Island Tour, but I believe it's better than most critics seem to think it is... it makes me wonder if they even played a Mario Party before.


+: It's a Mario game; Some mini-games are pretty fun; Good in short bursts.
-: Not enough content for the price; Too many "been there, done that" and chance-fated mini-games; Doesn't feel too Mario Party-esque with the omission of coins/stars on most boards.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Game Review (Flower - PS4)

Flower originally came out in 2009 on the PS3 (I think?). It is also available to play on Vita, and now on PS4. For $6.99, you can play the game on all of those consoles. Additionally, if you already had the game, you get it for free on PS4. I don't expect this to be the only PS3 game that'll be upgradable on PS4 for free (if you previously paid for it).

Graphics: Flower is an incredibly simplistic looking game -- the whole game will take up maybe 2GB on your hard drive. The best looking thing -- er, things -- in Flower are the blades of grass. The way they ripple in the wind is great. Secondly, the vibrance of all the colors along with the soothing feel of the pedals through the wind is incredibly relaxing. Anything else in the game doesn't look particularly good, but that's not a big loss. Flower isn't so much about the graphical detail as much as it is about the flow and color, which are both great. 4/5

Sound: I'd find it hard to believe that there's a more calming game out there. The music in this game is simplistic, but mesmerizing. If you used to take yoga or have thought about it, Flower should work just fine. The sound of the wind with the subtle music and notes that play every time you bloom a flower could lull you to sleep -- in a good way! 5/5

Control: Six-Axis is what you use to control the game. The only time you use a button is when you bloom your initial flower, start a level, or use the wind. The control from the start was pretty much perfectly fluid -- very responsive, and don't require massive movements. Using Six-Axis makes the game feel even more "floaty" and relaxing. 5/5

Fun: While the game is only about an hour long (yes, you read that right), it's a prime example of quality over quantity. I can tell you that the majority of the time while playing this game, I found myself so relaxed that my mouth was left open. If you're looking for a unique, fun experience to take up a portion of your day, Flower will more than likely entertain you more than an evening at the cinema would... and for a little less money.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

How to Get Better at Battlefield 4

One of the most anticipated games of the year has to have been Battlefield 4 on PC and next-gen consoles. Whether you played a Battlefield game before or not, the chances are that you at least had your eye on this game. If you're new to the series or even new to the genre, this guide should up your game at least a little bit. You won't be great or even good at Battlefield overnight, but a few relatively simple changes will help you step up your game. Here's a list (in no particular order) of things you can do:

1.) Spot enemies: I said this list is in a random order, but I think this is the most basic and important thing you can do to help you and your team out. This includes spotting enemies on the ground, and especially those in vehicles (air vehicles, most specifically). When a team mate is in a jet and there's a bad guy up there with him, and he can't see him, there's nothing that feels more hopeless as a pilot. It's also crucial that you spot those who are in tanks, because you don't want to have, for instance, a group of four guys in a Jeep haul into the objective on Rush just to get taken out by a single tank shell. Spotting is probably easiest to do with a sniper, as the scope can see more of the map. A quick note, the back/select button was used to spot enemies in Battlefield 3, but DICE has changed that to the RB/R1 button. It took some getting used to, but it makes a lot more sense, and keeps your left thumb on the stick.

2.) Learn the maps: This is probably another common sense sort of thing. To get around a map effectively, you need to learn every area of the map, including its choke points. Most maps have very obvious/popular locations where people love to camp (usually with a sniper). If you get a good idea of where all of these places are, you can help your team out just by going there and spotting enemies -- even if you ultimately die.

3.) Leave the vehicles to the pros: This sounds really dickish, but now that DICE has implemented a training mode (I forget exactly what it's called) for people to learn how to arch shots from a tank and shoot fake enemies from a helicopter or a jet, the vehicles really should be used only by skilled teammates, assuming you want to win the game. A lot of people dislike when others use a jet as a transport vehicle to get to an objective, but I don't have a problem with that at all, since you're still helping out your team... AND the jets respawn rather quickly anyway. But, don't hop into a helicopter with a group of teammates and just crash fifteen seconds after you're off the ground.

4.) Have variety in your squad: Basically, have one of each class, and a duplicate of one (if you have a five man squad). I recommend this mostly on maps where there are vehicles. This is also important to do so that you can have a repair man (Engineer), a medic (Assault), ammo supplier (Support), and spawn beacon guy-er (Recon). The only time you don't really need squad variety is when you're playing on Operation Locker (or any future map without vehicles). In that case, if you're playing as the attacking team, it'd probably be in your team's best interest to have everybody play as Assault so you can constantly revive your teammates and give them health. Having a single squad mate play as Recon so you can have a spawn beacon isn't a bad idea either.

5.) Use team work: This pretty much goes hand-in-hand with number four. If you're playing alone, this may be a lot harder to accomplish -- especially if you're playing without a headset. Any Battlefield player knows how ridiculous it is, for instance, to be empty on ammo, and having a teammate who won't acknowledge the fact that you desperately need it. Team work is also important in having that squad variety I was just talking about. Without a headset, the only way to have variety is just by changing your own class. If you have a squad full of snipers who won't change what their doing, it's up to you. On the plus side, you could always switch squads, and hopefully find one that knows what they're doing. Using team work includes pretty much everything I've mentioned: Spotting enemies, not being wasteful with vehicles, etc.

6.) Change your button layout: I don't know about you, but I was instantly stressed by Battlefield 4's new control scheme, but destressed just as quickly when I learned it could be changed. The main annoyance I had was with the vehicles (I changed it to Veteran mode), but that recommendation is really about personal preference. One that I do think should be changed, and it'll help you in the long run, are the Soldier Sticks. Change them so your right stick is for crouching/proning, and B/O is for knifing. While this won't let you panic knife any more, the benefit of being able to more quickly prone is higher. It will take a few hours of playing the game to get used to, and you'll make a lot of dumb mistakes during that time, but it'll become second nature and you'll more than likely be happy with the control scheme.

7.) Play different game modes: This is mostly recommended for people who play a game mode like Team Deathmatch... when you're playing TDM, you're really missing out on the Battlefield experience. While it can be fun in short bursts, your Battlefield IQ won't go up very high if it's all you play. Getting an idea of what route to take on the water to plant a bomb in Obliteration on Paracel storm, or learning a good "camping spot" to post up and defend an objective on Rush can't be experienced in a single game mode. To learn maps better (different areas of them) and find out how to effectively attack and defend on certain maps, you need to switch it up!

Like the following comment or not, Battlefield is a more cerebral game than your typical shooter (Ahem, Call of Duty). Unlike that game, you need to have significant amounts of team work, and you can't do everything yourself to stay alive. Since Battlefield requires more thought, it is more difficult and can be quite frustrating at times. Once you learn some of the basics of improving your skills, you'll find the game to be even more fun than you could possibly imagine.

Game Review (Contrast - PS4)

One of the two PS4 launch "free-for-PS+-members" games is Contrast. The best way I can describe this game is that you play as a little girl's imaginary friend (a shadow), and it's your job to help her through a variety of levels by shifting in and out of shadows and solving puzzles. That's the best way I can describe it without spoiling the story for you.

Graphics: Being a downloadable game, and one that's available on PC and 360 already, Contrast isn't exactly a mind blowingly attractive title. The art style is interesting and easy to appreciate, and the level design is pretty nifty. The sometimes awkward camera angles, occasional glitches, and framerate hiccups keep this game from getting a high rating from me. Still, Contrast has a definite charm to it. 3.5/5

Sound: There's not much, but what's there is decent. I enjoy the music in the game (though there isn't much of it), and the voice acting is fair (even GOOD at times), but it's pretty average as a whole. The music definitely helps give you an idea of the era though. 3.75/5

Control: You use about four buttons throughout the whole game. You move, jump, hit, and move in/out of shadows... that's essentially it. As simple as the controls are, the camera makes the game a bit frustrating at times. Not throw your controller at the wall sort of frustrating, but annoying nonetheless. 3.25/5

Fun: Contrast is a game that any PS+ member should download, considering it's free for a limited time. While the game isn't particularly long, and the story is all over the place, it's fun for the time you'll spend on it. Contrast isn't a very difficult game, but you'll have to think for some of the puzzles. It's nice that Contrast isn't a very long game, because had it gone on much longer, I'd've felt like it was getting repetitive. I'm not too sure I could recommend Contrast at its normal price ($15, I believe), but it's entertaining and lengthy enough (three hours or so) that even if you do get it at that price, you'll have a good time. And hey, the trophies are very easy to get, if you're into collecting them. 3.5/5

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Game Review (NBA 2K14 - PS4)

Let me just say right away that I'm admittedly not "huge" on basketball. I've had my fun with NBA Street and follow the NBA a little bit, but I probably wouldn't normally call myself a "fan" of the sport. With the announcement of NBA 2K14 being built from the ground up for the next generation of consoles and seeing the flat-out insane graphics, I knew right away that I wanted to get my hands on the game -- regardless of the fact that I had no idea just how a proper NBA game was played. I haven't done my reviews in the fashion I'm going to for this game for quite awhile, but I think you'll deal with it just fine; it keeps things nice and tidy.

Graphics: Well, what should I say. I feel confident in saying that this is the best looking launch title on the PS4. Yes, that includes Killzone Shadow Fall, which is, in itself, a gorgeous game. NBA 2K14 just looks, in a word, phenomenal. The vast majority of character models, the jerseys, the courts, the lighting, the sweat -- completely unmatched. The presentation of NBA 2K14 is also fantastic. While I'm not that impressed with the menus (they're quite bland), the in-game presentation leading up to the game, the replays, the half-time reports, and everything in between make for a beautiful package that'swhatshesaid. As great as the game looks, there are some very minor problems I have with it. The most noticeable thing for me is definitely the clipping that can be seen a little bit too often. Jerseys will cut into arms, hands will go through desks in MyGM... stuff like that. Another little thing is the random "bounces" that the jerseys do at times. The cloth physics are great, don't get me wrong, but they're completely bizarre at times. Finally, where is the armpit hair!? Ah, well... maybe next year. I know I said more negatives than positives for this game, but when a game looks this nice and clean, the glitches are what stand out. 4.5/5

Sound: The soundtrack is fairly varied, but definitely more geared towards rap fans, which is what I was expecting. Some of the songs included are ones that most people have probably heard at one time or another, including: "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk, "Not Afraid" by Eminem, Imagine Dragon's "Radioactive", the ever-popular "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke, and plenty more. It's a safe bet that you'll find at least a hand full of songs in the game that you will enjoy. As for the commentary in the game, it's great, but not without its share of issues. 2K boasts that the game has about 250,000 lines of commentary, but I heard quite a bit of repeating just after playing a few games. The thing that really annoys me is something I've experienced in MyGM. I'm playing as the Pistons (yes, I'm serious) and Josh Smith went down with a torn ACL in the second game of the season. The past three games, the game acknowledges his injury, yet they say "Hopefully he gets back in there soon." Uh... what? The dude tore his ACL, he didn't stub his toe. Additionally, Burke's sideline reports constantly say things along the lines of, "Josh Smith will play a huge role for the Pistons this season." Orly, Mrs. Burke? Despite that (sorry for the rant), the commentary is spot-on with plays, and is overall done very well. 4.25/5

Control: Playing my first simulation basketball game in probably a decade, I was completely lost in NBA 2K14 for my first hour or two of playing. As much as I loved the game's graphics, sound, presentation, and all of that, I couldn't help but get frustrated when trying to learn the controls, as simple as they seem to be. NBA 2K14 makes a lot of use out of the right stick, as you'll be using it to make your moves with the ball, and cover players while you're defending. As you'd expect, there's a training mode. If you're new to the series, you'd be wise to do everything in the mode to get an idea of how to play the game. If you don't, you'll just end up raging like I did. The control in this game is extremely fluid almost all the time, but there's one instance where I feel like it's cumbersome -- on rebounds. The triangle button (or 'Y' on the One) is used to hop at a ball when there's a rebound, but a lot of the time my player either doesn't jump, or he doesn't jump nearly high enough. It's an annoyance, but I assume it has something to do with timing, as everything else in the game controls swimmingly. I will also add that if you're brand spankin' new to the series, stay away from MyTEAM/MyPLAYER -- the players you use at first are absolutely terrible. It's hard to handle the ball and defend, and you'll find yourself with something like a twenty FG% at the end of the game. If you're feeling up to smashing your PS4 controller, be my guest! 4.5/5

Fun: NBA 2K14 is a game that just about anybody could enjoy on some level. Obviously, basketball junkies will fall in love with its realistic feel, but TV passerbyers (made that word up. Pretty good, eh?) will likely think there's a live NBA game on TV. The gameplay is also so incredibly solid that it will turn on many new fans to the series and the sport, like myself. NBA 2K14's three major modes (MyGM, MyPLAYER, and MyTEAM) are all engaging in one way or another, though they each have flaws. First, MyGM has a great feel to it and could be absolutely awesome in a year or two, but the redundant cut scenes and triple cheesy dialogue prevent it from being great. MyPLAYER and MyTEAM are fun modes (especially MyPLAYER), but it really feels like 2K is pushing you to purchase premium currency to give you a real chance of winning. It's not impossible to enjoy your time in these modes while not spending a penny, but you'll more than likely get frustrated when you have players who can't sink a simple lay up.

All-in-all, NBA 2K14 is almost perfect. None of the issues I've had with NBA 2K14 affect the gameplay in anyway. There are some things that could use a bit of touching up, but I expect 2K to take care of that when next year's edition rolls around. Whether you're a hardcore NBA fan, a casual fan, or somebody who really doesn't take much interest in the sport of basketball at all, you'll enjoy the next-gen experience that is NBA 2K14.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Game Review (Battlefield 4 - PS4)

-This review will cover only the multiplayer portion of Battlefield 4.-

I've had a strange relationship with the Battlefield series. I played some hours of it here and there on a handful of games (The first Bad Company, a bit of 2142 on PC, and Bad Company 2), but I tended to prefer Call of Duty to those games until I had Battlefield 3 for awhile. While the game never completely blew me away while playing it on 360 (Pretty mediocre graphics even at release, issues with lag, etc.), I logged about five days into that game and had fun nearly the whole time. After the announcement of Battlefield 4 and it being a launch title on next generation consoles, I knew I was going to skip the 360 version and just get Battlefield 4 with my PS4 at launch.

I can say that BF4 is a bit of a frustration. The core multiplayer itself feels better than ever with a silky 60fps and fantastic graphics, but there are countless little things (and bigger things) that irk me to no end. Here's a list.

1.) No more squadding up: The ability to create a squad before joining a match on Battlefield 3 was not only convenient, it was, in my opinion, necessary. Battlefield 4 does without this extremely useful tool (for whatever reason), requiring you and your friend(s) to all join a game together, switch teams if necessary, and then join the same squad. This could have been just a minor annoyance, but in Battlefield 4, it's actually a huge problem. Of the 7 hours or so that I've played Battlefield 4's multiplayer, I've only played maybe an hour with my friends. It's really frustrating to get into a game with your friends, play a couple matches, have a map that comes up that you don't want to play/just played, and feel obligated to play it again if you want to play together. This is something that could be patched in at a later date, but I see no reason at all why DICE had to remove such a helpful feature. It seems minor, but truthfully, this is one of my biggest knocks on the multiplayer as of today.

2.) You can't customize at the menu: What is THIS about? If you want to edit your classes, you need to join a game and do it. This is a nuisance for several reasons. First of all, and most cumbersome, it'd make the whole "no squadding up" thing a bit more easy to deal with, because it'd give players something to do in the mean time. Second, why would you want somebody in your game for 5 minutes or so taking up a spot but not playing because they're busy screwing with their classes? This is another asinine exclusion from DICE. Again, this could be patched in, but why was it ever excluded?

3.) Server crashing: This should have been number one of this was a top ten list, but it's not. The server crashing ruins the entire experience, especially if you want to play Conquest. For whatever reason, if you join a Conquest server, it tends to not work. If it DOES work, you almost instantly get disconnected. There's not much to say about the server issues, other than that DICE is working on fixing them right now. I'll never understand why these sorts of things can't be fixed before they even become a problem, especially given the notoriety of the Battlefield series and knowing how many players would be online at launch, but whatever. I just hope this is fixed as soon as possible. Like, you know... now.

Those are the three major issues I currently have with Battlefield 4 as of now. A more minor thing is that the maps on disc just don't impress me all that much. I feel like DICE wanted to put mediocre maps on disc, and then save the best ones for DLC. It's not to say that the whole list of maps in Battlefield 4 is a trainwreck, but Battlefield 3's were quite a bit better.

Now I'll actually talk about what's GOOD with Battlefield 4... so far I've talked it up to be an absolute bomb. Like I touched on, the game looks and feels great once you're actually in a game. Lag isn't an issue, and there is rarely -- if ever -- a dip in frame rate. Some adjustments have been made to classes (C4 off the bat for Recon gives more people a reason to use it), and Battlepacks keep things interesting. While I can see a lot of people hating the randomness of these packs/unlocks, I like the little twist it actually gives the game.

As much as I should hate this game given its horrendous launch, the game plays as well as (or maybe better than) I imagined. While the problems I explained NEED to be addressed, the core is very good, and I expect the game to play as it was meant to be played within a few weeks. For that reason, I'm rating this game based on what I believe it WILL be soon, rather than what I would rate it now (3.25/5).


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Game Review (Killzone Shadow Fall - PS4)

-This review is only focusing on the game's multiplayer. I don't plan on reviewing this game solely on its single player like so many other reviewers seemed to do. How people get paid to review the half of the game that so few people really care about is beyond me. Rant over! Moving on.-

Killzone is a series that has probably been Sony's most popular FPS, at least since Killzone 2 was released on the PS3. While it's suggested that Sony had planned on it being a "Halo-killer", there really aren't all that many elements in the games at all that give it a Halo feel. It seemed many people weren't fans of the "clunky" controls of past Killzones, although some people really enjoyed it. In Shadowfall, Guerilla has tinkered with them to make the game more accessible to PS4 gamers. How does it play though?

Really quite well. First off, the basics of what you should know about Shadow Fall's multiplayer (if you didn't already):

12v12 online gameplay at 60fps and 1080p resolution
Guerilla and user-created "Warzones" make up online play.
10 maps are available at launch, with all future map DLC being FREE to download.
Three classes (Assault, support, recon)
All guns are unlocked at the get-go, with only attachments needing to be unlocked.
Challenges replace experience points as a leveling system.

That's about the gist of it all. As soon as I dove into my first Shadow Fall multiplayer match, I was impressed. The graphics are fantastic and all, but the most impressive thing is probably the fact that the game seems to run a consistent 60fps, no matter what's going on on screen. Having never really played a Killzone before (just a demo of the first one back on PS2), I wasn't sure what to expect. To me, it feels like some sort of Call of Duty and Halo love-child, and that's not meant to be a bad thing. It's like Call of Duty in that the maps tend to be small and without vehicles with few bullets to kill an enemy, but like Halo in some of its stylings and equipment. Really, it takes things I tend to like from both of those franchises, and puts them in one.

The classes in Shadow Fall only make the game more interesting. Assault is what you'd probably expect, with most of the guns and equipment being ideal for close/medium range attack. The assault rifles are definitely your best option in close quarters combat -- normally much more useful than the fairly inconsistent shotguns I've used in the game. Recon is a class for people who want to go rogue and/or snipe. They have the ability to be invisible, and have a certain sniper that appears to always be a one shot kill. Guerilla balanced it perfectly though, as it has plenty of flaws: you can't no scope, ADS is pretty slow, and the reload time is very slow as well. THAT is how a sniper should be in a video game, in my opinion. Incredibly deadly, but requires a smart user to use it effectively. Support is probably my favorite class, as it seems to have the most options and has unique abilities. First, Support is the only class that can revive teammates, and can do so using a drone from a distance. Second, they can also use spawn beacons, which are critical in virtually any game mode in Shadow Fall, as there are designated spawn areas for both teams throughout the match. The LMGs in the class are super effective at medium/long range, but you'll have a tough time beating somebody up close who's using an assault rifle. Again, nicely balanced.

The maps in Killzone are quite varied. From what I've seen and heard, Killzone was notorious for having very gloomy looking maps that lacked color. In Shadow Fall, you'll find plenty of maps with sunlight and vibrant colors. Some of the maps are a bit too large for the 12v12 limit, but the moments of silence are few and far between for the most part.

The main issue I have with the game isn't the game at all -- it's the players. Granted the game has only been out for a few days, but it amazes me just how inept players are. Not just in the fact that they act as though they've never played a first-person shooter in their life, but they very rarely appear to use their equipment to their advantage. Spawn beacons, as I said, are hugely important, and others, like the Support drone, can wreak havoc on opponents. Perhaps the best part about the abilities is that none of them feel overpowered. While the Support drone can certainly be frustrating, the cooldown time is quite long, and it doesn't hover the map for long.

Overall, I am impressed with Killzone Shadow Fall. It borrows some aspects of other popular first-person shooters and makes a fun game that's (mostly) accessible for new players, while still appeasing the hardcore Killzone fanbase. If I had to actually have a knock on the game (not just the players), I'd say that some of the maps just don't do it for me. Whether it's because their layout is mediocre or too large for intense combat, some of them aren't that interesting. On the plus side (and it's a huge plus), like I said, all future maps for Shadow Fall will be free to download. I don't know how many there will be, but quality is always greater than quantity. Whether you're a rookie to the series or have played Killzone cumulatively for a thousand hours, there's a lot of fun to be had in multiplayer -- just be wary of the abundance of clueless players.


+: 60fps, beautiful graphics, near perfect weapon balancing, needing to work as a team, free maps.
-: People who refuse to use abilities, some below average maps, can't button swap (B/knife, RS/crouch).

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

PlayStation 4 review inbound!

I will be getting a PlayStation 4 at launch with Killzone: Shadow Fall, Battlefield 4, and NBA 2K14. Along with those, I plan on playing the free-to-play games DC Universe Online and Blacklight: Retribution. I'll have reviews for the console itself and the games throughout the month.