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Blood Bowl 2

PS4

(Not Your Father’s Football)

 

This weekend the majority of us will be gathering with friends and families watching pigskin get thrown around during Super Bowl 50, but not I.  I’m not exactly what you’d call a “sports guy” so when I was given the review codes for Blood Bowl 2 I almost passed them off to our resident Madden aficionados.  I’m very pleased I didn’t.  Blood Bowl 2 is brought to us by Cyanide Studios and published by Focus Home Interactive and is based off the hit Board Game Blood Bowl created by Jervis Johnson for British games company Games Workshop.

Blood Bowl 2 is a football game much the way Mario Bros. is a plumbing simulator.  There may be some pipes and plumber, but that’s about it.  BB2 takes place on a football field with you trying to get to your opponents end zone and score… and that’s pretty much where the similarities come to a rest.

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Blood Bowl 2 is a turn based game based in the Warhammer universe and pits two team on a hilarious collision course.  At its base you select a team from the races that are available: Humans, Orcs, Dwarfs, Skaven, High Elves, Dark Elves, Chaos, and the Bretonnian. Each has their own perks and advantages, as well as disadvantages.  Dwarves sponge up damage and can run through most attacks, but can throw about as well as a penguin flies.  The two elf races available from the beginning are pretty much the opposite; they can run fast and pass the ball the length of the field, but their defense leaves them vulnerable to harder hitting races like Chaos or Bretonnian’s.  Each turn consists of you moving all your characters once (if they’re not disabled, dead or injured), with one special attack or “blitz” allowed per turn.  Success on turns and moves is based off your characters stats and the races overall abilities.  As of the writing of this review for the PS4 version, there are 2 new races available for download.  One is another race of Elves (Wood), and the other is the Lizardmen.

On top of each races normal attributes they each have their own star players who have abilities to help turn the tide in your favor.  You have linemen, blitzers, runners, and in the case of Dark Elves assassins who sole purpose is to take out the opposing teams best players.  Now playing against the Elves as the Orcs seems like a losing battle with the Elves’ speed, but this is where the game becomes more about how you use your team.  Let’s say, for example, the Elves just caught the ball and are yards from the in zone.   There’s no way any of the orcs can get there on my turn.  What I can do is take one of my fast Goblin runners and put them next to my towering lineman of a Troll.  This gives me the option to throw my Goblin down field at the Elf down there.  Unfortunately, being a turn based game success is based off a dice roll and your player’s stats.  I say unfortunately because this particular roll did not go my way and my Goblin was eaten by said Troll, which is highlighted by hysterical animations and dialogue from the two announcers via Cabalvision.  Basically, any confrontation or violence is zoomed in on and commented on by either Jim or Bob. Blood-Bowl-2-Screens-

The game has two main modes where you can play vs. or play the campaign.  Once you familiarize yourself with how the stats and dice rolls work you can move on to the season play where you make your own team and upgrade their abilities and stats, hire new players, and manage your team much like you would if you were a real coach.  The real downside to the season play is if you lose a character (dies from injury), or in my case, they get eaten by a Troll, that character is gone for good.   This makes player management and selection much more key towards what your style of play.  It also forces you to weigh sending that player you’ve spent hours on into the fray.

Honestly, I enjoyed Blood Bowl 2 quite a bit and it’s nice to play a game that moves outside of the conventional genres of RPG, sports, or puzzles and playfully combines them all into a hysterical mix of violence and fun.  It reminds me of how Battle Chess was, except relocated to a football field in the Warhammer universe.  That being said, this a great time by yourself or co-op online with friends.  Don’t pass this title by if you’re not into sports or football, because, there are plenty RPG, action, and puzzle elements to keep you entertained for hours.  Let’s be honest, we can all watch football any weekend, but how often do you get to see a Troll eat a Goblin after trying to throw him downfield to prevent a touchdown by an Elf?

 

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No GravatarEvery once in awhile, a very special game comes along and really captivates you.  For me, Mass Effect 2 is one of those games.  I have put more time into it than any other game except for Skyrim, which deserves a special place all by itself.  With an estimated 260 or more hours in the game, four play-throughs, an numerous romances, there is something very amazing with this game.  It’s also one of the few games that I have shed tears for (in a good way).  A few weeks ago, I finished my last play-through of the game.  It’s time to move on.  But I want to share with you all how amazing Mass Effect 2 is to me.  Sure, it’s far from perfect, but it is very special.  Though this is a bit belated, here is my Mass Effect 2 review:

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Overview

Mass Effect 2 is a third-person, action RPG developed by BioWare and published by EA in late January 2010.  The game uses the Unreal Engine 3 and displayed what a game could do in the middle of the last-gen cycle’s heyday.  Although it is somewhat overshadowed by the disaster that was Mass Effect 3, it stands alone as an amazing game.

Story

Warning: If you haven’t had the chance to play this game, please do.  This review will contain some spoilers in the story section.

There are not many games that open with a bang like Mass Effect 2.  I don’t know of many that would kill the main character within the first scene.  But ME2 did, and it was awesome.  The pacing and intensity of the main story continues strongly from there as the player learns that Shepard has been “redone” by the questionable Cerberus group and has been asked to join them to stop the Collectors, an alien race that is harvesting human colonies.  After some digging, Shepard and his team eventually find out that the Reapers are behind this evil scheme.  The game is a wild ride, complete with old faces from the original game and some new but very memorable ones as well.

As one of the few games to actually get a setting in space done right, ME2 has an amazingly rich setting, complete with a detailed set of back-story or “Codex.”  Although the game is Science fiction, the explanation of everything from the Mass Effect fields, to the relays, to the use of biotics seem to be plausible enough to seem like it could really happen.  The game really is Sci-fi at its best.  With an interesting universe filled with cool aliens and beautiful, yet dangerous places, Mass Effect 2 really is the complete package.

The feel of the game is also incredibly epic, as it has one of the more memorable hero characters in video game history.  Commander Shepard, even when played as a badass instead of a paragon, embodies everything that a hero should be: intelligent, charismatic, skilled, and even good-looking.  Moreover, he (or she) is an incredible leader who demands the very best from his team.  It makes for an amazing game.  I still remember the first time that I beat it; I may have shed a few tears because I had fallen in love with all of the characters.  Unfortunately, the gaming industry doesn’t make many games like Mass Effect 2 anymore.

Game play

Besides having an amazing story, Mass Effect 2 is a blast to play.  Though it seems like a standard duck and cover, third-person shooter, it really is a full blown, action RPG.  The missions are fun, including the side-missions.  Sure, the planet-mining is probably the game’s greatest downfall, but it isn’t too annoying overall.  The make-up of a player’s team also can greatly affect the game play.  By balancing, biotics, soldiers, engineers, and the big “heavy-hitters” with the types of opponents (i.e. geth, mercs, Collectors), the game can feel different with nearly every mission.

ME2 is not a typical open-world RPG because that would be extremely hard to do with space ships.  However, the game does give the player free roam of the galaxy as well as mission selection, making the game still feel expansive.  There are a few missions that a player must do at certain times, but for the most part, the game has a go anywhere kind of feel to it.

One of the great gaming elements of ME2 is the fact that the player can change the outcome of the story based on the choices that he or she makes in the game.  The ability to make decisions that will have affects throughout several games is one of the best parts of the game.  Also, players have the option to play the character of Shepard however they’d like.  With dialogue options that range from good, to neutral, to badass, each of the game does not have to be the same.  Don’t even get me started on the romance options.  Like any typical BioWare game, I have played through a couple of times just to do a different romance option.  Why not, right?

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Graphics

Even though the graphics for Mass Effect 2 are starting to look a tad bit dated in comparison to what is out for this current generation of consoles, for the time, they were pretty amazing.  The cut-scenes were sharp, and the actual game play looked great for the time.  It is definitely a game that one can go back and continue playing on a last-gen console without feeling like the graphics are eye-straining, especially as TVs get better and better.

Voice performance

This is a category that I used to not have, but I think it is becoming more and more important as the story and dialogue of games become more important.  I adore the voice actors in this game, and it really is an all-star cast for the game.  Look at some of the celebrities who helped with the voice work of this game:

Adam Baldwin as Ka’Reegar

Claudia Black as Admiral Xen

Seth Green as Jeff “Joker” Moreau

Tricia Helfer as EDI

Michael Hogan as Captain Bailey

Carrie-Ann Moss as Aria T’Loak

Martin Sheen as the Illusive Man

Lance Henrikesen as Admiral Hackett

The list goes on and on.

I have special admiration for Tricia Helfer, who did the voice of EDI.  Unlike some other robotic characters in a game that starts with a D and ends in a estiny, she gives off the perfect performance as an AI with a sarcastic and saucy attitude.  It is one of the more memorable performances in the game.

Overall

Mass Effect 2 is a very special game for me.  It is an amazing combination of great story and good game play.  Yes, it has its flaws, but it still remains an epic game.

By Jonathan Balofsky On 5 Jan, 2016 At 11:47 PM | Categorized As Featured, PlayStation 3/PlayStation 4, Reviews, Reviews | With 0 Comments
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No GravatarI have to be honest. The Trine series is among my favourite games ever. Trine 2 is in fact my favorite indie game of all time, but how does Trine 3 hold up?

Visuals

Trine 3 is absolutely gorgeous beyond imagining. The look of the game simply has to be seen to be believed, and I understand it has a 3D option for 3D TVs (though I do not have one). The framerate is silky smooth and the textures are all perfectly arranged. This is the best looking game in the series by far.

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Audio

The Trine series has had some amazing music and sound effects in all the games, and Trine 3 is no exception. Both the amazing soundtrack and the voiceover work really immerse you into the gaming experience and make you feel a connection to the game. The soundtrack has been built on from previous installments once again and sounds perfect, but if I have one complaint, it is that the sound effects are sometimes off.  Whether it be attacking or grappling, sometimes the sound will not register correctly.

Gameplay

Trine 3 brings a major change to the series which have so far been 2.5D physics platformers. Now the series switches to full 3D movement which changes everything about how you play. Swinging from a hook, conjuring up objects and so on, have to be timed perfectly now more than ever. By the same token, however, combat with the knight is better than ever but with Zoya, not so much since her weapons are now awkward to use. In fact, I would argue the dynamic of the series has been thrown off completely. Its not bad per se, but it takes a lot of getting used to. What worked before simply will not work again and now more than ever; this has become a thinking person’s game. Is it a successful transition? Well that’s difficult to answer.  Many do not like it, yet some do. Its taken me a while but the game has grown on me and I do like it, but I can recognize its faults.

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Final Thoughts

Trine 3 is a radical departure for the series, and I cannot give it a must buy recommendation. My recommendation is to watch some gameplay of it to see what its like. It is not like the first 2 games, but it isn’t bad.  It’s just not for everybody. I lean more toward saying to try it, but again, I suggest watching some videos so you don’t have any false ideas about it.

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When Fallout 4 was announced, there were a lot of very excited fans. I was definitely one of them. In the excitement of the announcement, many decided to go back and replay older Fallout games. I was also one of those people. I’ve played Fallout 3 before, but never got a chance to finish it. Going back through and actually beating Fallout 3 sounded like a really good idea. For those who haven’t played it or for those who wanted to hear my take on the game, I’ve decided to do a full review, though it’s a bit belated.

 

Fallout 3 is a single player, action role playing game that utilizes a huge open world post-apocalyptic setting. It was developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. Bethesda had bought the rights to the Fallout series from Black Isle Studios/Interplay Entertainment, so this was Bethesda’s first attempt with the franchise. The game came out in late October of 2008 for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. The game got rave reviews across the board and was given Game of the Year in several instances.

 

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The game is set in the same universe as the rest of the earlier Fallout games. It takes place in the year 2277, which is approximately 200 years before the nuclear apocalypse that ravaged the United States. Many citizens ended up in “Vaults” underground that keep them alive during the bombings. The story’s protagonist is a character of the player’s choosing (male/female, looks, etc.) that resides in Vault 101. Things in the vault seem great at first, but after many years go by, events happen that force the protagonist to leave the vault. The wasteland that lies outside of the vault is deadly and full of secrets. As the main character explores the open-world area of what used to be Washington D.C., these secrets start to come to light.

 

The main story line is quite good. It has everyone that a person could want: family issues, secrets, exploration, evil groups vying for power, monsters, and an altruistic mission. There are many side quests as well that can push a player into playing for long, long time. The map is expansive and the tone really just make you feel like you are in the Capital Wasteland. The urban exploration alone in the game is well worth the price of the game. It was one of the first games that I actually felt overwhelmed over when I looked at the sheer size and scale of it. Once you go out of the vault, it really feels like you can go anywhere and do anything.

 

The game play is like a first person shooter to a degree. You can play that way if you want. However, the feel is more RPG with XP for kills, completing tasks, and quests. There is also a special combat system called V.A.T.S. (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System) that allows a player to pause time and pick special areas to attack on an enemy based on a probability percentage. It’s an interesting system that has a love or hate relationship with many Fallout 3 players. Luckily, you can choose whether you want to use it or not based off of how you want to play the game. This includes how a person levels up their character by choosing points in the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system, which stands for Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck. Players can also choose their way of playing by adding points to “Perks” that at given after leveling up. Want to sneak around and get stuff done that way? There are Perks for that. Want to go in guns-blazing? There are Perks for that. It creates the type of game play that is re-playable many, many times.

 

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The graphics looked pretty slick at the time that the game came out. The opening sequence for the game is probably one of the best in gaming history, as it sets the tone of the game quite nicely and has a really creepy feel to it. The 1950s retro feel with the nuclear apocalypse grays and browns gives the game a unique feeling. It’s one of those games that a player could fall in love with, one of those rare gems that only come around every once in awhile.

 

I completely understand why it was hailed as Game of the Year from many places. It’s a great game, hands down. However, because of its age, the game play feels a bit stiff, and the Gamebryo game engine just wasn’t quite up to par with what it needed to do. The gray and brown color scheme makes hours and hours of play a little bland after awhile (it looks like this fixed for Fallout 4; there are a lot of more colorful game footage out). Regardless, though, it’s an amazing game. It’s definitely worth a play or replay before Fallout 4 comes out.
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If you’ve read reviews of the Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited, you might have already decided to give the game a pass. In fact, if you look on Metacritic, it scores just a 73 (out of 100) for critics and an 8.0 for the user score. It sounds like a fairly mediocre game and one that just could be skipped. However, that is far from the truth. The game is excellent. Apparently, there are just a very vocal bunch of people on the Internet who hate fun. Here is what the game is really like:

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The Elder Scrolls Online is an MMO (massively multiplayer online) action role-playing game. Though it has been out for Windows and Mac since April 2014, it has just come out for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in June of this year. Initially, the game had a subscription fee, but that was dropped March of this year, and the game was re-branded to The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited for the PS4 and Xbox One release. The game was developed by ZeniMax Online Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks.

The events in Tamriel Unlimited happen a thousand years before The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Though ESO happens in the Elder Scrolls universe, don’t expect it to be like Skyrim or Oblivion. ESO is its own deal that just happens to be in the Elder Scrolls universe. Yes, you get the fun and in-depth lore of the Elder Scrolls and the cool races and settings, but it’s completely different in feel. The plot still is similar to Skyrim with an all-powerful being trying to take over the world with a bunch of groups fighting for power in the meantime. If you were looking for a super-deep story, then this game probably isn’t for you. If you were looking for a “social Skyrim,” then this a game isn’t for you. If you were looking for a World of Warcraft clone, then this game is definitely not for you.

However, if you like fun, this game is for you. If you want a great social game, this game is for you. If you want a lot of content, then this game is for you. In reality, if you don’t try to make this game something its not, then you will have an absolutely blast. ESO shines on its game play, expansive setting, and extensive content.

Though there is a main quest line, the quests—like other Elder Scrolls games—go in whatever order you want at whatever time you want. This allows the player massive amounts of freedom to do whatever he or she wants to, and this is crucial for an MMO. For those who want to play solo, there are tons and tons of quests. In fact, there are so many solo quests that I haven’t even scratched the surface yet, and I have been playing for weeks. For those who really want to get the most of out an MMO, there are group dungeons, public events, flourishing guilds, and a lot of PVP action. Not only that, but the place is thriving. An MMO is as only as good as the people in it, and at least for now, ESO has a mass following with die-hard followers.

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Besides a thriving community, a lot of quests, a cool PVP area, and a lot of cooperative play, the Elder Scrolls Online also contains:

  • An amazing crafting system for weapons, armor, enchantments, potions, and food.
  • Three factions that players can choose to be in which compete against each other in different aspects.
  • Easily trade items between your other characters or with other people or guilds.
  • Customize gear with racial motifs or dye stations.
  • Utilize different mounts, vanity pets, lore books, and racial motifs to customize your experience.
  • Demonstrate tons of emotes to make your character dance, wave, or do the most absolute silly things (take THAT Destiny).
  • Run dungeons with either a group of friends or random people.
  • Contribute to public battles.
  • Participate in guilds for social aspects and trading.
  • A huge map area with tons of places to explore.
  • Switch between first and third person perspective.
  • Four play-style classes to choose from.

It really is a complete blast to play. Though the graphics are not the most beautiful of this generation, they look good enough, especially for an MMO that is so expansive. I think most players would take better game play over the latest, greatest slick graphics.

So, overall, if you are looking for a social game that is just plain fun, the Elder Scrolls Online is for you. Yes, there are some in-game purchases that you can make, but you get more than a full game with just the base game. Although, you will probably get addicted to it like me and upgrade a few things.

Seriously. I am thoroughly hooked on ESO, and I don’t say that about a lot of games.

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No GravatarEvery once in awhile, a very special game comes along and confirms that there are still indeed wonderful games out there.  The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is one of those gems.  It is a definite “must have” for any RPG fan.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a third-person, action RPG with an expansive open world environment.  It was developed and published by Polish studio CD Projekt RED.  The game is based on the a set of fantasy novels by Polish author,  Andrzej Sapkowski (these books are available in an English translation).  The game came out in May of this year for PC, PlayStation 4, and XBox One.

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The story follows Geralt of Rivia, a witcher who takes care of people’s monster problems for coin.  Those who become witchers have been mutated and have special powers such as a special sensing ability and limited magic powers.  He is searching for his adopted daughter, Ciri, who is in danger from being captured by the Wild Hunt.  The main quest line is compelling and interesting.  It also has a bit of a Mass Effect quality to it, since Geralt’s choices do affect the outcome of the story.  The side quests are fun to play and range from playing gwent with certain people (more on this later), getting rid of monsters, and helping people out.  The sheer amount of side quests can be a bit daunting.  It feels like every time a quest is finished, five more are available.  This is not a bad thing, though.  A player could spend full price on the game, and it is definitely worth its price.

The game play is quite a lot of fun.  It’s a well-done third person perspective game.  The combat system is excellent.  Geralt uses swords and a bit of magic to keep the monsters at bay.  He has two swords: one for human foes and a silver one for monsters and such.  Witchers can cast magic by making signs, which vary from blasting things for flames to influencing people’s minds.  There is also an amazing crafting system for both weapons and potions.  Weapons and clothes can be upgraded by finding materials and schematics around the world.  Potions can be created in the same way.  Players may upgrade abilities by either leveling up Geralt’s character or finding places of power, which give extra allotment points.

The open world is expansive.  A player can spend hours and hours just exploring.  Geralt moves around throughout the land on his horse, Roach and by boat.  The world has its own weather system and goes through a day/night cycle.  Depending on the time of day can actually affect the powers of particular monsters (think: werewolves and such).  The world can range from quaint orchards, to buggy swamps, to massive cities.  It’s amazing to explore.

The mini game in The Witcher 3 is probably one of the best-done ones yet.  Gwent is a strategy card game that Geralt plays with the merchants and inn-keepers, and there’s a lot of strategy to it.  The game involves three rounds.  The person who wins two obviously wins the game.  Everyone brings their own deck, so finding and winning more cards is also a strategy.  This encourages the player to hunt for more cards either by buying or winning them in high-stakes games.

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An open world would not be decent unless it had amazing graphics, and the Witcher 3 delivers.  There are surprisingly great.  The best graphics in the games are the cut-scenes; they are absolutely gorgeous.  The in-game graphics are amazing as well, and actually focus on colors.  There are little bits and pieces of detail everywhere from the weather to Geralt’s growing beard.  A player actually needs to see a barber because the beard will start to grow after a certain amount of time.

The Witcher 3 is an absolutely must-have.  Hands-down.  Get it now if you don’t have it.  Obviously, it is an adult game (there are some really raunchy parts).  But overall, the game is just amazing.  It really should get game of the year for 2015.  However, with Fallout 4 coming out in the fall, The Witcher 3 may be dethroned as game of the year.

By Jessica Brister On 12 May, 2015 At 07:16 PM | Categorized As Featured, PlayStation 3/PlayStation 4, Reviews, ROG News, ROG Tech | With 0 Comments
PlayStation Gold Wireless Stereo Headset-6

No GravatarFor PlayStation gamers looking for a decent wireless headset, the PlayStation Gold is a great option.  It has many features that are a must-have for online game play.  Though there may be better headsets out there with better sound quality, there really isn’t anything sufficient available for the price.

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Here are some of the features that the Gold provides:

Battery Life

The battery life is very similar to that of a typical PS4 controller.  If both are charged at the same time, the battery will last for the same amount of time.  This provides a full day of gaming with one charge, or if a person is only casually gaming, it will hold out for a couple of days between charges.  With a standard mico USB charger, if it the batter does get low, it can easily be charged while a person is still playing with a long cable.  The one that is provide with the Gold is quite short, however.

 Comfort

The PlayStation Gold is pretty comfortable.  It certainly is a lot more wearable than an in-ear headset and can be worn for quite awhile with no issue.  In fact, it is easy to forget that the headset is on.  There is padding along the top and around the ears.  The ear phones themselves are large enough to be comfortable for many hours of gaming.  It can get a bit hot because it is a larger headset, which may affect those living in a warmer more humid climate.

Gaming

The Gold features a noise cancelling microphone for chat during gaming.  There is an adjustable volume for chat and game volume, which is really handy.  It also easily adapts to the PS3, PS4, PSVita (using a headphone jack), or PC.  The Gold is incredibly easy to plug into a PS3 or PS4: just plug the USB in and select headset from the console.  Two PlayStation Gold’s can be plugged into a PS4 at once, making split-screen gaming with a friend very easy.  The microphone itself is very clear and, unlike the PlayStation Silver, does not have a microphone sticking out.

Sound

The Gold has a 7.1 virtual surround sound, and it does sound pretty decent.  A true audio connoisseur will probably not like it, but the average gamer will no doubt enjoy the sound quality for the price.

Versatility

The best part about the PlayStation Gold is its versatility because there are many more uses for it than just gaming.  It’s great for watching Netflix while a spouse of significant other is asleep.  For those people with children, a person can watch or play something without worrying about the kids hearing foul language.  For apartment dwellers, the Gold is amazing for late night movies and gaming so that the neighbors don’t hear.  The Gold is an overall good headset

So, is the PlayStation Gold the best wireless headset ever?  No.  However, is it the best for the price?  Absolutely!  It typically retails for a hundred dollars or lower, depending on the deal.  For a comfortable and versatile headset, that is a very reasonable price.

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No GravatarTake a beautiful, open-world.  Stir in an interesting plot.  Add a dash of humor.   Blend in some great first-person shooter action.  Finally, mix in some fun online game play.  This is the recipe for the must-have game of this current generation: Far Cry 4.

Released in November 2014, Far Cry 4 was developed by Ubisoft Montreal.  Following in the footsteps of the critically acclaimed Far Cry 3, it is an action-adventure, first-person shooter.  It also contains some RPG elements, such as an XP system that allows a player to upgrade or add different abilities.  Although there is multiplayer in the game, one does not have to be online to play through the game.

The game takes place in the fictional world of Kyrat, a Nepal-like, mountainous country in the midst of a cruel dictatorship.  Pagan Min (Troy Baker), Kyrat’s insane dictator, rules with an iron fist while a resistance group called the Golden Path tries to take back their country.  The game takes on the first-person perspective of Ajay Ghale (James A. Woods), a refugee of Kyrat who was brought to America as a child by his mother.  Upon her death, Ajay has been requested to sprinkle her ashes in Kyrat.  After arriving in the war-torn country, Pagan Min intercepts Ajay’s bus.  Some quick rescuing by the Golden Path ensues, and now, the fate of Kyrat rests with Ajay.

Throughout the game, the player is immersed in the world of Kyrat.  There’s not a great amount of depth to the actual plot, but that is not an issue because the story combined with the colorful characters and engrossing setting make it very entertaining.  In fact, the characters are so quirky that it really makes the game enjoyable.  Pagan Min may be crazy, but some of the things that come out of his mouth are hilarious.  This may be one of Troy Baker’s finest performances to date: dramatic, wry, and dynamic all at the same time.  There are also many other outlandish characters in Kyrat as well, including two druggies, an overly enthusiastic but ignorant gun-slinging American, a man who thinks guns and religion are the same thing, and a silly radio DJ.  The game can be laugh out loud funny at times, even with a more serious underlying tone.

The characters are a definite highlight to the game.

The characters are a definite highlight to the game.

Though characters and story are a definite highlight of the game, it is the game play that really shines in Far Cry 4.  It is a slick open world, first-person shooter with a lot of upgradable guns and many different game play strategies.  The map area is large and can become more and more visible by climbing radio towers and liberating them.  The player is free to explore, although some areas are more hazardous than others.  There are also outposts that must be cleared out in order to drive back Pagan Min’s men.  These outposts can be replayed as many times as a player wishes.  Missions appear on the map in a similar fashion to a Rockstar game like GTA.

The variety of missions given in the game really keeps it interesting.  Both main and side missions seem relevant to the story line, and therefore, do not get old.  Missions can involve anything from hunting wildlife, racing on one of the many vehicles, defending a Golden Path area, or hitting supply trucks.  Since Kyrat is very mountainous, there is actually a mountain climbing element to the game that is actually more enjoyable than the last Tomb Raider game.  The most fun, however, may actually be just exploring around Kyrat in one of the may means of transportation.  Besides the traditional cars and trucks, there are wing suits, hang gliders, and a helicopter.  A player can dive out of a helicopter, go into the wing suit, and then to a parachute in a matter of moments.

The helicopter is probably the best transportation in the game.

The helicopter is probably the best transportation in the game.

Though the game may seem like a standard first-person shooter, it does have some RPG elements to it.  Players gain XP from killing bad guys and finding different items, which in turn gives them skill points.  Skill points can be used to unlock or upgrade abilities.  Some abilities, however, cannot be unlocked without doing certain missions.  And, yes, one ability is elephant riding, something that adds a whole new dimension to the game.  Crafting is another way to upgrade the character, this time by allowing the player to hold more items such as weapons (up to four can be held at one time), loot, money, and ammo.  A player must hunt for certain animals in Kyrat in order to upgrade these items.  Different weapons can be bought and upgraded as well once they are unlocked by completing certain game play elements.  There is a nice variety to the what a player can carry and can really depend on play style.  Bows and weapons with silencers are great for someone who enjoys stealth.  More flashy, automatic weapons are for the run and gun type.  The best part of the game play is that a person is not–for the most part–forced to choose only play style.

Online play includes both player versus player and cooperative.  The player versus player aspect, titled The Battle of Kyrat, includes game play modes such as quick matches, seize the outpost, recover the demon masks, destroy Pagan Min propaganda, and defend territory.  Each mode feels very similar to the main game play and includes fun aspects such as animals and different weapons.  The cooperative is only two player, but it is quite entertaining.  One person plays as Ajay, while the other plays as Hurk, a crazy but hilarious American who loves guns and destroying stuff.  Both players basically go throughout the open world and do side missions together.  Unfortunately, story missions are turned off, but it is still a lot of fun to do the many side missions.  It is definitely the best co-op of this generation because it relies on the “you and a buddy” approach to online gaming, where it is more about fun than players trying to take the game too seriously.

To add the amazing game play, the graphics are slick.  They may not quite be the best of this generation so far, but they are quite pretty.  Exploring Kyrat is a pleasure in a very similar way to trekking around Skyrim.  However, the color palate is much brighter, emphasizing more greens and bright blues.  It makes for a great gaming experience.  And the cut-scenes aren’t so shabby either.

Kyrat is a very pretty world to explore.

Kyrat is a very pretty world to explore.

So, with a decent story, amazingly fun game play, and beautiful graphics, Far Cry 4 is a must have for this current generation, especially for first-person shooter fans.  It incorporates everything that is good with gaming, and though it might not the be the greatest game of all time, it will definitely one of the best games of this generation so far.

Oh, and Far Cry 4 has the best East Egg ever.  Google it.

 

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There are a lot of things I like about co-op gameplay.  Being able to coordinate with teammates to reach an overall objective is, in my opinion, the best way to play games.  Sometimes a single player campaign will catch your eye or stick with you, but for the most part when the campaigns are over most of us turn to multiplayer or co-op to get the most out of our games.  Occasionally, a company will design a game with little to no campaign and just focus on the multiplayer and co-op experience, but this is typically hamstrung by the fact you need to buy items in game or fork over a huge amount of cash for downloadable content to get a more rounded out game experience.  Destiny is a huge example of how you need the dlc to even play certain levels to get the most out of your game.  While I get the need to provide more content and make money at it, I feel that gamers without large wallets are starting to become victims of this pay to play mentality.   Thankfully, Evolve is changing this for the better.

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Evolve is the newest title from developer Turtle Rock Studios and publisher 2K Games.   Evolve is pretty straight forward in terms of basic gameplay, but where it shines is how you approach the various scenarios with your team.  Think of it like chess; easy to learn, and hard to master.  Evolve is a fully co-op game without a campaign mode and I know some of you are rolling your eyes already.  Patience.  The main concept of Evolve is that you are a 4-person squad tasked with your basic bug hunt, except that one of your compatriots is the monster.  This is a 4 on 1 battle for survival where the best man/woman or monster can win.

 

The overall story is that your group of hunters is dropped into hot areas and needs to assist the local scientists, rescue survivors, destroy nests, or defend certain points.  The hunter group consists of 4 players (or AI) each of varying classes; Assault, Trapper, Support and the Medic.  Assault is your basic tank/damage dealer, the Trapper is great at locking down the monster and slowing it, while Support buffs the team with different abilities depending on which character you selected. The medic is pretty obvious and tries to keep their teammates in the fight for as long as possible. This squad will be pitted against a certain monster in one of the previously listed scenarios.  One of the nicer points is that each class has 3 different characters to unlock as you become more proficient with your character’s particular abilities.  For example: Eva is your starting Medic and the group’s sniper.  She has a healing beam that continuously heals damaged players, and a bolt action sniper that has armor piercing rounds.  Now after you level her up, you will unlock Lazarus who is also a Medic, but he can cloak and revive fallen comrades instantly.  Each class progresses the same way and has enough variations between new characters to keep you engaged and entertained even if someone picks the class you wanted for the next round.

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If you select, or get selected, to be the monster you’re in for a treat.  There are a total of three: Goliath, Kraken, and the Wraith.  Like the hunters, each monster has their own strengths and weaknesses, be it brute strength, flight, or cloaking.  I won’t divulge too much on the monsters’ individual abilities because unlocking them is all part of the fun.  The monster, to me, is where the fun is at.  You get to hunt indigenous wildlife and feed while avoiding the hunters.  The reason you want to avoid them initially is because the hunters working in tandem are a force to be reckoned with for a fledgling monster… until you evolve.  When you start as the monster you assign a certain amount of points to the attacks and special abilities you want to use.  From there you gain evolution points every time you feed until it’s time to evolve.  Once you begin your evolution (5-10 seconds) you’re vulnerable in your egg until you assign the new points and emerge, bigger and meaner.  In total, your monster can evolve a total number of 3 times and once it hits level 3, the entire game changes.  At this point hiding really isn’t something to be worried about as you can knock a lone hunter across the screen and pummel them into submission.  Think of Hulk tossing Loki around in the Avengers.  Thankfully, the game gives you a total of three monsters to upgrade and unlock.  So that’s a total of 12 hunters and 3 monsters without purchasing any dlc.  That being said, there will be more hunters and monsters all available for download if you want to pay for them.  There’s even a season pass available so you can get all the content for the year as well.  The difference between Evolve and every other game DLC that’s out there (Destiny, listen up) is that all future map packs will be free.  The developers have gone with a concept that I think is stellar.  You get all future maps at no charge and the only thing you do need to pay for is characters or monsters.  That way if you go into a match with people who have dlc you can still play on the map and experience the new dlc and see if you actually want to buy it.  Whereas games like Destiny leave you in the cold, because the maps and weapons/armor are part of the DLC.  If you don’t have it then you’re out of luck.

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I think my favorite part of Evolve is that you can you play on random maps with random people or you can even customize your own battle experience.  This is one of the few games where if you make a custom/private match you actually keep the xp you earn toward leveling up.  So you can have a private match with 5 friends or you can do a match with just you and another person.  In that case, I can be the monster and my friend can actually control the remaining AI characters simply by quick swapping via the directional pad.  A word to the wise, if you play solo as the monster against the computer, be ready for a fight.  The AI is relentless and can spot you across the map and will hound you the entire match.  Now I know how any monsters who fought the X-Men felt.  That being said, the planet of Shear is highly inhospitable to both hunters and monsters, as you find some of the local fauna can take a monster out just as easily as a hunter(s).

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Just to mention a side note as well.  The game does also have a companion app for Android or iPhone users called Evolve: Hunter’s Quest that plays as a puzzle game, but will also unlock extra damage and abilities in the game once synced to the server.  Some of the unlockables for certain characters are definitely worth the time playing so you can upgrade your damage, healing duration, aoe, etc. for your hunter on the PS4/Xbox One/PC.

All in all my time with Evolve has been fantastic even though it’s only a co-op game at it’s heart.  That being said, with you able to play online with strangers or set up any sort of custom match you want, and being able to get free map dlc, this is the sort of game that offers a replay value that most gamers want and need.  So if you’re game, and think you have what it takes, grab a couple of friends and join the hunt.  The question becomes, are you the hunter or the hunted?

Mordor_title

No GravatarFor those gamers looking for a lot of action similar to the Batman: Arkham series mixed with some high fantasy, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor could be a good choice.  Set in the Lord of the Rings universe between the events of The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring, Shadow of Mordor is a great game for LOTR fans.  But, is it enjoyable for people who haven’t read the books or seen the films or for those who are not into the series?  Yes, one can play this game without any knowledge of the series.  However, it will be more enjoyable for LOTR fans.

The game was a sleeper hit when it came out in September of 2014, a hidden gem in a sea of mediocre games that had come out that year.  Developed by Monolith Productions and published by Warner Bro. Interactive Entertainment, it came out for PC, PlayStation 3 and 4, and XBox 360 and One.  For the purpose of this review, I will be exploring how the game felt for PlayStation 4.  The game is considered an action RPG and utilizes a more open world map.

The short version of the story is basically The Crow meets Lord of the Rings.  If you haven’t seen or read either, first of all I would suggest that you remedy that right away.  However, that might take some time so here is the synopsis: it’s a revenge tale about a Ranger named Talion (voiced by Troy Baker) who is killed, along with his family, and brought back to find those that killed them (the Uruks).  It’s an interesting revenge tale, and it’s fun to see familiar LOTR characters in the story as well.  Since the game takes place between The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, one can see Sauron’s minions getting stronger throughout the game.  Along with Talion, there is another undead wraith, Celebrimbor, who is helping out and giving him cool powers.  The relationship was a very similar feel to when Aragorn recruited the undead in Return of the King.   

 The biggest problem with the story is that, as a whole, it’s not strong enough to hold what I would say is the “average” person’s attention.  Sure, it’s fun, but it’s not super compelling.  Big-time LOTR fans would probably love it.  However, when I played it, I was playing more for the game play and not for the story.  As good as the beginning of the game started, it very much fizzled out over the end.

The story is in interesting idea but was executed poorly.

The story is an interesting idea but was executed poorly.

The game play, though, is very good, except for a few issues.  If you are familiar with the Batman Arkham games, Shadow of Mordor will be very easy to get into.  The game play is almost exact, and you level up in a similar way.  You fight in a similar way.  You can even change (most) attack commands mid-stride, making it easier to stop and counter and enemy.

The “RPG-aspect” (or leveling up system) of the game is very similar to the Batman: Arkham games as well.  Shadow of Mordor is not really the traditional RPG that I thought it was going to be.  When I heard it was open world, I was thinking more “Elder Scrolls.”  The game is very open world, and it’s very action oriented.  The leveling system is very interesting.  There are two skill trees to level up: Ranger and Wraith.  Each are interesting and fun to play.  There are ability points for getting enough XP, and the player can use those points to add certain powers and moves from the skill trees.  There are also options to upgrade the sword, bow, and dagger with runes that the player obtains from killing Uruk Captains (more on this later).

Overall, the basic game play mechanics of the game are very fun, but that’s not the crowning jewel of the game.  Technically, most of the game play is nothing new, since it borrows heavily from the Batman games’ mechanics.  However, the Nemesis System totally and utterly blew my mind.  It is new, original, and highly creative.  All year, I was looking for something new in gaming.  I was getting really tired of game play that is borrowed from ten or fifteen years ago.  Instead of relying on arena-style boss battles and push-the-button-oh-look-more-enemies, Shadow of Mordor gives us the Nemesis System, which I would describe as a roaming boss battle that remembers.

As you play the game, you meet Uruk Captains that can be pretty tough bosses.  If you kill one, you upset the balance of Sauron’s army.  If you or the boss run away during battle, the guy will remember you.  If one kills you, he will get more powerful when you come back (you’re already dead, so you can die as many times as you’d like–see the next segment for more details).  Not only that, but he may challenge a higher ranking Captain and change ranks.  If a normal Uruk kills you, he will get promoted up the ranks and so on.  If you die from something random, a lot of Uruks among the ranks get more powerful.  These bosses will remember that they killed you previously and comment on it.  You also can interrogate Uruks to gain information about bosses in the higher level ranks.  Each boss has strengths and weaknesses, and you have plan your attacks accordingly.

I have honestly not seen anything quite like this system.  I thought it was revolutionary when BioShock had the roaming boss battles, but Shadow of Mordor has improved upon that even more.  Sure, it can be a pain when you have a boss that has killed you several times and has gotten really powerful because of it.  But let me tell you, when you finally kill the guy, you will be cheering.  I also really enjoyed the strategy element that comes in when attacking these bosses.  You can’t go about doing things in just one way because what works for one boss might not for another.  Plus, you can make decisions such as allowing one boss to live so it will take out another (Uruks like to fight each other for power).

The Nemesis System really is the best part of the game.

The Nemesis System really is the best part of the game.

Here’s the only problem with the game play: besides a lackluster story line, the game can be very monotonous.  The side-quests are extremely repetitive and the nemesis system, which should be awesome, is very overbearing.  It’s hard to do ANYTHING without a boss targeting you out, which ends up being extremely annoying after about ten plus hours into the game.  The game play doesn’t translate well overall, unfortunately.  With a poor story line, the repetitive game play ends up being boring and hard to get through.  Sure, you can blast through the man quest with no problem, but for those who like to really get into the game, it ends up being very disappointing.

The graphics are fairly good, though there are much prettier-looking games out there for this current generation.  The overall look and feel of the game was a little dark and somewhat dull, which added to the monotony of the story after awhile.  However, I can understand the developer’s choice in this color palate, since it fits well with the dire tone of the story line.

The overall tone of the game is bleak and so is the color palate for the graphics.

The overall tone of the game is bleak and so is the color palate for the graphics.

Overall, the game is pretty decent: it makes great strides with the Nemesis System, but unfortunately does not do the same with the story.  However, it is refreshing to see a developer in the gaming industry try to do something different for a change, and I have to give Monolith productions a lot of credit for that.  Although I do not feel the game is a full price buy, now that it’s been out for several months, it would be a good addition to anyone’s gaming library at bit of a discount.

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