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By Nate VanLindt On 28 May, 2017 At 04:24 PM | Categorized As Editorials, Featured, Opinion, PC Games, PlayStation, ROG News, Xbox 360/Xbox One | With 0 Comments

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13,925.  693, no platinum trophies.  5,906 XP – Level 29.  These numbers are meaningless out of context.  The fact is, they’re pretty much meaningless in context as well.  Chances are, you already know what I’m talking about if you’re reading this, but for the few that don’t, the above numbers are gamer scores and achievement statistics.  Specifically my personal gamer statistics.  I had to look them up because I had absolutely no idea what they were and I didn’t really care.  They are from Xbox Live, Playstation Network, and Steam respectively if you’re wondering.  That’s the point, however.   Why have people become obsessed with their personal statistics?

Gamerscores and stats started almost at the same time as gaming with the advent of the high score.  The very first high score was in Sea Wolf, way back in 1976.  Most games of the early gaming era featured scoring systems of one kind or another, whether it be the number of points scored in a Pong game or the points from the number of alien ships shot down in Galaga.  High scores stuck around until the mid to late 80s, when the NES reigned supreme and longer, more complex games at home became the standard.  Even then, many games still had score tabulation functions, whether they were the game scores in R.B.I. Baseball or a run n’ gun like Contra by Konami.   In other words, high scores have always been kicking around, but as gaming advanced, high scores slowly disappeared and became less meaningful, excluding a handful of genres like SHMUPS (SHoot eM UPS such as R-Type, Gradius, and Raiden for those who aren’t familiar with the term). 

But then, something odd happened in 2005.  Microsoft introduced achievements on the Xbox 360.  All of the sudden, every time you completed a specific set task in a game, you got a digital attaboy.  A little notification would pop up on screen and tell you you’d completed a task that you didn’t even know you were working towards and it added to what Microsoft calls your “gamerscore”.  Suddenly people were trying to have the best gamerscore, competing with their friends, doing things they’d never bother to do in a game before and spending lots of extra time in a game to do it.  Companies noticed this.  Nearly every game had achievements in short order.  In 2007, Valve added their version of gamerscores, badges, to Steam.  The next year, Sony added Trophies to the PlayStation Network as well.  Suddenly, everyone had a scoring system to track how much better (or worse) you were than everyone else you knew.  People bought into it.  Companies offered rewards for the highest gamerscore and Microsoft even gave away a lifetime membership to Xbox Live Gold in 2013 to the player with the highest gamerscore.  The entire concept had entered the collective consciousness of gamers and they have accepted it as a standard.

Should we be paying attention to our gamerscore and our trophy list, however?  Perhaps we should not.  In 2006, Gears of War was released for the Xbox 360.  It was one of the first games I played that had achievements.  I’d seen the achievement notifications pop up before, but I generally just tolerated them.   As I played Gears of War, I reached the end of a section and defeated the Berserker the first time, earning the trophy “My Love For You Is Like A Truck”, a reference to a fairly obscure song called Berserker by a band called Love Among Freaks.  Unfortunately, the trophy notification popped up prominently onscreen in the middle of a cinema sequence, blocking me from seeing the cinema fully and destroying my immersion in the game instantly.  On top of that, I couldn’t go back and see the cinema again without replaying that entire section of the game.  From that moment on, I was dead set against gamerscore in all its iterations.

In case you didn’t know, you can actually turn off achievement notifications on both Microsoft and Sony consoles.  On the Xbox One, it’s under Settings,  All Settings, Preferences, Notifications.   For the PS4, the option is under Settings, Notifications.  I did this as soon as the option became available on each network (as far as I know, it still isn’t available on Steam unfortunately) and I never looked back.  As a gamer for over 30 years, I ask you to consider it this way.  Games are designed to have fun.  They’re a form of escapist entertainment.   We generally play games to try and either finish them or get a high score.  But with achievements, we play through tedious grinding activities just to get an ephemeral payout of gamerscore so we can brag to friends and strangers.  That’s not only weird, it borders on pointless.  Take Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End for example.  I played Uncharted 4 right after it came out.  I blew through the game in my spare time (about a week).  The pacing is fantastic, the story moves just the right amount at a go, none of the gameplay holds you up too badly, but you still feel challenged.  It’s one of the most well-crafted games I’ve played in years in terms of pacing and structure.  I finished the game, had a blast, and came away fully satisfied with my experience.  I can’t speak highly enough of the game (keeping in mind that to enjoy it fully you must play the entire series in order).   Now, take a look at my personal trophies on the PS4 for Uncharted 4.

That’s right.  I got a measly 14 bronze trophies playing through a game that I raved about as one of the best games I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing.  A game that I just stated I was ‘fully satisfied’ with.  There are sixty-eight trophies in this game.  Sixty-eight!  Essentially, I didn’t ‘play the game’ according to the current thinking in gaming.  How could I possibly call myself a gamer?  Obviously, I don’t take gaming seriously enough, right?  Wrong.  Gaming is for fun, and I had fun playing Uncharted 4.  A lot of fun actually.  I don’t want to waste my limited free time finding 109 treasures that have no bearing on the story in my well-paced story-based game.  I am not interested in spending hours hanging from ropes to get the trophy for making 20 headshots while hanging from a rope.  And I certainly don’t want to buy an apple just to let the lemur steal it in chapter 11.  Because that’s not fun.  It’s tedious make-work in a game I’m playing for entertainment.  And achievements, trophies, and badges get much more ridiculous than that, up to and including repeating a specific activity or action thousands of times just to get that pop-up payoff.   Let’s call it what it really is, a Pavlovian response pattern that reinforces obsessive-compulsive tendencies in a mostly antisocial social sub-group.   In short, they are a prize with no value.

And yet there is a large and vocal demographic online that openly mocks anyone who dismisses the value of achievements.  Gamers often minimize the impact of these psychological tools, resorting to simplistic responses such as ‘if you don’t like them, just ignore them’, or ‘only people that suck at gaming hate trophies’.  Who is missing the point here?  Obviously, games are designed for both types of gamers now, the trophy hunters and the purists.  There’s no arguing that.  But are game designers themselves compromising their vision to provide a game that appeals to a wider audience due to the frothing demand for achievements?  It seems like they are.  Adding online content, online trophies, and various other extras to games that don’t really need them seem like pandering.  Some games force you to go online to get some of the achievements, necessitating play against others as well as paying for premium network access in the form of Xbox Live or Playstation Plus.  And gamers are falling for it.  In a recent discussion with a colleague, he informed me that he was replaying a game after finishing it so that he could “platinum” it because he loved the game so much.  When I asked him about the achievements though, he related that many of them were tedious and difficult to achieve.  After this discussion, I asked him about his game backlog and he admitted that he has games that he hasn’t even opened yet.  In other words, achievements are artificially inflating the average gameplay and dissuading gamers from moving on to the next title, regardless of the next game’s quality, even after they’ve finished a game and have stopped enjoying it.

It seems to me like this is an issue that gamers should actually take seriously.  Not because it matters whether you play for score, but because game developers take it seriously and they design games based on the trends of the market and the input they receive online.  The best games, the ones that everyone raves about for years or even decades, are the ones that provide an uncompromised creative vision.  These games are at the top of everyone’s list for a reason.  They were designed to enjoy, not to appeal to every single person, and that makes them rise above.  Too few of those games exist these days, and fewer are released every year.  Maybe if we focus a little less on finding every flag or using every weapon for a thousand headshots or revealing every single tenth of a percentage point of every single map and a little more on just immersing ourselves in the fun a game can provide, we’ll all get a bit more enjoyment out of gaming.   Try turning off your notifications for a game or two and see if you have more fun.  If you don’t know you’re missing out…maybe you aren’t.

 

Source 1  Source 2  Source 3  Source 4

By Kira Nance On 17 May, 2017 At 05:47 PM | Categorized As Featured, PC Games, PlayStation, Reviews, Reviews, Reviews, ROG News, Xbox 360/Xbox One | With 0 Comments

No GravatarFirst and foremost, I would like you to take into consideration the fact that getting myself to write this review is comparable to pulling teeth. The moment I began my complicated relationship with Rise and Shine I was immediately taken back by the beauty of the beast. Oh man, is this a beautiful game, but beauty is only skin deep after all. While platformers at not my specialty they are also not my Achilles heel, yet I consistently found myself in the position where I was too frustrated to continue. Rise & Shine is a little bit like being in an unhealthy relationship and being too stubborn to leave. Perhaps like dating a supermodel whom, while she is beautiful, is so very used to going on looks alone that they fail to nurture other aspects of their being. I wanted to love this game, perhaps I still do but that’s not necessarily a good thing. 

It’s no surprise that Adult Swim Games has, as of late been dipping their toe into the proverbial pool that is console gaming. After the success of titles such as Katana Zero, Headlander and Rick and Morty Simulator: Virtual Rick-ality it makes perfect sense. The folks over at Adult Swim bring a refreshing attitude to the entertainment table, expressing a strong desire to provide quality entertainment over profit “We don’t have an agenda to sell something. For us, we want to create a really amazing experience.”  said Adult Swim’s Ashley Jex-Wagner, director of events “That’s the most important thing for us is for everyone to have a good time“. 

It seems the developers at Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team are on the same page. In an interview with Invision Community, Enrique Corts (Art Director, Creative Director) stated “Our focus has always been making really polished hardcore games that add something fresh to the table. We believe in making things properly since day one, so we only launch our games when they are completely ready and as much bug-free as possible, even if that means we risk our financial health. Sometimes is really tough having our own quality bar so high, but this is the only way to success we understand.

The four-person team based out of Spain has already seen success in the mobile market with Editor’s Choice titles, Pro Zombie Soccer, Pro Zombie Soccer Apocalypse Edition, and Supermagical, all of which have received Game of the Year in the App Store. Rise & Shine is Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team’s first PC/console title release and consequently my latest headache. So, the big question here is did Adult Swim and Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team accomplishes their goal to provide us with enjoyable quality content? Well, I’d have to say yes and no.

With the combined powers of Adult Swim Games and Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team, comes Rise & Shine a true “think and gun” gem that while frustrating is definitely worth your time. Rise & Shine is basically a playable homage to classic video games. Warped versions of beloved characters such as Link, Marcus Fenix, Q*bert and the Duck Hunt dog make hilarious appearances. The gameplay itself is a bit of a throwback, think Metal Slug meets Contra. This 2-D side-scrolling shooter is anything but basic, sometimes it’s even overly complicated. There’s a cover system to employ similar to the one used in Gears of War but this doesn’t ensure safety from all enemies especially the more volatile ones. Combining aspects of arcade shooters, bullet hells, and puzzle platformers staying focused in Rise & Shine is a major challenge in itself.

You play as Rise, a young boy of Gamearth, who upon receiving a legendary smack talking gun by the name of Shine suddenly becomes his planets greatest hope for survival against the invading Nexgen. You gun your way through 14 levels of unique puzzles, endless robot armadas, hungry zombies and intimidating bosses. Shine also conveniently bestows his wielder with unlimited respawns, unless you share the likeness of Link apparently. Unlimited lives, thank you, Shine, I thoroughly tested those boundaries. You have the choice to load Shine with his standard ammo or electric bullets, electric doing more damage to some enemies and next to nothing against others. Rise & Shine also grants you fun explosive bullets to detonate at will and the ability to guide your bullets remotely (RC), though only through a limited radius. Utilizing each bullet type is essential for navigating the puzzle solving, projectile dodging, enemy slaying chaos that is Rise & Shine. Bosses are no joke, only adding to the retro gaming atmosphere here, for example, the final boss takes upwards of 90 minutes to beat. 90 painfully tedious minutes. Considering the game consist of a mere two hours of actual gameplay with almost no storyline to spice things up, I found this to be severely annoying. I’m sure eighty percent of my time was spent severely immersed in boss fights. Taking damage is never an option as two hits from a base level enemy or projectile is enough to kill you at any point. Mastering the fine art of bullet spray is probably the best defense in Rise & Shine and quite possibly the best way to stay sane. 

The controls are slightly over complicated, requiring you to aim with the left trigger, shoot with the right trigger and guidance is provided by the right stick. When your screen is full of enemies, storms of bullets, lasers, and explosions this less that kind control system gets in the way. add in the bumpers to cycle through ammunition all while dodging, jumping and dashing to avoid getting hit. Oh, and don’t forget to reload. Seriously I’m exhausted just explaining all that.

Visually, the folks at Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team nailed it. This is where the quality of the game shines through. The story while lacking in detail, plays out in charming comic panels that showcase the developers love for comic books. Each level’s background is made up of hand-drawn illustrations with multiple parallax scroll layers, giving new depth to each scene as you progress. I seriously lost myself in the artwork of Rise & Shine, it was easy to imagine myself gallivanting around the streets of Gamearth blasting away space grunts. The in-game audio and soundtrack are top notch thanks to the talent of Jerry Goldsmith Award nominee Damián Sánchez (Reservoir Dogs, Blues and Bullets). However, aesthetics alone cannot carry a game and Rise & Shine left me raging in the end. It’s a title deserving of your time and respect but I can’t in good conscience recommend it for anyone with anger issues.

Review code was provided by the publisher.

 

By OtakuDante On 17 Mar, 2011 At 09:49 PM | Categorized As Featured, PlayStation, Reviews, Reviews, Xbox 360/Xbox One | With 0 Comments

No GravatarOn Tuesday March 15, 2011 the PSN store was graced with the presence of a new Contra game. The game had previously been released on the XBLA for the Xbox 360, so they had first dibs at this very impressive game.

 

 

Most gamers like myself, who have lived to see many consoles probably now what the Contra series is all about. It’s roots started back in the arcades, and on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Basically Contra is a 2D side scrolling game with a science fiction story, and two player co-op. The series always included main characters who wielded a gun or some sort of weapon. The goal in each game of the series was to overcome the alien race, and defeat large boss creatures, and machines.

 

Hard Corps: Uprising takes the series to a whole new level with an anime style developed by Arc System Works, the creators behind the Guilty Gear and BlazBlue fighting games. If you’ve played either Guilty Gear, or BlazBlue you’ll recognize the art style immediately. The graphics in the game are very impressive, and include vivid colors that bring the game to life.

 

 

In this new installment to the series, the story is more involved. The game has two available characters, Colonel Bahamut (from Contra: Hard Corps) and Krystal initially. There were also three DLC characters made availble for purchase from the PSN/XBL stores when the game was released. The three DLC characters include ‘Harley Daniels’ with a very unique 50’s style hairdo, ‘Leviathan’ one of the main enemies in the game, and ‘Sayuri’ a Geisha styled female assassin with a sword. All of the characters except for Sayuri had guns as weapons, and it turns out that Sayuri is the strongest of them all.

 

I liked the selection of characters, the costumes were diverse, and were more than just skins by any means.  The price for the extra characters was reasonable in my opinion. For $2.49 a character you get a great deal. I would definitely invest in getting Sayuri as she is the strongest character available. With each character, initial or DLC you have to play the game to unlock their special abilities and extras.

The game features a handful of different modes that include the traditional local co-op, and online co-op modes. You can play through arcade mode to follow the story, and unlock the game’s available trophies/achievements. Along with the arcade mode there is a mode called the Rising mode in which you earn points to put towards your characters upgrades, and customizations. The online mode can be played both arcade style or rising mode style. The player has the option to join a quick match, or even create/host their own room with their own rules for online play. When I first tried to join a quick match I wasn’t able to find one. It may have been the time of day? I ended up creating/hosting a game, and someone joined almost immeditely. I imagine everyone  is trying to fully unlock all of their characters before tackling online, and that’s the reason there aren’t that many available matches at the current time.

I’ve heard rumors that the XBLA, and PSN version might differ in loading times. The rumor was that XBLA took about 2 minutes to load while the PSN version only took 20 -30 seconds. Myself and another reliable source (a fellow Xbox 360 gamer) determined that the versions were equal in loading time, and quality. If you’re an Xbox 360 gamer, or a PSN gamer like myself I believe you’ll find that this game is definitely worth having in your game collection.

Overall this game is very much worth the $14.99 price tag that the PSN/XBL stores has it listed for. I’ve seen games that aren’t near as good as this one go for more than that. Hard Corps: Uprising has great replay value for both online, and local gaming. If you’ve been missing the Contra days of old, then this will definitely fill that gaming void. It adds something new to something old without ruining the experience that was Contra. It truly is still Hard Core (pun intended).