Ryse-ing to the Occasion

Posted: April 8, 2014 in News
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A retrospective look on Ryse and video game reviews shaping our opinions

In this day and age instant information and analysis is the name of the game.  Video games have  have become increasingly scrutinized because of a more informed gaming community which, therefore leads to being more selective over the games they purchase.  Critic reviews in a way, have taken precedent over user experiences by letting our opinions be formed vicariously through their words, thoughts and feelings.  Sometimes we fail to even try something that we may personally like because of others’ views or even the general consensus.  With this all being said, reviews have always been a tricky business.  Do you review with objectivity?  Or do you review based on your own personal likes and dislikes that may or may not have been swayed by other factors? Obviously, there are certain broad strokes you can paint with, but still certain aspects of an experience are going to bring someone closer or alienate them to the product purely based on what that person personally likes or doesn’t like.

Case in point: Ryse’s metacritic score is 60 based on critic scores.  As a consumer, if I were to see this kind of score I would instantly steer clear of purchasing let alone even trying the game in question.  Ryse, the Xbox One launch title that came out in November of last year, has been marred with mediocre reviews since its release.  I was one of those people, surely among many others that just wrote the game off as a tech demo and nothing more.  The combat was basic, too much QTE, no substance and micro transactions a plenty.  These complaints along with the campaigns brevity all came together to deliver a message that was a bit lackluster to say the least.  I myself even thought while playing through it that this game came to fruition in a boardroom full of suits, brainstorming together to come up with a title that will show off next gen graphics…and nothing else.  After about a week with Ryse my feelings toward it became a perfect storm of change.

Once I completed it and stared at the credits rolling I kind of felt like I wanted to keep playing.  I couldn’t understand it.  Why was this?  After giving it some thought I came to a few conclusions.  I highly enjoyed the visual aesthetics partly due to the fact that it was just a representation of ancient Rome, which is a time period I have great interest in.  The voice acting was amazing and even coupled well with the characters faces, mo capped and all.  I enjoyed all the cutscenes which were beautifully rendered and the story was not bad albeit predictable and historically inaccurate in spots.  Visuals aside the “Legendary” difficulty proved to be a great test of rolling through areas as perfectly as possible.  High difficulty in games is right up my alley and playing Ryse on this setting was satisfying.  Yes, it’s all just timing based in a simplistic combat system, but when you have to perfectly execute moves to advance it became more fun for me and the simplistic combat was welcomed, for it was difficult enough without needing more complexity to it.  Afterwards, I tried the multiplayer which I assumed was going to be terrible and it was actually much better than it had any business being.  A dynamic, co-op PVE match with the proverbial carrot on a stick being leveling to attain new gear.  Innovative and fun.

After having these experiences with Ryse I realized how much external reviews and opinions shaped the way I looked at certain games.  Reviews in themselves are still a work in progress, I think.  I sometimes find it hard to imagine (even though it’s reality) that a game like Titanfall can be on the same scoring system as a game like Infamous: Second Son.  How do you account for what different goals those games are trying to accomplish?  This, coupled with the fact that certain reviews have personal opinions on what a person liked and didn’t, begin to paint a conflicting image of what a game has to offer.  Should genre based scoring systems be adopted?  I don’t know (probably not), but what I do know is that reviews are an imperfect grading system to judge games by.  Yes, one may use Metacritic and get an average of several scores in one convenient score, but this still does not solve the problem of how games are being graded and the opinions that went into those scores.  If anything Metacritic compounds the problems of our flawed system by corralling all of these varied opinions and attempting to generalize it into a single digit number.

Now, make no mistake about it; Ryse is by no means a masterpiece, but what was a sub par gaming experience for many, morphed into something entirely different for me based on my time with it.  So, why are such scores anticipated and taken so incontrovertibly by so many?  One is with this age of information we must know everything about something before we truly know anything about it.  It’s ingrained in our culture to review, blog, tweet or post our thoughts and/or opinions on a whim.  Secondly, it’s a convenient reference point to bolster our point of view in regards to how we feel about a game whether we have played it or not.  Reviews are helpful and damaging at the same time, but no other form of critiquing a game has come around since these reviews were being printed in magazines decades ago.

There very well may be no answer to this dilemma.  Sometimes, certain games just get a bad rap.  Today will be a week that I’ve had with Ryse and last night I found myself perusing the DLC available and doing Google searches for future map and mode releases.  I even gave some thought to the season pass.  Some thought.  Maybe it’s just me and my particular tastes, maybe I am partial to it given its setting, maybe I have been wanting a third person action game set in Roman times.  Whatever it is, Ryse has gained a place in my heart.  However small that place may be.

Respawn Entertainment recently released a substantial game balancing/bug fix patch over the weekend.  It’s being rolled out by server so you might have not been updated, but even if you were there is no heads up or notification from Titanfall when you boot up.  Aspects of almost every game mode have been updated including certain burn cards.  So far these tweaks have proved to make small yet noticeable improvements.  These are a few of the improvements and bug fixes:

  • Increased the score limit in Attrition
  • Flag Return points reduced
  • Lowered the point value of defensive actions in Hardpoint mode and CTF
  • Evac Dropships are now more responsive to Pilots entering them
  • Minions in Attrition now continue to spawn until the Epilogue begins
  • Double XP burn card sometimes not being applied properly

For the complete changelog click here.

We are only a mere few hours from, arguably, Microsoft’s biggest release for the Xbox One.  A lot of of pressure is on Respawn to deliver on this title with it getting an exorbitant amount of press the last few months.  We are about a month removed from the Titanfall beta now which ran at a resolution of 792p.  Respawn originally said the actual game would drop at a higher frame rate, most thinking it would be at 900p.  Now it’s been confirmed that this will not be the case.

In an interview with Eurogamer,  lead engineer, Richard Baker stated Titanfall will launch at 792p just like the beta to the chagrin of pixel counters everywhere.  He did mention that Respawn will try to upscale the game post release saying “We’re going to experiment. The target is either 1080p non-anti-aliased or 900p with FXAA”.  This has already been seen before with games like Assassins Creed 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts getting a post release patch to increase resolution.

Also in the news, renown video game critic, Jeff Gerstmann from Giant Bomb put out a pseudo review today (the actual review and score won’t be posted until Titanfall multiplayer server infrastructure is tested) stating “The frame rate in Titanfall is uneven on the Xbox One and though it’s usually fine, it can get downright nasty in specific situations”.  He also wrote “In one Last Titan Standing match–where every player spawns in a robot suit–several players crammed their mechs into a tight area and began duking it out, and the frame rate dived down to what must have been single digits per second”.

This seems worrisome, but let’s give Respawn the benefit of the doubt and see if they can take care of these issues gracefully, unlike EA did with Battlefield 4.

Would you like to earn “Karmic Points” ahead of the release for Infamous Second Son?  Well, the studio behind this upcoming game, Sucker Punch, has started a viral campaign/meta game.  Many writers in the games press have gotten letters and packages containing information for “conduits” which are people with powers from the Infamous universe.

Aside from entertaining reading some of these sites are providing “Karmic Points” for your Infamous play through.  These will be points you can use to change whether you are good or bad.  Just like in previous Infamous games, depending on which side of the line you are on your powers will differ.

Here are a list of sites obtained by IGN that have so far been discovered:

  • enjoyyourpower.com. This site allow you to register for something called “Infamous Paper Trail,” link it to your PSN account and earn Karmic Points in Infamous: Second Son.

IGN has also set up a Wiki for further information on this meta game.



Xsus’ top ten games of 2013

Posted: January 3, 2014 in Thoughts

10: Fire Emblem Awakening (3DS)

FE would probably be much higher on my list if I had finished it, but to be honest I recently got my 3DS and just have not had enough time to play it.  What I have played from it is incredible though.  What FE does so spectacularly from other strategy games is the relationships your characters form with each other and how that impacts your battles with the forces of evil as the game progresses.  A full on trait system per character (which is on full display when coupling and having offspring  to add to your party), nice visual design, permadeath to spice things up and an impactful score all come together very well in, what should be, a higher placed game on this list.

9: Devil May Cry (360)

I lost interest in this franchise basically after the first game.  I really enjoyed my time with it, but just didn’t really care when the subsequent sequels came out.  I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when I heard a reboot was being done, but to my surprise it reviewed very well.  Aside from the reviews I was really intrigued to see what Ninja Theory did with the franchise and took the plunge.  What a splash this over the top game made.  The story is still exactly what you would expect from a DMC game, nothing to write home about, BUT the gameplay is where it all shines.  Plain and simple: the combat is intensely fun and just works.  The seamless switching between normal, angel and devil attacks felt right, combos were just so fun to pull off.  The outrageous enemy and level designs were also a huge plus.  On board for a sequel.

8: Dishonored DLC- The Knife of Dunwall & The Brigmore Witches (360)

Wait, what?  Why is DLC on this list?  Because it was awesome.  Now, I know a lot of people were down on Dishonored last year, but those people are monsters.  No, seriously though Dishonored was one of my favorite games of last year, so naturally I couldn’t wait to play the DLC and let me tell you it did not disappoint.  In my humble opinion the DLC was better than the actual game.  The blink ability was modified in a game changing way, the main character, Daud (voiced by none other than Michael Madsen), is infinitely more interesting than the mute Korvo was, the story was much more fascinating than Dishonored‘s unimaginative revenge plot and all the little extras were a welcome addition like the “favors” and additional abilities.  All in all I felt like The Knife of Duwall and The Brigmore Witches really showcased what Dishonored could be which says a lot considering it was already a really good game.

7: Tomb Raider (360)

I have a confession: I have never played a Tomb Raider game.  Although, I am not counting the demo of it I played on those old demo discs that came in video game magazines…those were the best, but I digress.  I don’t really know why, but I just never have.  Well, this one was a hell of a one to start on.  I really enjoyed actually being a female protagonist in this male protagonist dominated world minus the horrible ways Crystal Dynamics made her death scenes.  Horrific.  Aside that I had a great time with the game.  It certainly wasn’t perfect; their were some minor things I would have liked to see changed, but the combat was fun, I enjoyed the puzzle aspects of it (even if they should have added more) and the Uncharted-esque scaling went well with the flow of the game.  I am officially waiting on a sequel for this rebooted franchise.

6: Grand Theft Auto V (360)

We all knew this game would be amazing, but wow!  Rockstar knows exactly how to raise the bar and GTA V is no exception.  I suppose I should start with the likeness to Los Angeles and the visual fidelity at which it shows it because it’s an impressive showcase.  The amount of detail is stunning and lest us not forget it is running on “old gen” consoles.  Visuals aside though I was also very impressed with the three main characters.  At first it sounded like an odd way to play GTA, but in classic Rockstar fashion it worked, both on the gameplay and story side of things.  A  revamped cover and weapon select system was also a welcome addition.  Trevor.

5: Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag (PS4)

I could never quite put my finger on it, but I never truly like the AC franchise.  I thought it had some promise gameplay wise and the story was mildly entertaining, but it just never panned out for me.  Yet, every year I always managed to get psyched for the next installment.  AC3 finally pushed me over the edge with the full force of all it’s mediocrity and I thought I was done with the franchise.  Then pirates were introduced.  Damn it.  Black Flag is everything the other games in the franchise are not: fun.  Ridiculously fun.  It would be higher on this list, but the parts that keep this game down are basically everything related to the AC franchise.  This game has loads to do and would take some time to get 100% “sync”, but it’s mostly all fun.  To boot it looks very nice and oh did I mention pirate shanties??  Yes, please.

4: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)

Who better than Nintendo to make a game that taps into your nostalgic senses while also adding an incredible new twist?  A Link Between Worlds does this magnificently and is also a fitting title.  Why you ask?  Well, ALBW takes the best of A Link to the Past and merges it with this very unique playing Zelda game unlike any before it.  Nintendo basically completely changed the formula of how Zelda games work and masqueraded it in this nostalgic inducing package.  See why the title fits now?  This game is just amazing.  The renting of your gear, the unlimited rupee wallet and insanely simple yet extremely effective merging with walls mechanic are all outstanding new features to this franchise.  The 3D works great, especially on the puzzle sequences and all the classic music is remixed in an impressive way considering how iconic those songs are.  I mean how can you not love a game with a track like this?

3: Splinter Cell: Blacklist (360)

Who would’ve thought that I would be having heated debates for ALBW and Blacklist for the number three spot?  Trust me it was a very close call.  Very. In the end I would still possibly switch them up, but for the sake of not having a 3A and 3B I put Blacklist at three.  Stealth games are one of my favorite genres and Blacklist was hugely underrated.  This game took everything that made SC: Conviction so good and made it even better.  The insane amount of customization on your character was awesome and the controls, although quirky at times, for the most part made you feel like a bad ass.  The level designs were expansive to say the least which really fit with the versatility of that game.  I mostly used stealth, but all out chaos was also a viable option.  All the extra stuff was really fun too such as the side missions and the puzzle like Gone Dark missions which were like a scavenger hunt of information of Google.

2: Bioshock Infinite (360)

After I finished Infinite I was in a daze.  That fantastical ending is one of my favorite of all time (almost as good as my number one game) and I just knew no matter what came out for the rest of the year, Infinite would be in my top two even though it came out in March.  This was a game where some people were down on the combat, but I found it highly entertaining.  The mix of powers and guns was very Bioshock-y, but the addition of the skylines was enough to freshen things up for me.  Plus it looked cool.  The visuals were nice, but the story…well the story was nothing short of incredible.  I couldn’t sleep that night and the next day I scoured forums for hours discussing the ending to take in every single point of view.  It’s one I won’t soon forget.  Lastly, the animation and sound of getting money from Elizabeth is just so damn satisfying!

1: The Last of Us (PS3)

Let me start off by saying one thing:  this game is miles ahead of anything on this list.  The closest game that comes to perfection and I don’t throw that around lightly.  The Last of Us transcends gaming in general due to how extraordinary it is.  Other game have had great visuals or an outstanding story or maybe even all of it, but the package that is The Last of Us is just so tight and perfect that it just blows everything away.  Anything you could rate a game on The Last of Us does it exceptionally.  The visuals are sublime, the original score is endearing, the gameplay is very fun whether it’s crafting supplies or the combat against the infected and humans which are both very different.  Even the multiplayer is good!

If only one thing could shine from this total package though that one thing would be the story.  The most gut wrenching story I have ever experienced in a game with an amazing ending to top it off.  All done with top of the line voice acting which is supremely impactful on the overall performance of the characters.  The way everything is depicted in The Last of Us from characters to the world is simply phenomenal.  The Last of Us I salute you.

PS4 extras in the box

Posted: November 8, 2013 in News
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Available in only a limited supply, the launch PS4′s will include everything you need to fully experience what the PlayStation 4 has to offer:

  • $10 credit for use in the PlayStation Store
  • 30 day free PlayStation Plus membership
  • 30 day Music Unlimited trial

The next generation in Sony hardware will be out November 15th.  Courtesy of PlayStation.blog