All posts by VX2

Skylanders Superchargers E3 Impressions

So Skylanders has a sequel for 2015, not really a shocker but there are a few items that stand out in the demo made available at E3 this year. One, the trap team pieces will have a function in the new title which provides elemental bonuses, it’s handy and a nice way to keep pieces relevant between generations. Two… the game incorporates racing / driving into the mix and while that allows them to gain traction on other popular franchises it’s the incorporation that hurts in this demo and by hurt I mean it really kills me a bit to see racing used so loosely.

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Most racing titles have adopted the standard of triggers as acceleration and braking mechanisms, they work well they’ve been doing this for ages as they’re not an on or off mechanism and they’re not bad to reach for most hands. Unfortunately Superchargers doesn’t want to follow this mindset, it now works to redefine how these controls work and make them a bit more complex than they need to be and even worse, it makes them harder to use than other titles on the market. A key point here is drifting your car in-game, normally there’s an e-brake for this in sims and arcade racers but in children’s oriented games they allow tricks, flicking the brakes and gas on and off or other sequences to create it, Mario Kart has done this for ages. Instead we’re stuck using trigger acceleration and buttons for braking or sliding which don’t mesh well.

For some it doesn’t sound odd, but it really is, let the thumb direct the car, the fingers pull the gas or brake and go from there as it minimizes the actions of the hand and in the event someone is using the right thumb for action it’s fine because it’s largely just sitting there on the gameplay anyway. It’s not Forza and even Forza doesn’t make this mistake, worse is that even if that was addressed there’s also a problem of inverted steering when deviating from a normal path. Going onto that half-pipe? Sorry, you controls stopped making sense. Going up that other side path straight ahead? Nope, doesn’t work there either, let’s flip those for you and turn every experience into opposites.

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It’s problematic because a childrens game is designed to be accessible and fun without overdoing it and alienating them while their older siblings or parents get it and tear things up. As it stands, Superchargers fails to consider the key demographic behind the game and offers a subpar performance in the car area. I really hope they’re able to pick things up in the future before release otherwise it’s a title I’d really hesitate to pick up. It seems like Activision would have put more time into the control system of the cars but in the current state it’s more like an afterthought.

Microsoft @ E3 #XboxE3 recap

This morning at the Galen Center we saw Microsoft make some big announcements for the Xbox platform during E3 week. It wasn’t just games, it was a look at the community and the future of their gaming ecosystem. With Windows 10 just around the corner we got a glimpse of Xbox One streaming through Windows 10, not just on a monitor but through the upcoming Microsoft Hololens, looking at how we experience games and even interact with them. While admittedly a ways off, it’s still cool tech and showcasing that companies are looking into the future of how the user experience develops.

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Aside from that, fans and console owners are getting a taste of backwards compatibility with the Xbox One, seeing their 360 library migrate to the One with features like screencaps and streaming available. While it’s a developing compatibility library it certainly says quite a bit for Microsoft to include it for free when it means converting PPC instructions over to x86 in these special download editions. Thankfully MS and AMD were on the same page visually so they’re not stuck with exclusive GPU instructions that they can’t emulate or substitute. Preview Members are able to get a taste of the experience right now but it’s still quite a limited library.

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Moving into tech, the Elite controller is touching down for professional players, packing a ton of modes, tension settings and custom parts it’s probably one of the most complex first party offerings seen to date. It’s packing a heavy price tag at $150 but it looks quite sturdy and for those who want the perfect setup there’s really few others who could reall deliver at this level. Personally I have to wonder how it will work for those who run in multiple genres, will there be a greater need for a racing controller, a fighting controller and a fps controller or is there a happy middle ground with the design? Time will tell, or E3 will tomorrow.

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Moving into gaming on the Xbox, there are a ton of treats ahead, Forza 6 with the new Ford GT and basically just amazing cars. Halo 5: Guardians taking team based combat in storyline mode to new heights while also working to redefine their MP offerings. Gears of War 4 with the latest fight against the locust, taking the fight to new monsters and mayhem in the dance we know so well from the franchise while also bringing up a new storyline experience.

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ID@Xbox also took center stage showing us clips of upcoming releases to the platform, showing that creators can make titles that unite console and pc players together by offering Xbox One and Windows 10 cross compatibility efforts. It’s a boost to creators to help ensure they get exposure in all areas and really have a shot at continuing to make new products like Cuphead, Ion, Ashen and Tacoma. Going even further to deliver on this MS is taking a gamble on the Early Access world and introducing a try before you buy Early Access model to soften the experience for console owners, allowing free experiences of titles before making that leap into buying something currently in development and possibly unstable or a bit unmatched to their tastes.

Other titles like Gigantic and recore help re-establish the creative roots of gaming with new presentations and stories that take players on adventures beyond the grey and grit, it’s a relief to the platform and a welcome change to really get back to new experiences.

MS has a lot going on in their court for the fans, paying a bit more attention for integration, cross platform support and planning for the future of gaming also. If they can deliver on some of these it’ll spell out good things for Xbox One owners and even Windows 10 adopters.

 

Bethesda @ E3 #BE3 recap

Last night Bethesda kicked off their first E3 showcase, previewing some of their biggest titles yet. With a night to sleep on it, does it really stack up? Well yeah quite a bit of it does for me at least.

Doom 4, a game that was lost in the ages emerged last night. Bringin the space marine back to the forefront with a heavy dose of super charged attacks with or without weapons. The demo focused on our hero being the badass, taking it to all the demons and sending them packing right back to hell. It was a ton of shock and even Pete Hines told everyone “Hold onto your butts” it was a wild ride but it’s something the game needed, a mix of horror, shock, fear and that fast paced action that Doom used to have vs just a pure shockfest with a flashlight and insane darkness all over.

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ID Tech 666 looks great, the question for some is, are we seeing OpenGL or DX? The lighting and particle systems do push the envelope for results so I guess it doesn’t matter, I know some in the crowd were worried about being oversold on the visuals but if it stays to the Doom 3 standard, it will but you might not be able to run it at that detail for a while or without heavy investment.

Dishonored 2 stepped into the light quickly after, we see Corvo and Emily take center stage as dual protagonists in the world after the collapse. Surrounded with new enemies and challenges they’re both playable with their own movesets and hopefully their own branches of story. It was a short tease but the game looks solid from the features already shown, there’s quite a it of story waiting to come forward but we’ll have to hold on a bit before getting to know more.

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Fallout Shelter teased us all with playing god over our own vault, the game is currently stuck on iOS but with hope and lots of complaints maybe we’ll see it on Android too, for now it’s a game of playing vault master and managing to make your community last through all the devestation by hunting, reproducing and maintaining control of it all. given the game is focused on enjoyment and perks after it should entertain the hearts of fans while waiting for Fallout 4 to arrive.

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Fallout 4 was the big feature of the show, going on to showcase the details of the story, being alive before the bomb, controlling parents before it all goes down and designing so much of your story before you’re even born. With a Skyrim like move in design, Fallout 4 looks to go beyond just the RPG realm and enter an limitless craft and horde area. Being able to design cities, weapons and make the world your own are all critical changes to how one experiences the game.

For die hard fans, the Pip-boy edition of Fallout 4 is probably one of the most legendary things to get, a real life massive wrist attachment that integrates your phone and custom app to create a connected Fallout experience.

Overall the showcase was very positive, it delivered a ton of details about titles either missing in action or surrounded in rumors. Now we just have to wait to experience these games in the coming year.

 

BAM. Reviews – Crysis (PC)

It’s Fall 2007, my X1800XT is ready for battle and wait… okay so it’s not 2007 it’s 2015 and we’re putting Crysis x64 through the paces in a fresh review that’s heading toward 8 years too late. Recently I picked up Crysis on Steam because it was on sale for $5 and it’s nice to have digital copies of things that were once on disc.

For those late to the game, Crysis was the first project by the Crytek team after departing Ubisoft and the Far Cry series, keen to make another visually cutting edge island adventure we saw Crytek go to extreme lengths creating a cinematic PC engine that would tax hardware for ages to come. Crysis takes players into their own action film, powered up with a nano-suit that enhances defense, strength, speed and even offers camo to slip around the jungle and bypass opponents or allow for stealth kills. It’s campy, it has some holes in the story and odd pacing but it’s the whole experience of this story. The cut scenes and the visuals are sharp and real-time which wasn’t all that common for consistency back then that really made Crysis stand out.

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Because of the innovations and coding at the time with Crysis as one of the first Direct X 10 titles out there it was a monster for PC’s to take on and it brought about the reputation as a benchmark for raw power in a system. Oddly enough it still is that demanding, on a R9 290 OC I was able to appreciate breakneck speeds hovering up to 100fps but also witness particle and shader effect moments that went into the mid 20’s at random. Part of that could fall under optimization issues but still it’s a moment that takes anyone back at the fact that Crysis can still throw those blows.

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Story wise, players take on the role of Nomad, one of an elite group of nano-suit powered soldiers taking on a power mad general on a remote island. The goal of course, to investigate and diffuse the situation but what would that be without a bit of tension and unknown to mix things up. Right out of the gate it’s impossible miss the twist ahead, a random flying object disrupts the drop to the island sending everyone apart . As the team tries to get back together the death and chaos start surrounding them, it’s a dash to sort out what’s really going on in the middle of Korean soldiers laying waste to the jungle to catch you. As things hit their twist the story gets a bit slower and honestly a bit sparse, players take on zero gravity and alien hives with a sudden change in plot to survive at any cost. It’s a shame since it had some good potential to do more but there’s a ton of action and enemies to continue experiencing so I guess that was the filler.

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Gameplay is one of the memorable aspects of Crysis, it’s a throwback to Far Cry in this massive open world experience, diving into the ocean, swimming for attack boats, combing through the jungle and essentially taking any path desired to get the job done. It’s still rewarding even now, not just because of those options but what happens when you mix it up with the physics of the game, punching apart houses, blowing up stacked cars, leveling trees in the forest and sucking it all in. Sadly once the midpoint of the game hits, this sense of wonder and exploration dies in favor of a linear progression, it’s one of the biggest pitfalls for me with Crysis when playing. The experience is enjoyable but you’re left hanging after so much freedom and it lingers in the mind while taking on the rest of the story.

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For those used to traditional shooters there’s a learning curve to handling Crysis, the game works to mimic motion and physics so shots aren’t just “aim, shoot, kill, next” tracking players and planting shots ahead of movement to take down active opponents is a critical part of the experience and learning how to conserve ammo as it gets very limited. The rest of the game is fast to pick up on, learning when to use power, defense and how to maximize camo usage without falling into exposure mid-run.

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Graphically Crysis is obviously a very impressive game, when cranked to very high the presentation is competitve to modern titles. Textures are sharp, water behavior and physics are impressive and the experience is just so well honed for those who see it the first time or come back through again to suck up some of the environment. For those running lower end hardware the grading on Crysis is a bit unforgiving though, Low – Very High is a tough comparison even if many of the features are still there just in very crude form. It’s still best to experience Crysis with at least higher resolution textures if your system allows for it.

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So what’s the appeal if the game is just passing 7 years in age and a bit of a mess when it comes to the complete package? It’s that first experience and coming back around to screw around in the world. Unlike other games, Crysis offers full power out of the gate, as a result players can dominate the landscape if they wish especially after a healthy experience through the campaign. Knowing how to shoot, when to use camo, how to punch someone into the sky and appreciating the ability to wreck a house and leaving the patrol to panic over it. There are also console commands to really mess around with the game and at that point the replay value just keeps going up as players maximize the sandbox experience in the first half of the game and master how to handle every possible scenario.

For me Crysis will never be the perfect action game, but it goes just far enough to stand as one of the shooters I can always come back to and appreciate while passing some of the day. Coming back to it after a few year hiatus was a rewarding experience as I hadn’t completed the entire game for some time. Anyone with the PC power to swing the game should give it a look, it’s usually on sale for $5 on Steam so it’s really hard to avoid the purchase, there’s incredible value for that kind of money.

With that wrapped, it’s on to the next roll of the dice in the Steam list.

An adventure of sorts awaits, BAM. reviews

There’s little doubt BAM. has been pretty idle lately, being someone who writes for other sites, works a regular job and manages other network sites there’s not a ton of time to divide for personal projects like this site. Recently I’ve made some adjustments and I’ve realized that instead of chasing down the latest releases I’d just take a look through Steam instead and spend essentially the next year at least going through 300+ releases I own, not including older PC games, Origin, Uplay and anything else.

Will all the games be new? No, not really. Some might be super old but the point is to take a look at gaming a whole or at least games that I own . If I have to mod them to work I’ll note it and if I can recall how I came about the game I’ll note it as well, some of these were review samples ages ago and some were bundles that I bought, others were gifts from friends or family and honestly it’s kind of messy backtracking.

We’ll see how things go after the dust settles, for devs or publishers hoping to join into adventure… I have no idea what to say really. The contact page is there, my game selections will be at random (basically what I feel like taking on any specific day). I promise nothing for places in line, this is more about the experience and the adventure than getting someone launch day coverage, if it was I’d be like 15 years late on some  of these games.

What will coverage entail? Right now I’ll start with writing, if I can get some time to record vocals and edit footage I’ll also include video, ideally I’d have video and text articles going up at the same time but I’m trying to manage expectations and reality now.

That said, let’s get this going, the first game up will be… well, why would I show that? I don’t even know yet but I will soon. Stay tuned.

-VeGiTAX2 / VX2

First Impressions – GRID Autosport PC

GRID Autosport launched during the Steam sale in June, not the ideal situation but at least they marked it down. After having some time hands on with the game though I do question if it should have gone up to full price. Granted it’s pretty, has variety in disciplines for racing and has a familiar and rounded appeal for racing fans but… the execution is where things get a bit strange.

I admit I enjoyed GRID 2, it was simple to jump into and didn’t require much thought, I do enjoy car setups and minor tuning options and it was something I could just jump into. That said… GRID Autosport could offer that same appeal but the assist system really restricts the enjoyment. On top of that, things requested by the community like cockpit view have been implemented but in a limited sense, using blur and low detail models for the impression.

Personally, I don’t like the cockpit view all that much, the new over the hood drivers side mount is actually very alluring to me though as the camera is no longer dead center in the car like I’m driving a McLaren F1 and allows me a bit of genuine perspective on where the car limits are instead of just guessing and using experience to fudge the corners. It’s a good catch by what seemed like a less vocal audience compared to the cockpit users.

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Overall the impressions aren’t awful but the handling makes it hard for new players to integrate into the game, the overbearing TCS and ASC drag the car down, I actually did a test video to showcase this.

The brakes / car computer take over going into the corners and even with a high speed entry leaning for oversteer, it corrects. While this could be somewhat helpful later on, in the early stages of the game it murders the little performance cars like Golf have in the game.

There’s more to explore and a deeper experience with the season mode to experience but it’s a bit of a missed opportunity as an update to the series as it lead up with so much talk about the return to TOCA and improvements. There are some around but it could have come so much further and hit all the audiences.

Test system:

AMD FX 8320 @ 4.4GHz
ASUS R9 290 DirectCU II
Logitech G27 (Manual, H Pattern, Clutch)
GRID Autosport with 4K pack