Tag Archives: impressions

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.

SSC_Barrel Blaster 1

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.

SSC_SuperCharged Barrel Blaster

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.

Raptr and AMD evolving the desktop experience

In September Raptr and AMD released their dedicated build for PC Gamers, the app included automatic configurations aimed at AMD hardware per game and while limited it provided optimal settings per system. Flash forward almost 2 months and the gaming selection has increased greatly from that initial point.

The first thing to notice about the AMD Gaming Evolved Control Center is it uses a completely different interface from the standard Raptr affair. Delivering a game center, community, gallery and settings per title with dedicated fast access areas for rewards,  global community, profiles and free games. It’s a simple presentation but that’s what makes it impressive, users can use a slider to gauge settings or select optimal choices for their hardware to avoid overtaxing the card and it helps bridge that gap of configuration for those new to the platform.

amd_settings

 

For classic Raptr users it may take a bit of time to avoid using the classic dock to navigate but the new UI and presentation do become familiar over time. For me, rewards, friends, game settings are the primary areas I use and they’re almost easy to reach, the friend option itself blends almost too well in the bottom, easily overlooked with bright red text or buttons elsewhere in the UI.

While the AMD branded app doesn’t support everything, they’re working hard to implement feedback and suggest the best possible settings for each product they do include.  A relief given past optimizations tended to massively reach over the recommended settings or dull textures so much it was painful to play just for performance sake.

Do the settings make a difference if you’re adept with hardware? Somewhat, there are certain assumptions made with game settings that might not apply to a specific title and only incur minimal frame loss, by default I tend to disable any AA period for the extra gains at higher resolutions, often with the AMD Raptr application it turns it back on and I’m unable to feel the impact at 1-2fps lost. It’s a reminder in gaming that it always pays to experiment and in this case, it does it for you with a slider and a click of a button.

Personally, I now use Raptr much more than I used to, I explore the community pages, rewards, profiles and have a longer immersion in the community and offerings than I ever did in the past. As a revised presentation I enjoy it and think newbie PC gamers and even veterans might enjoy the quick flip of a switch to adjust performance as needed and get into the game. It’s one thing to play casually but often it’s the performance setting that helps gain any extra FPS possible in competition.

I look forward to continued adjustments to the app (more game custom configurations please) there’s certainly room to continue tweaking for the masses, one can only imagine the day when players will be able to save custom configurations they’ve made to activate on the fly.

Check it out for yourself, if you already have Raptr there’s no additional login needed, just write over your existing install and voila. Also if you’re running AMD video hardware you can enter the ongoing Gaming Evolved Sweepstakes for games each day, although you do have to game for an hour on a supported title.

Black Ice – Cyberpunk FPS, Hacking, RPG begins a journey

Retro inspired games have a unique market, generally delivering 2D sprite based environments as a throwback to the early days of gaming. Black Ice goes in a different direction, instead focusing on the neon glow that haunted the 80’s with a dash of Tron inspired computer environments in a 3D world. It’s a game of hack and dash with RPG elements as players have to tackle difficult hacks to obtain crucial tech to advance and eventually take down the master system.

While it sounds potentially easy, it’s a mind boggling mess, shooting speed and ammo are based on available RAM (within the game world) cycle speed and other factors are crucial for survival. While it seems like a given to just beef up your memory and hacking  speed it’s not that easy, Black Ice provides an array of enemies including reaaally annoying spiders that slowly eat away at your soul / health. Normally I don’t care about insects of any level, suddenly I do and I can thank this game for that.

It’s not all trauma, the weapons are brilliant when you have the right stats, using a plasma cutter to mow through everything (yes everything) is magically rewarding given how swarms bite and chip away so often.

While words could go on forever about Black Ice in it’s early stages of development, I’ll leave it to the two current videos recorded to demonstrate what there is within. If you’d like to try Black Ice for yourself, head over to the website and grab the latest demo.

GRID 2 Demolition Derby DLC arrives but is anyone home?

So the online community on GRID 2 is a bit hit and miss, and by that I mean it misses… often. Players when you find them tend to love crashing, other times they’re not around at all.

Demolition Derby is a revival mode for fans, hoping to bring back some of the enthusiasm and appease those who prefer to wreck cars instead of racing them. It’s a good mode, don’t get me wrong but the absent player base really doesn’t help the situation. I ended up opting out of a 30 minute wait cycle for players and instead jumping into custom events to get a taste of the carnage. It’s not overly brutal and the AI is a bit bossy but I think there’s another level waiting to happen by playing with human opponents that have no intent to finish the race with a functional car.

Check out the video demo for custom event Demolition Derby, hopefully I’ll see more people online in the coming week or this is really just a dead release.