Who’s The Better Son? A Battlefield/Call of Duty Commentary

ImageComparison is human nature. Something is always better than something else in someone’s eyes, and that someone usually has to try and prove it to someone else. Some concept, huh? That’s just how we act as a society. So when I thought about a comparison piece this week, my mind instantly went to two companies that have been battling it out in the gaming industry for a while now: EA and Activision. Their Battlefield and Call of Duty franchises have polarized gamers for a few years. Is one better than the other? Well, hopefully after reading this, you’ll decide for yourself.

A few things should be noted here in the beginning. First, I do favor Battlefield more than CoD. I’ll insert a few comments here and there to show why. Also, this article is based off my experiences playing the newest iterations: BF4 and CoD: Ghosts on the PS4. I have played more CoD titles in the past than Battlefield, but that will not affect my article on here. Finally, and most importantly, I’m not a great first person shooter player (later designated as FPS for all you non-gamers), so I can’t really speak much on the reasons why a single button for one game works better than on another in terms of competitive advantage. I’m just along for the ride.Image

SO, let’s start with the single player campaigns, the main course of what I look for in any game. After all, a good game has to be accessible to those not plugged in to the network. Both play smoothly and don’t last too long. Battlefield campaign missions are much fewer than Ghosts, but play much longer. I could finish a Ghosts mission in about 15-20 minutes tops, but with Battlefield, you have to invest a little more time in its completion. What surprised me a bit was that Battlefield took the medal for very over-the-top campaign moments, which is usually a CoD thing. To be honest, after I played through the BF campaign, I was a little underwhelmed with the story elements of Ghosts. I just felt like I was going through the motions to get to the ending. Don’t get me wrong, Ghosts was still a pretty decent game to play. I feel like it rested on its laurels a bit and spent more time on the multiplayer, which I’ll get into later. So, in the single player category, I think Battlefield did more for the players.

The multiplayer for both games is a totally different kind of discussion. It’s an apples and oranges sort of preference talk. Battlefield is not really tailored for individual play; you work as a squad and as a team in order to take full advantage of what it has to offer. And it offers incredibly large battles of up to 64 players. That’s 32 people against you and yours. A basic match can become a complex and tactical match that can last for at least half an hour, giving you more time to think between deaths unless you’re foolish. It would be better except for certain technical difficulties that break up the battles occasionally. It’s definitely more for the team player. On the other hand, Ghosts is more for the run and gun player. It’s easy to see why CoD is recognized in the Major League Gaming circuits. Its short and fast-paced matches definitely get the blood pumping. A good gamer can rack up about 40 kills in an average length game. Though there are fewer game map uses, it’s pretty simple in terms of what you need to do. To put the two MP experiences in terms of other kinds of technology, CoD is the iPhone of gaming while Battlefield is the Android.

ImageI describe it like that because these two games seem to draw out different kinds of players in my opinion. Yes, there are some that play both, like myself. However, the majority of FPS players usually spend their time playing one or the other. I don’t know if there is a certain demograph type that floats to one side, but I can maybe make a few inferences to who plays what kind of game. I think BF attracts those who want a little more realism out of their FPS. The visuals are almost breathtaking to me, the kind of effect that the film Avatar had on filmgoers. The guns have very realistic sounds to them as well. Finally, as mentioned before, the multiplayer almost requires teamwork and squad-based command tactics, giving the player more of a company feeling instead of a Rambo gunning scenario.

ImageWith Ghosts, people play to get the experience of gunning and participating in something that millions of others do around the world. You jump in, you learn the controls, and then you just keep practicing. In the business world, you could call this “low entry cost”, meaning it doesn’t take much to invest in this game. I think this is what appeals a certain type of gamer. The marketing for CoD is expansive in order to attract all sorts of new people. They get in and try it out, eventually getting decent at it with practice. I know, because I’m one of those. I’ve been known to spend a lot of time at night playing over and over. I can understand the appeal; I just find BF to be a breath of fresh air in the MP scene.

So there you go. My thoughts on the two heavy hitting FPS titles out at the moment. I do enjoy BF more, though I definitely pick up the controller for a few quick CoD matches too. With the PS4 supporting both titles, I’m still trying to decide which one I want to invest more time in. Part of it has to do with how much support I can get from friends to play BF in. I’m not really a team player, and I need reliable friends to play some BF. Otherwise, I’ll be passively yelling at myself for not doing well in that one CoD match. Feel free to come find me on either playing field. (PSN: MogwaiOfOwnage)

Beyond: Two Souls Review (Spoiler-Free)

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Powerful PS3 exclusive

My friends, I’ve played many games that have attempted to impact me emotionally. Some have succeeded. Beyond: Two Souls is one of those games that made me want to completely start over at the end just to experience the whole of the story and the small turns that could be altered in the main character’s life. The gameplay is very interactive, albeit a bit repetitive in the mechanics parts, and I definitely would play through it again, especially if I had about 10-15 hours straight with no distractions.

In Beyond, you plays as Jodie Holmes, voiced by the well-known actress Ellen Paige of Juno fame. Jodie is a gifted girl with a spirit companion who helps her see and do things that others cannot. Alongside Jodie is Nathan Hawkins, a paranormal scientist who nurtures Jodie throughout her younger years. (Hawkins is voiced by actor Willem Defoe.) As Jodie, you experience a non-linear view of 15 years in her shoes, ranging from her early childhood to mid-20s, giving the player an in-depth look at her struggles  and story.

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Emotions range from slight happiness to sheer fury

And struggles there are. What keeps the player going, in my opinion, is not necessarily the overall plot or the gameplay but rather the sheer sympathy that you develop for Jodie. Without giving anything away, I can certainly confess that her life is not an easy one at all. Thanks to the incredible graphics engine created by title developer Quantic Dream, the realism of the characters does nothing but heavily aid in the emotional settings and story-telling one experiences. I found myself drawn into the most random moments that were full of feeling and spirit.

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Aiden paired with Jodie

As for the gameplay, it did everything that a good adventure game should, and it reminded me of the older adventure games on the PC back in the ’90s. A few of the quick time events became commonplace over time, and I would have liked to see more variety in the things that you could do in the game. Some of the tricks you could do with Aiden, your spirit friend, started off being pretty cool but later lost a bit of their allure. Of course, this is just me being very picky, as the whole concept of the spirit companion and what you can do with him is very interesting. Aiden is a sort of playable character as well, especially when you take advantage of the Duo game mode, using another controller, Move device, or smartphone to be able to control one of the two characters.  This gives a new take to the two-player control scheme, which offers a fresh approach to classic game mechanics. The last critique I could find with it is the occasional jerkiness you encounter when controlling Jodie. Getting her from point A to point B can sometimes be more of a chore than is necessary, because of the older turn and walk control layout of old Resident Evil lore. But these instances are few and far between.

Beyond: Two Souls is a title that made the twilight years of PS3 look just as good as when the console was first released. It’s proof that the last-gen console still has some exclusive tricks. The voice and motion capture acting quality is what I came to expect in having played games from Quantic Dream. When I spend ten hours in a game, finish it, and want to start over again, that’s a sign that I was heavily engaged in the product. Now with the next-gen consoles on the market, it will be interesting to see just how far Quantic Dream pushes the boundary between movie realism and video game interactivity.

Morality in A Dead Zone

You sit and watch. Yell at the perceived stupidity of the characters. Tell yourself that you would do things differently. Because you know better than them, right? You, like millions like you in the world, are a Walking Dead fan and pass on your criticism to your television and friends all the time. What’s interesting about being a critic of a zombie apocalypse show is that your opinion could mean less than you think it does. After all, how well do you know yourself in regards to what actions you would take in the characters’ shoes?

ImageSee, I found that I asked myself this question a lot when playing Telltale Games’ award-winning The Walking Dead title recently. I used to sit with friends and watch every Sunday what Rick Grimes and the other survivors did, and we all used to exclaim our distaste for their choices and vowed that we could do better. But, it’s not easy once you have the choice and about 5 seconds to make it. I think that’s what made this game so good to so many people. It turned a mirror onto the player and forced them to consider what exactly holds weight with them.  Continue reading Morality in A Dead Zone

A Pirate’s Life: My Month with Assassin’s Creed IV

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A pirate’s life for me.

Let me begin with a sincere apology: I haven’t written nearly as much as I should these past few months. As I’m sure many of you understand, the tasks of life always seem to overtake the wishes of our pastimes. I promise to be more diligent in the future with my gaming musings and such.

Part of the reason I’ve been away from the blogging scene, besides the long hours I’ve been working, is the even longer time I spent trying to earn a 100% completion rate for Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. I determined a long while ago that out of all the kinds of gamers out there, I’m definitely a completionist, especially when it comes to this franchise. It’s almost a kind of obsession I have had ever since the first title, and I definitely cannot stop now. With this title, I was able to experience a whole new type of simulation in the squalor of a pirate’s life as well as the continuing story both past and present that has kept me intrigued for years. I’ll do my best to keep this as spoiler-free as possible. I’d like to focus mainly on the motivations of the protagonist, both the pirate in the history books and the present-day person you control outside of the Animus.  Continue reading A Pirate’s Life: My Month with Assassin’s Creed IV

‘Twas The Night Before Christmas: A Batman Review

ImageFor as long as I can remember, I’ve been Batman. I stood on coffee tables in a pose with Michael Keaton’s Caped Crusader, stood in line for midnight releases of Christian Bale’s Dark Knight and owned more Batman toys than I knew what to do with. I would even go so far as to admit that he’s my hero in life. So, when I get a good chance to be the World’s Greatest Detective in a game, I take it. This is what I was able to do with Batman: Arkham Asylum and City, and I can say that Arkham Origins does not disappoint. Though there is not anything revolutionary about the game, the gameplay brings me right back to that familiar feeling of being awesome, and the story is a treat for those looking for an introspective look into Batman’s early years.

Don’t let the title of the game fool you; Arkham Origins is about a lot more than just Batman making his name in Gotham City. There is so much more to the plot. To give a very brief synopsis, while others are sleeping and making gifts for their children on Christmas Eve, Batman is forced to deal with prison riots and a price on his head all night. Throughout the evening, Batman is forced to deal with his own understanding of evil and violence. WB Montreal, the creators of the game, find interesting ways of driving the story along. Though the project was passed on from Rocksteady, WB Montreal did not drop the ball. Development companies were not the only thing that changed; both Batman and The Joker have been replaced from their usual voice actors. However, both Roger Craig Smith and Troy Baker make excellent replacements for their respective characters. Overall, the game does not suffer in terms of its story elements.

ImageAs for the gameplay, not much has changed in the combat or exploratory schemes. Players can still trade punches with the skill of the Dark Knight. Some additions include more skilled enemies and boss battles that you will remember after the credits roll. Also, a new element of the detective mode has been created in which players can review evidence and reconstruct crime scenes in order to solve murders and progress in the story. Batman doesn’t really get much in the way of new gadgets; the tools he does get to use are mostly reimagined concepts of previous game items. But, that doesn’t mean that they still don’t serve their purpose. The developers find new ways to incorporate these uses into a new game. Critics have faulted the game for any lack of creativity and new concepts, but I personally think sometimes change isn’t always good. One doesn’t always need to innovate in order to succeed.

This leads me into the brand new multiplayer mode. The idea of it sounds pretty cool: three players on the Joker’s team, three on ImageBane’s team, and two playing as Batman and Robin. All 8 of these players compete in deathmatch-style combat. Now, I said that the idea “sounds” cool, because I haven’t been able to play it at all. Maybe there is an issue with the servers, or maybe there aren’t enough people playing the game. Unfortunately, I have not been able to start a single match. I will definitely keep trying, but I’m being a bit of a realist concerning the idea of being able to have a successful multiplayer campaign.

Finally, one can discuss the decision of getting the season pass for the DLC content. Personally, I’m not big on buying season passes, just for the reason of not wanting to spend a certain amount of money all at once. I’d rather spread the cost over time, even if that means paying a little more. Arkham Origins is no different. A little research showed that the majority of the DLC coming are packs of skins or costumes that can be used in the campaign or challenges. Yes, those costumes will probably be pretty cool to look at; I really enjoyed many of the ones offered in Arkham City. But, buying before trying when it comes to new skins isn’t really something I’m prepared to do. I suppose it’s dependent on the perceived value for each player.

Batman: Arkham Origins is a great title for both fans of the series and newcomers to the Arkham line of games. The fighting mechanics and exploratory playing are familiar and fun to master. This game’s story will show any player a deeper side to Batman’s mind and the reason why he fights. Finally, with solid graphics and a strikingly haunting soundtrack, the immersion will keep players going for hours. I’d recommend this title for anyone looking for a good Christmas gift or holiday game to experience.

FINISH HIM!!! by Marcus Brown

mklogoMy days as an elementary gamer consisted of twice as many SNES games as I could play. My decisions to own games (all funded by my parents’ money, of course) was based off of what seemed cool and hip, even if I barely played more than an hour of the game itself. You know how it is when you’re a kid. You have to get that one toy that looks awesome, especially if you saw it on TV. That is, until the next new toy came out that was even cooler than the last. Well, that’s how I was with games. Own 30, beaten 5.

Anyways, one series of games that I made sure to play to the best of my childhood ability was Mortal Kombat. I owned so many of those titles, and I don’t even remember why I did. Something about the brutal fighting of the characters and the somewhat consistent story kept me going. As I grew older, and my gaming tastes matured, I grew out of love with the combat franchise. However, I was watching the Legacy series on YouTube earlier today, and it got me thinking about my days with Liu Kang and Sub Zero. I wondered to myself, “Is Mortal Kombat on its deathbed?”

mk1For me, it all started with the OG, the first title, created with somewhat live-action characters on a basic background. I recognize that Street Fighter came first in the fighting game genre, but Mortal Kombat was a new breed. Lots of blood, fatalities, and fast combos gave new life to the fighting game, and I loved every second of it. I’m pretty sure I beat the first one, and maybe the second one two. I remember the games becoming increasingly more difficult with each new iterationmk3. MK3 was the title that brought in the insane combos and eclectic finishers. (Babality? And don’t forget animalities.) It was here that I started dialing back a little on my interest into Midway’s golden child.

Then came the movies. Man, I remember being so excited to see the first Mortal Kombat film. I must have seen it about 10 times at least. The sequel kind of kept my interest, though I have this issue with sequels not retaining hardly any of the cast from the previous film. But, I let that slide mkmovieand watched a live-action attempt at Liu Kang becoming a dragon and Johnny Cage dying in the first 3 minutes. I should mention at this point that I watched the original film a few months ago. Hated it. About as much as I hate the George Clooney Batman film, and that’s saying something. However, I can’t completely knock the films now, seeing as how they were so much fun for me to experience as a child.

Once I got my Playstation, my interest was rejuvenated in one of my first games I ever owned: Mortal Kombat mkm1Mythologies: Sub Zero. If you never heard of this game, it’s not surprising. It wasn’t exactly well-known when I was a kid. But basically, it’s a 2D side scrolling game about Sub Zero’s journey into the original MK tournament. It was pretty cool too. You leveled up, got better special attacks, and the cinemas were acted about by live actors instead of animation. This was around the same time that Mortal Kombat 4 was released, so Mythologies contained some of those characters too. I loved it.

After all that, I feel like the series just fell out of touch with me. I know that there were many other titles made after that, but I just lost interest. There wasn’t enough to keep me interested. Now, this isn’t just reserved for Mortal Kombat. I generally lose interest in all fighting games after a short while, unless they have ways to keep me vested. MK just seemed to kinda fade away in the tide of new and exciting games. I do know that I can definitely find these games on the PSN, but I wonder if they would have the same feeling of brutal combat or if I would just be hit with a brief feeling of nostalgia and nothing more.

injThis is one reason why I’m excited to play Injustice: Gods Among Us. I’ve done a little of the Vs. mode and seen more gameplay on it, but I haven’t had a chance to do any story mode with it, though I’m definitely doing so next week. Made by the team behind Mortal Kombat, Injustice seems to have that hard-hitting combat and atmosphere that I wanted all along in a bloody fighting game. And who knows, maybe I’ll finally master a finishing move without looking like an idiot jumping all over the place and randomly punching the air as I did so frequently in older MK games.

By the way: make sure you check out the Mortal Kombat: Legacy videos on YouTube if you haven’t already. They are an amazing imagining of how the universe of these games should have been.

Also, if you want an entertaining mod watch of Street Fighter vs. Mortal Kombat, watch this.

Musings of a Veteran Gamer