Comicon 2014

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Recently, Comicon came to New York City and a group of us went to experience the event. None of us had been to a Comicon before, and although some of us have had experience with related trade shows and events, we did not really know what to expect. So many preconceptions jump out. As it turns out, many of them are accurate.

Our crew consisted of my sister, her daughter and her best friend as well as a close online friend and my oldest son and me. This is essentially our gaming “crew” as well. We had planned this trip months in advance and looked forward to it.

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I think that what you get out of the experience depends greatly on what you are expecting. This is true in most cases and is the subject of my next post, but in this case, I believe that we did not have any specific expectations and therefore were not disappointed. That is not to say however, that the event was what I thought it would be. Comicon has a large open floor area as well as special panels and various side rooms where scheduled events occur. We were there for the floor experience. In my mind, Comicon is a bit like Burning Man, with unbelievably well-made costumes with an almost anarchistic bent. In actuality, a bit yes and a bit no. Costumed attendees are everywhere and in many cases the costumes are very impressive in terms of workmanship and detail but also in the wearer’s ability to embody what often is an exaggerated physique. Not all can make that claim unfortunately. The best image to explain Comicon is one in which a costumed attendee is taking a photo of another costumed attendee. This is a very common thing to see here.

The overall feeling of openness and inclusiveness is refreshing and almost makes fighting the crowds fun. The presence of large game and other software developers or even toy and accessory manufacturers was limited. There were many third party distributors of toys, clothing, accessories and various specialty items. If you like comic, Sci-fi and game related titles and characters, this is the place for you. I saw many items for sale that I have never seen anywhere else. Some collector’s items, others just fun trinkets.

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Being there with family and friends definitely added to the experience and the difference in ages and perspectives also made for a wide variety of interests. None of us are very into comic books but all are avid gamers. We also like the same games and characters, many of whom were represented both as items for purchase as well as live in costume. Our favorites included various miniatures, weapons and items of clothing from Borderlands, Plants Vs Zombies and Minecraft. We purchased a few Borderlands related t-shirts from Glitch as well as a plush CL4P-TP  (Clap Trap) that says twenty different phrases and from a different vendor, a plush turret from Portal 2 that not only also speaks, it is touch sensitive and says different things when “killed.”

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that Comicon, unlike other shows of its kind, is not primarily represented by the creators of the various entities, but by third-party vendors. Very few game, film or television developers were present. Instead, a wide variety of companies and vendors promoting and selling items related to the characters, shows and games filled the aisles. But most all it seems that Comicon is about the fans and their identification with the characters. On the way out we ran into a couple that had come with their own life-size CL4P-TP. Made of cardboard and built atop a RC car, it was mobile and surprisingly stable. Best of all it completely captured the essence of the event – creativity, individualism and fun.

Hype and its Costs

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There seems to be an established norm in the game industry that the biggest releases require not just brilliant marketing and seemingly limitless advertising budgets, but must inevitably accrue a previously unprecedented level of hype as well. Sometimes the hype is internally generated in the form of claims of “Next-Gen” or whatever and other times, it is the target audience or press that project their desires on the game in varying levels of accuracy. No doubt, hype sells games. It also has its downsides.

It is impossible to ignore the recent release of Bungie‘s Destiny. Ads for the game and its release are everywhere you look online and the live action commercials run frequently on television. I have played the game extensively, finished the campaign and am continuing with the strikes, crucible matches and various available sides missions. I like the game more than I expected I would. It is beautifully crafted and apart from some recent server connection issues, plays smoothly. It cost $500 million dollars to make and earned that amount back in its first day. But it’s clear that it is a victim of its own hype. Most of the criticisms I have read and heard are a direct result of the claims that the developer made. I expected that there would a backlash to a launch this large, but some of the critiques go well beyond my guesses.

As Dennis Scimeca of “The Daily Dot” noted “If any studio other than Bungie had released such a bait-and-switch as Destiny, critics and gamers alike would be losing their minds.” It could be worse? Maybe I am missing something, but this is a solid and fun game and no game ever lives up to the hype. In fact, nothing does. No film, no phone, nothing. People always seem to expect more – at least some people do. I could mention politics at this point but that world is so skewed by each individual’s own agenda to render it inapplicable. I don’t think that the detractors of the game have a specific agenda, but the scale of their disappointment still surprises me. In his article “Destiny doesn’t come close to living up to the hype,” Dennis Scimeca provides his review of the game and explains what he believes are the game’s many shortcomings. For the most part, I agree with his opinions. The main missions are repetitive and follow the formula too closely. The addition of the recent Queen’s Wrath missions have helped broaden the selection if only in levels of difficulty and not terrain or the enemies fought.

It is odd that the game cannot be played without Xbox Live, a fact that came acutely to our attention a few weeks ago when we temporarily lost power and as a result, our Verizon FIOS as well. A local transformer had spiked and then ran out of juice completely which, in turn fried our master FIOS box and left us without phone, cable or internet connectivity for days. This was especially irritating as it was over a long weekend when my oldest son and I were planning on spending some time playing the game. As our friends played and advanced beyond our player levels, we realized how much we enjoyed and missed the game. We are back and have been making up for lost time. It’s a shame that there is no split screen option as most of the time we play we could both be playing if the option was available.

To me, Destiny feels like a blend of the recent titles from the Halo and Mass Effect series. If I have one complaint about Destiny it is that it is a bit short on soul. The Halo series casts a long shadow in this respect as the characters in Destiny are in no way personal. Even the live action commercial contains more emotion, humor, wit and bravado. Mass Effect went much farther in that respect with actual scripted interplay between the characters. It added another level not only in gameplay but in how much you like and identify with the cast. If you are really looking for a game with personality and soul try Red Dead Redemption or any of the Borderlands series. No one has more soul or humor than Borderlands. But no matter what the critics say, there is plenty to enjoy in Destiny.

“Can We Kick It” Music Video

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In late March, a group of friends and I shot a music video with the band 3am Tokyo for a track off of their latest album “One of Those Crazy Nights”. Their Top 40 single, “Can We Kick It?” was inspired by A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It?” and is sung by 3am Tokyo’s leader, Picasso Brown and guest singer, Go Go Gadjet’s Jeff Tomrell.

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We shot the video at the Paterson Art Factory in Paterson, New Jersey in a series of warehouse spaces also used for the Paterson Art Walk. The spaces house various artists and businesses and are occasionally used for filming and events. The location has turn of the century industrial ambiance, great open spaces and some amazing details.

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Early on we decided to shoot the video using GoPro Hero cameras. This let us try some alternative shooting techniques and use a number of off the shelf and improvised mounts that we could not have afforded if not for the flexibility of the small cameras. These included various handles, booms and a ceiling fan rig that was used for the focal segment of the video. In this scene (topmost photo), the two singers face each other and the camera rotates around them in the space between them and their respective posses.

Everyone who participated in the production of the video deserves a huge thank you including the band members, and the breakdancers and extras that Picasso invited to come show off their moves and their attitudes. Without them it would not have been possible. Jeff Tomrell, whose professionalism and upbeat attitude made the shoot a breeze, was a pro to work with, and I especially want to thank Picasso, himself, for his on-set and on-camera skills, as well as his behind-the-scenes dedication to making sure that everything went off without a hitch. When that level of talent is combined with a creative production team including Herta Silva, Jeff Sokolowski and Rob Taylor, you get a fun day of shooting and a video that rocks.

Credits

Director: Charles Kliment | Producers: Picasso Brown and Charles Kliment | Cameras: Charles Kliment, Herta Silva, Jeff Sokolowski and Rob Taylor | Editing: Charles Kliment, Picasso Brown and Paolo Bowyer | Still Photography: Justyna Piechuta

About 3am Tokyo

3AM Tokyo is the brainchild of Grammy nominated Singer/Songwriter/Producer “Picasso”. A powerful mix of pop, hip-hop, electro dance, dubstep, and rock sets the band apart from their peers. 3AM is well known for their aggressive, high energy shows. From their inception, it’s been clear that they’ve been on a mission to fire up the any stage and impress every crowd they come in contact with.
3AM’s explosive sound has been pushing stages throughout multiple major cities on the East Coast, and they’re quickly becoming a college town favorite.

With the 2013 release of 3AM’s debut album “One of Those Crazy Nights” Picasso collaborated with select musicians from other notable regional acts. Featured were lead singers from Kristen & The Noise, Lost in Paris, Liquid A, Go Go Gadjet, and more. The album is getting lots of well-deserved attention and the band straps in for an amazing ride of endless opportunity in 2014.

itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/one…
twitter: https://www.twitter.com/@3amtokyo_
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/3amtokyo
web: https://www.3amtokyo.com

Age Appropriateness

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My boys are all at camp for a month, and it is the time of the year that my wife and I clean up and organize the house and yard. It has also been a while since I wrote about the latest games, many of which my sons and I have been playing over the last few months. These include Watch Dogs, Wolfenstein: The New Order and Disney Infinity. I finished the main campaign of Watch Dogs last week and Wolfenstein a few days ago and enjoyed both.

Watch Dogs has a few sections that definitely earn the game its Mature (M) rating. Often games end up with this rating and you wonder why – take the Halo series, for example. The violence is slightly gory in an otherworldly sense, but when compared to other games, films and television and cable series it seems rather tame. There is no foul language and no sex.

There are games like the Grand Theft Auto series that earn their M ratings with pride. Practically every minute of the game is filled with language and actions that are inappropriate for younger players. But these games are the exception, not the rule. Most fall somewhere in between and require responsible parents to make a decision, black flagging certain games because you don’t have the time to examine their content read the reviews and watch the previews or better yet, try them yourself.

Many games on the market today fall on the border of what tweens should be comfortable with. Of course, this greatly depends on the tweens in question. My own sons, who are 11 and 13 years old, are not in a rush to mature (and who can blame them), yet show interest in certain types of content but not others. As I am sure is common at their ages, the excitement of battle is thrilling, but sexual content is unappealing and scary.

Language is another matter. My kids typically do not swear – at least not when I am in earshot. Although we are far from saints with our language, we do not encourage or abide by our children expressing themselves using language inappropriate to their surroundings.

To those of you who are under the impression that modern video games expose this generation to language rougher than that to which we were exposed as kids, I have a wake up call. Select your favorite comedy film from the 1980s, say Ghostbusters, Trading PlacesAirplane or Short Circuit, and watch an unedited (uncensored for broadcast television) version. You will be surprised how many commonly bleeped words are used, not to mention the casual references to oral sex acts and the like. I don’t know about your parenting style, but I would rather reassure my child who might be frightened by a video game monster than explain what the stewardess in Airplane is doing to the “auto pilot.”

This is why in the case of games such as Dead Rising 3 and Watch Dogs parents must be extra vigilant. You might think that hacking and fighting bad guys is fine or that mowing down zombie hoards is so far from reality that it seems fine, but keep in mind that these games contain scenes that make it pretty clear why they earned their M rating. In Watch Dogs it is more implied than explicit, but in the case of Dead Rising, the side missions where you fight the psychopaths present a who’s who of perversions that would make the hillbillies of Deliverance blush.

Now, I have read some complaints about Watch Dogs being a bit of a disappointment and not living up to its hype. It’s an engaging game with a large sandbox and a few new ideas, but I would agree it’s not the groundbreaking next-gen stunner that it was purported to be. I am still holding out hope that Tom Clancy’s The Division will be that game.

I doubt that many had high expectations for the reboot of the Wolfenstein series, and it fared better in reviews as a result. It’s old-style carnage fun brought up to today’s graphic and gameplay standards. It’s hard not to enjoy this game, but again it’s not for all audiences.

My kids are at that pivotal moment where they are interested in games and films that are more adult than what they are used to but still welcome playing games that aim squarely at a younger audience. I am not in a rush for them to move from this spot as with the broadening of their horizons comes a loss of innocence that cannot be regained. Watch Dogs, meet Disney Infinity.

I will leave you with a new video from this year’s E3 highlighting the developments in The Division as well as the other game that I am greatly looking forward to, Far Cry 4. Both look stunning.

The Gamers You Thought You Knew

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A new study commissioned by the streaming video platform Twitch entitled “The New Face of Gamers,” released this week reveals some interesting facts about the gaming public. In her article, “Gamers More Likely To Be Social, Educated Than Non-Gamers,” Lisa Winter summarizes some of the key findings:

Gamers are more likely to consider family a top priority than non-gamers (82% vs 68%) as well as placing a high importance on friends (57% vs 35%). Gamers and their parents are also more likely to have been college educated (43% and 52%, respectively) than non-gamers and their parents (36% and 37%, respectively).

When it comes to their occupation, 67% of gamers feel positive about their aspirations, while only 42% of non-gamers feel the same way. Gamers are also more likely to be employed full time than those who don’t partake in games (42% vs 39%). Sixty-one percent of gamers would describe themselves as natural leaders, compared to 35% of non-gamers.

Socially-speaking, gamers are much more likely to value personally making a positive impact on society (76% vs 55%) while preferring to shop at corporations backing social causes (58% vs 36%). Ethical business practices matter to 78% of gamers, compared to 65% of non-gamers.

Gamers also appear to be more tech-savvy than non-gamers, as they are more likely to use technology like smart phones, tablets, or streaming devices (like Google Chromecast) while at a friend’s house (42% vs 15%), on vacation (40% vs 18%), at work (20% vs 10%), commuting (19% vs 5%) or at a restaurant (18% vs 6%). With gamers being connected so frequently, they could be influencing how media content is distributed. Broadcast television tune-in frequency is down 12% in 2014 when compared to 2011 as part of the trend away from traditional media and coming toward online sources.

Despite the success of sites like Lumosity, I think that this perspective is long overdue and the reporting often missing many of the positive aspects of gaming and gamers. It seems to be more popular to continue to bash video games as a childish waste of time at best and a training ground for homicidal maniacs at worst. As always, the truth is more complicated. Over the past few months, Lisa Winter has written other articles concerning how the playing of video games has been linked to a boost in brain volume and creating a sharper mind:

There has been a lot of recent research to suggest that video games improve brain performance – and now a recent study has shown that just 30 minutes of gameplay per day for two months can actually increase the volume of gray matter in the areas of the brain that control spatial awareness, memory, and strategic thinking. 

I could point out the pluses and minuses of playing video games and try to counteract the stereotype that gaming conjures in most non-gamers, but is it even worth it? I think back to a favorite film of mine, On Any Sunday, in which Bruce Brown legitimizes motorcycle racing much in the same way he did in his previous documentary about surfing, The Endless Summer. Surfing and motorcycle culture have spread all over the world and are enjoyed by the widest variety of people and yet their stereotypes are firmly implanted on everyone’s minds. Why should gamers be any different?

NASCAR Racing Experience

 

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My apologies for the lack of recent posts. I have been busy. Luckily, some of what has kept me busy will provide material for several of my next posts so I will try to make up for lost time in the coming weeks.

IMG_0289_1000I had the opportunity to drive a race car the weekend before last at Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina. Thanks to the NASCAR Racing Experience, I spent eight minutes in Jeff Gordon’s old #24. Those of you who know me or read my blog know that I am an avid fan of motorsport, especially Formula 1 and rally racing. Although oval track racing might not be my first choice, racing is racing and I could not pass up the opportunity to try it out. Driving the car on the track gave me insight into what the actual sport feels like and consequently I gained much respect for the professional drivers. I managed a top speed of 147.81 mph of which I am moderately proud. My wife also drove and delivered a very respectable 142.66 mph. She is an excellent driver, but perhaps not as gun-ho as I for the experience, so I was happy to see how much she overcame fear and took to it. In fact, all of those from our party that drove that day did well and really enjoyed the experience.

IMG_0280_1000The session begins with a short class where instructors explain the car, the spotters and the rules. The cars are all four-speed manuals, so you must know how to drive a stick, but to my surprise, if you don’t, they will teach you. After a few repeated explanations you stand in line, suited up in a fire suit and helmet, ear buds taped to your ears. When it is your turn, you are escorted out to your car and buckled into a five-point harness. The first thing you notice is that the car does not have a speedometer, only a tachometer. At this point your spotter starts talking in your ear and off you go. You start out with a rev limit of 4000 rpm. If you prove capable, your limit is raised by 200 rpm each lap . Before you get too comfortable, however, the ride is over. Within minutes you are handed a printed statement of your top speed. If you drive again in the future, your limits continue to increase. I need to do that again soon.

IMG_0277_1000As I have said in past posts, I love many games but my perennial favorite is Forza. Of all of the racing games, it has the best simulation of the actual driving experience in my opinion. Whenever I have a chance to drive a performance-oriented car, I like to drive the same or as similar as possible in the latest iteration of Forza and compare the experience. I have done this extensively with my own car, a 2011 Subaru STI and wanted to see if the NASCAR race car would feel as accurate.

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In short, yes. The power, the handling and visibility are all dead on. If you crank up your sound system until you can feel the rumble, it will help to make it feel that much more real. The sensation of speed and the car sinking into the banked turns is completely believable.

Those of you with sharp eyes may notice the car I drove in the game is a Monte Carlo and the one I drove in reality is an Impala, but they are very close in most aspects and of the same vintage. The track in the game (Forza 4 in this case) is Sunset Peninsula, a fictitious location but close enough in scale and layout.

Here are a few selected minutes of the eight minute run. It doesn’t really seem like nearly 150 mph, does it? Now imagine going 185 or 200 mph with 42 other cars inches away from you for three or four hours straight – it is a true endurance test on many levels.

I definitely need to try the Mario Andretti Racing Experience next.

Selling Games

Video games are emotional. More emotional than most might expect, it turns out. True, there is always high drama in the scripts of today’s games regardless of genre, but that’s not what I am referring to. There is the excitement and happiness that you see and hear watching my boys play Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare or their newest favorite, Dungeon Defenders. And as I was recently informed by my family, I too get emotional (and loud) occasionally (ok, often) when playing certain games.

The recent launch of Titanfall (See? I went five whole sentences before mentioning it this post) is waist deep in emotions both on the side of the players who are quickly abandoning in droves their old favorite, Call of Duty, and on the side of the creators – Vince Zampella and his colleagues at Respawn Entertainment. The history behind Respawn according to Wikipedia:

On March 1, 2010, Activision amended its report with the Securities and Exchange Commission to add notification that two senior employees of Infinity Ward were being fired due to “breaches of contract and insubordination”. This coincided with Jason West (Infinity Ward president, game director, co-CCO, and CTO) and Vince Zampella (CEO and co-founder of Infinity Ward) editing their profiles on the website LinkedIn to list Infinity Ward as a former employer as of March 2010. Reportedly, a meeting between Zampella, West, and Activision staff occurred on March 1, after which neither Zampella nor West were seen; this was followed by the arrival of security guards at the studio.[1][2] It was later confirmed by Activision that West and Zampella had been dismissed, and had been replaced on an interim basis by Activision CTO Steve Pearce and head of production Steve Ackrich.[3]

On April 12, 2010 the Los Angeles Times reported that West and Zampella were forming a new independent gaming studio known as Respawn Entertainment.  As of July 10, 2010, 38 of the 46 Infinity Ward employees who resigned from that studio following the firings of West and Zampella revealed through their LinkedIn and Facebook profiles that they had signed on with Respawn Entertainment.[7][8]

In his article in the New York Times last week, “Acquiring Status as Big as Their Robots, Titanfall the Game Turns Designers Into Stars“, wrote:

Video game designers may be the world’s most anonymous creative professionals, at least among the makers of mass entertainment. That’s because game players tend to extend their loyalty to favorite franchises or proven studios rather than to individual designers.

But this isn’t always the case. Vince Zampella and his colleagues at Respawn Entertainment, a new studio founded by veterans of the military shooters Call of Duty and Medal of Honor, have quickly become celebrities in the industry. Last week, they released the year’s most anticipated and talked-about game, Titanfall, a multiplayer science-fiction shooter that pits people and giant robots against one another in a crucible of frustration, accomplishment and exhilaration that players describe with the word “fun.”

The marketing dollars and prowess of Microsoft, which is betting on Titanfall to help its Xbox One console overtake Sony’s PlayStation 4 in sales, have something to do with the newfound fame for Mr. Zampella and Respawn. Yet the faith that players have in the work of these designers — on titles like Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, Call of Duty and, especially, the billion-dollar Modern Warfare series — has played a much larger role in the hype. The success of Respawn and the excitement over Titanfall represent one of the few times that a new studio has garnered considerable attention based on the reputation of its designers for doing good work elsewhere.

But there is another side of games apart from the emotion of the competition  – the camaraderie, the teamwork, the team. Many of my favorite game experiences have been in multiplayer games, many of those online. Recent games include Titanfall, Call of Duty Ghosts, Minecraft and Borderlands 2. So there is a sadness that creeps over me when I learn that one of my friends has sold a game that we could potentially play again. This has happened to me a few times lately, so I decided to ask a few questions. These include “Have you ever sold or traded a game?”, “How much do you typically get for games?” and “Have you ever regretted selling game later?”

Some of my friends shared the questions with their friends and the results are not surprising. Many have sold games in the past and continue to do so. The main reason is often financial, but storage space being limited in many cases keeping the number of games low is just a good idea. I can sympathize on both accounts. New games are not cheap and with the ubiquitous season passes adding $50 to so many popular games, they aren’t getting any cheaper. There is definitely something to be said for not having to look at games that you don’t care for cluttering up your shelves.

I do not sell my games. There are a few reasons for this and I will list them to quell your unbridled curiosity, but I am not really interested in starting a dialogue about whether it is good or bad to sell your games. It’s a decision that each must make for him or herself.

Typically when I buy a new game, I am not the only one who will play it. I have three sons who each like similar games but in the past have shown interest in varied games as well. Thus the chance that a game that I have completed will be played by someone else is very good. I can completely appreciate wanting to recoup some of the cost of gaming by selling games that I think I will no longer play or ones that I think are just terrible. The problem as I see it is that terrible games are not worth much to GameStop or Walmart or on eBay. And games that I think are horrendous on occasion end up being a family cult favorite (yes I’m talking to you Looney Tunes ACME Arsenal). The games that are worth something to resellers are ones that we are still actively playing.

This has been on my mind for some time and I would have let it go, but a few of my friends sold games that we all had purchased recently. I was a bit sad that Dead Rising 3 was among them, but when I heard that both of my friends had sold Forza 5 I had to write. Forza? Why don’t you just break the disc in half and stab me in the heart with it? My favorite game and you sell it? No, it’s ok. Everyone has to do what they think is right. I’m just getting a bit emotional.

 

 

Out of Sync

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I am feeling a bit out of sync gaming-wise. On Tuesday, while the entire gaming world played Titanfall, I was playing Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare. Also a great game, but not this week’s news. In fact, I was trying to catch up to my sons who are now level 20 or 30 in PvZ GW. Much like Titanfall, Plants vs Zombies is suffering from connection issues. Titanfall’s server problems seem to be from the crush of players trying to get on. The issues with PvZ seem more sporadic.

In any case, as a parent I am happy to see my boys playing Garden Warfare. It is a breath of innocent fun. It makes the transition from 2d to 3d while maintaining the spirit of the original. Although I allow my eldest son to play more mature games including Dead Rising 3, I appreciate that he prefers Garden Warfare. Dead Rising 3 is a sick but fun slaughterfest and there are few substitutes when you are in the mood for that type of game. But some scenes, especially those of the psycho boss battles include material that is truly deviant and I am happy that he did not play those sections.

My copy of Titanfall should arrive tomorrow and I will undoubtedly spend untold hours playing online. It seems as though the entire gaming world is turning on Call of Duty. Years of complaints about lagging, modding, cheating and unrealistic gun capabilities have added up and created a frustrated gaming population. Perhaps the situation is simply that there is an enormous audience of people who want to play the premier first person shooter and despite Battlefield‘s best efforts, COD ruled. Until now. Titanfall certainly has the developer pedigree and the right backstory, but it’s time to see how real the claims and hype truly are. I hope they don’t disappoint.

Titanfall Beta

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The Titanfall Beta will end tonight and we will all have to wait a few weeks for the game to come out on March 11. It has proven to be a big hit with my friends and colleagues. It has fared well in the inevitable comparisons to the Call of Duty series. This should come as little surprise as the game’s developer, Respawn Entertainment, was the developer of the Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2 editions of COD (as Infinity ward), two of the series’ best loved games.

Unlike COD and Battlefield in which users benefit enormously from past play and specific experience with maps, weapons and combat techniques, Titanfall is easy to pick up and quick to advance. As there is no prone position and no auto-aiming, there is little camping and no quick scoping. For those of us who enjoy a “run and gun” style of play, this is huge. The increased mobility, both two and three dimensionally especially when combined with the enhanced speed make for a fun and thoroughly engaging experience. Playing with my twelve-year old son is also a better experience than online multiplayer COD as the audience is not as openly rude if you happen to forget to mute everyone. Although the game is non-stop action and is as violent as any other FPS, the inclusion of the Titans and the style of gameplay somehow make the killing less ultra-realistic and somehow by proxy less horrific.

For an excellent in-depth discussion of the beta and the game, please visit Gamespot’s Titanfall: The Pros Weigh In

Zombies and Titans

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The new consoles have been out for two months now and the gaming audience that eagerly awaited the new batch of games has now completed them. We finished the single player campaigns in Call of Duty Ghosts and Battlefield 4. We sailed the seas as Edward Kenway and retired a happy family man in Assassin’s Creed 4 Black Flag. We help break up slave trafficking as Adewale in Freedom Cry. Sure, we are still playing though the racing leagues and leveling up in Forza 5 (over 50 now) and nearing time to prestige in COD (many already have long ago), but we need something new.

Forza Car packs help keep up the interest, especially when they include sexy Alfa Romeos and Maseratis from the sixties, but new tracks would be appreciated as well. The COD Onslaught expansion pack is also a welcome addition with not only four new maps but also the excellent new chapter for extinction mode as well as a new weapon. It is a little frustrating, however, that the new maps are not accessible in squads mode.

Every gamer that I speak with has the same question, “Where are the new games?” It seems as though there is a dearth of new titles, yet there are many available as you can see by the graphic at left.

A few of the titles that I am looking forward to most have been delayed including Tom Clancy’s The Division. Many of us are pinning our hopes on Titanfall, which I have heard is as good as we would hope. Apparently, Titanfall actually has dedicated servers, unlike other games that promised them and didn’t deliver. The multiplayer and extinction game modes in Call of Duty Ghosts are excellent but suffer from incredible lagging at times. The lagging in multiplayer is especially pronounced. If you are lucky to be on the favored side of the server you can have a great experience and usually do well in scoring. If you are on the less favored side, it is frustrating and repetitive. Apparently, the situation may have been made worse by an update to the game prior to the release of the Onslaught expansion pack.

And the situation is even worse if you are looking for a four-player family-oriented game. There are a few great four player games for the Xbox 360, many of which we enjoy whenever we play as a group. Castle Crashers, Bomberman, Mad Tracks and 3d Ultra Minigolf are some our favorites. We have not even needed to purchase more than two controllers for the Xbox One and it is not just due to the improved Kinect sensor – until now there was not a compelling game for more than two players (on one console). Plants Vs Zombies is a big hit in our house. We not only have the various versions of the game on Xbox 360 and more importantly on the iPads, but we also have plush and lots of it. Pea shooters, zombies, you name it.

As you can imagine then, we are looking forward to the release of Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare with great anticipation. It appears that the split screen mode exclusive to the Xbox One will only allow two players on a single console. As we only have a single Xbox One, this means that we will not be able to play this game with four people either.

Even sports games like NBA 2K14, Madden 25 and NHL 14 do not offer four player local split screen gameplay. There is a useful list of all four-player games available for the Xbox 360 at this Gamespot forum. I have not yet found such a list for the Xbox One console, but IGN does have a complete list of available games as well rumored games on their website.

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