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Zombies and Titans

new_gamesscreenshot_composite

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.

My Favorite Game

Alfa Romeo

The last two weeks I have been getting back in the groove with a few games that I overplayed and set aside. These include Call of Duty Black Ops 2, Assassin’s Creed 3 and Forza 4. Though all three of these have new versions coming out in a few weeks for the Xbox 360 and a bit later for the Xbox One, I am waiting for the new console, so I have about five more weeks to go.

I played a few rounds of Black Ops 2 and started feeling more comfortable again and my scores reflected it, but then the inevitable happened. During an online match I encountered two guys who apparently are very angry, racist and homophobic. They were, if nothing else, verbose and shared their opinions freely about everything and everyone they encountered. Typically, I mute the entire group, but this time had not and kept thinking that eventually these idiots would just tire out and shut up. No such luck. I cannot blame the game developers that their creations attract this kind of person, but it is a simple fact that other great game types do not.

I am sometimes asked if I have a favorite game and I have always replied that Forza would be my first choice and then add a list of other excellent games. Playing Forza the last two weeks I was reminded why I love it so much. There are many realistic racing games out there and some are quite good. I own many of them and have played them extensively. Although Forza offers one of, if not the most realistic driving “feel” for each vehicle, that is only part of what makes this game unique. The ability to collect, upgrade and paint your vehicles is more advanced and better integrated than any other driving game I have played. You don’t have to want to race every time you play Forza, you just need to want to be around cars. It is a chance to own, drive, tune and augment some of the greatest cars of all time. It is also a way to learn and to teach.

My three boys all love cars, and because of my interest in cars, my sons can identify most exotic makes when we see them on the road (a fact of which I am hugely proud). Years ago, one of my sons who was about six at the time, saw a sleek Granturismo Sport in the lane next to us and yelled “Look, Masirata!” That one is a keeper and I will much more gladly trade Maserati for “Masirata” than Porsche for “Porsh.” Recently, while driving locally, my oldest son asked the make of a car stopped at a traffic light. I told him that it was a De Tomaso Pantera. Not a car that one sees very often as over its twenty-year production run, only 7260 were made. That night I added the exact model we saw to my collection in Forza.  The accuracy of Forza in terms of the details of the car models and their distinct driving qualities allows the game to be a reference even for those that don’t yet know how to drive in real life.

I also enjoy being part of an international community that appreciates cars and car culture. Users have been posting custom and replica liveries, tunes and graphics for years and the collection is impressive. I have created a few of my own. My focus is taking a lesser known model and making a replica of an actual winning car. I have made a half dozen or so, the most popular of which is for the 1965 Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GTA Stradale. This livery was purchased 62 times over the last two years. This is hardly impressive as some designs are downloaded thousands of times yet I find it impressive that 62 people selected a design for Rafael Barrios’ n24 which won first in class and the overall win in the 1971 Premio Ciudad de Alcaniz. (See my reference materials here.) Not a well-known racer nor race, yet players sought it out and applied to their cars. These are my people.

Am I looking forward to the new games? You could say that. The new versions of all of the games look really impressive on the new consoles and certainly Forza 5 is no exception. I am glad to see that they have added and improved without losing what makes the game special. I am bit saddened to learn however, that my Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel will not work with the Xbox One and my Wheel Stand Pro will most likely not accept the new wheels. You can learn about the new wheels at the Forza website. I guess even virtual racing can get expensive, but from where I sit, it’s really all for educational purposes.

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