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The Xbox One at One – Part One

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It has been a year since the release of the Xbox One and it seems time to review what the new platform has offered and how it fared. The list below are Xbox One titles that my family and friends purchased and played over the last twelve months as well as their respective review scores from IGN and Gamespot. There are a many things of interest to note.  Overall, Gamespot rates games lower than IGN but the ratings are consistent except for the freakishly low 6 for Destiny from Gamespot. I cannot explain why they alone seem to find that game lacking. Other than that anomaly however, the games all enjoyed high ratings and popular success. I cannot pick a loser in this bunch. Each delivered what it promised and looked great doing it.

Date Title IGN Rating Gamespot Rating
November 2013 Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag 8.5 9
Battlefield 4 8.5 8
Call of Duty: Ghosts 8.8 7
Dead Rising 3 8.3
Forza Motorsport 5 8.8
February 2014 Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 7.8 7.5
March 2014 Titanfall 8.9 8.6
May 2014 Watch Dogs 8.4 8
Wolfenstein: The New Order 7.8 8
September 2014 Destiny 7.8 6
Forza Horizon 2 8.3 8
November 2014 Assassin’s Creed Unity 7.8 7
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare 9.1 8
Far Cry 4 8.5 7

What were our favorites? It depends who you ask. My kids loved Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare and expressed fleeting admiration for Forza Horizon 2. For me, standouts included Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Titanfall both of which are solid and beautiful examples of their genres. All of the adult gamers agreed that Call of Duty: Ghosts suffered from the same issue as many titles in that series, lag. In the case of Ghosts, the issue is so severe that we don’t bother playing it anymore. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare seems to be a bit better behaved but I haven’t played in a few weeks. For me the Forza games are always a big hit and Forza Motorsport 5 and Horizon 2 are both the best in their respective series.

But the true standout for us all and the biggest surprise for all us as well is Destiny. In terms of total playtime since its launch, nothing comes close to our focus on Destiny. With the “The Dark Below” DLC about a week away, the new content will keep us busy for a while.

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.

 

 

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.

Interface

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Happy New Year to all. I have been deeply nested in holiday and home for a month, playing games with family and friends. Over the holidays, we went skiing and tubing in Pennsylvania with another family and had a great time playing some old favorites and some “new” games. The house in which we stayed in had a pool table, which was thoroughly enjoyed by adults and children alike as was a “bar top” trivia game. The gaming system is called the Megatouch XL and this version hailed from 1995. It features a touchscreen CRT display and a color VGA display (although ours often dropped out to a faint blue color). The system has 20 or so games such as solitaire, poker, trivia, mah jong and even horse racing. Despite the fact that every child had their own tablet (and all of the adults had smart phones), everyone was drawn to this retro tech oddity. It wasn’t that the content was so good that we overlooked the poor graphics and sound — we genuinely enjoyed the quaintness of the experience. You might jump to the conclusion that this was us recalling fond memories of playing similar games in our youth, but the younger generation was even more drawn to it than the adults. Was it just the curiosity of it? Who knows, but my eldest wants us to acquire one for our home. They do take up considerable space, perhaps  Megatouch makes an app. In fact, they do, many of them.megatouchxl

Over the last few weeks I couldn’t help but notice the development of interpersonal skills while gaming. The holidays provide opportunities to get together and spend more time with your kids. My boys and I certainly played a wide variety of games, both digital and analog with other kids of various ages as well as adults. It didn’t really matter whether we played pool, dominoes, Chinese checkers or Call of Duty Ghosts or Forza 5 — it is always interesting to note the interactions between kids (and adults, too) while they play games. Perhaps the act of playing a game with a given set of rules allows people to let down their guard some and show their emotions in a less restricted way. Maybe we see their truer self.

It’s not always a matter of competition either. Some of the most volatile and contentious situations happen while my kids build worlds in Minecraft. Regardless of game type, the adults try to instill the right values concerning sportsmanship and fair play as well as the golden rule. Many adults see video games as out of their comfort zone and don’t necessarily apply the same coaching approach. In general, we were pleasantly surprised at how well everyone got along and the few incidents that occurred were all used as teachable moments.

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With regard to my own gaming, I have been almost exclusively focused on Assassin’s Creed 4 Black Flag and many of my comments while applicable to many of the new games are directed specially to AC4. I completed the main mission and have been wrapping up the various other activities such as the assassin’s contracts, diving missions and naval battles. After completing the main mission, I watched the credits, as I often do for the games I play. Once again I was amazed at the number of people who work on the large games. Black Flag has one of the longest credits that I have seen, perhaps the longest. To be honest, I quit out before they ended, but I saw enough to appreciate the scale of the operation. AC4 Black Flag, like many other games these days, was developed in many locations simultaneously, so it’s hard not to be a bit dumbstruck by the scale of the development. The size of the world and the amount of detail that is present in every location is staggering. I have always been a fan of large open-world games recently favorites include Red Dead Redemption, Far Cry 3, both Borderlands games as well as the other games in the Assassin’s Creed series.

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Beyond the shear size of the navigable world and the degree of detail involved in every piece of it, this game has so many other levels of interaction, each fun in its own way. The main mission with its various scripted sequences puts you in your own action film. The many assassination missions, including those where you help side characters through their storylines, provide for a rich experience at each location. Then there are the treasure maps, the chests, the Animus fragments, etc. There is no shortage of things to do. Part of what sets Assassin Creed games apart is their attention to historical detail. AC4 is no exception. On top of the fantastically detailed and period correct ships, weapons and clothing there are the sea shanties that your crew will sing while doing their work. I have accumulated over thirty of these. It is easy to forget the amount of time it takes people to research, produce and record these in addition to the main background music, which like all games in this series is really powerful and spot on in terms of feel and weight.

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Every game depends on the success of its user interface to provide the appropriate degree of control while not overloading the user. AC4 Black Flag, like many new games, features more interface types than was required in previous versions. The display that is ever-present while you walk through the towns or captain your ship is minimal and designed to be unobtrusive. This game is beautiful at sea and on land and features lush environments that would be spoiled by clunky menus and navigational aids. There are different menus for each type of shop and the various games within the game, each built from the same visual kit of parts as the main interface. These days, there are also smart phone and tablet apps that tie in directly to the console game each with their own interface that echoes the main game. The effort required to create and coordinate all of these graphic elements is both staggering and ever-increasing.

All this being said, the game is not perfect. I have found a few glitches such as cut scenes where the audio has dropped out or a new one that happened to me last night where during the boarding of an enemy galleon, my character somehow fell through the deck of the ship and was trapped inside the geometry of the hull. But considering the scale of the undertaking, I am nothing but impressed at the quality of the experience and as usual, I have learned a few things about the period in which the game takes place and it has sparked my desire to learn more about that time in history and the real characters. What more can you ask of any work of art let alone entertainment?

Lava Lobsters vs the Xbox One

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Now that both new gaming platforms are out and the dust has had a chance to settle, I would like to give my early impressions. While some are focusing on the PS4 outselling the Xbox One worldwide and on the various hardware issues both platforms have had, I have not experienced any hardware issues with our new Xbox One. In fact, we love just about everything about it. The voice command and greatly improved Kinect are both welcome additions. Thus far, I have played Call of Duty Ghosts, Forza 5, Battlefield 4 and Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag and think that each is well worth adding to your collection.

The first thing you notice are the graphic improvements in every game. Each has its own style and focus and collectively do a good job of illustrating the capabilities of the new technology. The next generation of games such as Tom Clancy’s The Division and Titanfall will undoubtedly take the graphic development even further.

We installed our new Xbox One in our main TV room where we have been playing our Xbox 360 Slim. Both Xboxes are hooked into a surround sound amplifier and the FIOS signal is now passed through the Xbox One. We also have an older white Xbox 360 in the playroom next door. I have been wondering over the past few weeks how the systems would be used now and what my boys would prefer. Thus far, the 360s are still getting a decent amount of use thanks mostly to Minecraft and BattleBlock Theater, neither of which are currently available for the One. When we have had a chance to play together, which has not been that often with the holiday activities, we have concentrated on COD Ghosts. We really are enjoying the online Squads mode. It is perfect for playing with kids (and adults who just don’t need the language, general offensiveness and getting their asses kicked in the standard multiplayer mode).

On my own I have completed the COD Ghosts campaign and am well into the Battlefield 4 campaign. I have made solid progress in Forza 5 and am now at level eleven. I am deep into the world of Assassin’s Creed Black Flag and am really enjoying the experience. Except for a few minor control issues that are most likely more my own fault than that of the game, this latest installment is the best by far. The seamless transitions from land to sea and back, as well as the sheer fun of controlling your ship and fleet – including hunting and diving – it’s a deep and multi-layered world of pirate fun.

While I am very impressed by the graphics and improvements in the interface as well as in the handling and control overall, the most welcome improvement by far, is the load once and flip back and forth ability of the interface. With the previous system, the idea of jumping into a game for ten minutes or less was a bit of lie that we told ourselves. By the time the system booted and you logged in your now bloated player profile and then loaded the game, your ten minutes were now two. But you wanted to play your ten minutes anyway and that’s why you were late to whatever appointment you had.

No more of that. Now you walk into the room and say “Xbox On.” The system loads quickly, recognizes your face and loads your profile – a feature of which I never tire. Once you start the game and it loads, dropping out to the main menu and performing actions like watching television in a split window are instantaneous and at any point you can drop back into the game without the need to refresh or reload anything. This is a profound change to the way you can play and perhaps because it is less glamorous than other new features, has not received much press.

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My oldest son recently made a new friend who is not a gamer. Yes, there are some 12 year olds that don’t play any video games. He is not without his own obsession, however, and now my son has caught the same bug – fish and aquatic life. His new friend has ten or so salt water tanks with various species of fish. He is focused on his hobby and very knowledgeable. My son, being he sponge that he is, is absorbing all of the new information and diving in, if you will pardon the pun. He now has three tanks in his room, albeit all are fresh water. Two tanks have various goldfish and the third contains the Lava Lobster in the photo at the top of this post. The image below is one of the first two lobsters that he acquired. These were Mexican Mini Lobsters and unfortunately, both have passed. It is not due to a lack of effort as my son has pleasantly surprised me with his dedication and concern for the new biomes he has created.  The Xbox has little to fear of his losing interest. He is still playing games, but there is a balance developing and most surprisingly it is coming from within him

 

Waiting for the One

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I preordered an Xbox One and have been somewhat patiently waiting on its release. In the meantime I have been playing way too much Borderlands 2 trying to get a third character to level 50 as well as getting back into the driving groove with Forza 4 in preparation for the new version. Its only a few weeks away now and the past week has been resplendent with news about the limitations of some of the new games. The Xbox 360 version of Call of Duty Ghosts was pre-released and the news that it ran on the Xbox 360 at 720p instead of full 1080 HD while the PS4 is somehow able to accommodate the full resolution did not go over well. For more on this story, please read Infinity Ward’s explanation of the difference between the consoles at Twinstick Gaming. Then came the news that Ghosts had already been hacked. Not even officially released and already hacked. We were all hoping to get a few months of decent play out of it before it was compromised, but I guess we will have to rely on patches from the developers. To read the full story about how the hack was uncovered, please read John Heatz’s post Call of Duty: Ghosts already hacked. Today, it came out that the hugely anticipated Titanfall will only be available for the Xbox but that it too will run at 720p. You can read more about Titanfall at Twinstick Gaming’s blog.

While all of this news is a bit annoying, I cannot really appreciate the way in which some people are reacting. I have read gamers who are cancelling their pre-orders (for both the Xbox One and the PS4) complaining that none of the upcoming games look all that enticing. Really? Maybe we are all getting a bit jaded. I have pre-ordered Battlefield 4, Call of Duty Ghosts, Assassin’s Creed IV and Forza 5 and am looking forward to each regardless of the news. I would like to judge them for myself. I bet that my reaction will not be one of disappointment – most likely will be more of the “You have to come over here and look at the detail on this” variety. I can almost feel my wife’s humoring me when I ask her to come over and examine the carbon fiber on another of Forza 5’s supercars.

Then I hear people say that the Xbox One costing $100 more than the PS4 is a deal breaker. No one wants to pay more than they need to but this thinking seems ridiculously short-sighted to me. Over the life of my consoles, I have purchased hundreds of games. Many were at reduced prices, but I don’t really want to try to calculate how much I have spent on them in total. Needless to say that the $100 difference is inconsequential at best when you look at the whole picture.

In the end, all of this is talk anyway. The consoles are moving forward and there will be less and less marketed to and available for the current generation of consoles. Upgrading will be the price of entry just to keep playing. With hopes set so high and wish lists so long, there are bound to be disappointments. But this is just the beginning. I wish I could remember whether there was this much chatter when the 360 launched. Social media and the further expansion of the Internet probably also play a big role in making the rumors and news circulate so quickly.

Blockbusters Leaving Less Room for Indie Games

blockbusters_1000It is hard to look anywhere online and not be bombarded with promotions for and reviews of the latest blockbuster games.  Currently, Grand Theft Auto V is the reigning champion with a nearly constant stream of videos and news. Unfortunately for the game’s developers, the current news about the difficulty with the online multiplayer is the dominant message of the day.

My point is that It is difficult for smaller, independent developers to get noticed.

In his article, “Shrinking List of Video Games Is Dominated by Blockbusters” published in The New York Times this week, Nick Wingfield explains why:

The biggest console and PC games — usually those games that are part of an established franchise and have the slickest production values — are posting spectacular sales figures. This month, the latest in the gritty urban adventure series Grand Theft Auto took only three days on store shelves to reach $1 billion in sales, faster than any video game ever, its publisher said.

The richest games are getting richer partly because the industry makes fewer games over all, concentrating players’ spending. Publishers are also squeezing out a little more money per game sold by selling add-on content and other digital goodies. And the legions of players eager to do battle with one another online create a sort of virtuous cycle, as players are attracted to the titles with the biggest pool of opponents.       

Now, the most popular games, like Call of Duty, Halo and Assassin’s Creed, or top sports games, like the FIFA soccer series, have the biggest development budgets and fan bases and are getting a bigger portion of sales. The top 20 games in 2012 accounted for 41 percent of total American game sales in stores, nearly double what they did a decade earlier, according to the NPD Group, a market research company.

The lower output of publishers makes the stakes higher. In 2012, only half as many new games were released in American stores as in 2008, NPD said. Electronic Arts, the publisher of the Madden football series and other sports favorites, sold 67 different titles in stores in the fiscal year ending March 2009. In its last fiscal year, it sold 13. Because fewer games are released, game makers must get more sales out of those games that do reach store shelves.

The development costs on Grand Theft Auto V were likely to have been more than $100 million, and its marketing $50 million more, said Evan Wilson, an analyst at Pacific Crest Securities. He estimated that a typical console game would break even at about four million units, while that figure would have been one million a decade or so ago.

I have no issues with the popular big-budget game series and often play several of them but I want to be sure that their success is not at the cost of smaller games that try to do something new.

While this feeling has been increasing for me recently due to the hype around the launch of these huge franchise games, in truth I have come to this thought quite late. Nearly eight years ago, Stephanie Barish, the chief executive and founder of IndieCade, started thinking that the gaming industry had become unbalanced towards the blockbuster games. In his article “Where Indie Game Producers Come Out to Play“, published in The New York Times this week, Harold Goldberg explains:

IndieCade is the brainchild of Stephanie Barish, a former digital media producer. In 2005, after becoming convinced that the game industry had tilted too much toward blockbuster franchises, she began brainstorming with friends in her living room about how to correct the imbalance. After some smaller showcases, IndieCade really established itself in 2008 with 20 games in an art gallery in Bellevue, Wash.

Digital distribution has been driving sales of independent video games for nearly a decade. But the rise of the indies can be traced in no small part to IndieCade, a quirky, artful gathering that attracts people from around the world to an event that’s known as the Sundance of games.

IndieCade, which will showcase over 120 games and is expected to draw 5,000 enthusiasts to Culver City, Calif., this week, features creations made by eager college kids with something to prove and youngish professionals disgruntled by the assembly-line anonymity that can come with working on big-budget productions.

This year the games Myst and Doom  will be honored on their 20th anniversaries. They are two of my all-time favorites and each represents a seminal moment in a game type’s history. Although each started small they proved to become huge hits, true precursors to the blockbusters of today.

The Calm Before the Storm

Bordelands 1000OK, its true. I have been a bit obsessed with Borderlands and Borderlands 2 and although they are fantastic games, I must admit that one cannot survive on badassitude alone. Mind you I am not stopping until my current character, the Mechromancer, is at least level 50. I have already played the Siren and Commando to levels 40 and 35. But I need something else. So why not play Grid 2? I have made it through four seasons and the game difficulty level certainly has stepped up. The competition online is always fun as well. I was really enjoying World of Tanks until the beta servers had issues last week and the game came to a screeching halt. It is back online now but all settings were reset and progress erased. And yes, there are several game apps that still keep my engaged, The Simpsons Tapped Out and the new Plants vs Zombies 2, not to mention Scrabble of which I am a true devotee. But it’s not the same.

But we all see the big wave coming. The new consoles, whichever you choose or especially if you get both, will start a spending tsunami as it will be difficult to decide where to spend your money first.

I have preordered an Xbox One, so my game selections are all for this console. Call of Duty Ghosts, Battlefield 4, Forza 5 and Assassin’s Creed 4 Black Flag are all must-haves, since I have played almost every iteration of those games and they are amongst my favorites. Certainly there are many advantages and improvements that the new consoles are touting and that game developers are all exploring to make full use of the new technology. Each game has so many improvements that you really need to visit each one’s website and learn more.

Yeah, I can’t wait to try out the enhanced character customization in the new Call of Duty and look forward to advances like the dual focus scopes, but what I am happiest about are the dedicated servers that hopefully will do away with issues that plague the current game. This new one really does look good.

Battlefield 4 has many new features including the new Commander Mode which allows players to oversee and support their team from a console, tablet or PC. The environments are so rich and complex and the level of multiplayer combat that can be achieved is staggering. I also welcome the Battlefield series’ dedication to be more realistic than its competition, although I must admit that the inherent difficulty that accompanies this realism is not always something I wish to take on. Then there are the destructible environments or what they call “Levolution” which allow players to dramatically change the playable space by destroying skyscrapers and splitting aircraft carriers.

I have spent more time playing games in the Forza series than any other and as a true car lover I am getting Forza 5 on day one. Apart from being a driving simulator, probably still the best one too, this game allows you to be a part of car culture in ways that no other even seriously tries. I love both the Grid and Dirt series, but they do not feature the ability to collect and augment your car collection. Where else can I see a car in a film or on the street and run home and recreate it exactly on the Xbox? Or buy a design that someone else posted? Where else can I see the detailed interiors and exteriors of the world’s most expensive and exclusive cars? And with the level of detail available using the new console, this game will be even better. Adding the Spa Francochamps track and bringing back Laguna Seca prove that Turn 10 knows its audience. Throw in the Top Gear exclusives for insight and humor and the Forzavista mode for pure car photography that borders pornography and there is no way that car lovers can NOT buy this game. Plus the reveal trailer shows racing through Prague. Did I mention that I was born there?

I have played all of the Assassin’s Creed games and thoroughly enjoyed each. My personal favorite being Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood mainly for its amazing locations and for Ezio Auditore, of course, who many believe is the strongest of all of the series’ characters. Assassin’s Creed 4 Black Flag features seamless transitions between ship and walk/run modes which results in much smoother gameplay. The new environments take full advantage of the new consoles graphic capabilities. The attention to historical detail, a mainstay of the series and what make it so unique, is illustrated in everything from the characters to their weapons and clothing, the towns and islands and the ships. Much like reading a good novel, playing a game in this series always encourages me to learn more about that point in history. I can think of no other game that can make that claim.

Now for me, playing those four games is a given, but one of the games I am most eager to try is Tom Clancy’s The Division. The plot line of The Division may be familiar but the execution seems to be top-notch. The trailers that have been presented thus far show this to be another strong contender in the now crowded open-world RPG sandbox arena. The graphics look fabulous as does the attention to environmental detail. The ability for players to join in and play together in various ways and from various devices, similar to Battlefield 4’s Commander Mode, is also enticing. The user interface is beautiful as is the way players gain information from the environment. Add to that the destructible environments, impressive lighting and particle systems and the ability to run through a post-apocalyptic New York City and you have another game that I must have on day one.

And I haven’t even mentioned TitanfallDestiny or Ryse, all of which look amazing. I will save those for another post. You know what we really need? Borderlands 3. Do I really have to wait until 2015?

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