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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.

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.

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.

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