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Expectations

In my last post, I mentioned that “what you get out of the experience depends greatly on what you are expecting.” I have found this to be especially true in the case of the most recent three games I purchased.

Before I buy a game I read reviews and view trailers and gameplay samples. All three of these popular games are favorably reviewed, but much like any piece of art or entertainment, the mood of the audience greatly affects the way the piece is experienced. To illustrate, I will use the following three games: Forza Horizon 2, Borderlands The Pre-Sequel and Destiny and myself, my family and friends as the audience.

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Forza Horizon 2

To be completely honest, the first Horizon did not blow me away. While I am a huge fan of the main Forza series, I have always preferred driving games that focus on the realistic experience of driving as opposed to those that concentrate on the nightlife, street racing and party car culture. While I much preferred the original Horizon to any of the Need for Speed titles that I own, I still liked the on-track Forza 5 better. My sons, however, have always liked driving open world games, especially ones that allow the user to drive almost anywhere. That’s why they liked Test Drive Unlimited 2 and Driver San Francisco (though in truth its world is not entirely open). They all like Horizon 2, especially like the barn finds.

The new Horizon improves on the first in every way. The resolution and attention to detail both in the cars and the environments are impressive. The art direction, lighting and weather systems help elevate this game greatly in terms of its style and mood. In fact this game comes very close in depth of mood to my favorite of all – Colin McRae’s original Dirt. The gameplay is smooth, the handing is realistic and completely adjustable to match the user’s skill level. Horizon 2 takes all of Forza’s best features, the handling of the cars, the ability to make the game as easy or challenging as desired and allows you to drive some of the most exciting cars in beautifully crafted southern European settings. I mean who wouldn’t want to drive a vintage Ferrari through Tuscany?

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Borderlands The Pre-Sequel

Those of you who have read my posts before know that the Borderlands series is one of my personal favorites and I often mention its humor and its bravery in what the developers chose to include. So it is surprising that I have spent little time with the game thus far, something telling in itself.

How is it possible that the sequel to my favorite game is out and I am not playing it? Here it is: I am more interested in playing Destiny. Really? Destiny? A game made by the same studio that created the Halo series that I knock for not having a soul? Yes, things seem to have changed.

My sons also awaited the release of this latest version eagerly and have played more extensively than I. They defend the game and say that I need to give it another chance. I will do that, but I am not alone in feeling sluggish about this title. Some of the people I game with most often have echoed the sentiment.

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Destiny

So what is it about Destiny? The simple truth is that while it’s not a game that aspires to make you laugh, there are beautiful, quiet moments as well as intense firefights and overall, it is a great, solid game that keeps you coming back.

I have not played Titanfall since getting this game. I love Titanfall and have regenerated many times. In Destiny, I am on my third character, with a nearly level 28 hunter and a level 25 warlock and somehow even going through the story mode three times is not boring. I have assembled my own personal strike team and we play every chance we get. We are very much looking forward to the newly announced downloadable content pack, The Dark Below due to come out December 9th, regardless of the fact that as Xbox players we will not get access to all of the new material. Please see Destiny‘s New DLC Kinda Screws Over Xbox Players for details.

The Destiny season pass also includes the second scheduled DLC pack, House of Wolves, which should, along with special events like the Queen’s Wrath and Iron Banner, keep the game fresh and in active rotation while other new titles are released. Considering that the competition includes the well-reviewed Sunset Overdrive, not to mention Call of Duty Advanced Warfare, gamers everywhere will have their hands full and so will we.

The Multiplayer Experience

L1020022-1000The world of gaming is vast and offers a different experience depending on the type of game you play and with whom you play. There are so many fantastic single player games that are well-written and beautifully scripted that one can easily spend all of their time being the star of their own action film. But multiplayer games offer a different level of excitement and interaction.

I am a fan of the single player modes of the blockbuster series like Call of Duty, Battlefield, Assassin’s Creed, Mass Effect and Far Cry. I nearly always play the single player first, although I play the multiplayer modes before finishing the single player experience. There are games such as Battlefield and especially Call of Duty, where diving into multiplayer sessions becomes a daily event. This was also true for me with Mass Effect 3 for a while, but as much as I love them, for some reason not with Assassin’s Creed or Far Cry.

Racing games are another situation completely. As I have mentioned in the past, I am an avid player of the Forza, Grid and Dirt series and even try my best at F1. In each of these, I spend countless hours playing both the single player and then the multiplayer aspects of the games. Forza definitely excels in this arena with the most robust and interesting variety of race types and locations in my opinion. I have also played many of the Need for Speed games although I always prefer the driving feel of the cars in Forza and the Codemasters games. The racing game you play decides much of the type of experience you can expect. The Codemasters games (Dirt, Grid, F1) are very popular with European and Australian audiences and it is often difficult to find enough players at times that someone on the East Coast of the U.S. may want to play. The intensity level of the competitors also ranges widely from game to game. Some games have loyal and dedicated followers who know the tracks and cars so well that newcomers will find it frustrating. I have also found that the level of sportsmanship you can expect to find varies greatly.

L1020027-1000Civility is also something that varies greatly from game to game. I play Facebook Scrabble with a dozen or so strangers at a time. Some of these players have been playing a non-stop series of games with me for years now. A few have proven to be the most polite and thoughtful people with the highest degree of sportsmanship that one can find. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are the small-minded, bigoted and homophobic players that dominate the world of Call of Duty. As much as I enjoy this game, it seems to attract people, especially males, who seem to think it clever and amusing to display behaviors that on the street would get their asses kicked. Some sport in-game logos that refer to the N word and contain various homosexual put downs. The comments made by players in this game particularly almost always require me to mute players that I do not know. It is a sad realization of the stereotypes that non-gamers have of the gaming world. My sister is an avid gamer and owns all of the major consoles. She maintains that the Playstation audience is better behaved and less offensive than that of the Xbox community, even within the same game. I understand that the Xbox community is considerably larger and it makes sense that it attracts all types of players, but it is a sad fact that people (of all ages by the way) act this way in public.

There have been many times when neighborhood kids or family members drop in and we decide to all play a game together. This typically leads us to the realization that there are not many games that allow for three or four players on the same Xbox. There are arcade games, many of which are turn-based that allow for four players on the same box, but the total that allow for four on a screen are much less. We often play Castle CrashersSonic & SEGA All Star Racing or play a round of local combat training in Call of Duty. We used to play the Guitar Hero and Rock Band games often, but over time the guitar controllers have all become faulty. It is a shame because “getting the band back together” was really fun. Maybe it’s time to buy some new controllers.

If you know of great multiplayer games that allow for three or more players on the same Xbox, please let me know using the form below. If you have favorite multiplayer games (or games with multiplayer modes) that I have not mentioned, please send me your thoughts and I will follow up in the coming weeks. All comments welcome.

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