Let’s Wreact: South Park – The Fractured But Whole

With close to 30,000 lines of dialogue, South Park T Fractured But Whole (TFBW) is an incredibly ambitious project. Theoretically a sequel from 2014’s Obsidian-developed Stick of Truth, the story of TFBW centers around the Superhero story arc that the South Park series has been focusing on in the last 3-5 years. The kids, in their favorite supersuits (The Coon, Mysterion, Toolshed, Mosquito, Human Kite, etc) are on the hunt to find a missing cat and gain a $100 reward in hopes to get their respective super hero franchise off the ground (Coon and Friends vs. Freedom Pals).

Very little has changed, technically, with how TFBW works as compared to Stick of Truth. It’s still a turn based RPG with gear, powers, and exploration. A few new things in TFBW are combat is now in a grid format, where your attacks will hurt a certain target area, and the addition of buffs in the form of trinkets – there are 8 slots for these upgrades that you unlock by leveling up, and then one ‘DNA’ change that you can add. These all change your Might (overall power level), and can include some team buffs, or how much damage you do off of a knockback, status damage, etc. This program replaces the ‘gear’ process from the last game because TFBW really wants you to to be your own superhero – with a TON of different costume options unlocked by playing through missions, doing side quests, crafting them, and purchasing them through various vendors.

As you progress through the game you’ll be met with the usual South Park cast and characters – and without spoiling endgame content, let me tell you that the last 2 hours of the game is a doozy. You will gain different abilities with fellow superheroes to solve puzzles (i.e. Fartkour, where you and Human Kite can reach high places). The entirety of South Park is available to traverse, with the exception of the South Park Mall (possible DLC, as it’s ‘under construction’) – and most houses and buildings have a ton of things to go and do inside them and find. Some of the collectibles in the game are Yaoi pictures of Tweek and Craig and finding Big Gay Al’s missing cats. Some familiar faces appear as summons and enemies, such as summoning Jimbo and Uncle Ned to blow away 6th Graders, or having Moses heal you and your team substantially. The really cool thing about some of the AFBW fights are the way that the game breaks up the turn based format – sometimes it’s not just enough to kill your enemies – you have to move people in a certain direction, or burn a certain area of the map. These battles add a little more spice to the generic turn based combat that you will be doing for the majority of the game.

There were very few things I didn’t like about TFBW – mostly concerning the content of the game itself. Stick of Truth was VERY out there in terms of story and overall setpieces and I feel TFBW kinda toned it down overall. You aren’t killing zombie Nazi fetuses or dealing with aliens – for the most part, you’re dealing with humans and their nonsense. I also missed the artwork for each piece of ‘scrap’ in TFBW – stuff you can find in drawers, trash bins, and other loot are no longer individually given artwork – but instead are put into a generic term (scrap, biohazard, food, etc). Part of the South Park canon is the amount of inside jokes and sight gags that you can do with all the content. It wasn’t enough to pull me out of the game but it was a little disappointing seeing the scrap not having their own artwork.

The game really punches in the work, love, and passion for South Park – from the voice acting to using the same software to create all of the character models – it is incredibly apparent that Ubisoft wanted to go all-out for this title. I had a ton of fun in my 15 or so hours in South Park and clamour for more – with how quickly Stick of Truth ended support, I hope that Ubisoft realizes the want for more gaming content for this game and there’s definitely room for some stories to be told.

 

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Not Another Battlefront II Article

By this time next week there will be another cascade of poor business choices the wonderful folks over at Electronic Arts (EA) have strewn about all over DICE’s latest offering in the Star Wars universe; Battlefront II. DICE, known for the Battlefield games, have been a subsidiary of Electronic Arts since 2006.

Now don’t get me wrong – I played the original Battlefront games, made by EA-shuttered Pandemic Studios. These were massively popular, content-driven games where you could play as your favorite Star Wars characters in myriad situations – and at least Battlefront II (2005) still has online servers where the online still works and is quickly becoming a haven for a lot of people who are feeling shunted by EA/DICE’s 2015 and 2017 titles.

If you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks, here’s what’s wrong with 2017’s Battlefront II: pretty much everything. But let’s be fair – this is a PUBLISHER issue and definitely not a DEVELOPER issue. EA, the publisher, has decided to squeeze the life and money out of a game that, by all accounts, should be very good. Battlefront II utilizes the Frostbite engine, which is one of the most beautiful game engines on the planet, and they have a wealth of legacy content to use with the Star Wars brand and – shocker – EA has blown it. In a huge way.

Forbes, CNN, IGN, GameInformer, Destructoid, Kotaku, and multiple other outlets have put the steel to Battlefront II’s throat because of incessant microtransaction nonsense and a multiplayer progression system that is BAFFLING. So what’s the big deal?

Multiplayer progression is based on a credit system. In 2015’s Battlefront title you earned credits that were scaled with your score/points at the end of a match (you know, based on skill and performance in-game). Anyone familiar with DICE’s online titles (Battlefield 1, for instance) knows that these games can go on for quite a while and you can gain a lot of credits. Unfortunately, EA decided that the scaling system was too giving, and has decided that they’d rather cut and put a flat credit system in place. The ingenious part of this is, however, that you get a cap on arcade credits you can earn per day (like THIS one with a 15 hour lockout).

The issue with the above credit system is that unlocking Heroes & Villains (you know, the characters that Star Wars is built upon) cost credits to unlock and play in multiplayer. Unfortunately for people who don’t want to spend extra, real life dollars on loot boxes (ugh), the time to gain enough credits to unlock characters is ASTRONOMICAL. With people smarter than me doing the math, to unlock everything the game has to offer MIGHT take up to 2100 hours. While Battlefront II does have a single player campaign (unlike 2015’s release), and you DO gain credits from completing these missions – if you are offline or have a spotty connection, you don’t gain anything

Alongside the issues with multiplayer progression, loot boxes rear their ugly head towards the players and spew hot garbage onto the multiplayer arena – with ‘cards’ that will help you aim assist, have more damage on weapons, and the like. Loot boxes have been the talk of 2017 – with titles like Shadow Of War coming under fire with the absurd way of handling gambling to the masses. For those of you who don’t know, loot boxes (or crates, or bags, or whatever) are ways of spending in-game currency (credits, coins, gems, etc) on a random-chance grabbag of in-game items. When done positively (Overwatch, Rocket League, PUBG), these loot crates can be a fun way to add cosmetic changes to the game. When utilized negatively, where in-game content is hidden away behind the CHANCE of unlocking (Shadow of War) – that is where things get sticky.

When you lock away items that fundamentally change an aspect of a game (i.e. weapons, characters, etc) that CHANGE gameplay – especially in multiplayer – you have added an element of ‘grind’ to the game. You want to earn that in-game currency to spend on a crate for a chance to unlock a weapon / character / boost that will give you an edge competitively. In an industry that is so wrought with games becoming more and more piecemeal – the idea of locking stuff like this away is harmful – and it’s gaining a lot of attention from unexpected sources. Just this week French and Belgian legal minds have brought up if loot crates are gambling, and China has had policies in place to show the percentage of winning a particular item in loot crates for a while now.

While EA has decided to take greed to a whole new level, the landscape of gaming is changing – and not for the better. Outspoken games journalist Jim Sterling has railed against games doing this for at least the past year – if not longer. The changing of what constitutes as a complete game, where you pay for a complete game, feels like a time a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.

Let’s Wreact: WWE2K18

Another year, another WWE 2K game. Another year of hoping, and waiting with baited breath, for THE game that will revolutionize the wrestling game genre – like the AKI games of yesteryear. WWE 2K18 is… not quite that game. But it’s not all doom and gloom, but it’s also not all sunshine and rainbows. WWE2K18 released worldwide on October 17th for the Xbox One, PS4, and PC (unless you pre-ordered, then you got it 4 days early). A Nintendo Switch edition is coming out, apparently, but there hasn’t been any information on that since the main console launch. Just like the last few years, 2K’s in-house developer Visual Concepts teamed up with perennial wrestling game developer Yuke’s to hammer out yet another yearly title, right in time for holiday season.

The biggest change this year to the WWE 2K formula is, and I’d like a drumroll please, loot boxes. Yes – the literal worst thing ever in some people’s eyes have now graced the wrestling world – but it’s not as pervasive as other 2K titles (looking at you, NBA 2K18). What it is, however, is very annoying – but in an interestingly smart way. You will earn Virtual Currency (VC) in MyCareer mode, while playing matches, etc and you can unlock characters, titles, and arenas in the VC store. Or you can go to MyPlayer and purchase loot crates (bronze, silver, or gold) and get items for your character to use in WWE2K18’s “career” mode, in which you start out as a lowly trainee at the WWE Performance Center and rise your way up to the main roster. You start off pretty weak, with not a lot of moves to choose from – effectively stifling your move-set, entrance, and wardrobe. The annoyingly-smart thing about this is that it makes sense; the more time you wrestle, and the more popular you get, the better your move-set gets and the more elaborate you can be in your entrances and your clothes. It’s an infuriatingly interesting way of mimicking real life in the easiest way possible.

WWE 2K18 has over 200 wrestlers on the roster, including legends and downloadable characters. This title also marks the debut of roughly 30 newcomers to the WWE video game saga.

The one thing that caught my eye the hardest was the dynamic lighting engine – especially for more complicated entrances. I watched Finn Balor’s entrance from 2K17 and 2K18 side by side and it was pretty different in quality. The WWE games have always been behind the gun on the graphics front, and while 2K18 is not the prettiest game on consoles, it is the best looking WWE game that has hit the market in a long time. The music for the menus are defaulted to a curated list of music by The Rock, whereas I turned those off immediately and went to turn on all of the wrestler themes I loved – especially because you will be in the menus or in loading screens for a bit. While the game loads fine, if the match is complicated (multi man, Elimination Chamber, etc), it can take 30+ seconds for everything to load.

Time to complain about the aforementioned loot crate system. In MyCareer mode you create a wrestler, their move-set, entrance, and wardrobe. Unfortunately, due to the way that you unlock moves, clothing pieces, etc – you are pretty shoehorned into a select move-set. A good portion of moves are locked behind the loot crate system that you have to ‘uncover’ before you can buy the move with VC – more complicated moves cost more VC, whereas most taunts usually cost 25VC. The issue here is that when you unlock a move via the loot crate system, it doesn’t tell you which move – it just says “Grappling Move 005” – so you have to go into the move-set editor and go to “new” and see which moves you’ve unlocked. My gripes would be done if buying a loot crate GUARANTEED a certain amount of moves unlocked, but as the way of loot crates, it’s random what you unlock and it’s using the same currency that you use for everything else, so it can dry up pretty quickly. The ONLY other issue I have with the way that this loot crate system is implemented is that you have to pay for the items twice – once to get a chance to unlock them via the loot crate system, and then again to ‘purchase’ the item you want to wear or use in your move-set. It feels like an unnecessary way to add a grind mechanic to impede a player’s progression.

WWE 2K18 has an online mode, shocker, called Road to Glory. The other shocker is that it runs like tar regardless of either player’s internet connection. There is a sizable delay between input and action on screen which makes completing reversals a complete crapshoot. I am hoping that this gets fixed in patches – however I wouldn’t hold my breath; WWE games have notoriously been bad in that online arena.

MyCareer is still pretty broken; you will win the match with a 4.5 and then be told that your performance wasn’t the best. Or you’ll have a random wrestler say that you have to wrestle someone (for a side quest), but it will change before the next week. I’m about 1.5 in-game years into MyCareer; I’m the IC champion and MITB holder but I keep on getting put into matches with the same person for a month at a time. The backstage area is pretty fleshed out, but having NPCs around shows you just how empty everyone looks. With all talking being done by text boxes and no voice overs, the only life that is breathed into MyCareer is the commentary team and that is still just as bad as every other sports game; canned responses to asset triggers and constant mix-matching of people in the ring or what move is being done.

Overall WWE 2K18 is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately that has been the story for the last several years – maybe it is time to take a year off, perfect some aspects of the game, and provide wrestling fans with the game that we’ve been waiting for – one that truly replicates the WWE experience.

Runic Games Shutting Down

Seattle-based developer Runic Games is shutting down amid parent company Perfect World dropping a good portion of Motiga, the studio behind Gigantic.

Runic Games was the studio behind action RPG titles such as Torchlight & Torchlight II, as well as 2017 action-exploring game Hob.

Runic Games was partially founded by ex-Blizzard North co-founders Max & Eric Schaefer, who had a heavy hand in creating the extremely popular Diablo series of games.

Runic Games’ latest title, Hob, was recently released on September 26th, 2017

L.A. DOH-re

L.A. Noire surprised a lot of people when it was released in the Spring of 2011.

While the open-world game set in the late 1940s was praised for the incredible voice acting, facial recognition technique MotionScan, and general length of the game – it was not a gigantic success on the levels of Red Dead Redemption or Grand Theft Auto; Rockstar Games’ perennial heavy hitters.

The game released on the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC – and, much to the surprise of a lot of people, is being re-released for the PS4, Xbox One, and the Nintendo Switch. The PS4 & Xbox One versions are being touted at 4K resolution, while this article is going to focus on the Nintendo Switch version.

The Nintendo Switch uses cartridges (game cards), coming in several sizes, in order to play the games – much like the Nintendo DS and 3DS. These games usually come on the 16GB game cards, with room to spare for downloadable updates / content.

Per Eurogamer, if one is to play the physical copy of L.A. Noire on the Switch, you’ll have to download a 14GB download that Rockstar is using for general bug fixes. The Nintendo Switch comes with 32GB of on board memory, with just over 25GB usable for games / applications.

L.A. Noire is a 29GB download, which if you’re doing the math along with me, means that you’ll have to install a microSD card into the Switch BEFORE downloading the game to ensure that you have enough space. If another purchase is off-putting, unfortunately the Nintendo Switch physical edition of L.A. Noire will also cost you another $10 more than the other console versions – most likely due to the almost $20 game card manufacturing price for each Nintendo Switch game card.

Are the above issues enough for you to pass on being a cop on the run?

A Big Red Appreciation Thread

“That’s gotta be… that’s gotta be Kane!!!”

October 5th, 1997 marked the Big Red Machine’s debut in the WWE. The brother of the Undertaker, summoner of fire pylons, and chokeslammer of all.

Kane was one of the reasons why I started watching wrestling. I was 6 at the time and I was bewildered by this monstrous behemoth – one who stood toe to toe with the Undertaker – someone who was already someone who made regular wrestlers look tiny.

As he debuted, he brought his father Paul Bearer with him to the ring to destroy his brother in the first ever Hell in a Cell match – a match that Kane was not a part of. Kane ripped the door off the cell and entered to make sure that his brother knew that he was, indeed, alive. The iconic scene of Kane tearing the door off the hinges had me hooked from day 1 and I’ve been one of the biggest Kane fans since.

Through the years, obviously, there’s been some blunders. We’re not gonna bring up Katie Vick (dammit), or the Fake Kane debacle. Let’s focus on some of his accomplishments in the WWE ring;

-Ranked #4 of 500 in Pro Wrestling Illustrated 500 in 2011
-9 time WWF/WWE World Tag Team Champion (6 different partners)
-2010 Money in the Bank Winner
-World Heavyweight Champion
-WWE Champion
-ECW Champion

The list goes on and on, along with some of the aforementioned blunders – Kane has been a company name for 20 years – feuding with everyone from CM Punk to Chris Jericho, Triple H to Undertaker, and Stone Cold to the Rock. Kane has cemented himself as one of the most versatile wrestlers to ever step foot in the WWE ring and today we throw appreciation for #20YearsOfKane.

The Curious Case of Horizon Zero Dawn

Don’t get me wrong – when Horizon Zero Dawn released in February 2017, I was blown away. The game, starring an outcast named Aloy, perfectly mashed the fast paced combat developer Guerrilla Games nailed in their Killzone series while serving up an impressive open world experience for gamers that were coming off a sprawling metropolis of Watch Dogs 2 and finally finishing their wasteland outings in Fallout 4. 

With incredibly detailed landscapes, an impressive scaling system, and beautiful sound design – Horizon Zero Dawn left players clamoring for more. With roughly 22 hours of story content, and another 20 or so hours for side quests, many were wondering when an inevitable expansion would come along. The requests were answered with an expansion, The Frozen Wilds, releasing in November 2017.

None of the above should be too interesting or surprising. The interesting part of this story is that, it seems, that Guerrilla Games is going to stop development on this iteration of Horizon Zero Dawn and go work on something else. Why would someone think that? Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition will release later in the holiday season, which provides all deluxe content & The Frozen Wilds expansion.

As the market evolves (or regresses, in some cases), if a game is popular and making money, the developer & publisher will try to suck the content dry. Providing with several DLC packs, several ‘named’ expansions, and the like. With Horizon Zero Dawn it appears that the developer is bucking the trend – and for the better. Another interesting point is, only a few months after release, the price was lowered by $10 – and has been featured on multiple PSN sales since launch – for a title that was so critically loved, not gouging customers every sell is a refreshing sight to see.

Let’s Wreact: Cuphead

Cuphead is a run & gun platforming game from StudioMDHR Entertainment and let me tell you that it’s ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC.

Development on this 1930’s cartoon saga began in 2010, however this game could be noticed as far back as 2000 as brothers Chad and Jared Moldenhauer. Drawing inspiration from Disney, Fleischer Studios, and the artistic works of Grim Natwick (Snow White and the Seven Dwarves), Willard Bowsky (Betty Boop), and Ubbe Iwerks (Mickey Mouse) – the vision for Cuphead is pretty straight forward.

While out and about, Cuphead and his brother Mughead, come across the Devil’s Casino and, blinded with unfathomable riches, Cuphead bets it all after the Devil himself comes down to congratulate the brothers on their winnings and offers all of his loot in return for their souls. Cuphead and Mughead lose the bet and, instead of their souls, say that they will grab the souls of a list of creatures to repay their debt – and thus the Cuphead adventure begins – to grab soul contracts from creatures that have slipped the Devil’s grasp.

In just over 1.5 hours with the game, plus a few minutes at PAX West 2017, I can tell that this game is going to be rough! With an overworld akin to the Super Mario franchise, an inventory & shop system to allow you to equip upgrades, and the emphasis on boss battles – Cuphead is filled to the brim with personality. Once you complete a level or a boss, you’ll receive a score based on health remaining, how many super you used, time to beat, and a parry – as well as a skill level (simple or regular). You cannot gain soul contracts on simple, but it might be worth it to try out a few bosses before jumping to regular – but beware – the boss will change depending on what difficulty you set it to.

While I can’t give a full review until I have much more time in the game, Cuphead is infuriatingly fun – difficult enough to make me sweat a little, but rewarding enough that I want to continue. At $19.99 on Steam & Xbox One, I cannot recommend this title enough. I would have paid another $10 for sure.

I’ll be doing streams of Cuphead over on my Twitch Channel throughout the week – come and stop by – or you can catch the first episode right now!

Just Another Review: The Binding of Isaac

I know, I know. A review about a video game that came out in 2011. Not only that, but a game that has had millions of installs and physical copies purchased. What am I doing here? I just want to talk about one of my favorite games of all time; The Binding of Isaac. 

Released on the Flash platform in late 2011, The Binding of Isaac is a twin-stick, top-down roguelike dungeon crawler. With very few games hitting home the roguelike genre, the man behind Super Meat Boy; Edmund McMillen went to task to make what has become not a cult classic indie title, but a genre-defining gem among a sea of half baked ideas and games that don’t quite make the cut.

What is a roguelike? A roguelike mainly has the main idea of ‘runs’ for the game. While games outside the genre have one or two sole story arcs, the entire story / gameplay is done so in one ‘run’ which lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or so, depending on how much you’ve played and how many of the additional content you’ve unlocked.

The story is quite simple; a Mother hears from on-high that her son Isaac is corrupted by sin and she is driven by God to kill him. Isaac runs to the basement and the game begins where he is forced to kill creatures like silkworms, disembodied heads, and pulsating brains. There are a total of 15 playable characters, each representing either a Biblical figure (i.e. Magdalene, Judas, and Cain), or a created story character (i.e. The Keeper, The Lost, and Blue Baby).

As you fight your way through the different floors you will come across items to aid you in your quest; either passive items or active items. Most active items require clearing a room of enemies to gain a ‘charge’ to use the item, whereas passive skills are either stat buffs (damage, shot speed, etc) or character effects (flying, impervious to bombs, etc). Did I mention that you’re shooting your tears at enemies – that is the main way of dealing damage to enemies in the Basement and beyond – you must vanquish them with your own sadness.

Every floor ends with a boss of varying difficulty – it could be a goider, or a large corpse, or even a one-eyed spider – but when you defeat them you will get an item for your troubles, a chance to make a deal with the Devil or Angel (if you’ve not taken a lot of damage on the floor), and be sent on your way down to further your torment. A deal with the Devil will offer you high powered items in trade for your red heart containers – whereas a deal with the Angel is usually an item that helps protect you and doesn’t cost anything. As you complete the game, defeat different bosses with each of the characters, you’ll unlock more items to aid you in your quest to reaching a ‘completion’ rating.

The Binding of Isaac has had a few facelifts and surgeries over the years. From the switch to running on a more stable platform than Flash, to having a 3 major expansions (Wrath of the Lamb, Rebirth, and Afterbirth) – and even allowing mods and community-driven items in the last content in Afterbirth+.

If you’re looking for a game where you can pick up and play for a little bit, have something on in the background, and just chill for a little bit – The Binding of Isaac is a worthy contender for an incredible time. With just about 650 hours in the game across multiple platforms, I can definitely say that I’ve got my money’s worth a thousandfold.

The Binding of Isaac is definitely not a jobber. Pick it up on Steam, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch now!

Let’s Wreact – WWE 2K18

Yesterday #WWE2K18 had their first gameplay trailer showcasing a couple of beautiful lighting advancements and a few wrestling-related upgrades; let’s chat about them!

-First off, 208 or so roster members is INSANE.
-The ability to have backstage fights came in 2K17, but a long-awaited return to the parking lot brawl appears to have made it’s return with moves from the top of semi trucks as well as moves ontop of cars
-A return to movable-grapples appears to make a comeback. A while back, moves (such as suplexes, powerbombs, and fireman carry) were made so you could carry your opponent to other sides of the ring, or the outside, to interact with different portions of the gameplay area. This appears to have made a comeback, per the video.

I’m super pumped about the new release and did a video breaking down the entire gameplay trailer which you can watch riiiiight here!

#WWE2K18 will release worldwide for the PS4 and XBOX One on October 17th, whereas Deluxe (Physical or Digital) and Collector’s Edition buyers will have access on October 13th.