Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Star Wars Battlefront Beta

I've been playing the Star Wars Battlefront Beta and I need to say this game fulfills the fantasy of being in the Star Wars universe.

That doesn't seem like a big statement by itself so I'm going to say it again.

This game fulfills the fantasy of being in the Star Wars universe.

And that's all I really wanted.

The gameplay is acceptable.  It doesn't feel super slick or modern.  It doesn't have all the bells and whistles we're used to in our shooters these days.  But it's not bad.  It's just fine.

The graphics are beautiful.  I typically don't even think about graphics these days but I immediately noticed how gorgeous this game is.  This is the prettiest game I've ever seen.  I've been wracking my brain trying to think of anything that surpasses Battlefront in terms of graphics and I just can't think of anything.  It's amazing eye candy everywhere.  For the first time in years I found myself stopping to just watch things unfold in front of me and admire the graphics.

Even though the beta only had 3 modes to check out they were fun and varied.  Ship combat is a ton of fun on the Hoth map and that makes me super excited for one of the modes that's not in the beta, Squadron combat.  I can already imagine myself sinking so many hours into flying X-Wings and Tie Fighters online.

Without knowing it, Battlefront is what I've been craving in a Star Wars game for years.  It makes me feel like I'm in the Star Wars universe and that's something hard to qualify.  The game scratches the Star Wars itch inside me and I know I'm going to pick it up on day 1.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker and Ground Zeroes

Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker is the PSP game that released after Metal Gear Solid 3 and Metal Gear Solid 4.  From what I can tell it was the most recent game in the franchise until last month's release of Metal Gear Solid 5.  I think chronologically the story takes place between MGS 3 and MGS 1.

I was out about $5 after the other day's failed attempt at Metal Gear Solid 3, and Peace Walker was only $4.  So, if these didn't work out I wasn't going to feel too bad.  I just wanted to sample what the series had done over the most recent entries.

I found Peace Walker to be a mixed bag, but not in the way I expected.  It had a clear tutorial and taught the gameplay very well.  I also liked the characters, setting, and mood right from the outset.  It had some cutscenes but they weren't overbearing in the way that MGS 3 was.

I generally liked where they were going with the series.  The only downfall were the controls.  But this time I could tell they were trying to go with a modern control scheme.  The problem was they were limited to the single analog stick of the PSP.  Even playing a PSP game on Vita there's only so much I could do to alleviate the controls.

But it was a good sign.  If I had a horrible experience with Peace Walker I would have given up.  Instead, I was interested to see what they had done next.

Which is why I installed Ground Zeroes on my PS4.  It's the prequel to Metal Gear Solid 5 and I had already gotten it for free on PSN.

It was awesome.  It had stealth gameplay, with modern controls, modern storytelling techniques, and a Metal Gear Solid vibe.  Ground Zeroes is the first Metal Gear Solid game that I've latched onto this strongly since I played the original Metal Gear Solid on the original Playstation all those years ago.

I spent the night exploring the facility in Ground Zeroes and having a blast.  It's doing so many cool things.  Using binoculars to tag enemies and equipment is surprisingly fun.  Being stealthy and exploring felt great.  When I triggered an alarm or got spotted the gunplay was a ton of fun too.  And I wasn't fighting the controls at all.

Ground Zeroes got me back into Metal Gear for the first time in years.

So I bought Metal Gear Solid 5.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Series that Doesn't Connect

Have you ever had a series that is widely loved and talked about that has completely failed to connect with you?

I've had it happen a few times, but the most recent event that brought it to mind was the release of the Uncharted collection.  I've had chances to get into the Uncharted series before and every single time I've picked up the controller and played the game I get bored within ten minutes.

The Uncharted Collection on PS4 would be the perfect time to jump back into the series and get caught up since it has the first three games in one package.

Which is why I downloaded the demo to check it out.  And again, within 10 minutes I was bored with it.

I should like this series.  I love a good platformer and good shooters.  It looks like a blend of a decent third person shooter and the platforming of Tomb Raider or Assassin's Creed, both games that I've liked.

But it simply fails to connect.

I'm not sure why this happens, but it seems like most gamers I've talked to have had this same experience.  There's a huge game series that seems universal and you just can't get into it for whatever reason.

Have you had it happen?  What was the series for you that failed to connect?

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Hobbit

I've been reading to my daughter for as long as she could sit in my lap while I flip through pages.  She's 5 now and she's an avid reader.

We've gone from baby books, to little kid books, to kid chapter books.  Last month she asked me when she could start reading "grown up books like Daddy".  And I said, "Right now!  Let's start!"

So I've been reading The Hobbit to her.  It's the quintessential starter book for adult novels in my mind, probably because I remember my mom reading it to me.

It's a book that I can read while she listens and just lets it wash over her.  When we sit down to read for the night we always talk about what happened the night before, and she seems to be keeping up with the story just fine... even though Tolkien's prose isn't all that approachable.  I'm thinking next up might be something more modern and easy to read, like Harry Potter, but the jury is still out on that decision.

After finishing the first third of the book I realized that I hadn't actually watched the first Hobbit movie since I saw it in theaters and I had just reached the conclusion of it in the book.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey covers this third of the book.  It's basically the beginning of Bilbo's adventure all the way through the end of the Misty Mountains part of the storyline.

That night my wife and I rewatched the Hobit and found it holds up really well.  It's the most faithful to the book with very few deviations.  The only parts that aren't directly from the book are the parts with Gandalf and the council of Elves and Wizards, which also happens to be the most boring part of the movie.  But, it's a small diversion which is over quickly.  The first Hobbit movie focuses mostly on Bilbo and it's a great movie because of it.

I'm actually excited to watch the second movie again after this one.  I forgot how much I enjoyed the first Hobbit movie.  I remember them diverging more and more from the book until the third movie just becomes dumb, but I don't remember the second movie very well.

If you haven't watched it since it's release or if you've never watched it, I would highly suggest checking out the first Hobit movie.  It's really good.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Life is too Short to Play Something that Doesn't Make You Happy

One of my friends on Twitter said, "Life is too short to play something that doesn't make you happy."  And when I read that I realized that's the philosophy I've been living by this past year.

Last December I got the desire to start working through my giant backlog of games.  And this is the one trick that allowed me to do it:

If a game doesn't make me happy, I stop playing it.

It sounds so simple, but in practice... it's difficult.  Once you get involved in the daily grind of a game it's hard to extricate yourself.  What if there are daily quests?  What if it's an MMO with a community of people you interact with?  What if you're half way through the story of a massive RPG?

What if there are so many forces driving you to keep playing the game that you're currently playing... but you stop having fun with it?

This last year, after 25+ years of playing games, I was finally able to get my head into a place where I can walk away from a game once I hit that point.  And it's made all the difference.

I sampled and played through my entire Steam back-catalog.  I finished all the core Final Fantasy games I wanted to.  I played every single PS3 game that I hadn't touched yet.  I finished all my 3DS games.  I'm caught up on the PS4 and Wii U games I've been wanting to play.  I played enough MMOs to get back into the swing of them on PC but not let them take over my life.

I have a couple RPGs left on my Vita, and that's it.  That's all that's left from a list that has been growing for years and years.

And for the first time ever, I can get entirely excited for the Fall releases!  They're usually an exciting time, but they also can feel like adding weight to an already unbearable load.  Not this year.  Not for me.

I'm ready to dive in and have fun!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Metal Gear Solid 3

With all this talk about Metal Gear Solid 5 lately it caught my eye the other week when MGS 3 and MGS Peace Walker were on sale on PSN.  I got both of them for my Playstation Vita for less than $9 total.

My history with Metal Gear basically went like this:

  • MGS: I loved this game, it was amazing at the time.
  • MGS 2: Um... weird... but still impressive for the time.
  • MGS 3: Utter frustration at controls and story.
Then I gave up on the series.  I thought I would pick up the story where I left off with MGS 3 and see what I thought of it now that I've had years of distance between me and the series.

I started up MGS3 and instantly felt frustrated.  The game kept yanking control away from me.  It was full of cutscenes and dumb radio dialog.  I mean, they tell Snake that it's a super secret stealth mission and time is of the essence but then immediately spend 30 minutes on the radio with him just introducing each other, making jokes, and shooting the shit.  And then introduce some more characters.  And then talk about philosophy.  And then, eventually, Snake gets to start his mission.

Now I know why I put down this game so fast last time.  It's trying to cram so much information down my throat before I even get to play that it's ridiculous.

Then I finally get out of the radio dialog window, walk 30 seconds across the jungle, and get another cutscene.

At that point I'm almost done with the game because I can't take pacing like this, but I think, hey maybe the gameplay will be amazing.

After the cutscene I have my first encounter with two guards.  BUT, there's no tutorial about the button configuration and the controls of this game don't match up to any modern standard.

So I gave up on MGS 3 for the second time in my life.  This time was much quicker than last time.  I remember playing at least a handful of hours the first time I tried this when it came out.

I've come to the conclusion that MGS 3 isn't a game for me.  But, I'm going to give Peace Walker a try and see what I think.

I did enjoy the first two MGS games, but at this point I doubt I could ever go back to them.  They're too much a product of their time.

Really, I'm testing out these games that I missed to see if there's any point in me picking up MGS 5.  I keep hearing people rave about how much fun they're having with it and I wonder if it might be fun for me too.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

I Love the Modern Movie Theater

My wife and I have been going out to more movies lately and we recently discovered that one of the theaters near us has been completely renovated into an awesome modern movie theater.

We now refuse to go anywhere else.

What is it about this theater that makes it so great?  Well, let me tell you.

The biggest thing is assigned seating.  I can pick out two good seats online days ahead of time, buy my tickets, and know that I'm going to get those exact seats.  There's no need to show up early or wait in line.  We can show up five minutes before the movie starts and be in our chosen seats.

The seats themselves are all basically giant lazyboy recliners.  They're probably three or four times the size of a typical movie theater seat and they're super plush.  Plus, every other one has an armrest that goes up and turns the pair of seats into one big loveseat which is perfect for date night.

These seats are seriously awesome.

The rows are all super staggered vertically so that there's no possible way your view can be blocked.  Every seat that isn't right under the screen is an amazing view.

Plus, at this movie theater they have a bar where you can get adult beverages and take them into the movie with you.  It's not something I often partake of, but it's really cool to have the option.

All of these things together mean that we just refuse to see movies anywhere else.  I can't imagine going back to the typical movie theater setup.  We have to drive a little bit further, but the prices for tickets are the same as anywhere else and the experience we get from it is so much better.

I hope more theaters move toward this model.  I absolutely love it.