Overwatch League Is Poised To Be The New NFL

With the Twitch broadcast peaking at 425,000 concurrents, Day 1 of the inaugural season of Overwatch League furthered the notion that 2018 is going to be the true breakout year for esports and Overwatch League is going to be the new NFL.

For those who didn’t immediately click away following that bold claim, let me explain.

To the uninitiated, competitive gaming being compared to the popularity of a long-established national sports league sounds ludicrous. But then again, so does watching young men giving themselves permanent brain damage every Sunday.

Overwatch League (OWL) is the conglomeration of the game’s best players, team owners with deep pockets and a fan base eager to support their cities and countries.

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Even well-known traditional sports moguls have gotten in on the Overwatch League phenomenon. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has a stake in the Boston Uprising and former Yankees all-star Alex Rodriguez is heavily involved with the San Francisco Shock.  

These deals and sponsors make OWL sound like any other league, especially when you factor in the $90 million dollar broadcast exclusivity Twitch just slapped down for the next two seasons of OWL.

Overwatch League is going to succeed because it draws just enough parallels with traditional sports to gather a fanbase, while catering to the new generation of cord-cutters and those who would rather play video games than watch Alabama win another national championship.

Now, let me damper my rocketing expectations for a moment. OWL will be big, but by current esports standards. Regular season matches should peak at anywhere from 250,000 to 500,000 concurrents on Twitch. I imagine the playoffs and championships could reach millions of people across multiple platforms. But we definitely won’t see NBA Finals, World Series or Super Bowl numbers for quite some time.

What I do see is OWL’s stability leading to TV networks, struggling with traditional sports viewership, fighting it out for broadcast rights to certain teams.

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Roughly five years from now I see a league with ever-increasing player salaries, bigger sponsors and average regular season viewership in the millions. As the roster of teams and cities represented grows, audiences will find someone to cheer for, regardless of how deep their involvement in the game is.

While I’m currently enveloped in cheering for individual players like Mickie from Dallas Fuel and Shaz from the LA Gladiators, the moment a Baltimore team comes to fruition, I’ll be 1000% more invested than I already am.

The point is, Overwatch League is the beginning of something huge for sports, not just esports. It’s social and globally connected in a way no other emerging league has been. So get in on the action now, that way you can act like an elitist hipster in a decade when you recall games and players from the inaugural season of the esport that simply became a sport.

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The Polyglot’s Top 10 Games of 2017

2017 was an oddity when compared to the rest of my gaming career. I played more games than any year prior, but also spent less time with those games on average. I fully immersed myself in PC gaming, Esports and rekindled my love with Nintendo. I suffered open-world gaming fatigue and found some of the highest praised games released this year to be nothing special.

Call me a hipster or a gaming anarchist but you won’t see Breath of the Wild, Horizon Zero Dawn or Super Mario Odyssey on this “best of” list.  What you will find is a couple remasters, an early access title and flawed but incredible sequels. Here is my list of the top 10 games released in 2017:

  1. Call of Duty: WWII (multiplayer)

If you’re buying Call of Duty WWII looking for a nuanced campaign mode or innovation in zombies co-op you certainly won’t find it here.

What you will find though is the reason this game sneaks onto this list and that is a stellar multiplayer mode. I feel like it is 2010 again because I am playing Call of Duty at least every other day.

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It isn’t perfect, with only 9 core multiplayer maps and a microtransaction system that is barely stomach-able, Call of Duty: WWII wears its atrocities on its sleeve. But that sleeve is made of the best material we’ve seen from the franchise in half a decade and I’m happy dealing with the ugly Christmas sweater that is the complete game here as long as I keep hearing that sweet PING! Of an M1 Garand after every kill.

  1. Telltale’s The Walking Dead: A New Frontier

Season 2 of Telltale’s The Walking Dead was tragically mediocre. Clementine is one of gaming’s best characters but just couldn’t carry the weight of a main role. Season 3 reintroduces her as a supporting character alongside a brand new cast and the result is a riveting story that rivals the intensity and intrigue of the original Season.

Without spoiling too much, the story continues the unexpected nature of the Walking Dead comics while being the best Telltale game since the Wolf Among Us. The best part is that you aren’t required to have played the two previous seasons in order to understand and enjoy this sequel. So chomp down on some zombie goodness as soon as inhumanly possible.

  1. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Uncharted 4 marked the end of Nathan Drake’s adventures. But The Lost Legacy proves that the franchise has plenty of supporting characters and fresh ideas to help carry future entries. Chloe and Nadine are an unexpectedly cohesive pairing that carry the story past its stereotypical antagonist. India is a beautiful location to explore and the game’s puzzles are challenging but accessible.

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Not only is Uncharted: The Lost Legacy a great game in its own right, but stands as a proof of concept for the continuation of the franchise.

  1. South Park: The Fractured But Whole

If playing through a 15-hour episode of South Park sounds enticing, than this RPG from Obsidian entertainment is perfect for you.

I lost track of the amount of fart jokes and laughs I had during my playthrough. Comedy is especially hard to convey in a video game, where most laughs usually originate from weird glitches and bugs that make characters faces disappear.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole achieves putting a “shit-eating grin” on my face through nostalgic character interactions and jokes related to current world events. It’s topical, hilarious and a damn good RPG too.

  1. Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds

Some may argue that until Dec. 20 Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds wasn’t a game. The nearly 20 hours I put into the game throughout August of this year alone argues otherwise.

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Not all Battle Royale games are created the same and the simplistic yet realistic nature of this genre entry grabbed me like few multiplayer games have. Fun alone but downright addictive with friends, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds rises above some recurring technical problems and a less than gorgeous engine to create one of gaming’s biggest phenomenons that shouldn’t be missed.

  1. Tacoma

The follow-up to 2012’s Gone Home, Tacoma represents another evolution in environmental storytelling from the Fullbright company.

The narrative of a near future space crew’s final frantic journey aboard a space craft with a depleting oxygen supply throws the player for loops and somehow allows for a greater discussion on the role of corporations and capitalism on our lives. The cast features some of the most diverse voice acting I’ve heard this year and carries the weight of the story marvelously.

  1. Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy

The first 3 Crash Bandicoot games represent the beginning of my gaming career. The Fur-K upgrade has greatly improved the visuals while at the same time reminding new players and longtime fans that the franchise was never a cakewalk to play.

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Although some design decisions remain just as mystifyingly stupid as they did in the 1990s, you can’t help but laugh at the fact that some levels are so ridiculously difficult. Crash is back baby, and I hope he is here to stay. Now if I could just get a Crash Team Racing remake…

  1. MarioKart 8: Deluxe

We’ve seen MarioKart games on handheld consoles before; we’ve even seen MarioKart 8 before, but nothing has felt like MarioKart 8 Deluxe on the Switch.

More than just a graphical upgrade, MK8 includes all previously released tracks, characters and karts, along with a few new faces, an extra item slot that really shakes up the sparring during races and an entirely revamped battle mode. MarioKart 8 Deluxe is the definitive version of the best MarioKart game ever made and the reason I bought a Nintendo Switch.

  1. Splatoon 2

I may have purchased a Switch to play MarioKart, but Splatoon 2 has kept me coming back to the console like I never anticipated.

 

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I played Splatoon 2 so much in its first two weeks of release that I had to buy a pro controller because I was about to give myself arthritis from playing in handheld mode. I spent a ridiculous amount of hours grinding for enough points to get my squid-kid the freshest pair off off-brand Yeezys I could find in the shops, all the while inking my way through the best multiplayer shooter of 2017.

Now if only the game supported some normal voice-chat.

  1. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

When I bought Wolfenstein II, I expected stellar gameplay supported by a barely-there story, essentially a mindlessly violent shooter gallery. What I found instead was the best first-person shooter I’ve had the fortune to play in years. The gunplay somehow falls second to a story with characters so riveting and life-like that I half expected them to jump out of the screen and physically drag me into their resistance against the Nazis.

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This is a single-player experience made for those seasoned FPS veterans that study every corner of A level in order to escape it on the highest difficulty. B.J. Blazkowicz and Grace Walker offer incredible perspectives into a Nazi controlled America, and whether we anticipated it or not, the story and its message resonates with the events of the present day.
F**k Nazis, and cheers to my 2017 Game of the Year: Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus.

Honorable mentions: ARMS, Destiny 2, Resident Evil 7

 

 

 

I Played Wolfenstein 2 The Week White Nationalists Protested At My College

Nazis are bad. That shouldn’t set off alarms as a controversial statement in 2017, but the backlash to Wolfenstein 2’s marketing campaign would say otherwise. So how did playing Wolfenstein 2 the same week a white nationalist rally was held on my college campus feel? Invigorating!

Grace Walker and BJ Blazkowicz are personifications of the anger I had been feeling all week.  A rifle held in one hand and his smartphone in the other, a student, former KKK grand-dragon and current neo-Nazi (with the swastika tattoo to prove it) had threatened groups he opposed at my college over Facebook. Following his suspension from campus as a result of his threats, white nationalists sent out a Facebook post, urging support for the neo-Nazi.

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It was yet another wake-up call in a year full of wake-up calls that Nazis still exist.

But don’t let their existence confuse you. Don’t let the free speech allowed to “dapper white nationalist” Richard Spencer fool you. Don’t let the president’s response to the events in Charlottesville, Virginia fool you. There is only one side, and that’s the side without Nazis.

Wolfenstein 2 accomplishes what few video games ever can, by taking a side and sticking to it. Blazkowicz and crew are out to start a revolution, wake-up the American people and free the United States from Nazi rule. The Wolfenstein series has been around for 25 years and this alternate history timeline was never meant to be topical in 2017. But developer MachineGames saw the turmoil and the political upheaval occurring during their 3-year development cycle and didn’t shy away from it.

Newspaper clips and in-game collectibles reference the modern day, with one in-game newspaper even alluding to the now infamous MotherJones article. Characters like BJ’s father demonstrate how easy some will fall into an acceptance of Nazi ideals. And Publisher Bethesda has faced backlash for “politicizing” their game…a game about Nazis.

In an interview with VICE, PR director for Bethesda Pete Hines was asked whether or not they (Bethesda) were poking the hornet’s nest with its marketing of Wolfenstein 2. Hines said “Maybe a little bit,  but the hornet’s nest is full of Nazis so f**k those guys…”

Hines’ words and the plot of Wolfenstein 2 is what I needed this week. Inside of one of the best first-person shooters I’ve played in recent memory is a no bulls**t approach to storytelling, one that firmly plants its feet and your controller on the right side of history.

My fellow college students and professors did that too, outnumbering white nationalists with counter-protesters 25-to-1. In a week full of formulaic statements by our University President, it was nice to play a game that wholeheartedly embraces the idea of #NoMoreNazis

It goes without saying that Nazis are still bad and Wolfenstein 2 is a fantastic game, a must-play this year.

Super Mario Odyssey Review

Super Mario Odyssey is a game where you can possess everything from a dinosaur to an anthropomorphic ball of lava. The destinations you explore are charming, whimsical and overflowing with inventive gameplay concepts. But the game’s lack of difficulty left me bored and feeling like I would’ve been better suited flipping through a book of concept art than spending $60 on a game that offers no sense of accomplishment.

Odyssey starts much like every other Super Mario game. Princess Peach has been captured by Bowser. This time, he plans to forcibly marry her, collecting the rarest food and decorations for the wedding from the kingdoms you visit while you chase him down.

Your companion Cappy, a ghost-like hat originating from the Cap Kingdom, accompanies you in order to save his sister Tiara, who spends the entirety of the game trapped on Princess Peach’s head. As ridiculous as all that sounds, it’s enough to push what little story there is forward, while giving an explanation for why you’re travelling from kingdom to kingdom.

The aesthetic of each kingdom can vary substantially. You’ll begin your journey in the dark, foggy and Tim Burton-esque domain of the Cap Kingdom before jumping to the lush, pre-historic jungle of the Cascade Kingdom. You’ll jump across giant pieces of meat to save a magical stew in a world where everyone is a fork. You’ll dive to the bottom of the ocean in a world completely covered by beach and shipwrecked vessels. There is never an absence of things to gawk at in Odyssey.

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With every new area comes a new set of characters/enemies to inhabit. In one area you might become a giant cloud with the ability to blow obstacles out of your path, in another you’ll become a frog with the ability to leap distances that open parts of the map that were previously inaccessible. There is a certain sense of wonder to be had when you randomly throw your hat at something and suddenly you’re a tree, a fish or even a franchise enemy like the Chain-Chomp.

Through every discovery a steady framerate is maintained, both in handheld mode and when the Nintendo Switch console is docked and displaying on your television.

The music in Odyssey is an absolute treat. The score will change and crescendo along with your actions. Every new enemy, battle and location has a corresponding vibe and musical palate to be uncovered. These instrumentals are memorable and sprinkle in hints of past soundtracks like that of Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy, all the while carving its own tunes into my head.

Variety is Super Mario Odyssey’s greatest strength thanks to the options in which the game presents for you to navigate the levels.

In one instance my progress was impeded by a wall higher than my standard jump could take me over. A green pipe to my right would activate a retro mode in which I could traverse a nostalgic 2-D Mario level, but I could also use a combination of moves with Cappy in order to climb the wall and skip that retro section altogether. Its design choices like these that kept me engaged through the roughly 12 hours I spent on the story campaign.

Super Mario Odyssey isn’t without flaws and the biggest stems from a lack of difficulty. Previous Super Mario entries weren’t explicitly difficult, but offered a respectable challenge, even for seasoned platforming fans. But Odyssey offered no challenge I couldn’t best with two attempts. Even the end-stage boss battles were predictable and easily overcome, as every fight consisted of some variant of throwing your hat at an enemy hat and either jumping on or punching the boss until they were defeated.

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The variety seen in the world design and mechanics doesn’t transfer over to combat. It’s the equivalent of being granted a supercar in a racing game that for some reason locks the maximum speed to 30 mph. A lack of challenging engagements caused the latter stages of the story campaign to feel like a grind. You can only see so many gorgeous vistas and possess a number of enemies before it becomes overtly repetitive and the law of diminishing returns starts to affect the amount of fun Odyssey supplies.

Once you finish the main campaign, which only takes 120 collectible moons to complete, you’ll be able to seek out the remaining collectibles in order to reach a grand total of 999 moons. Even though there was so much more game to play, I wasn’t motivated to continue my journey. The childish combat designed to be accessible to a wide audience had left me fatigued on simply going through the motions to discover new moons, enemies and kingdoms.

The Verdict

Super Mario Odyssey is a quality buffet for your eyes but prioritizes quantity when it comes to challenge. While fresh concepts, a wonderful soundtrack and the new possess mechanic are a treat to discover, Odyssey stumbles by cranking down its difficulty and creating hollow combat that offers little reward for the player.

6.5/10

Call of Duty: WWII Review

If you were to judge Call of Duty: WWII solely off of its innovation, you’d end up with a remarkably low score. But the latest entry in Activision’s yearly FPS franchise succeeds most when it wholeheartedly borrows from the deep past. Plus, there’s no more jetpacks, double jumping or gingerbread man costumes to ruin the experience from the start.

Campaign

There is no sequence, player interaction, story trope or mission type in Call of Duty: WWII’s campaign that hasn’t already been seen and done before.

You’ll storm the beach at Normandy, Fight at the Battle of the Bulge, shoot from the back of a jeep, engage in a dogfight, shoot an Anti-Aircraft gun and helm the gunner’s seat in a tank all before the credits role. As exciting as that all sounds, even casual players of FPS games have done this all before and WWII offers changes so insignificant within its campaign that you’d swear you were just playing a prettier looking remake of a game that came out in 2003.

As much as the story tried to wrap me in, I was often distracted by the poor choice of dialogue, abundant one-liners and predictability of knowing exactly what each character would say and how they would react. Despite a setting rooted during the greatest conflict in human history, the campaign established little purpose for me to meander from fight to fight.

Quick-time events are unnecessarily plentiful during the 6-hour campaign. I feel as if they may have been shoe-horned in to keep easily distracted players from simply skipping the game’s interactive cutscenes.

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The squadmates gameplay system, in which you must be close to fellow platoon-mates in order to receive health, ammo and other supplies is a shallow realization of  a clever idea, especially at lower difficulties. There was never an instance where I was wholeheartedly dependant on Zussman (who supplies your character with health) or Turner (Your Ammo man), as the battlefield was always littered with ammo boxes, more guns and health packs.

Overall, the lack of newness coupled with a simultaneous lack of nostalgia settles Call of Duty: WWII’s campaign into the forgettable category. It’s by no means a grind to play, but it is representative of  nothing more than mindless shooting galleries coupled together.

Multiplayer

I’m just going to be blunt and say this is the best multiplayer Call of Duty has seen since Black Ops 2.

Although movement has been significantly slowed by the absence of super-human enhancements and jetpacks on soldiers, matches still move at a brisk pace thanks to the tried and true three-lane map design present. The maps aren’t all good and Gustav Cannon stands out particularly as a “what the f**k were they thinking” map, but most do a great job of highlighting the stellar gunplay in WWII’s multiplayer.

Time to kill may be a bit longer than what I look for in a call of duty, but I have gotten used to it in the week since launch. Compared to Sledgehammer Games’ last effort, Advanced Warfare, which featured two incredibly dominant guns throughout the title’s lifecycle, WWII features a multitude of viable weapons and playstyles.

The Divisions system simplifies perks and loadouts along with giving advantages to players adhering to a playstyle represented by their class. For the Airborne division, this grants a suppressor to SMG wielders, and to infantry, the ability to put a bayonet on all assault rifles. Benefits stack as you level up and offer encouragement to prestige classes, which kept me heavily engaged in WWII’s progression system.

The new “War” game mode is an interesting diversion. Two teams take turns attacking and defending points. While defenders are simply tasked with halting an enemy advance, attackers will be required to attempt everything from building a bridge, setting off charges and escorting a tank. It’s a game mode that isn’t perfectly balanced but is a solid addition to a strong lineup of returning modes.

If there’s been one nagging issue holding Call of Duty: WWII’s multiplayer back, it’s the abundance of matchmaking issues that, depending on your platform of choice, has been resolved to varying degrees. In 2017, it’s shocking that Activision can’t establish reliable dedicated servers and work with its developers to keep basic systems like leaderboards and the game’s own f**king progression system from defecating on itself and the player base. A week from launch, these issues have been minimized but not completely resolved, and that is unacceptable.

Zombies

Call of Duty’s popular zombies co-op mode returns in WWII and offers a more horror oriented twist when compared to past installments.

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There are still perks, a mystery box, weapons you can buy off walls and of course zombies, but the aesthetic is much darker and more serious when compared to Treyarch’s zombies and feels like a misguided emo-stage when compared to Infinite Warfare’s Zombies in Spaceland. I say misguided because I couldn’t shake the feeling that the tone presented was out of place.

The survival aspect endures here, but the “fun” is thrown aside for a loosely arranged story that fails to realize that a mutated undead soldier with a giant screw for an arm is one of the enemies you have to fight.

Supply Drops

I can’t end this review without talking about the pervasive nature of Supply Drops. Present in both multiplayer and zombies, supply drops represent a path I hope the game doesn’t travel down when it comes to microtransactions.

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As it currently stands, cosmetic variants of weapons in multiplayer offer, at most, an XP gain increase. In zombies, guns received from crates can alter perks and character stats in a way that can give you slight advantages over the average player.

Although their inclusion leaves me with a guilty and uneasy feeling everytime I open one, their current state of inclusion doesn’t affect my gameplay experience significantly. With that said, this review will be updated as Activision and Sledgehammer Games implement new supply drop items and microtransaction systems.

The Verdict

Call of Duty: WWII is strongest in its multiplayer and falls into the mediocre category in nearly every other aspect. The campaign is as unoriginal as it gets, zombies mode takes itself too seriously and supply drops taint the overall experience. But the moment to moment gunplay and progression system in multiplayer will keep me actively engaged for the foreseeable future. The overall package is unessential playing, but offers a good experience if you’re looking for a rewarding PvP shooter.

 

6.5/10

South Park: The Fractured But Whole Review

South Park: The Fractured But Whole likes to take the fine line humor normally walks, and skip rope with it. Beyond the jokes is a simple yet satisfying RPG that is only bogged down by a final two hours that felt more like a chore than a treasure to play.

Fart Jokes Galore

The Humor in The Fractured But Whole follows the trend of many South Park episodes in that the delivery and execution can either have me truly belly-laughing or sitting in a state of slight disgust. I truly got a kick out of the new kid’s “tragic back-story”. My parents didn’t die and my uncle wasn’t killed, I simply walked in on my father f**king my mother, and no matter how many times The Coon (Eric Cartman) tried to switch up how I made my discovery, I always laughed.

Simple things like fights in the street pausing to let a car pass by and having the ability to punch every character I fought who said a micro-aggression added to the whimsical nature of the game. While the story blurs the line between what the kids are pretending to do and what is really happening in the town, the game has clever ways of pulling you back from it all and somehow making you laugh at acquiring another fart-power.

Other sections of the game did make me feel uneasy though, such as a mission that required myself and Captain Diabetes (Scott Malkinson’s super hero alter-ego) to give lap dances to drunken businessmen at a strip club.

Beyond the halfway point in the game, no joke or sequence had me laughing much beyond a giggle and the final two hours seemed to stretch on forever. Unfortunately, many of the jokes seem outdated. While the delays The Fractured But Whole endured may have helped the gameplay, many superhero movie related jokes and what I assume were supposed to be timely quips, were all but lost on me due to the passage of time away from their relevance.

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Gameplay is the strongest aspect of The Fractured But Whole. Traversing South Park outside of combat was gratifying, even when I hadn’t activated all of the fast travel stations. Moment to moment combat is engrossing but sorely lacking in difficulty. There were only a few fights where I had to restart or truly think of a strategy beyond just picking the characters that did the most damage.

As you fill out your character’s skill tree and character sheet, you’ll be given new powers and be asked to select a weakness. I found the speedster class to be heavily overpowered, as its variety of ranged attacks often did more damage and targeted more enemies than most of the abilities in the game. For this same reason, I chose Fastpass (Jimmy Valmer) in every fight he was available to participate in, killing my desire to try other team combinations with greater variety.

I chose old people as my weakness and was only required to face them once during the main campaign. Other options, such as sixth graders, crab people and Raisin’s girls would have to be faced multiple times in order complete the main quest, so there is definitely an advantage to picking certain enemies types as a weakness over others.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed 90% of the combat in The Fractured But Whole, fights against Mitch Connor were more annoying than fun. While multiple fights changed the rules of engagement on the fly, the fights against Conner seemed to only drag on battles I wanted to be done with. It didn’t help that the final fight of the game against him was equal parts underwhelming and drawn out.

The Verdict (Ha! you said dick! No I didn’t) 

South Park: The Fractured But Whole features combat that is entertaining but lacking in challenge and a story that is amusing until it slightly overstays its welcome. If you’re a fan of the TV series or are simply looking for a solid 15 hours of turn-based RPG to be played, this sequel is still a worthy pickup.

7.5/10

Reviewed on PS4

Gran Turismo Sport Review

Nearly four years into the Playstation 4’s life cycle, Sony’s premiere racing simulator has drifted onto the console. And Although Gran Turismo Sport has refined the looks and feel of racing, a lack of content and a shift to an always online model has made the latest installment of this storied franchise something I’d rather return to the garage

GT Sport’s transition to an esports focused racer is admirable but comes with an ugly trade-off. In order to appease the FIA overlords, Polyphony Digital has disabled almost all features offline. You can’t buy cars, save race times, play campaign modes, take photos or engage in anything else besides Arcade mode offline. In the three days I’ve played the game, I’ve encountered server issues on three separate occasions and I’m simply not waiting around for fixes.

When the servers are online, even the main “Sport” mode leaves you stuck in a perpetual pit stop. Races happen every 20 minutes but are restricted to one specific class of cars. There is no way to hop into a casual multiplayer match. You can host or join another server with different racing options, but these races often involve a waiting period just to end up in a loosely populated race.

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Why can’t I select a quick play mode and simply hop into a race? As much as I want to spend limitless minutes toiling around GT Sport’s menus ( ones that continue the series tradition of being exceedingly archaic), sometimes I just want to play the game I payed for and not have to suffer through a horrendously long load time or matchmaking queue to do so.

I did enjoy wasting my time gawking at the beauty of cars though. Every view and perspective exudes detail. The sound design surrounding each model is also greatly improved over past entries. Unfortunately, the selection of automobiles here is poor. Where games like Forza Motorsport 7 host over 700 vehicles, GT Sport holds an abysmal 162, many of which are just more powerful versions of the same car repeated to match certain class requirements. While the Quality over Quantity argument can be brought up here, there simply isn’t enough variety here to make players happy in the long run.

The fundamental mechanics and visuals of Gran Turismo Sport are astounding. Cars zoom around corners with a satisfying feedback and look marvelous while doing so. Disappointingly, the rest of GT Sport can’t catch up. The always-online component, repeated series flaws and a lack of content cause the latest entry in Polyphony Digital’s racing series to be lapped by the competition.

6/10

Destiny 2 Review

The Original Destiny was a pedestrian MMO. The game was plagued by a horrible leveling system, inconsistent loot, a lack of any coherent storytelling and a grind that never truly felt worthwhile. While the game slowly improved throughout its lifecycle with expansion releases like Destiny: The Taken King, I never felt like the game reached its full potential.

Fortunately, Destiny 2 is everything the original Destiny should have been, a grand and well thought out MMO that values the player’s time and creates a world that I constantly think about even when I’m away from my console.

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The motivations of Ghaul, the game’s main antagonist makes enough sense to push the campaign along even if his logic and reasoning seems to fall apart too rapidly at the story’s end. In fact, the campaign seems to rush itself to a conclusion despite feeling like there was more story to explore.  

When it comes to NPC interaction. the animosity between guardians and other ‘regular’ humans is explored in Destiny 2 and adds a level of depth to the lore that I never anticipated. I always assumed everyone simply stayed at the Last City but discovering these ‘outsiders’ has been enthralling. Hawthorne in particular reminds me so much of Tess from The Last of Us, as she exhibits behavior that simply has earth’s best interest in mind, despite her clashes with different factions of humanity.

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The missions that make up the campaign are varied enough to hold up through the 10s if not 100s of replays. Multiple replays have also revealed alternate dialogue options, something that I truly appreciate in a game that survives on replay-ability.

Destiny 2’s story is one of legitimately believable motivations and does more than just set up a reason for playing. Destiny 2 made me care for its characters. It showed their strengths, weaknesses and humor in a way that even makes Exodus Black, a rogue AI, feel human

Music to Remember

The Music woven throughout the campaign and the rest of Destiny 2 is simply incredible. Every tone change is met with an accompanying track. When the action crescendos so does the music behind it. I truly can’t express how much the soundtrack escalates that epic feeling you get when taking down a boss, navigating a vehicle section or falling prey to the enemy. It will stand as one of Destiny 2’s most memorable and defining features.

What’s Happening to the Floor?

By far the most improved aspect of Destiny 2 over its predecessor is the PvE experience.

Strikes no longer contain the unimaginative and often frustrating bullet sponges of the past. Final bosses present unique stage changes that force you to adapt your playstyle such as the toxic fluid encroaching the player as the battle heats up or the floor literally evaporating.

Strikes are also considerably condensed at around 15-20 minutes each compared to 30 minutes plus in the original Destiny. Nightfall variants of strikes offer modifiers that heighten the challenge without increasing the time required to complete strikes, if you’re good enough to complete them the first time around that is. Perfecting methods of engagement and working with your fireteam to clear these challenges offers possibly the most captivating gameplay Destiny 2 has to offer.

The improvements also translate into Destiny 2’s public events. Instead of using third party apps or playing a guessing game for when these events could appear like I was forced to do in the first game, events are marked with timers of on your world map. Multiple ship landing locations allow players to more quickly jump into the action and take away the annoying grind of riding your sparrow through an entire world just to arrive at a location on the opposite side of the map.

Patrols remain relatively unchanged but have also cut down their requirements in order to speed up the process of moving from one activity to the next. New adventures and missions will also pop up once you finish certain campaign missions and explore the varied and gorgeous locations of Earth, Nessus, Titan and IO.

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Nessus in particular never fails to catch my eye for just how gorgeous it is and reminds me of the No Man’s Sky’s box art. Unlike No Man’s Sky, Destiny 2’s beauty persists from place to place, and even over 25 hours in, I still find myself gawking at the universe Bungie has created.

It all feeds into the goal of making the grind desirable by taking you to places you want to be and respecting the time the player puts in. Oh, and Destiny 2 still does FPS mechanics better than anyone else in video games.

Shoot, Die, Repeat

Destiny 2 has made the the switch from 6v6 to 4v4 for its multiplayer offering known as the Crucible and it has made a minor but important difference. Matches move quicker and maps are condensed in a way that usher constant engagements between players.

Currently the Crucible features a quick play and competitive playlist that offers 5 different modes ranging from standard deathmatch, to zone capture and even a mode similar to Call of Duty’s Search and Destroy. While some modes play better than others, the overall experience falls slightly flat, especially compared to the acumen the Halo franchise once displayed.

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Destiny 2’s multiplayer isn’t bad by any means, but for Bungie, a studio with roots deeply grounded in PvP excellence, the mode’s lack of identity stings. PvP in its current state is a good but not great offering. In a game chock full of stellar improvements, the Crucible sticks out like a sore thumb for not evolving enough.

 

A Mountain of Microtransactions

The Eververse Trading company returns into Destiny 2 in the worst of ways. While $10 dances were overpriced but unnecessary to the original Destiny experience, the freshly monetized shader system (Destiny’s color coordination system for weapons and armor) has left many in the community, including myself, irate.

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In a game where customization of your end game content has been such as integral part of the gameplay loop, monetizing a feature that used to be completely free is appalling and shameful. The microtransactions in Destiny 2 tarnish much of what the game achieves elsewhere and exists as the only blemish on an otherwise superb package.

The Verdict

When I’m not playing Destiny 2, I’m thinking about playing Destiny 2. It Fixes nearly every aspect that led players astray in the original game. Fantastic art and music direction merge with an addictive gameplay loop to create a story worth experiencing and a game I’m willing to label as a must-play for 2017. It’s just a shame that Activision had to ruin it with a insulting cash grab after the fact.

9/10

What Hosting A Gaming Talk Show Has Meant to Me

When I was young, my grandmother would pick my sister and I up from school and take us to the McDonald’s down the street and buy us ice cream. She would eat her cone slowly into a curl and describe the shape as the hair of “Johnny Neutron”.

She clearly meant Jimmy Neutron, but that’s beside the point.

One day, on the drive home from McDonald’s a conversation emerged on what my sister and I wanted to do when we grew up. I’m pretty sure my answer was Astronaut or Sportscaster, but at the time, my answer wasn’t what mattered in that conversation. What stuck with me is something my grandmother said about making a living.

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She told us “Find something you love to do and find a way to get paid to do it…”

It didn’t seem revolutionary at the time, but that advice has been instrumental for where life has led me.

Fast forward to junior year of High School. Thanksgiving dinner somehow devolved into a career choice discussion. My sister had uttered something about Nursing or being a doctor, something my family was very excited to hear. When I said “games journalist” I didn’t exactly expect to be bombarded with sour reactions, but I probably should’ve been prepared for it.

For context, this was the same year I had asked for a 3DS instead of an iphone, a decision my aunt said a six-year old would make. This was the same year my dad threatened to destroy my PS3 on multiple occasions. This was the same year that the grandmother that said to find something I loved and find a way to get paid for it, seemed to make an exception and say that I couldn’t find a job “playing games”.

And I couldn’t really blame them, they weren’t in tune with the success of the gaming industry and all I had done to that point was talk.

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Things changed, as I soon used money from bonds I had received during my first communion ceremony to buy a microphone and game capture card, and I soon got to work writing and creating some of the lowest quality reviews and videos surrounding gaming I had ever seen.

But it was a start.

3 semesters into college, my parents were threatening to bring me back home. I wasn’t “involved” enough in anything besides playing games and recording my muffled thoughts on Call of Duty and Season Passes in my dorm room. I loved the University of North Florida and wanted to avoid living at home again, so I inquired about a volunteer position at Spinnaker Television. That practically forced volunteer opportunity changed my life.

For four months I volunteered on a daily news show, one that ended up being cancelled as we realized students weren’t willing to wake up at 9 a.m. to hear about parking decal thefts.

The TV station soon shifted to an entertainment format and my friend John McCrone and I saw an opportunity to make a show involving us doing the thing I happened to love most; talking about video games.

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We were shot down not one time, not twice, but three times before our station manager gave us a permission to shoot a 10 minute pilot show. Our pilot episode ended up being an awkward 19 minute gaming news rundown, but our station manager offer critiques before leaving for the summer. The station needed a show to produce and thus Birds of Play! Was born.

I returned to college after a summer working two s**t jobs and made my first appearance on the show. After sharing the video on Facebook earlier in the week, my parents described an interesting phenomena during our weekly call. They said that my grandparents and Aunt had seen the show and, in layman’s terms, finally began to understand what I meant all those years ago when I said I wanted to be a “games journalist”.

Whatever “games journalist” means now, all I know is I just want to keep doing what I do now; making a Gaming and Tech talk show each week with some of the hardest working and most passionate people I know. Episode 50 of Birds of Play! will release a day after I turn 21, and as much as I’d like to pop a bottle of champagne to legality, I’d rather drink to 50 episodes of a show that has brought me more joy than almost anything else I’ve ever been involved in.

So here’s a gigantic thank you to a few incredible people:

Brandon Diaz for his editing skills throughout the show’s lifetime.

Diane Colley for approving such a stupid show idea.

John C. Tyler McCrone for his help in getting me involved at Spinnaker Television and starting a show where we regularly debate with each other about Telltale Games.

Every volunteer crew member and co-host we’ve had over the course of the past 1.5 years of the show’s existence.

Our viewers who support us every week and even those who instantly downvote our videos or hope that we all horribly die in a fire with our families because we criticized Nintendo.

And, more seriously, to some of my family with which I secretly held a grudge against for years. It was misguided, but that grudge eventually drove me to prove you wrong in the best possible way. 

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So here’s to the next 50 episodes of Birds of Play! and whatever show, podcast or YouTube series I find myself talking about video games next because, barring any crazy circumstances, I’ll graduate before we hit 100 episodes. Whoops.

All previous and future Birds of Play! can be found at Youtube.com/spinnakertelevision

 

 

Call of Duty: WW2 is Hiding Activision’s Awful Supply Drop Plans

 

Call of Duty: World War 2 has painted itself as the savior for the Call of Duty franchise. The game marks a return to “boots on the ground combat” which the past three installments have lacked. But what WW2 will share with the past three titles is supply drops, and that is something we should all be worried about.

Activision, Call of Duty’s publisher, likes to be very sneaky with their wordplay. They’ve quietly admitted to supply drops being present in the game but even quieter is their mention of cosmetic only items during the quote, unquote “launch window”.

Essentially, that translates to: Items will be cosmetic only for the first month when reviews are still coming out and then we’ll throw everything me promised out the window and bamboozle our customers yet again.

We saw it with Black Ops 3 and again with Modern Warfare Remastered; cosmetic supply drops simply never stay that way in the Call of Duty franchise.

And this year could be even worse as the promise of “era-specific loot” is only guaranteed during the launch window. This means we could be seeing laser rifles and neon colored uniforms in multiplayer after launch. 

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This system is being hidden altogether during the private beta, something I can only amount to a response from the backlash received during Infinite Warfare’s beta. in which supply drops and in-game currency were earned at a much faster rate than what the final game released with.

If you’re in denial about the implementation of these items you need to wake up. Activision’s financials continue to be bolstered by the sale of micro-transactions to the tune of over $1 billion every year.

I can gauge the excitement from my friends over Call of Duty’s supposed return to form as they ask me, the guy who used to live and breathe the franchise, what platform I’ll be playing on and where I pre-ordered. But what I tell them is something I said several months ago; I’m done with Call of Duty.

I still play Modern Warfare Remastered occasionally and I still love Treyarch Zombies, but I have no motivation to invest in Call of Duty WW2. I can already see the outrage stemming from a game that is flooded with unnecessary and repulsive supply drop items that do nothing but further Activision’s bottom line and take away from the aesthetics and allure of Call of Duty.

This is franchise on a downward spiral, not because Activision released 2 too many jetpack games, but because supply drops have ruined the reason why you play Call of Duty.

Multiplayer used to be about leveling up, prestiging, unlocking that new gun, getting a tactical nuke and amazing gameplay elements that kept you coming back. Now, Call of Duty is all about what new gaudy camo or overpowered weapon you can get from the game’s microtransaction system, and that is a disgusting state for a game to be in.

If you simply don’t care imbalance in gameplay, missing content or have unlimited funds to spend on a video game, then Call of Duty: WW2 looks like a fine game.

But for the average player, this year’s COD is going to be a promising experience that becomes a monumental letdown when SledgeHammer and Activision inhibit the game with microtransactions that dominate the conversation and psyche of the playerbase.

I’m just one of many longtime fans who has already rejected the idea of returning to the franchise. I see many others erasing future Call of Duty games from their gaming mindset very soon.