Mass Effect Andromeda Vs. The Jaded Keyboard Jockeys

Mass Effect Andromeda has been getting brutalized by some reviewers over the last few days.  While some would-be gamers like to fancy themselves as respectable ‘Reviewers’ I am hopeful that they learn what it means to grade a piece of media on any sort of scale (qualitative or quantitative) and the danger it poses for some gamers that might actually enjoy the game – regardless of reviews.

I am not an Xbox One owner and I don’t own a PC that can run the new Mass Effect without buying a new case and GPU to play the game early.  I can say from my experiences as a former Mass Effect player that most of the reviews I have read don’t really surprise me in many regards.  It does make me wonder if any of these people played through the initial trilogy.

I played through Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 before taking a hiatus after hearing that the trilogy had a ‘bad’ ending.  See what a bad review can do to someone that should make their own decision?  The first sentence of this paragraph is why I am more than willing to give Mass Effect Andromeda a chance.  I don’t know that I will be a day one purchaser, but I can tell you that the crux of the bad reviews has left a bad taste in my mouth.

Some reviewers talk about how the navigation system of cumbersome and counter-intuitive controls.  Did they never play the first three titles? Seriously, I still didn’t know how to equip attachments to my weapons by the time I finished ME2!  The wheel navigation, the loading screens, the seemingly pointless conversations with NPCs… the list goes on in some ways.  Mind you – this was my impression of the initial trilogy… not Andromeda.

Jack

By the time I finished Mass Effect 2 I found myself actually missing Jack (a character I really grew to appreciate) as she died at the end of my playthrough.  I have read a lot of books in my life and I have become attached to a lot of characters in those printed words.  Never did I feel sadness at the loss of a character like I felt when I lost Jack. This was nearly ten years ago and goes to prove my point that while Mass Effect had controls that I didn’t particularly care for and dialogue that was lame at times – it was a great story that grabbed my soul in some ways.  It is up to the gamer to find their reason to save the universe and maybe some of the people in it.

Mass Effect is a story meant to be played through.  Yes, you get to choose your own adventure in some ways.  Deciding to be a dick to someone asking you a stupid question might make you feel like the renegade you are earning points for, but really… aren’t you playing a role in something bigger?  In a game about the far reaches of a galaxy it doesn’t seem fair for someone to say a game is crappy or bad because the dialogue options seem mundane.  Granted, maybe they should take a look at their own reviews and ask themselves who the real cliché is in this case.

I won’t be an apologist for whatever Mass Effect Andromeda turns out to be.  If it is as disappointing as No Man’s Sky I will be the first to laugh at my future purchase (thank the gaming gods that I never bought NMS).  However, you won’t find me being harsh to a game that will hopefully prove to be a nice reintroduction to the Mass Effect universe.

I hope to find a character that grabs me like Jack did during the original trilogy. In the end, we are all just trying to find a reason to save our own universe.  In the case of Mass Effect Andromeda I hope to do the same.

Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes – The Best ‘Cheap’ Game Since The Orange Box

Before we begin, yes –  Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes can be played through in a matter of minutes (I completed my first play-through in 63 minutes).

Metal-Gear-Solid-Ground-Zeroes-Snake
Snake is back.

That said, Ground Zeroes (GZ) is far more than just a ‘one mission preview’ of the coming Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain.  It is a showcase of sorts for a franchise that has grown over the last few decades.  Not only is it graphically superior (even on PS3) to its predecessors, but it has also taken major steps in gameplay and control.

Metal Gear Solid has been a rather clunky handling game since its inception on PS1.  The side menus for sorting all of the items are gone.  Replaced by a relatively simple D-Pad navigation system for equipped weapons and items.  Other actions can be taken with the new ‘iDroid’ which is basically a quasi-3D PDA that Snake carries around for navigation, cassette and music functionality.  It is a less ‘high tech’ and attached (don’t forget you are supposed to be in the year 1975) Mk2 from MGS 4.

The real improvements to this game are noticed in the actual gameplay.  While MGS3: Subsistence and MGS4 both used the rotatable camera, they still had the clunky gunplay that most MGS fans (and haters) might recall.  For those that don’t know this reference – you basically had to play Twister with your fingers on the controller if you wanted to take out enemies quickly and precisely.  While it became more fluid as you played the game it usually fell short of expectations that games like Splinter Cell pushed for in handling (especially aiming and shooting firearms).

Ground Zeroes doesn’t have that problem anymore.  You now have the ability to handle weapons in a way that is closer to Splinter Cell than ever before.  For some of the MGS ‘purists’ I am sure they will try to raise hell over this new move, but really it is an improvement to the gameplay.  While it may seem to some to be a ‘dumbing down’ of the controls, it is far from that as the challenge is still there – just in a more organic fashion.

The aspect of the game I was most worried about going into this new MGS title was the new voice of Snake.  With the news that David Hayter was no longer the voice of our reluctant hero I became skeptical that anyone could take over the role with the same quality.  Then it was announced that Kiefer Sutherland would be the voice of Snake (aka – Big Boss).  Simply said – he does not disappoint.  At first when Snake says his typical “Kept you waiting, huh?” your reaction will probably feel like when you accidentally called the wrong number and a voice you don’t know says ‘Hello’.  Fear not.  By the time you get to the final part of the game you will see and hear why Sutherland is a welcome addition and change in Snake.

MGS: The Phantom Pain is now my most anticipated next-gen title.
MGS: The Phantom Pain is now my most anticipated next-gen title.

Not only does this game make improvements, but it is also full of other side-missions and other minutia that will keep you busy until The Phantom Pain comes out.  Also, the availability of this title on PS3/360 makes it a joy for those of us that have yet to buy into the next-Gen consoles as we bide our time for the better developed games and the inevitable hardware malfunctions/bugs to seep out and get fixed like last gen consoles (RROD/YLOD).

If you are a fan of the MGS franchise or trying to decide whether to jump into the series – this is worth a purchase.  Not only will you enjoy the additions, but chances are that it won’t leave your system until The Phantom Pain comes out.

XBox One and PS4 – Are Exclusive Titles Still A Selling Point?

On the XBox 360 and PS3 there was the constant bombardment of exclusive titles like Gears of War, Halo and Forza versus Killzone, Resistance, Gran Turismo and for some sports gamers – MLB: The Show.  Now that the next generation of consoles have finally started to become more common in households around the world it is interesting to see that the focus has shifted away from the exclusive titles and more towards the features of the systems themselves.

MGSV
Snake isn’t limited to just Sony consoles these days. But some of his missions are exclusively on one console or the other.

Sure, there are games that XBox One and PS4 have exclusive agreements and rights for, but they aren’t exactly the same type of focus that we saw last generation.  While there are some gamers out there that will have certain games that they simply must have like the Halo or Killzone titles for each respective console… that time is changing.

One of the most obvious changes can be seen in the Metal Gear franchise.  Metal Gear has always been a Hideo Kojima/Konami production.  In saying that – it has also almost always been seen as a Sony Playstation title as well.  Now that they have announced Metal Gear Solid 5 is going to be multi-platform it seems that they are starting to realize that more console availability also means more sales overall.  This isn’t always a blessing as other content within the game will be exclusive to each console.  This is more annoying than anything as it drives many gamers to wonder why they bother spending more and more money on microtransactions.

With multi-platform releases like Call of Duty, Battlefield, Madden NFL and other titles that prefer mass marketing based on volume of sales rather than simply having an agreement with a certain company to release on a specific console.  The one caveat to this is when companies like EA and Activision make agreements (like they did with Microsoft) to release certain downloadable content (DLC) on one console before other another.  This is a practice that is rather insulting to users that buy a game like Battlefield 4 on PS3/4, XBox 360 and especially PC as well as purchasing the $50 ‘Premium’ service.  Primarily because they are being cheated out of content that is obviously available for XBox One users far earlier than anyone else that have purchased the same service for a different platform.

As we enter into a new era of gaming and an eventual move into a focus on digital content, it will be interesting to see how long exclusivity really plays a role in corporate gaming decision making.  As it stands, there are a lot of gamers that are sick of feeling cheated out of their money when it comes to ‘exclusive’ titles and other DLC not being available for whatever reason.

PS4 vs. XBox One – Which Console Will Have The First ‘Light of Death’?

In the next couple months we will finally be able to purchase one or both of the latest consoles from Sony and Microsoft.

The question on every jaded gamers’ mind is – “Which one will have the Red Ring of Death (RROD)/Yellow Light of Death (YLOD) first?

The sad state of affairs in console gaming became an on-going joke when the initial PS3 and XBox 360 models began to over-heat and fail in large numbers within months of release.  The 360 took the majority of the flack as the RROD left almost every owner of the original ‘white’ XBox in fear that their console would greet them with the E-72/74 error.  I was one of the many that had to send their console into M$ and wait impatiently for my gaming to return almost 2 months later.

The PS3 wasn’t left out of this tragic hilarity either.  Many of the original PS3’s (not as high of a % as the 360) started to overheat around the cell processer/gpu chip-set and required either a long trip to Sony for a fix or some sort of repair by melting the solder on your own with a heat gun… or even your kitchen oven (<— I know, right?).  The moral to this story should be more of a warning than anything to people that want to get the new consoles on release day.  You are going to be beta testers and you will get a front row seat to the engineering failures of the PS4 and XBox One.

Which Has a Better Design For Ventilation?

This is really anyone’s guess, but we can try to take a look at the consoles in their case design as well as their specs and start placing our bets.

Considering both consoles are very similar in their power specs there shouldn’t be a lot of differential in heat produced.  However, the PS4 is already ahead of the game by using DDR5 RAM instead of the XBONE’s slower DDR3.

Sony seems to be learning from the mistakes they made in the design of the original PS3.  While the PS4 is still relatively large in size, it isn’t enormous with a strange curvature and tiny vents like the ‘Fat’ original PS3.

The PS4 seems to be trying for a well vented rear section rather than from the top side.
The PS4 seems to be trying for a well vented rear section rather than from the top side.

Microsoft seems to think that the answer is to simply keep the console enormous and implement enormous ventilation areas.

xbonevents
The XBox One has allocated half of the top of the console as well as the side and a slot on the back of the machine for ventilation.

Which One Will Fail First?

Based strictly off of pictures of the case designs the XBox One has an advantage in ventilation area but the sheer size of the console drives me to worry about the internal design and engineering of the console.  The one thing that changed between models of the 360 and PS3 was that they got smaller (as most technologies do) as time went on.

The PS4 seems to be trying to go in a similar direction to the PS3 original with rear vents (albeit, bigger vents).  However, this might seem to be a case where less is more when compared to the XBox One.

THE VERDICT

The XBox One will pose a greater risk for dying first and it is primarily because of the location of the vents on top of the console.  While there is more ‘ventilation’ on the console itself, it is opening the worst possible part up for dust to settle by default.  Consider the amount of dust that gathers in a console just through the back slots (even in a clean house).  Now think about how much dust will find a way into the top of your console over the course of time.

The size of this console and the placement of a giant fan under the top vent is begging to become a dust collector.

What Console War? – XBox One and PS4 Aren’t Much Different

I have been fielding questions from friends, family and NoobTubeTV visitors lately and now I will just put this out there for everyone to read.

The next-gen consoles really aren’t that different from each other.  With some minor differences in RAM speed and other internal tuning the consoles are relatively similar machines on the inside.  The real difference will come in the $100 difference in price on release day with the PS4 being the cheaper of the two.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of the system specifications.

Playstation 4 vs Xbox One specs

After going down this list of specs you won’t see much different in the primary specs.  Also, for those that say that PlayStation Online Network is free and XBox isn’t… that argument is over as PS3 will now have a fee to play multiplayer games.  However, that doesn’t mean you will have to find a new receiver for Netflix as it should (still) work just fine with the free online account.

Also, there are conflicting reports out there and let it be stated here that neither system is ‘backwards compatible’ with titles from older consoles.  However, the PS4 will be able to stream games from the old system if that is any consolation (no pun intended).  So, keep that PS3/360 if you plan on wanting to play Grand Theft Auto 5 for the foreseeable future.

What other questions do you have about the coming release of the new consoles?  Put them in the comments section below.

Grand Theft Auto V – Too Big To Fail?

With the release of GTA:V only two weeks away there are millions of gamers chomping at the bit for a chance to devote their spare time to murdering innocent people in the street, taking cops on crazy chases, organizing heists and playing the occasional mission in the story mode.

Grand Theft Auto V is almost here.
Grand Theft Auto V is almost here.

If you consider the fact that Rockstar has stated that this game will be bigger than virtually every GTA game put together there is room to worry about the potentiality for major bugs in the code.  While this is obviously something that will be an issue at some point (as it has been with almost every game during this generation) one can’t help but wonder if this game might be so large in scope that it succeeds much like Skyrim has for a few years – even with the bugs.

The marketed depth of GTA:V prior to release is something that has driven me to wonder if this is setting up many people to wait out the release of new consoles as they play one of the most beloved series in gaming over the last 10 years.  The question is, will it be enough to keep you from feeling like you have to get the PS4 or XBox One when they release?

Madden 25 – It Is Time To Move On

Sanders Madden 25

The demo is now available for Madden fans to download and play to their heart’s content.  At 2GB in size it is a nice size for a demo with 5 minute quarters and the ability to change the difficulty level (as well as change the accelerated clock back to normal speed so you can enjoy the demo for a bit longer each time you play.

You will have the choice between using the Ravens or the 49ers in a Super Bowl rematch in Baltimore.  The other match-up has the Packers and Seahawks playing on the not-so-frozen Tundra of Green Bay.

The demo is solid and plays like you expect Madden to play.  There have been some obvious tweaks and changes to the momentum of players as they don’t go into sprinting as fast as they once did in past iterations.  Also noticeable is the fact that player collisions seem refined this year.  If you are using a bruising runningback like Frank Gore and you flick the R-Stick forward at the right moment you can expect to blow up smaller players on defense.

On the other hand, if you are on defense and want to lay out an opposing player with the ball and you have someone like Patrick Willis – it will be a fun “oooooh!” moment as the heavy hitting defender knocks the snot out of the ball carrier.  While this seems like something to cast away as ‘something that should have already been in the game’ it is a nice addition none the less.

Shouldn’t This Stuff Already Be In The Game?

Yes, you are right.  We have been waiting for basically this entire generation of consoles to have a Madden title that plays and feels like this.  It still feels like a crisp handling Madden game where the players move at the slightest command of the analog sticks. While many Madden fans tend to worship the control scheme and feel of this game it is still a bit arcade-like and feels at times like it is still focused on being an offensive shoot-out rather than a good football game.  Granted – this is what the NFL wants in their new approach to the game (flag football much?).

This also brings to light the new ‘run free’ feature that gives players a more dynamic running ability based on their style and ratings.  As mentioned above, players like Gore will run people over and then there will be players like LaMichael James that can juke others out of their jocks.  It is a nice addition but it isn’t really something ‘new’ as much as something that is just being featured in this title.

Dear Phil Simms – STFU

I can’t stand this guy during his broadcasts in real-life and in Madden he is ten times worse.  If you got sick of hearing him bad mouth the wrong player or make some sort of lame comment about WRs not being able to be touched – it gets old by the second quarter.  Turn off the commentary and turn up the crowd noise… although even that isn’t as good as it should be.  The sound quality is garbage and I’d recommend getting some decent music to play in the background rather than hear anymore of what we have been getting for the last 25 years.

Connected Franchise Mode

This is once again something that EA is trying to push as something new that was really removed before coming into this generation of consoles.  Owner Mode (what it really is) was in Madden 2005 and is finally back almost ten years later.  The only thing with this is that I am left wondering what in the hell I care about my team making more money for if there is a salary cap.  In a baseball game this is vital as your team needs more money for better players.  In this game you will most likely be able to spend your money on something you will never see in-game like cup holders at every seat or heated toilet seats.

The new feature seems to be directed on towards bringing more fans to your games depending on the prices you set for things in the concession stand along with ticket prices, etc.  News to EA… NFL games are expensive forms of entertainment.  You have to be crazy not to expect a cup of crappy beer to cost $8-9 per cup (no joke).  So, before you get all excited about some ‘new feature’ like this it would be wise to look at it with a critical eye and ask – “What does this mode/feature really add to the game?”

As we get closer to the release of Madden 25 there will be a lot more hype built up on the internet focusing on how amazing this game looks and how many new features there are in place.  Don’t fall in the trap… read up on Madden 25, play the demo and above all else don’t buy this game new without knowing the details first.  We will keep you posted.

 

Creativity Isn’t Dead – Most Perceptions of Entertainment are Boring

I have been fortunate to know or be acquainted with artists, writers and even some people that work in video game production.  One thing that has never ceased to amaze me is their creativity.  There is always something new in their head.  Some sort of cool new project that is simply amazing because it is fresh and straight out of their creative mind.  The current mainstream gaming atmosphere doesn’t allow for this sort of creativity anymore.

Video-games-as-art-600x300

With games like Call of Duty and Madden being released every year it doesn’t say much for what corporate monsters think of gaming.  They don’t see it as art – they see a bottom line that must be met in sales or the studio will be closed.  As you start looking at the upcoming consoles do yourself a favor and ask why the games are getting stale.  While Madden can’t exactly change or implement something wild or crazy graphically or otherwise – it is still lacking creativity.

Another example of a great game that became over-produced quickly – Assassin’s Creed.  Really?  Is the character truly a different person?  Sure, the voice is different and the face may be structured with some new scars, etc… but this is the same damn game every time it comes out.  Attack, Counter, Attack, Kill, Run, Repeat.

There are many artists and developers out there that want to be creative in gaming and they are being held back because gamers don’t want new games or concepts.  They want a fresh veneer painted on the same crap they have been playing for 10 years.  People generally fear change and it is up to artists, musicians and writers to flip their world upside down.

I look forward to the day when I can look at video games and see them as new, fresh and risky art… right now all I see is what most people seem to want:

2/3 of a gun
Crosshairs
Poorly animated blood

The list could go on, but really if it needs to you are missing the point.

XBox One – What You Need To Know

The Tuesday that many gamers had been waiting for has come and Microsoft announced the latest iteration in XBox consoles.  It isn’t much of a surprise to hear that they are planning a release ‘later this year’.  While this most likely means a retail release for the holiday season, it would be interesting to see them try to beat the Playstation 4 to the punch with a release prior to that time period.

XBox One

Some of the other details include a BluRay Disc Drive, 500GB harddrive and an 8-core CPU to go with 8GB of RAM.  The system will also have wireless-N tech for networking.  USB 3.0 ports will help for a faster connection for Kinect and other peripherals – it will be interesting to see how far they really want to take Kinect at this point.

In terms of backwards compatibility – none.  This isn’t really a surprise as the 360 and PS3 had virtually zero backwards compatibility after a couple years.

Used games?  The rumors were swirling and they will continue to swirl because Microsoft didn’t address this issue at all.  It does seem that you will have to install every game to your harddrive which would make for an interesting issue when dealing with enormous games on BluRay discs.  Will you have to uninstall old games and then start switching between them after awhile?  The move away from being ‘used game friendly’ isn’t going unnoticed, but many gamers out there won’t do much to prevent this move as they continue to buy big budget titles like Call of Duty and Madden without thinking twice.

Hopefully, the limitations of second-hand games will create a more picky audience of gamers.

(No price points have been discussed, but look for it to be similarly priced to the PS4)