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Dark Souls

Nickdog8891 —  05/06/2014 — Leave a comment

FGWG  6/1- 6/15

Prepare to die

Prepare to die

By now, most of you have heard about Xbox Live’s Free Games With Gold (or FGWG, for short).  Basically, Microsoft gives you two free games a month, one retail title and one XBLA title, for free, as in, 0 cost.  With many gamers very wary of whether they should play or even download these games(seeing as how they take up SO MUCH precious hard drive space), I’m creating a new segment aimed at giving a little bit of insight and advice towards that end.  At the end, I’ll give a verdict on whether you should play, download, or simply save your space, as well as giving a few tips and tricks to help you guys (and gals) out.

First up, a game that you will not enjoy, Dark Souls.  Now, by no means and I saying its a bad game, or that it lacks entertainment, but it’s not fun.  Dark Souls is hard, unforgiving, and cruel.  In an age of unlimited health and infinite respawns, Dark Souls sticks out with.  It takes a very patient and determined person to take on this challenge, not to mentioned skilled.  Any and every enemy is a potential threat, and in groups, they are almost certain death.  And don’t get me started on boss battles.  You will die multiple times before you can figure out a sound strategy, and countless more before you can execute your plan.

Seriously, I'd think about a new profession

Abandon All Hope

Learning is the name of the game.  The only way to make progress is to learn from your mistakes and deaths, and come back with a better strategy next time.  When you die (and you will die, a lot), you lose all your souls, and if you are human, you will revert back to your Hollow, undead state.  You don’t lose any equipment, items, just souls.  Not all is lost however, because if you can reach the spot where you died, you can retrieve your lost souls.  Just don’t die on the way there, or those souls will vanish.  The key is approaching Dark Souls a different way than normal.  Death sucks, but it’s not the end.  Simply start over, and do better.

Patience is key in any battle.  Study your opponent, learn his movements, and strike when the time is right.  Some enemies you can simply hack to death, but many require blocking, dodging, and parrying.  Hollow Knights are a death sentence for the aggressive player, or the too timid, as they carry shields, and block most incoming attacks.  Enemies are not the only danger however.  Cliffs, nature, and countless walkways and bridges can easily lead to an unexpected demise.

Parrying a Knight is oh so satisfying

Catch a Knight recoiling to put him out of his misery

 Verdict

Dark Souls isnt for the faint of heart, or the impatent.  But it can be a very rewarding game, if you can approach it from a distance, and enjoy the little things.

Play

Tips and Tricks

  • Dont get attached to your souls.  If you have the chance to buy a weapon or a piece of equipment, go ahead and get it.  You will need it
  • Approach every encounter cautiously.  move slow, block, and if possible, only engage one on one.
  • Try to find a weapon you are comfortable with.  Each style has it’s advantages, but you neeed to be comfortable wielding your weapon to be successful.
  • Unless you died with tons of souls, don’t make a mad dash to retrieve them.  You will almost certainly die
Seriously, it's gonna hurt

Get used to seeing this. A lot.

warface 360 beta (0)

There are certainly plenty of military shooters out there on the market today, so you may be asking me “Bryan, why in the sam heck would i want to play another one?”  I’m here to answer that question, and that question alone (well, maybe a few more, if you have them).  To start, Warface is FREE to play.  Yes, you heard me, FREE, F-R-E-E, TO-TA-LLY-FREE.  It does require a Gold Membership, but really, who doesn’t have one of those? Currently, its in a closed beta stage, but all you need to do is sign up at http://www.warface.com/xbox/ and hopefully you will get an email invite.  Now, i was lucky enough to get said invite (albeit over a week later) and from the shot time i have had with the game, i’ve come away with a few observations.

Gameplay

Once you fire up Warface for the first time, you will be prompted to go through a tutorial.  Do that.  Its short, informative, and simple.  It does a great job of getting you acquainted to the controls and movement, with no danger at all.  Once you have done that, either head over to the Co-OP or verses menu to get into the action.  As far as actual shooting-other-people-in-the-face-ness is concerned, Warface is certainly well crafted.  Aiming seems quite fluid, and players who are more accurate are the ones who will be racking up the kills.  Weapons seem responsive, with reasonable recoil.  A huge selling feature of Warface is the ability to customize weapon attachments on the fly.  Simply press up on the D-Pad, and you can swiftly swap between available attachments mid match, or even mid firefight.  While I personally have not tested this feature, due either to my low playtime or beta restrictions, i’ve seen the menu in game, and seen it showcased in video.

There are four classes available, Rifleman, Engineer, Medic, and Sniper.  Each has its own strengths, such as the Rifleman’s ability to replenish ammo either to himself, or an ally.  But each class is limited to one set type of primary weapon, such as a shotgun for the Medic, or a sniper rifle for, yep, you guessed it, the Sniper.  The key to success, especially in the Co-Op missions, which i will get to later, is teamwork, and a diverse squad.  Going into a mission or fight with only one or two classes will spell disaster, or possibly a harder word, like rutabaga, or Saskatchewan.  Playing Warface with friends is by far the best way to succeed, and once the game is released, virtually everyone on your friends list should have the game, so you should have no shortage of company.  The other figurative selling point of Warface are Co-Op missions.  Grab a few friends and battle against the CPU through multiple objectives, with new missions daily.  The initiation missions i played were quite easy, but i suspect later missions will be much more difficult.  Crytek is planning on releasing more content, such as maps, weapons, ect, so Warface should hopefully be a staple of your gaming library for the forseeable future.

warface 360 beta (1)

Unfortunately, it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns during my first sit-down.  A few minutes into my first two matches, i had a connection error pop up, prompting me to quite the lobby i was in.  I also had a connection error in a C0-Op mission I was playing, again requiring my to exit back to the menu/  I haven’t been able to determine if the connection issue was on my end, or the servers end, but im assuming it was a little of both.  Hopefully this is just a bug that will be cleared up before the full release, because problem servers would be a death sentence for Warface on the 360.

So, where was I?  Ah, the question you asked, way back at the beginning.  Indeed, Warface Is worth the 4.48GB of space on your hard-drive, seeing as how its FREE, and FUN.  I will certainly be monitoring its progress, and I will have a review out after the full release, so check back later for more information.  Also, go register for the Beta invite, because why not?  Ill even give you the link again, so you don’t have to scroll alllllll the way back to the top to find it.  I know, i’m too nice.  http://www.warface.com/xbox/

Give us your feedback please, I promise, we don’t bite!

(This was my first article in a while, so please, leave me feedback in the comment section)

Review: NHL 14

Nickdog8891 —  03/10/2013 — Leave a comment
New one-touch dekes give puck carriers a much needed evasive option to avoid contact

New one-touch dekes give puck carriers a much-needed evasive option to avoid contact

The newest installment of arguably EA’s most stable franchise is here, and it does not disappoint.  Not much, as far as I can tell was taken out of NHL, and honestly, not much really needed to be.  Instead, EA Canada decided to streamline the menus and beef up the content, much to my liking.  The on-ice product is noticeably better, due to the addition of the Player Impact Engine from FIFA and the Enforcer Engine from Fight Night.  Even if EA Canada stopped there, the improvement would have been enough to warrant a new game.  But instead of being satisfied with a more realistic product, they upped the ante with the Be A Pro mode, retooled and renamed as Live the Life mode.  It adds a much-needed personality and depth to the experience of playing in the NHL.

The inclusion of the Player Impact Engine, based on the physics engine used in the FIFA series is a subtle but meaningful addition.  Checking is now handled automatically and manually, with the left and right stick, respectively.  Simple skating into another player is enough to produce a check, but this will often result in simple nudges and jostling for position, unless skating at high speeds.  stronger hits can be doled out with the right stick, but beware of incurring charging or cross-checking penalties.  Careful to keep the game balanced, EA Canada added one-touch dekes to the offensive repertoire, allowing for a quick change of direction to avoid those big hits.

With a renewed emphasis on player interaction, an overhaul of the fighting system was also needed. Fights can still be instigated pre and post whistle with the Y button, but big hits can also cause play to be halted while retaliatory ensues. A simple control scheme with surprising depth makes fights in NHL 14 frantic but strategic, requiring more than button mashing to win. Cosmetic and lasting Injuries can result, from black eyes to broken noses, and not just for the loser. Winning a fight will replenish your teams energy, rile up the crowd (if you are at home), and give you momentum to either get back into the game or finish of your opponent for good. Fighting is now more fun than ever before, and more important to boot.

A knockout is a great way to fire the crowd up

A knockout is a great way to fire the crowd up

Those who primarily play offline (myself included) will love the revamped and renamed Be a Pro mode, now titled Live the Life.  While the core of Live the Life is the same, a few new wrinkles add some much-needed personality and diversity to the game of hockey.  After most games you will have an interview, with questions ranging from your own play to the play of your teammates and opponents.  Simple multiple choice answers are mapped to the face buttons, with responses ranging from humble to dismissive, and sometimes even combative.  Also, your player will engage in random off-ice events, ranging from a night out with teammates to your in-laws spending the night.  Your response to the events will affect your Likability meters.  There are four separate meters that measure your Likability, from Fans and Teammates, to Management and Family.  There is more to this than meets the eye, as a high rating for Management will increase your chances of being named a team captain, and will reduce the likelihood of you being sent to the minors or being put on a lower line.  Beware of low ratings, as a low Teammate rating will cause your teammates to stop passing you the puck, even when you call for it.

Vacuum Grade

A

+ New additions are solid and useful

+ No loss of previous quality

Real World Grade

A-

– Another year, another game, albeit with improvements

Terrorists calling themselves The Engineers have just attacked a U.S. military base on Guam. Their demands are simple: recall all us troops from overseas, or they will strike again, once every week, at unknown targets on what they call The Blacklist. The President calls on Sam Fisher, back with Fourth Echelon, to go above and beyond to stop the terrorist before they can strike again.

Sam back, and this time, he's not alone

Sam back, and this time, he’s not alone

For those of you who are new to the Splinter Cell franchise, your most precious resource is surprise. Stealthily dispatching enemy guards is pretty much the only way to go. Running and gunning is simply not going to cut it here, unless you are seeking a quick and embarrassing death. But fear not, as you have many tools and tricks to outwit and eliminate your foes. The simplest of tricks at your disposal is the attract tactic. Simply tap the Back button and Sam will whistle or quietly call out, attracting the attention of any nearby guards, causing them to come investigate the area. I know you are saying to yourself “But Bryan, I don’t want the guard to come investigate, because then he will spot me and alert the other guards.” Don’t worry, unless the guards are on alert, they will almost always calmly and almost obviously check out your location, allowing you an easy takedown.

Sleeping Gas, Execute, or simply slink by.  What to do, what to do....

Sleeping Gas, Execute, or simply slink by. What to do, what to do….

Gadgets play a critical role in completing your missions, and boy do you have gadgets. Basics like frag and smoke grenades are neat, but proximity mines and shockers, sticky noisemakers and cameras, and the versatile Tri-roter are the way to go. Each gadget has unique characteristics, and choosing the right ones for your style is key. Unique to Blacklist is the after action reward system, which rewards you based on the style of play utilized in the mission. Silently took down the guards? You earn Ghost experience. Shot your way through? Assault experience is earned that way. The experience is all tallied up after the mission, where Ghost will earn you the highest amount of experience, therefore earning you the most money. Multipliers can be added to your post mission bonus by completing Gone Dark missions (a meta game mini-game where you search the SMI (Strategic Mission Interface) map and use your own real world resources to find the next mission location.)

I bet we'd all like an SMI right about now

I bet we’d all like an SMI right about now

Since the threat of The Engineers is a global one, you and your team will need to be mobile. Enter, the Paladin, a high-tech cargo plane chock full of gear, gadgets, and of course, guns. This will serve as your base of operations, where you can buy gear, tune your load-outs, access missions, and even chat with your team. Assisting you in saving the U.S. is Charlie Cole, an expert hacker and friend, Anna Grimsdottir, operations manager and recurring member of the franchise, and Isaac Briggs, former CIA operator and a new member to the franchise. Together you must uncover The Engineers, stop The Blacklist, and save the day.

Multiplayer in Splinter Cell has always been a strong point, and this iteration is no different. Spies vs Mercs pits you in an alternating battle between capturing data points as spies, and defending said data as mercs. Spies play and control exactly like Sam does in single player, with only minor tweaks to the load-outs. The mercs, on the other hand, control in first person, adding a a wrinkle to the conventional multiplayer. Mercs almost always win in a head to head firefight, so its up to the spies to use their cunning, speed, and gadgets to get close enough for easy takedowns. Communication is key in these 3 on 3 matches, so I would advise finding a buddy to play with, unless frustrating losses is something you enjoy.

Vacuum Grade

A

+ Solid mechanics, smart AI, and sweet gadgets

+ Co-op side quests are a great addition

+ Intense story, well written and well voiced

Real World Grade

A

+ Comes out head and night vision goggles above the competition

= Franchise length is an issue, but by no means do I want it to end

Fall is here. It means many things to many people, but to me, it really only means three things. School starts again, the blockbuster video games are just around the corner, and football. AMERICAN football. Don’t get me wrong, I love soccer, but that’s what it is, soccer. With the return of football comes the newest iteration, and at least for the time being the LAST iteration (but more on that later), of NCAA Football 2014.

denard 2014 cover

Let me start by saying I absolutely LOVE the addition of the Infinity Physics engine to NCAA Football. It adds a degree of realism to the running game that was severely lacking in previous years. Joining the new physics is the Ultimate Team mode and a revamped scouting system. These two don’t make nearly as big of a splash, and are certainly not without major flaws.

ncaa recruiting 2014

Scouting in NCAA Football 2014 is entirely new from the previous installment. Out are the call option and sway interest conversations, and in is a pool system, where you allot each prospect on your board points, from zero (0) to five hundred (500). This streamlines the scouting system and gets you back to the action quicker, which is exactly what EA was trying to do. It grants a wider perspective of the recruiting system, one that represents the current college recruiting atmosphere well. Unfortunately, this wider view also takes away from the intimacy and individuality of the recruiting process. In 2013, you knew each of your targeted prospect’s likes and dislikes, and you could attempt to persuade individual recruits to look more favorably at your school. This created a sense of familiarity with the recruits, and a sense of accomplishment when you finally landed the recruit you worked so long and hard to get. It’s not impossible to feel connected to your recruits in 2014, but its all up to you, and the game mechanics will not do you any favors. All things considered, it’s a lateral shift in the recruiting system from last year to this year.

NCAA 14 UT

Ultimate Team mode in NCAA Football is a great idea, and a long time coming. Since current college players likenesses’ can’t be used, the team at EA decided to use former college players, including different years of past greats. But what fun is assembling a team of college greats if you can’t show them off? Not much fun I tell you, so in addition to playing against the CPU, you can play games against other Ultimate teams online, and the more you win, the more coins you earn, which allow you to get better players. One issue in that respect is the lack of game modes that you can play, which is compounded by the high overall rankings of the majority of CPU teams available to compete against. I confess that I haven’t played many games against other human players, but I’m finding it hard to earn coins by playing against just the cpu. This would be an easy fix for 2015, but therein lies another issue.

The Death of NCAA Football

The NCAA and EA are both currently involved in lawsuits by former college athletes who feel their likenesses were used without their permission. These players feel that the money both the NCAA and EA have made while exploiting their marketability whilst simultaneously conspiring to pay these athlete nothing is criminal. These lawsuits are more aimed at the NCAA, but EA is by no means free from guilt here. When the deal between EA and the NCAA expired this June, the NCAA decided smartly, but it’s not like they had any other choice, to not renew their partnership with EA in creating college sports games. Before you worry too much, EA has said they will still be making a college football game for 2014-2015, albiet without the NCAA, meaning it will be lacking the trademarks of the colleges represented by the NCAA (i.e. is all of them). This will be a new era in college sports video games, one I am not eager to see.

Back in the present, NCAA Football 2014 is a great game, with sound and fluid mechanics, and enough bells and whistles to shake a stick at. If this is the last NCAA sports game for a while, or ever, it certainly made a statement.

Vacuum Grade

A

+ Smart, Dynamic running, with realistic momentum-based physics

+ Addition of Ultimate Team are very welcome

Real World Grade

A-

+ A strong last stand by the NCAA Football series

– Ultimate Team is more flash than substance

= Dynasty mode is changed, but not improved