Thoughts on Apex Legends

Respawn Entertainment, creators of the awesome Titanfall series, has now thrown their hat into the Battle Royale ring, like many other studios before it. The budding genre is already becoming over saturated, but some gems peek out from the chaff from time to time, and I believe Apex Legends is set to do just that.

I’ve played a handful of Battle Royale games and have found only a couple of them to be to my liking. Apex Legends ticks a few boxes for me that others have not. I prefer the forced first person perspective (which was also a plus in Black Ops IIII) because in any third person shooter, you can utilize the camera angle in relationship to your avatar to see around corners in a way that wouldn’t be physically possible in real life. Being a sort of spin off of the survival genre, Battle Royale succeeds when you are forced into this camera position and need to utilize your senses to outlast the other players in the round. I also enjoy the team-play aspect of groups of three. There are only three classes of legends in the game, so you can make a balanced team with only three players. The voice chat works, but it also is entirely unnecessary. The “jumpmaster” feature is also great for keeping your team heading to the same place on the map and not being picked off elsewhere.

The map feels large, but you can still traverse much of it fairly quickly. There are no vehicles, so everything is done on foot — thankfully there isn’t stamina to worry about. The weapon and gear selection feels adequate and the gunplay is excellent. I do miss the double-jumping and wallrunning of Titanfall along with the ability to call down and pilot mechs, but I understand why they didn’t go that route. I’m hopeful for an additional game-mode that will allow the use of mechs sometime in the future but it doesn’t seem likely. Still, there are a variety of skills to use via the different legends, so it still feels varied enough.

Typical of most Battle Royale games, you’ll have rounds where you are one of the first teams eliminated, and other games you’ll be the last ones standing. My second match ever when this good, as I was playing Gibraltar and our team was the first to the circle of safety so we set an ambush. Gibraltar’s ultimate ability calls down an air strike, so when I saw the enemy team coming I dropped it on them and managed to take they whole team out in one go. Since then I’ve managed to be in the top ten several times but haven’t won another round. Rumor has it that there are plans for solo/duo queues coming soon, but actually think the team co-op is a better approach. Even playing with randoms it has been a good time.

The game looks great and runs smooth. I think it’s a blast. At least Respawn seems to have done their homework, as they’ve taken some of the better ideas from the competition and included their top-notch FPS gameplay to the mix while avoiding some of the over-the-top design choices. When loading up for the first time you’ll have access to six legends, with two being unlockables. There is a micro transaction storefront, but no power is being sold — just fluff skins for Legends and weapons. You can buy in-game currency to speed up your unlocks or to outright buy skins, or you can just unlock them with scrap parts eventually. I still don’t have enough in-game currency to unlock a new legend, but it doesn’t seem like it will take that long to get there. Honestly it’s probably worth throwing a few bucks at the company just to make sure the game doesn’t disappear, but I’d rather buy a “unlock all legends now and in the future” package than skins ala Quake Champions or SMITE.

No matter the case, the game is out now, and is Free to Play. I personally don’t have Origin installed so I downloaded Apex Legends on my Playstation 4. If you’re a PC player you’ll have to get this via Origin. It probably looks even nicer there. I’d give it a whirl if you enjoy the Battle Royale genre or need a new FPS in your life.

Thoughts on Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII

I’ve had a long and strange on-again off-again relationship with the Call of Duty franchise that has taken place over the last couple of decades. The first time I ever saw the game in action was at a friend’s house on his PC — the original game that started it all. It was reminiscent of other World War II games that I had enjoyed during that era, namely the Half-Life mod Day of Defeat and the Medal of Honor series. What would come to pass over the years is interesting, and also indicative of the overall gaming industry’s trends; originally strictly created by Infinity Ward and now being developed by several different companies and the series has gone from being a PC exclusive to being available on nearly every platform since. At one point the series became an annual event, and the price of entry was just the tip of the iceberg — almost every single installment has had several staggered release DLC packs. Such is the way of business, I suppose.

The first title I actually purchased was the first sequel, Call of Duty 2. That same friend that has shown me the original decided to grab the sequel as well, so we used to spend hours playing random maps together. Back then, like most PC games of the time, there were user generated maps and servers with custom rule sets; it truly was the golden era of the genre. Call of Duty 3 was not available to me due to being a console exclusive and in 2006 I was primarily a PC gamer. When 2007’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare released however, I was on board. This was the first game in the series to be released on all platforms simultaneously, but it still retained some of the boons I mentioned earlier, namely some private servers with moddable content. After that, I sort of forgot about the series, probably due to being into MMOs and also lacking a console until about 2009. I also has a computer change after one PC died and I got a laptop but it couldn’t handle most FPS titles. So I missed out on World At War and Modern Warfare 2. Many hail the latter as being one of the best in the series, but I haven’t played either to this day.

Enter Call of Duty: Black Ops. This is probably my favorite entry in the series, but also when I became a bit disillusioned with it. I absolutely adored playing the Zombies mode for hours on end (which I would later learn was actually introduced in World At War), and I even completed some of the prestige levels in the multiplayer component, along with earning the Platinum trophy on my Playstation 3. I bought all of the map packs and loved it. I thought this love for the series would continue on, but after purchasing the lackluster Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, I lost my love for the series and declared a boycott on it and its business model. I would subsequently skip playing Black Ops II, Ghosts and Advanced Warfare. I did later try Black Ops II only because I assumed it would be as good as the first in that particular arc, but wasn’t very impressed. I would later purchase my Playstation 4 and it just so happened that Call of Duty: Black Ops III would be the pack-in game, so I was back to playing. This didn’t last long though. I never finished the campaign, never maxed my level in multiplayer, and didn’t play zombies as much as I would have liked. Only being a casual fan at this point, I subsequently passed on Infinite Warfare and WWII. The latter was a little tempting, only because I love that time setting but I still didn’t bother.

Now that we have come to the end of the line, I’d like to talk a bit about Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII, the newest installment. I purchased this one for my son for Christmas because he had been playing my copy of the third Black Ops, and had been talking about wanting this title. It’s the first time a Call of Duty game included a Battle Royale mode, because clearly that’s the new hotness. Beyond a slight amount of curiosity, it was frustrating me that he had not really touched the game despite asking for it because of his obsession with Fortnite (which I’ve clearly expressed my opinion on) and he also got grounded from gaming recently so it was collecting more dust. I figured I might as well give the game a whirl since I paid for it after all.

The first thing that stood out to me is that there was no campaign. Despite these games being like riding a bike, I still usually will play a bit of the campaign just to see what it’s all about, and then subsequently jump into multiplayer or zombies. I still have to say that the multiplayer experience in Call of Duty games is one of the best in my opinion, mainly because I detest the thought of running for a mile to get back to the action after dying ala the Battlefield series. It turns out this was a source of controversy that I missed, as there were conflicting stories that the campaign element was scrapped due to not being finished, and another tale that this was intentional from the beginning of development. I can believe either story, mainly because Activision will rush some shit out, and because multiplayer is the bigger, more popular component.

So instead of having a campaign, multiplayer and zombies, instead we now have Blackout, which is the Battle Royale mode. Upon further inspection, it plays like you would expect. It’s first person, you drop in on the map from a helicopter and have to avoid the cloud of death that shrinks the map as the match goes on. Apparently there are “land, air and sea vehicles” available to grab and move around faster, but I didn’t see any in my couple of rounds. What I saw that set it apart was the ability to grab weapon mods that you can attach to your guns, and some support items like riot shields and RC surveillance models. You can heal up with first aid kits (but they don’t help much, so stockpile those). I didn’t last too long due to ignorance of the map and what to expect, but it did seem like a good time. Much like the way Treyarch has sort of segregated Zombies from the Multiplayer and given it its own set of things to level up, you’ll get that here too. Looks like you can unlock mostly fluff items but it’s something to work towards.

I didn’t do anything with Zombies outside of the tutorial, but I did like what I saw. The graphics look sharp and though there are familiar mechanics, there are some new twists as well. I think this game is a cohesive multiplayer PvP and Cooperative package and if you were smart enough to wait to get it on sale (I paid $40) it’s probably worth your time, particularly if you have friends that are willing to play. You will have to pay for the DLC packs to keep current with all of the maps though, so that’s more money to spend down the road. The choice is yours. Hopefully some of my opinions will help you to make that choice.

The Walking Dead: Final Season Episode 3

We learned back in September that Telltale Games was going bankrupt. This meant that despite the first two episodes of The Walking Dead’s Final Season were out and playable, the game would not be finished. Thankfully, Skybound — a company founded by the creator of the series –decided to go ahead and make a games division specifically to finish off the series (and I assume, create other gaming experiences). This was good news for fans like me, who just wanted to see the end of Clementine’s story, a story that started way back in 2012 with the first season of the game series. I’ve talked about my experiences with the first two episodes already, but I recently completed the third and thought I would jot down some notes to chronicle this.

As with the rest of the series, we’re not seeing anything new here, just more of the same interactive story game that we’ve all become accustomed to. The Walking Dead is one of my favorite pieces of media. I’ve always enjoyed a good zombie horror story, but what I’ve always appreciated about the comics, the TV series, and this game series is that there is less of a focus on the dead, and more of a focus on the human struggle of living in this post apocalyptic world. The human element and emotions that have been stirred within me while consuming this media is second to none. I haven’t nearly shed tears with any other medium.

Clementine has grown into a capable young woman. She is no longer the child that Lee protected from the world, and instead is the protector of AJ — a child she has watched over for years. Now in Lee’s shoes, she even has dreams where she is able to commune with him for guidance, and his pride shows despite merely being a figment of her subconscious. It’s touching to see his reactions to her all grown up, compared to the child he once knew. He (I) did a good job in raising her, and now it’s her (my) turn to raise AJ. This has been tricky, due to the sheer amount of shit that is thrown our way, but I have done my best not to turn him into a little psycho.

As the last episode closed, raiders had taken members of our group, and the children at the school were shaken to say the least. I met a mysterious boy named James who is a “whisperer,” in that he is able to walk among the dead without alerting them to his presence. He reveals more of himself and his past in this episode, and I grew to like him despite his odd lifestyle choice. As the appointed leader of the school group, this episode focused on the plan to rescue our friends, and making preparations to do so. Without spoiling too much, it turns out that our friends are being held on a boat by the raiders, and Lilly seems to be the expedition leader. Despite letting me go earlier in the season, she is not willing to let us get our friends back. A plan is hatched and the attack on the boat happens and seems to do so without any issue until one of their soldiers (who used to be a member of the school group) spoils things. This leads to a confrontation with Lilly and ultimately, the death of another person. I simply wanted AJ to show some mercy, but Lilly wasn’t going down that road.

James got caught up in our struggle, and though I think he probably would have been a great addition to the group, unfortunately Lilly showed no mercy. However, the episode ended with a bomb that we had put into the boiler going off, and we really don’t know what’s happened to anyone. We can assume that the three characters we came to rescue made it off of the boat, but as I was trying to save AJ, Tenn was also involved and James was killed. The bomb went off and threw Clem into a wall, so we can assume she lives, along with the others, but it will likely take some time to gather everyone back up. My ending results showed that most of the other characters were MIA, along with some base stats like usual:

It seems that my choices were mostly in-line with other players this time around, but I don’t like the fact that we don’t really know where anyone else is. I guess that’s why there are typically cliffhanger endings between episodes, so we’ll be kept guessing until the next comes out. I know that I’m looking forward to the finale and the closure of the story, I just hope Clem doesn’t end up like Lee. But I supposed anything is possible. They haven’t said exactly when the next episode will come out, but I assume it will be released within the next couple of months. I’ll report back once I’ve completed it.

Thoughts on Soul Calibur VI

Since moving back to my old town, I have been able to reconnect with my best friend who stayed behind when I moved away almost five years ago. One game series we both enjoyed was Soul Calibur. I believe I played either the first or second iteration way back when prior to knowing him, but we did play either the third or the fourth game together quite religiously for a time years ago. Since then, the fifth installment came along for PS3 and I picked up a copy while the two of us still lived together. We played it quite a bit too, but found ourselves less impressed with it than the prior versions of the game. One thing that makes Soul Calibur interesting is their inclusion of console exclusive characters depending on what platform you picked the game up for. For #5 I believe it was a Star Wars character on the Playstation. For the sixth game on PS4, Geralt from The Witcher series makes his fighting game debut (he’s pretty damn good too). There are familiar faces otherwise, along with some new characters.

The game has various modes as most fighters do. There is a story mode that is fairly easy to complete (I did so in a little over an hour). It takes you through the story of the Soul Edge and various other trinkets that certain characters interact with and a culmination boss fight against Inferno, who is an embodiment of evil. Nothing too challenging, but there were some interesting bits along with beautiful hand draw art during the story bits. The in-game engine is beautiful, and the characters have smooth animations. The special moves are especially over the top and reminiscent of some of the summon spells from Final Fantasy games.

Outside of the story mode, there are the typical battle modes where you can play against friends on the same console, or you can go online to play strangers via the Internet. There is a gallery where you can view various bits of artwork (much of what was unlocked during my story playthrough) and another mode where you can create your own fighter. In this mode you’ll be able to customize the look and name of your fighter, but it inherently works like other fighters in the game (you pick a particular fighting style). One thing I will note that is different in the sixth installment is that the controls feel more fluid and intuitive. I was picking up characters’ moves very easily despite playing those I had never tried before. Old favorites still worked great, but I felt like it was easier to pick up and jump into for people who haven’t played the series before.

Because I was playing on his system over on his house, I didn’t manage to get any screens of the game, but rest assured you can find them online. We felt like it was a good time, but he was already considering returning his copy just because it doesn’t feel like much of a value for the $60 price tag. We just don’t play these types of games like we used to. He probably also didn’t like the fact that when we used to play back in the day, he would be the winner the majority of the time, but this time around I had a record of 11-2 before going home (HA!).

Monetization schemes seem to be built in as well (which is expected in this day and age), as they are pushing a season pass which I assume will add in new characters (Street Fighter V has been doing this for a couple of years now). Overall it’s a beautiful game that I’d recommend if you’re a die hard fighting game fan, but if you don’t really play these sorts of games your money would be better spent elsewhere.

Thoughts on Street Fighter 30th Anniversary

Regular readers will know that I’m a big fan of the Street Fighter series and fighting games in general. I’m fairly picky when it comes to the games I like, but for the most part Capcom’s fighters have always been my favorite. So naturally when I learned about the impending release of the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection I knew it was something I’d have to pick up. When it released it was reasonably priced, but I still waited for a sale, and that happened just the other day so I was able to get a copy on the cheap. The game boasts a considerable line up from the history of the series:

Two things that stick out however, are that really you’re only getting 6 titles rather than the advertised 12, and also that these are Arcade ports rather than ports of the console versions. The reason I say you only get 6 games instead of 12 is because there are literally 5 versions of Street Fighter II here, along with three versions of Street Fighter III. The Alpha series is really the only one that could be considered separate titles, and the original Street Fighter didn’t have multiple iterations over the years. It’s also a little disappointing that these are Arcade ports rather than the console versions, mainly because I played most of these games on the consoles that were around at the time, and because they are less full-featured as a result. One of the main reasons I picked this collection up is because Street Fighter Alpha 3 is pretty much my favorite fighting game ever, and I absolutely loved the survival mode. I would play this for hours when I lived in my first apartment, and would play versus with friends endlessly. These bonus modes aren’t readily available, as when you hit start on the above screen, it takes you directly to character select. There are ways to play some different modes though, but they require particular button presses at the main menu of the title to do so, and they’re still not entirely what I remember. A shame, but I’m still glad to have this package.

Outside of the games themselves, there is a pretty impressive amount of information about the series. You can read details from each individual arcade title, along with seeing a timeline of the entire Street Fighter history. There are detail character bios, sketches and artwork for the games and little tidbits of trivia sprinkled throughout. It’s pretty cool if you’re a super fan, but most people will probably skip over these details.

Otherwise it’s still the same old Street Fighter that we know and love. You can play pixel perfect (a border surrounds and looks just like the old arcade cabinets) or stretch the size of the screen from more modern TVs. If you had a favorite version of Street Fighter II, it’s here and you can choose to play it over the others. Honestly it doesn’t make a huge difference but there are nuances like the speed in which the game plays or the amount of playable characters or even if there is an inclusion of a super move bar. Capcom is still doing this sort of thing to this day, as with Street Fighter IV there was a normal, arcade and super edition of the game, and Street Fighter V just recently added the arcade edition of the game (for free if you owned the base game) which I wrote about here. Another new feature is the addition of online matchmaking to some of these titles, though I believe this was already done for some of the games in the past. I know that you could have purchased Super Street Fighter II on the PS3 and it had online matchmaking, and a version of Street Fighter III did this at some point to. In this collection, you can only play Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting, Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Street Fighter Alpha 3 (I believe this is the first time you could play online with this one) and Street Fighter III 3rd Strike. I’m not sure what the population is like but I was able to play a few matches online so far with short wait times.

If you’re a fan of the series like I am, I’d recommend picking this up just to complete your collection. I’m happy with the purchase.