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.

Thoughts on Warface

Warface came at a time when I was sick of Military first person shooters. Back in 2012 we had already begun to be inundated with this type of cut and paste hoorah nonsense that can be fun to play but isn’t something you want for every meal. Warface is a free to play lobby based shooter that released back then for PC, made by the Crytek guys, famous for the Crysis series. I paid the game no mind when it came out, but it recently was ported to the Playstation, and I tend to check out free games often because it gives me more options for playing with IRL friends who own the system. I downloaded this a few weeks back but just gave it a shake the other day in my spare time.

Initially the game drops you straight into a tutorial of sorts. It’s a pretty standard FPS so the control scheme should feel familiar to most. For a title that was developed a few years ago, it still looks pretty decent, and I was surprised by that. I can’t really tell the difference between this and the Call of Duty games from recent years. The tutorial is pretty straight forward, though you’ll be put through a few more later on dealing with other classes in the game. There are four in total: Rifleman, Sniper, Medic and Engineer. However, this doesn’t really feel like a Team Fortress or other Hero Shooter type mechanic, these classes are really just loadouts as each class uses different primary weapons and have particular skills to support each other. The Rifleman can refill ammo, the engineer provides armor and the medic provides health. They can all provide these boons to themselves as well.

The menu system is pretty straight forward. Being free to play there are various currencies and ways to become a “VIP” and get boosts. It’s all stuff that we’re used to. I haven’t spent any real money and can still compete so it’s a non-issue. Some items in the shop are able to be purchased temporarily or permanently. I guess it’s nice to be able to try something out before you buy but oftentimes it costs the real life currency which you don’t really earn much of in-game.

After the tutorial you are limited in what you can play. Initially you have to play through a co-op match, which is fairly eash, and then the medic tutorial opens up. Once you rank up again you’ll open the engineer and versus modes, where the real meat of the game is.

In all, there are several co-op maps of varying difficulty, a bunch of popular game modes in versus, and special operations which function like Raids. Apparently you can upgrade your class gear and take on more difficult content. It’s interesting enough and sets itself apart from some of the competition by doing a little bit of everything.

I’ve played a bit of everything and have enjoyed it well enough. I let my best friend know about it but we have yet to play together. Everything is better with friends! Recently added was a Battle Royale mode and I have to say, if this is what Black Ops 4 is trying to do, it’s one of the better BR experiences I’ve had. I like the forced first person perspective (no looking around walls you cheaty bastards!) and though you don’t drop in on the map, it’s easy enough to get around, get armed and survive. I placed first in my first round playing it, and that’s my first chicken dinner in any BR game I’ve played. I’ve done fairly well in other PvP modes as well, so if you’re experienced in these sorts of titles, you’ll probably have a good time as well. Anyway, that’s my two cents on it.

Quick Thoughts: Games on the Cheap

Generally speaking, there are far too many games released in a given year to play them all. Sometimes you have to spend your limited expendable funds carefully, and that means skipping some titles in favor of others. What’s great about our current gaming climate, is that typically a year or so after a game releases (or stops releasing DLC) it typically has a “Game of the Year,” “Complete” or “Ulitmate” edition. This bundle will save you money, because a) you didn’t pay full price for the base game and b) you now get all DLCs included for either the same asking price or less. Give it a little more time, and you can usually catch these bundled titles on sale and save even more money. You won’t be on the cutting edge, playing the newest, hottest games on release, but in the case of most titles, you’re not missing anything by playing them late. In most cases I’d argue you’re smarter that the guy who pays $60 at launch for a title and then pays $10-20 per DLC on top of that. Nevertheless, I have found a few titles I’ve wanted to play in recent years but hadn’t gotten around to, bundled as I’ve mentioned and on sale to boot. It was very difficult to resist a copy of each of the games I’m going to discuss, and yes that means I purchased them once I saw the price was right. Let’s jump in, shall we?

I absolutely wanted to play Horizon: Zero Dawn when it released. The first time I saw it at E3 I knew it was a title that would be up my alley. I’m at a stage in my life though, that some games that I believe will be enjoyable aren’t always. I’ve also been trying to cut down on spending on games due to the fact that so many either collect dust or disappoint me. But for $10, I knew I needed to grab a copy, particularly because the Complete Edition came with bonus goodies and the game’s lone expansion The Frozen Wilds. I have not been disappointed by this title, and the inexpensive nature of the purchase doesn’t affect this — it’s a damn fine game. You play as Aloy, a young girl outcast by a tribe in a post-apocalyptic world where robot creatures roam the landscape and tribes of humans fight among themselves.

There’s a lot to digest in the early portions of the game. It’s clear that “the Old Ones” died off for some reason or another, and somehow, robots have formed into various beasts (perhaps a form of evolution or created by the dead ancients). You’ve been taken in by Rost, an outcast from the Nora tribe. He has sheltered you, but as a little girl you don’t really understand why the tribe won’t talk to you. On one fateful day, you end up falling into a cave that is a ruin from the old days, and find a “focus” which looks eerily similar to a bluetooth ear piece, but is definitely more useful. It provides information on the environment and things within it, becoming an excellent tool. Wanting to rejoin the tribe, Rost agrees to train you for “the proving” which is a ritual that allows tribesmen to become “braves,” and for outcasts to rejoin the tribe. The meat of the game is a third person shooter style, with some stealth elements, RPG progression, and a beautiful world to explore. It’s open world to a degree, though you’re held back for a time as you grow up, complete the proving, and become a “seeker.” Having that title allows you to leave the sacred lands of your people, and find answers. At certain points you are given “choices matter” styles of conversation prompts, and are allowed to choose your path. I assume these actions have consequences, but not many have shown up yet. I’m still in the early portions of the game though, so perhaps some of these will come back around. Overall the game looks great and plays great. It’s a title on the level of games like those made by Naughty Dog, where the graphics are top notch and the game play and story matches its beauty. I’m in love with it, and definitely look forward to what comes next.

I bought the original Titanfall for PC. In the past year I’ve decided to boycott Origin though, as I prefer my PC games to be linked up through Steam. As such I wasn’t going to buy the sequel on PC (and have already purchased a copy of Dragon Age: Inquisiton for PS4 so I can avoid having to use the additional platform). That might sound stupid to some, but I don’t mind playing EA games on the console, whereas I’m annoyed with the company on PC. So here we are. Titanfall 2 looked amazing when I first saw it — it’s more of the same, but that’s definitely not a bad thing. However, I just didn’t pick it up on release and hadn’t though about it for quite some time. Seeing the Ultimate Edition on sale for $8 though, and I was sold. This being a multiplayer game, there was worry about whether or not people would still be playing it, but unlike its predecessor, this one has a single player campaign, so I knew at least I’d get to experience that. So far, it’s been okay. Very similar to Call of Duty campaigns I’ve played in the past, just with the benefit of being a better game than CoD.

Being a Titanfall game, you get the requisite boots on the ground action along with the mechs that you pilot. There’s still wall running and double jumping, fast and furious gunplay and of course, MECHS! It’s a blast to run around, jumping and sliding and calling down your titan to fuck shit up. I have yet to play the multiplayer but I did check out the menus and saw a pretty healthy population despite being fairly late when I was playing. I think because it sets itself apart from other shooters on the market it has managed to keep a following. I’m glad that not everyone is off playing Battle Royale games and still appreciates a good ol’ fashioned FPS. I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts about this one soon.

The last game isn’t a bundle deal, but is a remastered version of a game I first played on PS3. Burnout Paradise was a fantastic title that came out of nowhere for me. I believe it was my sister’s (now-ex) husband who showed me the game, and I only played it at his house and didn’t get too much out of it. I just remember thinking that it reminded me of Need For Speed Underground, which was one of my favorite NFS titles of all time. The remaster here takes the original game (and appears that the DLCs are present, so perhaps this is a bundle after all) and polishes it up a bit. The intro movie is still clearly PS3 graphics, but once you get into the game it looks a bit better than its OG version, and definitely runs at a higher frame rate.

You start the game with a crappy car and have a semi-open-world to explore. Like the Need For Speed games, you can roll up to points on the map that will start up a race, or can battle with random NPCs on the road. There are also stunts and collectibles along with challenges where you can pit your high scores against those on your friends list. It’s the same experience as before, but due to my limited time with the game in the past, I can now delve further into it. I managed to upgrade my license and open up a few new cars in my first session, and I look forward to getting down with more racing — it really is a blast.

As I said, I’ll likely have more thoughts on these games as I progress. At this point I would say they are all worth your time, even if you don’t get them for as cheap as I did. Each scratches a different itch, and I’m pleased with the expenditure.

Getting Started in Destiny 2

I was late to the party with the original Destiny, and I guess you can say the same is true with its sequel. When the first one released I was slightly interested but didn’t get around to purchasing it until after The Taken King came out. I didn’t play much then either, only checked it out for a little while but had a sour experience with a so-called friend and that turned me off from the game for a while. I ended up going back to it and running through all of the main story and side quests through The Taken King, and even purchased the next expansion but didn’t put much time into it after that. I had the intentions of picking up Destiny 2 at release just so I could hit the ground running and play the game while it was still the new hotness. But then when Destiny 2 released, it was pretty universally panned by critics and people whose opinions I trust, so I didn’t bother. Well, at this point the game has just released it’s first major expansion, Forsaken, and Sony decided to give it out for free as part of the Playstation Plus program.

Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I downloaded the game right when I found out it was available early. I convinced my best friend that he should download it as well, and we have been able to get in a couple of sessions together.

Session 1:

I’m not really remembering all of the issues people had with the game upon its release, as that was a year ago and my memory isn’t what it used to be. Still, having played it myself now I don’t really see much of a difference between this game and the first. There was a little snippet at the beginning when I logged in where my Destiny save game was imported into this game and I got to see the things I accomplished in the first iteration. The two characters that I had played were still there too, one being the Warlock I started with and the Hunter I ended up running through the game to max level. The storyline is a little convoluted but essentially a big alien threat has attacked The Traveler and essentially robs all guardians of their light.

Despite the fact that my friend and I were in voice chat together, we had to play through these first bits of the story alone. We have the big attack and you’re pretty fucked up, you come too and wander about for a bit, then we’re treated to some cut scenes of the storyline and then eventually you wind up in a place called “The Farm” which is shown on the map as a separate place from Earth, but still looks very much like Earth when you are there. Whatever the case, it’s the new Tower, and you get your social interaction here along with some vendors, your bank, mailboxes and the Crucible guy.

The main story pushed us to head to where a bit of The Traveler had broken off and landed near by. We’re warned that it’s a place of death, but after killing off some bad guys, we get our light back and can move on to bigger and better things.

Graphically it’s still a beautiful title. I really thought Destiny was up there with games like Uncharted that can really push this system to its limits. It’s surprising that a game can look this good on a stock PS4, considering most games are a bit more washed out. I assume on a PS4 Pro or on PC it looks even better, but it was free here, so this is where I’m going to play it.

By the end of our first session I was level 3, as we took a couple hours to get to the point where we could even play together, and by that time it was getting late so we called it a day. We got together to play again last night, and ended up pushing further into the story.

Session 2:

More fighting on Earth as my Hunter and my friend’s Titan leveled up and went on Adventures, participated in public quests and followed the story to it’s end here. Clearly there will be more to do on Earth at a later time, but for now they’ve sent us to Titan to help out with some network building.

We also see Cayde being held captive by our antagonist, and because I’m not blind or deaf I have already heard the spoilers about his demise and the plot of Forsaken having to do with getting revenge for him. But since I don’t know the particulars, I’ll play my way through and see for myself. If this ends up sticking like I think it will (we’ve been having a blast so far) I will likely pick up Forsaken once we’ve completed the main story.

When I was playing the original Destiny, I never did end up playing any of the game’s PvP mode, Crucible. I decided that I wanted to try it out. That was probably a bad idea. I assumed that as you entered into matchmaking, you would be paired up with and against other players of similar level/power. That doesn’t seem to be the case, as one guy was level 20 and the other 50 (?) I think. Either way they were much better equipped and felt way to hard to kill. We did get kills nonetheless, but lost the match and decided that we should level up a bit before bothering with that again. It does feel pretty good as shooters go but I didn’t like the level disparity.

By the end of our second session I was level 7 and had looted my first exotic from a quest. Nothing too special but I’ve found my groove. I don’t really like the new subclass that you’re stuck with at the beginning, and look forward to opening up others. I’ve found that while playing in a duo, I can experiment with my weapon loadout more though, and have settled on a Scout Rifle as my primary and a pistol for the side arm. I do like me some auto/pulse rifles and sub machine guns too, but for now these have worked as my friend’s titan is typically using a shotgun so he heads in first and I take out the long range targets. Overall it’s been a blast and I look forward to progressing through it!