We continue building the playset and finish the first bag (part one here). Enjoy!
We continue building the playset and finish the first bag (part one here). Enjoy!
It’s a new series! Since Alex eats, sleeps and breathes Minecraft I figured let’s just make it it’s own series. Not only that, but we get the debut of Alex’s Mom on the channel! Watch as Alex shows us the house he built for all of us. Even his little brother Lukas. Enjoy!
We’re back with another Lego playset to build! This time we’re combing Alex’s love of Lego with his love of Minecraft with the Skeleton Attack set! It is easily the biggest one we’ve build so get ready for several parts. Enjoy!
Alex only had one request for his birthday party this year. That the theme be Bendy and the Ink Machine. We don’t play PC games so he’s never even played the game. He’s just seen videos on YouTube. Still, he loves Bendy and knows all the other characters. We went all out on the decorations and of course it carried over to the presents. There is still only so much Bendy merchandise but the coup de gras was a faux Bendy and the Ink Machine Lego set. It was pretty impressive. As always the boys wanted nothing to do with following the instructions but I got them to agree to putting it all together one time before having their way with it. Enjoy!
Now that Sony had their big announcement it is time for Microsoft to make their big next gen reveal. Will it be always on? Will we actually see the console? Here is a rundown of the event, with key details in bold:
1:00 PM: Microsoft set the tone early with a montage talking about how the new system will integrate cloud technology to give you what you want without having to find it. They want the new console to dominate your living room and the key work that sums it all up is “alive.”
1:03 Don Mattrick is the first person up to talk about how the XBOX has always been ahead of the curve with things like XBOX Live and Kinect, and how they are still looking forward. They want to simplify your living room by taking advantage of cloud technology to create an all-in-one system in an age where people go to their tablets phones while gaming and watching TV.
1:08: The new console is called XBOX ONE. They show off what the console looks like (unlike Sony), black and shiny like a PS3. There is a Kinect at launch with a new controller which seems to fix the d-pad issue. The hardware is then shown on the main stage. The idea is to make the experience simple, fast and complete.
1:10: Yusef Mendhi up next to show off the console. Like Don, he put heavy emphasis on what they will show at E3. The homescreen is similar to the 360 and remembers the last few things you were doing, and has a trending section which shows what your friends are into and what the overall community is into. This branches from games to music and movies. Yusef cycles through all of the options using voice command. Saying
“XBOX, watch TV” instantly switches to a TV feed. He is also able to switch to music, browsers, movies and games with voice command, and it’s pretty fast. There are also hand gestures that open up windows from the menu to go full screen.
You also have the ability to use multiple apps at the same time. While watching the 2009 Star Trek movie, Yusef uses voice command to open IE on the side of the screen to look up the new Trek movie, go through favorites and buy tickets. I’ll forgive the plug.
Yusef uses Skype with a fellow employee while watching the movie. Video and audio look solid.
After pulling up the ESPN app, Yusef displays the ability to show league standings and fantasy stats. Pretty cool if you’re in an ESPN fantasy league (which I’m not). There is also a TV guide which lets you see what is on cable and go to any channel by saying the channel you want to watch like HBO or CBS. The idea behind all of this is for the user to not have a reason to turn the TV off of the XBOX.
1:20: Mark Whitten out next to talk about the details of the console. 5 Billions transistors and 8 gigs of RAM. It has BluRay and USB 3 tech.
It uses three different operating systems to make it as easy as possible to use. This causes the system to shift from program to program with no lag. Voice control has also been adapted to be more conversational.
Kinect is getting an upgrade with a better camera and enhanced body recognition to recognize rotation and weight control.
The new controller has 40 design innovations with an upgraded battery pack and d-pad (which looks more like the Sony d-pad). The new Kinect sensor is what the entire experience revolves around.
New XBOX Live is built on 300,000 servers. Content is stored in the cloud so that you can access any content from anywhere. There is also a DVR program for gaming that lets you rewind and record gameplay (like PS4). There is also a system to find the perfect competitors for you in multiplayer, giving you the best possible experience.
1:28: Andrew Wilson from EA announces that EA is producing FIFA 14, Madden 14, NBA Elite 14 (uh oh) and a UFC game (that’s interesting). They will all be ready within 12 months and feature a new program called “Ignite.” This is meant to adjust the mental aspect of playing, along with more realistic body movement when colliding with other players on the field. There are also more dynamic crowds and playing environments teased. There is also a tease of XBOX only full multiplayer. This was all recapped with a montage of what could be gameplay. If it is it looks pretty great. That’s expected of course. The main thing I took away from it was uniform and face movement.
1:35: Phil Spencer out next to take a look at Forza Motorsport 5. I don’t know much about racing games but it looks good. After the PS4 reveal I’m kind of numb to the graphics. Of course it is all going to look amazing. It will be available at launch.
1:40: Remedy Games debuts a game called Quantum Break. The games starts with a live action scene which cuts into a heavy disaster scene with a ship crashing into a bridge. What followed was a sneak peak of gameplay (most of it I missed due to LAAAG). What I did see looked okay.
XBOX ONE will launch with 15 exclusives, eight of which are new franchises. This is kind of a big deal as exclusives have been lacking recently.
1:45: Nancy Tellem from XBOX Entertainment Studios talks about how TV on XBOX will emerse you in the experience. The emphasis will be on personalization. She brings out Bonnie Ross from 343 Industries to talk about how Halo will integrate into this. She reveals that there will be a live action Halo TV series to be produced by Steven Spielberg.
1:50: XBOX ONE will have a partnership with the NFL to have exclusive content, as well as app access to integrate your fantasy league stats. I imagine this also means Sunday Ticket will be available as well. It was on PS3 last year.
1:55: Dan Mattrick comes back out to wrap things up, announcing that the XBOX ONE will be released later this year, and again promotes E3 where several more games will be revealed.
2:00: Eric Hirshberg from Activision out to announce the next generation of Call of Duty, of which DLC will all be released first on XBOX. Using a new game engine, Call of Duty: Ghosts is the next CoD game. There is a short behind the scenes clip showing the making of the game and some of the new features like dogs. Yup, dogs. The engine upgrades the way objects look when you are close to them, as well as changing the way you hurdle over objects, slide and interact with the environment. Another new feature is interactive maps, which include essentially traps that you can trigger within the environment. Hirshberg describes it as the best CoD game in terms of graphics, gameplay and story. Ghosts was then compared side by side to MW3. Of course its better. I’m honestly not going crazy over them though. Finally we get a clip of gameplay on the XBOX ONE engine. What we actually get is the games trailer. The biggest element to me was the interactions with water and shooting down a building while you are scaling it. The parts that looked like gameplay certainly had the graphics of a cutscene. It looks good. It’s supposed to.
2:08: One final plug for E3 in the form of a countdown and the presentation is over.
I’ll probably sound like the huge Sony fanboy that I am but I was a little underwhelmed by this event. On the plus side, we actually saw the hardware which looks very nice and not oversized. It also did not drag the way Sony’s did. However there was so much emphasis put on watching TV and not very much on gaming. NFL, ESPN, watching moves, surfing the internet. Gaming seemed to be second to everything else. They did announce some titles and show off some footage, but aside from Forza, it was all third party titles that will be on PS4 as well. I imagine this will all be address at E3. I’m sure this had everything XBOX fans were looking for, but in many ways it’s what Sony already announced with the PS4. The TV features are very cool. I just hope the games are as well.
Last year, WWE ’12 drastically changed the formula for wrestling games with its control scheme and up tempo game play. This may not have made all of the Smackdown vs Raw fans happy, but I never bought any games from that series so I don’t care about them. Now THQ tries to follow up on their success with WWE ’13. While it may not be as revolutionary as their ad campaign would lead you to believe, WWE ’13 is still a pretty good experience for wrestling fans.
The primary feature of WWE ’13 is Attitude Era Mode. Gone is last year’s Road to WrestleMania, where you played through a made up storyline where you only play as three different characters (Triple H, Sheamus and a created wrestler). Now you go through significant moments of your favorite wrestlers from the Attitude Era and the Monday night wars. They take place in chapters, starting with the development of DX, to Steve Austin’s run and so on. It’s a hell of a lot of fun. They have recreated specific moments right down to capturing the audio from the original airings of the matches and promos. Mixed in is some actual footage to take you back to that time. To make things better, unlike Road to WrestleMania where the goal was only to accomplish certain objectives to trigger a cut scene (like performing a move near a certain area), all you have to do to progress in the Attitude Era Mode is win. Of course, there are extra objectives to accomplish in order to unlock more content (putting an opponent through a table for example), but at the end of the day you start and end every match. A big step up from last year. For the most part, it all works great. The only issue that I have is with the censoring of the term WWF. Because of the World Wildlife Fund, WWE is not even allowed to show or even mention their old name. It’s easy enough to adjust the logo, but they say WWF a lot in the audio clips, and it leads to everyone being censored as if the “F” stood for something completely different from Federation. Legalities aside, WWE ’13 does an outstanding job taking you back to wrestling’s most outrageous era. I loved taking the walk down memory lane.
The gameplay and graphics are pretty much exactly how we left them last year. One button grapple moves, quicktime signature comebacks and reversals. A lot of reversals. Too many for my taste. There seem to be a lot more this year, and while it’s annoying against the AI, it can be almost maddening against another person. The window to pull off a reversal just seems bigger, and I had a number of moments where three or more reversals occurred in succession. At times it leads for a rush when you finally pull off that move without being reversed, but other times it almost feels broken. Speaking of broken, I’ve noticed some more glitches early on that normal. Getting stuck to the ring post, stuck in the air and things like that. It may be fixed in an update before I even finish this sentence, but it doesn’t seem good to launch with so many bugs when you’re essentially reskining last year’s effort. They did seem to fix the weird issue with the ropes being too flimsy though.
The one other thing of note is the characters. THQ claimed that they had the biggest roster of any wrestling game ever, which is technically true. There are plenty of options coming the current roster with the Attitude Era, however that also leaves you with a lot of characters having two models. Old and new Undertaker, old and new Rock, current John Cena and thuganomics Cena. You get the idea. They are considered different characters, but it most cases they are really just new skins. Cheap trick but whatever. Everyone you need is either in the game or going to be available in DLC, like Damien Sandow and Ryback. It’s as good as you are going to get.
If you have WWE ’12 and are all about Universe Mode, you might not need to shell out the cash for an updated roster and some added tweaks (especially with the user creations available). But if you want a fantastic look back at the Attitude Era to go along with those updates, WWE ’13 is definitely for you.
For the third straight year there will not be an NBA game from EA Sports. NBA Elite 11’s demo was so broken that the game ended up getting delayed and ultimately cancelled. After changing studios, engines and attempting to rebuild the game from the ground up, EA decided that since they weren’t far enough yet for an October release date (in line with the NBA season) that they would again put off launching a game this year and aim to release a game for next season instead.
My question is, does anyone care?
This drought of EA basketball games (no NCAA basketball either) just happens to be during a period where the NBA 2K series can do no wrong. NBA 2K11 changed the game with the addition of Michael Jordan and the most realistic basketball game we’ve ever seen. 2K12 took all of that and improved it, adding more touches and hall of famers. Now, when the series could be on cruise control if it wanted, they seem to be pushing the envelope even more. EA couldn’t have picked a worse time to not put out a game.
EA knows all about being the only game in town. They forced 2K Sports out the door when they purchased exclusivity for NFL video games. This meant that if you wanted to play NFL football in a video game, it is Madden Football or bust. Some people yearn for the days of 2K football, but based on sales not many are still complaining. They also produce the undisputed number one hockey and soccer games with the NHL and FIFA series. Take Two backed out from hockey after NHL 2K11 fell flat, and even though Konami keeps making Pro Evo Soccer games, does anyone know anybody that owns that over FIFA13?
Baseball seems to be the only sport that has multiple video games still duking it out, and that might only be because of rights issues. The MLB 2K series has been the standard game on all platforms due to an agreement preventing third party companies from making games with the MLB license. This would have left them with no competition if SONY hadn’t decided to make a game anyway as a Playstation exclusive. MLB The Show has been regarded as the best baseball game, if not the best sports game overall, available. However since it is only available for Playstation, Take Two still gets all of the sales from baseball hungry XBOX and WII owners. That might change soon as the exclusivity agreement is about to expire. There might not even be an MLB 2K13 next year, meaning once again, there could only be one game in town.
With all that said, I again ask if it actually matters? Is it bad that all of these companies have little to no competition for their respective sports titles? Logic would say yes. Less competition leaves little desire for the work to be put into drastically improving games each year. If there is no one to challenge the throne, what is the point of spending the money. Certainly the Madden Franchise has been accused of this. Every year they come out with another version of Madden and while they still sell at a ridiculous rate, critics call in little more than a 60 dollar roster update. Truth be told, little has changed with MLB The Show, NHL or FIFA games either. Sure some strong competition would bring out the best in everyone involved right?
Not necessarily. While little changes from year to year, it must be acknowledged that these current games are regarded as the best ever in their fields. FIFA12, NBA 2K12, MLB The Show 12 and NHL 12 were all called the greatest sports game of all time by somebody. Madden might have gotten similar praise if it wasn’t so ridiculously popular. It’s just not cool to give accolades to something that well known. Call of Duty goed through the same troubles now. It’s much for fun to trash it for not being as good as it used to be. With these sports franchises not needing to make drastic changes to separate themselves from the pack, they can keep everything that works and spend their time making small tweaks that each make their game slightly more like the real thing. The casual fan might not really notice it, but NHL 13 plays a lot more like real hockey than NHL 12 does. While being the leader in a one car race can lead to laziness, it can also provide to patience to do the small things that matter more down the road.
Sports games are different from any other type of video game. It is the only genre expected to come out with a new game every year. The Uncharted series needed five years to produce three games. I didn’t notice anyone complaining though. To expect drastic changes every year from a sports game is asking for a lot. I’m not saying that competition wouldn’t make the games better, but I am saying that sports games are as good as they have ever been without it.
I guess all I’m getting at is, EA can cancel next year’s NBA game too if they wanted to.
In 2010, High Moon Studios produced the best Transformers game ever made with War for Cybertron. Two years later, they’ve done it again with Transformers: Fall of Cybertron. Granted, the bar was never set very high to begin with, but that doesn’t mean Fall of Cybertron (FoC) isn’t a good game.
The biggest difference between the two is in the campaign mode. Gone is the team based shooting where you pick one of three autobots or decepticons. In its place you get levels focused around one specific Transformer, and his special abilities. Jazz and his grappling hook, for example. This comes at the cost of multiplayer in the campaign, but the lack of a team based campaign makes for more scripted and dramatic gameplay. All of the characters weaved in to a solid story that incorporates the entire universe. More set pieces, more action, more more more! The story also does a good job transitioning from level to level. Where the previous game had a more defined end to each level, FoC seamlessly takes you from one adventure to another. I had to specifically decide to stop playing, not just turn it off when they told me I was done with a level.
The story does take certain liberties with the source material, especially after War for Cybertron wrapped things up so well in taking us to the start of the G1 cartoon. However if you want to fit Grimlock or Bruticus into the story, two great characters to play as, you have to take some leaps. Also as far as the campaign goes, while it is technically not split into two campaigns, the middle of the game is mostly decepticons while the autobots make up the bookends. So yeah, it’s split into two campaigns.
Multiplayer is still fun, escalation and all of the other modes are done well enough. The creation however got a big upgrade. War for Cybertron gave you models of all of the playable Transformers and let you change their colors. Now you can individually change heads, legs, arms and torsos, which also decide what you turn into. There is also a much greater color palate to choose from. I’m not a big multiplayer guy, but I love creating things and this gives me the opportunity to create all I want, once I unlock all of the items of course. Don’t worry, following trends you can just buy items straight up for cash.
It’s a good looking game but there are some issues. The sound jumped in and out on me occasionally during my play through, and the engine stutters a little when too much is going on. This could be fixed with future updates but right now it’s a little annoying. Nothing game breaking though. Aside from that, Cybertron is a much more colorful world. Like I mentioned in my first preview for the game (here) the environments are more varied in FoC. The sun is bright and the ships are as well. There are different textures and colors and it makes the game pop without losing the rusty feel of a metallic planet. It is a very large world and it finally plays like it as well.
Despite all of the positives I have, the one thought I came away with was that I’m not sure if I would have bought this if it wasn’t a Transformers game. Mostly it’s a third person shooter with a Transformers skin. That’s great but I’m not all about shooters. I’m more of the Arkham City, Assassins Creed kind of guy. The transforming is good and that’s what I came for but once I play I barely use it. My shooter mentality kicks in and I stick to cover and strafing to get the job done, and for the most part it totally works. Some of the added technology is cool (gravity bomb FTW) but I feel like most of the times I actually transformed it was by accident since it is done by pushing the L3 button. However despite all of that, I do love Transformers so I had to buy this game immediately to get the experience, and for me getting the story and playing as my favorite characters was well worth the investment.
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is a love letter to Transformers fans, and is a good game that has done the best and the most with the Transformers license than any game before it. It just hasn’t gotten it 100% right yet. If you are a Transformers fan like me, then you have no reason not to buy this game. It’s everything you love about Transformers in the form of a good third person shooter. However if you wouldn’t know the matrix of leadership if it was sticking out of your chest, there are better shooters right now and this might not be the ideal game for you.
After Beenox produced a pair of more linear Spidey games with Shattered Dimensions and Edge of Time, they put the wall crawler back into an open world with the the movie tie-in to The Amazing Spider-Man (which you can read more about here). The game picks up right where the movie left off, and considering that it came out before the movie did, it was quite spoiler filled.
Essentially Oscorp is trying to recover after all of the bad press they got with Curt Connors turning into a Lizard, and they are eliminating all of his research and moving on to nano technology. Then wouldn’t you know it, all hell breaks loose and the city is running rampant with mixed species monsters and psycho robots out to hunt the monsters, and both parties have it in for our red and blue hero. It’s not Shakespeare, but it is enough to keep you going through the game.
Like I said before, this game goes back to what people loved most about the older Spider-Man movie games, specifically Spider-Man 2, and that’s open world web slinging through Manhattan. Like the games before it, this is where the most fun is to be had. Physics kind of take a back seat as you can throw a web in the air and latch on to something no matter how high you are, and soar through the city. There are plenty of side missions and mini games to do, and while they can get repetitive after a while, it’s still fun to just get to all the points on the map via jumping and swinging through the city. There are also collectables to find throughout the game, but for me the best by far are comic book pages. Scattered around the game are pages of comic books. 500 in all. For every 20 or so pages you collect you get access to an old Spider-Man comic. The full issue. They range from Spidey’s first appearance to the first time he encountered Rhyno and so on. I find myself completely ignoring the missions and just looking for more pages.
Speaking of the missions, this is probably where the game suffers most. They are very straight forward, and also very easy. Half of the stages turn into beat ’em up sessions while the others are stealth based. Sound familiar? Both tactics are almost identical to Arkham City. There are stealth take downs from above and enemies that are equally aloof. The combat system is exactly the same. Hit the attack button to build combos, web shooters act as batarangs to stun enemies, and your spidey-sense kicks in for dodging much like the caped crusader (although I think we can all agree RockSteady took that from Spider-Man first). That’s all fine and still fun, but it is just too easy. First off the game really spoon feeds you everything. It will tell you when to use your web, when to attack, when to stop, everything. There are bosses that I beat using just the attack button. I didn’t realize he was the final boss of the level until the end. In a word, it’s anticlimactic. I recommend using the hardest difficulty setting if you want any challenge at all. The other problem with most of these levels is that it sticks Spider-Man inside, away from where the game is at it’s best. Not enough of the game is in the open world, which is a shame.
The Amazing Spider-Man game also lifts Arkham City’s navigation and upgrade system among other things. You have physical and tech upgrades that you earn points toward individually. The map is in the same style, with locations marked off to continue the story, then side missions marked in other areas. There are random muggings to stop as well. Snipers on the rooftops. Audio logs to find through out the game. I can go on and on. I know Arkham City didn’t invent any of these ideas, and they are all used in some fashion in most games, but it looks so similar and works in such a way that it has to be mentioned.
Graphically the game is a mixed bag. Spider-Man looks great, and when you are running around the city does too. The major New York land marks are there, with comic spots like the Daily Bugle and Oscorp tower thrown in as well. However when you look too closely you see how it is a little dated. Again, this is a movie tie-in so I can’t expect too much, but it is just one more thing that holds this title back.
Despite it’s shortcomings, The Amazing Spider-Man is a fun game to play. Much like the movie, this game brings Spider-Man back to his roots and mostly succeeds in spite of it’s flaws. If you aren’t a comic book fan it’s worth at least a rental. If are a comic book nerd like myself, it’s worth your money just for the comic books you can collect. You’ll spend more than enough time after finishing the main story looking for all of the comic pages in New York City.
Ryan may have wrapped up our E3 coverage, but the only game I really care about at the moment is Transformers: Fall of Cybertron. We took a few shots in the dark after seeing some of the screen shots that were released in January, but thanks to E3 we now have a lot more information on what High Moon studios has been up to and some gameplay to go with it. First let’s take a look at the new trailer:
Yes there is more Grimlock and Bruticus (both confirmed playable btw), but OH MY GOD IT’S METROPLEX! War for Cybertron handed us giant bosses in the form of Trypticon and Omega Supreme, but Metroplex takes us into God of War territory in terms of size. I can only assume that he is a boss for the Decepticons at some point, but he is already more than that. It was revealed today in the FoC demo that Optimus Prime controls Metroplex, and that in-game he can target enemies for Metroplex to blow away with missels, stomp on them, or whatever else he’s capable of. This acts as a special ability for Optimus, and each playable character has their own special trait (Jazz has a grappling hook for example). This all goes along with the single player modes being solo missions. I imagine each stage will be built around a specific characters skills, which certainly adds variety to the gameplay. One more thought on Metroplex, his addition makes me wonder what the response will be to him in the Autobot campaign. Trypticon was the Decepticon equivalent in G1, so perhaps to add scale could this be where Unicron steps in? The man could be an entire level on his own.
One change you’ll notice when checking out the demo is weapon upgrade system. While you still can acquire weapons on the fly during battle, there are also weapon stores where you can purchase new weapons and upgrades to your favorite weapons using currency that you earn in-game. Another change from the way all previous Transformers games have been designed is that the story mode is not split into two separate campaigns, but instead there is one cohesive campaign that has you going back and forth between the Autobots and Decepticons. I think this is a great move for the sake of telling a story and could make it feel more like an episode of the show. High Moon has also put emphasis on character creation in multiplayer, making every limb customizable along with weapons and abilities, all the way down to the texture of your transformer. A big upgrade after the bare bones approach in War for Cybertron.
So far I’ve seen four levels. Three of them are Optimus Prime making a charge through Decepticon forces with the help of Metroplex, Starscream sneaking around the top of an Autobot stronghold with flight and stealth, and Grimlock just bashing everything in sight (including what could be insecticons?) underground. These three levels all seems pretty varied. Prime’s stage is the most like the previous game. Walk into a room, shoot everything and keep going (occasionally calling for an airstrike). Strarscream’s stage is similar to the aerial stages in the previous game, but there does seem to be more room for interpretation by using stealth and other skills I mainly just used in multiplayer before. Grimlock’s level is all close combat. His special skill is simply turning into a dinosaur mode, but it is used as if he was hulking up. When his meter maxes out he can turn into dinosaur mode for a brief period of time, where he appears indestructible and capable of a lot of damage before turning back into robot mode. The other Dinobots also appear in the game, but I do not believe either is playable. The other thing of note is that all three stages have pretty varied looks, something that was another critique of the first game.
The fourth level is the opening of the game featuring Bumblebee. The game kicks off right where the first one left us, with the Autobots trying to leave Cybertron while the Decepticons follow. Needless to say, things don’t go as Optimus planned, and it is up to Bumblebee to save the day. This ends up being the tutorial level, and shows off some pretty nice set pieces which could be a preview of the rest of the game. Don’t believe me? Check it out:
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron comes out on August 28th, and I’m surprised I haven’t already pre-ordered it.