About to go live for Extra Life

Hey just wanted to pop in and say I’m about to go live with an Extra Life stream, as a member of team Giant Bomb. The link for my Extra Life profile is http://extra-life.org/participant/AVGL, and the link to the Twitch stream is http://twitch.tv/jdh5153.

I encourage you to stop by if you can! I’ll be starting off by working through some games in my Steam backlog such as Bastion, Transistor, Gone Home and Stardew Valley and moving on from there. I haven’t decided whether I’m going to make it through the 24 hours in one shot, or divide it up into two legs. We’ll see how it goes!

Thanks again!

-Jonathan

Can’t get a NES Classic?

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The $59.99 30 in one NES system that Nintendo released this week is already incredibly difficult to find. Most retail locations have reported getting fewer than ten units, and most sold all ten within hours of its release. One local game store here has reported that they ordered 12, received 6 and will not be receiving any more units for the rest of this year.

The scarcity of the NES Classic Edition, and the fact that there’s sure to be ever increasing demand as the holiday season nears, has driven scalpers to jack up the prices on the systems on Craigslist and eBay (selling for $100+). Instead of paying extra for this system, however, I have another idea. How about you head down to your local video game store (mom and pop store, not GameStop) and check out their stock of used and refurbished NES systems. Sure it won’t have 30 games pre-installed, but maybe the real thing might just be more of a nostalgia rush than the simulated product. You’ll also be helping out a local business, which is always great during the holidays.

You might end up spending a bit more for a real NES and a couple of cartridges, but I honestly think you’re better off that way. First of all, you’ll avoid being stuck with a two foot long controller cord that the Classic Edition comes with. Furthermore, you’ll be able to play many more games. The Classic Edition has no way to expand its library (except for a presumed future release for another $60 with another 30 games installed), while with the real thing you’ll be able to scope out pawn shops, flea markets and local game stores for good deals on old cartridges.

Most of the cartridges I’ve gotten recently have been between $10 and $30, but it’s much more fun actually clicking a cartridge down into the thing and firing it up for the first time (rather than simply hitting a button on a menu in the Classic Edition).

Don’t get me wrong, the Classic Edition is certainly a nifty item, and sometime down the road I might actually pick one up, but I enjoy the community of interacting with my local mom and pop game store whenever I’m looking for a new NES cartridge to add to my collection. Give it a try, you might too!

How to fix Hauppauge HD PVR 2 no sound on TV

Hey, so I wanted to post this in case anyone has run into the same issue I have. I recently got a 4K TV, and whenever I tried using my Hauppauge HD PVR 2 (Gaming Edition) with it I would get no audio output on my TV. I tried just about every setting in the Capture software, reinstalled everything, but had no luck. I would have audio just fine on my PC, but nothing would pass through to the TV.

Well by chance I disabled the HDR setting on my TV (the setting is called HDMI UHD color on my Samsung TV), and what do you know, now all of a sudden I have audio on my TV!

I hope this can help you if you’ve had a similar problem.

Best of luck!

In a great year for shooters, Infinite Warfare disappoints.

It’s been one of the most exciting years for fans of first person shooters in the history of video games. So many great AAA shooters have released this year, and for the most part they’ve all been hits. We’ve had Overwatch, DOOM, Gears of War 4, Battlefield 1, Titanfall 2 and now Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. The last 30 days alone have seen the rapid fire releases of Gears (Oct 11), Battlefield (Oct 21), Titanfall (Oct 28) and Call of Duty (Nov 4).

It’s been an unbelievably good year for those who enjoy first person shooters. There’s an incredible amount of variety in the games released this year, and there’s something for everyone.

I’ve been trying to check out all of the shooters that have released recently, however I think the ones that I’ll continue to play over the next year will certainly be Overwatch, Battlefield and Titanfall. That said, last night I rented Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare from Redbox and played for a few hours and wanted to share my experience so far.

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One of the first things I noticed once I started the campaign was that Infinite Warfare is certainly unlike any Call of Duty that came before it. The view of Jupiter above was not something I expected to see less than five minutes into a Call of Duty game, but it was certainly refreshing.

I had a good time picking up a variety of guns during the first few missions, and found the variety of enemies to be refreshing as well. Most of the guys are just random soldiers, but it’s interesting to see robots thrown into the mix, and even some larger bots that take a little more effort to bring down. I also enjoyed the hacking mechanic a great deal once it was introduced. Basically you can take control of an enemy robot while you’re tucked away safely in cover, and use it to take out as many bad guys as you can and even initiate a self destruct mechanism (it’s fun to run into a group of enemies and explode D.Va style) before you lose the signal during the hack.

Infinite Warfare space combat

The space combat featured in Infinite Warfare was certainly interesting. The first time you ascend from a planet and transition into space I got an eerie No Man’s Sky vibe, but you certainly have less control over your spaceship. You’re sort of guided along a set path as you ascend, and in all reality you don’t have that much control, which isn’t necessarily a complaint, it just felt weird. The same goes for landing sequences. I could basically land my ship with hardly any input, as the game guides you along a highlighted path onto the carrier. Besides all that, the space combat was a nice diversion, but I felt that it dragged on a little longer than I would’ve liked.

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Some of the cutscenes look really nice in Infinite Warfare, and one of the things that stood out was the quality of the character’s hair. It looks quite realistic, especially as you can see individual strands, but unfortunately once the cutscene ends it transitions back to being more of a blob than realistic looking hair. Someday video games will give us good looking hair! Again, this isn’t a complaint and it’s something I wouldn’t have even noticed had I not been blown away by just how good it looked during the cutscene above and had it contrasted with the gameplay sequence to follow.

Overall I’ve mostly enjoyed the campaign (I have a handful of missions left), but I did have some difficulty with it at times which made it more frustrating than it should be. After breezing through much of the campaigns of Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2, I’ve died more than I have in both games combined during Infinite Warfare. During some sections I died as many as six times before reaching a checkpoint and getting past a particularly hairy section. I tried turning the difficulty down, but even that didn’t help and it became annoying to replay the same section over and over again just to avoid dying by a grenade or exploding car I didn’t happen to see quick enough.

How does the campaign compare to Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2? I don’t think it’s on the same level. Call of Duty campaigns have gotten more and more stale over the years, while its competitors have really stepped up their game. Titanfall 2 features easily the most enjoyable FPS campaign since Halo: Reach. The writing is excellent (mostly the dialogue of BT), the platforming in-between shooting sections has a Portal level of polish and the shooting feels great, whether on foot or in a titan. Infinite Warfare definitely tries to do things a bit differently, and at times it felt like I was playing more of a sci-fi shooter, but during its most routine moments it feels like everything we’ve done again and again during Call of Duty campaigns. I feel no drive to finish off the last four missions, and if I do it’ll only be for the achievements, not because I’m necessarily enjoying the game.

The multiplayer doesn’t fare much better. I haven’t enjoyed Call of Duty multiplayer since Black Ops II (MW3 is still my favorite) and Infinite Warfare feels like more of the same. It’s eerily similar to Black Ops III, and most of the time it’s just felt like a skin and some new maps over that gameplay. It just hasn’t been enjoyable for me at all. I just want to go back and play some more Battlefield or Titanfall. In fact, if you tend to enjoy the futuristic combat of Black Ops III but haven’t checked out Titanfall, I would highly recommend Titanfall 2 over Infinite Warfare. Even Jeff Gerstmann, a long time Call of Duty enthusiast over at Giant Bomb, has seemed to have drifted away from Call of Duty. Instead, he has been overly enthusiastic about Titanfall 2, which he scored a perfect 5 in his review.

What made the Infinite Warfare experience even worse for me yesterday, was its community. I experienced behavior that I haven’t experienced since the Xbox 360 days during my time with the game yesterday. During one of my first matches I happened to die a lot (I didn’t play a lot of Black Ops III or Advanced Warfare and needed to get used to it), and mid match I got an all caps message instructing me to “STOP DYING!!!!!!111!!”. I took the time to respond that I certainly wasn’t dying on purpose, to which I received a series of insults and a note saying they recorded my gameplay and will be reporting me for dying too much. Good to know.

But it didn’t stop there. It seems like so much of the Call of Duty community is so concerned about their K/D and winning that they’ll get violently angry at anyone who isn’t playing to their standards. I never experience this with Battlefield or Titanfall. Maybe it’s just the day one players who are the most hardcore, but I played Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2 a lot on day one and everyone I encountered was all about having fun.

Overall, I don’t think I can recommend Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare to anyone but the most hardcore of Call of Duty fans. To even those fans I would recommend checking out Titanfall 2 if you haven’t. It’ll provide a similar experience with a much better and more refreshing execution, and I think the games industry would benefit from the increased success of the other shooters on the market.

Why I’m not bothered by “HD remakes / re-releases”

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The practice of re-releasing games that are only a few years old as an “HD remake” or remaster has rubbed people the wrong way for the last few years. There’s just something about being asked to pay as much as $60 for re-releases of games we’ve already paid for oftentimes in the last three or four years. Sometimes these games are presented as a package, therefore offering a ‘better’ value, such as the Borderlands Collection, Master Chief Collection or Final Fantasy X / X-2.

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The practice of re-releasing games dates back as far as 2009, with the release of the God of War Collection on the PS3 (well I suppose you could say it goes back even further, with Super Mario All Stars on the SNES, but I’ll keep it recent). The re-releases really started to pick up steam with the current console generation, and early on during this cycle people started to fatigue of these games since there seemed to be more re-releases than new content being produced.

With all these re-releases seemingly milking more money for the same product, people have been speaking up, announcing their displeasure with the practice often in comment sections and on places like Reddit. I myself have even rolled my eyes at some re-releases (looking at you Deadpool), but at the same time I’ve purchased many of them, and I don’t regret it. I’ve had more fun with the Borderlands collection on the Xbox One, even though I’ve owned both games on the 360 and PC. They simply felt more refined on the current gen console (I wasn’t much of a PC gamer at the time). The Master Chief Collection is still one of my favorite game releases of all time. I love being able to switch between all of Halo games with ease, and appreciate the touched up version of Halo 2. I no longer have a PS2 (I’m not one to keep old consoles lying around), so of course I picked up Final Fantasy X HD when it released on PC, and I think there’s no better way to play it.

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Fortunately, you don’t always have to open your wallet again for these re-releases, at least if you’re a PC gamer. Bioshock’s updated version was free for those who already owned it, as was today’s release of Skyrim Special Edition (at least if you already owned the game and its DLC). That’s a nice gesture, as they certainly could have asked that we pay again (and they have if you’re a console gamer. Sorry!).

So I can understand that people have a problem with paying for updated visuals, but I’ve been thinking about it this way. We often have no problem upgrading other forms of media as technology has evolved. How many of us have owned movies on VHS, then DVD, then Blu-ray and then digital (or even UHD Blu-ray)? When we upgrade our technology (be it media players or TV’s) we want to get the best possible version of our media available to us. Now movies aren’t quite priced the same as a game, but how often are you going to watch those movies? Once or twice? So you might pay $15-30 for a few hours of entertainment, versus paying $60 for an HD remake of a game that can offer upwards of 200 hours of shiny “new” entertainment.

If you’re not convinced, there’s no problem holding onto your 360 or PS3 version of Skyrim, but I personally want to play the best available version. Besides, part of me likes to think that these releases help to fund new and exciting projects. Game development is more expensive and time consuming than ever, but game prices haven’t risen in years. That’s part of the reason why so many games have micro-transactions, whether we like it or not. Re-releasing an “old” game with a new coat of paint may just provide a publisher with the confidence that consumers are still interested in their products. Maybe I’m just viewing things from a glass half-full perspective, but I like to remain positive whenever possible.

I’m going to stop rambling on now and go enjoy some Skyrim Special Edition in 4K. Thanks for reading! If you feel I’m flat out wrong, or want to express your opinion, I encourage you to comment!