My first time watching UFC: I think I’m on board

Just about every month I notice a poster in a bar or restaurant advertising their UFC nights, yet I never once felt the urge to attend one. I got caught up in the hype surrounding the Mayweather – Pacquiao fight last year and ended up ordering it on PPV (all the bars were way too packed) which ended up being a major let down. The last time I had watched any sort of fighting PPV before that was a VHS tape of the 97 Tyson – Holyfield fight my dad brought home from work.

As my wife and I were trying to find something to do yesterday I started noticing a lot of buzz surrounding UFC 214 on social media. Those who were into it seemed way into it, and I started to get curious. We thought about trying to head to Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner and to see the fight, however we ultimately decided that we would probably spend more money on dinner and drinks if we stayed to watch it than we would to eat at home and order the PPV ($60).

The first fight on the card was over before I had managed to crack open a beer, which had me wondering if I had just paid $60 to watch a series of minute long fights. Fortunately, however, as the night went on the fights got better and I started to get more and more into it. I had never heard of any of the fighters, but we basically just started picking favorites and cheered them on. It was more fun than I expected it to be, and certainly more action packed than the Mayweather fight (even as the Woodley match drew boos from the crowd).

The main event lived up to the hype (even if the hype for me started about an hour before the PPV) and ended spectacularly! Jones showed great class after the fight, and I’m genuinely interested in seeing where his career will go from here. I do think that the fight should’ve ended three or four punches sooner, however.  It was painful to watch Cormier take so many unprotected blows to the head as he laid on the mat, especially with all the attention CTE has garnered lately.

In the end I’m glad I went out on a whim and watched UFC 214. I’ll be sure to pay more attention to the sport in the future, even as I still don’t know who any of the fighters are.

Nier’s second playthrough is kind of a slog

I’m not one who enjoys playing the same sequence in a game multiple times. In fact, if I’ve had to play the same sequence in a game too many times (usually due to me dying / failing) I’ve walked away from games and have never gone back (the first Uncharted game for example). I simply don’t find repetitiveness enjoyable. When I first heard that you have to “replay” Nier more than once to get the most out of the story, I was a little put off, but after finishing the A ending last week I decided to jump back in.

Unfortunately, replaying the same sequences from the first playthrough as 9S has not been enjoyable so far. I wasn’t a huge fan of the combat the first time around, and it’s even worse as 9S (his most powerful attack is hacking which forces you into a repetitive mini-game that I got tired of after the third time seeing it. What’s worse is not enough feels different. You’re slogging through the same areas, fighting the same enemies and bosses for very little payoff. You’ll get some unique cut scenes and flashbacks that further fill in the story, but I’m already contemplating putting the game down for good. I wish they would have found a better way to fill in the story than running through the same thing twice.

I understand that the third playthrough is entirely different than the first two, but at this point it feels like a laborious grind stands in the way of something more rewarding. Why am I doing the same thing again when I could be working my way through Persona 5 instead? I’m still undecided whether I’m going to see it through or just look everything up on YouTube. I feel like the latter would be a wiser use of my time.

Last month I broke my Galaxy S8+ in a really embarrassing way

I’ve been an outspoken critic of phone cases for as long as I’ve owned a smartphone. I used an OtterBox for awhile on my first iPhone, but I never liked how bulky it made the phone. As phones got larger and more sleek looking I became even less of a fan of phone cases. They feel wrong in my pockets, and make phones harder to take out or put away. I’ve tried slimmer cases, but it still has never felt right. So starting with my Galaxy S5 I decided to never use a phone case again. People would often say to me “what a stupid thing to do”, yet I loved the naked phone feel. It felt better to hold a naked phone in my hands, it felt better in my pocket and best of all I always found a naked phone to look better. Designers spend so much time coming up with sexy designs for phones, why cover them in plastic and rubber?

Maybe I was just lucky, but I never seemed to drop my phone. It actually seemed like I dropped phones more often with cases on them because they were bulkier and never felt right trying to shove them back in my pocket. Then came early June, about a week before I was set to go on vacation this year. I was using my phone to read some articles on the internet, while….on the toilet (as people do), and when I was…..finished, I put my phone back in my pocket and began to stand up. I had barely even moved when the phone slipped out of the pocket and landed face down on the tile floor. There was hardly an impact, and I left it lying on the floor for a moment. After I washed my hands and picked it back up I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach as I saw the entire top left hand side of the screen was cracked. It spread all across the top of the screen, seemingly originating from the curved edge of the phone. I was astonished that such a low impact fall could do so much damage.

I normally don’t sign up for cell phone insurance, but for whatever reason when I upgraded from the S7E to the S8+ I opted in, despite the cost. Unfortunately, it would still cost $250 to exchange the phone, which was not a pleasant expense the week before a vacation. In retrospect I could have probably waited until after vacation to replace it, but with every passing moment the cracked screen bugged me even more so I bought the bullet and filed a claim with AT&T (Asurion). The process was surprisingly painless as the replacement phone arrived on my doorstep the very next day and I sent the broken phone back in the same box.

Unfortunately, a few days into my vacation I found out that the replacement phone they sent me had touch screen issues. It’s hard to describe, but basically the bottom half of the touch screen was defective. If I were trying to scroll through my Facebook feed with my thumb it would randomly stop registering the swiping motion and instead register “clicks”, resulting in me constantly clicking on links or the like button unwillingly. I called Asurion and described my issue, and they promply sent me another replacement, no questions asked (I really expected it to be a struggle to get anyone to believe me) and so far the replacement has been doing fine.

You’d think after that experience and the dent it made in my bank account I’d finally see the value of having a case on my phone, but you’d be wrong. When I got the replacement I did go out and buy a case, but it only stayed on my phone for about a week. I couldn’t stand how it made it more difficult to get the phone in and out of my pocket, and the extra weight it added. I also love the way the S8+ looks lying on a table. It’s a sexy looking phone, and I’d rather look at that than a chunk of rubber or plastic.

It’s possible that another accident will happen (I’d say it’s probable), but I’ll continue taking that risk in favor of an aesthetically pleasing device. Of all the smart phones I’ve owned I’ve only managed to break one, so maybe I’m due for another six years without dropping one. Let’s hope.

I don’t understand the drama surrounding PUBG’s soon to be paid crates

A lot of people seem to be rallying against the idea that PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds will eventually charge for crates, and I don’t quite get it. People are acting as if this is an affront against the game’s fan base, but I don’t see it. First off all, the items received in crates are cosmetic. They’re “hats”, they’re not real. Gaining these items doesn’t necessarily change the way the game plays (you can argue that certain colors may help you blend in, but that’s still not a solid argument). What bothers me the most is that people are reacting as if the crate system is core to the PUBG experience. It’s not. I can’t imagine that the most enjoyable thing about the game for people is opening crates. It’s something that you can completely ignore and still enjoy the game just as much as anyone else. Heck all I’ve gotten from crates so far are a few identical red shirts and a long sleeved blue shirt. Big deal. I’d have as much fun with the game if the entire system didn’t exist.

There is, however, a benefit to monetizing cosmetic items. I view systems like this as a way for players to essentially tip the game’s creators. I’ve already paid upfront for the experience, but I’ve had so much fun already that I’d gladly throw an extra $2 at it here and there in exchange for digital clothing. Yet the reaction this model prompts from gamers is absurd. People are crying out as if they’re completely changing what they paid for. Again, I don’t think anyone looked at the crate system and had that become the deciding factor in favor of their purchase.

Life will go on. The game will still be fun. People make video games in order to earn money, and I don’t think it’s fair to get upset when someone develops a way to do better as a business if it doesn’t have any negative impact on the core game. Everything will be alright.

Finished NieR: Automata (kinda)

Last night I finished the initial playthrough of NieR: Automata after about nine and a half hours of gameplay, most of which was enjoyable. I usually don’t like action games, but the beautiful environments and music in NieR kept me wanting to come back. I especially enjoyed a lot of the dialogue, some of which managed to creep me out. I’m not sure I understand much of what happened, but I’m hoping the subsequent playthroughs shed some light on the story (from what I understand there are five different experiences / endings).

One thing I really enjoyed about NieR was the option to insert auto-evade and auto-fire chips into 2B’s operating system. Sure, this effectively put the game on auto pilot by automatically evading enemy attacks and firing ranged attacks, but I still had a good time carrying out the melee attacks without having to worry about dying. I’m sure some people feel like this should ruin the experience, but I still enjoyed it.

The video below is about midway through the playthrough, and may contain spoilers (it shows one of the bigger boss fight sequences that I really enjoyed).

PUBG: Hanging out on a boat

Early today in PUBG I started swimming across the water toward the military base to get to where the majority of the circle was, and as I was swimming it was nice seeing the number of players tick down while I was practically in my own world. Every now and then I would hear gunshots, but no one seemed to know I existed. It was a slow swim, but it was the most peaceful time I’ve spent with the  game yet. At one point I heard a boat behind me, but I was able to stop and bob in the water undetected as it drove up onto the shore. I then continued my swim toward an unused boat in the water and hopped into it once I was sure there was no one around.

I had a great view of the sunset from my little spot on the water, and I sat there for quite awhile without moving the boat. Eventually I started to move around the island and came to a stop underneath the bridge, a position that gave me over from anyone who might be on either of the shores. There I could hear plenty of action taking place above me, and it was oddly satisfying to hear it all take place knowing that no one knew that I lurked below.

Eventually I made my way around the back of the island and abandoned my boat in order to more stealthily swim toward land. I planned to stay in the water as long as possible and then make my way inward at the last possible minute in hopes that most of the other players would be dead by the time I got on shore. It didn’t help that the only thing I looted up until that point was a pistol (three other players dropped in near me early on so I sprinted through two buildings and got out of there quickly). Unfortunately I was wrong in thinking I was near an area that would lead me onto land. I managed to make it into the top ten before I died helplessly, unable to find away inside the circle.

Jazzpunk is great, silly fun

I started playing Jazzpunk on the PS4 not long ago, and I have to say it’s a great palette cleanser of a game. It’s relaxing to run around and poke anything and everything just to see what happens, and often enough the most meaningless thing you come across can turn into an insanely absurd situation. It takes the habit of wanting to touch anything in sight and turns it into a rewarding experience, even if the entire thing is nonsensical. I’ve enjoyed the writing and look forward to exploring the world even more. It’s a great game to pick up for a few minutes either to calm down after a more tense experience, or if you just have some time to kill. I’d recommend checking it out if you haven’t already, either on PC or PS4.

Behold the Kickmen is an incredible game, even if you’re not into soccer!

 

Tonight I started playing Behold the Kickmen, developed by Size Five Games, and I have to say I’m already in love with it. I played through the tutorial (which the game strongly suggests you play, but in a lighthearted way) and jumped into the first match of the story mode and I think I’ve had more fun in the thirty minutes I’ve spent with it than I have with most sports games. Right from the start you’ll notice that the game doesn’t take the sport of soccer seriously. The tutorial features plenty of pop-ups that poke fun at the sport, seemingly coming from someone who doesn’t care much about the sport in the first place (Kotaku’s recent headline reads: “Game Developer Makes Soccer Game Without Learning How Soccer is Played”).

The writing in the game is so good that I can say I actually enjoyed a tutorial in a video game, probably for the first time ever. I had a smile on my face as I read the pop-ups halfheartedly teaching you the rules of the game, at least as interpreted through the narrator. Once I dove into the actual story mode things only got wackier.

Behold the Kickmen’s story mode seems like it’ll be a blast (I’ve only played the first match so far), but what’s crazier than the silly dialogue is the way the game is played. It plays unlike most soccer games you’ve probably played before in many ways. For starters, your players don’t even know how to pass the ball during the first match. You have to win matches in order to acquire skills, such as passing “THE MOST BASIC OF SKILLS!”.

To make things more interesting, as you’re playing the match you’ll see a dollar amount on screen that correlates to the crowd’s excitement. It’ll go up or down based on how well you’re playing, but you need to score a goal in order to bank that cash. You can then use whatever cash you banked after the match to upgrade your team’s abilities.

Everything about Behold the Kickmen seems passionately designed, and it’s by far the most stylish sports game I’ve ever played. I’m really digging the art, music and sound effects, and I’ll say it again, I’ve never laughed as much while playing a sports game. I can’t wait to see what the game has in store next. I highly recommend checking the game out. It’s only $3.99 on Steam ($3.59 until July 27) which seems INSANE for just how great it is so far. I can’t wait to play more!

-Jonathan Hirt-

 

Finally played Splatoon for the Wii U: It’s not grabbing me

With all the hype surrounding Splatoon 2’s release this weekend (Nintendo Switch), I decided I should finally play Splatoon on the Wii U. I bought a Wii U around the time Mario Maker was taking the world by storm (most of my interest came from watching Patrick Klepek’s Mario Maker Mornings videos). I enjoyed the console at first, but it quickly fell off my radar and began collecting dust. I’d fire it up every now and then, but as someone who doesn’t necessarily enjoy platformers I didn’t get a lot of enjoyment out of it. Even though I had heard nothing but good things about Splatoon, it just didn’t seem like something I’d want to play and I never gave it a second thought as the fact that I owned a Wii U started to fade from memory.

Last night I decided I should give my Wii U one last hurrah, and see if Splatoon would hook me. I’ve only played about thirty minutes of it so far (maybe four or five matches) and while I dig the style and some of the concepts, I’m not certain it’s going to hold my attention very long. I like the idea of trying to stake out territory and push the enemy team back by strategically painting the ground, but with no communication it seems like everyone just runs around and does their own thing. Because of this, every game I’ve played thus far has been a landslide in one direction or the other. It’s never felt evenly matched. Either my team is basically painted into our spawn with no way of advancing, or its the other way around.

It’s not fun to be painted into a corner this badly

Splatoon’s controls are also getting in the way of me trying to have fun with the game. The motion control aiming feels a little sloppy so far, yet the analog stick aiming isn’t any better. I’m not sure whether it’s just me not being used to the Wii U GamePad or if I need to tinker with the sensitivity, but it hasn’t felt great at all. I’ve found it difficult to place paint exactly where I intend, and even harder to try to take down enemies around me.

One more thing that’s got in the way of me having a good time has been the wait time between matches. After a few matches I got tired of waiting and just ended up turning the Wii U off.

Despite the problems I’ve had with the game so far, I can say it has a strikingly vibrant visual style. I love the way the colors contrast, and the UI is also well done. I especially like the mini-map on the GamePad that shows you all the paint.

I don’t mean to sound overly negative about Splatoon, it just hasn’t grabbed my attention so far. I’m going to give it some more time throughout the weekend to see if it grows on me before I put it down for good. If you have any tips or suggestions that could possibly improve my enjoyment of the game feel free to leave a comment. I don’t have any intention of getting a Switch anytime in the near future, so while it’s possible that Splatoon 2 is more refined and easier to enjoy, I’m not quite sold on the series yet.