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.

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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.

Still having a blast in PUBG (and have tasted chicken dinner)

A little over a week ago I started playing PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS in duos, and it makes the game feel entirely different. My normal strategy of hide in a corner and wait doesn’t play well in a group, so I was forced to sweep from building to building actually engaging enemies as we moved inward to remain in safety. I actually had to take shots at people who weren’t first shooting at me (as you can tell I didn’t manage to kill any of them) which changed how I had been playing the game in a big way. It was a blast to be aggressive for once, and it made me more confident in my subsequent games.

Last night I was playing solo and someone ran up into my building without knowing I was there. I was able to take them out with an uzi and found an 8X scope on their body, the first time I’ve come across such a high powered scope in the game. I affixed it on my M16 and watched over the city below me. It wasn’t long before I saw two people engage in a firefight, and it was an awesome feeling to take out one of them from afar. The other player ducked back inside that building, unfortunately, and never poked their head back out. I decided to continue keeping watch over the city, as I had seen two other people walking around it, however this contributed to my downfall as I was shotgunned in the face while looking down the scope five minutes later.

In another game last night I found ideal cover by driving a vehicle up against a cliff and hiding prone underneath it. My backside was covered and I felt relatively safe despite being out in the open. I’ve found I actually tend to survive longer if I’m crawling in the grass than I do if I’m hiding in a building, I assume because most people gravitate toward solid cover and ignore the open grass. Unfortunately, this optimal cover didn’t last as I soon had to make the trek inward again. I eventually ditched the vehicle by a rock and began crawling slowly and carefully as I ended up well within the circle with plenty of tree and rock cover.

This turned out to by my best solo game yet, as the circle closed in on a wide open area and everyone had to abandon their buildings and work toward it. I stayed silent in the grass by the trees and watched as everyone started picking each other off. I could hear bullets whizzing over my head, but I resisted the urge to get up and just waited. Before long I caught a glimpse of someone working their way toward me, but they hadn’t seen me yet. I decided I needed to take action, and tried taking them out, but the sound of gunfire attracted more eyes and we were both put down by someone else. I finished 7th, in one of the most excited games I’ve played yet.

 

Finally beat Gears of War (all of them)

While I was back east visiting family my brother was able to take a week off and we spent a good chunk of that time playing through all of the Gears of War games in couch co-op. He had already finished the main series, while I had never finished any of the games. I never got into them, and was more into Halo and Call of Duty multiplayer while the Gears games were popular. I had played a few missions of Gears 2, but that was about it. I somehow came to own all of the Gears games, however (through purchasing Gears 4 and Xbox Game Pass) and decided it was finally time to play them.

We started with Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, and I was surprised at how good the game looked visually in addition to how well it played for being an eleven year old game.

What surprised me even more was just how satisfying it was to shoot things in the game. I remember not liking Gear’s style when I first played it, however I came around to it quickly this time. I enjoyed the satisfaction of nailing a perfect reload and firing off amped up bullets after each successful reload. I also enjoyed the variety of weapons, and how each fired significantly different than the previous.

Had I not experienced the game playing side by side with my brother on a couch I’m not certain how much I would’ve enjoyed it. The way the game separates the player characters on occasion makes for some of the most tense moments in all of co-op gaming. Once you’re on a separate path from your partner you can no longer be revived if you make a mistake. Often one of us would breeze through our section only to watch in horror as the other was overrun and killed forcing us to replay the section. As neat as a mechanic as the two path system is, it did eventually start to cause frustration and I’m glad the sequels allow AI characters to heal player characters.

One of the most enjoyable experiences came when we found a way to cheat the system in a sense. We had failed a boss fight, and decided to figure out what would happen if one of us stood where the boss would spawn while the other triggered the encounter. We were able to end the boss fight before it even began in this case and both burst out laughing for a solid minute after it happened.

Switching to Gears of War 2 was a little jarring graphically after the beauty of Ultimate Edition, but once the action started I was quickly able to get past the muddier textures. Still, I wouldn’t mind seeing a remaster of 2 in the future as it would benefit greatly from a new coat of paint. Regardless, Gears 2 was an enjoyable experience with a bit more drama added to the story.

By the time we got to Gears of War 3, I was starting to experience a little bit of Gears fatigue. I’m sure this is mostly due to trying to power through the series in a matter of days (combined with the fact that I find it harder to tolerate long gaming sessions these days), but I think it started to affect my enjoyment of the series. In Gears of War 3, every sequence of events started to feel dry. You need to get somewhere and when you get there something will be wrong (no power, need to find something, etc.) and you’ll fight waves of enemies until you can get out of there and head off to the next place in the distance to do it again. Despite this, I did enjoy the grander scale of events that took place throughout the game. The game was more dramatic than the previous two, but also funnier at times (loved Carmine’s role!). Gears 3 did a great job at developing its characters and their motives, and it had more affect on my emotions than the other games.

In the final days of my visit we embarked on the start of a new Gears storyline in Gears 4. The game starts out feeling refreshing, with its new cast of characters and robotic enemies and I thoroughly enjoyed the opening act of the game. That fresh feeling didn’t last long, however, as it quickly transformed into just another Gears game with the same types of enemies and progression as the previous three. I felt conflicted as the game went on. On one hand it was nice to see the returning cast of characters fighting alongside the new generation, but I was left wishing they would’ve taken the game in a different direction. I would have enjoyed an outcast story, fighting robotic enemies not in an effort to save humanity (or delay their destruction it seems) but rather an effort to survive outside society.

I did enjoy the great visuals, sound effects and weapons, and ultimately I was left satisfied, even if I wished for something more. The variety of mission types, with ‘horde mode’ sections and wind storms were also a welcome addition to the Gears gameplay and I enjoyed the final boss fight, even if it was a little easy on our difficulty setting.

I’m glad I was finally able to sit down and complete the Gears series, as they were all solid games that were a blast to play co-op. It’s unfortunate that I missed out on such great games over the last eleven years, but playing all four in a week offered a unique perspective on the series. Playing them in close proximity to each other made all of their similarities stand out (which I’ve admitted may have hurt my enjoyment to some degree) and made them all of the games feel more cohesive. Overall I had a great time with the forty hours or so we spent playing the four games. You’ll notice I’ve omitted Gears of War: Judgement, which we didn’t play as we wanted to ensure we would have time to finish the main series. My brother has played Judgement and has assured me it’s just as enjoyable as the rest, but at this point I’m definitely suffering from Gears of War burnout and will have to take his word for it. It’ll at least give us something to play the next time we’re sitting on a couch together.