Don’t bother with Truck Driver on consoles

As someone who loves the Truck Simulator games by SCS (mostly American Truck Simulator) I’ve been curious about Truck Driver on consoles. The game was released last Fall on the Xbox One and PS4 (Switch and Steam releases are coming this year) developed and published by SOEDESCO. I rented it via GameFly just to see what it would be like, and I’m glad I didn’t get suckered into buying it (it goes for $39.99 on Xbox).

Right off the bat the game looks and feels like a budget game. The interface isn’t great, and the menus give the impression that it’s a mobile game. The intro to the game was even worse. You’re greeted with a slow moving text conversation that’s meant to be a tutorial. This all would have been easy to look past if the driving turned out to be good. Spoiler alert, it’s terrible. There’s no weight to the driving at all. It feels very slippery and loose, almost like you’re controlling a camera floating above the road rather than a truck. In American Truck Simulator you can feel the weight of the trucks, and it takes time to get up to speed while hauling a trailer. In Truck Driver hauling a trailer feels no different than driving without one.

One of the things I like about the SCS games is observing the scenery while driving. While the games aren’t one to one representations of the real world, they feel close enough, especially as someone who lives in the Pacific Northwest.

The driving felt so bad right off the bat that I couldn’t bear to drive like I would in real life. I quickly found out there are no penalties for speeding (though I’m not even sure I saw a speed limit sign), driving on the wrong side of the road, or even barreling into other cars (though your truck can sustain damage).

I only managed to play for about twenty minutes before I couldn’t bear it any longer. It’s possible that my impressions of this game are tainted with the countless hours I’ve spent in the SCS games, but I can’t imagine that this game would feel great even as someone’s first truck simulator game. Heck, I’d bet if you’ve played any driving game in the last ten years you’d instantly be put off by how bad the driving feels in this game.

I’ve included a video of my first twenty minutes with Truck Simulator if you want to get an idea of what the experience is like. You’ll notice I drive poorly, but to be honest the game felt so bad I didn’t care to even try to play it as a simulation.

I had to cut the audio out of this, I was listening to a radio station while I streamed and YouTube hit me with about 15 content ID claims and blocked my video. I added a royalty free song from YouTube, but it only covers the first thirty minutes or so. Also the quality isn’t great, it’s very compressed from streaming to Facebook. I’ll try to get a better quality video up shortly.

For reference I’ve included video of me playing American Truck Simulator, a much more enjoyable game. If you only have consoles, then you really don’t have any other choices for a truck driving game, but for $40 I wouldn’t recommend this game even if you were desperate. I probably wouldn’t touch it even if it were under $10, it’s just a bad game. Do yourself a favor and stay far away from it!

Austin Walker is like the NPR of video games

Check out Austin Walker’s non-review of Breath of the Wild on Waypoint, especially the audio version (available at the top of the article).

Austin’s write up is beautifully written, but it’s especially mesmerizing in its audio form. The way it’s read by Austin made me feel like I was listening to something on NPR. His voice is soothing, yet you can hear his enthusiasm about the game in every single sentence. If you weren’t sold on the game before, listening to his story might just do it for you. Even if you’re not interested in Zelda at all, I still recommend listening to the story, as it’s an incredible piece of video game journalism.

 

‘Captain America: Civil War’ did not impress

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Last night I saw “Captain America: Civil War” and it wasn’t terrible, but it didn’t quite live up to expectations. Civil War ends up being a pretty solid Marvel movie, but the problem is that I’m tired of Marvel movies. I said it after watching “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and it’s still true now. There doesn’t seem to be anything unique in most of the Marvel movies recently. Every one I end up watching feels like I could be watching any other movie in the series. You could practically rip the main character out, throw in a different Avenger and nothing would change.

I expected Civil War to fall more in line with the comic and was disappointed to see it go in a different direction. I wanted it to be darker, but the entire fissure in the Avengers team ends up feeling entirely insignificant. It’s less of a civil war and more of a minor disagreement with no real consequences.

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There were some pretty cool fight scenes in Civil War, but everything still ended up feeling rather shallow. There was no significance to anything and a lot of it felt forced just to be able to create the fight between Team Captain America and Team Iron Man.

On its own “Captain America: Civil War” may be a pretty solid movie, but going into it expecting something with a little more weight seemed to tarnish the experience. I think it may be time to finally wise up and stop seeing the Marvel movies in theaters. They’re just not doing enough to keep me entertained anymore. They all feel the same to me, and the movies have lost any sort of significance they used to have.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 is as bad as you expected

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Robomodo’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 finally released this week, and a lot of people didn’t even know the game existed until it arrived on store shelves. This isn’t a great sign, especially when combined with the fact that Activision apparently didn’t send any advance copies to reviewers. Almost everyone in the video game community saw all this as a surefire sign that the game would be a dud, but some of us had hope.

The only piece of promotional material I actually saw in advance of the game’s release was Tony Hawk and Lil’ Wayne’s appearance on Conan’s Clueless Gamer segment. The segment was amusing, but it didn’t exactly make the gameplay shine.

I still held out hope, and headed to Redbox yesterday to try out THPS5 for myself. I played the game for just over an hour and the expectation that it would be terrible was 100% accurate. The gameplay is very poorly executed, and the game looks and functions like a game for the PS2.

The game dumps you into a freeplay mode where you’ll skate around with other skaters, but there’s no way to interact with them besides bumping into them. There’s literally no point to showing other players in the world, other than to say “hey look, people are actually playing this crap!” If you want to engage in any multiplayer you have to bring up a menu and load into a separate waiting area before entering a match. I tried to get into multiplayer matches, however I could only ever find one other player and the matches would always fail to start.

Completing missions is no better. Once accepting a mission you’re met with a loading screen before loading into the same environment, minus all of the other players in order to accomplish the mission. Once complete you again have to load back into the free skate area. All of this is slow, clunky and poorly executed.

As you complete objectives and missions you earn skill points, but should you want to spend them you have to load back out to the main menu to do so. This is unintuitive and annoying. What’s worse is that should you choose to play as a different skater, Lil’ Wayne for example, you lose your progress and have to re-accomplish objectives on that character. The objectives and missions aren’t even fun to do the first time, why anyone would want to do them on every character is beyond me.

There’s so much about Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 that I haven’t seen, but in the hour I’ve played I’ve seen enough to know that it’s not worth a second more of my time. There’s no charm in the world, there’s no local multiplayer and the game has no soul. The only positive is the halfway decent soundtrack, but not even that could save this game.

I don’t generally assign scores to games, but I couldn’t see how THPS5 would ever deserve anything more than a 1 out of 5. Avoid this mess at all costs.

Amy Schumer’s ‘Trainwreck’ is anything but

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“Trainwreck” is Amy Schumer’s debut film as a writer, with the directorial role filled by comedy powerhouse Judd Apatow. The two have worked together to create a superb comedy that has brought in around $80 million in the three weeks since its release.

Amy Schumer and Bill Hader have great chemistry throughout “Trainwreck” as their unlikely love story unfolds. In a nutshell, the story in the film centers on Amy’s (Schumer plays an Amy in the film) seemingly love of promiscuity  and rejection of the traditional relationship (a reaction to her parent’s failed marriage). Much of the early comedy comes from Amy’s promiscuous encounters and her aversion to sports despite being tasked to write a sports article.

As Amy is introduced to the subject of her article, Dr. Aaron Conners (Bill Hader), her lifestyle begins to upend. During this character transition she’s also forced to confront her father’s failing health and its strain on her family. This is where the film transitions from a raunchy comedy to a romantic comedy with bite. Amy’s vulgar sense of humor still shines, but the film starts to settle down and deal with some serious issues from here until the wonderful conclusion.

“Trainwreck” is daring, vulgar, hilarious, serious and heartwarming all at once. The film features strong female characters who know what they want in life and who aren’t afraid to reach for it. The women in the film have strong careers and don’t need to be taken care of by men. In the film Amy plays men with a confidence not unlike that of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Jon in “Don Jon”. She’s not looking to settle down, and isn’t afraid of how she’s perceived because of her actions.

Although Schumer and Hader are great on their own, the list of supporting characters and cameos really help to round out the film. Of the supporting cast, I think Vanessa Bayer delivers a standout performance. Her character’s lack of self awareness makes for some hilarious awkward moments during slower moments of the film. “Trainwreck” features some of the best use of cameos I’ve seen, and every one fits into the film perfectly. None of it ever feels forced or out of place.

Amy Schumer’s “Trainwreck” has been a box office hit as well as a hit with critics. Having finally watched it I can see what all the fuss was about. If you have yet to see “Trainwreck”, what are you waiting for? The film is three weeks old, yet the theater was still nearly full when we saw it last night. I highly recommend it.

A quick look at Magic Duels on the Xbox One

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Magic Duels is a free to play, yet fully featured Magic The Gathering game which made its way to the Xbox One last week. The game features a single player campaign as well as a battle mode in which you can challenge AI or human opponents with your custom built decks in order to earn coins. The coins you earn can be used to purchase booster packs, or other upgrades such as converting cards to foil cards.

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I’ve been casually interested in the Magic games in the past. I’ve played the 2014 and 2015 games (both of which required a purchase) but could never quite get hooked. Magic Duels certainly has a very slick presentation, however the gameplay feels sluggish and dated, especially when compared to Hearthstone. I’m sure comparing Magic to Hearthstone will offend Magic players, but Hearthstone is much easier to play and its card battles run smoother than Magic’s. There are way too many button prompts in the magic games. When your opponent plays a card the game expects you to look at it and press ‘A’. When your opponent attacks you’re expected to hit ‘A’ after every card attacks. The battles should just be able to play out smoothly, without all of the prompts slowing the game to an annoying crawl at times.

Magic Duels will certainly appeal to Magic and card battle enthusiasts, but those with a more casual interest in the genre will most likely be put off (especially for those who have played Hearthstone). Ultimately, Magic Duels has me hoping that Hearthstone someday makes its way to consoles. Sure the ideal way to play is on an iPad, but I wouldn’t mind playing a game or two on the Xbox One if it were an option.

Recently watched: Get Hard

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This past weekend we decided to ignore the negative Rotten Tomatoes score and see Get Hard. Now let me say upfront, I generally don’t find Will Ferrell to be very funny. Sure he can make me laugh every so often, but I find most of his movies to be too cheesy to sit through. That said, I absolutely love Kevin Hart and was excited to see how well they worked together.

The movie starts off a little slow, but once it manages to get the set up out of the way things start to get good. Kevin Hart is hilarious and Ferrell’s character’s profound stupidity and ignorance make for some outrageously funny situations. Sure most of the laughs are downright simple and immature, but everything is done just right and it’s hard not to enjoy it. At some points the comedy may be borderline offensive or tasteless, but the majority of it is done well and certainly made me laugh more than I have during any other Will Ferrell routine.

Kevin Hart is the star of the movie and I can’t wait to see what he does next! I highly recommend Get Hard to anyone who wants something lighthearted, occassionaly outrageous and an all round good time. If you enjoyed the Hangover movies you’ll certainly find something to enjoy with Get Hard.

The Theory of Everything is a wonderful experience

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Last night we watched The Theory of Everything, the biopic directed by James Marsh (Man on Wire) and based on the Jane Wilde Hawking memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen (Alma Books, 2008).

I didn’t know a whole lot about the film going in, or even much about Stephen’s life so I expected it to center more on his scientific achievements over his personal life. In reality the film focuses almost entirely on his relationship with Jane and the trials and tribulations during their time together. It was actually quite informative and a good story that causes a great variety of strong emotional reactions throughout.

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The film is a great visual experience, with plenty of great colors and wonderful scenes that left me in awe. Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking wonderfully from his healthier youthful days right through the rapid progression of his disease. I also really enjoyed the performances of Charlie Cox (Jonathan Jones) and Maxine Peake (Elaine Mason).

Overall The Theory of Everything is an incredible movie with superb acting, a wonderful soundtrack, great visuals and a compelling, emotionally taxing story. I highly recommend it, 5 out of 5.

Happy Thanksgiving from A Video Game Life!

Good morning and happy Thanksgiving! I hope you’re able to enjoy the holiday, food, friends and family throughout the day.

I’m heading to the gym to start my day off with a run and then I’ll probably do some reading while my girlfriend finishes her last minute cooking before we head off to spend the day with her family.

The other day I ordered this chair on Amazon (Urban Shop Dream Chair with memory foam) and I’m quite excited to sit in it and read the New York Times by the window. I really love the fabric of the chair and the fact that it’s incredibly sturdy and rigid, rather than something you sink into. I love chairs that are very supportive when I’m reading (or even playing video games) and I’m glad I made this purchase.

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I set up my Verismo coffee / espresso maker next to it and I can’t wait to read and enjoy great coffee in the mornings! I also have my record player in the corner so I can enjoy some great vinyl as well.

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Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

Checking out Dollar Shave Club

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(Though it may sound like it, this is not an advertisement)

If you’re like me you hate having to buy razors or cartridges. I hate having to spend $20+ on razor cartridges and often just keep buying new razors since they’re cheaper. I had heard about Dollar Shave Club through various ads on podcasts and Facebook but never really looked into it until last week. Looking at their webpage the pricing seems too good to be true. For between one and nine dollars a month you get a razor and at least 4 cartridges. Your first box comes with a razor and cartridges, after that you get cartridge refills every month and you can cancel anytime.

Before joining Dollar Shave Club I’d try to make a pack of cartridges stretch for months which often resulted in shaving with a dull blade. Now for $9 a month I get a 6 blade razor and I can swap out the cartridge every week so I always have a smooth shave. You can also add additional products to your box whenever you want (such as shave butters and after shave lotion) for an additional fee.

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I chose the Executive razor subscription for $9 a month and added the shave butter to my first box for $8. The prices include shipping so I got the box above for just $17 and my next box with refill cartridges will ship for $9. The razor is great and provides a smooth shave. I normally use a gel but the shave butter feels smooth and clean and I enjoy using it. I’m glad I decided to give Dollar Shave Club a try, you should too as it’ll make your life easier.