I’m really not into Mass Effect Andromeda

The Mass Effect series has provided some of my favorite moments of my entire ‘video game life’ (even Mass Effect 3!). Up until last night I was incredibly excited for Mass Effect Andromeda, and thought for sure I would be buying the game. The only decision I had yet to make was whether I’d get it for the Xbox One or PC. However, the two hours I spent with the 10 hour EA Access trial last night has almost entirely dissuaded me from buying the game.

Right off the bat I found myself annoyed with the writing. Not only was the set up a bore, but the dialogue between characters, both during cut scenes and during background conversations was cringe worthy. At one point one of my squad mates uttered something to the effect of “Did that hurt? YEAH BECAUSE I SHOT YOU IN THE FACE!”. I almost shut the Xbox off right then and there, but I decided to keep trudging through to see if anything exciting would happen. It never did.

My time on the first planet felt like nothing but busy work. Run here, then here, then here, Scan some things. Shoot some things. On and on. I know this isn’t wildly different from the other games, but at least on those games there’s a real sense of purpose. The whole Pathfinder concept just comes across as cheesy, right from the start. The opening dialogue trying to make the journey to Andromeda seem like some “grand adventure” just made me cringe, and as I spent more time as Ryder I wished there was a button Nier Automata style to just shoot myself in the head and get a game over screen.

To make matters worse, the combat just feels sloppy. I found it difficult to line up shots (kind of slow, but all over the place at the same time) which sucked because I had been playing Mass Effect 3 all week and loving how solid the combat feels in that game. The guns and abilities feel like they have very little bite, and there’s no satisfying “pop” as you drop enemies like there is in Mass Effect 2 and 3.

Even worse than the combat are the textures, animations and voice acting. The first planet isn’t very pretty to look at (a darn shame after spending time with Horizon Zero Dawn or even Breath of the Wild), but beyond the art style there are some incredibly flat, muddy and ugly textures (the dark matter particularly). The animations have probably been ragged on enough by everyone else on the internet, and I could probably ignore them if it weren’t for the god awful voice acting. Some of it has been so bad that I nearly burst out laughing. Specifically, the first lines out of the female Turian’s mouth on the Nexus are horrendous. Shortly after speaking to her I had to turn the game off and boot up Mass Effect 3 instead, I couldn’t take it anymore. She’s not alone, however, as most of the characters sound like they were voiced by the developers themselves, blandly reading lines into a microphone with no enthusiasm or emotion.

Lastly, there are some really bad pop in issues, most noticeable while on the Nexus. As I found myself running into rooms, entire groups of NPC’s would pop in two or three seconds after I entered a room. Maybe this is a bug that gets fixed with a patch, maybe it’s a limitation of the Xbox One, but regardless, it really screws with any sense of immersion you might have.

Ultimately, I’m not even sure it’s worth my time to play another couple hours of the free trial. I feel like I’ve seen all I need to see. I don’t think I could take another minute of easily the second worst game I’ve played in 2017 (second only to Ghost Recon Wildlands, another game that suffers from some of the worst voice acting I’ve ever heard in a video game).

I don’t mean to hate on Mass Effect, I really wanted to love the game as much as I’ve loved the rest of the series, but I don’t think it’s possible at this point. At least I can take some relief in knowing that Andromeda was developed by an entirely different team than the original trilogy, and I think in the long run many will come to look at Andromeda as a sort of B-level spin off, rather than a continuation of such a great series.

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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.

Infinite Warfare screenshot xbox

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.

Infinite Warfare hair

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.

Battlefield 1 is one of the most fun games I’ve played this year!

I’ve been having an absolute blast with Battlefield 1 so far. For starters, the intro to the campaign is mind blowing. The production value is amazing, and the way they start things off showing that not everyone is going to survive is incredible. So far I’ve played through the first few sections of the tank campaign and I can’t wait to play the rest! I’ve never played more than two missions of any Battlefield game (except for Bad Company of course) but Battlefield 1 has me begging for more after each mission.

The only thing keeping me from finishing the campaign is the amazing multiplayer. They’ve nailed just about everything with the multiplayer in Battlefield 1. The guns feel amazing to shoot and I love the way they sound. I love the all out chaos of war, with planes flying above, machine guns echoing in the distance and sniper fire flying over my head as I run for cover. I’ve only played a few matches so far, but every single one has been so much fun. I can’t wait to play more!

It’s an exciting time for video games

This morning Nintendo posted their NX reveal trailer, offering the first look at their home console / handheld combo due out in March 2017, the Nintendo Switch. Like many have assumed over the last year or so, it’s a tablet that you can hook up to your TV via a dock and play with a controller while at home, and then pop out and attach a controller to while on the go.

It’s a pretty neat looking idea, and if it works as seamlessly as it seems to in the trailer it’ll certainly be an exciting device. They showed off some third party support in the trailer, to include Skyrim and NBA 2k, so hopefully the Switch will continue to get third party support. That will ultimately determine whether or not I buy into the Switch. I’m not the hugest Nintendo fan, I’ve never been too big into Zelda or Mario, but I ended up buying a Wii U last year soon after Super Mario Maker launched. It probably wasn’t my wisest decision, because after the first few weeks the console has done nothing but collect dust. I tried to get into Mario Kart 8, but never had as much fun as I did with local multiplayer on Mario Kart 7.

 

Battlefield 1 release tomorrow (unless you bought the $80 early adopter edition which allowed you to start playing Tuesday), and I’m pretty excited to check it out. I don’t think I’m going to buy it right away, but I’ll try hard to reserve it at Redbox while I’m at work tonight and pick it up in the morning. As much as I’d love to play it on PC in 4K, most of the people I would ultimately play with only have consoles. We’ll see how much I enjoy playing this weekend before I make any purchasing decisions. The campaign certainly looks great, and I can’t wait to try my hand at the multiplayer.

 

I’ve been having a great time with Gears of War 4 on PC over the past week, however I’m still very early in the campaign (less than an hour into it). It runs pretty well on my GTX 1060, averaging around 33FPS on high to ultra settings in 4K and it looks great! I’m still getting used to playing it with a mouse and keyboard, and I might actually go back to playing it with an Xbox controller.

 

I’m also still enjoying Forza Horizon 3, but with so many games coming out recently I’ve found it difficult to put more time into it!

There’s a lot I want to play this weekend, but as usual I’ll probably end up getting very little done. I feel like 2016 is shaping up to be one of the best years for video games in recent memory, and as exciting as that is, it makes it incredibly difficult to play everything with such little free time. Either way, I’m enjoying every minute of it!

I played Virginia

Virginia game Xbox One

Last night I bought and played through Virginia ($9.99) on the Xbox One. Virginia is a game unlike anything I’ve ever played, and is the first game put out by developer Variable State (available on Xbox One, PS4 and Steam). The game has no dialogue from beginning to end, however its beautiful soundtrack sets the mood for every scene. The game tells its story by pushing the player through a series of scenes, however most of the scenes end abruptly and spit the player directly into the next relevant scene, sometimes midstep.

I love the music and artwork of Virginia, however by the time the game ended I was left scratching my head and with little insight as to what exactly was going on in the game. I’ve heard that it’s best to play through the game more than once in order to try to piece things together, however part of me wonders if Variable State wants us to know everything that’s going on. Despite being terribly confused throughout, the music and artwork did a great job of creating an emotional state that left me satisfied.┬áI don’t really know how to explain how the game made me feel, but it definitely evoked a wide range of feelings throughout that just felt right, if that makes any sense. I enjoyed the journey, even as I was left wondering exactly what I was supposed to think of it all.

stakeout

I highly recommend checking out Virginia. It’s a unique and bold experience among so many cookie cutter games these days. The game only lasts a few hours, but it was worth the $10 price of admission for sure. It was an experience that will still be kicking around in the back of my head for days to come.

XCOM 2 on the Xbox One

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The first time I had ever played an XCOM game was with the Xbox 360 release of XCOM: Enemy Unknown. I was quickly addicted to the game, and ultimately ended up sinking a lot of hours into it on the PC and iPad. Despite having a lot of fun with the first game, I had never gotten around to checking out XCOM 2 when it released on PC. Since its release I had heard a lot of mixed reactions to the game, but I ended up adding the Xbox One version to my GameFly queue and it arrived today.

I’ve spent about an hour or so with the game so far and thought I’d share a few thoughts about the experience.

Xcom 2 screenshot xbox one

One of the first things I noticed was that the gameplay is nearly identical to the first game, with a few minor additions here and there. This isn’t a bad thing, as it made the game easy to pick up and dive into. Like the 360 release of Enemy Unknown, XCOM 2 plays surprisingly well with a controller. It’s incredibly easy to maneuver your troops into position, perform attacks and navigate the menus.┬áRather than hovering over a keyboard and mouse, it’s nice to play XCOM while relaxing in a recliner watching the battle unfold on a big screen.

Xcom 2 xbox one

My one complaint about the game so far is that the percentage to hit system makes absolutely no sense. In the screenshot above I’m literally one tile away from an enemy, and yet I have a 74% chance to hit the target! It’s incredibly frustrating and entirely unrealistic to miss a shot from this close. What’s worse is that I’ve been no more than 3 tiles away from enemies with no obstacles in the way and have still had less than a 50% chance to hit, even with a sniper! In fact, I’ve had my sniper and another character equidistant away from an enemy, and for some reason the sniper has had a lesser chance to hit!

I had heard people complain about the absurd randomness of XCOM 2 around the time of the PC release, however I had expected those issues to be remedied by now. It’s unfortunate that it’s still an issue, yet so far it’s only been a minor annoyance in an otherwise enjoyable game. At most this system has caused missions to last a few turns longer as I’ve missed several sure shots, but it hasn’t yet gotten any of my characters killed.

xcom 2 xbox one

I’m looking forward to relaxing on the couch and playing through a few more missions in XCOM 2 tonight. Hopefully it’ll continue to be an enjoyable experience.

I’ll be writing again soon!

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Hey, I just wanted to check in and explain why I haven’t written very much of anything over the last few weeks. I was taking a class for work that demanded a lot of my time, which meant I had very little time left over to play video games and even less time to write about them. I mostly only played a few hours of Overwatch on the Xbox One over the last few weeks, and while I prefer the PC version, the fact that I have friends who play on the Xbox that I can group up with makes it much more fun to play on the Xbox.

I tried out Deus Ex: Mankind Divided from Redbox, but didn’t really like it at all. I found the opening cinematic very corny / video gamey, and couldn’t take it serious. Besides that I found it to be overly difficult, even on the easiest setting. I had never played a Deus Ex game before and I died over and over again early on until I just decided to give up all together and go back to Overwatch.

I’ll be writing soon! Thank you for your patience!