Checkpoint: Beta Weekend 2016 Edition

Checkpoint: Beta Weekend 2016 Edition

It’s a weekend of betas so I thought I would chime in with some impressions.

Street Fighter V

The last Street Fighter V beta featured more characters, stages and a menu that teased what’s to come. It also reminded me that Street Fighter V won’t have a story mode at launch and that it will likely be filled with cutscenes like these and in-engine shots like this. I prefer the latter for consistency’s sake. I’m not holding my breath for Mortal Kombat 9 calibre story but I am expecting some genuine effort beyond the arcade mode. I would really enjoy a Street Fighter Alpha 3 style RPG-lite system though.

The matchmaking was a lot better from a skill perspective; I wasn’t being hammered by skilled players. I wasn’t pleased with the time it took to find my next opponent though. I wouldn’t mind the wait if it ensured a quality match but being paired with someone with a spotty connection after a long wait wasn’t ideal. When it worked, it was very enjoyable. I already have it pre-ordered on disc but I am considering giving up the disc for a digital copy.

The Division

The beta of the weekend was The Division. Back in 2013, I was very skeptical on The Division and believed Destiny was the game for me. Unfortunately Destiny initial outing wasn’t my cup of tea. It was a bad loot game filled with tedious grind and repetition. I fear for the same thing for The Division but that fear also extended to Diablo III.

What makes The Division so appealing for me is the Dark Zone — the lawless areas of New York City — where players can venture out to fight higher level enemies for the promise of better loot. The risky part of this equation are the other players out there who can attack and steal what my bro and I collected. I had two notable experiences in the Dark Zone.

The Positive

My brother and I were pursuing this group of NPCs from one end of a street. We easily flanked them because they were facing the other way and after they were dispatched we discovered they were distracted by another three players. We encountered friendly individuals before but we’ve never encountered a group. We were sub-level 8 so I presumed everyone was friendlier but out of nowhere one of them fired some shots. I rolled back into cover and they did the same. We hunkered there ready to fight. We waited for a long nervous minute before one of them approached the middle and raised his hands and began walking towards us. A misunderstanding? A ploy? We eventually walked passed each other with fingers on the triggers ready to retaliate. As soon as they passed us, they ran off.

Once we filled out backpacks with contaminated Dark Zone loot, we had to move to one of the extraction points and fire a flare out for extraction. This was a beacon for other agents to join in on the extraction or a signal for other predatory agents to come in for easy kills. Watching the clock countdown was tense. We didn’t know if people were going to come and get us or what.

Moments like these were interesting. Can you trust other humans not kill you? The game temporarily flagged people who attacked other players as rogue agents. I accidentally hit another player outside of our group with crossfire and was flagged as rogue for about 10 seconds. I suspect killing someone would mean I was rogue for longer and be seen by all on the map as rogue.

The Negative

Flagging rogue agents in the Dark Zone is smart. In theory, it helps out smaller groups to avoid treachery or indicate to others that there are assholes to take out. Unfortunately there was a bug in the beta where rogue agents were invisible and I would only appear after they’ve killed you. It was like being attacked by ghosts.

It’s also highly recommended to venture out into the Dark Zone with other players. I’m reading too many stories of lone agents being gunned down by packs of rogue agents.

A Solid Foundation?

I like what I’ve seen of The Division thus far. It runs well and is surprisingly customizable for a console game. I can tweak a number of UI elements to my liking. On a technical perspective, I can even tweak graphical effects like how aggressive the anti-aliasing work (sharpening) and whether or not to enable chromatic aberration.

On the gameplay front, there were plenty of appearance and weapon modifications to personalize as well giving players plenty of options to express themselves.

What worries me the most about The Division are the enemy encounters. Damage sponges like those found in Destiny are tedious but mopping the floor with brain dead enemies is not fun either. Playing the “Hospital” mission on Hard and going up agains the higher level enemies in level 8 Dark Zone instances felt like that right mix. I don’t expect the final game to feature smarter enemies but I hope for a better mix. What makes Diablo III’s combat work is the juggling and management of different enemy types. I began to see glimmers of that on the hard difficulty but it’s too early to say.

Cautious Optimism Continues

The Division looks like it’s the next shooter RPG loot hybrid that could grip players all over the world. It may even sink its fangs into me like Diablo III U.E did. I’m still holding onto my pre-order for now but it’s not a firm decision. There’s a lot to like about the Division (I didn’t even mention how I love all the details) but there’s also a lot to dislike (too much running around). I’m unable to make a definitive judgement call on it yet but there is something about it that’s piqued my interest.

Paris Games Week?

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Another tradeshow was brought to our collective attention as Sony held a two hour press conference to open Paris Games Week. It was a well produced press conference but there weren’t any unexpected surprises. (Of course a Gran Turismo was coming, you’re a fool if you thought otherwise.)

Even without the bombastic reveals, it was nice to see release windows narrowed and more footage of announced titles.

Announcements

  • No Man’s Sky launches June 2016
  • Tekken 7 coming to PS4 & Xbox One
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End launches March 18, 2016
  • Nier sequel officially named Nier Automata via NeoGAF
  • DRIVECLUB Bikes launches today as an standalone expansion
  • Gran Turismo Sport announced for PlayStation 4
  • Quantic Dream’s Detroit: Become Human announced for PlayStation 4
  • Street Fighter V launches February 16, 2016 via Capcom Unity
  • Uncharted 4 Multiplayer Beta will run from Dec. 4 – 13 via PlayStation.Blog

Media

My interest for Guerrilla Games’ Horizon: Zero Dawn grows with every piece of media I see. I don’t have a firm grasp on what exactly Monster Hunter is but this looks like a westernized Monster Hunter to me. I suggest you watch the walkthrough above, it’s neat to say the least. Then you can watch these two other videos if you wish.

Uncharted 4 Multiplayer PGW 2015 Trailer

Star Wars: Battlefront PGW 2015 Trailer

Detroit: Become Human PGW 2015 Reveal Trailer

Checkpoint: Fighting Game Basics Edition

Checkpoint: Fighting Game Basics Edition

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I don’t know how to play fighting games. I’ve been playing fighting games since Street Fighter II Turbo on the Super Nintendo but I don’t know how to play fighting games. I know how perform special movies and some basic combos but I don’t know the tactical and strategic side of the game. I know of “footsies”, “pokes” and “zoning” but I don’t know how to use those ideas effectively with even the most basic characters like Ryu.

So with Street Fighter V, I decided to put in the effort to learn how to play fighting games. I started with a trio of videos featuring fighting game gurus Gootecks, Mike Ross and special guest WWE Superstar Xavier Woods:

These three videos are great for breaking down the fundamentals and how to apply basic fighting game techniques. It also shows a relatively new fighting game player (Xavier Woods) apply those lessons in live Street Fighter V beta matches and the gurus breaking down the matches.

Hungry for more information, I found Gootecks’ video on Ryu fundamentals which re-iterated much of what was taught in the Xavier Woods videos but it was still useful to hear him elaborate and repeat the basics. I highly recommend watching them.

The videos shows me how to practice and so I have been putting in the work in the Street Fighter V beta while waiting for matches to appear. I’m faring better but the inconsistent quality in connections and matchmaking makes it difficult to improve. In one match, I’m playing a “Grandmaster” ranked player and the next I’m playing a similarly ranked player with poor connectivity. It’s a beta after all.

Besides Street Fighter V, I’ve been playing Rocket League and chipping away at The Witcher 3. On the side, it’s been quite a bit of Hitman: Sniper and Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy: Curtain Call.

I’m surprised by Hitman: Sniper but I shouldn’t be. It’s by the fine folks at Square Enix Montreal who made the delightful Hitman GO. As soon as I’m done with Sniper, I’m going to pick up Lara Croft GO which I hear is equally fantastic.

 

 

 

Checkpoint: Post-E3 2015 Edition

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E3 2015 is over which means it’s time for some random impressions and thoughts.

Star Fox Zero

I had Star Fox Zero in my list of pre-orders before seeing it in action on Nintendo’s E3 Digital Event. After seeing the footage and the announcement of PlatinumGames’ participation, I decided it wasn’t worth the $69.99 asking price. It looked stale and sterile; certainly not like the wonderful Super Mario 3D World or any number of Nintendo’s other first party titles.

People claimed it’s taking cues from Star Fox 64 and I can see it but I don’t have nostalgia for that game and thus adhering to its legacy doesn’t appeal to me.

Virtual Reality

The buzz around virtual reality coming out of E3 2015 has been positive but I’m still not sold that it’s something that I want to partake in yet. It all seems very early and nothing has come out to convince me that I need to get this for myself. I’ll wait for HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift or Sony’s Morpheus headset to release a second revision before I will seriously consider it. That or one of these headsets can be had for less than $150.

The Division

I have The Division pre-ordered but every time I see it, I cannot help but think back to my initial gut reaction and cancel it. The player vs player betrayals sounds cool but everybody knows that the internet is full of assholes and I cannot foresee any other outcome outside of constant betrayals.

The beta will be the ultimate decider though and I’m glad it has one. I don’t have an Xbox Live! Gold membership so I’ll be giving the PlayStation 4 beta in early 2016.

Super Mario Maker

I’m impressed with Super Mario Maker and felt the need to partake in it. I don’t know if I’ll be developing levels but I’m so happy to see Nintendo get the idea right. The game specific physics, the easy level editing and easy sharing were pillars that we were all expecting but worried about when they first announced the title.

The horizontal limits may prevent players from recreating every Mario level but I’d love to see people try.

Hitman

The Hitman trailer was my favorite CG trailer coming out of E3 2015; it screamed Hitman. The gameplay trailer showed off classic Hitman ideas but blown out for modern technology. I’m very tempted to get into it on the first day and see this crazy “World of” Hitman idea unfold.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

That E3 2015 press conference demonstration featured the most impressive car chase sequence of any game. But before that impressive chase, the fire fight in the market was also dazzling. There’s just so much activity on screen with items exploding, falling off carts and cover disintegrating.

It certainly looks like more Uncharted but fans of the series will notice many tiny refinements to animation and transitions to elevate it above the notion of it being a 1080p30 version of Uncharted 3.

Street Fighter V

I don’t blame anyone who thinks Street Fighter V looks like Street Fighter IV but all I ask is that you remind yourself what the game really looked like. The mind’s eye likes to embellish things.

Street Fighter V looks fun and appears to be promoting offence with normal attacks causing chip damage. Normal punches and kicks causes damage? Sounds crazy but a welcome change. At least you can’t be chipped out which will hopefully force me to become a better defender.

Fallout 4

I really want to believe in Fallout 4 but after Skyrim and their promises of a new engine filled with refinements, I’m left very skeptical. Especially coming from The Witcher 3 and its quality quests.

I have it pre-ordered but I don’t believe it’ll stay.

Xenoblade Chronicles X

Speaking of bad side quests. This game looks awesome in trailers. Giant mechs and dinosaurs in a large open world are fine ingredients to brew a quality game but if you have nothing to populate the world with, that’s a big problem. And one that I don’t want to futz with so I’m going to pass on this.

That’s it

That’s everything that I had on the top of my head. Many of it may have been negative but I was focusing on those that had 2015 and early 2016 release dates. I felt it was a great E3 and one that makes me very optimistic about future trade shows.

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