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#PS2PS4: What Games Do You Want?

And we thought backward compatibility wouldn’t be a thing this generation.

For a while the WiiU was the only console this generation that was backward compatible. Both Sony and Microsoft seemed to imply that backward compatibility wasn’t something that was really all that important to gamers, and there were no plans for either the PS4 or the Xbox One to be backward compatible.READ MORE

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Bethesda Games Give Me Wanderlust

I prefer to play games alone.

At first blush, that may not be the best opening line for a post on a site with co-op in its title. But while Co-Op Critics is a place where we celebrate games together, that doesn’t mean we have to always play them together. It’s my need to discuss my gaming experiences with others that drove me to create this site, and one of the reasons for that is many of the games I play are single player experiences. Games that I enjoy playing alone, but then need to process with others.READ MORE

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Why the PS4 Has Become My Go-To Console

Even though I have no time to play them all, for the past two generations I’ve purchased all three major consoles. And like many others, last generation I was primarily an Xbox 360 gamer (though I loved my PS3). But as we are about to enter year three of this generation (four if you count the year lead the WiiU had), there is one console that I spend the majority of my time with–the PlayStation 4.

There are a few reasons for the PS4 becoming my console of choice. There are exclusives like Until Dawn, The Order: 1886 and Bloodborne, and console exclusives like SOMA and the upcoming No Man’s Sky. And there’s the PlayStation Plus service, which has consistently given me hundreds of dollars of games a year for the price of one game.

But the biggest reason I’ve become more of a PlayStation gamer this generation is because of this:

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The ‘Share’ button.

But it’s not just the button, it’s what it represents. Sony had a clear vision when they designed this console, and it’s one they’ve stuck to throughout it’s life so far. Sharing the gaming experience in a variety of ways has been something Sony touted from the get go, and they continue to deliver.

I like to keep things simple. While Nick and I both have capture cards (and Nick uses his for most of his videos), I was psyched when both Microsoft and Sony announced that the new consoles would have built-in streaming capabilities. And in fact, both do have the ability to stream, but in my experience, PlayStation 4 is superior in terms of its flexibility and the user experience.

I can forgive the fact that the Xbox One and it’s ‘snapping’ of the Twitch app is a clunky process. But there are three things that make the PlayStation 4 experience better, in my opinion.

k2-_76254b32-aef9-44f4-abc0-42aa0e92511c.v11. External Mics–If I want to use and external mic to stream with the PS4, I just plug it into the usb slot on the console. That’s it. My Snowball mic works perfectly for the Minecraft series my son and I do. Xbox One still doesn’t have support for external mics, forcing us to use the mic on the Kinect for couch co-op streaming. As you might imagine, the audio quality is less than desired.

2. Party Chat Streaming–On PS4, Sony added the ability to stream party chat a year ago, while we are still waiting for this feature on XBox One.  Destiny allows you to enable the feature in its audio settings, but most games do not. On Xbox One, we’ve been forced to use Skype to record party chat and then edit it into videos later.

3. YouTube Streaming–The latest PS4 firmware update added direct streaming to YouTube to the existing sharing options. This is potentially huge for Co-Op Critics, both because most of our audience is on YouTube instead of Twitch, and because of the newly launched YouTube Gaming app.

Now, I am well aware that using a capture card with either console offers a great deal more customization options, and can provide better quality on the output side. But as I said, I’m a fan of keeping things simple. And the PS4 has made streaming and sharing very simple, just like they said they would when the PS4 was announced.

More, flexibility, more options, and a smoother user experience. For those reasons, the PS4 has become my console of choice so far this generation.

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I Love What I’m Hearing About the Nintendo NX

An article in the Wall Street Journal this week said that dev kits are now being sent out for the NX, Nintendo’s upcoming hybrid platform that is projected to be released by the end of 2016.

It seems that the new NX will have a “mobile unit” that could be used alongside the console or as a portable device. Earlier in 2015, Nintendo filed a patent for a new controller that bore a passing resemblance to both the WiiU GamePad and the PlayStation Vita:

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Now, most of what is out there is rumors at this point, but we know the NX is coming (because Nintendo announced it) and we know it will be a dedicated gaming system with a “brand new concept” (former Nintendo President Satoru Iwata’s words).

So let’s assume that what we’re talking about is a hybrid console that will feature a handheld that can also connect to the home console unit, either as a controller, or as the primary device that is scaled up for the television experience.

In my opinion, this is exactly the direction Nintendo should be going in. They own the handheld market, and they have proven to be able to create amazing experiences for their handheld platforms. Their handhelds have also historically had good third party support, something that their home consoles have not.

I thought Nintendo missed the boat with the WiiU by not allowing the 3DS to function as a controller or game portal. But I am very encouraged to see this is where they appear to be heading.

What’s interesting is that if the patent document is any indication, it looks like the NX controller/handheld is ditching the second screen. That makes sense if it’s being used in conjunction with the TV, but it will be interesting to see how the games function on the handheld alone.

In any case, I am so glad Nintendo is continuing to chart their own path. As we’ve seen with Microsoft, they did not have the fortitude to stick with their original plan for the Xbox One, and it may have cost them this generation. By taking out connect and watering down their online plans, there’s nothing to differentiate them from PlayStation now, especially with the lack of exclusives this generation. If nothing else, Nintendo will continue to make sure their consoles and handhelds are not carbon copies of what everyone else is doing. And I think we need that.

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MGS V: Getting Ready for the Phantom Pain with Ground Zeroes

I picked up MGS V: The Phantom Pain this week, but I’m not ready to dive into it yet. See, I’ve had Ground Zeroes sitting on my PS4 hard drive for months now, and I’ve been meaning to find time to play it. I was going to skip over it entirely until I learned that you can upload your save from Ground Zeroes to Phantom Pain. Some of the POWs and NPCs you rescue/capture in Ground Zeroes can help you at Mother Base in Phantom Pain.READ MORE

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Is Backward Compatibility the New Console-Exclusive DLC?

One of the biggest stories of E3 2015 was that by this Fall, XBox One would have backward compatibility, enabling owners to play Xbox 360 games on their new console.

Assuming most publishers will sign on for this, there are many obvious reasons to be excited about backward compatibility (Left4Dead and Dead Space are just two that come to mind for me).

But another interesting result of this initiative is playing out, and it’s one I think that has a lot of potential to bring Microsoft back into the console sales race this generation. Because the XBox One is now backward compatible, publishers that are releasing new franchise installments on Xbox One can bundle in previous installments, giving the Xbox version of the game an exclusive piece of content the PS4 version won’t have.READ MORE

GameStop PowerUp Rewards Vs. Best Buy’s Gamers Club Unlocked

In mid-February, My GameStop PowerUp Rewards Pro subscription expired, and like I do every year, I went back and forth about renewing. Over the past few years, I’ve been buying less games overall, which means less used games, which means I haven’t been getting as much of a return on my PowerUp Rewards investment. Now that said, I do still enjoy Game Informer magazine, and I would argue that a $15 a year subscription fee for a print magazine is well worth it. And I saved a little over $100 for the year, so the subscription fee was made back and then some.

So I was leaning toward renewing again when I saw that Best Buy was having a sale on its Gamers Club Unlocked (GCU) membership, knocking the price down from $99 to $30 for a two-year membership (a change it has now made permanent). I still buy a lot of stuff from Best Buy, so I decided to sign up for GCU, and see if it it held more or less value for me over the next year.

For your reference, here’s a quick breakdown of the core benefits of both of these plans:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, both of these plans offer an additional 10% in trade-in credit, and 10% off of used games. To me, there are two major differences. GameStop is offering a print magazine with your membership, while Best Buy does not (they no longer put out @Gamer magazine as of May 2014, I believe). BUT, Best Buy gives a 20% discount on new games to GCU Members, while GameStop does not offer a discount on new games. That discount takes the price of a new game down to about $48 (plus tax) instead of $60. After taxes a new game is about $51 with GCU (instead of $63). On top of that, GCU often offers additional reward like $10 Best Buy reward certificates for pre-ordering games. And those rewards stack.This past week, I pre-ordered Battlefield: Hardline, got the bonus DLC (which GameStop also offers) and a $10 Rewards Certificate, which can be used on anything. Plus the Rewards points which are doubles for new games purchases). My total was $51.

Another big difference with Best Buy Rewards is that you can use the certificates for more than just games–they’re basically gift certificates to Best Buy.

If you’re considering one  of these rewards programs over the other, I think you’d have to decide whether the GameStop’s print magazine or Best Buy’s 20% discount on new games is more valuable to you. I feel like the Best Buy GCU membership is a better fit for me right now. Time will tell if it ends up being more of a value to me than the PowerUp Rewards subscription.

Of course, you could always spend $45 and get both of them, which is still less than the cost of one new game.

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The Year of B-Games–Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

What is It?
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a stand-alone expansion of the first-person shooter Far Cry 3. It’s completely unrelated to the original game, and can be played on its own. The game is a $15 download for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is an homage to the sci-fi and action movies that dominated the 80s and early 90s. Starring Michael Biehn (Terminator, Aliens, Planet Terror) as Sgt. Rex Power Colt, Blood Dragon takes place in the post-apocalyptic future of 2007. Rex travels to an isolated island to track down a rogue super soldier and uncovers a plot to infect the world with a plague that will turn regular humans into Cro-Magnon savages. Aided by scientist Dr. Elizabeth Darling (the always excellent Grey DeLisle), Rex has to thwart the plan and save the world.

Why Does it Make the B-Game List?
This game was invented for the B-list. Not for its mechanics or production value mind you, but because every single pixel of this game is oozing 80s B-movie awesomeness.

Watch this trailer and tell me this isn’t the greatest thing you’ve ever seen:

It’s a love letter to every B-movie ever made. It’s also a $15 download that offers anywhere from 8 to 10 hours of campaign play, although you could easily spend upwards of 20 hours doing everything. I’ve got 11 hours clocked in now and I just finished the campaign but have tons of side missions left.

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Why It’s Worth Playing
The presentation alone makes this gem worth playing. There are so many fantastic references to the movies I grew up with that it’s like someone took images from my unconscious brain and made a game out of them. Terminator, Big Trouble in Little China, Transformers, He-Man, Aliens, Predator, Universal Soldier, American Ninja, Krull, Die Hard, Rambo, Robocop, Army of Darkness, Commando, and many more serve as the inspiration for the world, characters, weapons and dialogue of Blood Dragon.

The soundtrack is amazing as well. Power Glove must have locked themselves in room with John Carpenter and Harold Faltermeyer (Beverly Hills Cop, Top Gun), because their score is pitch perfect.

But let’s not forget that the game is built on the Far Cry 3 engine, which is top-notch. The open-world nature of the game means you can roam all over the island and surrounding waters (be careful for cyber sharks–seriously), and you can take the story missions at your own pace for the most part. There is a “point of no return” where you have to complete the final missions, but after you finish the main campaign, you can still go back to the game and do all the side stuff.

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Where Does it Stumble?
My only real frustration with the game came in the second to last mission, where you have to battle through different sections of a temple against waves of enemies, and you have one specific weapon for each level. The mission itself is a parody, but it did become frustrating, as the enemies swarm you constantly and it was the only place in the game where I died several times in a row before finally beating it.

You could also make the case that the side missions are repetitive and add nothing to the story, but because the mechanics are so good, I didn’t mind at all.

Closing Thoughts
I can honestly say I have not had this much fun with a game since Saints Row: The Third. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is an absolute blast from start to finish, and it’s scary how well they captured the tropes of 80s sci-fi/action movies.

This game really makes me happy for another reason too–it proves that there is a place for lower-priced, shorter experiences when they’re done well. I hope the game does well so we can see more devs taking chances on smaller games like this. And I like the notion of the big-budget, triple A games being the foundation that these stand-alone experiences are built on. Imagine if we got Mass Effect games like this that featured whole new storylines in the same universe. We’ve seen Alan Wake, GTA IV and even Call of Juarez do similar things, but I want more.

This game is totally worth your $15. If you have any love for the 80s at all, you’ll have a ton of fun with it–and that’s a Rex Colt guarantee.

You can check out a pretty funny interview with Biehn himself about the game below.