ROOKIE INITIATION! – Brian Plays LawBreakers – EP 1

Brian jumped into the frenetic action of LawBreakers and was schooled by people who actually know what they’re doing.

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About LawBreakers:

LawBreakers is a first-person shooter video game developed by Boss Key Productions and published by Nexon for Microsoft Windows and PlayStation 4. Two teams of five players must work together to complete the objective of the match, with one side playing as “Law” and the other side playing as the “Breakers.” Though teams may not play as characters from the opposite side, the chosen Roles have the same equipment and play-style regardless of team.

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Overwatch has Become My Shooter of Choice

After playing a couple promising levels of Battlefield 1’s single-player campaign, I decided to jump over to multiplayer. While I hadn’t played a lot of Battlefield 4’s competitive modes, I’ve always been a fan of Battlefield and I spent quite a bit of time with Battlefield: Hardline’s multiplayer. I’ve never been great at it (I’m just not that good of a shooter player), but I always enjoyed the class-based system of Battlefield and the fact that I could be rewarded for playing support characters. I came to prefer it over Call of Duty and halo, primarily for that reason.
But then Overwatch came along. And much like Dark Souls did with RPGs for awhile, Overwatch has kind of ruined other shooters for me right now.

It took me about three matches of Battlefield 1 multiplayer to get sick of the meat grinder that involved me spawning and being sniped or destroyed by an explosion within thirty seconds, only to rise and repeat for the duration. And even though I was in a squad, the tendency of a lot of players to lone wolf in the giant maps of battlefield means my support activities (healing, providing ammo) can rarely be maximized.

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And so, it was back to Overwatch, where I am consistently rewarded for doing my job, and I can tangibly see the results of my contributions to the team. Whether I’m throwing up ice walls with Mei, keeping my teammates upright with Lucio, or making choke points impassable with Symmetra (who I am still learning), I get a lot of satisfaction in every match. Even in a loss it’s easy to understand what went wrong and how I might have done something differently.

Not that other shooters don’t reinforce team play. But with Overwatch, it’s woven into the DNA of the game so much that if you’re not interested in team play, the game really isn’t for you. Sure, there are some classes that are more lone wolf than others, but succeeding in Overwatch means that each person has to fulfill their role. And I love that.

Notice I haven’t even talked about the aesthetics of Overwatch, or the leveling and loot system. That because for me, all of those things are secondary to the core gameplay loop–work as a team, fulfill your role, be successful. I actually think the loot system is kind of broken, as the higher you level, the more frustrating it is to unlock items that you could care less about (sprays, skins for characters you never use, voice lines, etc.). It’s my one real grip about the game. But the moment to moment gameplay is so well crafted, I really don’t even care that much.

When From’s Souls series arrived, it took a while before I could enjoy other RPGs again without constantly comparing them to Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls. I find myself in a similar place now with Overwatch. Battlefield 1 is not enough to pull me away, and I don’t think Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare will be, either. And with Overwatch’s new character Sombra being announced this week, the game just keeps giving players reasons to be excited about it. I don’t see me putting Overwatch down anytime soon.

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Co-Op Critics Podcast–The Division

In the latest episode of the Co-Op Critics podcast, Brian and Nick discuss our game of the month, The Division, look at some of May’s releases, and and talk about Nick’s new gaming PC.

You can listen to the episode right here in the player above, or check us out on iTunes and Spreaker. You can also listen to back episodes on our podcast page.

NOTE: The game of the month for May on Co-Op Critics will be Dark Souls III. We’ll be featuring videos all month and a podcast at the end of May to discuss our thoughts on the game.

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Destiny–A Look at the Stats Through Level 20

After another week and a total of 18 hours played, I’ve reached level 20 in Destiny. I’ve heard that the game “really begins” at level 20, and while time will tell if that’s true, I’ve had a great deal of fun getting to this point. So let’s look at some of my stats so far.

As I talked about in my last post, I’ve spent the majority of my time in the Crucible, the competitive multiplayer component of Destiny. Of my 18 hours so far, I’ve spent 8 in the crucible, just under 5 in the Story mode, and most of the remainder on Patrol missions in the various locations.

I really enjoy the way the Destiny app and Bungie.net keep track of all my stats. I’ve never been big into stat tracking, but there’s a surprising amount of depth to the stats Bungie is keeping. For example, I’ve played a total of 61 games (sessions) so far, and 39 of them have been Control (Domination) in the Crucible (Competitive Multiplayer). In those 39 matches, I’ve killed 303 enemies and died 419 times, for a K/D ratio of 0.72. That’s pretty great for me, since in most shooters I average about 0.40, and I haven’t approached 1.0 since Call of Duty: Modern Warfare back in 2007. My single best match of Control was on the First Light map, and I had 18 kills versus 4 deaths, and came in second on my team in scoring.

Looking at my stats confirms what I already knew–kills are not where I score my points. I get a lot of assists (153 so far) and I capture a lot of control points (185 so far). I also get a decent amount of defensive kills (47 so far), because I tend to linger around a point I’ve captured and try to defend it if there’s an enemy in the immediate area.

My overall strategy for control point-oriented games has been the same since the original Modern Warfare, and it works for me. Most of my levelling in Destiny has come through these matches, and through the completion of Bounties (challenges) that are tied into multiplayer.

Now that I’ve hit level 20, experience points are taking a back seat to Light–a special property of armor components that allows you to earn levels beyond 20. I’ll be diving into some of the high-level raids and strike missions that are now open to me, as well as joining up with one of the factions that I’m now eligible for. I suspect I’ll be diving back into Story mode as well.

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Why Destiny’s Competitive Multiplayer Stands Out for Me

According to Bungie.net, I’ve now spent almost eight hours playing Destiny.

This game has definitely got its hooks into me. What’s most surprising to me though, is that it’s the competitive multiplayer that I’m becoming addicted to, rather than the story campaign so far.

I’ve played through all of the Halo games, and it was always the campaign that I spent the most time with. I played mostly solo, although from time to time I’d have friends jump in and co-op with me. I suspect it will be the same for Destiny, if the first few hours are any indication. I played through three story missions with friends, and it was a lot more fun than playing through alone. I’ll talk about that more in my next post, though. Let’s talk multiplayer now.

I have always been pretty terrible at the competitive multiplayer modes in the Halo games, but that doesn’t change the fact that they were extremely well designed. And Destiny’s multiplayer modes share a lot of DNA with Halo, but there are some huge differences that so far have made my experience a lot more fun than frustrating.

I think the biggest difference between Destiny and Halo (and most other shooters) is the Abilities and Super Abilities that you can use in addition to your weapons. Some of the abilities function like grenades, which isn’t that big of a deal, but they have different properties by class, which adds variety. It’s the Super Abilities that really change the game, though. Each class a Super that charges over time and with certain actions. It’s usually a devastating attack that if used correctly, can take out multiple enemies at once. And if you wait until the right moment to use your Super, you can change the tide of a battle.

Another thing I really enjoy about the multiplayer in Destiny is the Bounty system. You can take on certain challenges that reward you with experience points upgrades and even weapons based on the type of bounty they are. So, if take on a few Crucible (multiplayer) Bounties, there are additional challenges I’m trying to complete while I’m playing through matches.

Finally, after each multiplayer match, there are gear rewards given out to random participants. So every match could end up netting you a new weapon or piece or armor.

All of these systems work together to make Destiny’s competitive multiplayer feel more dynamic to me than most other games. They give me a reason to keep coming back, even though I’m average at best and usually get owned by more skilled players. If this was a Halo game, I’d have already checked out of multiplayer to focus on the campaign by now. It’s the tweaks that Bungie has made to the formula that have kept me engaged so far.

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Why I’m Excited About Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

The trailer for the next Call of Duty game (Advanced Warfare) was released on May 2nd, and I found it very interesting for a number of reasons. Of course, the fact that Kevin Spacey seems to be a prominent character, as well as the fact that it appears to be a more futuristic game are the biggest takeaways from the trailer. But, it was some of the design choices and mechanics that got me thinking about the potential of this new CoD entry.

In one scene for example, a character puts on a pair of gloves that let him scamper up walls. Maybe it’s just because I’m playing Amazing Spider-Man 2 right now, but I immediately thought about the fact that the Spidey games are also under Activision’s umbrella. Could the wall-crawling tech in the new CoD be pulling from what Beenox has refined over the past several years? I hope so.

Activision also owns High Moon Studios, the developer of the Transformers games. So when I saw the mech/battle armor portion of the new CoD trailer, I was thinking about that connection as well. I mean, this dude looks just like Megatron, doesn’t he?

And those hover bikes could function like the Cybertronian Decepticons, couldn’t they? Not to mention, it’s rumored that High Moon Studios is actually working on the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of Advanced Warfare. Maybe they’re doing more than just porting to last-gen.

I know this is probably wishful thinking, but Activision has all of these studios and a library of action games to pull from when they set out to create each new iteration of Call of Duty. I’d like to see them leverage some of those resources more, and maybe we’ll see some of that in Advanced Warfare. And yes, I know there are different gameplay engines at work here, but even from a design standpoint, it would be cool if some of those other studios are consulting with Sledgehammer.

Finally, let’s not forget that Sledgehammer is a studio formed by two of the creators of Dead Space. I found the story in the initial trailer to be very interesting, and I am a huge fan of the original Dead Space. I’m hoping some of that DNA makes its way into the Call of Duty franchise. Those exosuits did look a little Dead Space-y (no pun intended), didn’t they?

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare Keeps Getting Better

I think it’s safe to say that Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare has been the most pleasant surprise of my next gen experience. I’ve played Killer Instinct, Battlefield 4, Titanfall and more, but PvZ: GW is the one that keeps bringing me back. EA and PopCap have showed an impressive amount of support for the game since its release in late February, and this week’s latest batch of DLC looks like it will be a blast as well.

The Western-themed “Zomboss Down” features eight new characters and a new map, and is the second free DLC pack for PvZ: GW. Last month, the “Garden Variety” DLC pack was released, which featured a slew of new abilities, a new map and a new game mode.

If you have an Xbox One and haven’t checked the game out yet, I highly recommend it. You can grab it for $40, and I thought it was worth the money before the two free DLC packs. And as I mentioned in a previous post, it’s one of the few shooters that’s appropriate for kids while still being a blast for adults to play. On the Xbox One, the game features a split-screen co-op mode as well.

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Co-Op Critics Podcast–The Bioshock Series and the WiiU’s Woes

In this episode of Co-Op Critics, Brian is joined by Kim Wong and Dave Fetterman as they discuss the WiiU’s woes and the Bioshock trilogy.

Listen to the episode here in the embedded player to the right, or download it here.

You can follow Brian on Twitter (twitter.com/seebrianwrite) and check out his blog at www.seebrianwrite.com. You can find Kim Wong (twitter.com/rightwong) and Dave Fetterman (twitter.com/fetterdave) on Twitter as well.

Post your comments below or reach out on Twitter with feedback and suggestions about future episodes. Thanks for listening!

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First Impressions–Bioshock: Infinite

Bioshock Infinite, recipient of multiple Game of the Year Awards, is now free to play for PS Plus subscribers. Having absolutely no excuse not to play this game now, I fired it up over the weekend and played through the first couple of hours. What I’ve found so far is a wonderfully imaginative and detailed world, a mystery that I’m interested in solving, and the familiar gameplay of the Bioshock games that allowed me to pick this game up and get right into it. I’ve also found some dated design and a lack of interactivity that reminds me the foundation of this game was built in 2007.

Let’s start with the world, though. The flying city of Columbia is at once a sister and a start contrast to Rapture, the underwater city of the previous games. The biggest contrast is how bright and colorful Columbia is compared to the dark and dank feel of Rapture. Especially when you’re first introduced to Columbia, the city initially feels like a shinier version of Liberty Square in Disney World, just a pristine version of American exceptionalism. And unlike Rapture, you’re not arriving at a city that’s falling apart, after some big event has happened. You are kind of the tipping point for the the big event that happens–you’re the reason things start really falling apart.

There are so many things I love about the design of Bioshock Infinite’s world. In Rapture, there were little touches like cracks in the outer walls where water was leaking in, constantly reminding you that this was a submerged city, and things were falling apart. In Infinite, the gentle bobbing up and down of building, the sky rail cars pass by overhead, and the clouds themselves that obscure parts of the foundation are all reminders of the fact that you’re in a floating city. For me, this is so much more immersive than when a game like Mass Effect puts you on a space station, but other than stars outside there’s nothing to remind you or make you feel like you’re in space. The Bioshock team is just so good at creating a sense of place.

I kind of feel like the game’s greatest strength is also it’s greatest weakness, though. A world like Columbia begs to be explored, but there is almost no level of interactivity in the game, and I’m constantly disappointed by it. Other than picking up collectibles, it feels like you’re just walking around a set. The design in very linear, and other than some branching paths in the combat arenas, you are funneled through the game from the outset. The great part of that is you are seeing what the devs want you to see, but the flipside is you never feel completely in control or free to explore.

That said though, I do like the way Infinite presents the character of Booker DeWitt and gives you just enough knowledge to keep you, moving forward. There’s so much about the city and the events that have transpired that you need to discover, and right from the outset, Booker is questioning his purpose there, who he’s really working for, and who he can trust. These questions have me thinking about the game when I’m not playing it, and that’s the best compliment I can pay it.

So, a couple of hours in, and I’m hooked on Bioshock Infinite. The lack of interactivity makes things feel a little dated, but the overall world design and the intriguing story more than make up for that shortcoming. I can’t wait to spend more time with it.