Beta Impressions: Overwatch (Xbox One)

Blizzard’s upcoming team-based shooter Overwatch had an open beta this past weekend, and both Nick and I spent some time with it. In the video above, you’ll see Nick playing quite a bit with Hanzo, and having a good about of success. Hanzo is one of the Defense class characters, a bowman who is rated as one of the more difficult characters to play. He also spend a little time with Tracer, and Offense character who wields dual pistols.READ MORE

Let’s Play CoD: Black Ops III – Ep. 1 (Black Ops)

Call of Duty: Black Ops III is our game of November, and Brian will be doing a let’s play series on the single-player campaign. This first installment is the opening mission of the campaign, entitled “Black Ops.”

Stay tuned for plenty more Black Ops III videos this month, and if you like the video, don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube page!

Wanna help support Co-Op Critics? Click here to purchase Black Ops 3 from Amazon.


E3 2014: What I’m Most Excited About (Part 3)–Splatoon

There was a lot of what Nintendo showed this year at E3 that got me excited, but Splatoon is the game that stands out the most. Not only is Splatoon a new IP, but it’s a multiplayer shooter that is appropriate for all ages and features some very clever new mechanics.

I chalk my excitement for Splatoon up to how well Nintendo showcased the game at E3 this year. They gave the game enough time in the spotlight for people to really understand what its about.

Splatoon at first glance is a very “kiddy” game with cute aesthetics and seemingly simplified gameplay. But as soon as you start to dig a little deeper, you see that the game is a brilliant twist on third-person shooter games. You win matches by covering a greater portion of the map with your team’s colored ink. So the emphasis is on controlling geography as opposed to “killing” opponents. And because the characters are squid-like humanoids, their ability to swim in the ink that covers the map adds a great twist to ammo refilling and navigation. You’re faster when you’re swimming, and swimming provides cover. You can cover walls with ink to allow you to climb up them and reach higher vantage points. You can sneak up on enemies and pop out just long enough to take them down. It really adds a more dynamic layer to the basic third-person shooter template.

I’ve said before that I really enjoyed Nintendo’s approach to E3 this year, and putting the developers up front to talk about the games they’re making was a great move. Splatoon looks like a ton of fun, and I can’t wait to play it with my kids.


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 is the Perfect Blend of Class-Based Shooters

Last generation, the game that evangelized more than any other was Dark Souls. It was a game I felt a lot of people overlooked and made a lot of assumptions about.

In this brand new console generation, I have found the first game I feel strongly enough about to evangelize. That game is Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare.

Forget what you think this game is. Forget that you’re mad PopCap decided to make a shooter out of Plants vs. Zombies. Forget that it looks like it’s aimed at younger audiences. Forget that you think it will just be laden with microtransactions. Forget all of that, and play this game.

Garden Warfare takes the best of Team Fortress 2, Battlefield and the versus mode in Left 4 Dead 2 and combines them. Each faction has classes that will be familiar to shooter fans–there are soldiers, healers, engineers and heavies. But the way those classes are implemented makes each type of character play very differently. The heavy on the zombie side is a lumbering hulk with a chain gun, while the heavy on the plant side basically Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors. Each class has abilities that you unlock by completing challenges, and a fully unlocked character has a nice variety of options to head into battle with.

There is a card system in the game that allows players to purchase card packs with in-game currency. These packs contain customization items (like hats and outfits for your characters), weapon upgrades (including elemental damage), new characters to unlock and consumables that you can use, like deployable health stations, turrets, summonable characters, etc. The card packs range in price and so far I feel like the currency I’m earning is an appropriate ratio to the cost of the packs. There is also an element of randomization to the card packs that ensures there is a reason to keep earning currency to buy new ones. All of the currency is earned by playing the game and completing challenges.

While I think there are some balance issues to still be worked out, there is fun to be had in all of the game’s modes. Team Vanquish (Deathmatch) is a “first to 50 kills” type of game, and most of the matched I’ve been in have been decided by 5 kills or less. There’s also a rush-style mode called Gardens and Graveyards, where you are either defending or trying to take control points. This mode needs some balancing, but it’s still a blast to play.

There’s also a four-player co-op horde-style mode which I haven’t checked out yet, as I’m the only one of my friends who has the game so far.

And therein lies my biggest concern for Garden Warfare, and the reason I’m evangelizing it–it’s an online-only multiplayer game, and I’m afraid it may not have a big enough player base on XBox One to keep it going for the long haul. That would be a real shame, as this is a game, much like Team Fortress 2, that you can keep replaying and keep having fun with for a long time to come.

So please, if you have an XBox One (or an XBox 360), do not overlook this game if you’re a shooter fan. Garden Warfare looks great, plays great and is a ton of fun. It’s also one of the only shooters that’s accessible to kids without being inappropriate for them.


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.


SEGA’s ‘Let’s Go Island’ is a Fun Escape

One of the best parts about vacationing in Maine with my family each summer is the fact that there are two arcades within twenty minutes of where we stay. It’s become an annual tradition for me to take my kids to each of them at least one per trip, and this year was no different.

Since many of the arcade cabinets have been replaces by midway-style ticket-producing games, it’s rare to see either of the arcades bring in new video games anymore. So, I was pleasantly surprised to walk into the Boardwalk Arcade in Wells and see SEGA’s Let’s Go Island: Lost on the Island of Tropics.

While Let’s Go Island is a sit-down, turret-based game, anyone who’s played House of the Dead will feel right at home. The story follows Beth and Zach, two stereotypical goofy characters that are stranded together on an island that is crawling with mutated creatures. From leaping sharks to giant leeches to a mighty kraken, there are tons of colorful enemies that are constantly flying at you as you and your partner try to stave them off.

The gameplay is simple and fun, and there are a couple twists to the usual light gun shooter formula. After completing certain levels, you get to choose which area of the island to explore next. There are also quick time events sprinkled throughout the levels that require both players to complete actions at the same time. At the end of each level, you and your partner get a compatibility rating based on how well you worked together.

Interestingly, there seems to be three versions of Let’s Go Island out there. The original 2D version featured a movable boat-shaped seat that allowed players to lean back and forth during quicktime events. A second version of the cabinet was in 3D. The third version (the one that I played), is the lesser of the three, as it has a static seat and a 2D display.

Lesser version or not, this game is a blast to play, just like most of the other SEGA light gun games. The goofy nature of the game actually makes it much more of an all ages title, as there’s no blood and the story is very cartoonish. Both my wife an my son had a good time blasting away with me.

Sadly, this game, as well as it’s predecessor Let’s Go Jungle, were never ported to consoles. That’s too bad, because this would be a great family-friendly game for the WiiU, and I can’t imagine it would be that difficult to bring it over.

Anyway, if you get a chance, it’s definitely worth checking out!