After the Fad Reviews: Borderlands 2

Alright, guys and gals, time for another After the Fad Review. This is where I review a game I didn’t play when it was new, and am just picking it up years after release.

Today’s review is for Borderlands 2, a critically acclaimed “open-world” first person shooter with rpg elements. I was drawn to this game due to the nearly endless amounts of loot, and I often enjoy MMO style games that require a lot of grinding for top level loot.

First off, the most important part of Borderlands 2, as with most shooters, is the gunplay mechanics. Shooting down the various baddies is freaking fun, to say the least. Even though the physics aren’t on par with many newer games, the mobility and satisfaction of taking down enemies makes up for it. The enemy variety is also some of the best I’ve seen. The problem though is the different enemies alway spawn together, so there are almost always the enemies that run towards you suicidally, easy to kill enemies, and bullet-sponge enemies. This means the same tactics will work on almost all main groups of enemies, except animals and mini-bosses.

The story is fun, and Handsome Jack is one of the best “love-to-hate” villains of all time. Clap-trap is hilarious, and I even found characters that other players hated fun. My biggest problem with the story is eventually, though all kinds of crazy things happened and everyone was in danger, I had to force myself to keep playing and finish the game. I reached several points where I just didn’t care anymore. On top of that, I found the late game gameplay very tedious in having to switch between weapons every few seconds to use the different elemental abilites with slag, a type of weapon that causes other weapons to do more damage.

I think the main reason I stopped caring about the story is because I found none of the characters compelling. Though they are all fun, most of them seem like bad parodies of video game and real world stereotypes taken to the extreme. Because of this, I didn’t really care about saving any of them because there is no real relationship between the player and the NPCs.

The loot system is excellent, and finding a chest full of powerful guns and grenades after a grueling boss fight is a very rewarding experience. Co-op is tons of fun, and makes combining different elemental effects on enemies easier. Having a variety of classes slowing enemies, dropping turrets, and cloaking to flank enemies all at once is incredible fun, and makes playing solo seem like a bland affair.

Overall I really enjoyed my time with Borderlands 2, even though it never hooked me the way I would have liked. It is a truly fun game with more than enough content to satisfy in the base game, not to mention the huge amount of DLC available. I’m really excited to see what Borderlands 3 will be (no, the pre-sequel doesn’t count).




After the Fad Reviews: Gran Turismo 5

Ah, Gran Turismo 5, I remember reading rumors about it for years. I dismissed most of them because there was no way a console game would have the typical lineup of hatchbacks to super cars, and also have go-karts and NASCAR. Surprisingly, Gran Turismo 5 released on the PS3 and fulfilled all of the promises they made. Unfortunately, though, it took so long to come out I was no longer interested and moved to PC racing.


Before I begin the real review, I will warn that I am coming from being very involved in many PC racing simulators. I have spent at least 100 hours in iRacing, and have spent a considerable amount of time in rFactor 2 and Live for Speed. While Gran Tursimo touts itself as the real racing simulator, most PC gamers see all console racers as almost arcade games when compared to their PC couterparts. Ironically, all this PC racing I have been taking part in I have been using the Logitech Driving Force GT wheel and pedals, which was made specifically for Gran Turismo 5 and even has the logo on the wheel, but until now it has never been used for its original purpose.

It’s no surprise that Gran Turismo 5 is a beautiful game. Racing games have always been a true testament to what’s possible on the hardware they run on. Cars and tracks are both modeled beautifully, from the reflections on a car’s body, to the asphault on the tracks. The biggest dissapointment was the “premium car” system. Not all cars in GT5 are created equally. Premium cars are fully modeled cars, where as others have no interior or other realistic features, making the cockpit view a basic wheel/gauge setup with the rest of the interior pretty much blacked out. I believe all cars available from the main dealerships are premium, though, so it really isn’t a big deal.

In my very first race, I turned off all assistance and traction control/ABS. I expected to end up in last place (or a wall) because I was unfamiliar with the car. Instead, I won the race, and by quite a large margin. Granted, I was in a FWD car and going against what I assume to be the lowest level early game A.I. opponents, but going from last to first and then some in an extremely short 3 lap race shouldn’t be quite so easy. This leads me to my next problem. I know all console racers do this, but I would love to be able to jump right into races that take about twenty minutes. Eventually, I did reach the point of entry into longer races, but the majority of these didn’t include the slower, production cars such as performance hatchbacks and roadsters such as the Alfa Romeo Brera or the Mazda MX-5 (though I was happy to see a series dedicated to the MX-5).

Another problem I have with this game is the fact that if you don’t win a race, the entire event is pretty much seen as a loss. Personally, I’d much rather have the difficulty up and have to fight for a podium than to need to be able to win every race.

I have played Gran Turismo 6 a bit and all of the Forza series, and I have to say, as far as the simulation experience goes, GT5 is probably the best. Every car feels different (especially when playing with a force feedback wheel) as they should, though many cars are a bit too grippy.

Overall though, GT5 is very, very fun while being realistic enough to keep me happy along the way. Cars behave predicatbly and the few times I found a mulitplayer match, it was good fun. If I had to be contstrained to only playing racers on consoles, I would definitely choose Gran Tusismo over the competitors.



After the Fad Reviews: Uncharted 2

Alright time for the first After the Fad review! I’ll be reviewing games that I missed on initial release, and didn’t play until years after release. The first game I’ll be reviewing is the critically acclamied Sony exclusive Uncharted 2.

Before playing Uncharted 2, I had of course heard a lot about it. I know of stellar reviews, incredible graphics, tight gameplay, and apparently a good story. This sounds like a great game, so I thought it would be fun to see if I share the same opinion without playing it on launch day.

Firstly, despite going back a generation to play this game, I still find the graphics absolutely beautiful. Everything in the environment is believable, from foliage and flags blowing in the wind, buildings in a warzone slowly deteriorating around you, and birds flying off as you approach them. The character models are very well done, all cutscenes are rendered in-game, and they’re not afraid to do close-ups to show the detail of Drake’s facial model.

Gameplay is very fun, the cover system works great, though I did feel blind firing was way too accurate and I only needed to peak over cover to take out long range targets even on hard diffiiculty. Nathan Drake is vey mobile and able to traverse the often vertical landscape easily. My favorite bits of gameplay, however, were limited to just a small percentage of the full game. The first mission in-game is all about stealth, and subduing an enemy by surprise is far more satisfying than shooting them ever is. My absolute favorite sequence in the game was in the mission “Urban Warfare”. It was great being able to start an action sequence without the enemy knowing I was there, allowing me to scope out the terrain and plan my attack out carefully. Unfortunately, these moments are rare in the overall game as most enemies are just waiting for you to arrive so they can get started with the shooting. I really thought the game would be filled with these moments, because honestly the stealth and last known location systems are much more satisfying to me than the main gunplay/movement mechanics.

According to the never-wrong population of ye olde gaming forums, I expected to be blown away by the story of Uncharted 2, but to be honest, I only found it mildly entertaining. The characters all have very strong personalities, but there really was a lack of character development throughout the story. The small set of characters all started out of action movie stereotypes and pretty much stayed that way throughout the game. The only real character development was the fairly heartwarming ending that hinted at a relationship between two of the main characters. Nathan has no direct contact with the games main enemy except for the dissapointing final mission.

I know I’m being tough on this game, but to be honest I did find Uncharted 2 a very entertaining game. It is exactly what I expected from a big AAA action game. Uncharted 2 is a very polished, pretty game that while entertaining, doesn’t really take any chances in doing anything to really make me have a unique experience.



Fifa 15: Ultimate Team for Android Review


This year, EA decided to drop the pretense that they even make mobile FIFA games for any reason other than the Ultimate Team mode. This, of course, is the mode in which EA hopes to make truckloads of money through microtransacions. Luckily, I rarely felt I was being cheated when trying to play through without the use of real money.

Let’s start off with the biggest dissapointment of FIFA 15: Ultimate Team. Instead of just focusing more on Ultimate Team than other modes, EA has completely removed all modes except Ultimate Team, leaving no trace more traditional modes. The only time I imagine this is much of a problem, though, is for soccer fans who very much just want to play soccer as their favorite team. Personally, while being a soccer fan, I don’t follow the sport closely enough to really care about what team I play as. This actually makes the game better for me, as the entire game I get to play as my own team.

To be completely honest, Ultimate Team is the only game I’ve ever played on a mobile device that was able to make me have the same experience I have when playing many console games. The control scheme is tight, A.I. can be challenging, and I often found my emotions running high in a close game as the 90th minute came closer. FIFA 15 has a good variety of control schemes and customization for different play styles. The default control scheme has a minimalized number of buttons to perform basic functions, while the classic and diamond control schemes allow a bit more control over the game.


The more advanced control schemes allow for more complex moves such as chip shots, finnesse shots, through passes into open space, and more. Instead of overloading the screen with buttons, functions that include shooting, passing or tackling are achieved by either pressing the on screen button for the basic move, or pressing the button then sliding in a certain direction to achieve the desired result (i.e. press shoot then slide up for a chip shot over the goal keeper). Another interesting addition is autorun which allow user controlled players to move about on their own when not recieving input from the player. At first, I thought this would be annoying and feel like an “assist” (autorun can be toggled off in the options menu), but I actually found it a great way to be able to look around and plan my attack without having to babysit the player with the ball.

Graphically, FIFA 15 runs incredibly smoothly at a high resolution, and is comparable to PS2/Xbox graphics. Player models are basic but they look very good (though they all look like they’re wearing terrible hairpieces). The UI is very simple and easy to use, though it might take a while to grow accustomed to menus in charge of club/squad customization. The audio is also very well done, from having a good menu soundtrack of international pop music, to the impressive commentary system (which is an optional download of a few hundred megabytes seperate from the base game).

My biggest fear going into Ultimate Team was that I would put my time into the game only to hit a microtransaction wall. While I can forsee situations in which this would be possible, I find it unlikely to happen to the average player. After only playing the game for about a day, I had already built a squad of mostly gold level players with a rating in the high seventies, that was able to plow over most teams in the beginner, amateur, and semi-pro difficullties. The game is very generous in awarding in game currency and packs for winning games, tournaments, and seasons. This currency can be used to buy different levels of packs that contain players, consumables, staff, kits, stadiums, and even new balls.

The game also features a player to player marketplace that allow players to sell and bid on any in game item (though you can’t sell items you get in packs you get for completing achievements). So if you’re lucky enough to get a player from a very popular team, you may be able to auction them off at such a high price you’ll find it hard to run out of coins any time soon.

The biggest push for microtransactions comes from what EA calls “consumables”. There are a variety of consumables, but the only two you’re likely to care about are contracts and fitness. All players have a set amount of matches they will play before their contract expires, then you will have to use a one time use contract on them to have them play any more. However, I have played over 100 games in FIFA 15 now and have never run out of consumable contracts I received in various packs, and even if I do run out I can get them for a low amount of in-game currency on the transfer marketplace. Fitness works much in the same way as contracts. The more your players play their fitness value goes down which makes them play more sluggishly and possibly more open to injuries in a season. Luckily, though, I found that there are team fitness resupplies that are fairly cheap on the marketplace, so I simply stocked up and shoudn’t need to purchase anymore for some time.

FIFA 15: Ulitimate Team is possibly the most fun I’ve ever had in a mobile game. Though the game is free and has microtransactions, You’re unlikely to feel you’re ever missing anything by playing without buying anything as everything is available using the abundant in-game currency. Don’t expect it to give you the same experience you find on current generation consoles, though it can be just as fun at it’s best times.




Is Nintendo’s Future in the Console Market in Trouble?

Since the days of the original NES, Nintendo has always been the act to beat in the world of video games. Lately, however, Nintendo is often perceived as playing catch-up to the Sony and Microsoft in the console department. The Wii U, while arguably having the best lineup of first-party games so far, is seen by many as a lackluster machine due to hardware limitations that hardly keep up with its last generation counterparts. Is it time for Nintendo to reevaluate their position in the console market and change their ways?


First off, Nintendo isn’t exactly going bankrupt here. They are the only relevant handheld manufacturer, while the PS Vita has all but burned, despite being a much more powerful system. In many ways, handheld gaming is possibly more important to Nintendo than consoles, especially considering how much more popular handheld gaming is in Japan, Nintendo’s home country. The brands and characters of Pokemon, The Legend of Zelda, and Mario Brothers are undoubtedly the most recognized (and profitable) in gaming to this day. Still, many could argue characters such as Sonic the Hedgehog were just as big, and Sega isn’t exactly running the show anymore, but Nintendo is in a much better financial position than Sega ever was. The biggest concern is if Nintendo will continue in their ways as they always have, and if they do, can they sustain themselves?

The Nintendo Wii is one of the best selling consoles of all time, yet a large number of them ended up colleting dust while their owners played their Xbox 360 or PS3. The cause of this can mainly be attributed to the lack of 3rd party games on the Wii, and the gimmicky nature of the Wii’s controller. Nintendo learned a lot from the successes and failures of the Wii, and created a much more refined system in the Wii U. The Wii U though, is suffering from a mostly different set of problems than its predecessor. Marketing for the Wii U outside of Japan was horrid. Gamers that don’t keep up with gaming news often thought the Wii U was just a new controller for the Wii with a screen on it, not an entirely new console, and that’s just the ones who actually knew the Wii U existed in the first place.

Nintendo was able to move an incredible amount of Wii units thanks to big coverage on mainstream media as well as gaming media, a low price point, and a release date that came before both the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. The Wii U was able to accomplish the latter two of these, but they didn’t do much good without competent marketing to support the console.

The biggest problem with recent Nintendo consoles is the lack of hardware power in comparison to other consoles of the same generation. This makes it almost impossible for 3rd party developers to make games that work on all three major consoles, and given the option of developing for both the Xbox and Playstation or just the Wii or Wii U will typically choose to develop for the more powerful machines. Some games, such as Call of Duty, are available for all three consoles, but a seperate team creates the Nintendo counterpart, which almost always is the poorer experience. So how can Nintendo ensure their consoles don’t remain last in the minds of many gamers?

The biggest setback for Nintendo’s consoles is weak hardware. In order to play both Nintendo games and other AAA releases, gamers have to buy two consoles (though many do). If Nintendo were to release a console that had comparable specifications to Microsoft’s and Sony’s offerings. It would likely win over a large number of new customers due to it’s incredible range of first party exclusives. Personally, the thought of a machine that allows me to play games like Mario and Metroid, as well as the biggest 3rd party games, I couldn’t see much use in having a Playstatioin or Xbox if the only other games I could play were Halo or Uncharted.

Nintendo isn’t exactly going bankrupt anytime soon. In fact, their making an incredible amount of money and have plans to branch into other markets such as lifestyle and health products. Still, I can’t help but worry that Nintendo’s prevalance in the console market may be under fire, especially in markets like North America. That being said, I’ll probably still end up buying Ocarina of Time several more times on future Nintendo platforms.

Closing the Gap: Microsoft Pulls All the Stops to Catch up to Playstation Sales

Ever since the announcement of the Xbox One, Microsoft has been in the midst of a PR nightmare, and has done a lot of backtracking in the wake of incredible PS4 sales. From changing their stance on required internet connection and DRM, to not including Kinect in order to achieve a competitive price point. This year, however,  Microsoft plans to set the new pace for console manufacturers.


Sunset Overdrive and the Master Chief Collection have both recieved stellar reviews thus far, and have recieved much more positive press than Sony’s exclusives. PS4 exclusive Drive Club is an ok game at best, but has spent most of its life a broken game with many network options still unusable due to severe network issues. Little Big Planet 3 has been all but forgotten by gamers and major game press, and the fact that it will be released on both PS3 and PS4 means we are unlikely to see any revolutionary ideas. Sony’s saving grace comes in the form of hardware advantages,  as many 3rd party developers have announced their games will run better on the Playstation. This however will only appeal to very informed gamers, and its more likely the average customer would rather just play the new Halo collection.

The biggest difference for the average customer will be the $50 price difference. Microsoft announced a temporary price cut on the Xbox One, which will be sold for $350, though many have speculated this will be the permanent price when 2015 arrives. This coupled with great bundles such as the 1tb hardrive Advanced Warfare bundle and good exclusives really allow Microsoft to make up lost ground this holiday season. Now, we wait to see if Sony retaliates.

Blizzard Announces “Overwatch” First New Blizzard IP in Over 17 years

For a few days now many have been speculating, hoping that Blizzard’s new trademark “Overwatch” might amount to something other than another WoW expqnsion. Today at Blizzcon, Blizzard made those hopes come true by announcing that Overwatch is indeed an entirely new IP in the form of an over-the-top, cartoon-styled first person shooter.


Overwatch is currently a 6v6 multiplayer first person shooter. Each character has special abilities and “ultimates” which seem to combine the ideologies of over-the-top fps games such as Team Fortress 2 and MOBAs such as Dota and LoL.
Personally,  I hope that this game sees a full, polished retail release, but games like this often end in f2p releases, or digital only low price release (Blizzard has announced they now realize that it isn’t necessary to only make and release huge AAA games). However, it seems likely that Overwatch is using many leftover elements from the recently cancled MMORPG Titan that was in development for about 7 years. Many important members of the Titan development team seem to be working on Overwatch. This hints that Overwatch may possibly be the game that Titan evolved into during its convoluted development.

Right now its hard to say exactly how important this new IP will be to both Blizzard and the competitive gaming community, so I’ll avoid any further speculation for now. The important thing to remember is that Blizzard very rarely releases bad games, and they wouldn’t be leaping into a new IP without confidence it can stand beside its other established franchises.