Friday, February 24, 2017

For Honor: Incredible game! Writing this to the devs

For Honor is an incredible multiplayer game. It really feels like a whole new concept, and for the first time we're seeing an actual NEW IDEA for fighting games. And it's coming from Western developers Ubisoft.

There's a lot of great stuff in For Honor and I'm sure a lot of other bloggers/Youtubers have already covered them. I'm just going to write some constructive feedback for the devs so that maybe they can make the game even better than it already is....because by itself, it's a really, really good game. And, I have to say this again  - IT'S A GREAT FIGHTING GAME!


1) Please fix the disconnection bugs. If you can convince Ubisoft to switch to dedicated servers, that will really help this game keep its player base. Granted the P2P system you have is already quite good and generally works. But occasionally I still get disconnections and very odd glitches which I'm sure a lot of fans have already told you about (like the 'Requirements not met' bug which required me to restart the game entirely).

2) After a match, please let my group leave the randoms I'm with, and begin matchmaking on the next game immediately. Don't make me click READY or QUIT TO WORLD MAP, just start looking for the next game. 

3) While matchmaking, the user should be able to adjust their heroes' equipment.

4) Can we save several 'builds' of heroes and label them (for example, a 'stamina' build, a 'revenge' build, etc.?)

5) Duel replays - Fighting games already have this. I think For Honor will really benefit from this too. It's probably a big thing to program, though....but just throwing that out there in case you guys have thought of it already.

6) Match replays - probably even bigger than item #5 so I'm not keeping my hopes up.

7) It's easy to get confused on what team you're on when you're in a game. I have to keep reminding myself "I'm on orange!" or "I'm on blue!". There must be some way to fix the UI so it's clear what team you're on. 

8) Is it possible to do the same thing in other fighting games where you record your opponent AI to do something over and over, then you can practice with that? For example, could you make your opponent do a mix of guard breaks and attacks and just practice how to counter/parry those same things over and over?

9) Have a version of Duel where your equipment matters? It seems the default version makes all your gear just cosmetic so the special properties on them don't apply (not sure though).

10) A better training mode for characters which doesn't involve just watching the videos - take the example of games like Virtua Fighter 5 which walk you through doing a move instead of making you just watch it.

11) How to deal with 2v1, 3v1 and 4v1? It's really difficult and the game turns into a button mashing fest when that happens. There must be some way to balance it out or add better gameplay for these moments. Maybe the controls become a bit different or maybe you can push a button and the defense system changes for handling big groups like that.

Things I absolutely adore:

1) Duel mode AI - Amazing achievement on this! So fun to fight them and great to learn characters this way, without the hassles of fighting super pros online right away. Please keep this in the next game!

2) Practice modes - really great way to learn the game.

3) Parry/block/guard break system - Fantastic!

4) Stance system

5) 'Revenge' mode

6) The detail work on everything is insane. It's just a beautiful game to look at!

7) The animation work is top notch!

8) How the game can easily shift between 1v1 to 4v4 or other crazy scenarios and still have smooth controls and gameplay, just like a fighting game. 

Wish list:

1)  Copy Gears of War's 'Horde' mode, where you have to hold a fort from invading AI forces.Heck you could make more than 4 players team up for it

2) Add more factions (though maybe this is for For Honor 2)
- Spartans
- Persians
- Egyptians
- Greeks
- Mongols
- Chinese
- Barbarians
- Aztecs?

3) Story Mode - what is in the game isn't bad. I hope it will not be forgotten for For Honor 2. And always remember how not having a good story mode didn't really help out another famous fighting game, Street Fighter 5. I appreciate that a story / single player mode was put in the game. 

4) Practice mode while matchmaking - basically let the player do something while waiting for their game to start, whether that's managing their equipment or just doing parry/guard break practice. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Final Fantasy XV Review

This is a game I never planned on buying.

I saw it being demoed at E3 a few times. The more recent demos they had were a bit glitchy, and the premise wasn't too clear. I only tried that one demo they had, the Platinum demo, and it completely turned me off on buying this game. 

I've been burned before by Final Fantasy. Full disclosure, Final Fantasy VI and VII are some of my favorite games of-all-time. From that point onwards, the series has been having a steep decline in terms of relevance. At some point the games just become way too Japanese in their strangeness and it can be hard to relate with a few of the later titles.

Yeah, I even gave Final Fantasy XIII a shot. I never finished it because it just didn't pull me in. At that point, I realized that maybe Final Fantasy can never realize its past glory. It just didn't have that shot of inspiration which the older Final Fantasy games had. The series was just behind in terms of technology, storytelling and gameplay when compared to other games from western developers. 

What convinced me to give FFXV a try was that CG movie they released, Kingsglaive. I had a chance to see it and it was really nice to see an all new Final Fantasy world with interesting modern elements and epic battles. The feel of the movie was actually quite Western and this made me think that maybe the game is worth trying. Also, there was tons of hype being generated by people who already had the game. 

So against my better judgment I bought this game. It was a good mistake to make. 

The first thing I did was to go through the tutorial. There was a huge improvement in their implementation of the real-time combat, which was really bad in the Platinum demo. In the full game, combat really feels fleshed out, and after 46+ hours of gameplay I can honestly say it could probably compete with something like God of War or Devil May Cry -- if they sort out the camera issues. It is a really good system, and it feels like it belongs in a true action game instead of an RPG game. The action gameplay actually made it fun to fire up this game, or to mess with random mobs of enemies. It just felt really good in the full the demo there was a lack of sensation when you hit something, but in the full game, each hit lands with a satisfying spark effect or a rumble effect in your hands, which feels great and makes combat worth doing over and over. Even after having finished the game, one of the things I remember the most is the satisfying action gameplay. 

The other thing that caught my attention about 4-5 hours in, is the open world. Square Enix went above and beyond their usual conventions with this open world. While it is true it still has a few invisible walls, generally there are quite a few big, open spaces with a lot of things to see and do. Open world areas are not just flat and peppered with trees like some of their previous attempts. They have some interesting geography which makes traveling by foot quite pleasant. Monster variety is pretty good and there are occasionally some huge monsters roaming around the open world which are worth fighting. 

The thing that almost made this the greatest FF game of all time is the characters. Everyone's first impression of these guys is 'hey, it's the Backstreet boys', and it's unfortunate that some may be turned off by this from trying out the game. The truth is, Square couldn't get away (probably) from making characters with practical role-playing game outfits like knights armor or things like that....without the ridiculous hairstyles or outfits, would the game still be truly a Square Enix game? I guess I could personally justify it as a branding issue if they didn't make the cast look the way they do now. If they just up and followed every other Western RPG trope, would Final Fantasy still be Final Fantasy?

(I'm just happy they don't look like Tidus or Vaan, thank God)

These characters are really well fleshed out and they have a good friendship demonstrated throughout the course of the entire game. You could make an entire game out of them just having humorous conversations with each other and it would still be an awesome's just that good. Whoever did the writing for the game's characters needs to be given a medal....they've approximated some good, modern day characters with these, and they don't have too much of the teenage angst that is usually in Japanese RPGs. 

The story in the game is very straightforward, until you get to the end where it gets a bit vague. I really enjoyed the story until the ending which, quite frankly, was a bit of a letdown. The last battle you get just isn't as epic as some of the others that you have in the game. I was expecting some huge monstrosity laying waste to everything, but that wasn't what I got. 

There's also a feeling that the game isn't complete. Square Enix recently mentioned that they're updating the game, adding events, sidequests, storyline bits and more....but having completed the game now, I have this nagging feeling that they cut out a LOT of content just to make the deadline. Some events in the game 'just happen' and there is that distinct feeling that there would have been some major events that the player would have experienced, but maybe there was just not enough time to put them in. Final Fantasy XV feels awesome and delivers on a lot of fronts, but after you finish it, you get the feeling that there was more game that was supposed to be in there...they just ran out of time.

Now don't get me wrong -- I think the game is still very good. In fact, Final Fantasy XV is the closest ANY Japanese developer has ever gotten to making something as huge and relevant as Mass Effect, Skyrim, or Dragon Age Inquisition, or Witcher 3. FFXV can hang with those games in terms of its systems and open world. Just be forewarned that after you complete it you will get that feeling that it isn't a complete product. Later on Square Enix talked about their Season Pass and how it will have the storylines of the other characters --- you know, things that were in the previous games by default. For this game, you have to shell out $25 or more to experience the rest of it.

It's hard to fault Square Enix because the game you do get is really, really huge and there are some really great moments in the game that are memorable on their own. At the same time, I hope that Square realizes how close they were to topping FF6/7 with this game....they were so close and it is a little disappointing that they don't reach those heights. Despite this, I still think FFXV is a monumental achievement for Square Enix. I really hope the additional content they're working on is going to flesh out the storyline more, maybe give you a better 'final battle' or just make the whole product more cohesive.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Titanfall 2 Review

"Press LB to time travel".

I'll never forget seeing that on my screen the first time. I was half expecting the usual FPS level (abandoned science for ancient artifact...). But I didn't see enough previews of Titanfall 2 to even expect THAT from the game when i was playing it.

Titanfall 2. Where to begin. I don't really have a great relationship with this particular game in the beginning. The developers of the game, Respawn Entertainment, had conducted a 'tech test' a few months back. While I enjoyed the first game, Titanfall 1....trying out the tech test had given me immense doubts on whether the developers understand what made the first game so good.

A few days after T2 got released, there was a lot of buzz on the internet about its campaign and its multiplayer mode. Initially I brushed these off as the usual paid shills on the internet doing marketing for the game....but eventually the opportunity arose to try it again, and I don't regret taking it to this day. If there's anything I do regret, it's playing on the tech test. This was really supposed to be a Day One purchase for me, and I missed out on that first day experience.

Titanfall 2 is a phenomenal game. The single player is really well paced, with creative level designs which you don't expect from something which appears to be a sci-fi military shooter. A lot of comparison has been made with games like Half-life and Portal, and you'd only understand this comparison after playing the game. It wouldn't be fair to just write on every single interesting tidbit from the single player game and spoil it all....I would just recommend this game highly and advise you to trust me, it's really as good as everyone says it is.

Multiplayer - I've been playing it for weeks now and it is far removed from the tech test experience i had previously. The action is back to its chaotic, frenetic pacing from the first game. Some things were revised like the way rodeo-ing a Titan is handled, or how your Titan doesn't get a shield by default...but after more play sessions I can see why they did it that way. They did give your Titan a way to 'repair' itself in this version of Titanfall, and that's why they introduced the new mechanics (you can get a battery to add a shield to your titan, or increase its health a bit). Overall I really, really like how fast this game is, and I ABSOLUTELY love the network code. It's the shining crown jewel of this game and I can attest to it. At almost 200-250ms ping here in the Philippines, on Xbox One, I can get first, second, or third on the scoreboard in Attrition. I can't manage that in other shooters but in Titanfall 1 and in Titanfall 2, the netcode is just so good that even with my very slow third world connection (5 mbps down, 0.5 mbps up) i can do really well on the scoreboard. It's just a really smooth online game, and I haven't played many other games that feel as great as this one.

Overall - this game is one of the games of this year, just one of the best, and i think great work like this should be supported by other players. Buy this game!

Forza Horizon 3 Review

As a father of two who has to balance spending time with the family and also occasionally gaming, Forza Horizon 3 really fits the bill by respecting your time, letting you enjoy its various systems at your own pace. You can customize various aspects of your experience such as the driving difficulty, AI difficulty, etc, so you will have an experience that fits your skill level.

There's also a lot of diversity in the environments. The game features Australia, which has a wide variety of locales like beaches, deserts and rainforests. It almost feels like an old Sega arcade racing game at times with all the amazing scenery you'd be whizzing past in whichever fantastic sports car you can pick from over 350 in the available stable. 

Eventually you will complete the game but even the ending acknowledges that there's really no end to it....the game is meant to be enjoyed just like that. Feel like a quick race or two? Fire it up and just spend 30 minutes or so on a leisurely drive, or compete with a pack of racers which you can customize in various ways. You can't design race courses (unfortunately), except for the Bucket List Challenge blueprint mode, where you can definitely invent some interesting challenges for other players. 

Netcode in this game is superb, just as good (if not better) than Forza Horizon 2's. I haven't spent too much time with coop mode but the one time i did use it, it had a bit of lagginess. Maybe it's been patched out but I haven't gotten to try it since after launch. 

Overall, Forza Horizon 3 is the type of game that you just HAVE to buy for your Xbox One. You might not play racing games, but this one will definitely give you a lot of fun things to do even if you don't enjoy the genre. For guys like me who've played so many racing games already, Forza Horizon 3 is a phenomenal experience. It's just a beautiful game that's fun to play, it never runs out of things for you to do, and racing against AI or even other players just never gets old in this one. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Gears of War 4: Review

Hard to write a new review when busy with work. Nonetheless I'll be reviewing this game and Forza Horizon 3 at a later time. For now here's what i thought about Gears 4 after completing it within 3 days (a few hours a day so i think that adds up to about 10-15 hours of campaign play and a few hours of versus mode play).

I'm reviewing it without having played Horde yet. Yep, it's hard to find time to play games when you got a job and two kids!

Here we go:

For the campaign the one thing that stood out for me was the AI. I was playing the game at HARDCORE difficulty, and the AI was doing some interesting tactics where they'll rush at you, they'll grab you from cover if you're nearby, they'll flush you out with grenades and more. Interestingly enough the AI of your squadmates is also pretty good and they'll do their best to help you when you're down.

There was one act in the game with a major boss fight where I took a few tries to beat the level. It's because the boss itself had a lot of lackeys giving you a hard time and it has this one enemy type which is extremely hard to kill. I'm talking Destiny-boss type of enemy where it has tons of HP and you have to shoot at it for quite a while. Actually I recall three types of enemies in the game that are like this. One might argue this is 'bullet spongy-ness' and some people don't like that. But for the type of game that Gears is, I think it completely fits. Gears is essentially "Contra" in the modern age, and you're shooting at things for a long time before you take them down. For some reason it works in the context of the levels where you encounter these types of enemies.

That said, this AI thing is the one thing I couldn't stop thinking about. Yes a lot of reviews have said the graphics are amazing and that's true. For me it was the remarkable AI which made some encounters (in HARDCORE difficulty) really challenging, but in a fun way.

The new characters are alright. They do the banter so it feels like Gears and it kind of feels like the Avengers where they're all quipping every so often. It's good, I don't dislike it, and it's just the thing that makes Gears, Gears. If they made a super serious Gears of War game it just wouldn't work. They just have to always emphasize the camaraderie between the characters and I think this game does a great job.

Having the stodgy old vet by your side is really good, too. Of course Marcus is more than just a vet, though - he's the savior of the world from the last four games so I'd say he's really important. There's one funny bit where.... SPOILER

I can't believe Marcus Fenix is still a Sergeant! After all that work he put into saving the world from the Locust, you'd think he'd have ranked up several places. Or maybe I just don't understand how the military works. But yeah, he deserves more after what he's done in the previous games.


The new enemy types are alright. The "Juvie" unfortunately is exactly the Wretch from before. The Drones are your standard enemy soldiers...the Pouncer is a really good enemy design, because they jump from cover to cover and you just have to keep running from them. The Snatcher is also really good design, too, where it can take one of your teammates so you have to constantly watch out for it so you don't lose the game (i've had this happen a couple of times because it will escape from you after it kidnaps your teammate). The Carrier is really good, it has this awesome attack where it shoots out these 'missiles' from its chest, just fantastic work on that one. Overall I see these feel like preliminary 'new' enemy types, and most likely it will be Gears of War 5 which will really push the kind of creativity with monster design that you expect from the series.

The 'Deebees' (the robots), I wasn't originally excited to fight these since I originally thought they didn't fit. But later on when actually playing the game, i realized, these are pretty good enemy types as well. They're a bit more suicidal than your usual Swarm Drone. The standout ones are the Guardian which resembles one of the flying enemies in Halo (the healing unit), and the larger DeeBee carrying either the trishot or the overkill gun.

Speaking of weapons, the overkill gun is really strong. I got to play just a little multiplayer but I can imagine having that weapon in multiplayer is going to make anyone really overpowered. It just has a few shots, though, so it runs out fast.

I have a lot more to say about Gears of War 4....with the multiplayer, i have an average connection here in the Philippines and my upload speed is below 1mbps. But the multiplayer works fine and smooth, and the matchmaking was pretty quick. It goes at 60 fps in versus multiplayer so it really feels crazy fast. I enjoyed the little time I had with it, though honestly it's likely better to review it after more hours of play.

Overall, is Gears 4 a worthy sequel? I'd say yes. It feels like a good part of the Gears family of games and it shows that the series is in good hands now.


I think CliffyB's latest game, "Lawbreakers", sorry man, i think it's going to flop. And The Coalition will probably hire him for a future Gears sequel. Mark my words!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Replay: Halo - Reach (via Xbox One Backward Compatibility)

So there I was, staring in awe at the latest footage for Call of Duty Infinite Warfare out of E3. In the scene they had, the player would ride a spacecraft, fight through waves of enemies and capital ships, and eventually board one, switching from fighter ship controls to first person shooter in just a few steps.

When I was watching this, I thought it was an innovative scene and something that I haven't experienced it seemed interesting to me.

Then a few weeks after Activision had shown COD:IW, I had installed Halo Reach on my Xbox One. I had finished this game years back and already forgot about most of its campaign missions.

Then I arrive at one mission in the game which was about the same in concept as what COD:IW had shown at E3 2016. Of course, Activision's version was newer and shinier, but Bungie had already pulled off something similar years back, with hardware running on 512MB of RAM (now tiny by today's standards).

Replaying Halo Reach, I realized this game was really trying to merge the 'Modern Warfare' sensibility of games at the time, with the sci-fi fantasy setting of the Halo universe. The 'modern shooter' was becoming incredibly popular and i suppose there were some people who were more interested in playing something that reflected gunfights in the 'real' world (the world now), rather than playing something that had aliens and robots everywhere. It was a major trend at the time of Halo Reach's release that games have some realistic edge, so Halo Reach seemed to me to be a reaction to that.

Playing the campaign again, you get to appreciate all the nice little details Bungie put in this game. They would hint at some backstory about the Spartans, and how they were really for enforcing the rule of law across different planets. You get to meet some regular citizens and they don't exactly like the Spartans; they're seen as an extension of some authoritative hand that seeks to subjugate the colonies on various worlds that the humans had occupied.

You get to meet Spartans other than Master Chief. Honestly, Spartans usually just have the same character, they're just all about duty and getting the job done. You won't get much drama out of them. For me, they stay interesting even with the flat characterization. Most of the time you're shooting things instead of listening to someone lament about their personal situation. Right now I don't have a lot of time to game since I'm getting older, but this immediate and direct approach to gameplay is becoming a lot more appealing to me.

The campaign itself is below 10 hours but I found it long enough. You go to various locations and there are some scenarios which differ from the usual 'get from point A to B' because they introduce some new vehicle or some new method of engaging enemies.

The game lets you use the DMR as the replacement for the battle rifle....though this is technically in the past, so maybe the DMR was the precursor of that weapon. It's alright, but i missed the cadence of the sound of the Halo Battle Rifle in this game.

Okay I said there isn't much drama with the characters, that is true in the sense that you won't hear them crying about the invasion or how hard it is to battle aliens. The drama that IS in this game is how every Spartan dies. Even you. The planet that the game takes place on, Reach, is well known in Halo lore as the place where Master Chief was trained, and also as one of the first planets that the Covenant 'glassed' (basically they rain down plasma on everything, turning everything into 'glass' by superheating it). Watching each Spartan fall were good moments in the game, yes they were sad, but in a sense they were well implemented. You could really get a sense that they were heroes in their own way, fighting a battle that you already know would be a lost cause.

Overall, I enjoyed replaying Halo Reach. This game really has good replay value because the scenarios they put in the levels don't play out the same every time you play it. You get a lot of options in each encounter (as with most Halo games) and that makes every fight fun in its own right. I think if i play it again in a few years in the future, it will still be fun.

Monday, March 07, 2016

My Prediction for What's Coming for Xbox One This Year

There's lots of talk about the announcements Microsoft made a few weeks back. Summing these up:

1) Essentially their goal is to make every Xbox One exclusive a Windows 10 exclusive also.

2) The Xbox One will eventually be an 'upgradable' console.

My reaction to #1 - It's a damn shame that Microsoft doesn't want to sell its Xbox One console as hard as it should be. As an international user, the marketing is pretty abysmal for Xbox One, particularly here in the Philippines which is now pretty much Playstation dominated. Dropping exclusive games for Xbox One is great news for PC users, but it really doesn't encourage Xbox One gamers to keep their machines.

I mean, you already get a lot of pressure from outlets like Digital Foundry saying the Xbox One is inferior to the PS4 (even if, to be honest, the difference in performance is so small to even be worthy of discussion). This does not help sell the console at all, and is just a strange move from MS. The only reason I can think of is that they just have to push Windows 10, which is increasingly becoming difficult to sell since people are either sticking to their old OS or just buying tablets and mobile phones with their extra disposable income.

Maybe I'm being too negative about it and maybe its a 'good' thing eventually. But I don't know why Microsoft wants to treat their Xbox buyers this way. It's pretty easy for the Xbox crowd to just switch to Playstation, and this is just going to push them to switch, because why stick with Xbox if there isn't any true exclusive games?

My reaction to #2 - Some people think that Microsoft is going to let you buy some kind of special hardware that will just connect to the Xbox One you have right now, and magically your console is going to be a 4K 120FPS machine. I seriously doubt this. As a former member of the 'PC Master Race', I really doubt they're going to get the bandwidth needed to upgrade the Xbox One through USB 3 or through the Kinect port at the back.

My prediction - this is what is going to happen:

1) The whole point of the recent Microsoft announcement is to 'soften the blow', when Microsoft announces a new Xbox One revision later this year. Whether or not this new revision will come out this year is arguable, but possible.

2) I think deep down, Microsoft is sick of losing in Digital Foundry resolution wars. So they're going to go overboard and release a super Xbox One which goes way beyond PS4 graphically. It's going to be so good that --- it will be very expensive.

3) This new 'Super Xbox One' will be natively BC to the old 'Xbox One' games and 360 games (using the same method Xbox One is using currently for 360 BC).

4) They will justify releasing this 'Super Xbox One' by saying it is completely back compat to your already existing library.

5) They're going to call it 'optional' so (hopefully) other Xbox One users wont get mad for being asked to buy the console again.

6) This new 'Xbox One' will have the 'modular ports' feature that Phil Spencer was talking about at that recent conference. As it stands, the CURRENT Xbox isn't upgradable, but it's logical to think that they're going to release another Xbox this year which has this 'upgradeable' capability.

7) There's going to be a lot of confusion and anger about this one. Because some people just bought the Xbox One last year.

8) Releasing another Xbox may help them market internationally. For starters, it shouldn't have the E3 2013 baggage the current Xbox One has (notice how a lot of people STILL think the current Xbox One can't play used games? Releasing a new console forces their retailers to train all the sales staff again, so none of them will say 'always on, always connected', anymore).

I honestly don't know how to feel about Microsoft's plan. I look at companies like Sega and Nintendo, who've released weaker hardware in the past, but they didn't let that get them down...well, usually. It should be possible to keep on pushing the hardware. Or, maybe Microsoft already reached the limit on performance and they just want to match or surpass the PS4 in terms of sheer numbers. In any case, it isn't good news for Xbox one owners to be asked to buy another system.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Street Fighter 5 - REALLY disappointing, but let's try to salvage it a bit (for single-player warriors)

Tip for people who bought the horrifically disappointing Street Fighter 5.

1) Go to Training Mode
2) Pick the character you want to get good as.
3) Pick an unfamiliar opponent, like Nash or something.
4) Make sure your network settings are set to find a ranked match or casual match.
5) Now when training mode starts, pause the game. Look for the menu page where you set the gauges (the V Trigger, EX meter, life bar, etc). Set all these to NORMAL.
6) Look for the menu page where you set the Player 2 behavior. Set it to CPU, and set the AI level to 8.

For some reason, the AI of the game at level 8 is incredible. It's loads better than Ultra SF's and is a good way to see some strategies usually employed by human players. I'm no super fighting game player, but i think its good enough, at least, for an average fighter to enjoy, since there's no arcade mode at all.

1) You can get 'knocked out', then the training mode resets the match (without reloading the entire game --- which is the problem with Survival and that's what makes it unfun)
2) Meters are all set to 'normal' so you can get used to building them up at a normal fighting pace.
3) Matchmaking is left turned on so hopefully you can find a human opponent -- hopefully not everyone sold their copies yet.

This game is at a real crisis right now. If players lose patience with the way it's 'designed' they're going to drop out, and the game is not going to be as big as Street Fighter 4.