One Freelancer’s Favorite Games of 2014

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2014 had a lot of games. Lots and lots of games. All of the games. I did my best to play as many as I possibly could, and I’m actually impressed with myself: 60 total 2014 releases passed through my fingers on one console or another (not including mobile, sorry Hearthstone) in the calendar year 2014, with 40 of them being played to completed. That’s a 66% completion rate, which ain’t bad.

I’ll share the entire list in a second, but first I want to mention up front the 2014 games I didn’t get a chance to play between January 1st and December 31st of 2014. There are a few big ones unfortunately, because I just can’t play them all:

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor – I wanted to include this on the “played” list after starting it on Monday, but Monday as we all know was 2015 and I can’t do that.

Far Cry 4: I own this and have since the day it launched and have yet to place the disc in my console.

Dragon Age: Inquistion: This one too.

Assassin’s Creed Unity: This too, though I’m waiting until all of the bugs are eventually ironed out…should be good by March, right? (JOKING.)

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel: Another one I own, though I did buy this as a Black Friday deal so it hasn’t been sitting since October.

Murasaki Baby, The Banner Saga, Gods Will Be Watching, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter: A few off-beat games I really wanted to try and never got around to. Soon…soon.

Hatoful Boyfriend: I never did make time for the pigeon dating simulator.

Five Nights At Freddy’s 1 and 2: Never played them, but I know all about them thanks to Game Theory‘s two-part series and I’m content with that. I don’t think I could handle those games.

Alien Isolation: I had planned to play this for the first time as part of my Extra Life marathon, livestreaming myself playing a horror game for charity and pure entertainment value. Maybe in 2015.

Killer Instinct Season 2: This is burning my ass but I just haven’t gotten around to purchasing the Ultra Edition on Xbox Live. I really need to do that.

Grand Theft Auto V Next-Gen: I had enough to play without worrying about a game I beat in 2013, thank you very much. Same goes for Last of Us Remastered.

Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker: I may go buy this tomorrow actually, not sure what I’ve been waiting for.

 

and that’s just the list I didn’t play!!

 

As for what I actually played last year, these 60 games came from every genre imaginable, from nostalgic platformers to big-budget shooters. I’ve turned my list of 60 into a ranked list, 60 to 1, but I promise to go into detail for the top ten. Stick with me, I promise I won’t drone on about why I hated game #60 for hundreds of words. I’m sure someone on the Internet somewhere already did that for me anyway, go find that rant when you’re done. Also, I want it to be know that I genuinely enjoyed most of the games on the list (with the exception of the last few), so a low ranking doesn’t mean I hated it, I just liked it less than  others. Here we go!

 

60. Drakengard 3.

It doesn’t take much to make me cringe, but the repeated innuendos and flat-out forced humor made me put down the controller in disgust at points. I never had to will myself to finish a game like I did with this one.

 

59. Magical Beat

A weird Vita puzzle game I reviewed for PocketGamer that had a lot of style, but very little substance.

 

58. Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate

If you like pressing the same button over and over again with little variety, look no further.

 

57. Hohokum

I might catch some crap for this, but this game soared over my head like the creature I controlled. I want to give this another go, but right now I just don’t understand it.

 

56. Thief

Yikes. I had high high hopes for this one, but buying it two weeks after launch for half off should have told me everything I needed to know.

 

55. Always Sometimes Monsters

This is another one I think I have to give another chance. I went in hoping it would rock my world like To The Moon, but it just didn’t.

 

54. Oddworld: New ‘N Tasty

It’s not the worst remake in the world, but those PS1 controls are just bupkis. I didn’t hate this when I reviewed it, but I really would prefer a new Abe game.

 

53. Hyperdimension Neptunia Re:Birth1

Way way too cute Japanese waifu otaku craziness for me. I’m not opposed to such things, but I have a tolerance threshold and this game flirted with it a lot. It’s not a bad RPG, but only the anime faithful need apply.

 

52. Arcana Heart 3 Love MAX!!!

Same basic idea as above, though the fighting genre appeals to me more in general than the RPG. Again not a bad game, but very anime-heavy for those not into Japanese animation.

 

51. Volgarr The Viking

Holy crap this game is hard, but I really liked the Rastan-style throwback angle when I didn’t want to throw my controller across the room.

 

50. 1,001 Spikes

This one’s even more difficult that Volgarr, the only reason it’s a step higher is because I had more long-term success with it.

 

49. Road Not Taken

File this with the really hard games, especially with its roguelike qualities, but it did have its charms throughout.

 

48. Assassin’s Creed Liberation HD

The oft-forgotten HD remake that came to consoles last January. Despite the fresh paint job, it still played like it belonged on the PSP.

 

47. Mario Golf: World Tour

Like Mario Tennis before it, this Mario sports outing felt like it was over before it even started. There just wasn’t enough to keep me interested.

 

46. Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare

I thought this would be more than standard tower defense in a 3D world, but it’s not. I still enjoyed it a lot, but I wanted a bit more than what the package offers.

 

45. Super TIME Force

This game is manic and action-packed and awesome but none of that helps if I can’t beat the freakin’ levels. Getting shot multiple times by the same enemy with multiple characters sucks, and those who’ve played it know what I

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44. Final Fantasy X HD

It’s the same classic game with pretty new HD graphics, and I found myself falling right back in love with it after all these years. This is how I like my HD remake: on a game that’s more than a year old.

 

43. Kingdom Hearts 2.5D HD Remix

Another example of fine HD remastering, even if Kingdom Hearts 2 contains the most annoying intro sequence of all creation. Stupid Twilight Town chore bullshit.

 

42. Kirby: Triple Deluxe

Kirby is just so damn cute and his 3DS adventure makes him even cuter, but it seemed more like a primer for children starting out than a challenging platformer.

 

41. Octodad: Dadliest Catch

What a weird, charming little game. I showed this to my family and they couldn’t stop laughing. Great, now the song is stuck in my head. Octodaaaaaaaaaad….nobody suspects a thing, Octodaaaaaaaaad…

 

40. Strider

Strider is a blueprint for how to bring Metroidvania-style games back into the limelight. The world needs more of this, game developers.

 

39. NHL 15

If you had asked me last January where NHL would rank this January, I would have predicted Sports Game of the Year. Instead EA forgot to ship most of the game on the disc and patched it in later. EA, I am disappoint.

 

38. EA UFC

On the flip side we have UFC, which is such an improvement on that EA MMA game that I never will doubt EA Sports making a UFC game again. I really enjoyed it.

 

37. Fantasia: Music Evolved

A dying genre got one more jolt from Fantasia, which focuses less on playing the instruments and more on creating music from the world around me. It was hard not to get lost in it.

 

36. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of things about Ground Zeroes. In the end, however, it was too damn short! Three hours is not enough Snake time for me, I sure hope Phantom Pain makes up for it.

 

35. Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy

Our final farewell to the good professor and his apprentice was a fitting end, rife with tough puzzles and a great story that gripped right to the end…even if that end was a bit too out of left field.

 

34. Bravely Default

The hardest boss in this game was trying to find some time to devote to it, because I didn’t want to stop playing. I wish more RPGs went back to the old ways too.

 

33. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

The Donkey Kong game I didn’t know I wanted but damn if I didn’t enjoy every minute of it. Retro does Donkey Kong well and we’re all better for it.

 

32. Watch_Dogs

Open-world revolution it was not, but Aiden Pearce’s top-notch hacking ability was still a ton of fun to pull off as we ran around Chicago. I’m keeping an eye on the future with this one.

 

31. Titanfall

The game that made me realize that first-person shooters only click with me when there’s a campaign to play through. I liked Titanfall, but I missed that campaign feeling.

 

30. Ultra Street Fighter IV

It’s the same damn Street Fighter IV just with new balances and all of the extra content from Street Fighter X Tekken thrown in. This is in no way a bad thing.

 

29. D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die

I need to see more of this twisted tale before I come to a full conclusion, but these first episodes were a sordid smash. That Swery’s got quite the creative mind.

 

28. Madden NFL 15

The gridiron goodness was plentiful in Madden 15, but there are still more strides to be made before it’s a perennial championship contender.

 

27. Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney Trilogy

If you’ve never played these games and you own a 3DS, the instant you finish reading this blog you download and play. Classics, all three of them.

 

26. WWE 2K15

The first foray into the next generation ring was a good start for WWE 2K, but technical issues and missing fan favorite modes put a damper on things.

 

25. Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair

Danganronpa is the biggest surprise of the year in my eyes, but the sequel doesn’t quite live up to the first game. It’s still great, don’t get me wrong, just not as good.

 

24. Valiant Hearts: The Great War

Not much to be desired on the gameplay front, but one of the best video game stories of the year more than makes up for it.

 

23. Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-

Odd name, strong return for a cult classic fighting franchise. The graphics engine here is one of a kind, and I don’t normally get excited about visuals over gameplay or story.

 

22. NBA 2K15

I haven’t been hooked into a NBA video game like this since NBA Live on the Sega Genesis. This is a basketball fan’s dream.

 

21. Assassin’s Creed Rogue

The Assassin’s Creed game no one cared about turned out to be one of the more interesting entries in recent memory. Also, I think Shay is the best Assassin since Ezio.

 

20. Tomodachi Life

This silly little game garnered a little bit of my attention every day for two solid months. If that’s not a feat in this age of digital ADD I don’t know what is.

 

19. Child of Light

One of the most underrated games of the year, this is fantastic storytelling and classic RPG gameplay in one glorious package. This child of light will lead you to a great time.

 

18. Persona 4 Arena Ultimax

I can’t explain how Atlus turned this storied RPG into a fantastic fighter, but they did it and we should all be grateful for it. Hours of content will keep you around for a while.

 

17. Pokemon Omega Ruby

Great to see Ruby make a return, but just as I wasn’t interested back then (R/B/S are the only Poke generation I skipped entirely) Omega Ruby didn’t grip me all the way. I expected this to be higher.

 

16. Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney

A perfect hybrid of both Layton and Ace Attorney’s signature style with an interesting story to boot. This is a must play for fans on either side of the fence, and a total no-brainer for fans of both.

 

15. Infamous Second Son

A criminally forgotten gem from the beginning of 2014, the newest Infamous is the best in the whole series to date. Delsin makes a great hero and Seattle a great playground.

 

14. South Park: The Stick of Truth

I haven’t laughed at a video game like I did with Stick of Truth. It’s my new favorite episode of South Park, even if it’s eight hours long instead of a half-hour.

 

13. Hyrule Warriors

The joining of Zelda and Dynasty Warriors could have been a colossal flop, instead it’s the most interesting Zelda game in a long time. If this isn’t proof that shaking up a formula can be a good thing, then I don’t know what Nintendo is thinking.

 

12. Halo: The Master Chief Collection

I would have liked this a whole lot more if I were able to play it online with my buddies. When it works, it’s wonderfulWhen it doesn’t, it’s awfully frustrating.

 

11. Super Smash Bros for 3DS

Portable Smash Bros is awesome, but including exclusive stages and other features makes playing this just as essential for Smash Bros fans as its Wii U counterpart.

 

The top ten approaches! Now with more pictures!

 

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10. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Lots of explosions are the norm, but the excellent story and Kevin Spacey made this a really good year for the annual juggernaut. Hopefully 2015 continues the trend.

 

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9. The Walking Dead: Season 2

Telltale is the master of torturing yet beautiful story-telling, and The Walking Dead: Season 2 is a crowning achievement. There are five different endings, but to me there’s only one true ending. You’ll have to figure that one out for yourself.

 

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8. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

One of the weirdest and most surreal games I’ve ever played, yet one of the most addicting at the same time. Kids trapped in a school forced to kill each other for a chance to escape…it’s an amazing tale wrapped around a horrible nightmare. More Danganronpa would be lovely, Spike Chunsoft, and soon.

 

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7. Wolfenstein: The New Order

Wolfenstein plays like the original version way back on my first PC, but the story it tells is much more modern and grown up. The hero BJ Blazkowicz might also be my favorite character of the entire year, as he’s more human than any other person I’d run into in my gaming last year.

 

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6. The Wolf Among Us

Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf? In my story everyone, but you can play it however you wish. Where The Walking Dead makes us sad, The Wolf Among Us makes us hunger for clues and answers in every scene and at every turn. Bigby Wolf and company make for one hell of a series.

 

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5. Mario Kart 8

Luigi Death Stare aside, MK8 is the best Mario Kart game I’ve played since the N64. It handles like a dream even with the Wii U GamePad, the tracks are beautiful and brimming with color, and the action is even more insane than ever before. Love live Mario Kart.

 

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4. Destiny

I don’t like MMOs, and I rarely get into online shooters, but Destiny hooked me for a long time and kept me coming back when I should have been playing other games…until my PS4 farted out and I had to get it repaired. I haven’t had a chance to jump back in since I got it back, but when I do…look out, Guardians.

 

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3. Bayonetta 2

Did I think Bayonetta 2 would be in my top 3 for 2014? No freakin’ way. Did I expect this much from a game where its predecessor was little more than a button masher in my opinion? Nope. Yet here we are, with the sultry Umbra Witch taking the bronze. I’m more than shocked, but the game deserves every bit of praise it gets. I’d even say that it’s a great reason to purchase a Wii U all on its own.

 

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2. Super Smash Bros for Wii U

A lot of my friends are shocked. Surely a game I rated a perfect 10 would be my favorite game of the entire year, yet it was beaten out. Which game took the top prize remains to be seen, but for now know this: if you’ve ever liked Nintendo or any game Nintendo has made, you owe it to yourself to play Smash Bros Wii U and see if you like it. It’s a Nintendo museum in disc form, packed with history and references and lore and everything else a Nintendo fan treasures. Look no further than this game (and Bayonetta and Mario Kart, I suppose) when starting a Wii U library.

 

…and coming in at number one….drum roll please………

here it comes…

 

 

 

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1. Shovel Knight

Shovel Knight. A game that started on Kickstarter, was successfully funded, and made its way to my 3DS has stolen my heart and become my favorite game of the past year. How? It’s pure nostalgia mixed with a modern feel that’s hard to explain but an absolute joy to play. It’s Mega Man and Ducktales and more of my NES favorites rolled into one but made with love in 2014 and playing it brought back some fond memories of simpler times when all I cared about was beating Bowser and saving the Princess no matter what castle she was in. The little kid in me came out when playing Shovel Knight, and only a few special games can boast that. Thank you Shovel Knight for the awesome trip down memory lane, and congratulations on being my personal Game of the Year for 2014!

 

Here’s to you, 2014. Now let’s see what 2015 has in store for us.

 

Jekyll and Hyde

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It’s December 31st, and in 11 short hours (from when I started writing this) the calendar will start saying “2015.” A lot of folks are taking to Facebook and Twitter to reminisce about the year that was and what is to come, and I would too…but what I have to say wouldn’t fit in a Facebook status. It’d be more like a blog post…so here we are.

2014 was a Jekyll and Hyde kind of year for me. There were some great things I got to do and see and be a part of, and there were some moments of pure dog shit…well, just one I guess, but it still has a lot of lasting implications. Indulge me as I rattle off some bullet points in taking a look back and you’ll see what I mean.

– I went to Aruba with my wife in January courtesy of Pat Sajak and company, and any tropical vacation I plan from here on out will be a return trip. That place is amazing.

– I gave up social media for Lent (which doesn’t sound like a big deal) and in turn updated this blog more than I ever had before. I feel like I should try that approach for all of 2015…or at least limit myself.

– I visited my cousin in Chicago in one of the best weekends of the year. That city is so damn cool and I hope I get to go back for family or professional reasons (I’m looking at you, NetherRealm).

– I watched the end of an era for one of my childhood icons, and my post on the subject still fits right now. With recent events I wish he had won and his streak be potentially broken by a certain white face-painted individual, but alas I can’t change the past.

– I performed as a major lead in a stage show for the first time in nine years, and boy oh boy was it a blast. Getting into that theater troupe was an amazing choice, and I’m looking forward to hitting the stage again very soon.

– May 28th. That date turned my year completely upside down. Getting laid off from the job that paid the bills was awful, and I’m still feeling the ripples even now. I tried the full-time freelance thing for a while and I’m still not in a spot where that alone can sustain us, so I recently went back to the working world in November. However, 2015 is the year that I stop with the bullshit and get the full-time writing gig I’ve been longing for. No more excuses, no more games. It’s time to move on.

– Two weeks later I was reminded why I want to write full time in the gaming industry, as I had the most successful E3 of the four I’ve attended. I took a bunch of selfies, had multiple outlets paying for my words and came out doubling what it cost me to get there. This year I intend on the same if not more successful outcome, and I already can’t wait. (Is that weird that I look forward to E3 starting January 1?)

– Just before the show I joined up with Luke Brown and his site ArcadeSushi.com, and being a part of it was a major part in me having my most successful year as a games writer period. I landed just about every review copy I requested, writing more reviews than ever before, and for five months I was contributing news stories every single day (which I plan to return to, I promise). I am indebted to Luke for bringing me on, and I hope I can continue to be a part of his site for as long as he wants me around.

– I also saw one of my reviews published in a gaming magazine for the first time ever, as I wrote a review for Play Magazine in the United Kingdom. Getting that magazine in the mail and seeing it for myself was surreal.

– I visited a game studio for the first time ever with Walmart GameCenter, flying down to Orlando to visit EA Tiburon in July and jetting to San Francisco in September for a date with 2K Sports. Both were very interesting experiences that really showed me how things work in game development, and I hope I get a chance to go back there soon.

– I started on The Epic Quest To Get Dad To Like Craft Beer by taking him to his first beer fest in August. He loved it, and has since tasted every weird beer I’ve brought to his house since. He’ll be a connoisseur yet.

– I briefly became semi-Internet famous all because of a shirt. Every time I see that pic pop up on a new site I laugh a little.

– I’m sure there’s stuff I forgot, so this dash is holding a place for something I’ll be reminded of as soon as I post this.

 

I want to hate 2014 for being the year that I lost my job, but reading that list I just can’t, too much cool stuff happened. This was the best year of my life as far as my dream career is concerned, and I have to build on that and continue to rise in the future. All of that good stuff came my way in 2014 and I never even mentioned the weddings I attended, the holidays with family and friends, and the countless laughs, smiles, hugs, and kisses I shared in these last 365 days. 2014 wasn’t the best, and an argument can be made that it was the worst of my soon-to-be 28 years in existence, but everything that happened will just make me a better writer, friend, husband, and man.

So what of 2015? I’ve written a brief bucket list of things I want to achieve (which I’ll share as I achieve them) and the first Really Cool Thing of 2015 is coming up fast as I attend the 2015 Royal Rumble with 14 friends in late January. I just have to get out there and make things happen, and that is what I plan to do.

If you’ve read this to the end, thanks for doing so, and thanks for supporting my dopeyness throughout the year. I write because I love sharing information and telling stories, and I hope you enjoy reading my rants and ravings. Have the happiest of new years everyone, and I’ll catch you all in 2015.

 

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E3 2014…Through Selfies

As this is the last day of June, this is the last E3 2014 related blog post, I promise.

I wanted to do something different for this year’s show, but I was having trouble thinking of an idea. One night a group of us were sitting around a bonfire when my wife started taking the selfies she loved so much, and I had an idea:

E3 2014, As Seen Through Selfies!

I have about 30-35 selfies here, in chronological order, from the four-day marathon that is E3. I tried to be funny with them most of the time, so I hope at least one of them makes you smile. Enjoy!

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Waiting for my plane at the appropriate gate at Philadelphia International.

 

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Sitting on the Virgin America plane. E3 awaits!

 

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Can’t help but feel like I’m being watched…

 

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THE PASS. Without this, there’d be no E3.

 

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Where the greatest play? Aw, thanks Sony, you’re too kind.

 

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The panoramic selfie of the front of the building. Really happy with how this turned out.

 

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BATMAN. He’s coming to get me!

 

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This was on the bus to the Xbox conference, the first of the day on Monday. Orange shirt go!

 

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In the seat and ready to go. Just off of stage left!

 

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This was my “I have to wait in the wait list line and I don’t know if I’m going to get in” face for Ubisoft. I did end up getting in, thankfully.

 

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After getting into Ubisoft, I was PUMPED for Sony.

 

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The Sony arena wasn’t very selfie-friendly…so there’s my shirt and the stage.

 

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One of the best places you can be before hitting the floor. The spaces are few and precious.

 

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Technically not a selfie, but this was the lineup before playing Battlefield.

 

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Man, what is he so angry about?

 

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Don’t look at me like that, Sims grandma lady.

 

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All I said was I was handsome too. What a hothead.

 

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Lego Robin! I didn’t even have to crouch, dude was tall.

 

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First Disney Infinity Venom tried to attack me…

 

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..then Nova decided to fly onto my head…

 

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…then Iron Fist punched me in the head…

 

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…FINALLY Thor came to help me out…though I didn’t trust him with that hammer.

 

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What do you look so smug about? And what’s Sully pointing at?

 

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At first I was wary about the undead hanging out at an E3 party…

 

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…but it turns out there were really cool and not bitey.

 

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Well, that one was bitey…

 

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OCULUS. Oh man this thing is cool, and until you wear it you’ll never truly understand.

 

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He didn’t suspect a thing…

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…but then he wanted to join the fun.

 

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This is my “E3 is over and I’m leaving the convention center for the last time” face.

 

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Until next year, LA Convention Center.

 

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Finally, the flight home with my best Dom Deluise look.

 

With this, my E3 coverage is officially over I think. Time to move to the next big thing…whatever that’s going to be.

 

 

 

 

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E3 Day Three: Even More Reactions And Other Type Things

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Until next year, E3.

The last day seemed to have the most breaks, but it actually turned out to be the busiest day of the week. I got hands-on with a TON of games, and sat in a few more demos of some pretty big games. I also ended up missing some big time games, and I’m kicking myself for it. Here we go!

-10AM saw me in Telltale’s booth for some Tales of the Borderlands action. It’s amazing how that game is so Telltale, but at the same time SO Borderlands. The humor is there, the action is there, and the new additions to the Telltale formula make it even more Borderlands. At one point Rhys (one of the two characters you control) needs to summon a Loader Bot, but we get to decide what kind of bot it is. The game will also follow two sides of the same story, and we’ll have to wade through the bullshit for the truth. It’s a really neat concept, and it shot up my list big time. Also, there was a little pinball machine for Walking Dead Pinball, and any Pinball FX 2 fans will LOVE that table.

-Next I traveled over to Atlus to try out Persona 4 Arena Ultimax. It feels exactly the same as the other games, and while I’m sure there are changes, it’s been so long since I played the other game that I didn’t really notice. I’m still gonna try it out when it launches, but right now it seemed like more P4A.

-That appointment was an hour long and I was only there for 15 minutes, so I seized the opportunity and tried something I had hoped I’d get to see: the Oculus Rift. For those unaware, the Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset that is currently in development (it was recently bought by Facebook for $2 billion). I played a spaceship shooter called EVE Valkyrie, and the minute I strapped that thing onto my head I saw the power of this device. I was instantly in the cockpit of a fighter jet in space, waiting to go into battle. I could look around the cockpit and see every little detail, even those at my sides. I looked down at MY BODY WAS THE PILOT’S BODY. Playing the game is even cooler, as I was doing barrel rolls (tee hee) and soaring around space as if I was sitting right there. It’s the coolest damn thing in the world, I can’t praise it enough,

-How do I follow that up? Well I still had a little more time, so I thought some 1886 was in Order. I got hands-on with the third chapter of the game, fighting rebels in the streets. The game is incredibly dependent on staying in cover; you will be punished for staying out in the open. The Thermite rifle I was using is an interesting concept: R2 fires ash-like thermite into the field, and R1 then fires a tiny flare that ignites the cloud, incinerating any poor enemy bastard in its path. Most of all, I can’t describe how incredible that game’s graphics are. Everything is seamlessly running in real time, and the character models are so damn realistic. The uncanny valley awaits.

-I finally bridged the gap to my next appointment, where I was back at Activision for two interviews, one for Call of Duty and one for Destiny. Yes, I interviewed with DESTINY. Look for those once I transcribe them, which will be very soon.

-I had a lull in my schedule planned after my interviews, but one of my appointments wanted to move up to 1PM, so I was headed back to Sony’s booth to see how PlanetSide 2 for PS4 is shaping up. The console crowd is getting one hell of no shooter from the PC world. The game is slick and fun with a lot of variety in its classes and loadouts. Best of all it’s free to play, so there will be no cost when it launches later this year. It’s definitely worth a shot.

-After those I rushed to the private meeting room area to get a hands-off demo of The Witcher 3. Good Lord that game is crazy. The demo started in a city, then they fast traveled to a swamp. At one point Geralt stands on a cliff and the guy running the demo says “See that mountain in the far distance? You can go there, but it’s really far away. That city we were in before? It’s FOURTEEN TIMES the distance from here that the mountain is, and none of these landmarks are even close to the borders of the map.” That game is going to be gigantic. Combat and everything else looked smooth, and the dialogue is sharply written, but that map size really stuck out.

-After that I headed to my Nintendo appointment, where I got hands-on with five games. I started with Yoshi’s Woolly World, which is so damn cute it’s intoxicating. The wool graphics are beautiful, the platforming is more original Yoshi’s Island than any current games (without the baby, mind you) and the co-op is really fun.

Next I tried Hyrule Warriors, which is BATSHIT INSANE. It’s amazing how well Zelda fits into the Dynasty Warriors format, with tons of enemies and giant over-the-top attacks. I was really surprised at how awesome playing it was.

Next was a game I’d be waiting to play for an entire year, and you better believe I got my Smash fill. I tried every new character, I fought in every available stage, I fought against other humans, I fought against level 9 CPU, I fought against level 3 CPU, I did EVERYTHING. I wasn’t quite as thorough with the 3DS version, but I got my hands on that for a few matches too. Let me be blunt, because I could talk about it all day: I had really high hopes for this new Smash, and playing it soared above even those lofty dreams. It’s really damn good.

Finally I got my hands on Splatoon, the new multiplayer shooter, and if you think it’s not a viable shooter than you are sadly mistaken. I couldn’t believe how fun it is. Focusing on filling the arena with paint instead of shooting other players is really refreshing, and turning into a squid for added mobility is weird but fun. Granted you can still shoot other players, but it’s more to get them out of the way than anything else.

-Once Nintendo was over, I was off to my last appointment of E3 2014 with 505 Games and Terraria for PS4. I haven’t really played Terraria before, so this was my first experience with it, but that game is HUGE. It’s essentially 2D Minecraft in its core approach, but I feel like this world has so much more to offer in the way of customization. Also, every world a player creates will be different from other players’ worlds, so no two games are the same. I really enjoyed the little demo, and I might give it a shot when it hits the new consoles.

-With that out of the way, I had an hour of a half to squeeze in everything I missed. I started by running to EA and FINALLY seeing the Sims 4 demo. There’s a lot of awesome stuff to talk about there, with the expanded systems and insane customization detail, but you’ll have to wait until I write it up. After that I ran back to Xbox to get some hands-on with Sunset Overdrive, and I am so glad I did. We played a mode where waves of enemies are trying to destroy generators that we have to defend, and man was it fun. I got to use weapons like High Fidelity which shoots vinyl records, a standard assault rifle called the AK-FU, and a shotgun that shoots fire blasts whose name eludes me at the moment. The action was hectic and the enemies were numerous, and every second was pretty sweet.

-Finally, I had a half hour left, nothing else in West Hall I wanted to see, and not enough time to head back to South Hall, so I went back to the Nintendo press area and played Smash until the clock hit zero. I started with Smash, I ended with Smash, and that’s totally appropriate, right?

This was an amazing E3, maybe the best one I’ve ever been to. I saw a ton a great games and I missed even more great games (the fact that I missed out on Batman and Assassin’s Creed Unity burns my ass). At the end of the day, the future looks insanely bright for the industry I love so much.

I’ll write an official wrap-up later on with my personal favorite games and other cool moments, but for now I hope yon enjoyed the three roundups, and feel free to comment or Tweet me with any questions you have. Thanks for reading!

E3 Day Two: More Reactions and Other Type Things

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They’ll let anyone into E3 parties…

So Day Two is done and I am packed to the gills with new info flying through my head. Most of yesterday was spent in South Hall, with the exception of one interview I did right in the beginning of the day. Here’s what I saw:

-The day began with Guilty a Gear Xrd, as I interviewed series creator Daisuke Ishiwatari and animator/character modeler Junya Motomura. A full preview will be up on GamesRadar soon, but here’s a brief tease: one of the two new characters I saw is the most insane and original fighting game character I’ve ever seen.

-I then ran to Square Enix’s booth, where I played a bit of Theatrhythm Final Fantasy Curtain Call and Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD. Theatrhythm is just as fun as before, especially when playing the Advent Children version of “One Winged Angel” (aka THE BEST VERSION). They also had “Aboard the Hilda Garde” from Final Fantasy IX in the demo, which gave me many nostalgia feels. Kingdom Hearts was Kingdom Hearts, but that’s not a bad thing, I played the boss fight from Beast’s Castle with the chandelier you can jump on, and everything moved and looked beautifully.

-Next I snuck into the Dragon Age Inquisition presentation at EA, and I think I’ve turned a corner. I was apathetic about the game, having not really enjoyed the first two, but this one could be the one I can get into. A lot of interesting things going on, like the War Table where you decide what you actually want to do, and I saw a fight with a dragon that was just awesome. I was impressed.

-Next was my appointment with Konami for hands-on with Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 and Metal Gear Solid V. I can’t talk about PES here, as the info is embargoed until later this month, but DAT METAL GEAR. We saw the mission in Afghanistan from the E3 trailer last year, with the full cutscenes beforehand. The game looks AMAZING, every little detail is impressive. Watching Snake using the Fulton Recovery System to transport things to Mother Base is cool, but it also can be funny when he sends things like sheep flying into the air. The entire demo was damn good, and I can’t wait to play it.

-Next I went to Disney Interactive for some Disney Infinity and Fantasia. The new Marvel super heroes are a smart and fun addition; zooming around a city as Nova is really cool and smashing stuff as Hulk is just awesome. I also got to dabble with Toy Box, where I built Agrabah in the middle of New York City then saved a mini Elsa from palace guards with Iron Man. Infinity is fun, but Fantasia is the biggest surprise of the show for me. That game is SO MUCH FUN. It’s not just dancing around like Dance Central; you’re manipulating the song withi your movements, making it sound completely different. Before the song starts you choose parts of three different remixes of that song to meld into one. At some points you can actually add your own section, adjusting beats and pitch with your movement. Oh, and it’s not just popular music; I played “Night on Bald Mountain” by Mussorgsky, aka that song from Fantasia where the devil Chernabog rises from the mountain. SO COOL.

-Next was my marathon two and a half hour Activision appointment, where I saw some Call of Duty and played some Destiny. I really like the new direction of CoD; I really think it could be the next Modern Warfare for the franchise. Destiny reminds me a lot of Halo, and that’s not a bad thing at all. I played the co-op Strike mode as a Warlock, and while I didn’t think I would I really like that class a lot. He had AoE grenades that do constant damage to anyone in the field and a sick double jump that freezes the initial jump’s trajectory; two quick presses of the jump button sends him flying. Good stuff.

-Finally I sat in on a presentation of one of my most anticipated games at the show: MORTAL KOMBAT. Gore galore, and I want more. Four new characters were shown, though only two were played; D’Vorah is the wasp-like woman from the Sony conference, Ferra/Tor is the Master Blaster looking dude with the little girl on his shoulder, Kotal Kahn is an Aztec warrior we didn’t get a lot of info on, and Cassie Cage is THE DAUGHTER OF JOHNNY CAGE AND SONYA BLADE WHAT. We didn’t get to see Cassie or Kotal Kahn, but the other two are interesting fighters. More on that soon.

Today is the final day, and I see TellTale, Atlus, and a big ol’ booth tour with Nintendo. Keep an eye out for day three impressions tonight!

E3 Day One: Reactions and Other Type Things

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Pretty sweet statue from Capcom, right?

So today was day one on the show floor, and things were understandable nutty. Tons of folks trying to play tons of games and it was all awesome. Here are some of my highlights:

-Went right to Smash Bros at noon to see if I could find a open controller before my 12:30 appointment. I did, and it played two matches with Little Mac. Lost the first one, won the second in sudden death. Mac is friggin’ awesome, but that’s for another day

-I then ran to the Xbox booth for some hands-on with the new Dead Rising Super Long Name DLC. The guy describing the game appreciated that I knew who Shoma from Rival Schools was, then proceeded to tell me that the Felicia from Darkstalkers costume we saw in the trailer isn’t Katey’s…it’s Nick’s. Ick. That DLC is awesome though, and I’m getting it as soon as I get home.

-My 12:30 appointment was a 20-minute hands off demo with Bloodborne, freshly announced from the Sony conference. Really interesting stuff, which I’ll get more into soon.

-At 1PM I was off to EA, where I played NHL 15 and Battlefield Hardline. Battlefield is the same as you have been playing in the beta, but NHL…good Lord. The look, feel, additions…oh man it’s good stuff. Going to try to go back to EA tomorrow and Thursday for Sims 4, Dragon Age, and FIFA.

-My next appointment was Deep Silver at 3PM. I saw two hands-off demos, one for Dead Island 2 and one for Homefront: The Revolution. Dead Island 2 looks pretty interesting with a lot of new improvements. With Yager Entertainment of Spec Ops: The Line fame at the helm, I’m feeling pretty good. Homefront was equally interesting in setting (seeing Philly in that state is weird), but gameplay seemed ordinary. It’s still way early, so I’m confident.

-Finally I went to 2K, where I sat in on a 15-minute demo of Civilization: Beyond Earth and got some hands-on as Kraken in Evolve. Beyond Earth is Civ 5 in space, as it should be; those looking for Alpha Centuari 2 aren’t going to be happy. The dev speaking about the game even said to me “we haven’t even mentioned Alpha Centauri, everyone else has.” Interesting.
Evolve is SICK. Playing as that monster and watching him grow into bigger, badder forms is really cool. I played a mode called Hunt, where the four hunter were tasked with killing me while I had to evolve by feeding on native wildlife, so that I could be strong enough to kill the Hunters. It took a while, but those bastards didn’t know what hit them haha.

-Finally I attended the Smash Bros round table with Masahiro Sakurai. Being in the room for the initial Pac-Man reveal was quite awesome, as the reaction to it was fantastic. I recorded it, so if you see me I can let you hear it. A lot of interesting information came from it too, some of which is really deep, but I’ll be more familiar when I transcribe the interview later on.

So that was Day 1, a lot of craziness but a lot of fun. Day 2 has me going to visit Activision, Konami, and Disney Interactive (and more!) so keep an eye out for more updates and selfies!

To the floor!

The Big Show

E3 Gaming Conference Begins In Los Angeles

In a few days, it all begins again.

For those reading this that never have idea what I’m talking about when I post something (looking at you, Ed), The Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, is the biggest video game industry conference of the entire year. Last year, 48,200 people filled the Los Angeles Convention Center for the event, flying from 102 countries around the world. That’s insane!

Last year, I wasn’t one of those people. This year, that changes.

I’ll be attending this year’s E3 as a freelancer for the very first time, and I’m diving in headfirst. I’m working with FIVE different outlets spanning two countries to bring you fine folks the best damn E3 coverage you’ll ever see. I’ll be playing games, seeing demos, and sitting in on three of the four big media briefings on Monday (still waiting on you, Ubisoft). Needless to say, I’ll be knee-deep in E3 this time next week.

I want to ask you five people that are reading this what you’d like to see at the show, and I’ll try my best to make it happen. I have some appointments booked (can’t say who until they happen), so I may already be covering a game that you want, but I still want to hear what you’re looking forward to. Also, tell me which of the five presentation (Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft, Sony, Nintendo’s Digital Event) you’re most looking forward to. I feel like I know who’s going to be win the informal poll, but I’m still curious.

Finally, look for the hashtag #E3Selfie on Twitter starting Sunday…it should be a lot of fun…

Sunday can’t come soon enough!

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Gold for Silver

Oklahoma City Thunder v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Four

Three months.

Three months is how long that man, Adam Silver, has been in office as the commissioner of the National Basketball Association. Three months is all it took for a major controversy to cross the man’s desk…and three months is all it took for Adam Silver to show us he’s the right man for the job.

Lifetime ban. Maximum fine of $2.5 million. Full support of a forced sale. See ya, Donnie.

I am in awe of how well Silver handled that presser. The room was stuffed to capacity with ravenous journalists, flashing lights, and TV camera lenses, all centered on him. No one knew what was coming, no one knew what to expect, but when Silver started talking, we immediately knew he was going to nail it. Every question was answered swiftly and concisely. From the softballs to the “racist slumlord” bullet from Inside Edition, nothing fazed this guy today. I should hope that I can handle a high-pressure situation as well as I watched Silver do today. He showed tremendous resolve, and the entire league is throwing their support behind him already.

I’ve heard all of the criticism about how this is too late, how Sterling has always been a racist turd, and how he still wins out if he has to sell, but there’s nothing we can do about that. The NBA is doling the maximum punishment that they can, right now, and not resting on its laurels. Not much more you can ask.

Also, as expected, I’m starting to see the “what about the first amendment” dissenters/yahoos/closet racists/not-so-closet racists. Here’s that amendment you so like to cite:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

So there it is, Article One of the Bill of Rights. There’s a key point that everyone seems to forget: CONGRESS shall make no law. CONGRESS. The GOVERNMENT is not allowed to make a law violating those things; it says NOTHING about private institutions. The NBA is a PRIVATE BUSINESS INSTITUTION, with its OWN constitution, its OWN bylaws, and its OWN code of conduct. Sterling violated the rules of the league, and he is being punished for it. He’s not being arrested, he’s not being executed, he’s being punished by the company he associated with. I can’t go into my office and start calling people horrible names without some sort of punishment, but if I wanted to run outside and scream “Barack Obama is a big stupid doo-doo head” at the top of my lungs, I can totally do that without repercussion (outside of a few annoyed neighbors).

Here’s a comic that says it better than I can:

comic

Good for you, Adam Silver.

 

 

Back To Normal

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Happy Easter everyone!

I hope the last six weeks have treated you all well. I picked one hell of a Lent to abstain from the social media world, as all kinds of stuff happened both in my own little world and in the actual world. It was weird not immediately jumping on Twitter to talk about a missing plane or a tipped ferry or DeSean Jackson, to name a few examples, but I’m amazed at how refreshing it was to disconnect for a bit.

I started actually writing on this blog. I did a ton of work for GamesRadar (portfolio update coming soon). I went to dinners out with my wife and left my phone in my pocket. Little things, sure, but it made me feel like I was living my own life again, not trying to live the lives of those I read on social media.

I’ve rejoined the masses quickly (a Flyers playoff game always helps) but I wonder if I’m going to revert back to the “check multiple times a day” way I used to be. After six weeks (with a few exceptions) of not focusing on it, I’m interested to see what I do now.

Anyhow, IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: The 2014 St Francis Players show, Once Upon A Mattress, opens THIS FRIDAY. Tickets can be purchased at the St Francis website right here. Come and see a great show; I promise you’ll love it!

See you on Twitter!

High Heel Jet Boots

WiiU_SuperSmashBros_SamusZeroSuit_Screen_05

So for those that don’t know my preferences, I am a Super Smash Brothers fanatic. The idea that my favorite Nintendo characters can come together in one game and beat the ever-living piss out of each other is divine, and every time a new one is coming out I follow every aspect of it. This past Tuesday, my sister and I ordered Papa John’s Pizza and watched the newest Nintendo Direct episode centered all about the next Super Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS. Here, you can watch it for yourself if you want:

Yes, it’s 39 minutes long, but it contains every bit of information you could possibly want to know, including two brand new, never before revealed characters at the very end. Smash Bros is a big thing with my sister and I; we’ve been playing it together since the original, and I have it on good authority (my own eyes) that she used to sit in her room for hours playing Melee as Zelda/Sheik. She got damn good at it too. As we watched it, we saw the reveals of the returning characters like Zero Suit Samus and Sheik and were excited about the fact that they would be their own characters now. We oohed and ahhed at everything Sakurai presented and laughed at his attempts to recreate the Iwata “directly” hand gesture.

Amidst all of our reactions, I’ll tell you what we didn’t do: we didn’t put a second thought into what each character was wearing.

Afterward, I go online to find that a sect of people are upset that Zero Suit Samus’s new jet boots are high heels. They’re angry that gender stereotypes are being continued because a girl has been given high heels. They don’t like the idea of Zero Suit Samus, a characters whose entire gaming life has been about being a girl in a “man’s world,” is given this minute accessory.

The entire debate has me wondering if I’m even qualified to be a “gamer” anymore. Not because I question my enjoyment of video games and love for the industry, but because I didn’t give a single shit, damn, or f— about the fact that Zero Suit Samus is now wearing the equivalent of high heels. When her portion of the Direct came on, I was more focused on how she played and what she could do than her costume. I hope that doesn’t put me at the minority, but I think it might.

Now I know gender issues are high on the list of industry problems right now, with the very successful hashtag #1ReasonWhy still carrying strong. I fully support every person who wants to get into gaming, be they white, black, man, woman, whatever, but I feel like this jet boot issue is completely overblown. Is your entire opinion of the character really going to be affected because she’s now wearing high-heel jet boots? Will you not buy the game because one character is wearing one piece of digital clothing? It makes zero sense to me that folks would be offended by the type of boots she’s wearing; it’s really not important in the least. Furthermore, if you want gender equality, look no further than the Wii Fit Trainer: both the male and female trainers will be included, and both of them have the same attributes, strengths, weaknesses, and moves. The two are exactly the same in every way, making for literal gender equality in the game that NO ONE is talking about. I find it odd that detractors would turn Samus away, but ignore the Wii Fit Trainer.

Bottom line: think whatever you wish, but I feel like a few aspects of this argument are a tad overblown. In the grand scheme of things, this is not something to get up in arms about. Your heart is in the right place for thinking there’s a major argument to be made, but this isn’t the topic to use as a strong point.

That’s just my two cents.

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