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Halo 5: Guardians Review

Halo 5 ReviewHalo 5: Guardians (Available exclusively on Xbox One)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1 to 24
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: 343 Industries
Release Date: October 27th, 2015

Parent Talk: Halo 5: Guardians has been rated T for teenagers 13 and up. The only disclaimer mentioned is for blood, mild language, and violence. The Halo franchise isn’t overly realistic, and while violent, there aren’t ample amount of blood. Typically you’re fighting aliens, robotic enemies, and creatures that sort of fit in-between those descriptions.

Plays Like: It seems obvious to say the game plays like the rest of the Halo games before, but I should really say that it plays very closely to Halo 4, which was a more modern take on the series. The same evolution made to the gunplay and mechanics returns here. You have access to a wide assortment of weapons, vehicles, and some fun extra abilities such as a running dash.

Review Basis: Microsoft sent us a review code, and I played through the entire campaign on Normal difficulty, as well as tried out the various multiplayer modes and maps on scheduled multiplayer days. I’ll edit the review once the game is live so that I can experience the multiplayer under normal conditions.

It has been almost three years since Halo 4 hit the scene, and a lot has changed since that time. First-person shooters have continued to gain popularly, and the Halo franchise is larger than ever. 343 industries proved they were willing to take risks with the series after Bungie left with Halo Reach, although they did stumble a big with the Master Chief Collection. Is Halo 5: Guardians their way of making up for the lackluster collection, or is this another game that just don’t quite hit the mark?

Halo 5_1The Great:

Multiplayer has reached new heights of awesome. From the incredible four-player coop campaign, which I touch on a bit later on, to the extensive competitive multiplayer modes, Halo 5 has got what it takes to stay in your Xbox One until Halo 6 is released, and no I’m truly not joking. From the absolutely fantastic 24-player Warzone mode, to all the customization options make this one a keeper. Warzone offers the largest maps ever seen in a Halo game. Matches often last upwards of 30 minutes, and you score points not only from achieving your primary objective, but also from capturing key locations, taking down difficult NPCs, and much more.

As you play you earn REQ points, which can be used to purchase powerful weapons and items. You have to be very careful how you spend these points though, do you save them for a Scorpion tank, or does your team improve their initial loadout with more powerful weapons? I love how strategy is built into everything now. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s a dominate strategy as players get used to this mechanic.

Customization options are intense, allowing you to select from 15 multiplayer maps, 8 gameplay modes including Slayer, Capture-the-Flag, Stronghold, Breakout, SWAT, Free-for-All Slayer, Shotty Snipers, and Neutral Flag. Then there are all the options for loadouts, etc.

Halo 5_2The Good:

  • The storyline is interesting, and the new villain is far deeper than all other enemies previously introduced in the Halo universe. The story is far less black and white, and by the end you may find yourself actually siding with the protagonist saying their motives are actually quite sound.
  • The banter between Locke and his squad is quite interesting. Because Cortana is no longer a central character, it’s refreshing to hear new voices, and get some backstory to some of these new characters. Sadly Master Chief’s squad is far less developed, and I never found myself caring about any of his teammates. It’s true that Blue Team’s backstory is part of the expanded universe, so there is a way to catch up on this group for those interested. I still think a few missions should have been dedicated to this group just so I would have felt their comradery more.
  • Four-player co-op multiplayer is a blast. It’s online-only this time around, which I’ll get to later on in this review. The missions don’t feature the largest maps ever seen in the series, but they do feel much more open and less linear. There are multiple ways to tackle each objective, which makes these missions perfect for replay. I loved that each player could tackle a different aspect, one could be snipping, another could be working with a partner in order to take down a Hunter, etc. Variety is the name of the game this time around, and it’s great!
  • Speaking of your teammates, even while the AI controls your squad mates, I loved having rudimentary command options at my disposal. Being able to tell the squad to focus their attacks on a single enemy or turret is fantastic, as is telling them to press on ahead.
  • Weapons are absolutely top notch. Typically I stick to the tried and true when it comes to this series, but not this time around. There were a good five or six weapons I always wanted to have on me, which is fantastic.
  • The core gameplay is great fun. Missions are primarily made up of the go to this location and kill everything that moves type, but given the wealth of options available for you to take out your enemies, I never found the missions to get repetitive or dull, even though I was tasked with doing the exact same thing over and over again.
  • Jumping has never been so fluid. There’s a fantastic climbing mechanic that is great in both multiplayer and single player. Trust me when I say you’ll never miss another jump ever again, because so long as you’re close to a ledge you can grab on and pull yourself up.
  • The audio visual presentation is absolutely top notch, not that you weren’t already expecting that. You can clearly tell this game was built from the ground up for the Xbox One. The environments are chalk-full of details everywhere from little critters running around some of the alien planets, to gorgeous particle effects. There’s always something to keep you impressed. The audio is also a show-stopper. The soundtrack is phenomenal, and the sound effects are exactly where they should be in terms of pulse-pounding explosions, and great use of surround sound.

Halo 5_3The So-So:

+/- Some will love this, and some will hate it, but this isn’t a Master Chief game. This is the first time in a numbered entry in the Halo series where you don’t really play as Master Chief, instead you play as Spartan Locke for over 80% of the adventure. I didn’t mind this, but I know some will. Be warned of this in advance if you’re a die-hard Master Chief fan.

+/- The artificial intelligence can be quite good, especially if you highlight an enemy target for your squad to take down, however if you yourself get downed, don’t expect your squad to always come to your rescue. I purposely put myself in harm’s way, died, and tried to get resuscitated, and instead of taking out the enemy standing over my corpse, they simply stood there trying to say me and thereby getting killed themselves. Also, don’t ask the AI-controlled squad to drive, they like to ram into walls and other stationary objects, because why not.

+/- There’s an odd breakdown in the missions. Three of the 15 missions can be completed in 45 seconds or so. These act as somewhat interactive story missions where you’re challenged with finding someone, talking to them, and then talking to someone else. Boom, mission complete. It feels a little jarring, and doesn’t add anything that a minute cinematic couldn’t do.

+/- While the overall storyline is good, you absolutely have to know the Halo lore if you’re going to get the most out of this game. It’s expected from a sequel, but a nice overview of the entire franchise would be nice as we’re now five games in and there’s a ton of story to digest here.

+/- Spartan Locke isn’t Master Chief. His motives are far less interesting than the Chief’s, making him out to be nothing more than a typical soldier.

Halo 5_4The Bad:

  • The lack of local multiplayer hurts. 343 Industries says this was done to ensure the game didn’t run at 30 frames-per-second (fps), but rather a steady smooth 60 fps. The problem with this is that the Halo series was founded on its strong support of local multiplayer including LAN. This is the first game in the series to completely do-away with local multiplayer including LAN, split-screen, etc. If you want to play with another human being, they’re going to have to own an Xbox One, and a copy of Halo 5.
  • There’s pretty much one boss in the entire game, and you go up against him over and over again during the campaign. This enforces the game was made for multiplayer, as his only weak point is on his back. With or without live players I found the battles to get repetitive by the forth encounter.

Halo 5_5The Lowdown:

Halo 5: Guardians does a lot right. The campaign is enjoyable, the multiplayer is outstanding, and the storyline can be thought-provoking, however it’s what the game does wrong that ultimately bring down the package. This isn’t a bad game, not by a longshot, but it’s not great either. The lack of local multiplayer is what truly hurts the most. Sure it’s 2015 and everything is online, however LAN matches are still a very big part of Halo, and not being able to have those, or even have a friend come over and play through the campaign really is disappointing. Halo fans will love the game, no question about it, however the most diehard fans will likely walk away wanting more.

Final Score: 8.5/10

Disney Infinity 3.0 Review

Disney Infinity 3.0 ReviewDisney Infinity 3.0 (Available on PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360, and Xbox One)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1 to 4
Genre: Action
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
Developer: Avalanche Software
Release Date: August 28th, 2015

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Disney Infinity 3.0 E10+, or everyone over ten years old. They only site cartoon violence as a potential hazard, and to be honest, that’s absolutely right. Even young kids under 10 shouldn’t have much trouble with the game in terms of content, more so they’ll need an adult’s help in setting up the game and creating some of the content.

Plays Like: If you’ve played any of the Infinity games you should know the drill by now. You purchase the starter set that includes a few figures and the power base, plus a play set. That activates a certain amount of content on the disc. Typically it unlocks one story mode for the included characters. You also get the toy box which is where you can use every figure from across all three games. It’s where you build levels, customize your house and much, much more. If you want to experience more stories or figures, those are all sold separately. The non-user generated content plays out like any other children’s action game where you have limited moves, and make your way through linear stages.

Review Basis: Disney Interactive sent us a review copy for the PlayStation 4.

Disney Infinity has been my go-to series for the toy-to-game genre. Skylanders may have started the trend, and Nintendo is sure making a mint off those Amiibos, but it’s Disney Infinity that seems to have struck the perfect balance between a limited amount of figures, and a very entertaining videogame. This is by far the best version yet, and considering how many figures have been released across all three games, you sure have a lot of options for your toy box.

DI3_2The Great:

Disney characters, check, Marvel characters, double check, and now Star Wars characters, triple check! That is an incredible wealth of content, and for the very first time all three universes have come together in one package. There is something here for children of all ages. Whether you want to spend countless hours in the intimidating, but ultimately enjoyable toy box mode where you can use any figure you’ve collected over the years in a mix mash of games, genres, or anything else your brain can think of; or work your way through one of the many play sets, Disney Infinity 3.0 is a sheer delight. It’s the incredible wealth of content that is by far the single best feature of this game.

DI3_4The Good:

  • This year’s starter set features Ahsoka and Anakin figures, and the play set Twilight of the Republic, which is hands down the absolute best play set included in any of the previous starter sets. While you may note that’s one figure less than the previous starter sets, keep in mind that the price has been lowered. It’s also possible to use the power base from Disney Infinity 2.0 and simply download the game for an even greater cost reduction. That way you can simply pick-up the figures individually.
  • As always the build quality of the figures is top notch. That classic cartoony look the toys have fits the Star Wars universe perfectly. I will admit that excited children might snap off those thin lightsabers though, so parents be warned.
  • Combat is tighter and more refined than ever before. Experienced players will be able to time their button presses to string together a wide assortment of awesome looking combos, but for the kids, button mashing also leads to some rather awesome results. This is a perfect balance for seasoned and newbie players alike.

DI3_1+ The Star Wars property is respected and put to good use. You can explore four planets, take part in space dog fights, and much more. I was surprised by just how fantastic the overall gameplay was.

  • The toy box mode is now easier than ever before. It’s incredible what you can do in this mode, make a Star Wars-inspired Mario Kart, or anything else you can dream of. Previously actually making these mini-games was daunting, but now, thanks to the new tools, I found it much easier to whip up something enjoyable. That said, it is still quite overwhelming at first glance. If building your own levels and games isn’t your thing, that’s ok, you can easily play through the hundreds of user created levels.
  • The audio visual presentation is absolutely top notch. This feels, looks, and sounds like a Star Wars game. The developers didn’t skip a beat, and it shows.

DI3_3The So-So:

+/- Every year it’s the same thing, but ultimately your enjoyment of Disney Infinity 3.0 will greatly depend on how much money you throw at it. If you purchase the additional characters and play sets, naturally you’ll have a much deeper experience than someone who only purchases the starter set. I would strongly recommend if you’re going to buy this for children, pick up at least one or two additional figures and another play set.

DI3_5The Lowdown:

Disney Infinity 3.0 is a fantastic game. While it may appear to be a more expensive affair this time around because of the reduced figure count, you’re actually getting more bang for your buck. While I absolutely loved last year’s iteration, this year’s blows it out of the water. The Star Wars property is handled with respect and admiration and it shows. This is an absolute gem for kids, so if you have some, I strongly recommend you put this bad boy under the Christmas tree.

Final Score: 8.5/10

August 2014 Loot Crate Unboxing!

I’ve started to become quite a big fan of Loot Crate, because I love the goodies they give you.  My work desk is slowly but surely becoming the fantastic office I always imagined it would be.  Take a look at this unboxing for the Heroes-themed Loot Crate.  Lots of fantastic goodies inside!

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If anyone is interested in subscribing to Loot Crate, be sure to check their site out: http://mbsy.co/lootcrate/7731075

Why is the Retro Scene So Popular?

Here’s a video I posted on our YouTube channel the other day that I wanted to share with everyone.  It asks a curious question, why the retro scene has exploded in the past five to ten years.  Is it because of sites like Facebook and YouTube, or is it simple that the NES generation has grown up and is looking to rekindle that long lost flame of their past?  Whatever the case may be, I’m sure you have your own thoughts on why the retro scene has taken off, so be sure to leave a comment and let’s get a good conversation going.

Let’s Talk A Link Between Worlds Hero Mode

Steven asked me to post a vlog about the hero mode in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.  So like a good boy, I did just that.

I’m sure many of you have tried the hero mode, and what did you think of it?

Christmas 2013 Unboxing

Steven sent over a gift, and I couldn’t resist but do an unboxing.  Whatever could be inside ;)

I’ve sent him a Christmas package too, but it’s ultra special so won’t arrive for a little time now. He promised he’d do an unboxing so I’ll post that once he gets the package and posts the video :)

Thanks Steven :D

Mad Catz Killer Instinct Arcade FightStick Tournament Edition 2 Review

Here we have the Mad Catz Killer Instinct Arcade FightStick Tournament Edition 2 for the Xbox One.  At the time of this review, the arcade stick only works with Killer Instinct and costs $199.99 USD, making it a very hard stick to recommend unless you’ve got lots of money, or really love Killer Instinct.  Over time the stick will certainly be worth it as more fighters get released, but for now I can only recommend this to a select few.

Citizens of Earth Preview

Eden Industries recently started a Kickstarter for a brand new RPG for the PC that shares a lot in common with the legendary Earthbound on the Super NES. Their funding goal is $100,00 Canadian, and as of writing this they have garnered around 10% of that total, with 26 days left in the campaign. The developer is made up of several people involved with Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, and seems to have a clear vision for where they want to take this game. One of the team contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in covering the title, and since I love all things Earthbound, I figured why the heck not.

The game begins with players taking on the role of the Vice Presents of the World. Right there that should give you an idea of just how wacky the sense of humor is in this game. 24 hours after being elected the new VP, you decide it’s time for a vacation and head back to your old home, where your mother and brother live. From there the adventure begins.

The funniest part is that you don’t actually do any of the fighting yourself. Like a true politician you get everyone else to do the work for you. That’s where Citizens of Earth really shines, in its recruitment system. Virtually every new character you meet can be recruited into your party, each having their own unique power set. Meet a baker, they’ll be your go-to for fire attacks, while the conspiracy guy is perfect for dealing high damage to mechanical creatures. Each character will require the completion of a side-quest before they’ll join you. Sometimes it’s locating a certain item or items, while others require you to defeat a certain enemy.

CoE3

Gameplay is broken down into your typical 16-bit era RPG formula. You do a lot of exploring around the local town before venturing off into the forest, fighting countless creatures along the way. The story has you originally trying to figure out why there are so many protesters in town, and then why everyone in the coffee shop is so out of it because of the new Special Blend. From there things escalate to the outrageous.

The game shares a lot in common with Earthbound, from the contemporary setting to the combat engine. Whenever you see enemies walking around, which is all the time as there are no random encounters, you have the ability to shout “Go!” and send up to three party members rushing towards the enemy. If they hit the enemy’s back, they’re given a power boost, but if the enemy strikes them first they lose a power boost. Power boosts work sort of like MP in other RPGs. Each character can store up to three power boosts, with some attacks consuming them, while others build them. This means you can’t just walk into a fight and go crazy, you actually have to plan your attacks accordingly and make sure you have enough power boosts in reserve for when needed.

CoE1Another feature carried over from Earthbound that I love is the auto-fight mechanic. If you send your group to attack an enemy and they’re a few levels higher, the fight will automatically end with you gaining the experience. Experience is handled much like the old-school RPGs of yesterday, whereby points are automatically allocated to your attributes.

While not available in the playable demo, additional party members are able to be stored in the town’s school so they can earn experience while they’re not in use. If you keep all your characters on you, you’ll have to switch them up in order to level them all out. That might sound bothersome, but we have no clue how the school system will work. Perhaps you’ll be able to transport members on the fly.

CoE4The demo, which is available from the game’s Kickstarter page takes about two to three hours to complete, and offers a nice tease of what the developer hopes to achieve with sufficient funding. After having played through the demo myself, there’s a lot of potential here. Eden Industries promises dozens of party members, a truly robust combat system, and a great storyline. I’m already convinced this is a game that deserves to be funded if nothing else because of the hilarious narrative. I’d really love to see the funding get pushed to $160,000 so a Wii U version could be made, but right now I’d be happy just to see the game released. If you’re looking for an old-school RPG that has many modern elements like detailed and creative graphics, a kick-ass soundtrack, and fun combat system, be sure to check out Citizens of Earth!