Super Smash Bros is Back!

Jorge SandovalLeave a Comment

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is Nintendo’s 5th installment of one of their flagship titles. This 2D fighter was released on December 7th, just in time for the holiday season. At first glance, it may seem similar to past installments with only a couple of new characters added on, however, it doesn’t take long to see why this is the best Smash title to date. ​The level of care that was put into the game was apparent. At the very start of the game, there is the iconic smash theme with a brand new chorus and cool cutscene. After that, you can get right into smashing! The starting roster is small. It is the same 8 characters from the very first Smash Bros. on the N64. This is a very cool homage to all the veteran players yet, it does not take long to unlock new characters. A random challenger will arrive every 8-10 minutes of in-game fighting. Defeating them will add them to your roster. However, unlike past titles, you are able to rematch with challenegers whenever you want. The Ultimate’s roster is now a whopping 76 characters! Every character that has ever been in a previous Smash title is now playable in Ultimate. This includes past dlc’s plus 11 brand new characters. Even with all these characters it never seemed like a chore unlocking them all. ​Ultimate feels smooth and responsive. This coupled with the fact that Smash Ultimate can be played with a Gamecube controller making  it a more pleasant experience for the fans of the series. Many characters have gotten reworked. An example of this is Mario. Mario is now much faster and lighter. The new characters are also really fun to play! King K. Rool is surprisingly fast for his size, and the inklings have a cool paint recharge mechanic. Ridley is powerful but has limited reach, and Incineroar feels like a better jumping lil Mac. ​The single player makes a return to the Smash series.It is a fun alternative that speeds up unlocking new characters. In single player, you start as Kirby and fight other heros possessed by spirits. When you defeat them, the spirits are freed and will help power up your fighter. Unlike other installments, Ultimate has gotten rid of their trophy system and replaced it with this spirit system. This is a good incentive to play single player but the allure of the trophy system was to see your collection grow and to interact with your trophies. Overall, it’s a small change that doesn’t affect the game drastically. ​Ultimate is a must get game. On the surface, Ultimate looks very similar to Smash 4 graphically, but once you have the controller in your hand, you can immediately tell that Nintendo has mastered their most popular title. With over 103 stages, 700 music tracks, a fleshed out story mode, competitive online mode and numerous DLCs in the works, this game will keep you busy for years to come.

Manipulating the Elements in Just Cause 4

Ayushmita RaoLeave a Comment

Just Cause 4 is an action-adventure game and the fourth game in the Just Cause Series. Created by Avalanche Studios, this game is set in the fictional South American town of Solis, prone to extreme weather. Rico Rodriguez is back, and he intends to take on the Black Hand, a high-tech private military organization. This time, there’s a personal angle to the game plot as the protagonist discovers family involvement, which compels him to investigate in Black Hand’s operation. However, this addition to the story line does very little for the game as it is still mainly about a regime change. The game is big on explosions and takes the formulaic route where the mercenary is equipped with a variety of tools like the parachute, grappling hook and wingsuit. Several weapons can now be customized with new abilities and modifications to the grappling hook, making it more powerful for different scenarios in the events of chaos. The gameplay is similar to the other games in the series except for one main variation – weather manipulation. Different biomes are introduced – Rainforest, Grassland, Alpine and Desert with each biome having its own distinct look. Each weather system is reactive, tied to a specific biome and includes extreme weather like tropical lightning storms. This makes the player learn to adapt to the ever-changing environment and learn to use to it their advantage. While the grapple hook and parachute keep things interesting, the game gets tedious after a while. The mission structure is repetitive and there is a lot of ground for Rico to cover to get to his destination and fight off enemies to complete the mission. To counter the monotony, the creators have employed another strategy of breaking down main missions into several smaller missions. But the approach is still formulaic, and the strategy doesn’t do much to help. The game also suffers from some technical hang-ups with the frame rate dipping at certain times. This game stands apart in the sense that it offers a lot of freedom to its players – freedom of movement and freedom to wreak havoc. It’s not realistic most of the times. An example of which when ten people were shooting at me and still somehow missing. Another example was jumping off high peaks and popping open my parachute just to quickly switch to my wingsuit to glide and use grapple hooks to navigate my way around. The series has been long known for its wild, adrenaline packed action that is fun to play and Just Cause 4 does not let us down. It is still a great open world adventure that helps players address their desire to be adventurous and take risks through an immersive experience.

Has PUBG Lost Its Touch?

Jorge SandovalLeave a Comment

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) is a 100 player Battle Royale game where they are dropped onto a map and are forced to explore, loot, and kill each other. The game ends when only one player remains. PUBG is an interesting game because not too long ago, it was the most popular Battle Royale game on the market, until Fortnite overtook the crown. PUBG has been out for over a year on PC, Xbox One and mobile. However on December 7th, the PlayStation 4 version was finally released world wide retailing for $30. After installing the game, which took me roughly an hour and a half, I was finally ready to play. Once I was in the game, I was greeted by my avatar, standing tall in a barren wasteland with five text options: Start, Customization, Rewards, Career, and Leaderboard. Overall, this starting menu was clean and concise and made me feel excited to start my first game. When pressing the start option, I was given multiple game options such as Solo (a team of one), Duos (team of two players), and Squads (a team up to 4 players). Once I chose my game mode, the load time was quick and I was put into a lobby. Instead of placing me in a text lobby like most online games, I was placed into a small starting hub where I could freely move around and interact with other players who were also waiting for the game to start. I found that this unique lobby system added to the competition aspect of the game as I was able to talk and goof around with my opponents before we started killing one another. At the start of the game, you are placed into a flying plane. All 100 players then get to choose when they want to jump out and skydive towards the map. PUBG currently has 4 maps on PC and 3 on consoles and mobile. These maps are enormous, yet vastly empty.  Aside from the loot-heavy towns, the map is populated with rocks and dingy sheds. If you do not land near a town, you will spend a lot of time walking through nothingness. Aside from the emptiness, the game is not pretty to look at. PUBG has the graphics of an early 2000s game. Halo Combat Evolved, released in 2001, had better graphics in my opinion. As I was walking, the game seemed very empty for 100 players. I saw my first player when there were roughly 50 players still alive. When I did see them, our interactions and kill times were brief. Most weapons seemed to wipe out half your health with just a bullet. As the map shrunk, I was forced to walk closer to the middle of the map. If you like walking, this game is for you. I spent roughly half of my time playing just by walking. The plus side is that the developers added an auto-walk button, which I did find helpful. I ended up dying … Read More

Red Dead Redemption 2 Online

Jorge SandovalLeave a Comment

Red Dead Redemption 2 has been one of the most anticipated video game releases of 2018. On November 29th, the beta to its online mode finally opened up to the public. To put it short, Read Dead Online is easy to pick up and have fun with its unique story. You can live out your childhood dream of being a roughneck cowboy, exploring the untamed West. Red Dead Online starts you off by letting you fully customize your character. You choose your outfit, facial hair, age and even how your whistling sounds. The world of Red Dead Online is huge and filled with countless activities. During your time exploring, you are able to do story missions which allows you to interact with characters from the single player campaign and introduces you to new ones as well. The story missions bring this world alive and make you feel as though your actions really affect this cowboy hellscape. Rockstar also added new game modes such as Horse Racing, Zone Capture, Team Deathmatch, and an interesting twist on Battle Royale called Make it Count. The horse races are not your normal horse races. This game mode is very similar to Mario Kart. Players race against each other on horseback racing to smoke signals. The first person to reach all the smoke signals wins. Along the way, players can pick up weapons by riding over them, allowing them to blow away the competition (literally!). Zone Capture and Team Deathmatch are your average game modes, but the atmosphere really adds to the experience. There is nothing quite like shooting your opponents in a tavern. However, just like in GTA Online, you bring your own weapons and ammo. This means higher leveled players will have an advantage over you in these game modes. One game mode that provides you with weapons is called Name Your Weapon. It is very similar to Call of Duty’s  game mode Gun Game. In this game mode, you start off with a number of different weapons. However, the caveat is that each weapon awards the player a different amount of points. Harder to use weapons reward the player with more points while easier weapons such as the shotgun award less. Overall, this game was really enjoyable and gave everyone an even playing field. All year, every game has had some sort of battle royal game mode available and Red Dead is no exception. It is called Make it Count, and the twist is you could only throw knives or use a bow and arrow to kill in one hit. The open rustic map of Red Dead really fits the battle royal theme. You get some really funny kills when you throw your knife at you opponents’ toes. Red Dead Online is a fresh breath of air with all of its activities available to players. However, this doesn’t mean it is without its flaws. The games’ economy is downright broken. Everything is so expensive and missions and game modes only reward you … Read More

Hitman 2: The Return of Agent 47

Ayushmita RaoLeave a Comment

With the first Hitman making its debut in 2016, Hitman 2 is the second game in the latest Hitman series from developer IO Interactive. Continuing from Hitman, Agent 47 embarks on a mission to track down the mysterious ‘Shadow Client’. The gameplay is similar to that of the first game as the contract assassin travels to various locations around the world to eliminate high-profile targets. The episodic format is now discarded, and the player is introduced to a whole new story. This allows for the possibility to skip ahead to see more content and play on levels the player finds interesting. There are 6 distinct locations in the game, each more elaborate than the other in terms of design and complexity. These locations include a teeming Miami race track to the bustling streets of Mumbai. While the plot line isn’t the most developed, the game does encourage curiosity as it creates the possibility for you to explore and provide multiple ways of completing your mission There are several additions to Hitman 2 like the picture-in-picture feature that lets you see the security camera display and the ability to blend and vanish into the crowd. The player also has a vast selection of tools and weapons to choose from and the suitcase allows the player to store all of the collected weapons. There’s also a multiplayer Ghost mode that allows the player to compete against other agents and take down multiple targets in a limited time. Though this is still in test mode, it will probably be changed based on players’ feedback. Like any other stealth game, Hitman 2 requires a lot of patience. A small mistake on any level will ruin the mission and require you to start over. Unless the player uses the option of manual auto-saves, the use of strategic autosaves allows the player to continue without losing too much progress. However, in the highest level, the player is allowed only one save per mission. It is infuriating, nonetheless, to fail multiple times but it is often an indication that there are different approaches to the solution and situation. Even though it demands accuracy, the interface is easy to interact with. One bullet gone awry and you’ll soon find yourself in a hailstorm of bullets, often resulting in failure of the mission. The only way to get good at it is to keep playing and practicing, which is also one of the hooks of the game. The need to complete the mission in the most efficient way possible becomes addictive when you’re given the unlimited possibilities to try new approaches every time. Overall, the game has the best Hitman stealth action and is an experience that requires you to enjoy it in a slow and steady fashion. Like with any game, it has both positive and negative aspects to it. What makes it a memorable play, however, is its ability to encourage players to come up with ways to keep the violence to a minimum and focus more on the strategic and stealth … Read More

Fallout 76 Analysis

Anthony MakLeave a Comment

Given that I have barely played any installation of Fallout since Fallout 3, my memories of this gaming franchise have been blurry to say the least. Nonetheless, I wholly enjoyed my short gameplay experience of Fallout 76, albeit I wasn’t very good at it. Set as a prequel to the other games of the timeline, the new game provided an alternative format to its predecessors. Designed strictly for multiplayer use, Bethesda’s intention of maximizing the open-world free roaming aspect of this game was evident. Much of the ‘plot’ is intertwined with the multiplayer mode, and you are then let loose on the world filled with other gamers after you design your avatar. The choice to team up or to go individually about one’s business adds a refreshing touch to the series. The map is expansive, providing all gamers the experience of navigating their way through the different areas and terrains of ‘Appalachia’, designed to resemble West Virginia. The visuals are stunning, and not shockingly the best out of all the Fallout games. As your avatar moves across the map and tests its multiple features, you can notice the details placed into the nooks and crannies of the game. From the intricate design of the weapons provided to the enemies you engage with e.g. radioactive animals, mutants or scorchbeasts, you can tell a significant amount of effort has been put into Fallout 76’s overall design. If you don’t like any of that, just wander around and take in all the scenery because it’s equally as thrilling. Many features of the game are still fundamentally Fallout. The dystopic wasteland you are located in is directly offset by the satirical takes on patriotism, hope and revival that run throughout most of the game. This in turn adds to the sense of desolation people have grown to be associated with, but it also motivates you to explore the mysteries of the story. The gameplay itself was difficult and the beginning was extremely slow. A few hours in and I still found myself wandering not far from Vault 76 performing mundane tasks with no end. This can be redeemed as the game has no shortage of surprises. At any moment you can be attacked by a new enemy, die of malnutrition or catch radiation poisoning. Simulating the process of survival in such a setting demands the user to cover all bases to ensure continued progress. By doing so, despite often feeling like you are moving at snail-pace, the game is highly immersive and rewarding once you’ve accomplished a greater task. In summary, Fallout 76 is similar while also distinct to other games in the Fallout Universe, which can be baffling for some but stimulating for its fans. When you manage to get through all the boring bits and are given the chance to do as you please, the options you have in this massive world are essentially endless.

Ralph Breaks The Internet Review

Melissa LimLeave a Comment

Once again, Disney Animation found their way into our hearts by packing this colorful animated film with humor, excitement and their new secret ingredient – the Internet. In the sequel to 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph, Ralph Breaks The Internet continues with Ralph (John C. Reilly) currently living his best life: playing games all day and drinking root beer all night with his best friend, Princess Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) of Sugar Rush. But when Sugar Rush breaks, Ralph and Vanellope has to travel through the thrilling world of the Internet to find the broken parts and save the game. As Ralph and Vanellope bounce from website to website, they meet new characters who help the duo with their quest, such as Spamley (Bill Hader), the sketchy click baiter based after pop-up ads, and the one-tough-cookie Shank (Gal Gadot), an extremely intense racer from the in-movie Grand-Theft-Auto-like racing game, Slaughter Race. The different online realms they explore input many viral internet memes that the audience would not have enough time to catch during the first showing. All the character cameos and recognizable internet tropes surrounding the two characters could leave the viewers exhausted, but how the movie executes the embodiment of the internet (Instagram as an art gallery, Ebay as an auction house) still refreshes us with I-see-what-you-did-there. The highly anticipated Disney Princess reunion, for example, definitely did not disappoint. It was indeed brave of Disney to tackle the stereotype from helpless damsels in distress to being hero(es) of the day. Unlike typical Disney movies, Ralph Breaks The Internet does not have a particular antagonist. Instead, the real danger comes from themselves – more particularly, their insecurities. As Ralph tries to break Vanellope’s friendship with Shank, he makes a visit to the dark web, exposing all kinds of dangers the Internet contains such as virus malwares and the most dangerous of all, online criticism. That said, even though the impactful message that the movie brings about friendship has always been a cliché lesson to impart on the audience, the accomplishments between Ralph and Venellope could this time leave the audience with joyful tears and a craving for milkshakes and pancakes. Ralph Breaks The Internet starts playing in movie theaters November 21st and is rated PG. Official Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BcYBFC6zfY  

Gender Equality Sells: Women in the Games Industry

Drew WelchLeave a Comment

Women face occupational segregation in nearly every industry. The majority of women in the United States work in male-dominated workspaces, where they are relegated to traditionally ‘feminine’ roles, such as the marketing or administration divisions, rarely seeing opportunities for advancement.[1] The games industry—in particular—is one of the most egregious offenders of this. A 2011 study by the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) showed 73% of women in the industry work outside the main jobs of developing games, which means that they have little voice in the content, interactions styles, character representation, and reward systems involved in games.[2] In their 2017 Developer Satisfaction Survey, IGDA reported 75 % of respondents were male, gleaning little change in representation over the last 6 years.[3] Many publishers and developers have either pleaded ignorance of this issue or have ignored it entirely, leading to games that fulfill only male fantasies and interests. These games use non-playable, female characters as background decoration, exploiting their sexuality or victimhood to infuse edgy or racy flavoring into game worlds.[4] Video games as such have gained a reputation for being a ‘boys’ only club,’ that welcomes and caters mostly to men. In fact, many game companies might agree to this—albeit behind closed-doors—as their first-person shooters and action games do just that. Due to the lack of women in creative roles, resulting from misogynistic segregation practices, and games that fail to be more inclusive, many women do not play games made by major developers. The majority of game publishers and studios appear to believe that making cognizant and inclusive design choices in their games will result in lower sales and revenue (as result of alienating their male player-base), but in reality, the opposite is true. In a study conducted by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), it was discovered that occupational segregation based on gender or race is the strongest influence on young people’s choice of career, as many people tend to choose jobs that represent their own gender.[5] Occupational segregation damages not just individuals, but businesses and the economy as well because it contributes to skill deficits, a recognized issue by the government.[6] For example, in the games industry there has been a consistent shortage of programmers for years. Bringing more women into the creative roles on production teams will not only fill these positions—thus increasing productivity and potentially revenue—but their role in the creation of games will lead to more inclusive experiences that will appeal women. Additionally, their presence in the industry will encourage other women to enter this line of work, leading to a positively reinforced cycle of inclusivity and revenue. In fact, the number of women within the industry has greatly increased with about 22% of game developers identifying as female as of 2015, nearly double from the last time a study was conducted on the matter in 2009.[7] At the same time—and likely not coincidentally—more inclusive mobile titles, such as Candy Crush Saga and 2048, have led to increases in the number of female gamers over 50 … Read More

The Last of Us Part II and Violence in Games

Drew WelchLeave a Comment

The Last of Us, as it was originally pitched to me back in 2012, sounded derivate: yet another post-apocalyptic romp through infected cities, where the “the real threat is each other.” I soon learned, unlike other games of the genre, The Last of Us stood apart through its emphasis on genuine human emotion, rather than stinted plot points and boiler plate brutality. During this past E3, the gameplay for The Last of Us Part II was revealed, showing off improvements to nearly all of the original’s distinct features. As cool as those features may be, what I found most interesting was how this sequel portrayed its violence. In fact, there is already conversation on this topic, dotted with both praise and criticism. In my opinion, I wish more games handled their violence like The Last of Us Part II. The small details Naughty Dog has added, such as enemies referencing each other by name, show an emotional evolution to the series’ violence, which I find encouraging for the future of the medium. I believe The Last of Us Part II may be a launch pad for a more realistic and nuanced depiction of violence in games. Part II sounds like the subtitle of a long-lost Sergio Leone film, but this game draws its aesthetics more from Cormac McCarthy’s fables through gothic plains and cannibal infested manors than revenge westerns. Like McCarthy’s novels, this game doesn’t pull its punches when it comes to its violence. It runs those punches through LiveLeak, making some of the most surprisingly realistic impacts and sickening wounds that you’ve ever seen in a video game. I would call Naughty Dog’s commitment to the fidelity of violence “art!,” but that feels tasteless, like tossing “best of” awards at a film about a cage match between two lions. Certainly, that match must be humbling and beautiful (in a savage kind of way), but let us not bemuse the truth. Naughty Dog should – however – be commended for not making Part II’s violence “fun,” especially in the face of many calling for the censure of ultra-realistic violence in games. Generally, the subject of violence in games portends the same misinformed comments on how violent games are ruining the youth – or worse yet, society at large! It is no secret that games become easy scapegoats in the speeches of every feckless politician. Without giving ground to their accusations, I will contend that the way games have depicted violence has had a pernicious effect on how our society views it. Specifically, I think most violent entertainment contributes to a dangerous cultural perspective that disconnects us from the reality of violence. The current discussion about Part II’s violence splits into two camps. One, finds the violence to be satisfying, the brutality justified in context with the world, and this content as a sign of games “maturing.” The other is appalled by its “overzealous” realism, and – given the history of video games – believe the cruelty is designed to be … Read More

Rise of the Zium

Matts Borges1 Comment

The Zium Garden is a new digital museum of high-tech art. On September 14th this year, a group by the name of The Zium Collective released an a “new kind of tech-oriented zine,” The Zium Garden, for free download on itch.io. It holds art from some 57 artists or studios, each featured in their own curated segment of virtual space for you to explore at your leisure. It is a glowing example of a new kind of museum experience that might dominate our futures: one where we are free to experience art at our own pace, without crowds, and even without pants on. Created and curated by Michael Berto with the help of Quinn Spence, Ivan Notaros, Veronica Graham, Richard Walsh, and Gigoia studios, The Zium Garden presents itself by proposing a new term for a new idea. Their twitter biography reads: zium / noun / informal: 1. a virtual gallery game, composed of eclectic and wonderful things. 2. (kind of like a zine, but the museum version) Their garden represents that definition in practice – a kind of noncommercial publication of specialized, and even obscure artistic content. It’s actually their second production, an immediate successor to January 4th’s The Zium Museum (2017), which features installations from over 37 different artists in a very similar format to Garden. The two experiences share an open gallery setting because Zium and its creators understand the dormant power of the digital museum, and are ready to stick to their guns as a forerunner to what might very likely become a major artistic movement in this age of virtual and augmented reality. Advancing technologies are only now starting to push museums to compete against them, but physical spaces face slim odds against the advantages of their virtual counterparts. Physical museums are notorious for their long lines, pricey admissions, and tendency to exhibit art and history in a way that asks for preemptive knowledge from their patrons, so if they continue showing their content out of chronological, or even logical order, they will eventually find themselves without victims to their overpriced cafeteria food. In an age where all of the information and visual splendor in the world can be found at our fingertips, physical museums might find themselves becoming an increasingly obtuse and outdated convention. Enter the virtual museum. There is little to nothing that a physical museum can offer that a virtual one can’t, because the essential museum experience is very simple, though lacking in chairs and closing much too early in the day. In comparison, the virtual gallery is extremely cheap to produce and maintain compared to its physical counterparts, and more importantly, it can be accessed by anyone around the globe, 24/7. These digital spaces may even allow you to break the laws of physics in order to appreciate its pieces better, flying around them, zooming infinitely close to them, and possibly warping into dimensions exclusively intended for each artifact. Garden is a powerful spotlight shining on some of the brightest technologically … Read More