EA Access – 1 Month in Impressions

Today’s announcement of Need for Speed Rivals being added to the vault in the next few weeks had me thinking back on my first month of service and I felt  it was time to convey my thoughts about  the service. When EA first announced their new subscription based platform called EA Access, I was moderately apprehensive about whether or not I would subscribe. The initial offerings from “The Vault” (which is where the full free to play games are housed) were rather meek with just FIFA 14, Madden 25, Peggle 2 and Battlefield 4.

Admittedly, the summer doldrums with nothing new coming out for at least 4 weeks and the paltry price tag of just $30 for the year convinced me that I should sign up and download Battlefield and perhaps give FIFA a shot despite my dislike for professional soccer.

What I found was that FIFA is a damn good game. I am pleasantly surprised at how deep the game was and how much fun I had. Couple that with a few friends that got me playing online with them. It’s killed some late nights and rainy afternoons. Another nice added bonus of being a subscriber is you also get early access to new games and demos. For example – Starting this week, I’ll be able to get 6hrs of playtime with NHL 2015 (The demo is absolutely AMAZING) prior to the release of the game on Tuesday AND the progress made and achievements will carry over to when/if you buy the full game. Couple that with the fact that you’ll get an additional 10% discount for digital purchase – that alone is worth 1 month of service.

I know the current list of games is small – but the service is BRAND NEW. They’re already talking about making adjustments to make it more enticing. This is the future fellow gamers. Like it or not, this is test to see how we react to a subscription based model. So far – I like where we’re going.

 

Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition Review – Xbox One

Here we are folks – September.

I had a truly awesome(and busy) summer. The long drought is finally over and the busy season of game launches is finally upon us.

This year’s game launches practically has 1 game a week that I’m interested in right until December and that started with the release of Diablo 3 – Ultimate Evil Edition. Basically it’s the same game that was released for the PC and Xbox 360/PS3 last year but that’s just on the surface. This version of Diablo III is a far more robust and rewarding experience this time around.

For starters, we have the obvious expansion “Reaper of Souls” which continues the story right after your hero dispatches Diablo and must now fight Malthael who is hell bent on absorbing the 7 Prime Evils souls contained within the Black Soulstone. Basically – he wants to rule the world and cause all kinds of grief for all mankind.

The next improvement comes from the Loot 2.0 system which was introduced to the PC version of Diablo 3 last year with the expansion pack. It GREATLY improves on the frequency of Rare/Set/Unique item drops making the constant hunt for new and improved weapons/armor all the more exciting.

A higher level cap has also been introduced bringing it up to 70 from 60, some revamped skills, a graphical upgrade in the form of 1080p 60FPS (Gorgeous) and my personal favorite – Adventure Mode (which is only unlocked after completing the campaign). Adventure mode allows you to take your Nephalem on bounty hunts across all the various acts in the game for reward, Cash and Nephalem Rifts which for all intents and purposes are nothing more than loot runs but you have a much higher chance at earning the really good stuff.

One last thing – Did you buy Diablo 3 for your PS3 or Xbox 360? Remember all the time and effort you spent building your character to becoming the absolute beast he/she was? Too bad you can’t use them in this version eh? Wrong – Thankfully Blizzard has heard the cries and it is 100% possible to transfer your character to the next gen system. You can even move it cross platform should you so desire.

In the end – there’s ample enough changes and features to make this a full price purchase. This is a damn fine game worthy of your time and money.

I give Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition an enthusiastic 9.5 out of 10

Pros:
Higher Level Cap
Loot 2.0
Character Imports
Adventure Mode

Cons
Reaper of Souls is too Short

NHL 15 Revealed!

Earlier today EA Sports announced NHL 15. They’ve also announced that Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick and Eddie Olczyk have joined the broadcast booth. TSN analyst Ray Ferraro will provide game insights at ice level. They also modeled over 9,000 individual crowd models.

Like previous years fans can vote for who they want on the cover of this years NHL. Head over here to vote.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytkPcoi6VMw&w=560&h=315]

Kinect Sports Rivals Review

If you’re like me and acquired an Xbox One on launch day, you’ve probably spent the last 4 months yelling at our Xbox using the Kinect since that’s all we could use it for. Sure games like Ryse: Son of Rome have voice commands but they seemed tacked on as an after thought. However, we finally have our first Kinect game for Xbox One Kinect Sports Rivals, this is the next generation sequel to the Xbox 360 Kinect Sports games.

Navigating around the menus wasn’t designed for a controller, but you can use it if you desire too, it’s designed for hand gestures and voice. The issue I have with the voice controls is I have to say “listen” and than a keyword that’s on screen. After I do something like Listen, quick play, it will make me say listen again to perform another action. I disagree with this sequence, since the Kinect knows I just used my voice to do an action, so why make me do that again?

If you’re like me and live in a apartment or condo, you may have a hard time finding enough space to play this game. I have just about 4 feet from my TV to my sofa and don’t have the space to move my sofa in order to play and Kinect Sports Rivals is constantly telling me to move back because it can’t see my feet.

Like the previous Kinect Sports game the soundtrack features artists like Avicii, Daft Punk and Franz Ferdinand. The good music adds to the atmosphere. I really enjoyed hearing some good tunes while playing various sports.

Kinect Sports Rivals Hub is a companion app that I had to download separately (why it wasn’t included in the main game or just on smart glass I don’t know) but it’s the source for news, updates and global competition. The more you play the various sports and challenges, the more fans you’ll earn, allowing you to move from the bronze league (beginner league) to the silver, gold, platinum, diamond or master league (rivals league consists of six different leagues each containing six star divisions).

Rivals offers six different sports for you to play which include; wake racing, climbing, target shooting, soccer, tennis and bowling. The latter 3 on this list are returning from Kinect Sports and have been updated for Rivals.

Let’s start with wake racing which has the player reach out with their right hand, close it in which engages the throttle. Players than move either their right or left hand in and out depending if you need to turn right or left. If it’s a sharp turn you’ll be required to use your body to lean. Want to perform a trick? You’ll need to bend forward. This will allow you to unlock power-ups in the game like force field, speed boost or mine drop.

Rock Climbing has a player use an open hand to peg, close your fist and than repeat with the other hand which will allow you to move up the wall. You maybe required to perform the same actions to go sideways before you can go up. Can’t reach a peg? you’ll need to jump and than grab a peg to continue your climb.

Target shooting is basically move your hand and point at the target as fast as you can to hit it. If your quick enough and you can see your opponents targets shoot ’em and steal their points. Your competitor can activate a power-up that will have you dodging incoming fire but if you get hit you’ll lose points.

Soccer (it’s really called football but that’s ok), my favourite sport is back, and as you expect it’s quite simple to play. Side kick to pass, kick it with your toes to get some air under it or even try heading it into the net. It’s sounds simple but you’ve only got 20 seconds to score before the shot clock runs out. They’ve removed defending completely and I’m not sure why exactly. It kind of feels a little half ass in my opinion. Now it’s time to defend and by that I mean play goal and simply move your body to where the ball appears on screen trying to stop it.

Bowling feels the same like it did in previous Kinect Sports games. Put your hand over your head to start the game, grab a ball from either the left or right side and throw the ball like you would if you really bowling. You’ll need to move your body slightly to align with the arrows on the lane and if your feeling brave after releasing the ball move your wrist to the left or right to add spin to the ball.

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Last up is Tennis. Reach out to either side and grab a racquet, throw the ball in the  air and swing, it’s really that simple. You could also put in some back spin or top spin if you can pull it off successfully (it’s quite easy).

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Besides the issues I experienced in getting the voice commands working properly in order to navigate around the island and the issues with my feet not being seen while playing soccer, I really enjoyed Kinect Sports Rivals. Yes, my Kinect is barely 4 feet away from where I was playing but when you live in a apartment or condo you really can’t change that. Microsoft and Rare need to do a better job of that aspect. The gameplay was fun and I was constantly checking out the Rivals Hub to see how my friends were performing.

Besides the issues I experienced in getting the voice commands working properly in order to navigate around the island and the issues with my feet not being seen while playing soccer, I really enjoyed Kinect Sports Rivals. Microsoft and Rare need to do a better job of that aspect. The gameplay was fun and I was constantly checking out the Rivals Hub to see how my friends were performing.

Feed Your Console Gives Kinect Sports Rivals a 7 out of 10.

Titanfall A Month Later

TF-Panoramic-Overwatchofficially released on March 11th 2014 for Xbox One and PC with the Xbox 360 version coming in April. Here we are, 19 days later and the words “prepare for Titanfall” still put a smile on my face. To me, Titanfall is Call of Duty plus Rock-em Sock-em Robots or some could say it’s Pacific Rim the movie, that came out in 2013. Whatever way you slice it and dice it, it’s a new game on the Xbox One, we all wanted and needed it and it’s been a hell of a lot of fun.

Let me start of by saying I just hit level 50 and did the regeneration thing and I’ve had a ton of fun, some great moments but now I feel like now that I’ve done all that, what’s the point of going back to doing it all again? I’ve played over 50+ campaign missions and I’ve won 24 attrition matches and lost a quiet a few, but I don’t have an interest to go check out the other modes like HardPoint Domination, Capture the Flag and Pilot Hunter. I’ve played a few rounds of Last Titan Standing which is exactly as it says Titan Vs Titan and let me tell you trying to play this mode with random 12 years olds on Xbox Live wasn’t fun.

Introducing the wall running and jetpacks add’s a whole new element and strategy to the game. As a player navigating it’s way through the battlefield you need to be cautious of the high ground when getting killed. I often found my self navigating between running and jumping over the buildings as I found it allowed me to survey the battlefield to get a sense of what I was about to get myself into. I never found myself using the same route to game back into battle. Being able to use a jet pack, wall run, double jump and using the environments opens up so many different routes to get back into battle it was one of my favorite elements.

Don’t worry if you die. You will die lots, spawn very quickly and be back into the action running into pilots, grunts and spectres within seconds. Since most of this game relies on the Xbox Cloud service I was underwhelmed with how unintelligent and easy to kill the sepctres and grunts where in this game. Often, they didn’t pose much of a challenge and more often than not, found myself wondering why they were even in the level as they didn’t seem to help but where more of a hindrance to each team.

As you start playing you will unlock X, gain levels and unlock different weapons and customization options to build out your load. This encourages variety and keeps things interesting as each weapon has it’s own set of challenge levels (5 in general) that allow each player to earn additional XP to level faster. This ability also extends to the Titans themselves where you pick a base chassis of either an Atlas, Ogre or Stryder and build on your load outs from there. Do you want a canon, a railgun or a rocket launcher? These are all decisions you need to pick and experiment with in order to figure out what works best for you. Do you want an agile titan? if the answer is yes your going to go with a Stryder as it places an emphasis on speed and movement to win battles. Are you like me and like to walk into a Titan fight and just start shooting and expect to take a lot of damage in the process of downing another Titan? if that sounds like you, your most likely going to take an Orge into battle.

Once you press to initiate Tianfall and watch your Titan drop in from the sky it does nothing but put a smile on your face as it now it’s time to hop in and kill enemies. Alternatively you can set it to guard mode and have it follow you around and protect you, assist in battle and kill enemies even on it’s own in a reliable fashion. The Titans are not invincible and will die they do poses a shield that recharges like Halo but the overall armor won’t. Once your Titan dies you will have to wait upwards of two minutes unless you start killing pilots or Titans or play a burn card that accelerates the countdown timer for you. Pilot’s are equipped with anti Titan weapons and it makes for a truly interesting player vs Titan battle. Yes, pilots can beat the Titan but you will have to rely on cloaking, hiding in buildings or performing a rodeo on the Titan. What’s a Rodeo you ask? It’s when a pilot jumps on an enemy Titan, rips off a hatch and starts killing it. There are anti rodeo options available for Titan’s as well.

I wanted to share this clip which I titled ‘Run Forest Run’.

Just a reminder that Titanfall is an online only game on the Xbox One so if Xbox Live or your internet go down, so does Titanfall. I understand for some that paying $60 dollars for an online only game maybe a tough pill to swallow, but given the current lack of games to play, I would suggest doing it even if you only play 20 hours or so like I did. It was worth it. Another item to note is that when I’ve had a lot of action going on my screen the frame rate drops badly, leaving me wondering how this managed to happen.

“Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare” is now available on Xbox One and Xbox 360

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The highly anticipated sequel to Plants vs. Zombies ..aptly names “Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare” is officially out for Xbox One and Xbox 360 Consoles.

Personally, I never played the original, but this game looks and sounds like a helluva good time and I have every intention of getting my hands on this title in time for the weekend…Now I just have to decide if I go Xbox One or Xbox 360 on this.

My Weekend With the TitanFall Open Beta

Titanfall

Last weekend I was provided a code to be on the TitanFall Open Beta. Being one of those rare titles that has an insane amount of buzz surrounding it, I raced home that night after work to get it started on the download. After an agonizing long time( my crappy ISPs fault) finally, the notification that I can power the game up and finally jump in…DENIED! Server issues. Awww well. That’s the kind of thing these tests are designed to look for right?

The next morning I jumped out of bed bright and early to get a little time in before my wife and daughter woke up. The anticipation was high…logging into server…connecting to server… JOY! It’s go time. Before getting into the online action, I was prompted to run through a tutorial which was helpful.

My first few rounds were bad…I mean, really really bad because I was admiring the graphics, playing around with the different weapons and the jumping and just looking to get a basic idea of the map layouts. Immediately it became apparent to me just just how accessible the game was to new players and veterans alike. I’ve played a lot of FPS games but in all honesty, if I was to rate myself, I’m pretty average at best for the most part but this game had me feeling pretty damn good about myself. Previously, I wondered whether the ability to call in a Titan might be associated with kill streaks but thankfully, that’s not the case. In fact, once in the game, you will be notified that there is currently a countdown (2 minutes)to when you may call in your Titan – Play better and you can cut that time down. Titan control is just as tight as controlling your combatant yet the size and weight of the Titan is easily felt without it coming off as clunky or cumbersome.

Admittedly, when I first heard about the running, super powered jumps I had concerns that the game would be full of people jumping up and down spastically in the same way they do in CoD or Halo but I was wrong. It actually works. Running through the levels and performing parkour style wall runs and jumps is seamless and feels natural. Another little thing that I noticed – NO CAMPING! Ok let me rephrase that – There’s camping going on but they ALWAYS pay for it in the end and there’s no quick scoping. It was such a refreshing breath of fresh-air to not be killed from 3/4 of the way across the map to some schmuck with a sniper rifle.

What really got me is just how engrossed I became as quickly as I did. I maxed out my level to 14 (which is what the Beta Max was), I actually tinkered a lot with my different loadouts, I learned the 2 available levels quickly,

All in all, I have to say that was some of the most fun I’ve had in a long time playing a competitive online shooter. If you’re sitting on the fence with respect to whether you should get this game, hop off. This game has the potential to being one of the best games 2014 has to offer. I absolutely loved it and can’t wait for the game’s final release.

The Evil Within Gets an Official Release Date

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Just received the word from Bethesda earlier this morning that The Evil Within has an official release date of August 26th in North America and the 29th in Europe. Looks to me like the usual onslaught of high quality must have titles is starting early this year.

Read on for more details:

We’re pleased to announce The Evil Within, the new survival horror game from legendary director, Shinji Mikami, will be available in North America on August 26, 2014 and throughout Europe on August 29, 2014. The Evil Within is in development for the Xbox One, Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system, PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system, and PC.

Developed by Shinji Mikami and the talented team at Tango Gameworks, The Evil Within embodies the meaning of pure survival horror. Highly-crafted environments, horrifying anxiety, and an intricate story are combined to create an immersive world that will bring you to the height of tension. With limited resources at your disposal, you’ll fight for survival and experience profound fear in this perfect blend of horror and action.

While investigating the scene of a gruesome mass murder, Detective Sebastian Castellanos and his partners encounter a mysterious and powerful force. After seeing the slaughter of fellow officers, Sebastian is ambushed and knocked unconscious. When he awakens, he finds himself in a deranged world where hideous creatures wander among the dead. Facing unimaginable terror, and fighting for survival, Sebastian embarks on a frightening journey to unravel what’s behind this evil force.

The Evil Within has not yet been rated by the ESRB.

Review – Max: The Curse of Brotherhood

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Max: The Curse of Brotherhood hit the Xbox One store on Friday. For some reason I thought I had read somewhere that it wouldn’t be out until early 2014 so I was pleasantly surprised to see the launch announcement Friday morning. After work was done, I was anxious to get home and sink my teeth into this quirky little title.

Max has a little brother named Felix and as far as little brothers go, he’s rather annoying. One this particular day, Max sought out a way to get rid of Felix on the internet by way of a spell. Felix is promptly whisked away to another world and Max jumps to his rescue armed with nothing more than a Magic Marker….No really, it’s just a plain old Magic Marker. When he meets an old woman who says she can help him, she imbues his Magic Marker with actual magical abilities.

The game itself is a 2.5D puzzle platformer with some unique gameplay elements. As Max runs through the various levels, he runs into a variety of obstacles which require the user to engage the Magic Marker to raise platforms, create vines or branches to climb or swing across, fire to blow up walls or water spouts to catapult Max to new areas. The puzzles are fun and rather clever. A few times I found myself pondering and trying solutions with no love. As it turns out, sometimes the most simple of solutions is in fact the right one and other times, it’s all about how precise you draw with that magic marker. A few times, it became apparent to me that my solution was correct, but my ability to draw the path with the thumbstick was the issue. The use of a stylus or maybe even a tablet would have made this exercise much less frustrating. Still, it wasn’t often I had these issues. I also had some extreme moments of frustration towards the end of the game when the drawing required both speed and precision to complete the task resulting in 10 or sometimes more deaths and re-attempts.

Graphically, Max:TCB is gorgeous. It feels like an interactive cartoon as you take Max on his adventure and it immediately drew me into the world. The colors are vibrant and worked perfectly with the feel and art direction. 

All in all, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a fantastic title despite the frustrations I had at moments they certainly don’t handicap the game to any real degree. If you’re wondering what to get with some of your XboxOne points that Santa leaves in your stocking, this is a game that’s more than deserving of your time and money.

Feed Your Console gives Max: The Curse of Brotherhood an enthusiastic 8.5 out of 10.

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood Out Now

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Well, apparently I was either completely asleep at the switch or I forgot but anyway, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood has hit Xbox One today. This is actually one of those titles that I instantly knew I needed to play when I saw the first trailer for it and luckily for me, I will be playing it tonight. I can’t wait it looks absolutely beautiful.

Thanks Microsoft

Anyway, check out some new screenshots of Max: The Curse of Brotherhood and check back with us for a full review in the coming days (I hope).