Month: September 2014

Review: FIFA 15

Nearly Hitting the right Pitch

Once a year after school, Jesuit students flock to various stores to pick up the sports game that keeps on giving. Having received the game early, I’m proud to provide a rather premature review for EA’s FIFA 15. Running on the improved Ignite game engine, the game looks better than ever. The game engine which was used in the previous FIFA game has been updated, providing a better lighting effect. The shadows cast by the world-renowned stadiums now react to everything taking place on the pitch.

Unlike last year’s game, FIFA 15‘s artificial intelligence has more human characteristics. Players that are normally prone to injury or quick to anger in real life will have these qualities reflected in their in-game avatars, adding another depth of realism to the franchise. In addition to the mental side of the players, their physical appearances have been improved. The postures and facial characteristics of your favorite soccer players have been 3D-scanned by EA Canada, the developers of the game. The detail and time that went into making these small adjustments are simply jaw-dropping when it comes to the overall visuals of the game.

Now that the visuals of the game are out of the way, it’s time to talk about the real reason why people buy FIFA: gameplay. Thanks to the new improvements on the game’s engine, the past problems regarding dribbling and shooting are no longer an issue, well, at least after playing it for a couple of hours before writing this review. Passing is now more fluid and doesn’t feel as janky as it was in the past installments. The goalies are also more aware of the location of the ball. In past games the reactions of the AI goalies were surprisingly slow; now they anticipate who the ball will be passed to by the amount of possession each of your strikers has had. For example, if you are constantly handling the ball with Messi, the goalie will adapt and focus more on Messi, and in some cases will sic another defender to guard your star player. Anyone who has played a FIFA game before won’t have any trouble adapting to this. This aspect of the gameplay contrasts with the fact that the key core elements of the game remain untouched, which actually is kind of disappointing.

Players aside, the actual environments of the stadiums are quite unique. EA took the time to capture the various unique sounds of famous stadiums, which I found very surprising. For example, you can hear the fans chant the “Yid Army” at the Tottenham Hotspurs’ stadium located in London, England, which was a nice treat for my ears (don’t judge me, the Hotspurs are my favorite club). The pitch for each individual stadium was also observed in various conditions, whether they were in the rain, snow, or sleet. This feature was already in previous games, but with the new physics engine, it finally affects your players, so be careful with your star players when you are playing in ultimate team or career mode—you don’t want to have them slip and get injured, which has unfortunately happened to me twice already. In summary, be careful when playing ultimate team, all of the updates to the game engine can, and more than likely will, harm your players.

The verdict for this year’s FIFA is purely based on personal preference. The majority of the changes I discussed are not even implemented in the 360 and PS3 version of the game. The game itself actually suffers from screen tearing and low frame rates, but this will more than likely get patched up sooner or later. The next-gen version (PS4, XBone, and PC) on the other hand looks and plays without any problems so far. I have yet to play against another real person, though, since the servers are not yet up for multiplayer, so the status and functionality of those are still up in the air.

FIFA 15 provides some small changes regarding balance in the AI and the game engine. It, however, lacks in quality on the last gen, which is a downside if you don’t own a next gen console. I was also hoping for more changes in gameplay and the overall realism of the game. Yet when it comes to playing this game with friends on the couch, it provides the player with all of the fun one can expect from a FIFA title.

Verdict 8/10 on Next-Gen &  7/10 on the last-gen

Review: Destiny

Becoming Legend

I tightly grip my crescent-tinted assault rifle as two of my friends and myself enter uninviting and dark catacombs. Lights emit from our weapons as we walk deeper into the abyss of a cavern that is nonhuman in origin, adding to the hostility on the Earth’s moon. The tension and silence causes one of my friends to crack a bad joke through his mic which warrants no response. Finally, we enter a large, open, subterranean structure and a growling noise begins to echo from deep within. The three of us stop dead in our tracks, standing still, waiting for whatever made the noise to reveal itself. Suddenly, a screeching noise emanates from the darkness, increasing in volume as time progresses. The sound of footsteps echoing on the cavern’s cold floor causes the three of us to face our weapons toward the dark shadows.

Out of the darkness, a horde of alien life forms that are reminiscent of the average undead sprint in our direction. I quickly react and pull the trigger; its muzzle flashes light up the dark depths of the unwelcoming cavern. My two friends join me in our desperate attempt to fight back this seemingly infinite horde that encroaches on our position. After what seems like a lifetime of nail-biting action, we finally eliminate the last of our alien attackers, but only after wasting all of our heavy weapons’ ammunition. “Dude that was so sick. We just took on a horde!” my friend who cracked the bad joke exclaims as we head deeper into the abyss.

That was a retelling of one of the multiple memorable experiences I underwent while playing Bungie’s newest title: Destiny. Having been in development since 2009, Destiny seeks to reimagine the genre of gaming that is the first-person shooter. It seems only appropriate that the company behind the making of the Halo franchise—until Halo 4, but we don’t talk about that one—is attempting to break the mold of Call of Duty-like games which now saturate the gaming industry with recycled gameplay and out-of-date game engines. Setting itself apart from the typical shooter, Destiny attempts to incorporate theme and gameplay styles from FPSs and RPGs.

Destiny takes place in our solar system, set seven hundred years in a post-apocalyptic future. Before our solar system as we know it simply collapsed, humanity was thriving under a golden age of scientific advancements; however, this changed when “The Darkness” came, and humanity’s colonies, spread throughout the eight planets, simply fell apart. Little is known about “The Darkness,” but Bungie has stated that is the sworn enemy to “The Traveler,” a spherical, white, celestial body that is now guarding humanity’s final city on Earth. (For all of those looking for what “The Traveler” looks like, simply Google it, and you will get the idea.) The players are given the role of Guardians, the last defenders of humanity who can use a mysterious power, simply referred to as The Light, which The Traveler has given as a gift to humanity. So now, humanity looks to its defenders to fight off the various alien species that have taken over their colonies after the golden age ended and to restore humanity to what it once was.

The easiest way to describe the gameplay is the result of merging Halo and 2K’s hit series, Borderlands. Diving into further detail, Destiny has all the typical aspects of an FPS. It utilizes the universally accepted components that an average player would expect from a Halo game: run-and-gun style combat with an emphasis on using cover and analyzing one’s enemies. With a health system that is extremely similar to Halo’s shielding concept, nearly any player who has played an FPS shouldn’t find this game too difficult to jump into at first.

Yet, as stated earlier, the game adds RPG elements such as three distinctive classes to pick from, which in turn have sub-classes. These classes also have special abilities that make them unique from one another, each specializing in different play styles. They are the Hunter, the Warlock and the Titan. The Hunter’s abilities best work with a ranged build, its abilities specialize in doing a lot of damage against single enemies. One could think of it as the “rogue” class from many RPGs. The Warlock is a good support class that has good crowd control and uses singularity based abilities to summon miniature black-hole-like orbs that can hit multiple enemies at once. You could think of this class as the “mage” or “cleric.” The Titan is a tank, specializing in dealing lots of damage in a wide range; in addition, it has extremely good crowd control. This is basically the RPG equivalent of a “warrior” or “tank.” There are multiple sub-classes that add to the abilities, letting the player pick and choose so they can play the game their way.

Multiplayer in Destiny is split into two forms, Cooperative and Competitive, or PVE and PVP. The normal story of the game allows the player to play with at least three friends, but sometimes this number is increased if the mission is difficult. The competitive multiplayer plays a lot like Halo and Call of Duty but lacks the repetition found in both of those games’ multiplayer modes. The multiplayer is very fast-paced and enjoyable, but veteran players can and will be queued in new players’ lobbies, so don’t expect to win every time if you are new. Currently there are ten maps on the Xbox version of the game and twelve on the PlayStation versions of the game, but more maps will be added to both consoles eventually, more than likely in the form of a map pack bundle.

At its most basic form, Destiny is a shooter, which means the gameplay aspect should be impressive and fluid. Bungie accomplished this with Destiny—they took their time developing and refining their game, instead of doing annual recycled remakes with little variation—I’m looking at you Call of Duty & Battlefield! What further adds to the excitement of this new franchise is that this game at its current production will get a sequel every four years for at least four sequels. In other words, fans won’t have to worry about this game repeating itself and being run into the ground. Destiny, in my opinion, is one of the best FPSs of the past two years, considering last year’s Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghost were just disappointing, and the new Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare looks like EA’s Titanfall without the Titans. Destiny provides players with a new look on FPSs and breathes life into an honestly dying genre of games that has been ruined by multiple iterations of Call of Duty. If you have the $60 and a decent overall grade and work ethic I highly suggest picking this game up, but be warned: It is hard to put down.

Verdict: 9.5/10