Interview: Greg Miller – Kinda Funny

Unlike the two lovely hosts for The Know that my co writer interviewed at RTX 2015, Greg Miller entered the Gaming Industry through a more “traditional” route. Greg Miller attended The University of Missouri in Columbia, commonly referred to as Mizzou. While growing up in the Chicago-Land area Greg decided that he wanted to write about games. So he went to the best Journalism School there is in order to gain the skills necessary to cover this entertainment medium: The Missouri School of Journalism.

Greg, as a magazine student was a writer and covered stories for the student ran magazine Vox “for one semester.” Greg culminated this with his capstone at Mizzou “being an editor at Vox for a semester.” After graduation, Greg wrote for the Columbia Tribune “for a year and a half.” He then went to write for IGN for several years. During this time frame he covered all things Playstation related at IGN. From the Playstation Podcast Beyond, to IGN’s talk show esque Up at Noon, Greg succeeded in delivering enjoyable and informative content to the IGN community. He worked at IGN until this past January when he, along with 3 other coworkers/friends, decided to break away and form their own Channel on Youtube called Kinda Funny.

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The first time I met Greg Miller in person was at RTX 2014, in Austin, Texas. For me personally, it was probably the peak moment of the entire event. Greg, along with several other content creators of the gaming industry (but him specifically), were and still are a huge inspiration to my writing and coverage of all things gaming related. After standing in line for over an hour, I was the first to meet Greg along with Adam Kovic who at the time still worked for InsideGamimg. I expressed to Greg my intentions to write about video games while he signed my Xbox 360 Controller that I broke 200K Gamescore with (which probably felt shameful since he covered all things Playstation related for IGN). After which he informed me that I should look into the Missouri School of Journalism, that I should “learn the Missouri Method.” I took that to heart personally and have followed through with his suggestion, The University of Missouri in Columbia is number one on my list of colleges (I have already filled out the applications and are currently waiting for their decision). Later during RTX Greg picked me to play Destiny, Bungie‘s new shooter, on stage in front of everyone at the convention and watching online. This was because I yelled “BEYOND,” the name of the Playstation Podcast he was then in charge of for IGN, when he asked for volunteers. After this I managed to take a “fantastic” selfie with him and I was honestly surprised and pleased by how down to earth and sincere he was in person.

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Over the past year Greg has been incredibly insightful when it came to answering my questions about Mizzou over Twitter. He even recommended some fantastic establishments to eat at while in Columbia. This lead me to ask him over Twitter if I could interview him for this series at RTX 2015. We agreed on a Saturday during the event but Greg had to cancel because something came up, but he offered to do the interview over Skype instead. As a content creator that has seen the coverage of gaming slowly transfer from a solely text based medium to a blend of video and text I found his opinions and comments about the industry were thought provoking and backed in facts. When I asked him why he thought that the change occurred he explained that “well it’s giving the consumer what they want. Right? I think that you have seen it time and time again that the user base wants their content in a specific kind of fashion. Whether it be print or through videos.” This trend and change that Greg mentioned is relevant not only in the coverage of the video game industry but also in News and Sports alike. Consumers want their content faster and Greg made the point that “it is easier to interject opinions into the content if its through a video.”

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When I asked Greg if he wished he had done anything differently during College he said that “since he wanted to write about games, he should have been writing about games all throughout college. Not for the Trib, or Vox, or anything like that but for a blog, a fan site, something like that.” He pointed out that he should have been “more consistent” with his writing. Tying in with that comment I asked if Greg or any of the other members of Kinda Funny had any intentions to add a text element to their content. Greg explained that “Colin (a member of Kinda Funny) kicks the idea around every so often that he would like to get back to that but right now we are so strapped down by 5 guys in our company and traveling from event to event that we just don’t feel the need or have the time to do so.”  He also expressed his regrets about only taking “a single photography course” while at Mizzou. He thought that he would simply go write for IGN after college and he would just need to have the skills to write in order to be successful in the field of gaming journalism. He laughed explaining over Skype that he wished he “had learned how to close a stupid green screen” since he had just filmed a video before our recording. Essentially Greg expressed the idea that to enter this field as a content creator or journalist, “you need to be an omnitool, you need to be able to work with a lot of different things. I never thought that I would be editing clips for Up At Noon for IGN with Premier but that is just how it happened.”  Lucky for myself personally, Mizzou offers several classes that help journalists learn how to utilize various forms of software in order to create the best content through their Convergence Program.

My interview with Greg, although brief, proved to shed more light on the ever changing environment of the Gaming Industry. I enjoyed learning tips from him about the industry. Hopefully one day I might even work alongside him. Only time can tell. If you want to learn more about him check him out on Twitter @gameovergreggy or on Kinda Funny’s Channel on Youtube.

Review: Uncharted: Nathan Drake Collection

Frantically jumping from seat to seat, the vertigo setting in, I panic as I make my way up the train. Everything inside the train begins tumble out the back into the valley below as the train inches closer to tumbling off with Drake inside of it. His leaps become more sporadic and desperate as the realization of the dire situation begins to fully sit in. After several more heart stopping leaps of absolute faith I make my way off of the cliff face onto relatively solid ground. This retelling of one of my favorite moments from Uncharted 2 in the Nathan Drake Collection. 

The Collection follows, the charismatic adventurer and thief, Nathan Drake on three escapades that lead him and his friends (and enemies) across the world. The Collection itself is actually three games remastered through the same engine Naughty Dog used in The Last of Us when it comes to visuals. The three games remastered are Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. All three of the games have an average Metacritic score of over a 91/100 and Uncharted 2 was the official Game of the Year in 2009. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception was given perfect scores from IGN and Gamespot.  Overall these games are action packed almost cinema esque adventures. Yet, what makes them stand apart from the average action adventure game?

 

Naughty Dog, the game’s developer is no stranger when it comes to making noteworthy franchises. They in fact are one of the few developers that has made noteworthy games in three completely different genres. Crash Bandicoot was a phenomenal platformer on the PS1 and PS2. On the other end of the spectrum The Last of Us cleaned shop and won Game of the Year for being a story driven survival-horror game and is regarded by many as being one of the best games ever made. Uncharted at its core is an action adventure third person shooter. However, it also has fantastic platforming puzzles and over the top cinematic gun play experiences as well. Yet, it accomplishes this in a light hearted manner. Not a single Uncharted game has been rated M for mature audiences (although the upcoming Uncharted 4 might be). All of this is combined with perfect voice casting and acting. Nolan North absolutely lives this role when it comes to his performance as Drake. The characters in this series ranging from the father like figure Victor “Sully” Sulivan to the witty journalist and love interest Elena Fisher are also all expressed through expressive performances. The Villains in general are well written. So just from a story perspective, the series has an incredible advantage over other games in the genre.

Now to break apart and describe the various kinds of gameplay one will find in this collection. Each game does a fantastic job of incorporating a controls tutorial into the actual story in each game. For example, the basic mechanics of how to climb and maneuver a 3D spectrum are introduced to the player while they are attempting to climb out of the cliff side train in the opening scene of Uncharted 2. Climbing, whether it be inside an ancient monastery in Nepal to a warehouse in London, inhabits a large portion of the gameplay. Puzzles at times have to be solved through jumping to specific points in a ruin that would be unreachable by any other means. Shooting mechanics are also added to the climbing functions. One moment Drake may be climbing up the side of a burning apartment building in Nepal and may need to shoot a mercenary from the ledge of said building. It shouldn’t have to be stated that Drake cannot wield a two handed weapon such as an AK47 or a M4A1 during these encounters but I felt like I should at least leave that tip in here. The climbing portions and verticality of what would be tedious single planed environments in other shooters is essentially refreshed with the ability to scale the environment in order to get the drop on your enemies.

The moment to moment gameplay centers around run and gunning from cover to cover. As stated earlier, these do not suffer from being repetitive due to the added verticality in the games. You are never simply fighting enemies on a level environment. This is thanks to the level design and creative directors at Naughty Dog. The screenshot above is from Uncharted 2: Among Thieves during a boss battle with a Hind Attack Gunship. Most games would put the player in a courtyard or inside a building. Instead this fight takes place on several burning rooftops in a city in Nepal. The player is forced to frantically jump from building to building, utilizing any weapon they can find in order to take down the chopper. All while dodging gunfire from not only the chopper but also rooftop enemies. The weapons themselves in these games are what one would expect in an adventure game of this genre. The player has the ability to pick (in many cases off the corpses of enemies) weapons ranging from simple nine millimeter handguns to RPGS and Grenade Launchers. There are also usually a variety of each class of weapon Drake may find. In other words there are normally two to three different kinds of assault rifles or pistols to pick from. Some players may favor a classic revolver that deals a lot of damage but lacks ammunition capacity. Others may prefer a semi automatic Colt .45. The decision is up to the player and will drastically call for different play styles. However, the game does force players to part ways with their preferred weapon sometimes during specific encounters. For example you simply cannot beat a tank with an assault rifle, so you are forced to use an RPG. These moments feels necessary though, so I personally did not mind them that much.

 

Visually, all three games look fantastic. Obviously the best change visually from the original to this remastering is the graphical upgrade for Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, the first game. Seeing Nathan Drake being rendered through the same process in all three games in the remastering truly blends all three games into a seemingly transition-less story. I find it enjoyable to play several chapters in each game without really noticing any basic changes to the graphics. The special effects from everything from an explosion to the candid torchlight deep underground all seem incredibly polished and organic. Organic in the sense that the effects seem to be all unique in the specific encounters. An explosion inside a cave simply doesn’t behave or look the same as an explosion that occurs on top of a roof. The sounds design in the game is also incredibly noteworthy. I find the attention to detail, such as the ringing that occurs after an explosion that goes off in close proximity to Drake a nice touch to theses games that sound and look almost like a movie. I can best equate these games to a modern take on an Indiana Jones style adventure game.

The Uncharted series is a must play franchise for any player new to the franchise or a series veteran that seeks a nostalgic trip through incredible set environments and intriguing stories. The franchise has literally never looked better. The shere amount of content a player recieves for $60 is an absolute steal. Three outstanding games that received countless awards for the price of one, who honestly wouldn’t want to play these fantastic games found only on Playstation? I personally cannot wait for the next iteration in the series: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End which comes out next spring but until then, this Collection will suite my cravings for the franchise.

Verdict: 9/10

Review: Forza Motorsport 6

Rain, high speed, stunning visuals and super fast cars. What more could a car enthusiast want? This year marks the 10th anniversary to the first Forza game. To mark this great milestone the developers over at Turn 10 Studios have created this phenomenal addition to the franchise: Forza Motorsport 6. In my opinion this is the first iteration in the franchise that truly feels next gen. For those unaware theForza franchise has been exclusive to the Xbox platform, this is the second game to be solely developed for the Xbox One (The other being Forza Motorsport 5). Yet, this game finally delivers in my opinion when it comes to the amount of content and the overall feel of the game.

forza6_3The Forza series at its core is a racing simulator. The RoundUp’s very own Editor and Chief, Blake Delong ’16, describes it as “very visceral and tactile experience due to the audio and physics.” This is a practical interpretation of the series. Every turn of the steering wheel, just the slightest touch of the breaks has a domino effect on the track. In other words this is by no means a casual racing game. Sure the game gives the player the option to set racing difficulties to novice and even allows players to rewind in real time to correct an awful turn or pass. However, if a player wants to be any good at this franchise, the player has to know their own limits when it comes to reaction times and the limits of their current car. These are the minimal requirements to being mediocre at this game. The mere attention to detail Turn 10 Studios put into this iteration is mind boggling. For example, cars have less grip at night due to a cooler tarmac, this tiny detail is even reflected in the gameplay. Another small detail is how water pools in certain parts of the track, this creates spots of low traction. The developers went to each circuit and mapped all of the low points on every single track in order to provide this realistic aspect. Combining all of these features with countless others provide the foundation to a solid racing experience.

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Now to the actual racing in Forza Motorsport 6. The typical race features a grid start with up to 24 other racers. The majority of your opponents are the “drivatars” or avatars of other real racers in the game’s community. These can even at times be your friends if they have ever played a Forza game. Most races require intense concentration, this is due to the shear havoc a driver can encounter on a circuit. These range from simple 2 lap sprints to endurance races that require several hours to complete. The first type of race mentioned is incredibly easy for new players to jump into. Meanwhile, the latter of which call for far more experience and general knowledge of racing. Other details and effects that do not effect short races such as tire wear, fuel consumption, and dynamic weather all contribute to the greater difficulty in these endurance races. Tires losing grip will more than likely be the first challenge racers will encounter on the circuit. This will force players to literally get better or quit this portion of the game altogether. Tires in this iteration of Forzaabsolutely matter. Fuel honestly isn’t that much of a problem, if you as the player notice that your fuel gauge is low, simply enter the pit stop. Yet, deciding which lap one should stop for gas on is entirely up to the player. My suggestion is you enter the pit stop during a long race sooner rather than later. This allows you some time to catch up to the other racers.

The most difficult aspect when it comes to racing in Forza Motorsport 6 is building experience and mastering the ability to drive in heavy rain. Rain is absolutely unforgiving in Forza. A powerful horsepower filled beast such as the Audi R8 or Pagani Zonda can be reduced to a chunk of scrap metal by simply breaking to much or too little in the rain. The team over at Turn 10 Studios as previously stated went to each individual track and got the precise measurements for the track. This allowed them to properly place where on the track pools of water occur in heavy rain fall. These pools can honestly be a racers worst nightmare since they can lead to hydroplaning and a loss of stability. To make things worse, the player must also watch out for other drivers that may hydroplane themselves and then obscure or block the track. In other words player awareness should be double what it normally is in non wet conditions. Possibly the worst conditions to race in are rainy tracks at night. My experience’s during those kind of races were by no means pleasant ones. This added difficulty in turn tested my abilities as a racer and proved to be absolutely worth it. After mastering (in my opinion) racing in wet conditions, racing in dry conditions proves to be second nature and even easier than before.

Challenges make a return in this iteration of Forza. These challenges are a decent break from the typical racing. One of my favorite challenges puts the player in a super car and they are tasked with passing as many cars as possible. I personally find this enjoyable considering the cars you end up passing are either old VW Bugs or old Fiats. These challenges are also where players can find endurance races and challenges in exotic cars. The challenges as a whole are a nice piece of additional content to a game that already has a fantastic single player experience. The multiplayer is more of the same that the single player is but the drivatars are replaced by actual players so it is nothing ground breaking. However, I find that this isn’t a bad thing to the slightest degree. In fact it is nice that the developer didn’t half make a crummy multiplayer system.

Forza Motorsports 6 is probably my favorite installment in the series or at least ties with Horizon 2. The precise and calculative gameplay is only matched by Gran Turismo but that series is yet to have a next gen installment. If what I have said earlier doesn’t convince you to get this game as a racing fan what I am about to say will. I LITERALLY BOUGHT an Xbox One to play this series. My Xbox One is my Forza & Halomachine. In other words, I was willing to pay the money to just be able to play these two game franchises because they are that good.

Verdict 9.1/10

Review: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

When the embargo for reviews for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain were lowered I waited anxiously for the reviews to be posted. I was nervous that the game I had been looking forward to since 2008 and openly since 2012 was as good as I had hoped it could be. The first review for the game I saw was a 10/10 from Vince Ingenito from IGN. I thought this was odd since this was Vince’s first 10/10 game. Then like a waterfall the accolades and perfect reviews began to be posted in an abundant amount (Currently the game sits at a Metacritic Score of 96/100. This is an average of ALL REVIEWS by MAJOR OUTLETS!). The week that lead up to the games’ official release seemed like it would last forever. Finally after playing the game for an undisclosed but ludicrous amount of hours all I have to say is that this game is nearly perfect. I left some quotes from notable reviews below.
“The Phantom Pain may be a contender for one of the best action games ever made, but is undoubtedly the best Metal Gear game there is. 10/10″- Gamespot
“The Phantom Pain is the kind of game I thought would never exist – one where every minute gameplay detail has true purpose. 10/10″ – Vince Ingenito – IGN
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For those unaware, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is the last game in a TWENTY EIGHT year long blockbuster series (Well atleast the last for the series creator). I highly suggest reading my preview for this game simply because to understand this game and review, you need to know what the heck is going on (you can find it here). I will attempt however to summarize the setting of the game as quickly as possible.

The player controls a character called Venom Snake which is apparently the new alias for Big Boss or Naked Snake. The player awakes from a nine year coma after their Private Military Corporation called MSF (Big Boss’s life’s work is destroyed by an unknown party). The game at its’ core is an epic tale about revenge and more specifically vengeance. As Venom Snake the player attempts to recreate the PMC while at the same time eliminating those that destroyed the original. The purpose for the group now called Diamond Dogs is stated simply by its co founder and ally, Kazuhira Miller, “The world calls for wet-work, and we answer! No greater good. No just cause!” The progression of the story in The Phantom Pain is by no means a pleasant one. Instead, the game follows a once proud hero’s fall from grace and honor.
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Gameplay in The Phantom Pain at its core can be described as an open world – stealth action game. I could best describe this game as a mixture of Far Cry, GTA, and Splinter Cell.Far Cry because the game features dozens of outpost, bases and fortresses that can be captured in the massive open world. The game takes aspects from GTA merely through the scale of the environments the player will encounter. Finally, The Phantom Pain draws several stealth play styles from the Splinter Cell games. The funny thing is that The Phantom Pain accomplishes all of this and executes it with far more success. In addition to aspects from the previous games stated, The Phantom Pain brings its own characteristics to the table as well. One of the more broad features that the game includes is the base building progression that the player controls.
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This can best be described as a professional game developers interpretation of the Clash of Clans genre. In the story of The Phantom Pain, the player as I already stated is attempting to recreate their own PMC after the original’s destruction. Soldiers are recreated to add to your base through a process known as fulton recovery. The player accomplishes this by knocking an enemy soldier out and attaching a balloon like device to their body. After the balloon is attached it inflates and lifts the soldiers up to a safe altitude after which a helicopter snags them out of the air and brings them back to the mother base. After some interrogation and in some cases just a quick chit chat the prisoner will realize that working for your PMC is literally a soldier’s dream. No bureaucracy holding you back, no politics, just brotherhood and comradeship. This is only the first step to your recreation of your mother base. Recruited soldiers can be sent to several different sub teams on your base. These include your Research & Development Team, Combat Team, Intel Team and several more teams that will level up over time and allow the player to manufacture and use better weapons and equipment in the field. Some teams such as the Combat Team can even help you in the field or you can have them run operations on there own in order to increase your GMP. GMP is the currency used to research and manufacture things in the game.
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Now onto the Player versus Player aspect of the game. As the player you can raid other real player’s own mother bases. This is where the Clash of Clans aspect really sheds light. As a player you can personal sneak around another player’s base as Big Boss. You can even steal their assets such as soldiers, cargo, tanks, mounted gun emplacements, etc. Yet, at the same time this isn’t an easy task. As stated the other player’s have plenty of assets to defend their own turf. When creating your base and constructing new struts for the base the player also is given the opportunity to add defense to their base. These include machine guns, guard rotations, drones, and pretty much anything else that could be expected for an action game of this genre. These assets can also be procured in offline play in the game’s story mode as well. In other words if you see a tank in the campaign, don’t blow it up. Rather, disable it and attach a fulton device to it and ship it back to your base. All of these assets will create a more difficult defense which will in turn keep other players out. This feature of base building alone could be a game, yet this is only a fraction of the gameplay and to be honest you can beat the entire game without having to invade another players mother base.
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The main minute to minute gameplay revolves around a dynamic story that takes players to places such as the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan in 1984 to the war torn region of Angola in Africa. All regions are open world and they both have real time passage of time and “dynamic weather”. For example, as Big Boss I may be attempting to sneak into a Soviet outpost, instead of waiting for night (when guard rotation occurs and far less guards are on patrol), I could attempt to see if sand storm is predicted to hit the region on this specific day. The sand storm will decrease the guard’s visibility and line of sight that gives the player a better opportunity to infiltrate the base than even at night. Likewise, in Angola, rainstorms and monsoons can create the exact same effect. The playable environments in all regions of the game are littered with outposts, bases, and fortresses.
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Roads are patrolled by armored convoys and foot patrols. Traversing these roads and the world in general can be accomplished through several different means. For starters the player can request a horse called D-Horse which can be used to navigate the world with more stealth than a jeep since its more quiet. This however doesn’t mean that you cannot procure a jeep, APC, truck or any motorized vehicle. Other modes of transport include simply being dropped on top of your objective via helicopter. Later on in the game you can even ride a robot that can be equipped with arms and an assortment of guns. Players also need to plan routes to evacuate these open environments because if you alert the security that is guarding these areas the entire region can become on alert. If this occurs the player should either exfil via helicopter or attempt to cross the border. How and where the player does this however for example when it comes to a landing zone for the helicopter is entirely up to the player. Just be sure to knockout nearby anti air defenses that can and will shoot your helicopter down.
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Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain truly respects the intelligence of the player. Most games “hold the players hand” when it comes to gameplay and player choice. The Phantom Pain on the other hand gives the player’s the tools and an objective. How this is completed is entirely up to the player. For example I was tasked with acquiring a Russian translator in a mission early on in the game. I personally decided to attempt a more stealth like approach. I waited patiently for the translator to be alone and proceeded to use my tranquilizer gun to knockout all other surrounding soldiers. This culminated with me knocking out the translator and fultoning his entire fireteam to my mother base. This is only one of many different approaches the player can choose. For example, you could burst into the outpost with an automatic un suppressed assault rifle and kill everyone but the translator. Or you could snipe them all from far away. As you can see there are towns of options when it comes to completing your objective. You could even drive a jeep with C4 attached to it and blow it up in the base if that is your kind of approach. The game also allows the player to replay missions, this allows you to perfect your favorite kind of play style and retrieve resources that can be sent back to your base. I felt the amount of freedom in the game was perfect. The game doesn’t let you go completely off the rails but it still allows you to have your own say in how you complete your objective.
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 The game also lets the player choose a buddy to take in to battle.  You can take D-Walker, the robot mentioned earlier, D-Dog, a dog you find in Angola, D-Horse (original right), and Quiet who is a mute sniper. Each buddy has a sort of bond/relationship meter that increases the more time you spend with them on the battlefield. Each one has their own pros and cons. Quiet for example is fantastic at scouting ahead and eliminating enemies from afar. However, rain has a negative effect on her “powers” (which I won’t spoil). You can also go into areas lone wolf style if you want to. Yet, I find that bringing a buddy along can be incredibly helpful. In addition to simply picking them you can also decide what kind of gear they will bring. This is a nice final touch to the system especially if you equip Quiet with a tranquilizer rifle.
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The Phantom Pain’s story also attempts to touch on more “taboo” aspects that typically aren’t in action games or even games in general. This has led to a lot of controversy especially when it comes to child soldiers and blood diamonds and even the portrayal of Quiet as a character. The scantily clad sniper has reasons as to why she wears the attire that caused so much uproar in the gaming community, but her outfit can be changed by the player if you really are bothered by it that much. Personally, I felt that the game tackled all of the “taboos” and dark and morally gray areas quite well. The game may be funny at times but it can absolutely slow its pacing down and show a more mature side to its moral compass. Players shouldn’t quit this game if they are offended by subject matters. If the game is capable of making such an emotional connection then it should be played more because it is accomplishing its purpose as a medium. If a game doesn’t make the player question their own moral compass it then lacks the ability to be an outstanding game. This stands true for all games when it comes to story, not just The Phantom Pain. 
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The greater aspect of the story that takes the spotlight away from all of the awful things the player encounters is the transformation of the main playable character Venom Snake. Venom Snake, voiced by Kiefer Sutherland, was previously a national hero. He saves the world from a nuclear exchange twice first in Metal Gear Solid 3 and then again in Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker. However, as seen in the original Metal Gear & Metal Gear 2 Big Boss/Venom Snake is a warlord that ultimately is a deplorable villain. The Phantom Pain attempts to tackle this transformation. Several INCREDIBLY important twists in this game change the entire history and perspective of the franchise as a whole. I will not spoil them but some things aren’t what they seem and some people are not who as the player you think they are. I could go on about some spoilers that made my mouth drop to the floor but for the convenience of the reader I will leave them out. I felt that the twists near the ending of the game were smart since they actually clear up a couple questions and don’t really leave any lose ends since this is probably the last game in the series. This is because the series creator and mastermind Hideo Kojima was fired along with all of his staff at Kojima Productions in LA by Konami, the game’s publisher. This makes the game as a whole feel bitter sweet. Nonetheless I found the game impossible to enjoy and incredibly hard to put down. There is always something to do, another operation to complete, another item that needs to be researched. I am still not done playing the game. Though I have beaten the story I am still attempting to level all of my base up and research several unique items/weapons.
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Verdict: 10/10 Hideo Kojima went out with a bang with this final installation in the franchise. The game runs incredibly well on my PC and the PS4 version (the other version I played) had little to no stuttering. The ambitious open world design delivers what the developers promised. Gameplay is addictive and incredibly hard to put down. Most of all, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain stands out from the rest of the games out and coming out due to the fact that it isn’t afraid to cover tough topics along with the fact that it respects the intelligence of the average gamer.
This game truly is a masterpiece, a kind of game that has the depth and wide perspective that truly only comes every couple of years. The limitless possibilities to how you can play The Phantom Pain allow creativity for the player. Do yourself a favor and go buy this game if you haven’t already.

Review: Mega Man Legacy Collection

Few franchises stay true to their roots, fewer are successful commercially by doing so. Mega Man for the most part has stayed true to its original ideals. Though the most recent games were lacking when it came to sales. The Mega Man Legacy Collection allows older fans of the franchise with the ability to play the first six games remastered for newer hardware. The bundle of remastered game also gives new gamers a chance to play the first several games in this classic franchise.

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The original Mega Man, which released in 1987 on the NES, has never looked this great. What truly makes me happy as a huge Mega Man fan is the fact that the developers didn’t decide to add a 3D filter to the games’ art style. Instead the pix-elated graphics have been up scaled to look great on HD Tvs and 4k monitors. The game also allows for a 4:3 aspect ratio display setting which gives the game a truly arcade look. In summary the game looks stellar.

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For those unaware, the Mega Man series are for the most part, side scrolling platform action games. The series has been praised for its difficulty in general and its outstanding boss fights. Different weapons and dozens of abilities are also trademark in this series that originally aired on the Nintendo Entertainment system. The games follow the same model for the most part. They are broken up into several stages, each one culminating in a boss fight that if beat, awards the player with a unique weapon/power/etc. The series was praised for its unique game & level design which was revolutionary at the time. The difficulty of the game and the relentless enemy/boss attacks also made the game stand apart from other games that came out in the late 1980’s. The Mega Man franchise & the Metroid franchise were simply the best at their time when it came to platforming games.

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In the Mega Man Legacy Collection, all six original games that are included are worth playing. Mega Man II is my personal favorite but I found myself playing the games in order. This allowed me to further appreciate the progression the series followed. The stages are clean and crisp down to the very pixel. Noticing changes throughout the games in regards to several aspects of the games’ art style also proved to be fun to enjoy. Each game allows the player to save a a single specific point of the player’s choosing. I for one welcomed this since the games’ original password system was an absolute mess and truly doesn’t appear in many other current platformers. I felt Capcom did this in order to give new players a chance to enjoy these near perfect games. The restore points probably help veteran players as well who haven’t played this franchise in over two decades.

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The Legacy Collection features an archival database that includes a bestiary much like the ones in past Witcher games. Fantastic pixel art depicts the common enemies and bosses that the player will encounter throughout the games. The database in incredibly helpful when it comes to planning strategies for specific enemy encounters. Different abilities and weapons are also in the database. In other words, if you want to be good at these difficult games, you should spend a lot of your time reading up on your foes.

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New to the Legacy Collection are the challenge modes. These allow players to replay favorite boss fights and engagements. All of the fan favorites are back and remastered for the newer systems. Challenges such as beating bosses within a certain time period to speed runs of entire Mega Man games prove to be difficult but fun to play. The global leader boards allow players to compare their skills and best times to that of friends and complete strangers. I found some of the challenges to be absolutely ridiculous when it came to their extreme difficulty. Honestly, a player could spend countless hours just attempting to beat all of these challenges.

In summary, the Mega Man Legacy Collection fulfills in bringing nostalgia back to veterans of the series. The new restore point feature makes the franchise more accessible to newer gamers. On top of this, having the ability to play the first six games all on the same console with ease is an absolute plus. I wish more challenges were in the game but there still is a enormous amount of content in this game bundle.

Verdict: 9.2/10 if you have played the franchise before. This remastering absolutely gets in touch with a fan of the series’ nostalgia. Though I wish Mega Man 7-10 were in this as well.

8/10 for those that have never played the games before. Some may be off put by its old school graphics and the difficulty of the games as a whole. Yet, these were some of the best games at their time.

Interview: The Behemoth’s : Pit People

Yesterday, at the first day of RTX 2015, I had the opportunity to interview Ian from The Behemoth. I asked him some intriguing questions about The Behemoth’s new game Pit PeoplePit People, which was previously named Video Game 4 since it is the developers fourth game, was an absolute blast to play.

Behemoth-Game-4-Pit-People-TitleI sat down and played a 30-40 minute demo of the first segment of the game. I can only describe the game as tremendously funny and full of the kind of trademark fast paced action that has become The Behemoth’s trademark. This still holds true, even though the game is a turn based strategy game. When I asked Ian about the change to turn based strategy he replied that “At The Behemoth, we like to change things up. All of our games so far take aspects from different genres of games. From sidescroller beat em up to puzzle based. As you have probably noticed we don’t make sequels. With Pit People we felt like we had the ability to bring aspects of the turn based strategy genre to a casual gaming audience.” 

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I found out while playing Pit People that everything Ian described  was completely true. Right off the bat the narrator scatters funny one liners and jokes throughout the dialogue. The combat as he essentially described resembles a traditional turn based strategy game. When i asked Ian what kind of games the minds at The Behemoth took inspiration from he replied that “We could compare the turn based combat to Fire Emblem or XCOM.” This was quite true, especially when it came to the games gameplay in relation to Fire Emblem. In my opinion the game drew aspects from the Civilization series as well. This was because of the hexagonal tiles that are used to navigate the map. This allows for a more unique navigation when compared to strategy games that take place on a traditional grid.

Overall i found the party combat and overall aesthetic of Pit People to be an absolute blast. The Behemoth once again has created a unique and fun game to play. Now all I have to do is wait to buy it on the PC.

The Behemoth – Pit People (Xbox One & PC) – Release TBA

My “Best of E3” 2015

This year’s E3 was headlined by dozens of noteworthy games. Some games were expected while others came out of nowhere (i’m looking at you Final Fantasy 7 Remake). I for one felt that Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain did not receive the amount of spotlight it deserved. Then again that is my on bias opinion as I am a huge fan of that franchise. Tons of games were announced and I won’t cover them all, I will however provide a short recap for all of the games and content that I myself are incredibly excited for. This will be another list post so it will be easier to navigate.

Halo 5: Guardians 

An absolutely ridiculous amount of Halo content was revealed at this years E3. More details regarding the story mode which is apparently 4 player coop was shown off during an 8 minute gameplay demo. The demo put players in control of Agent Locke (now a Spartan) and the rest of his fireteam called Osiris. The short demo displayed the team work between either AI Spartans or player controlled spartans with each other as they progress through the story mode. The campaign will have two different perspectives. One from Master Chief and Blue Team’s perspective as they search for a way to control or destroy the mysterious Guardians. Meanwhile, Agent Locke and his team are trying to hunt down the Master Chief and his allies. This corroborates previous evidence that the Master Chief is apparently AWOL and Locke is tasked with killing or capturing Chief.

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The other noteworthy bit of Guardians that was shown off was the new Warzone gamemode. Essentially this gamemode pits two teams, the Reds & Blues, against each other on a large scale battlefield. The two team will fight each other and other neutral combatants that will be hostile to both teams. Players can guide their own teams marines as well as they attempt to kill Covenant forces and targets to gain points. Which ever team reaches the point limit first wins. Other victory conditions were mentioned that culminate with a final assault on the opposing teams base but this appears to be a secondary objective.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands

Honestly, this one came out of nowhere. It has been a while since gamers have received a Ghost Recon game that wasn’t grounded in uber futuristic tech and gadgets. This iteration however appears to be returning to the franchises roots. This time a team of Ghosts are apparently attempting to eliminate the cruel drug cartels that plague central and southern america. The gameplay featured an open world sandbox environment and teased dozens of hits and targets on members of various cartels.

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The gameplay also displayed different approaches to each mission. Tactics ranging from silent assaults at night to straight up ambushes with grenades and heavy weapons were shown to the audience at E3. Though it wasn’t confirmed, the game appeared to be a 4 player coop to a degree. The squad itself comprised of 4 Ghosts that were definitely either Ai or player controlled. Given the history of coop in Ghost Recon games I do not think it is a bad prediction that Wildlands will feature a full coop campaign or at least some form of coop. This game was my favorite surprise of E3, excluding Final Fantasy 7 Remake of course.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

I felt that that Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain deserved more exposure during E3. A unique 5 ish minute trailer edited by Hideo Kojima himself appeared online during E3, yet the game had zero presence at the Sony or Microsoft press conferences. An amazing 40 minute gameplay demo was shown off at Konami‘s booth if I am remembering that correctly. Yet that isn’t the point, this game, due to the shear scale and depth of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain this game should be exposed to a wider audience.

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This is due to the fact that this is Hideo Kojima’s last Metal Gear game. After nearly 30 years his piece of this saga is coming to a close. The open world and new gameplay elements which are too many to merely list also add a degree of hype to the game. This game also has an extra degree of hype added to it since Metal Gear is my favorite franchise and this final game from Hideo Kojima will be bitter sweet. None the less, I cannot wait for this game’s September 1st release date.

Horizon Zero Dawn

Pardon my language but where the hell did this game come from? Sure Horizon Zero Dawn is being developed by Guerilla Games, the minds behind Killzone, but the mere idea of this game dumbfounds me. Apparently in the very distant future something causes society as we know it to collapse and humanity is reduced to tribal groups that resemble ancient nomadic groups (Think Ice Age). While this all happened mechanized animals have rose up and now dominate the world as giant beasts. At this point so much time has passed that humanity doesn’t even remember their original heritage and they accept their current situation as the only Earth humanity has known. Though ruins of large cities still remain, humanity hasn’t progress pass the use of bows and arrows.

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The idea is quite appealing to myself as a gamer. The game itself looks like it plays as a stealth third person action game. Guerilla Games also stated yesterday that the game will be an open world game as well. The protagonist is also a strong unique female hunter, that aesthetically looks tough and is very handy with a bow and arrow. This is a nice change instead of having some sort of brute viking esque man as the protagonist. Female characters in gaming are nearly always portrayed in a sexual manor and her appearance is unique because she isn’t the typical eye candy female protagonist.

The Last Guardian

Finally, after a long wait, The Last Guardian is finally being released. For those unaware the game was announced in 2008. However, several roadblocks have kept it from being finished. these range from development catastrophes to essential staff leaving the project. I honestly didn’t believe that it was ever going to come out. I mean come on, it was supposed to be a PS3 game! Transferring it from PS3 to PS4 in itself was probably a logistical nightmare.

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The plot involves a boy and a giant bird-dog hybrid creature as they journey through an abandoned castle/town, I honestly really don’t know how to describe it. It just looks unique and fun to play. If you don’t believe me go watch a trailer yourself.

Uncharted The Nathan Drake Collection REVEALED!

https://i0.wp.com/thenerdstash.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/UnchartedTrilogy.jpgIn a move that many fans saw coming, Naughty Dog has announced the Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection. The collection will feature all three main Uncharted games that were featured on the PS3. At the moment since this is a new story there are few things that the general public knows about the collection besides the fact that all three games have been remastered and re textured for the PS4. The status of the frame rate of the overall collection is still currently unknown, one can only guess that it will be near 60 FPS 1080p.

This decision to re release these three fantastic games can be compared to Microsoft’s decision to re release the core Halo games under the guise of the Master Chief Collection. Both companies have or are going to release these collections before their next game in their series’ is released. In Microsoft’s case this would be Halo 5: Guardians and for Sony / Naughty Dog this would be Uncharted 4. The marketing behind this is simple and smart. Re release updated versions of past successful games in a series on the next gen to create hype for the newer game. At the same time this give new adopters of the Xbox One and PS4 a chance to play fantastic games for the first time without having to buy a Xbox 360 or PS3.

I for one cannot wait to replay the Uncharted series as a way to touch up on the main story before Uncharted 4‘s release in 2016.

The announcement trailer can be found here. The game will release on October 9, 2015.

XCOM 2 & Fallout 4 have been announced!

The past week has been full of huge announcements for all things games. Most of these announcements can be attributed to the fact that E3 is only 12 DAYS AWAY! The two biggest announcements however absolutely have to be the XCOM 2 & Fallout 4 reveal trailers.

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I for one was a huge fan of XCOM: Enemy Unknown and its follow up expansion Enemy Within. The turn based strategy series by Firaxis and its most recent installment was critically acclaimed by countless reviewers. I myself logged over 200+ hours fighting aliens in the name of humanities defense. The permadeath features for the players squad made every decision in game count.

Moving onto XCOM 2, I absolutely loved the reveal trailer (link here ). The guerrilla esque theme to the trailer and the new story which takes place 20 years after Enemy Unknown were incredibly inviting and new. Apparently after Enemy Unknown, the aliens have been some what welcomed into society and have meshed with a one world order organization named ADVENT. The XCOM soldiers from the previous game were wise enough to not conform with this organization and has picked up arms against the aliens once again.

XCOM 2 will come out later this year and will be a PC exclusive.

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People have been waiting and after countless false trailers Fallout 4 has been announced. The new Fallout trailer shows off a German Shepherd as it explores a dilapidated home. I personally am not a fan of the new brighter colors of this “in game engine.” It just does not feel post apocalyptic anymore with this brighter color palette.

None the less the idea of a next gen Fallout on the PS4, Xbox One and of course the master PC is incredibly inviting. Bethesda has noted that they will be showing off more at E3. Besides the video trailer published today nothing else is really available at the time.

Review: Project CARS

Bent metal, stunning visuals, and heart racing gameplay: Few words can describe the sheer amount of detail put into Project CARS, a racing simulator developed by Slightly Mad Studios. At first glance, the game would appear to have been made by a major publisher’s developers such as EA or Ubisoft. However, the reality is that Project CARS was developed by a small team whose origins can be traced back to Need For Speed: Shift. Slightly Mad Studios, which is based out of the U.K. and is comprised of just over 100 employees. When juxtaposed with the larger developers that can range from 350-800 employees, this number seems relatively tame. If this game proves anything about AAA game development, it is that beautiful games do not require a ludicrous amount of employees and funding. This alone drew my attention to Project CARS.

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Racing simulators, for those unaware of the specifics of the genre, attempt to encapsulate a realistic approach to racing. Easily distinguishable from more arcade racers such as Midnight Club or Burnout, racing sims convey the more serious aspects of circuit racing. Other noteworthy racing sims are the Forza Gran Turismo franchises, yet these two are isolated to either the Xbox or Playstation platforms. Project Cars, on the other hand, is available on multiple platforms from the PC to the WiiU. Obviously, the most unique experience will be on the PC, which is my platform of choice for the game. At the same time, however, I am incredibly satisfied by this small team of developers’ ability to put out their game on so many platforms (the Thursday release on the PC was also a nice change).

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From the moment that the game is booted up, the visuals are the first aspects of the game that stand out the most. I was met with near photo-realistic quality. This amount of detail and hard work put in by the team absolutely accomplished its goal of putting the player behind the wheel of a super car. In other words, everything from the rain drops running down the side of the cars to the unique shadows and lighting exemplify and champion the art of artistic game design (photo-realistic comparison is above). Another small detail that was quite enjoyable was the physics behind leaves and debris on the track. Leaves mask the trail and rush of air behind your vehicle, almost like a small tornado. The amount of time dedicated in order to accomplish such a small feat truly displays this hardworking team of developers’ pride in its work. This alone set them apart from more “mainstream” developers.

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Graphics in racing games can only help polish the games’ end result. Gameplay ultimately makes or breaks racing games. That being said, I have found my time withProject CARS incredibly difficult but rewarding. All actions and shifts of the steering wheel have drastic effects on the handling of the cars. The slightest wrong twitch can send your priceless car into the side of an unwelcoming wall or fellow racer. Project CARS manages to break down the aspects of racing to almost an art, which sounds poetic but is nonetheless true. Rain, which normally is a minor setback in other racing games, truly can screw the player over if the wrong set up is used. The types of tires, break pressure, and even the temperature of the breaks all affect the player’s ability to navigate in the rain. Driving without rain in this game is already difficult enough at times, and rain just makes Project CARS even more realistic and difficult. Ironically, I found the driving mechanics in the game to be not only fair, but also quite easy to understand. The game explicitly explains to the player what different tunes and options on your car will result in on the track. The game does not hold the player’s hand. Rather, it attempts to guide the player in explaining how things such as qualifier rounds and grid set ups can affect your performance. The game itself is far more intuitive and has far more depth than it lends itself to at first glance.

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The cars themselves in the game are also a specific asset when it comes to the gameplay as a whole. In some races, the player will be racing against 20 identical cars that only vary when it comes to finite tuning adjustments. In other races, the player will pick a specific car from a preset class. Regardless, the game’s fair level playing field of giving each racer the same fully upgraded car truly helps distinguish an average racer from a pro. Players can’t depend on better upgrades or cash to pay for better parts. Instead, the skill of the player ultimately proves to be the defining factor between finishing first or last. The game accomplishes these fair playing field conditions by placing the player essentially on a racing team sponsored by a group. In these leagues that the teams compete in, all cars are the same, and all assets are shared. The tournaments themselves occur on a calendar reminiscent of my pro player on Fifa or any other sports game. Races are set in advance and are normally divided into days. This adds a sense of reality and depth to the game. Many racing games have the player magically appear at a starting line, only becoming aware of where they are going to race moments before. Project Cars allows the player to glimpse months ahead into their schedule in order to prepare for the different tracks and cars allowed in upcoming races. It truly feels like a professional and realistic experience, or as close to one as the average player can get to actually racing a two million dollar car down the Mercedes Benz test track in Germany.

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To top off the already incredibly well-made game, the developers have made a phenomenal multiplayer environment. On the PC at least, weekly tournaments and competitions are hosted for various prizes, including some actual cash prizes. The community as a whole is incredibly welcoming, and different brackets for various skill levels of players are available. The developers behind Project CARS have succeeded in making a game with a devoted and deeply interested community. This in turn will increase the longevity of the game and hopefully the game series.

Verdict: 9/10 – Though it lacks the large roster of its competitors in this genre of gaming, Project CARS instead provides the players with an incredibly realistic environment. The attention to detail and the overall graphics of the game are easily the best in the industry at the moment, but, at the same time, the game delivers a precise and fair version of racing gameplay.