NotOpodcast: Episode 7

Welcome to the seventh episode of NotOpodcast, where Michael, Kilroy, and Anshel join me to discuss a variety of topics such as the Battlefield 1 Beta, the Sony PS4 Pro, the Apple iPhone 7, Anshel's experiences at IFA Berlin, techwear and gear choices, as well as equipment logistics.

The timecodes are:

Gaming - 0:41 - Battlefield 1 Beta, Sony PS4 Pro
Technology - 27:28 - Apple iPhone 7, IFA Berlin
Firearms - 53:12 - Techwear, Equipment Logistics

 


NotOpodcast: Episode 6

Welcome to the sixth episode of NotOpodcast, where Michael and Anshel join me to discuss a variety of topics such as No Man's Sky, the latest in VR gaming, Anshel's experiences at VRLA (the Virtual Reality expo in Los Angeles), the new Samsung Galaxy Note7, the newest GPUs on the market, firearms in video games, and some basics of pistol mechanics.

The timecodes are:

Gaming - 1:00 - No Man's Sky, latest in VR gaming
Technology - 22:23 - VRLA (Virtual Reality: Los Angeles) Expo, Samsung Galaxy Note7, latest GPUs (Graphics Cards)
Firearms - 1:01:07 - Guns in Games, Basics of Pistol Mechanics

 


NotOpodcast: Episode 3

Welcome to the third episode of NotOpodcast, where Kilroy and Michael join me to discuss a variety of topics such the latest on E3 announcements from this week, physical phone keyboards, an in depth look at the upcoming Xbox Project Scorpio, the tactical triad, and ignorance about AR15s.

The timecodes are:

Gaming - 0:45 - E3, Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo
Technology - 35:23 - Physical vs Software Phone Keyboards, Xbox Project Scorpio Specs
Firearms - 54:15 - Tactical Triad, Michael Moore AR15 Tweet

 


Destiny - The Taken King Leak and Why We Shouldn’t Care

Ahhhh, Destiny. The last game you’ll ever need… since you won’t have money or time left to buy or play any others. Late last night, details for Destiny’s third expansion pack, The Taken King, were leaked to Kotaku.

New features for the expansion include a new raid, PvP maps, and most notably, a third elemental subclass for each of the game’s three classes. These subclasses will consist of “an electrical storm for Warlocks (arc); a gravity bow for Hunters (void); and a flaming hammer for Titans (solar).” Sounds cool to me!

“What’s the price of admission to partake in this new endeavor?” you may ask. Only $40. “But Michael,” you reply, “Didn’t I already pay $60 for the full game and $35 for the season pass?” Yes… yes you did. “This DLC should be covered by the season pass then, right?” No… no it isn’t included in the cost of the season pass.

If you aren’t concerned or confused by now, let me help you with the math. Assuming you’re still playing Destiny now, after purchasing the game when it launched in September 2014, you will have most likely spent $60 for the retail copy of the game and $35 for the season pass (or $40 if you bought the two already released DLCs separately).

Conservatively, that means you would have spent at least $95 on Destiny during its first 9 months of release. Throw in an additional $40 for The Taken King on its expected release date of September 15th, 2015, and you will have spent a total of $135 on Destiny over the first 12 months of its release.

This may not seem like a lot of money for the value when averaged out over the games’ life for those 12 months ($11.25/month), but it most certainly wouldn’t feel that way if you are still hoping to buy and play through the other new games that have been and will be released.

destinyMeme

Compare this cost to a game like Battlefield 4, where purchasing the Premium Edition for an extra $50 nets you every DLC the game releases (which, as of this writing, is comprised of five expansions plus some other features). New maps, guns… the works. That’s a pretty comparable cost to Destiny and its DLC if you bought the Premium Edition of Battlefield 4 at launch ($110 total).

However, there’s one important distinction to make. You don’t actually need a Battlefield 4 Premium membership to keep playing and enjoying Battlefield 4. The experience you get from the original maps is just as good as those in the DLC. Alternatively, in Destiny, you have to buy all of the DLCs if you want to get new loot, level up, and participate in weekly events. Basically, you have to pay in order to keep up with the game.

It’s important to note that all of the information related to The Taken King is leaked and potentially subject to change down the road. If that’s the case, then my argument might be meritless. If that isn’t the case, and the leak is 100% accurate, then a terrible precedent is being set here and we must do something about it before this becomes endemic to the video game industry. All you have to do is something as simple as saving yourself $40: Don’t buy the DLC.

Evolve didn’t sell as well as Take-Two hoped it would (approximately 2.5 million units across all three platforms). After learning about the game’s extensive DLC plan and lack of initial content, gamers took a stand and spoke with their wallets in opposition of Evolve.

This happened to be so effective that the CEO of Take-Two, Strauss Zelnick, even mentioned that Take-Two has “come out of that experience reminding ourselves we have to have a strong single-player opportunity” and that “if there were something lacking, I would say it would be that it was probably a bit too multiplayer-focused, which we knew all along." We can only hope that gamers will come together again to vote with their wallets when The Taken King releases. If they don’t, paying $135 just to continue playing a mediocre game at best could become the industry standard.

As a once-proud member of the hype-train that was Destiny, I really wanted to like the game. And I did, right up until the time I was told by an NPC that they didn’t even have time to explain why they didn’t have time to explain an important part of the “story” to me.

That being said, I still played the game for a few more weeks. I ran the Vault of Glass a bunch, PvPed, farmed materials, and grinded my way to level 30. It was all great fun, until my gamer friends refused to join me and I finally realized I was basically playing a mobile game that was built for consoles. Unfortunately, if that doesn’t make sense, my fellow Guardians of the Light, I don’t even have time to explain why I don’t have time to explain.


5 Video Game Remasters We Actually Want

I don’t think I’m the only one annoyed by what seems like a new video game remaster being announced each week. ‘Remasters,’ ‘Collections,’ ‘Definitive Editions’, or whatever term publishers are coming up with to trick people into buying old games, have been flooding the market lately and more will inevitably be announced shortly.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of these remasters is that most of them haven’t been adding any sort of real value aside from simply upping the game’s resolution and/or framerate. Take the most recently released remaster, Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin, for example. The game is a 1080p and 60fps version of Dark Souls II, complete with all three DLC packs from the game. That’s about it.

Sure, the Scholar of the First Sin increased the maximum amount of players in an online game from four to six and changed enemy spawn locations, but is that really enough to justify purchasing the game again if you already own it?

I know that there is some overlap here for gamers who missed out on playing certain games when they were released the first time around. However, the number of potential buyers who have never played the remaster is obviously much smaller when compared to the number before the release of the original game. Despite all of this, these kind of games must be selling well because, well, they keep on being made.

Does anyone remember in the early days of the PS4 and Xbox One, where if you owned a game like Battlefield 4 on PS3 or Xbox 360, you could upgrade to the PS4/Xbox One versions for as low as $10 for a limited time? That is essentially what you are getting now, a PS4/Xbox One version of the same game, except, in most cases, you are paying the full $60 price of a video game.

Fortunately, a few developers actually understand how to do a remaster right and actually give you the best bang for your buck.

Rockstar added the highly anticipated first-person mode to the PC, PS4, and Xbox One versions of Grand Theft Auto V, as well as some new missions, weapons, and vehicles.

State of Decay developer, Undead Labs, is offering a 33% discount on the purchase of State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition to those who already own a copy of State of Decay on Xbox 360 or PC. The PC version of the recent Sleeping Dogs remaster is also worth mentioning, as the Definitive Edition on PC was only $30, or $15 if you owned the original game. Xbox One and PS4 versions were still $60, though.

Networking issues aside, the Master Chief Collection on Xbox One is the perfect example of a remaster done right. Not only could you play Halo: Combat Evolved on Xbox Live for the first time ever (when you could actually get matchmaking to work), but Halo 2 received the full “Anniversary” treatment as well.

Like the Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition which came out in 2011 for Xbox 360, the Master Chief Collection version of Halo 2 received a dramatic facelift. The resolution and framerate were bumped to 1080p and 60fps respectively, and every cutscene from the original Halo 2 was remastered and given stunning new cinematics by Blur Studio. There were also new hidden collectibles to find that dove deeper into the Halo lore in preparation for Halo 5. Additionally, six of Halo 2’s multiplayer maps were re-made entirely on the Xbox One engine by Max Hoberman (former lead designer at Bungie) and his current studio, Certain Affinity.

Combined, all of these features easily give you enough value to justify the full $60 retail price of the game. Oh, and let’s not forget that the Master Chief Collection also included remasters of Halo:CE, Halo 3, and Halo 4, as well as exclusive access to the Halo 5 beta.

All of these remasters have gotten me thinking of the games I would like to see re-made to play on current generation consoles, in a fashion similar to the Master Chief Collection. By re-made, I mean updated graphics, remastered cutscenes, and other unique features that would help warrant a purchase. I’m going to take the easy way out and imagine we’re in a perfect world where cost and development time on actual game projects would not be affected by creating these remasters.

Hot on the heels of the rumored Batman Arkham series collection, here are my top five choices for remasters that we gamers deserve and need right now:

1) Kingdom Hearts Collection – Kingdom Hearts 1.5 & 2.5 (Xbox One, PS4)

Kingdom_Hearts_II

Few video games serve the purpose of uniting our inner child with our inner nerd better than Kingdom Hearts does. With Kingdom Hearts III now in development, a complete Kingdom Hearts collection released in the near future would serve the purpose of providing a refresher on the story (which spans a total of 7 games – 2 on consoles, 5 on handhelds), while attracting new gamers to the series, which originally launched in 2002.

Having all seven games in one place, with remastered graphics and cutscenes, would be a hard deal to pass up. Additionally, an Xbox One version released ahead of the Kingdom Hearts III launch (release date to be announced) would mark the first time a Kingdom Hearts game could be purchased for Xbox and would surely sell well. Interestingly enough, Kingdom Hearts 2.5 was just released on PS3 only in December 2014. Could a complete collection on PS4 and Xbox One follow soon after?

2) Marvel’s: Raven Collection – X-men Legends, X-men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 1, & Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 (PC, Xbox One, PS4)

One of my favorite developers from the early 2000’s, Raven Software made a name for itself with the awesomely fun Star Wars Jedi Knight games. From there, Raven hit their stride with the X-men Legend and Ultimate Alliance games; top-down multiplayer action RPG’s. Diverse and expansive character rosters, combined with interesting stories and enjoyable gameplay, helped cement the series as a must-buy among Marvel fans and gamers alike.

Aside from Marvel Heroes and Lego Marvel, Marvel has been lacking in the video game department for years. Alternatively, DC has had bigger hits recently like Injustice: Gods Among Us and DC Universe Online. Throw together a collection of remastered versions of Raven's Marvel games, with some new exclusive characters and costumes added to the rosters, release it around the same time of the next big Marvel movie, and you might as well be printing money.

P.S. Before you start throwing things at me, the only reason why a Jedi Knight game didn’t make my list is because I already picked a different Star Wars series below. Also, I know Ultimate Alliance 2 sucked; I just threw it in the Raven Collection for completeness. You don’t have to play it if you don’t want to.

3) Team ICO Collection: Ico & Shadow of the Colossus (PS4)

shadowOfTheColossus

Arguably two of the best adventure games of all time, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are cult classics from the PS2 era. Even to this day, I don’t think I’ve come across another game that I thought was as gorgeous and atmospheric as Shadow of the Colossus was when I played it for the first time.

Now I know this collection has been done before, as evidenced by the box art above, but that was simply an HD remaster.

Ico looked great and Shadow of the Colossus pushed the PS2 to its technical limits when it came out a few years later. Can you imagine what these games would look like if they were completely remastered on a PS4 engine? I can’t. The thought of it is too beautiful.

Revealing the Team ICO Collection at this year’s E3 for a Holiday 2015 release would help strengthen the PS4’s weak remaining 2015 lineup, especially considering that Uncharted 4 has been pushed back to 2016. Hopefully Team ICO would be kind enough to add in some new developer diaries for The Last Guardian as a bonus feature in the Collection, which would help to ease fans concerns over the game’s prolonged development.

4) Banjo-Kazooie Collection: Banjo-Kazooie, Banjo-Tooie, and Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts (Xbox One)

Banjo-Kazooie

“Guh-huh!” It’s been almost 7 years since everyone’s favorite bear-with-a-bird-in-his backpack graced our consoles with his presence. It’s been even longer since he was actually in games as awesome as Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie were. Nuts and Bolts was just okay, but it was missing a lot of the heart and sense of adventure that made the first two Banjo installments great.

Remastering the Banjo games for the Xbox One would then pave the way for a brand new Banjo-Kazooie titles to launch down the road. This would be a welcome addition to the Xbox One library of exclusives, which is primarily comprised of relatively dark games with lots of shooting at the moment.

Recently, when Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s Head o’ Xbox, was asked about the possibility of Banjo being voted into Super Smash Brothers for Wii U, he had this to say: “I think it would be cool if Banjo was in the next SSB DLC. We've worked with Nintendo on Rare IP before, no issues.” If, by some miracle, Banjo gets enough votes to make it into Smash as DLC, it would be a huge win for Xbox. They would be dumb not to capitalize on that success by having new Banjo games available to play.

5) Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 1 & 2 (PC, Xbox One, PS4)

KOTOR_collection

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) was one of the first RPG’s that I ever played. The game boasted a great story filled with twists and a memorable cast of characters and companions alike. Who could forget HK-47 in all of his meatbag hating glory?

KOTOR made a lasting impression on me due to the fact that my decisions actually had an impact on the outcome of the game’s story. I could be the Jedi that I wanted to be, which felt pretty damn cool, especially when you got to build your own lightsaber and explore the galaxy in the Ebon Hawk, the precursor to the Millennium Falcon.

I know I’m not alone when I say that a remastered version of KOTOR 1 & 2 would be my top choice out of all of the games on this list. Now I don’t want to say this remaster will never happen, because I never deal in absolutes. That being said, this remaster will probably never happen. We would certainly be more likely to see a Mass Effect Trilogy remaster (“The Shepard Collection”?) before a KOTOR remaster, but then again, you’re never supposed to tell me the odds.

 

Well, there you have it. The top 5 video game remasters I would willingly buy and play. Do you agree or disagree with my choices? What video games would you like to see remastered? Be sure to let us know by leaving a comment below or on our Facebook and Twitter!


Halo 5: Guardians Beta - A Look At What's To Come

Developer 343 Industries is coming off, let’s face it, an abysmal launch of Halo: The Master Chief Collection for the Xbox One that still experiences matchmaking issues to date. 343 is aiming to use the Halo 5: Guardians Multiplayer Beta to be just that, a beta in an effort to prepare for retail launch and avoid repeating the mistakes made with Halo: MCC. With plenty of time to go before Halo 5 is released to the masses later this year and consumes the lives of Xbox gamers (no official word on a release date yet, but it will most likely be announced at this year’s E3), the data and player feedback gathered from the beta actually has a chance to be utilized by 343 and make its way into the final product. This is in direct contrast to most other console betas, which serve more of a marketing purpose as a glorified demo than as a way to actually improve the game before launch (anyone still remember Titanfall?).

Also, as a point of note: while the beta runs at 720p and 60 FPS, this has been confirmed by 343 to not be final resolution Halo 5 will run at.

Abilities

The Halo 5: Guardians Multiplayer Beta, only accessible to those who have a copy of the Master Chief Collection, runs from December 29th to January 18th and concentrates exclusively on “arena” style multiplayer matches. For the uninitiated, this translates to two teams of four Spartans battling it out in a variety of small-scale maps that cater to fast-paced combat, which is enhanced by perhaps the biggest change in the series – Spartan abilities. Not to be confused with the controversial loadouts and armor abilities from Halo Reach and Halo 4, all Spartan abilities are innately available to all players to use as they please in order to add an additional strategic dimension to the Halo gunfighting experience. In Halo 5, your Spartan now has the following abilities:

  • Smart Scope – An enhanced aim feature applicable to every gun in the game. For example, Smart Scoping with the Assault Rifle zooms in and two snazzy looking semi-circles pop up on your HUD, whereas doing it with the SMG allows you to aim down the weapon’s sights. Note that doing this will improve the spread of bullets fired from your guns, as tested in the video below. Also, using Smart Scope while in the air will cause your Spartan to hover in place for a short period of time.

  • Sprint – Hitting the sprint button allows your Spartan to run for an unlimited duration, though your shields will not recharge until you stop sprinting.
  • Slide – Crouching while sprinting will send you into a low slide, which I’ve only ever seen one other Spartan do in all of my time playing the beta so far. Maybe players will get more use out of it once we get a shotgun to slide around with?
  • Thruster Pack – A quick press of the Thruster Pack button gives your Spartan a short range dash that can be used going forward, backward, left, right, and even mid-air, but has about a four second delay before it can be used again. Try boosting left or right during one-on-one firefights to throw off your opponent’s aim, or use it to dash to safety without having to sprint so your shields can recharge sooner.
  • Clamber – Pretty simple concept here, but new nonetheless to the Halo series. Pressing the Clamber button allows for your Spartan to climb up ledges that are within reach. Clambering, in conjunction with sprinting and the Thruster Pack, can have you zipping around the map in no time.
  •  Spartan Charge – After sprinting for a short period of time, your target reticle will change from the usual circle in the middle of your screen to two brackets. Once this happens, a press of the melee button causes your Spartan to perform a flying knee into anyone foolish enough to get in the way. One hit on an enemy from behind with a Spartan Charge will result in their immediate death, though a charge from the front or side will only remove your opponent’s shields, assuming they have taken no previous damage.
  • Ground Pound – Seemingly the most gimmicky ability in game, the Ground Pound is actually a pretty useful tactic once you’ve mastered it. A direct hit on an unsuspecting foe will nab you a kill, whereas anything else will only take down their shields and leave you exposed (again, assuming no previous damage taken). Try baiting unsuspecting enemies into your location when you have the high ground, jump up, hold down the Ground Pound button, and teach that other Spartan what it feels like to be a Goomba under the boot of a certain mustachioed Italian plumber.

Also new in Halo 5 is Spartan chatter, in-game dialogue that your Spartan teammates make, which helps to facilitate communication that might not otherwise be present if one your teammates isn’t mic’d up. Hearing warnings of enemy snipers, for example, is a nice touch that definitely saved me in the beta. The possibility of being able to customize voices would be a fun feature in the final game, and was a welcome touch in Halo Reach’s version of Firefight. However, this may just be me being blinded by my desire to have Sergeant Johnson in the game.

Weapons

On the weapons front, the fan favorite Battle Rifle returns, in addition to the other popular Halo mainstays like the DMR, Pistol, and Sniper Rifle. A new gun we got to mess around with in the beta, appropriately called the “Hydra”, is a multi-shot rocket launcher that locks onto enemy Spartans and takes two direct hits to get a kill. Where things to start to get interesting is with the addition of the new “legendary” weapons. On the multiplayer map Truth, affectional dubbed “Midship 2.0” by 343, you’ll find an Energy Sword called the “Prophet’s Bane”. Aside from having a badass name and yellowish hue, the Prophet’s Bane actually increases the movement speed of its Spartan host, allowing the wielder to hunt down enemies with swift precision. My prediction is that these weapons are going to be the next evolution of Halo power-ups like Overshield and Active Camoflage. Personally, one of the most exciting aspect of these legendary weapons for now is speculating what others we’ll have in our arsenal in the final game. I’ve had a couple ideas for guns that could show up in the final game: maybe a shotgun that gives the player an overshield called “The Chief”? Or how about “Wetwork”, an SMG that grants active camouflage? Only time will tell, but for now, post in the comments below or tweet at us @NotOperating with your own legendary weapon ideas!

Game Modes

Slayer, Halo’s equivalent of Team Deathmatch, makes its return in Halo 5, in addition to two brand new modes: Breakout and Strongholds.

Breakout, set in the Speedball-like maps Trench and Crossfire, is a round based game where each player has no shields and no motion tracker. The player also starts with an SMG, pistol, one grenade, and most importantly, one life. The team with the last Spartan standing at the end of the round wins, and the first team to win five rounds wins the match. Having no shields causes you to change strategy from typical Slayer encounters to what oftentimes results in you getting one-shotted by a grenade from across the map or picked off by one of the Battle Rifles up for grabs for each team. However, if you manage to survive the initial ‘nade salvo, or make it to a safe spot before the BRs are up on their perches, Breakout provide some fun, yet stressful gameplay, especially when you are the lone Spartan against a few survivors on the enemy team.

Strongholds, a variant on the Territories mode of yore (similar to Domination in Call of Duty), has Spartans fighting over three control points. Concurrently holding two of these capture sites will allow your team to start racking up points every second. Having only one stronghold means your team won’t be getting any points at all. First team to 100 points wins the game.

As for the new ranking system in these modes, completing ten matches will place you in one of seven tiers, similar to Starcraft II’s ladder system (which isn’t surprising, considering Josh Menke helped design both systems). The tiers, in ascending order, are: Iron, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Onyx, Semi-Pro, and Pro. No need to be disappointed if you feel your placement isn’t representative of your actual skill level. Winning matches after those initial 10 will slowly but surely move you up to the next rank. Conversely, losing will drop your level down. While I can’t complain about being able to brag to my friends that I am a Pro in Strongholds or a Semi-Pro in Slayer, a little more transparency from 343 Industries as to what factors determine the initial ranking would be a welcome addition.

For some, 2014 will live in infamy as the year game developers got away with selling unfinished games. While making it up to early game adopters with special perks like a free Ubisoft game or a remastered ODST is great and all, hopefully in the future we will see finished products released, you know, when they are actually finished. As expected, the beta was not without its share of bugs and matchmaking issues. However, with the Halo 5: Guardians Multiplayer Beta, 343 Industries is taking a step in the right direction. Somehow, despite all of these changes, the game still manages to have that beloved classic Halo feel. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need a weapon.