Saturday, January 25, 2014

When Good Games Go Bad

Yeah, I know, the title is a bit on the dramatic side...forgive me, it sounds awesome and I had to use it.

Debbie & I have been playing a ton of Defiance on the 360 lately.  It came out in April 2013 and the price point dropped embarrassingly fast.  It is an MMO which is pretty intriguing and awesome on the console, as my MMO experience before this was only WoW.

Us ladies of Achievos have fairly similar taste in games, but somehow we rarely end up playing the same stuff.  If we do play the same game, I'm usually playing it about a year after Debbie has already completed and re-sold it.  So it has been super fun to have this game that we can run around in together and kill all the evil, diseased masses.  The game is an MMO, so we do see lots of other people in game as well.  But seeing them running around is pretty much as much interaction as you're going to get.

And this is where the good game goes bad.

Defiance has an unbelievable amount of potential.  It is fun.  It is a functional console MMO.  It has a large world map, easy travel, a number of weapons that would rival Borderlands, and multiple skill trees to build out your perfect character.

That said, it is the least multi-player MMO that I have ever heard of.  The grouping option is sloppy at best,
Hey, I see you over there. Wish we could interact.
as we are constantly booted from our group for no apparent reason.  And the group questing is also confusing.  If one character has already completed the mission, they often can't see everything going on, and their partner will freeze and disappear during cutscenes or to fight bosses that are no longer available to you.  There are clans, but we have unsuccessfully joined a couple and there doesn't seem to be much benefit to being in them.  Although that might just be because we haven't found a great, active one yet.

The world map is large, but the quests are extremely repetitive.  I hope you like ranchers, because you're going to be saving the same few groups of them day in and day out.  Yes, it is a reputation daily quest, but there are story lines and side missions that have you doing the same thing over and over too.  And the game is notoriously bad for having you travel 100 meters to pick up a quest, then 200 meters to get the next piece of information, 150 meters to kill 3 guys...etcetc..  It gets old quick.  At least there is fast travel, and the vehicles (while easily stopped on any small barrier) are super fun and quick to drive.

Finally, the weapons.  There are approximately 80 gazillion to choose from.  There are all of your favorite types. Prefer pistols? Snipers? Shotties?  We've got it all.  And on top of that, there are 4 or 5 different variations.  Sawed-off shotguns, pump action, combat...  And you are constantly getting loot.  New and amazing things to shoot.  And mods to make them even better!  But heaven help you if you can manage all of this with the awkward menus, impossible to compare weapon lists, and constant juggling of those mods.  It's fun, but good luck.  I find myself keeping my old trusty weapons and mostly scrapping or selling everything else.

Now you may be wondering why we're playing if it's just got so many hiccups.  Why?  Why are we pouring hours and hours into leveling up our guns and characters and searching Paradise for the random information stash?  Because it is really fun.  Even though the game has its issues, it is still a blast.  And remember when I said the price point was embarrassingly low soon out of the gate? That is a glaring hint to you, readers.  If you haven't picked up this game, go get it.  The more of us who play, the more fun it will be.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Kinect Is Watching You......

Let's start by acknowledging that this is not a review.  There are numerous reviews of the Xbox One and the new Kinect, therefore I will save us all the time of running through the specs.  This is just a few bits of information and mild anecdotes to help you make an informed decision. 

The new Kinect that comes with the Xbox One is about twice as tall as its predecessor, but the height is worth it.  The original Kinect required a shockingly large amount of space.  The new Kinect allows playing in a much smaller area, significantly closer to the sensor and the TV.  With that comes the warning that the Kinect can see everything.  That person in their underwear walking 15 feet off to the side of you will be plainly visible to the relatives you are Skyping with. 

The face recognition is neat and indescribably creepy.  I sit down in front of the console and it logs me in using my face.  If Kevin walks by in the far corner for just a split second, the Kinect chirps in with "Hi, Kevin!".  I was testing out a game under Kevin's profile, and the Kinect wouldn't let me.  It kept seeing my face and the IR sensors of the controller and kept automatically switching to my profile.  Not until Kevin was standing behind me and the IR censors were blocked by a pillow did the console let me use his tag.  My Kinect loves Kevin.

When it comes to dancing and movement, the new Kinect is hugely improved.  I was playing a Zumba game and that thing picked up all the head flicks and hip shakes I could muster.  Everything matches pretty well and there is longer any of the distortion when identifying body parts.

If you acquire the Kinect, I highly recommend you turn the microphone off.  There are numerous times when someone else is having a conversation in the room and they use the word "Xbox" in a sentence, and Kinect takes that as a cue to start listening.  When I was playing Call of Duty, about once per match someone would start yelling into their mic "Xbox: Stop Listening".  This thing is desperate for attention.

If you used the Kinect a lot before, then the new one will be amazing.  If you thought it was clumsy, find a friend that has one and try it out.  If you absolutely despise motion control, this won't change your mind.  But above all else, remember that Kinect is watching and listening.  If this thing isn't the first step towards a real life Hal 9000, I don't know what is.