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Saturday, July 19, 2014

How Mass Effect 4 Can Succeed (By Learning)

Games are sparse and my wallet is thoroughly empty after the ensuing Steam Sale and approaching Fall semester of college. You may have heard me audibly groan through the computer, and perhaps time depending upon when you're reading this. Instead of simply doing nothing and wasting away, I felt I'd put my two cents into the Mass Effect news... or lack thereof. Seriously, Bioware! As soon as I think you've cut the shackles of EA you show how much the indoctrination has seeped into your company. All joking aside, Bioware is at least third on my favorite game companies list, tied with Rockstar which is a respectable company to be paired with. Each make incredible games and I generally don't have a problem with the way they handle themselves internally. Even with their games that everyone and their grandmother can say was their worst they actually do an admirable job at it being leagues above other games.
I've been playing the Mass Effect series over because I wasn't sure Tali and I had the most stable relationship ever. Admittedly its been kind of bland or otherwise barren as far as new game releases go. E3 is usually, and ironically, the time which games come to a slump and rightfully so because developers have either been polishing their games for E3 or the crap has come to wade in the pool of the market to dirty it up before the triple A developers get angry and bring out the cleaning supplies.
There were a few things I remembered and found out by replaying all three games and felt I'd share it with you... because Bioware isn't taking my calls... again. Namely how Mass Effect 4 can be a good game.

-First off, don't call it Mass Effect 4. Okay that's a minor gripe but the whole thing is that its a new game, new protagonist and pretty much new everything. But on the subject of the '4' title there's something I've always wanted: my own character. So Shepherd wasn't a bad guy/gal right? I suppose, albeit very bland really. Its the classic 'Keanu Reaves is the perfect action hero' in the sense that you take a somewhat boring person to make them relateable to the target audience. Neo was to the 90's was disenfranchised kids felt like back then. Made you feel special, powerful and like you actually mattered. Neo was perfect because he was pretty much the typical male save strip out a lot of character defining factors so we could pretend to be him. And ultimately it worked. Though I think we can go in a different route. My biggest thought on how to make the game great is a simple RPG staple that I think they've seemed to have forgotten with the very first Dragon Age. See you could be one of three different races and within those races were subtle openings from which you were introduced into the story. Say if I was an elf I could either be the boring but nicely not screwed over with ridiculous tattoos on my face like Mike Tyson or I could be the Tyson-esque elf who got into Dalish camps more easily. It was pretty much cosmetic but it was nice the way characters and enemies interacted with me whether giving me a harder or easier time. They did the same thing with the first Mass Effect, but the choices were so bare and they only reared in the sequel never to pop up again. Yes never. They do nothing other than to simply introduce the character of Shepherd as being one of nine possible choices... and then nothing. Nothing came of it other than a simple dialogue conversation between two characters... TWICE. It would be nice if these choices meant anything. Like if I went to a colony as a colonist back story, people may notice me or even someone would comment on it. Mass Effect 2 did sort of more with it as well as 3. Go up to a random news kiosk and listen to it on your way to buying more guns and you'd just hear a small snip it of what your Shepherd was. For me I was a biotic who was a colonist. They gave grants to school kids inside the game. I hope those invisible kids got something out of it cause all I got was a "Huh" from myself. Apart from actually having some story implications, the best thing they can do is add bonuses. Say if I joined the Alliance Navy I could do more damage with a certain type of gun. Or perhaps I could have some extra training with weapons. Or better yet, since I always pick I biotic, it would be nice to have gone to a biotic school or something, giving me more training in the stuff out of the gate. The one thing Dragon Age 2 also got right was the dialogue tree right. I could choose between three different responses: Boring good guy, evil dick head and joker. I. WANT. THIS. BACK. New guy/gal can be a cocky space captain. Shooting first and asking questions NEVER. I can be the guy who's always joking in a situation whether it calls for it or not. Gives my character personality rather than just being 'the boring dude who is going to save us all'. Main problem I had with Shepherd is apart from making decisions and making him look almost exactly like me, he never felt like me. There was no cocky attitude I could take, not snarky comments when I felt it was fun. Sure, he did it every so often, but it was so random I could never really tell what tree choice would make it until I played through it and reloaded it. On a side note, EA: MAKE A GAME WHERE I CAN PLAY AS HAN SOLO. Open world sandbox where I can fly around and do as I please. That's all I ask!... among the other things I ask for.

-Appeal to the fans, not to new players. Small gripe but I'm going to tell you exactly why everyone didn't like ME 3 to the unarguably better ME 2: it was a movie. So not literally but you can kind of see what I mean when I write this. The opening scene says it all. This is basically a war movie with a dash of scifi added to the mix. You run out and things EXPLODE. GUNS. FIGHT STUFF. NO TIME FOR PLOT DEVELOPMENT OTHER THAN STUFF THEY DO IN MOVIES. ME 2 did this best. The beginning is still one of the most breath taking scenes in all of gaming for me. I screwed up with my character in the game so I restarted and I still got the butterflies in my stomach feeling when the moment came back. See that's what 2 did best. It made an almost perfect marriage of combat and RPG when the returning game did its best to make combat up front. Which isn't totally bad but Mass Effect is an RPG first. RPG in the sense I get a feeling I can skirt around certain things like plot and other boring things that end the game faster. They took out all of the sections where you can land on almost any planet and added annoying little sections you thought were good but just ended up being another time waster. I spent most of my time dicking around in ME 3 just trying to avoid the plot... and then I came across possibly the greatest jewel of the game... which I'm ashamed to admit.

-BRING. BACK. THE MULTIPLAYER. God that was painful... I absolutely HATE multiplayer in games. In Dark Souls, it at least felt I had some ability to use it but it was annoying when I got killed by players far better than me and made me feel even worse when I had to compromise between dying by other players but having the ability to summon other players for boss fights or go it solo... which always ended badly. I first played ME 3 on my Xbox and the first time I saw the galactic readiness rating NOT go up, I was furiously pissed. They shoe horned in this little ridiculous thing my anti social personality did not want to play. But for sake of completing the entire game I gave it a shot. Here's my experience: "Kicked from game. Kicked from game. Kicked from game. ETC". Immediately I gave up on the game then and there but when I bought it on Steam I decided to play it. It was actually extremely enjoyable. Yes I was still terrible, but it felt awesome. It actually did something in the game and once I'd gotten to 100% readiness... I kept playing. Unlocking new characters, skills and even weapons was extremely satisfying. Almost insanely so. It didn't have the trappings of a normal EA shooter either. Enemies were controlled by the AI and were difficult in their own right. The AI was intelligent and dangerous at times. Every skirmish was somewhat life and death and it was just awesome. Unlocking new weapons was done with in game cash. Cash that was easily earned through simply finishing a level. Do well and get more cash. Even when my entire team failed, I still got a lot of cash. I never found myself unable to buy one of the replenish-able packs after a match was done. Still... I have my gripes. The galactic readiness rating being the main one as well as it's greatest support. See single player and multiplayer can merge a beautiful relationship and sadly this was the closest I've ever seen. Once I was done with multiplayer, single player had little to do with it. The in game cash I accumulated could have been transferred to my single player character if I chose so. I always found myself scrounging for credits while my multiplayer self was practically burning it just because. I'm not saying the multiplayer should be horned in, far from it. I'm saying when both are amazing and they compliment each other its a beautiful thing. Like if I unlock a gun in single player I can use it in multi. Sounds nice right?

Thanks for reading this little chunk of stuff. Its always nice to know I've got people who are still reading my material. Hope you have a pleasant morning/afternoon/evening/night.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Why I Think Preordering Isn't Totally Stupid (And why its stupid)

I know its been a while since I've written any reviews and I'm sorry... kind of. Not a lot of games out, at least not ones I feel like playing and the ones I do have either are too old or every person and their grandmother has done a review so I don't feel the necessity to do one myself.
Here's a topic I've understood a bit but never fully understood why just about every single gamer out there is totally against preordering. For those uninitiated of you, preordering is basically putting down and extra few bucks to A) make sure you get a copy in the case for physical or in the case for digital... nothing really and B) you're probably going to get some extra content.

First lets start with A for why its good. See, when you preorder a game you're basically saying to the developer "I like this" or "Sequel? Hm... maybe". With smaller products like indie games this is a good incentive for someone to actually create a sequel or some downloadable content to extend the gameplay you can get. In rare cases, like in Dark Souls 2's case, the developer decides off the bat they won't be giving any add ons for the game but it was so well received they feel the need or obligation to give those fans a bit of thanks for purchasing the game. Preordering is a great incentive to say that I am interested in this game and possibly would like more. With sleeper hits like Psychonauts, even though the game was well received the sales were poor so the game's creator, Tim Schafer, has voiced even to this day he has no plans to make a sequel. So despite what anyone says, no ratings and fan base does not extend the life of a game. In the case of what I considered until a few months ago to be one of the worst games I've ever played, DARK (no, not a capitalization issue, that's what the game is called), still got some shameless DLC even though the game was not well received. Game developers usually don't feel an obligation to push out anything for the game even if it was successful sometimes and that's one of the more rarer cases I've unfortunately seen.

Now B for also the easiest reason why its bad. A lot of games boast getting a little extra content 'free' when you preorder the game. Usually this is something small or maybe a map pack, some weapons or maybe even just a costume change. The problem with this is the majority of this content is completely locked away from any unfortunate person who didn't shell out five extra dollars and doesn't have a time machine. A while back I was playing GTA Online with one of my friends. He pulled out a hammer as a weapon. Of course being the unfortunate 'scrub' and not preordering the game, I was unfortunately never going to receive this weapon. I actually do like DLC. Its a way for me to say to the developer, "Great job. I would like more" in some 'Oliver' "Please sir, I want some more" type deal. That small hammer my friend has just sums up how I feel about this entire situation. If I don't preorder I don't receive some minuscule item and therefore my game is now a slight percentage incomplete in my mind. However, if I do, then I receive something almost worthless that I don't need and never needed in the first place. If there was like a small fee afterwards where I could purchase the items, it wouldn't be so bad. Perhaps even where this content has been unlocked for those people but me over here won't be able to get it for a while.
The worst offender of this I have to say would be 'The Old Republic' Star Wars MMO. See the only reason I started playing the game was because it had just gone free to play and I wasn't about to waste my money on a game my crappy PC couldn't run. When I started playing it I noticed this one vendor I didn't have access to who sold really rare items. I asked some other players and every single one said I had to have preordered the game. The game came out nearing the end of 2011 on December 20th and the free to play date came out on November 12th in 2012, almost a year later. So unless I have a time machine that can teleport me back a year, I'm pretty much screwed out of valuable content.

In the end, as long as the content is made available later in the game cycle despite how poor in quality said content is, that's not a deal breaker. The deal breaker is rewarding those who took a chance, which in itself isn't terrible but you should also reward your current customers. It doesn't make sense to give your first born child more privileges than your second or so on born children now would it? Yes I do still preorder some games. Its not the worst idea, it just needs to be fine tuned to be a decent idea.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Remove Auto-Renewal from Xbox Live or Xbox Music

Microsoft has forced this really annoying "feature" onto its subscribers of their Xbox Live and Xbox Music services that automatically renews a member's subscription regardless whether they want it or not. To new subscribers: beware. Microsoft automatically adds you to this list without asking you. I'm sure they ask in some sort of end-user agreement that no one reads, but they never tell you anywhere else during the sign-up, "Hey! We're going to go ahead and set you up for auto-renewal!" The worst part is trying to remove yourself from this list. Microsoft kept sending me to different pages on their website that just told me how to do it. Funny thing is that they change the site so often that the screenshots they had were of the old design and didn't pertain to the new design they created.

Anyway, you probably didn't come here to hear me rant about the annoying "option". You came here because you want to be removed. This is probably the second time of me writing one of these because they change the site's design and remove the old links, so this is current as of today's date, July 2, 2014 and may not work if they change the site again in the future.

To remove yourself from the auto-renewal, you need to first log into your Microsoft account that's connected to your Xbox Live or Xbox Music account. Wherever you receive e-mails for these services is the address you will use to log in with. This can be done through Outlook.com, on Bing's website, Xbox.com, or pretty much any Microsoft owned website that allows you to log in. When you're logged in there, visit this page ==> https://account.xbox.com/en-US/MyAccount

Now, look for this on the page.


Yours may look a little different. But from here, you will select "See all subscriptions" and from that page, you will now be able to remove the annoying auto-renewal "feature" from the services.

I signed on for a free trial of Xbox Music and thought I canceled it, but they've been silently charging me for the past 3 months. I only found out today because they alerted me that I was going to be charged on my Xbox Live account automatically in August. So if you signed on for a free trial or are paying for the service, make sure you check this page often so they don't get to snatch up your money too.

This isn't something exclusive to Microsoft and Xbox either. I got a free $40 gift card from Best Buy and decided to go for a PS+ membership for my PlayStation account and they too added me to an auto-renewal subscription because they have my credit card on file.

I guess when you sign up for paid services, just make sure you check to see if they add you to some plan like this.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

iOS 7.1.1 Jailbreak Released!

A few days ago, Chinese developers released software that allows iOS users to jailbreak their devices up to the most current firmware being 7.1.1.

While this is mostly good news, there is some bad news mixed with it. The bad news isn't anything permanent but it does require patience and a little extra work than we've been used to in more recent releases.

Normally, we'd be cautious about releases coming from not-so-well known groups and ones especially from China. No offense to any legitimate Chinese developers, but many of the releases we see from the area tend to include malicious spyware and sometimes malware and usually don't even get the job done that was originally promised. But, in this case, many well-known developers and people high up in the iOS jailbreak community are giving this release positive praise.

For anyone ready to get started, you'll need to head to this website and download the installer. It may take a while as the installer is about 80 MB.

While the file is downloading, it is now a good time to backup your iOS device's information into iTunes. Once the backup is complete, close iTunes and have your device enter, what is known as DFU Mode. This can be done by a few methods which can be found here. Once in DFU Mode, open iTunes and allow it to restore your iDevice to the latest backup you just made.

Your device may or may not require a complete restore, but it's a good idea to do it anyway.

Hopefully after this is complete, your download is now complete and you are ready to open it. If using Windows, right-click on the application called "pangu_v0.1" or something similar to that and click "Run as Administrator". Don't worry if your application looks something like this.


What you first need to do is plug in your iOS device if it already isn't plugged in. It didn't seem to matter for me on my iPhone 5 if it was plugged in or not, but it may be different for others.

Once it's plugged in, the top ???? marks should say something about your model like mine said something about "iPhone 5...". This is your indication that it recognizes an iOS device. If you do not see anything like this, remove and reinsert your device until it recognizes it or close the program and restart it.

If it is recognized, click that check mark so that it is no longer checked. Lots of users are saying that some extra software has been included which appears to be a piracy market but could contain other software like spyware. It's a good idea to have this unchecked in the event that it does contain such information. Now, click the black box with the four ???? in it.

You will need to be nearby when this process is going on as it needs your input into the device from time to time. First, it will tell you to change your device's date to June 2, 2014. Go ahead and do this. I also changed the time to 8:30 p.m. just in case. While in settings, it is also a good idea to temporarily disable your passcode if one is currently set up.

If during this process the application seems to stop and the black question marks turn red, click the black button with the four question marks again and it should either retry or continue with the process. I'm unsure which it does as it doesn't state what it's doing, but it helped me complete my process.

If it appears to stop, check your device's springboard (sometimes known as the "desktop" where the apps are) and see if any new icons have appeared. At some point in the process, there should be an icon like you saw on the website and in their program that has an apple with Chinese language characters inside of it. If you do see this app, click it and follow its directions. Its directions will be in plain, easy to understand English.

At this point, the program will do the rest for you. Once it respringed my device, I did click on the app once more as I wasn't sure if I needed to or not. Touching it did not halt the process but I'm not sure if it was required either. If the process seems stuck, click the app icon once more just to be sure.

You will know when your device is jalbroken when you can see Cydia in your list of apps and the program seems to be finished. However, this isn't and shouldn't be the last part of the process.

Remember earlier about the unchecking of the box? Well, it turns out that unchecking that box didn't really completely not allow the software to be installed on your device. If you left it checked, an app icon should be on your device's springboard, but if unchecked, no icon should be there. While the app icon is not visibly there, some users are saying that bits and pieces of the software still linger on your device and need to be removed by another means.

This tweak to remove the software is found by searching "ppsync remover". In here should be a list of tweaks that can help you remove whatever software is left over. The one I used seems to only be available through Insanelyi's repo and is called "Complete PPSync Remover". Once that is downloaded, you'll need a terminal. I use Mobile Terminal, but any should work.

After installing these tweaks, your device may need to reboot/respring. Allow it to do so, now run the terminal app that you have. There should be a command line. Type "su". When it asks for a password, the default password is "alpine" exactly as written. Don't worry if it doesn't seem like it's actually typing because it really is. Once you've typed that, there it should now read something like "root#" instead of "mobile$". This means you have root access which is another way of knowing that your device is truly jailbroken.

Now, type "removeppsync" and click enter. A bunch of code should fill the screen and your device will now reboot on its own.

Your device's screen should have looked like this prior to clicking enter after typing "removeppsync".


Once that is complete, it is your choice whether to keep terminal and "Remove PPSync" or remove them. I'd suggest to keep them both as you may need terminal again and Remove PPSync may need to stay on there to make sure it's gone. But probably not.

After this, you can now enjoy your newly freed iOS 7.1.1 device! Congratulations! :)

So far, my jailbreak seems to be going well. I did notice some improvements between iOS 7.0.X and 7.1.1. Many users who updated like I did are saying that they're seeing a battery drain, while others aren't seeing that. Friends of mine who have been on 7.1.1 for some time say that they see better battery life than when on 7.0. This could be due to the jailbreak or the firmware or some jailbreak tweaks. No one is exactly sure. I've been jailbroken for a day now on the new firmware but I haven't had the device off of the charger for too long to be able to tell for myself. I had noticed huge battery drains previously, but this was due to some of the tweaks I had installed like one that allowed me to unlock the device by tapping the screen. Obviously drained because the screen was always on. Removing it and other tweaks did give me a better charge.

Let me know how the jailbreak has gone for you.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

PS Vita Can Only Hold 4,000 Songs

Regardless what you read from anywhere else, including advertisements from Sony, the PlayStation Vita has an unusual restriction that prevents users from simply having more than 4,000 songs on their device.

Earlier this week, I decided to upgrade my 16 GB card to something with more memory since I joined PlayStation Plus and began receiving their free, downloadable games. Instead of getting a 32 GB card, I found a 64 GB card on Amazon and eBay and purchased one from these retailers. (64 GB cards are currently only available in Japan, but are compatible with U.S. systems. They are obtainable through buying one in Japan, having one delivered from Japan, or buying through a store that sells them here.) I thought that this would be nice because I have a little more than 32 GB of music in my computer's iTunes library so I figured that half of the card could store all of my music and the other half could store games and other necessary items for the Vita such as games, videos, and other file types.

My iTunes library has exactly 39.44 GB of music which is equivalent to 5,819 songs. I figured that all of these songs could move over very nicely and clicked "Select all" then "Copy" only to see this message...



So I figured that not all 5,000+ items could be checked at once so I decided to go through and move them over in small steps. To my surprise, once I got to the P's in artists, the Vita said that it reached its limit at 4,000 songs. Huh?!?! I double checked my settings to see if I ran out of memory but saw that I still had about 29 GB of free space.

After doing a Bing search, I came to find that I wasn't the only one experiencing this issue. Other Vita owners have seen this message and were tricked by Sony's, in my opinion, false advertising. Here's a screenshot from today, of Sony's very own website.


This is a description for the 32 GB card, but notice what it says about how many songs it supposedly holds? Over 9,000. But what you actually see on your Vita is much less and will make you feel like Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z.

It's not over 9,000... >: (

In a way, it technically isn't false advertising. 32 GB of pure storage can store a little more than 9,000 songs; however, this is deceptive on Sony's end because these cards are currently only usable to the public through a PlayStation Vita. You cannot use this in any other device yet, or at least any device that has been made publicly available to anyone. Until a change is made in the software or other devices can use this card with no restrictions, Sony is presenting a false image for those wanting to purchase this card.

Unfortunately, this is just one of many unusual restrictions. Although, other restrictions have made sense on Sony's end such as not allowing users to copy over files directing from a PC via classic "drag and drop" due to Sony wanting to limit the availability for users to exploit the system. But when it comes to restricting how many songs can be placed on a device, I'm not sure how this can help them in any way. In fact, it seems like it would hurt them. Not only does it do them no justice when people feel a need to accuse them of false advertisement when they advertise like this, but it also doesn't help them compete for other markets.

One of the selling points of the original PlayStation Portable was that it was an mp3 player and had the potential of being sold as a competitor to the popular Apple iPod. While it was never as successful as the iPod, Sony still tried to compete. Making this restriction doesn't help them compete against other mp3 players on the market because who wants to be limited to just 4,000 songs when there are so much more?

To anyone hoping to hold more than 4,000 songs, let this be a lesson to not choose a PS Vita for your music needs. Currently on firmware version 3.15, users are not able to hold more than 4,000 songs. I don't think this will change anytime soon unless more users notice it and complain to Sony and in the rare event that Sony listens to its customers. I'm keeping my fingers crossed but not holding my breath.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Thoughts on Windows 8.1 (and What Should Come for Windows 9)

I dropped my laptop a few weeks ago and my hard drive became corrupted from the fall. For anyone wondering, if you interrupt the hard drive while it is writing or reading, it has a very likely chance of being destroyed from the inside and it will be very difficult to recover your information. So be especially careful about dropping a laptop when you have programs running and always make sure to make backups, unlike I did.

My fix was relatively simple; just buy a new hard drive. But I figured it was a good time to upgrade and wasn't so sure what else could have broke on my computer so I went ahead and bought a new laptop. I was running Windows 7 previously, really enjoyed it, and refused to move to Windows 8. But buying a new laptop made that difficult to find exactly the specs that I wanted, out-of-the-box, and not have to use Windows 8. Long story short, I ended up buying a laptop with Windows 8. This laptop also has a touch screen which, in my opinion and experience of using Windows 8, is very necessary for a more positive experience.

I was saddened by the loss of two features from Windows 7 that were not moved over to Windows 8. Those two features were Windows Gadgets and the Start menu. I was surprised to find out that it is possible to incorporate both features into Windows 8 even though Microsoft has not released any official updates to include them. To anyone curious, here are the links that I used to get these (I've been using them for two weeks with no issues but use them at your own caution):

Start menu for Windows 8 ==> http://startisback.com/

To anyone curious, Microsoft provides a reason why they removed Windows Gadgets and I think you should read their reason before downloading this pack. Click here to view Microsoft's official reasoning for removing Windows Gadgets.

Windows Gadgets ==> http://8gadgetpack.net/

This experience with Windows 8 has...actually been more pleasant than my previous encounters with the OS. Regular readers will probably know that I didn't have any respect for the OS. While I certainly won't venture to say that it is better than Windows 7 (my absolute favorite version of Windows), it has been nice.

A touch screen is, in my opinion, the best and only way to enjoy Windows 8. Without it, it feels clunky trying to navigate through the "Metro" menu.

I read something earlier about some analyst saying that Microsoft didn't need to add a Start menu in Windows 9 once released. I found myself disagreeing with this for many reasons.

My beef with Windows 8 continues with them leaving non-touch users out. What Microsoft ought to do is either add the Start menu or make two versions of Windows 9. One specifically designed with touch screens in mind and the secondary being for non-touch screens. Many of the users I work with that use Windows 8 do not have touch screens and don't seem to have a problem navigating the menu, but others of us find it tedious moving the cursor across the screen as far as needed. Classic design is best for traditional mouse-only users and the Metro is fine for touch screens.

I think incorporating both the Metro with the classic Windows design is an interesting concept.


The above image is a concept someone had come up with that incorporates both the classic Start menu and the newer Metro design. On first look, it looks ugly and a little too cluttered, but perhaps Microsoft can find a way to make it more appealing to the user and find better ways of categorizing objects. I think this is also a good idea for users who don't have a touch screen too. It's not as big and wide as the current Metro setting is while at the same time, it's still touch-friendly for those with bigger fingers.

The change is nice, but most users are still left in the cold. Businesses rely on reliable versions of Windows that are both compatible and work well for their business needs. Microsoft lost out with businesses by changing too much. Microsoft only won with some businesses by default because they needed a new machine and one that was reasonably priced which happened to include Windows 8.

The Windows Store is a nice additions with more user friendly apps. It's nice to find causal games and other apps all in one place that other Windows 8 users have access too. However Microsoft needs to step away from things like "Windows RT" that don't allow regular program file installations outside of the Store unless Microsoft found them profitable in some way.

The change from many and expensive versions of Windows to simply two is probably my favorite change of all. Rather than Windows Basic, Home Premium, Business/Professional, and Ultimate, users only have to choose between a standard edition and Pro (or the lesser, RT). Not only was the change in coming from more to less a much better idea but the change in price was also refreshing. I remember Windows Vista and 7 costing around $300, but the upgrade cost to Pro is only $99. That is much better for all of us that need some of those features. Most computers came with Home Premium so they were missing lots of things especially businesses that rely on connecting to a server and can't join a domain unless on something higher than Home Premium.

All in all, there's good and bad. I still prefer Windows 7 in many ways and if given the option would downgrade, but Windows 8 isn't as bad as my previous experiences. 8.1 brought a lot of other much needed changes but there's still room for improvement.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Watch_Dogs PS4 Review - 8/10

Watch_Dogs is a cross platform game developed by Ubisoft as a new IP. I've played it to the end and after that, I thought I'd give my two cents despite the majority of people already having seen the reviews as well as probably have purchased it already.

The Good:
-The graphics are solid. Amazing would have been... well, amazing, but personally I'll take performance over good graphics. That being said, the game handles fairly well. Few hiccups here and there but nothing game breaking. A few of these points where cleverly disguised as the digital brick sort of graphics where a scene is almost like a video that has trouble skipping scenes but corrects itself later. The load times are actually pretty decent and all around, the game looks fine and runs well.
-The shooting mechanics work well. Firing a gun feels like firing a gun, in the sense that there's kick back and a serious punch you feel when using them. If you've played Max Payne 3, you'll have encountered enemies with body armor who needed to be shot elsewhere or they would just tank bullets. Aside from sniper rifle fire in this game, that's here too and I actually like it. Some enemies don't really pose a challenge. Personally I'm the silenced pistol guy who takes out about 80% of the enemy force without even being noticed. That's not how it works in real life though, but hey it adds some variety and challenge to enemies.
-Driving is actually not bad. Let me just say I hate sports games, or otherwise reality games. A game that tries its best to mirror reality will fail because ultimately you can't program life perfectly... yet. Also I find them boring. My point is if I can do it myself, I need not buy a game for it. That being said, driving works well. All the cars feel different. Some cars are better at smashing into others while others excel at driving at high speeds.
-Side missions are a mixed bag but ultimately the overall product is good. Fixer missions are meh, but the Criminal Convoys and Gang Hideouts are absolutely awesome. Stop a bunch of criminals from reaching their destination in an all out gun battle and Gang Hideouts feature a character you need to knock out above all in a stealth or action scenario which you choose to go at it. Ultimately, its fun and they're the best parts of the game for me personally.

The Bad:
- The story is by far one of the most predictable and bland ones I've seen. "Straight white male with brown hair must protect family" and blah blah blah. I do like the addition of a skip button for cutscenes because I do not care about what is going on in the slightest. That being said, the writing isn't bad. Just the overall story lacks in just about every way. You can't feel anything for Aiden because you're not making real choices, you're just doing things, but I'll talk about that later. Ultimately there's a point where you're doing side missions to your heart's content and you notice every single time you're done, Aiden or another character chimes in with the exact same dialogue telling you to do the exact same thing. Then another side mission completed and AGAIN they feel the need to repeat. I just tuned it out after a while. I put this in bad because the story is really being marketed to you as good or gripping or like a movie. And its not. A very bland movie, yes but not a good one.
- An almost complete lack of choice really hinders this game. (Spoilers) At the end of the game, you need to shut down ctOS and the hacker group Dedsec calls you up and asks to let you leave the system on for 30 seconds so they can control it. "Hm..." I thought. I would actually like them to- Oh... Aiden just said no. I mean a simple, "I'll think about it," followed by a choice would have worked wonders. I felt, you know what I'm going to give the developers some credit. Maybe if I leave the final scree on for a while then a choice is made. I waited for about two minutes and nothing happened. Not even Dedsec coming in and getting in there in that time. Seriously? During the final final mission after that, you need to shoot... someone, I'm not going to say but its evident by the time you meet the character this will end violently. You go into bullet time and just kill them. Now, I asked my brother when he got to this point to try and shoot the gun. Maybe that would do something. I'd rather know I have a choice in things rather than speculation. Very few times will you even have a choice in things. Namely the very VERY end of the game you can kill someone... AFTER these long ass credits. Let's put this in perspective. Ubisoft is a world wide game developer and has employees around the globe. Thank you sirs and madams for this game but I do not want to sit through three minutes of cutscenes to get to something and this is a guy who sat through Halo 2's ending. By the way the very VERY end of the game will have the choice to kill some nobody or walk away. I haven't seen the other option but killing them is just a shooting sound followed by... blackness. Disappointing.
- There's certain points of the game that just ends. Like for example there's this new hacker who has stolen all of your files (main mission) and you have to take them down. I crashed his car, got to his body and a phone call told me I was done. Great... Another good portion of the game is investigating this serial killer who's been leaving bodies as a side mission. Pretty interesting and creepy. And then, the ending. Very disappointing. You find this guy in a park and bash him... and that's it. I thought, "Maybe Aiden got the wrong guy and we'll soon get to find out the real killer is still at large and now-" NOPE. Just... ENDS.
- In a world where games like Mass Effect 2 exists, its nice to know at least one game allows your main squad mates to die or live by your choice. So why not here? A character will die who I actually liked and I could do nothing about it. This may have been fixed by implementing a tiny little speech dialogue gameplay element and added some depth to the game. "But this isn't one of those games!" you may yell at me. This is an RPG. It should have something. Hell, Skyrim has something and that's bare bones as hell. It lacks depth. I don't connect with really any of the characters because I don't know their history. I'm not saying I need an entire book but the reason why Dragon Age is so awesome is because we get to shape things, learn things at our own leisure. I'm going to say it: I don't care about T-Bone. He's not cool, not interesting, not funny. So why does he get more exposition than our main character? Seriously, I have no idea who Aiden is. Is he married? Dating? Gay? Straight? What did he do before he hacked? How did he meet his now ex partner? I just felt like coming into the tv, punching T-Bone in the face and saying, "T-Bone is a stupid name and you're not cool in the slightest. Sure those statues, pretty cool. But made by an incredibly uncool guy. No I do not want to play as you in DLC. You should be dead instead of (my favorite character of the game's name here)" On a side not, karma feels hollow. In the case of inFamous, yes I do feel the need to see both sides of the good/evil path. Here its just bleh and never gets any steam whatsoever or interests me in the slightest. In any case, there are no evil missions so have fun shooting civilians and getting caught by the cops.

The Meh:
- Hacking in some amazingly weird twist is just meh. There are points where it really shines and its awesome to use, but the ultimate use is very basic. This could have been flushed out a lot more. Crafting for one time hacks is also annoying because you can't buy the components for two different items so you have to walk around the city and scan every Joe Schmoe just to get a stupid key component. It could have been done a lot better and its not terrible. It just lacks. The game's idea of making the game harder is to fuck with you. No, really it is. One guy gets control of the ctOS and all he does is spam cop cars (which are a bitch to get rid of on good karma because you can't kill the cops), blow up pipes and move some traffic signs. In the end, the cops are more annoying, pipes are less prevalent and now they've added bridges and blockers to their control. Ooh. Battling the system (system as in computer system) sounds awesome. I would have liked it if the system tried to cut me down and would have actually made sense, but it didn't, and that's a shame.
- Stealth doesn't really work. No real way to crouch, taking out enemies takes forever silently with melee and you only have two silenced weapons: a pistol and an automatic Uzi. No sniper rifle? You know what, I would have taken a nerf to rifles if I could have a silencer on them. Speaking of which, there is no weapons customization. In fact, apart from choosing what weapons you use and what clothes Aiden can wear, there is no customization. And trust me, there's barely any clothes to choose from variety wise. You get the jacket and a hat. That's it. Hat is mandatory btw so you will have no idea what the top of Aiden's head looks like.

If I could sum up this game in one word it would be 'disappointing'. Like that scene in Star Wars Episode 3 with Obi Wan, "You were the chosen one!" It could have been so much better and in the end the game is a shadow of its potential. This game could have been so great. Instead its just decent. Not saying it isn't worth the buy. At 60 bucks, you'll get a decent amount of play. But in the end the overall product is... disappointing.

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