Discussion: Will Valve Ever Make Games Again?

Discussion: Will Valve Ever Make Games Again?

Valve is arguably one of the most influential studios in the gaming industry. Many of their properties such as Portal, Left4Dead, and Team Fortress 2 were considered instant classics. Their most famous series, Half Life, set the stage for every FPS that came after it by introducing features so intrinsic to the genre that we can scarcely remember a time without them. And yet, in the modern age things feel a little different – it’s been years since Valve has released an original title and jokes like “Valve can’t count to three” pervade the Internet. Even Half Life, their flagship franchise, has gone an entire decade without a release to tie up the massive cliffhanger gamers were left with.

Valve obviously isn’t hurting, though. Despite some competitors cropping up in recent years the Steam platform is still the main way most PC gamers buy their games. They’re even making an effort to pick away at the console market by introducing Big Picture Mode, SteamOS, and hardware like the Steam Controller. In addition to Steam, Valve is also still making money off of some of its older titles like Team Fortress 2. With all of this cash flowing in, many people have speculated that they’re simply not interested in producing any new titles.

Despite the accusations, Valve insists that they are, in fact, still making games. Even though many have written it off as vaporware, Valve has never officially stated that they’ve stopped development on Half Life 3. They’ve also gone on record stating that they’re developing new titles for their heavily-pushed virtual reality platform, although to date the only VR content they’ve released have been short demo-like “experiences”. Two years ago they released a DOTA 2 beta built on the Source 2 engine – the follow up to the famed Source engine that had driven their most famous games. Although this way a ray of hope, Source 2 has never been released to outside developers and to date has only been used on the aforementioned beta and an update to Counterstrike:GO.

Perhaps the most damning evidence is that recently Chet Faliszek, one of Valve’s most prolific writers, left the company. He was one of the writers responsible for Half Life, Portal, and several other of Valve’s most beloved games. All the other “original” writers have long since left, meaning that Feliszek’s departure was especially hard felt. A big part of why those games got big in the first place where their unique and engaging story lines, and now it’s an open question whether Valve will ever be able to deliver that again.

I’m sorry to say it, but I think Valve’s hey day as a game studio has passed. I have faith that they’ll continue to be a powerhouse through their Steam platform, but as for original game content I just don’t see it – we might get one or two lackluster titles but that’s it. But who knows? If there’s one thing Valve has always been good at its surprises – if there’s one developer who could pull off an unexpected comeback it would be them.

The Overwatch Summer Games are Back!

The Overwatch Summer Games are Back!

After a popular debut during 2016’s Summer Olympics, the 2017 Overwatch Summer Games have returned for another fun summer. Represent your favorite hero’s country with exciting new skins, themes, arenas, and leaderboards. Visit new parts of the world that all of your favorite characters can take pride in! From August 8th to August 28th, you will be able to feel the spirit of competition by participating in limited-time events, with 10 action-packed days full of new skins and exciting loot crate opportunities. From Lucioball to over 50 new items, the Overwatch Summer Games are here in full force! Jump in this season for the opportunity to get some original event loot!

Overwatch Summer Games Skins

There are a lot of new features, additions, and play styles available in this year’s Summer Games. 2016 sported new skins, some of which have returned this year for a second chance to acquire them. If you missed out on McCree’s “American” skin or Genji’s “Nihon” skin from last year, now’s your chance to fight for victory and claim your customization prizes. The same goes for emotes and victory poses as well.

Of course, this year is not without its wide variety of new skins as well. Some exciting new customization textures have been added to the most popular characters of Overwatch, making players even more excited to get their hands on those loot crates. Check out Grillmaster: 76, Mercy’s Winged Victory, or even the grumpy Lifeguard McCree to pair perfectly with the heroes whose summer skins you earned last year.

And if you don’t feel like testing your RNG luck by buying loot boxes, you can purchase the previous year’s Legendary skins with credits too. They are even sold at a discount!

And speaking of loot boxes…

Overwatch Summer Games Loot Boxes

There are over 10 new cosmetic items available for 10 days only this year. By taking part in the Overwatch Summer Games, you have the unique chance of acquiring loot boxes like never before. All of the popular victory poses, emotes, and voice lines from last year have a chance to show up in a loot box as well, but you’ll really want to get your hands on one so that you can see some of the best items fresh from Blizzard’s Overwatch team. We know it’s a lot of work to grind for these boxes, so if you rather get someone else to do this for you, you can consider getting an overwatch boost from these guys.

Emotes, Highlight Intros, and Victory Poses

All of the popular emotes and cosmetic choices from 2016’s Overwatch Summer Games have returned, and you have a chance to score them through loot boxes. There are a lot of new emotes, highlight intros, and victory poses as well that players are dying to get their hands on. Pharah’s Slam Dunk and Hanzo’s Target Practice highlight intros are bound to be popular picks, while Ana’s Beach Ball emote is an exciting new choice that players can’t wait to experience live.

The New Arena

This year’s Overwatch Summer Games has an exciting arena opportunity for players to get invested in. It’s easy to spend hours in this fun tournament mode! You may remember Lucioball from last year’s exciting Olympic-inspired games – well, it has returned for another exciting season of intense play! But now, there are several new changes and featured added to make Lucioball even more fun.

You may be familiar with the futuristic location of Rio de Janiero that Lucioball was placed in last year. You still have a chance to play on that beautiful 3v3 field, but now you have a chance to land in a new arena as well – the Sydney Harbour Arena!

Plus, there are now two Lucioball game modes: Lucioball, and Copa Lucioball, which introduces an all-new rating tier, competitive placement matches, and its very own leaderboard. You are free to play either of these two gaming styles as much as you want, but for 10 days only!

Play the Overwatch Summer Games Today!

There are only 2 weeks to experience everything the exciting Summer Games have to offer. For a limited time, you can gain experience with new leaderboards, a competitive arena, an exciting ranking system, and of course, over 150 new cosmetic options that will come as part of the loot box system. The more you play, the better chance you have to get your hands on some limited-time loot. It’s hard to pass up this deal! By participating in the Overwatch Summer Games, you will be able to acquire a piece of something that may not ever return to Overwatch again. Make your mark in Overwatch history by jumping into the Overwatch Summer Games today! Hurry, because you only have until August 28th!

Sea of Thieves is On the Horizon

Sea of Thieves is On the Horizon

It’s been a couple years since I’ve heard anything about Rare, the famed studio responsible for bringing us such classics as Banjo Kazooie, Donkey Kong Country, and GoldenEye 007. I’m happy to report that they’re apparently still active, and have actually been working on a pretty exciting new project due to come out some time this year.

That project is the sailing simulator “Sea of Thieves”. There’s not too terribly much known about it right now, as it’s currently in a semi-closed alpha program and Rare is is keeping most details pretty close to the chest. What we do know, however, is pretty compelling: Sea of Thieves is claimed to be an open world collaborative multiplayer game set during the golden age of piracy, apparently in a bid to finish off everybody’s “Perfect Game Bingo” cards. Joking aside, the game allegedly takes you to an island-dotted oceanic world and places you on a pirate ship along with your teammates (who will either be your friends or be supplied via a matchmaking system). It then becomes your team’s job to band together as a proper crew to operate your ship and set off for exploration, adventure, and looting.

There seems to be a heavy (and welcome) emphasis on cooperative play. Just like a real world sailing vessel, the ships are complex with a lot of moving parts that need to be operated in conjunction with each other. One player will need to man the wheel while another trims the sails, and yet another raises the anchor, etc. Crews will need to be in constant communication with each other and work well together as a team, or else they’ll soon meet with disaster.

Not all of the action takes place on your ship, however. Early gameplay footage reveals that you do (as least occasionally) make port and go ashore for some land-faring adventures. What exactly these adventures will entail remains a mystery but there is footage of a pirate crew sitting in a tavern drinking rather impressive amounts of ale. To me this implies there might be some RPG-style trading or merchant mechanics in the game, but who knows? The studio has also gone on record saying that there will be treasure hunting, crafting, and other classic gameplay mechanics.

And yes, of course there’s going to be ship-to-ship combat (how could there not be?) Released footage shows a rather exciting fight between a player vessel and another ship (it wasn’t clear if this hostile ship was another human crew or if it was computer controlled). One thing I noticed during the exchange was a surprising lack of a hit bar or other artificial health indicator. Now, it’s entirely possible that Rare simply hasn’t gotten around to inserting those elements yet, but they have stated that they’re striving for realistic physics simulation. In my mind this opens up a really thrilling possibility (and it’s important to note that this is pure, wild speculation on my part): It’s entirely possible that in this game combat isn’t governed by artificial stats like armor or hit points. It’s possible that if you want to sink an enemy it will mean ACTUALLY GETTING TO SINK AN ENEMY. While that’s just my own personal guess later footage seems to hint I might be on to something: the clip shows the player’s ship listing hard to the side with water coming up over the bow, and GENUINE PANIC in the player’s voices as they frantically debate what to do.

Unfortunately that’s really all we know at this point. If you’re eager to take a peak you can try applying to the “Sea of Thieves Insider Program” (I’m trying to get in myself), which will reportedly grant you access to the studio’s alpha sessions. If you’re not one of those lucky few in the program then it looks like you’ll be left in the dark until much closer to release. Rare will probably (hopefully) release more gameplay footage in the coming months, so maybe soon we’ll know more details. In the meantime though I’m incredibly excited. I love ships, and it’s no secret that I love open world exploratory games. A “run your own ship with your friends” open world game like this is exactly the type of thing I’ve been dreaming of since MMO’s first started making big waves a couple decades ago. Part of me wants to temper my excitement and remember that what’s promised isn’t always what’s delivered (looking at you, No Man’s Sky), but with Rare at the helm it’s hard not to have confidence in the game’s success.

Gaming Gets the Red Carpet Treatment at the IDF and GDC Awards

Gaming Gets the Red Carpet Treatment at the IDF and GDC Awards

It’s awards season here in America. While most of the country is focused on the Oscars, the Grammys, and other mainstream awards ceremonies, the world of gaming has its own accolades to give out. This comes primarily in the form of the Independent Games Festival for Indie titles, and the Games Developers Choice awards for more mainstream works. Both organizations debuted their annual ceremonies a little while ago, so now is the perfect time to take a look at who won, who got snubbed, and which categories saw surprises this year.

You can read up more about this from here.

First, a little background on each event. Both organizations are run by the Games Developers Conference, an annual meet up of games developers that tries to emphasize learning and networking with fellow game makers. The Independent Games Festival was started in the late 90’s to try and promote smaller indie games and help them grow, much in the same way that the Sundance film festival has helped indie movies. IGF winners typically benefit from a cash prize, which helps to fund these smaller companies as they bring out innovative new content.

The Game Developers Choice Awards are the IGF’s more mainstream counterpart. This awards ceremony targets the bigger AAA studios in the industry – if we were talking about movies, then the GDCA would be the Oscars. That’s not to say that smaller studios can’t still make a breakthrough in the GDC awards – in fact, there are a few arguably-indie studios represented in the winners this year.

All that being said, let’s take a look at the results! We’ll start with the IGF before moving on to discuss the GDC awards.

The top award at the IGF is the “Seumas McNally Grand Prize”, a $30,000 honor named for the famed founder of Longbow Digital Arts. This year, the winner of the McNally Prize was the game Quadrilateral Cowboy, by Blendo Games. This innovate first-person puzzle game featured the novel gameplay mechanic of having to type in actual computer code in order to hack various objects – making it a sensible choice for this prize. Quadrilateral Cowboy also took home the “Excellence in Design” award.

Other notable categories from the IGF include the “Excellence in Narrative” award, won by erotic visual novel Ladykiller in a Bind (Made by Love Conquers All Games) and “Excellence in Visual Art” won by action RPG Hyper Light Drifter (Heart Machine).

Over at the GDC Awards we saw a wider pool of categories and naturally a lot more titles that most gamers would be familiar with. The top award (Game of the Year) was won by Blizzard’s competitive team-based shooter Overwatch, a runaway hit that’s been lighting up gaming blogs and other news media since its release. Overwatch also managed to snag the “Best Design” award while it was at it.

I’m very pleased to say that one of my personal favorite games of this year, Firewatch (by Campo Santo) captured both “Best Narrative” and “Best Debut” this year. Meanwhile, Playdead Studio’s newest title Inside grabbed the well deserved “Best Visual Art” and “Best Audio” awards.

Perhaps one of the most shocking awards given at either ceremony was the GDC “Innovation” award, handed to none other than No Man’s Sky (Hello Games). This open world space exploration/survival game is infamous in the community for building up large amounts of funds via a crowdfunding campaign promising lofty and ambitious features, and then releasing a product that didn’t remotely live up to those vows. The whole game was a glitchy mess on release, and several key (and highly advertised) features were quite noticeably missing. In fact, more than one lawsuit has cropped up targeting Hello Games for falsely advertising the features of the game. Given all of this it’s a bit of a wonder how No Man’s Sky even got a nomination, much less an actual award.

Despite that one curious hiccup, overall I’d say it was a pretty good turnout for this year’s awards season. It’s great to see good developers get recognized for their hard work, and most of the category winners absolutely deserved their trophies. In the case of the IGF it’s also awesome to see newer studios granted with monetary support so that they can continue innovating and bring us fantastic new experiences. 2016 was an abnormally good year for gaming, but hopefully the trend will continue and when next year’s awards roll around we’ll see fantastic new content up for nomination.

New Playable Character Teased For Overwatch

New Playable Character Teased For Overwatch

Since taking top honors at the 2016 Game Awards, Overwatch, the team based, multiplayer, First-Person Shooter (Whew, Quite a mouthful!) has steadily increased its loyal following of gamers by doling out a near constant stream of updates and new characters to take control of and create havoc in the game world. It’s popularity has birthed a whole crew of new service providers including Overwatch boosting, which has taken over the Overwatch competitive playerbase. The latest update from Blizzard has teased the possible identity of Overwatch’s upcoming new playable character, number 24 if anyone is keeping count out there.

In a blog post from Blizzard’s official website, we are introduced to 11 year old Efi Oladele. Hailing from Numbani, Efi is the prestigious recipient of the “Adawe Foundation’s Genius Grant.” From the in-universe interview, we learn that she has a deep interest in all things mechanical and chats about her achievements in robotics and Artificial Intelligence. She has a clear plan on what she wants to do with the Grant, but purposefully doesn’t reveal it in the interview, only stating that her parents are taking her on a trip to celebrate, which will also see her flying for the first time.

From the brief interview, she comes across as humble and slightly overwhelmed with the attention she’s receiving from winning the Grant, but determined to advance her knowledge of robotics and AI. Sporting a snazzy gold crown, some headphones with earrings attached and what looks to be a necklace with an electrical cord connected to it, Efi certainly looks the part of a child robotics expert.

Although gamers were still disappointed with the news of Doomfist’s character reveal being delayed, the blog was met with enthusiasm from the Overwatch community. Also, it has led to debate whether Efi will actually be the 24th playable character, or if she’s simply being used to flesh out the backstory of the real upcoming playable character. Many gamers have suggested this on the basis that it seems quite unlikely that Blizzard would have you controlling an eleven year old child in battle. If we examine Blizzard’s track record of character reveals, each one was preceded by a similar blog post, which lends credence to Efi being a playable character.

Other users have suggested that an older version of Efi will be used instead, but that rumour was shot down in a twitter post from lead writer Michael Chu, stating that the interview takes place in the present day and there will be no time skips or flash forwards. This definitively rules out the possibility of seeing an older Efi laying waste in the game world.

Another interesting theory that has been doing the rounds concerns Efi’s genius ability with AI, some believe she will use the grant money to build a robot, as she states she wants to build something to keep the world safe just like the OR15’s. In this case, the robot that Efi builds will be the playable character instead.

While speculation is rampant and theories are flying around the internet faster than a speeding bullet, one thing is certain, Blizzard always has a knack for surprising their fans, and when the 24th playable character is finally revealed, it will no doubt be a cause for celebration.

Read more news on our other Overwatch articles here, and also here’s an Overwatch tier list if you wanted to learn the different tiers of heroes according to strength in Overwatch.

Pokémon GO! The Wonders of Nature

Pokémon GO! The Wonders of Nature

Consider this. It’s a warm and beautiful day outside. The sun is shining and the birds are singing. You want to get outside and do something but you aren’t sure what quite yet. You decide to hop on your bike and head to the park. You love the park, with all of its birds and trees and nature walks. It’s hard to find great places like this one in the city in which you live, so whenever you can, you go to the park. When you get there, you begin to tune into sounds and sights that you normally night not see if you weren’t paying attention. Once you’ve dialed in, you notice so many wonderful and natural things and begin to classify them in your brain. “Too bad there isn’t a video game for something like this,” you think to yourself. “If there was, I would play it all day!”.

Just when you thought that you would need to buy a virtual reality headset and pay tons of money in order to experience the outdoors like this, along comes Pokémon Go and it completely reshapes your world. Released in July 2016 and downloaded more than five million times in less than two months, this smartphone game is creating quite a buzz. I still remember playing Pokemon on my Gameboy when I was just a child. It’s incredible how this has now expanded on that phenomenon, the best-selling card game, and how this app treats its players to adventures in the outdoors.

Take your mobile device with you and root out and capture different species of Pokémon creatures and gain points and ranking as you do. There are about one hundred fifty-one different species in Pokémon Go. Some are easy to find and are very common and might take you no time at all to discover, while others are extremely difficult to find, leading you on a day’s journey just to find that one special little pocket monster.

It is said that one hundred forty-two of them are discoverable in the United States, three more in international regions, and six characters that, up to this point, have not yet been found. Imagine then, deciding to find those missing six characters. Imagine where you might go and what you might see. The possibilities are endless and the opportunity for travel is astounding.

Who would have thought that a little game like Pokémon Go could offer the player the tools to travel the world, classifying and categorizing various species of animals, just like scientists do, all over the planet? Now think about the way the different environments that are in play. Certain Pokémon characters only appear near lakes or rivers. Some only reside in the mountains or in forests. This inadvertently teaches players of biomes and natural habitats, which is amazing and educational at the same time. They also vary in terms of population, just like certain species that actually exist in the world, and sometimes one type of Pokémon character will evolve into another, mimicking evolution of the species on our planet! With all of this variety, imagine the places you’ll go to catch your wild Pokémon!

Whatever you do, don’t miss out on your chance to play this game. As much as we enjoy sitting at home playing Battlefield 1, this is a good chance to step outside and get some exercise in! Download Pokémon Go, pack a bag with some food and water and maybe a sweater, call a friend and get out there! Here’s some motivation before you step out into the wild for your own adventure –

Our Thoughts on Resident Evil 7

Our Thoughts on Resident Evil 7

Resident evil 7: Biohazard is the latest installment of the franchise, published by Capcom. fans of the Resident evil Franchise were disappointed with Resident Evil 6 which was released four years ago. The series has lost it much taunted touch with its fanbase. However, with the latest release, Capcom hopes to prove you wrong and that the new numbered game in the series is more than just a return to form.

This is by far the most popular and commercially successful game of the franchise. It is the first installment of the franchise in which it is played from first person perspective. The game portrays an intimate horror with a tightly focused scope and all the traps you will expect from a survival game. No meaningless stuff like the horror of guiding a seemingly terrified character out of a waking nightmare into a safety.

The story of the RE7 revolves around protagonist Ethan Winters as he searches for his wife Mia, which leads him to a garden inhabited by the Baker family. Ethan makes use of weapons and tools in the fight against the murderous cannibals of evil creatures who are referred to as the moulded and the Baker family . The game is a departure of the action oriented and zombie outbreaks of the former series toward a larger emphasis on horror and exploration.

This time, our protagonist is Ethan Winters. Just a regular joe looking for his wife. This is quite a different approach as compared to previous Resident Evil titles. Another big change, and not just a change in the story or approach is how the game is now played in First Person Perspective. This makes such a huge difference to the gameplay and I honestly think that this is the one change that made the game into such a success. Having to navigate your way around the claustrophobic Baker house, traps, and not knowing what you could encounter around the next corner just makes RE7 such an amazing and immersive experience.

To take things even further, on the Playstation 4,  you can even play the game on a VR headset. Although this is quite a game changer considering the genre of the game being horror, many people find it less ideal. Citing issues with how the game isn’t compatible with VR, or motion sickness. Moving in the game while standing still in real life can be quite a disorienting experience. Certain visuals aspects in the game seem much darker and muddier in VR, which might affect gameplay negatively.

Capcom has acknowledged that these problems exist and that you might expect a fix to be coming sometime soon.  If you can get past all the minor inconveniences that come with playing with the VR set, you might actually enjoy the game in VR. If not for your entire playthrough, but just for novelty’s sake.

If you’re a horror game buff, give RE7 a shot. If you’re not, still give it a shot! It’s honestly not that scary, and pretty fun even for non-horror fans.

Well, if you’re too scared, here’s a short gameplay video so you can get an idea of what the game is like before you commit to a purchase. Don’t worry, this video doesn’t have any spoilers in it.

A Positive Spin on Video Games

A Positive Spin on Video Games

Since they first came out more than thirty years ago, video games have entertained, confused, frustrated and delighted millions of people of different ages, backgrounds, and abilities. Think of it like you would the evolution of Rock and Roll music or various fashion trends throughout time; terrible at first. And then, over time the positive effects come shining through and cannot be disputed.

Here’s a serious blog about video gaming for once. As “lifelong gamers” of course we are big advocates of this particular hobby and activity, but as much as we would think it’s a healthy activity, many have argued against this in the past, saying video games promote violence, etc. Our friends from CS:GO Academy had this to say about it – “We feel that we are able to focus better in real life, and also perform certain tasks better than the average person who doesn’t play video games. This is our take on gaming, and our humble opinion on it”. These guys play games (they provide boosting services for CSGO) for a living and Counter Strike: Global Offensive is known as one of the most high-requirement hand-eye coordination games in the world.

Playing video games can’t be that bad! I mean, come on, even BBC says so. Of course, there are numerous studies that “prove” higher levels of aggression, various negative health effects like obesity and physical issues that result from gross overuse in those people who play video games. It would make sense that such a debated topic would garnish more attention if the news is bad rather than good. That way, people can continue to condemn video games and “gamers”, and dismiss the entire industry as a silly and base money making a scheme that aims to capitalize on the disenfranchised and the young.

Historically, video games and simulators were used in various training programs like NASA and the military. When trainees couldn’t actually and logistically be somewhere to train, they could utilize new technologies that allow them virtually to participate. Things such as flight simulators and various war games all allowed for experience and exposure and offered the potential of learning and mastering various skills and techniques.

There is a direct link between the use of video games and improved hand-eye coordination and time between action and response. Studies show that participants who have had no more than twenty-five to fifty hours of exposure and experience playing video games, when tested after their gameplay, had quicker reaction times to stimuli, achieved better scores in visual discrimination and cognition tests and, strangely enough, had longer and more focused attention spans that those participants who did not play video games.

In the field of academia and education, there have been numerous studies which have concluded that incorporating video games into the classroom can be beneficial to children in a variety of ways. In today’s world, it is vital to provide children with all of the tools they will need to get out in there and make a positive impact on society.

We all learn differently and have different abilities and natural propensities. Some of us are good at math. Some of us are great readers or story writers. Some kids love science. Some kids really just love to build and create. Instead of reducing and limiting education to the traditional methods of book learning, we have the ability to utilize our advanced forms of technology in order to make the learning come alive and be really palpable to children who might otherwise not find any of it stimulating and might now take the opportunity to open their minds to learning. Video games can be just the thing that some children might find engaging, interesting and worthwhile. Educational video games are sneaky in all of the right ways. They can help increase attention spans and heighten spatial sensitivity and awareness.

Now, let’s put this in some kind of context that we all can understand. No one is saying that video games make you smarter or give you special abilities or superpowers. But they can help people overcome many obstacles and lead them on a path to success, one joystick at a time.

Hitman 2016 – The Complete First Season

Hitman 2016 – The Complete First Season

Ok, I’ll admit to shedding a few tears when I finally finished Hitman: Absolution. I loved its non-linear gameplay, its twists and turns and manageable maps and characters. I spent a few days playing it exhaustively from start to finish and cheered myself on when I finally made my last kill. This was my first experience with the Hitman series and definitely was not going to be my last. I immediately found the first in the series, and just went from there, indulging my love of first-person shooter games and loving every minute of them. After a slight lapse in new episodes, IO Interactive finally released Hitman 2016: The Complete First Season. Square Enix definitely had the foresight to market this product exhaustively and their attention shifted to making this game available in both smartphone and tablet form, while IO Interactive set its sights on creating a less linear experience, with attention being paid to an open world sandbox concept and making it extremely interactive in terms of the different game playing environments. They even created and integrated new technology known as Glacier 2 rendering, which enhances the AI capabilities of the entire game itself. So, basically, IO Interactive took the time to refresh the Hitman series by updating some of the main features and making them seem new again.

Another wise choice was the decision to release each of the six “episodes” in monthly installments, thereby keeping us baited, one month at a time. Not only did it enable IO Interactive to continually update the game engine, thereby giving us the most up to date, a most deliberate effort so far in the entire series. It also allowed the developers to get continual feedback from the players as each one rolled out, enabling them to improve certain aspects of the game as the players tested them out. In addition to season one, as it is called, there were also bonus episodes offered after the others were distributed. Three, to be exact, know as “The Icon”, “A House Built on Sand” and “Holiday Hoarders”, all which provided three more missions and multiple experiences. That being said, each mission seems to get better and better, basically because IO Interactive had the patience and forethought to slowly release bits and pieces for public consumption. A genius idea if you ask me.

In my opinion, Hitman 2016 is a masterfully designed game, full of much non-linear gameplay. You can play the same mission fifteen times and never see or experience the same thing twice. There are multiple weapons, costumes, camera angles and strategies you can use every time, making for an exciting experience, no matter how many times you’ve played it. It really makes you feel as if you are 47, choosing your own adventure as you move through mission after mission, never experiencing the same thing twice and feeling many levels of exhilaration after the completion of each one.

In terms of episodic gaming, Hitman 2016 takes the cake. It is an intricate and difficult game to get through and it makes the player think long and hard before taking that shot or making that move. It’s AI style and detail-driven design makes for some of the best and most visually stimulating first-person shooter experiences on the market today. I’d definitely recommend you to try out this game if you haven’t already. You probably won’t regret it, and even if you do, feel free to blame me for it!

Overwatch Competitive Woes?

Overwatch Competitive Woes?

The highly entertaining, yet really really challenging competitive mode in the game Overwatch is one of the most fast-paced, difficult and sometimes infuriating games on the market today. Without a good team, it is really difficult to make any advancements in your ranking, which also means it’s a pain for you to climb to the next rank or obtain any CP (competitive points) for the season. Initially, players must play ten qualifying matches and are ranked based on both their standalone proficiency in addition to the ratio of wins to losses. Only after this initial phase is completed are players given a ranking number, at which point they can then play in the competitive mode.

Keep in mind, this number is adjusted as the player continues to play competitive. As you win or lose throughout the season, your rank can change, moving up or down, depending on matches won and your personal performance demonstrated in matches. This can be a very arduous and challenging task. It can make even the best of us want to throw our controllers or keyboards across the room!

This is why a new service, known as Overwatch Competitive Boosting now exists. Basically, players find and pay a web-based company to help “boost” their performance and ranking. Players are charged a certain amount of money, which is dependent upon how many ranks up they want to achieve. What follows is a very interesting take on a new and possibly very insecure idea. An employee of the boosting company who is highly proficient in the game logs into your account and plays matches for you, effectively ranking you up without you having to lift a finger. Sounds like a great idea right?

There are a number of websites that offer this Overwatch boosting service, making for an increasingly competitive business niche. With just a simple Google search, you can find numerous companies who offer this service, which can be carried out across platforms. It’s not only for PC players anymore; now even Xbox One and PlayStation 4 users can carry themselves out of elo hell with this helpful service as well. At www.boostards.com, it costs a user about $80 to go from Gold to Platinum, which means that a random person logs into your account and plays for you.

There are also sites that offer other services, like “professional coaching”, you can choose from a number of professional players who will find out what you are looking for in your gameplay and help coach you through the game, giving you helpful tips and ways to play that will rank you up in no time. You can choose coaches for either individual or team play. This option is a much more secure one, as you will not have to give anyone your personal information in order to get assistance. It is also a much more expensive option, with hourly rates beginning at $15/hour and capping at about $40/hour.

Why do this? Well, it’s hard to say. Many argue that the lure for the end of season rewards, and CP (competitive points) which you can use to purchase cosmetic items in-game to be a good enough reason to use this unique service. Others think it’s a waste of money. We just think it’s an interesting topic to cover.

Our Review of Final Fantasy XV

Our Review of Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy XV is yet another disappointment from Square Enix, who cannot seem to understand what the fans want from a Final Fantasy title. It’s almost funny – they nailed fan desires on the head with Bravely Default and came very close with Bravely Second, but Final Fantasy XV turns out to be a different beast. Unfortunately, the beast it turns out to be is not the one that Final Fantasy is known and beloved for.

In certain ways, they’ve certainly made an improvement. XV is an open world title, rather than the linear hallways that XIII was known for. This is a welcome and wanted a return to one beloved aspect of Final Fantasy. The glut of side quests and optional content, far outstripping the main story, is another aspect that fans will enjoy wholeheartedly. These things are not enough to save XV in the eyes of most Final Fantasy fans, sadly.

However, the story is sub-par, if we’re going to be generous. Final Fantasy is, or at least was, a franchise known above all for its powerful stories. These often revolved around unlikely, or seemingly unlikely, heroes who had the obligation of saving all from some existential threat. What is XV about? A prince and his eclectic collection of bodyguards saving his kingdom from his fiance’s father. The politics of war. Highways, gas stations, and diners.

As you can no doubt see, it’s rather a depressing departure. Rather than an existential threat to the world of annihilation or despotic tyranny, we will simply save a kingdom from an erstwhile ally. Rather than being an underdog or some unlikely hero with a hidden past, we are to play as a prince. Rather than existing in some high fantasy world with science fiction elements to a greater or lesser degree, we play in a world that, save for monsters and a few other elements, is very like the real one. We see cars and gas stations, talk to people in diners, and then leave to fight monsters.

All of this is yet another disappointment from the once kings of the JRPG genre. Square Enix has demonstrated they understand what we want, and that they are still quite capable of it with the Bravely franchise. Why they persist on using the Final Fantasy name, the name of their premier product, as their experimentation space, burning fans time and time again, while they do ‘the right thing’ with a second tier name, is unknown and bizarre.

It seems that we’ll have to relegate Final Fantasy’s greatness to memory, friends. There are always other companies and other franchises looking to edge into the JRPG market, which at the moment seems to be very promising to us.

Indeed, one possible challenger was released just in February of 2017. Nioh was developed by Team Ninja, and published by Koei Tecmo inside Japan and Sony Interactive Entertainment outside Japan. It’s an action RPG, so hardly a heir to Final Fantasy’s turn-based glory of old, but for what it is it seems to be excellent. It’s been compared most often to Dark Souls, another no-name franchise that turned out to be a fan favorite, just like Final Fantasy once was. Look forward to our Nioh review, friends!

7 Useful Tips and Tricks for Overwatch

7 Useful Tips and Tricks for Overwatch

When you find a video game that manages to pull in more than seven million players in its first two weeks of existence, you can be sure that it is the kind that will spark your interest. Blizzard has always been a developer that has exceeded your expectations and the unveiling of Overwatch was not an exception. This lightning fast game will ensure that your free time is always put to good use. If you want to polish your playing skills, are a beginner, or simply want to know what the game has to offer, these Overwatch tips will come in handy!

Fight for overtime

In case you run out of time when trying to capture a point, ensure that you are close enough so that the game can automatically go into overtime. One team member should always remain near the objective in order for the game to continue and to also give you more time for the chance of making a comeback victory!

Make the most of the character swapping

Character swapping may just be one of the best things about Overwatch. If changing a character may benefit you and lead your team to a win then do not hesitate to do this. A single switch may be enough to turn around your performance. Look out for counterpicks and find out which enemy hero is giving your team the most trouble.

Always have a support

Although supports are overlooked, they are quite powerful. Consider characters like Lucio for frontline support and Zenyatta for healing support. Support heroes have extremely powerful ultimates that can make or break any team fight, and provide healing and sustenance for your team. They are absolutely essential if you want to have a good shot at winning.

One role cannot rule them all (LotR reference!)

Overwatch does not come with one perfect role. A team could either be strong or weak depending on a particular challenge. As such, it is important to assess your team and establish the roles that it could be lacking. This will ensure that your team composition is balanced and gives you a fighting chance against the enemy team if they also have a balanced team composition.

Be an aggressive tank

If you are playing a tank then do not be afraid to jump into the fight and establish your presence. Tanks need to cause chaos and confuse the enemies. Your job is to pose a threat for the enemy team, draw their fire, and basically take damage for your team while letting your team counter attack.

Defend and attack

Defense characters should not only be subjected to defending. They can also play offense. For instance, Widowmaker and Mei are heroes that work well on both attack and defense. Don’t let the role of a hero fool you into thinking that you can only play them a certain way.

Ensure that supports are protected

Do not let your supports get attacked, for they are classified as the weakest characters. As already discussed, supports are valuable characters and as such, letting them die would mean your team loses its form of sustain and without heals, it can be hard to win a drawn out team battle.

Overwatch may be a game that comes with a lot of great learning curves, however, with the right enthusiasm, you will learn how to play it in the shortest possible time. With these tips, you can never go wrong! If you are confused about what heroes you should pick, here’s an Overwatch tier list from Boostards that might be helpful when making your pick decisions.

Red Dead Redemption Online: Features We’d Like To See

Red Dead Redemption Online: Features We’d Like To See

Red Dead Redemption 2, the highly anticipated next chapter in the Red Dead series has finally been announced. Aside from a trailer and a few glorious screenshots we don’t know much about the game. However, with the incredible success of GTA 5’s online portion it seems a safe bet that Rockstar will feature a similar mode for their Western epic. With that in mind, here are a couple of things that we’d love to see included in an online version of Red Dead Redemption 2.

Heists

The heists in GTA 5 online were some of the most fun and exciting things you could do with your friends and they seem a perfect fit for Red Dead Redemption. Picture this: A group of your friends saddle up and ride into the nearest town. Upon arrival you hold up the local bank and gun down the local sheriff and his posse before high tailing it back to your hideout. Other online players could even play as the long arm of the law and attempt to bring you to justice before you were able to escape.

Become a Land Baron

The wild west was a sprawling expanse and an ideal location for enterprising pioneers to carve out an existence. We’d love to be able to purchase large tracts of land and set up our own ranches online. Perhaps we could populate the plains with our herds of cattle. Of course, no ranch would be complete without a great name and a custom icon to brand on all our cattle, and maybe on outlaws who were foolish enough to trespass.

Hunting Expeditions

The original Red Dead Redemption had a robust hunting system with plenty of creatures to gun down but we think an online version could take it just a bit further. Rockstar should allow players to go on hunting trips for rare and dangerous creatures. If and when you find one of these beasts, assuming you aren’t mauled and eaten by it, you could shoot it and bring it back to your home to be mounted in your trophy room. This way all my friends could come and see how many elk I had brought down or grizzlies I had killed. Call it bragging rights if you will, but this is definitely a feature I want to see if Red Dead Redemption ever goes forth with the online mode.
It’s all speculation at this point as to what Rockstar has in mind for their upcoming game, but we’re confident it’ll be phenomenal. Rockstar’s record of success is virtually unmatched and this next iteration is not likely to disappoint. Red Dead Redemption is slated to be released on October

Red Dead Redemption is slated to be released on October 20th 2017, you can pre-order and read more about it’s release date here: http://www.rockstargames.com/reddeadredemption2/ 

A Brief Review Of Battlefield 1

A Brief Review Of Battlefield 1

A Respectful Homage To The First World War

Battlefield 1 is actually a military shooting masterpiece which was created by EA DICE. It transforms the extensive battlefields of World War I into an amazing and rewarding shooter which challenges gamers in ways that have been mostly lacking from the FPS genre for decades.

For individuals who have no idea, World War I had been fought between 1914 and 1918, and its ending was the deadliest battle in the history of mankind, with more than 17 million dead. The war was actually fought between the Central Powers and the Allied Powers, and there were more than 20 countries involved between the 2 sides.

Somehow, DICE was able to capture most of these facets masterfully. This game features a variety of maps, which range from dug out ditches to desert villages to mountainous hills. It’s a remarkable spread of destinations, and each spot feels and plays in a different way.

Superbly Immersive

No building on Battlefield 1 is secure. A gamer may think that the windmill which they observe is actually a hearty fortification, but then find out that it is a tank shell or perhaps an explosive mortar to completely destroy the building. The same will also apply to sand bags and most of the trench fortifications. Nevertheless, an explosion which sends fumes, as well as debris flying, does not only destroy, but also reshapes. The walls of the aforesaid windmill might now produce a rubble pile at the bottom of the building, offering a different kind of cover for all those on the ground. The colors of light are likewise outstanding, as fog, dirt, gas, fumes, and other things can significantly alter the look of a battle.

You will find as many as 7 game modes being offered. 5 are standard multiplayer modes (Conquest, War Pigeon, Team Death Match, Rush, and Domination). The 6th mode is Operations, the very best of all the multiplayer modes. The Operation features 2 maps, and in case the assailants take all the objectives in the 1st, then this game will move to the 2nd map. In case both these maps are taken, the assailants win, however, if the defenders manage to hold them off, they win. If the assailants fall short, they get one more chance – this time, strengthened by a Behemoth. In case the attackers are unsuccessful 3 times, the defenders will win.

Great Design

The gameplay is excellent. Every single gun feels unique, and more than half the weapons are bolt-action or semi-automatic, although 3 of the 4 classes have automatic options obtainable. Assault has got the most effective anti-tank weapon, Support features mortars as well as ammo, Medic can revive as well as heal, whilst Snipers obtain gear for spotting and armaments with high range optics.

Included in the graceful gunplay are armored vehicles, tanks, biplanes, behemoths, and horses. While unique in design, many of these work just like the earlier battlefield games. Behemoths are giant weapons which one side may use to reshape a conflict. The Dreadnaught features a number of heavy artillery cannons which can demolish any structure. The Armored Train has got just one artillery cannon as well as heavy machine guns. All of these have different pros and cons, and all can be demolished. Nevertheless, when employed successfully, a Behemoth will be able to swing an Operation or Conquest in favor of the group operating it.

Conclusively

In general, it is among the best Battlefield video games ever made. It features a meaningful (although undoubtedly short) single player campaign. It has got a lot of multiplayer modes, and 9 diverse maps. Even though there is not really as much customization as in the earlier games, the fantastic gameplay ought to more than make up for the shortcoming to fully customize a weapon. Battlefield 1 was definitely a blast for us to play and review. It’s one of the most epic first person shooters ever published. DICE really outdid themselves on this one.