Call of Duty 2016 Leaks Galore

Call of Duty: Modern WarfareThis week has been an interesting one in the world of Call of Duty. We went from grainy photos from retailer material to some cryptic Infinity Ward tweets to finally a hi-res image of the retail material all showing what is apparently this year’s Call of Duty. IF the leaks are correct – which is starting to look more and more likely – then this year we will be playing Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. While that’s exciting, since it does open up the possibility for that space combat that was rumored a couple weeks back, the big news that came along with the leak is that the special edition is going to really appeal to long-time fans. The Legacy Edition will be bringing a remastered version of the original Modern Warfare.

The hi-res image that leaked today came from a Canadian retailer, and the details look pretty legit which makes me a little more excited about the validity of the leak. The big part of the image shows some more details about the remastered Modern Warfare. It looks like it will include the campaign – which is phenomenal – and 10 multiplayer maps, which was the original set of maps. If it’s using the same Create-a-Class setup as the original, I think plenty of  newer players might be in for a bit of a shock. Of course, this is still all unknown at this point, but with all the leaked images and Infinity Ward playing around on Twitter I think a full announcement has to be coming soon. The longer this goes without an official word from Activision, the more the hype will just escalate. With EA announcing a new Battlefield next week, the timing also really makes sense. Expect an official statement soon I think.

Destiny Iron Banner – Post April Update

Destiny Lord SaladinThis week is the first Iron Banner Crucible event in Destiny since the big 2.2 April Update earlier this month. With the 2.2 Update I actually started playing a little bit more Crucible testing the weapon balance changes and Warlock tweaks as well. But the Iron Banner is a different beast and it’s these week long, monthly end-game PvP events that really helps shape the weapon meta in-between those patches. So with that in mind, let’s talk a little bit about this month’s Iron Banner.

The first thing that I’ve really noticed is the increased Light level really matters now. In previous Iron Banners, it really didn’t amount to a huge factor in combat. Now that Light levels vary a bunch more – I’m willing to bet a lot that there are way more players that haven’t broken 320 yet – those players that did grind to get up above 330 really can use that difference. I went in this week at 318 – probably a little low honestly – but weapon-wise I felt pretty even. It was really with the abilities that messed me up. One Throwing Knife with Burn on would kill me from full health. A charged Warlock melee pretty much did me in as well. It also impacted my Hammer of Sol – sometimes my Hammers wouldn’t net a kill, plus I was a little squishier than normal while Hammered up. Once I switched to Striker Titan, Shoulder Charge really was dictated on my targets armor build – if they ran high armor, I couldn’t get the one-shot. So if you’re coming back to Destiny for the April update and raring to jump into Iron Banner, you might want to wait a little while, or at least find a couple teammates to play with.

Warlock Nova Bomb

The two big changes with the April update in terms of the Crucible really revolve around the weapon balance and Warlocks.The nice thing with the Warlock changes is because they are probably the best all around Class, (and I main a Titan) you see them plenty in Crucible. Generally, I think I’m seeing a good mix of the three subclasses so far. It’s not full teams of Sunsingers, mainly because they’re a little squishier than they used to be. Their grenades are still amazing with a Viking Funeral build, but Voidwalker’s neutral game is much better than before, and Stormcaller has always been a solid choice. Warlocks have always been good in Crucible – Voidwalkers for those single power play moments, Sunsingers are great damage dealers and Stormcallers are good at area control/power plays. Don’t expect a major change with the Warlocks, even with all the changes they’ve had.

Weapon-wise though, the Crucible is a very different place then the last time I really played. The last time I really was involved in PvP play in Destiny, the Crucible was full of full auto Hawksaws, Ambush/Shortgaze sight snipers, Truth, and the resurgence of Thorn. It was not a fun place if you wanted to try different things – which is a huge part of the fun with PvP to me. So far this week though, I’m seeing a bit of a different mix. Sure, there are some that pop up much more frequently – MIDA, Hawksaw, Doctrine of Passing – but nothing to the point where I think it’s the only choice like Thorn used to be. I’m seeing a good mix of special weapons, including a handful of fusion rifles. Rockets are still really strong, but since we get a lot less ammo for them, being smart with the heavy is a lot more important. This is the first time in a long time with Destiny where I think if you have a primary that you really like, you can probably use it and do well. Iron Banner or Trials of Osiris might not be the best place to test that out, but general Crucible is definitely a lot better of a place right now. The Taken Spring update continues to impress me, and really has revitalized my love for this game.

Titanfall 2 Talk – The Way Pre-E3 Edition

TitanfallA couple weeks back, EA dropped a teaser showing off Titanfall 2. We had known that it was in development, but this was the first official word and look at the game. It’s a really short teaser, barely 30 seconds so we don’t get much. It’s really just a glimpse to get us all hyped up for the eventual E3 full announcement. Of course that hasn’t stopped people from already talking about the game. OXM has an article out saying that Titanfall 2 has to learn from Destiny, Black Ops III and Evolve to succeed. We know no actual details about the game – anything we talk about is just gleaned from the original game and the teaser. It’s pretty hard for me to already look at games out there now and say that this one needs to draw from them to succeed. And honestly, I kinda disagree with the sentiment – I don’t want Titanfall 2 to draw from the other FPS games out there. I want it to stay as unique as it is.

That said, there’s a couple points to look at that we do know about. First, EA and Respawn said that the sequel is going to feature an actual story campaign. As cool as the multiplayer campaign thing from the first game was, I’m definitely in favor of a true campaign this time around. Titanfall has, I think, an actually pretty cool universe to explore with different stories. That could have been a strength in the original multiplayer campaign, exploring the motives from both sides of the conflict. Hopefully with the sequel that can still happen. The other cool detail we learned was that there’s going to be a new Titan weapon – and it sure looks a lot like a sword. Swords have been popping up a lot in FPS games lately – Destiny, Black Ops III, of course Halo – so seeing it in Titanfall really shouldn’t be a huge surprise. I’m glad that it’s going to be a Titan weapon too – I can’t wait to do my best Gundam impression. I can easily see it paring well with a Strider chassis and electric smoke for a strong melee build. We have to wait until probably E3 to see any more changes to the Titan formula, in particular any new chassis. I would expect that we’ll learn the release date at E3 too, my guess is Spring 2017 since the original was a March release.

Goodnight Sweet Prince – The Xbox 360 Bows Out

Xbox 360 LogoToday marks a pretty significant milestone for console gaming. Earlier today, Microsoft boss Phil Specter announced that Xbox will stop manufacturing new Xbox 360 consoles. The console marked its ten year anniversary in the fall of last year, which is an insane lifespan for technology. It’s a little sad to see it enter the final chapter, but it’s a good excuse to talk about some of the consoles highlights.

Before we talk games, there’s the console itself. Microsoft was in an interesting spot going into the console generation – despite being a company since the late 70’s, it was the new kid on the block with consoles. The original Xbox had shown that they could create a console that could appeal to the adult gaming audience as well as the overall crossover audience. But compared with the huge success of the PlayStation 2, it was definitely the little brother of the group. The 360 showed a tremendous amount of growth, even with a somewhat rocky launch. It showed that Microsoft was dedicated to creating a home console that belonged, not just a quick grab for money. From relatively consistent system upgrades – some that completely overhauled the dashboard we saw every day – to providing the best online service for consoles, the Xbox 360 gave the Xbox brand the identity it needed. Plus Achievements and Gamerscore started on the 360, and I’m a pretty damn big fan of them.

Skyrim

One of the complaints I really remember from the early days is one that would end up being the total opposite of how the 360 was. It’s one that I myself made in the early days – the launch window games were somewhat crap. A Call of Duty – the last Infinity Ward World War Two game in fact – and Kameo are really the only two that I can even remember. Which is a far cry from the last five or so years – Halo, Call of Duty, Fallout/Elder Scrolls, BioShock, Gears of War, Minecraft, the list just goes on and on. The Xbox One may be struggling to grab those third party exclusives – I’m looking at you Destiny and Call of Duty – but on the 360, it was the exact opposite case. DLC came out first for those big third party games on the 360, pretty much across the board. Combine that with the Xbox Live upgrades that really solidified it as an integral part of the Xbox brand, and it was pretty easy to see why that was the case. It’s hard to imagine, not just Xbox gaming, but console gaming in general without the rise of Xbox Live and Halo and Call of Duty during the 360.

Now that the console is entering the final phase of its life, it’s the perfect time to go back and revisit some truly classic games. With backwards compatible games coming to the Xbox One more and more frequently, there are plenty of ways to play them too. If you got rid of your console, but still have the discs, that’s totally fine. If you have a full collection of digital games, the Xbox One has you covered there too. While we’re starting to see a few games coming out now – Dark Souls, Battleborn, Overwatch, DOOM – it’s not quite as crazy as the fall, so while it’s a little slow maybe go back and play a favorite. It’s always a good idea.

A Couple Headlines I Missed

I’ve been talking a lot lately about some specific games – Destiny, Division, Battleborn beta – but there were a couple news stories that caught my attention over the last couple weeks too. I wanted today to bring up a few of those stories.

Final Fantasy VII

FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE COULD END UP BEING HUGE
One thing that I really was caught a little off guard by was a report from Square-Enix talking about the upcoming Final Fantasy VII Remake. We know that it’s going to be an episodic style release, telling the tale of Cloud, Sephiroth, Aeris and the rest of the crew over the span of, I would guess, a couple years. What we didn’t know was the size of those episodes. I was expecting them to follow the natural story breaks from the original – the initial prep for the Shinra infiltration, leaving Midgar, so on and so forth. What we learned though was that each episode – which we still don’t know how many there will be – will be the size of Final Fantasy XIII. That’s pretty damn big episode. I may think that FFXIII is one of the worst in the series, but I can definitely appreciate the size of the game. If they manage to pull that off, those episodes can absolutely end up really diving into the world of Final Fantasy VII. A game that I was already excited about just became one that is racketing up my list.

Gears of War 4

GEARS OF WAR 4 TRAILER AND BETA SHOWS GRITTY FUTURE
Gears of War is one of those franchises that I just never really got into. I played the first game, way back when it first game out and actually really enjoyed the campaign. It was the multiplayer that just didn’t appeal to me – I never have liked one life only modes. But one thing that the series has always done exceptionally well is commercials/trailers. The original trailer is well remembered for its use of the Gary Jules cover of “Mad World.” With this first real trailer for the upcoming Gears of War 4, they picked another chilly, atmospheric cover of an older song: Disturbed’s relatively recent “Sound of Silence” cover. The song pairs really well with the new footage – the tone matches perfectly, which has always been a strength of the studios working on the games. There also has been a closed Beta going on over the weekend, which I am not a part of. What I’ve seen though certainly looks just like Gears of War – shotguns dominate, it’s brutal, and probably the best third-person shooter out there these days.

 

Weekend Gaming Thoughts: A Little Bit of Everything

This past weekend may have been the most exciting weekend we’ve had in quite some time for gaming. Between the new April Update in Destiny, the Falcon Lost Incursion in The Division, and open betas for DOOM and Battleborn there was plenty of new stuff to dive into. And dive I did this weekend, hitting it all except the new Division stuff since I’m still a little cool on that game. I wanted to talk a bit about what I played, even though I already did a little with Destiny and Battleborn.

Battleborn Start Screen

With Battleborn, I played a bunch more story missions – both solo and in full five man groups. I started to try out other characters beyond Marquis as well and I have to say that of the characters I did play, I really liked them a lot. Oscar Mike – the stereotype soldier guy – is a fantastic pure burst damage character. His grenade skill can not only do burst damage with the explosion, but then add in the napalm DoT effect and it’s an incredible trash clearance skill. His ultimate skill is great for doing a massive amount of damage as well, assuming you target the spot right. Rath, who was by far my favorite melee character I played, is a neat character to play. I like his health steal on hit, it helps a offset a little his fragile nature. His skills help out tremendously with crowd control, and his ultimate is lovely for trash clearance and multi-target damage. Plus, he’s voiced by Christopher Sabat AKA Vegeta, so he’s basically the best ever. I was worried a little that melee characters would be a step or two behind in the story missions, but Rath at least did really well. The only part in the two missions where he let me down was in the final phase of the ISIC fight, because he flies all around and was aggroed on our El Dragon during that phase. Assuming that the rest of the story missions have similar engagements, it looks like melee characters will totally be viable choices. Battleborn went from being a game that I was ambivalent towards, to one that I’m very much interested in grabbing.

Doom 2016

With the other beta this weekend, DOOM, I played that a bit less.I only played a couple games, but that’s because I think this is shaping up to be a really really good game. If you’ve played any classic id FPS – DOOM, Wolfenstein or Quake – you’ll be ready from the get go. This was easily the best pure arcade style shooter that I’ve played in years. It felt immediately like the old games, just with a sprinkling of modern trappings. It’s fast, it’s brutal, it rewards thumbskill and twitch shooting. If you come from the modern FPS games, you might have a little learning curve to get used to, but the game does it’s job really well. If this is at all on your radar, this is definitely a good sign. Since the beta was extended to today, if you haven’t tried it yet, give it a shot.

Destiny Taken Guardians

Finally, I got to go through the Challenge of the Elders in the April Update in Destiny. I was worried that I wouldn’t get it in because I wasn’t close to 320 Light yet. And in fact, I’m still not 320 Light. But I was actually able to solo through the Challenge of Elders at 314 Light, which doesn’t exactly sound like much of a Challenge. It wasn’t super simple – the second room took me a good 6 deaths or so to clear. But because Small Arms is the modifier this first week, if you’re a little lower Light, you can easily make it up. I ran with Red Death and Cauterize on my Titan to get health back on kills to help since I’m solo, and it was done in like 40 minutes. Even with Variks taking points away, I was able to score over 40,000 points to earn a weapon from him. I did run it later with a couple buddies, which just further showed that this week in particular, challenge isn’t really the right word I’d use. That said, the actual activity itself is a ton of fun. Soloing it was the most fun I’ve had in PvE in a long time – it’s just total chaos the whole time. The rewards are maybe a little inconsistent, but that is kinda Destiny in a nutshell. It’s really fun, and cements my feeling that the April Update was exactly what the game needed.

Battleborn Open Beta Thoughts

Battleborn Start ScreenOf all the things that landed this week in the world of gaming, the one that I was the least educated about, and the one that I had no real opinion about going into is definitely the Open Beta for Battleborn. I knew I wanted to at least give the beta a shot because it’s a Gearbox game and clearly has some strong Borderlands influences. After playing a handful of games last night, I will gladly say that I’m sold on Battleborn. Let’s talk a little about it.

Going in I was a little unsure of how I would like it, since I know it is borrowing heavily from the MOBA toolset. I’m not the world’s biggest MOBA fan – I never got into League of Legends or DOTA even with friends in college who did. In truth, Smite is the most I’ve ever played any MOBA, and I didn’t stick with it for long at all. Going into this spring, it’s pretty evident that MOBA games have shot way up in popularity. There’s Battleborn, Overwatch and Paragon all heading our way this year, not to mention Cliffy B’s Lawbreakers as well. So I was worried that I would be a step behind with Battleborn, since I’m way out of touch with MOBA strategies. Luckily, that’s not the case at all. If anything, I think Battleborn is a lot closer to a mix of something like Team Fortress and Smite. It very much feels like an action game first, then the MOBA influence fills in the spaces. If you’re like me and wary of taking the MOBA plunge, Battleborn is I think a really great way to ease in.

Battleborn Marquis.png

In the Beta, we have five heroes unlocked at the start, and the potential for 25 total heroes. They take on all the different roles that you would expect in a game like this – damage dealers/glass cannons like Marquis (my choice), tanks like Montana, burst mages like Orendi and so on and so forth. Odds are pretty good that you’ll pretty quickly be able to find a hero that you like, one that fits with your style of play. Once you do, the game is set-up to reward you for continually playing that character. You’ve got not only top level challenges tied to completions and wins of matches, but each hero has Lore Challenges that are tied to character specific feats. With Marquis, who has been my go-to so far in the Beta, the Lore challenges have you using his Ein, Zwei Die passive, buffing allies with the haste effect on Temporal Distortion, dealing 6,000 damage in a match with your ultimate ability, dealing 100,000 total damage with the Hoodini and playing five matches on the same team as Phoebe. Completing the challenges gets you Command XP and credits, as well as progress toward unlocking character skins and taunts. Those challenges exist for each of the 25 heroes – that’s a lot of challenge hunting. Add in that some of the top level challenges will unlock heroes earlier than just leveling and it seems to me that challenge hunting is going to be a huge part of the final game. And that’s something that I’ve always liked in games – hunting for skins, titles, taunts that unlock after challenge completion has always been a great carrot for me.

Once you’ve gone ahead and picked a hero, you have a couple options to play in the Beta. There are two story missions and two choices for competitive multiplayer matches. Story and Versus can both be played with public matchmaking, or in private matches. The two story missions both take about 45-50 minutes to complete. That’s one thing this game definitely demands – time. Playing one match – story or versus – is a pretty solid time commitment, not like Call of Duty or Destiny. Your party size can have up to five players – that is in either mode – so you’ve got plenty of room for mixing and matching party makeup. If you want to, you can solo play the story missions as well. On the surface, two story missions, and two versus maps seems limited. When you combine that with the slew of challenges, and the 25 potential different heroes and all the different team makeups that can result, and all of a sudden the replayability shoots up a bit. I definitely am looking forward to trying to get gold scores on the missions, and I can easily see Battleborn being a really good co-op game.

So while all the nuts and bolts of the beta are all taken care of well, the one thing that I think really sold me was the Gearbox flavor. This game, especially in the story missions, feels like it belongs in the Borderlands universe. The writing is very similar, and as a result, it’s just as funny. The characters all feel like that same level of borderline insane, and the voice work is exceptional at delivering the really strong humor in the writing. Marquis’ contempt for “hobos” and “public school shtudents” is hilarious; while Geoff/Arachinis could easily have been a boss in any Borderlands game. If you’ve liked the humor and tone of Borderlands, then Battleborn should absolutely be on your radar. The beta runs through the weekend, so you should definitely get it and try it out.