Mortal Kombat X Launch Impressions – Get Over Here!

Mortal Kombat XTaking a quick break from looking at Borderlands, today let’s look at the newly launched Mortal Kombat X. I spent a pretty good chunk of time playing yesterday – hitting one of the living towers, and mainly playing the story. It feels a lot like the previous entry, the reboot Mortal Kombat. That game was definitely needed after the series had gotten so bloated after Armageddon. The mechanics got a needed trimming down – every thing is much more simple, closer to the old days. There’s still some pretty nice depth in the combat – excuse me, Kombat – that will keep fighting game aficionados happy for a while.

One of the main selling points of the series has always been the over-the-top violence and brutality of the moves. It gave the series a way of distinguishing itself away from other fighting games – in particular Street Fighter. While it’s not exactly the promoter’s first choice, it’s become a part of the series. And let me tell you, Netherrealm really took advantage of the current-gen console’s power to take the moves to that next ridiculous level. There’s still plenty of the humor that’s always been part of the series  – in particular Cassie and Johnny Cage’s fatalities – but man, even those are just brutal. It’s good to know that there are still limits – and good to know that Mortal Kombat is still good at finding those limits.

The story has been really engaging – it does take advantage of flashbacks to help bring in some more depth to the characters. It’s got a bit more going on that previous games have – multiple factions, lots of duplicity and feels a lot more like a movie. Sure it’s not exactly groundbreaking, but it is a hell of a lot of fun. My biggest issue is – aside from the fact that I’m not particularly great at fighting games – is a classic fighting game one: M. Bisoning. For the unfamiliar, M. Bisoning is a term used when the computer will switch on the after burners after the first round. Sometimes the difficulty can spike a bit, but that’s not a game-breaker. It’s a fun story mode – the Quick Time Events in the cutscenes don’t feel forced, and actually add to them. Mortal Kombat X Sub Zero

Overall, Mortal Kombat X is just what the series needed. It’s trimmed out a lot of the fat, but still added new features. New characters feel like they belong, and while I’d love to see some more classics added in, I’m pretty happy with the roster. The fighting feels like the series always has – it’s never been the smoothest, built more around short combos and special moves. But at the core, it’s a really fun game – it’s absolutely worth your time.

Weekly News Recap – Week of February 23, 2015

There were a couple news pieces that are worth mentioning this week. So let’s just get right down to it.

In a pretty big ruling this week, the FCC ruled in favor of net neutrality. While it might not immediately relate to games, it does have a lot of bearing on the future of the web. Essentially, service providers won’t be able to provide different quality of service based on deals. This helps keep the web free, and keeps the power in the consumers hands. This keeps providers like Time Warner from determining web traffic. The immediate gaming world impact isn’t super apparent, but it’s definitely there.

BioShock Infinite

This week Xbox announced the upcoming Games with Gold for March. This might be the best month of free games they’ve had in a long time. On the Xbox One we’ll get Rayman Legends; and on the Xbox 360, we get both Tomb Raider and BioShock: Infinite. If you haven’t picked up either 360 title, somehow, you really owe it to yourself to pick them up. They are both fantastic games. And on top of that, Xbox also announced that in April they will offer double the amount of free games. They haven’t announced exactly which games, but that does open up a good chance for some more great games.

Mortal Kombat X

This week on the Netherrealm livestream they showed off the return of Brutalities. The big thing that I’m looking forward to is that Brutalities don’t require huge strings of button inputs. That said though, they definitely aren’t any less brutal than the old ones. It looks like a lot of them are based around special moves, which makes them easier to put into combos. They also said that there is going to be over 100 different Brutalities. Mortal Kombat X is shaping up to be a pretty damn awesome game for April.

A Quick Look At Upcoming Limited Editions – Are They Worth the Money?

Earlier this week, WB Games announced the special editions for April’s Mortal Kombat X. I recently talked a bit about my issues with the pre-order incentives for that same game, but today I want to focus exclusively on the content that comes with special editions. I’m starting to look ahead a bit at what games this year I might want to spring for the special editions on, so I thought I would share my thought process here.

Mortal Kombat X Kollectors Amazon

First off, let’s start with Mortal Kombat X. First off, there are a couple different limited editions out there – they vary by retailer. That said, I tend to only really look into ordering from Amazon or Gamestop, so let’s worry about those two places. Both places have the Coarse Limited edition – retailing at $150. It comes with the game, a special skin for Scorpion, along with the forthcoming DLC characters, and the big bit – a pretty intense statue of Scorpion along with its certificate of authenticity. Gamestop also has a limited edition exclusive to them running at $100, which comes with that DLC season pass, as well as a Cold War skin for Scorpion and exclusive Key Art. Amazon on the other hand is offering up the Import Kollectors Edition – at a massive $180 though. It comes with very similar content to the regular Kollectors edition – statue (a different one), gold Scorpion skin, DLC pass – but also has an exclusive comic and a steelbook case. All cool editions sure – the statue on the Import edition looks insane. But $180 is a hell of a lot to drop on a game and really only getting the statue and season pass as major content. At that price I would really expect to see more in-game content – even multiple skins would help justify it a bit. As it stands right now, I’m honestly leaning more towards just the standard edition. We’ll see what happens closer to April.

Arkham Knight Batmobile Edition

Moving on to the other big game that I’m looking at before E3 – and after which we’ll probably have a whole new slew of dates to look forward to – let’s look at the Batman: Arkham Knight editions. Unlike with Mortal Kombat, there’s no retailer exclusive deals to worry about, just how much money your spending. Like a lot of big releases these days, we have three editions – standard, a middle and a crazy expensive one. Let’s start at the top with the Batman: Arkham Knight Batmobile edition. There isn’t even a price listed on Amazon right now – but I recall seeing it priced right around $200 when they announced it. For that price you get a steelbook case, a comic, a pack of three skins for Batman, an 80-page artbook and the biggie – a huge, super detailed, fully transformable replica of the Batmobile. That model is easily the most detailed physical bonus I think I’ve ever seen – the scale is ridiculous. The problem is that price – if it is indeed $200, that’s a crazy amount to spend on a game – and not get a season pass for future content. Instead, let’s look at the middle edition – the Limited Edition. It’ll set you back $100, so still not cheap, but pretty standard these days for a special edition. And it’s not exactly skimping on content – you still get the steelbook, comic, skin pack and the art book. The only change is the statue – instead of the crazy Batmobile, you are treated with a 12-inch statue of the Dark Knight. It might not be as over-the-top as the Batmobile, but I think it’s actually a really awesome piece. At $100, it’s a lot easier to justify too – I know that’s where I’m currently leaning.

Arkham Knight Limited Edition

That’s the early, pre-E3 batch of limited editions – at least that are on my radar. They aren’t cheap, and both have some solid physical bits with them. At this point, I think the Arkham Knight options are better bets – even the Batmobile edition, thanks to that beautiful car it comes with. I’m sure that this fall will be stacked with some more crazy ones – after all we have a Call of Duty still to come, and the details for the Halo 5: Guardians editions still. That’s also not counting The Division, Rainbow Six: Siege and this year’s Assassin’s Creed. I think this year could be even better than last year was, so pick and choose your special editions carefully this time around.

The Problem With Pre-Order Incentives

I’ve written in the past about pre-ordering games – what I look for when I actually go about doing it, specifically about limited editions. While my thoughts haven’t really changed a whole lot – I still like having that guarantee that the game is already paid for and taken care of and will be mine on day one; I have seen a few pre-order incentives that really made me scratch my head. These days those pre-order incentives are really what drive them now more than the convenience factor thanks to downloadable titles. So publishers have to come up with incentives that players will actually want to have in order to drive the pre-orders up, and help ensure a solid early portion of the lifespan.

Halo Master Chief Collection

I should mention now that I’m really approaching this more from looking at the multiplayer side of things. For single player games, or the campaigns in games with both aspects, pre-order bonuses really don’t make a huge difference. Even things like the Bandana Skull in Halo: The Master Chief Collection – which was a pre-order bonus from GameStop – and grants unlimited ammo and grenades, since it’s a singleplayer experience, it’s only impacting your experience. If you would like to play with that bonus, go for it. It’s totally different from if that same Skull applied to multiplayer – especially in a competitive game like Halo. Generally, the bonuses for games with strong multiplayer – Call of Duty comes to mind – are only cosmetic changes. Weapon skins or player skins that show off your dedication to the series are cool, and don’t actually impact the gameplay.

Evolve Cover

Which brings me to what was the genesis of this post. I mentioned yesterday about Evolve‘s pre-order bonuses being early access to the third and final set of characters. In theory that’s not the worst thing possible – until you realize that each individual character within a class has slightly different gear. For example, the Medic class – Val, the initial Medic has a healing beam that requires you to keep line of sight; while Caira, the third Medic, has a grenade launcher that fires healing grenades. There’s a huge difference in tactics between the two weapons’ usages. With Val, you need to be near your teammates at all times, in order to heal them. Caira can move around a bit more freely, thanks to the grenades – as long as the explosion hits your teammates, they’re healed. It gives you more tactical choices, which impacts gameplay.

Mortal Kombat X

The other pretty grievous offender is April’s Mortal Kombat X. They announced the pre-order bonus back in the fall, and I put down my thoughts right away on Twitter. Pre-ordering MKX will give players access to Goro – whether that’s exclusive access or early access I’m not totally sure about though. Either way that’s a pretty major issue. Goro is a boss character – always has been in the series. Within fighting games, boss characters are almost always pretty over powered, whether it’s their attack power, or their move set. M. Bison is pretty infamous in the Street Fighter world for his A.I. back in Street Fighter II, where his skill would increase dramatically in the second round, especially if he had lost the first round. Goro was more of a power difference – he hit super hard, and didn’t really flinch, which made combos difficult against him. Assuming that they are rebalancing him for Mortal Kombat X doesn’t really make me feel a whole lot better though. He’s still bound to have some of his iconic moves – his throw in particular is a pretty iconic move, and used to hit super hard.

Now in and of itself, these bonuses aren’t the worst ones ever. What makes them an issue to me is that they both have easily apparent impact on the multiplayer side of their respective games. Within Evolve, those final tier characters could totally make early games play very different – especially against players without those same characters. With Mortal Kombat X, it could just be that Goro still has too much boss character power in him, even as a playable character – which in a competitive arena like fighting games, is definitely not good. Whether this ends up being a major deal really remains to be seen – Evolve still is about a month away, and Mortal Kombat X is set for an April release. But I don’t really like seeing games put in actual gameplay elements for pre-order bonuses in the multiplayer side.

E3 2014 Sony PlayStation Conference Impressions

E3 LogoSony held their press conference last night, after a busy day zero of E3 2014, and had a pretty big job to follow a really strong Microsoft showing. Overall, I think the show may have dragged on a little long, especially hitting a snag midway through, but there were definitely some really strong games shown. Just like I did with Xbox, here’s a quick rundown of the show and my thoughts.

I figured they would open with new Destiny footage, and they did indeed. This trailer gave us a little bit more story background, told to us by Peter Dinklage. My only negative with the trailer, and this might be more to do with my stream having some issues, but the gameplay looked closer to a PS3/360 than the PS4/Xbox One that I would expect them to show. Not a major issue really, still hyped for it big time.

The Order: 1886
We got a new trailer for The Order: 1886, a game I’m admittedly not that knowledgeable about. But the trailer looked interesting, with what appeared to be a zombie/werewolf thing chasing a human. Could be a pretty cool game.

Showing a bit of indie love, Sony brought out Entwined, a game which immediately had me thinking of Beyond: Two Souls based on the art style. It’s a twin stick puzzle/action game that looks like a lot of fun actually, with a pretty serious story behind it. The coolest part was that it is available on the PS4 now, with PS3 and Vita coming later.

Infamous: Second Son
Another series that, since I’ve not owned a PlayStation since the PS2, I’m woefully out of the loop on. From what I have been able to tell this year, Second Son has been doing quite well, and they announced new stand-alone DLC for it, Infamous: First Light which will be out August 3.

LittleBigPlanet 3
Another PlayStation exclusive that I’m familiar with, but haven’t really sat down with and played a lot of. The new trailer for the third installment showed off three new characters that join Sackboy in his adventure. The demo had such character and cuteness it was really refreshing to see. Also cool was that the levels created in the first two games will be able to be played on LPB3 when it comes out on PS4 in November.

One of the big questions coming in was whether Sony would talk about Project Beast – the next game from Dark Souls creator From Software. We got our answer in the form of Bloodborne, a new IP from them, with a pretty gruesome trailer that really just served to get the name and game out there – it was pretty tough to glean any real story or character info from it. But it looked pretty damn dark and brutal and gruesome, just what Dark Souls fans want.

Far Cry 4

Far Cry 4
Ubisoft might have a real winner on their hands with Far Cry 4 if the pressers are anything to go by. It was shown not only at Ubisoft’s show, but had a much longer gameplay segment at Sony’s. Gameplay looked very similar to the previous entry, which was a really fun game. The big scoop comes with the announcement that there is drop-in/drop-out co-op, and that with the PS4, you can actually invite people without the game to play, and they can still hop right in. That’s a pretty damn big win for Sony right there.

Dead Island 2
Talk about a shift in tone between games – the reveal trailer for the original Dead Island was one of the most intense trailers from that year. Not so much with this one – much more irreverent tone to the trailer, but we have to wait to see if that translates over to the game too.

Magicka 2
We got a pretty clever trailer to introduce Magicka 2, an isometric hack-and-slash game. Looked pretty interesting, but nothing super extraordinary.

Grim Fandango
In one of the biggest surprises of the show, we got the announcement that Tim Schafer will be revisiting one of the best adventure games from the turn of the millennium – Grim Fandango. It’s first out on PS4 and Vita, with others to follow – that’s a huge win for Sony as not only is this a really beloved game, but it was probably the biggest surprise thus far.

Indie Support
Sony then showed off a number of Indie games coming to the PS4 in the coming months/year, including Broforce, Titan Souls, Not a Hero, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, and The Talos Principle. It’s always good to see indie games getting some good love on the big stage like that.

Let It Die
Another nice surprise was the announcement of a new Suda-51 game coming out. The PS4 exclusive Let It Die got a pretty crazy trailer, in typical Suda fashion. From what the trailer showed, it looks like it’s going to be Suda’s take on a zombie shooter/rpg – should be pretty crazy.

Following the somewhat over-the-top nature of Let It Die it was nice to get a little refresher in the form of the new game from the creator of Journey. The same feel and emotion that Journey has seem to be present in Abzu, which reminded me of Journey just set underwater.

No Man’s Sky
In my opinion, No Man’s Sky really stole the first part of Sony’s show – the trailer looked absolutely incredible, and the scale and scope of the game look like it’s going to be a great example of what “next-gen” can be. The fact it’s an infinitely generating universe, with each player starting on different planets with totally different experiences blew me away. And it’s another win for Sony, as it’s going to make its console debut on the PS4

Now we run into the main issue I had with Sony’s presser – after this really great high from No Man’s Sky, they ran straight into talking about hardware. Project Morpheus (VR), PSN news, YouTube – nothing wrong with them, but after Xbox having 90 straight minutes of games, this just felt like hitting a wall. And you could tell online – twitter reactions were not pleased they had this big block of time set for talking about hardware and PlayStation TV, while only briefly talking about the Vita.

Mortal Kombat X

Mortal Kombat X
Following a pretty noticeable lull, they kicked right back in with gameplay footage of Mortal Kombat X, which we now know is pronounced as an “ex”, not 10. The gameplay footage showed two fights – the classic duo of Scorpion and Sub Zero going at it again, and two new characters, a bee-controlling lady, and a Master Blaster-esque giant. The actual fighting looks as brutal as ever, with the X-Ray attacks returning and fatalities as over-the-top as always. One other thing I thought looked really cool was the stages seem much more interactive in the actual fighting this time around.

After a really brutal trailer for Mortal Kombat X, the show took another hard turn into talking about TV and Film available on the PS4. The only real highlight I took away was the show Powers coming later this year, based on the comic of the same name. Nothing wrong with the announcement, but I don’t know that this was the time or place for it.

The Last of Us
The PS3 exclusive is getting an updated version coming to the PS4, and we got a trailer that really had me scratching my head. All the opinions were that this was one of the best games of last year, and the story was a big part of why – and yet this trailer started with a spoiler warning. It really just felt a little off, but the trailer was still strong.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Oh boy, where to start here. I’m way out of the loop with MGS games, having only played a little bit of the first one, so story-wise, I had no clue what’s going on in the new trailer. But that having been said, the trailer looked really really gorgeous. I think it’s one of those trailers that as an outsider I just have no chance of really “getting it,” but I’m sure that fans of the series really appreciated it.

Grand Theft Auto V
Rockstar did a solid for Sony by showing off the PS4/Xbox One updates for GTAV on the PS4. GTA got it’s start on the Sony consoles, so it’s really only fair that the PS4 got the reveal I think. It was already a good looking game on the 360, but seeing it on the current-gen platforms was really eye opening – the game looks incredible.

Batman: Arkham Knight

Batman: Arkham Knight
Easily my most anticipated game for 2015 at this moment, I was a little curious what we’d see of it this year, especially considering that the date was just recently pushed back, so I figured it’s probably at a pretty playable state. Turns out we got an absolutely incredible looking bit of gameplay footage that blew me away. The scale and scope of this game look absolutely insane, not to mention the actual gameplay that they showed. I am absolutely on board the hype train for this one – it’s gonna be a major player next year.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Sony may have hit a wall in the middle of their show, but they definitely closed strong with Batman and then Uncharted 4. The trailer was showing PS4 captured footage, and looked absolutely gorgeous. Again, I’m a little behind with the series, but I do understand the importance to PlayStation the series has. I think this was definitely the trailer to end the show with, it was a great cap for the evening.

All in all, I think Sony had a strong conference, but to me it was just a little bit weaker than Microsoft’s. I’m not saying that as an Xbox fan, I just think that the middle section talking hardware dragged on a little long, not to mention the whole show felt long. Had they gone the same route as Xbox with nothing but games, I think it might have been the stronger showing, but really, the ultimate winners of the whole day were us gamers. There are a ton of incredible games coming our way soon – it’s a great time to play games.