Infinite Lives Last Minute Christmas Game Gift Ideas

Panicking at the last minute about what you should pick up for the gamer on your list? Well I’ve got you covered here at Infinite Lives with a couple games that I think any game lover will enjoy.

Fallout 4 Box Art

For the RPG lover, you are looking at Witcher 3 or Fallout 4. Both games feature strong story telling, living worlds and characters that feel alive. You should pick the game that fits the world your gamer prefers. Not everyone likes that Tolkien sword and sorcery style RPG, and Fallout offers a tremendous alternative. Both games are bound to be all over Game of the Year lists soon, so you really can’t go wrong with either game. Each game has a different way they approach the traditional RPG mechanics, so you might need to figure out how your gamer likes their story and action delivered to them.

If you have an action/FPS fan on your list, you have a few more options, so it might be a little more complicated. Destiny: The Taken King, despite what the hardcore community might be saying, is absolutely worth the price of admission. With all of the extras going on in the game right now – SRL, and Iron Banner hitting next Tuesday – this is a pretty good time to get a new player into the game, or bring a friend back in. Battlefield Hardline came out way back in March, but I still think it’s probably the best option if you’re looking for a more realistic style shooter. Huge games, big maps and vehicles all over the place and a change of pace from the usual military setting make for a pretty damn fun game. You can probably find it marked down by now too, so keep that in mind. If you’re looking for something even more on the realistic side, you’ll be grabbing Rainbow 6: Siege. I haven’t played it since the beta, so I can’t give the full recommendation, but if you plan on having a group to play it with, I think it could be the best co-op/competitive option out there. Which brings us to the old question – Halo 5 or Call of Duty: Black Ops III. It’s been the dominant question in console FPS for years – at least on Xbox. Now, last year, it wasn’t a question – Master Chief Collection was too broken to recommend. But this year, I actually think it’s a lot closer. Halo 5 is a ton of fun to play – Warzone alone is I think worth checking out the game for. And Black Ops looks like it’s the strongest entry in a couple years in that franchise as well. This might be the only pick where there really isn’t a wrong answer – I think no matter what your Xbox FPS gamer likes, either game is a win.

Rock Band 4

One last game that I think might fly a little under the radar this season – Rock Band 4. The return of my favorite music game franchise has been a little rocky so far. Yes, it’s still missing some features – especially online play. But if you’ve got the instruments, I still say it’s far and away the best couch co-op/party game available. The new setlist is really good, plus they are continually adding new songs to the list, as well as the old DLC too. If there’s a music fan on your list who happens to also like playing video games, I think this is the game for you.

The New Gaming Revenue Model?

Halo 5 GuardiansThis fall/holiday season has seen the launch of a pretty amazing mix of games, easily the best since the current console generation started. And with that mix of games there are a couple of different ways I’m seeing developers go about supporting those games post-launch. So I thought today I’d talk a little bit about what I’m seeing, and how I see it moving forward.

First, there are the games that are sticking with the tried and true method. Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Fallout 4 and Rainbow Six: Siege all have gone the classic Season Pass route – with varying value in them. I’ve talked here about the Rainbow Six silliness, but in brief, I think it’s far and away the worst season pass I’ve seen in a long time. There is no content in that season pass that provides a true impact on gameplay – nor is there future content there that I would think is imperative to have. The only truly gameplay important items are early access to future Operators. Not purely DLC Operators, just quicker access to them. The other games I think are pretty standard fare for season passes – guaranteed access to the DLC at a discounted price. It’s worked for a few years now, and while it might be reaching critical mass, I still think it’s a really safe way to approach DLC.

Fallout 4 Box Art

On the other hand, we’re seeing a lot more games take a new approach to post-launch support. Halo 5: Guardians, Rock Band 4 and Destiny: The Taken King all have a similar approach to it. The base game acts as a bottom line, and then future content is added in piecemeal, at little or no cost, and is supported with small microtransactions that are optional. Halo has the Warzone REQ packs, Rock Band restarted weekly song DLC, and The Taken King added in emotes and now event specific items. That’s the money side of things, but each game has also added in free game content too. Halo has already had one patch that added Big Team Battle, and has another coming soon to the game; Rock Band just added in Brutal Mode along with a refinement of the core mechanics; and The Taken King is currently hosting the Sparrow Racing League. That’s a lot of cool content being put into big name games – totally for free. I think this model in particular draws heavily from MOBAs. Developers have seen the success of games like League of Legends with the unique hero skins and are trying to find ways where it works with console games. I think this is really early on to say for sure that this will stay for the whole generation, but I do think that each game has a system in place right now that does look like it works – Halo in particular. There isn’t a right answer here, just that developers actually do support the game post-launch and that we has players do the same.

Season Passes – The Good and the Bad

Rainbow Six SiegeI always love when I see a headline that gets my writing juices flowing. That happened today when I read about the announcement of the Season Pass for Rainbow Six: Siege. Generally, I’m in favor of Season Passes – I think that developers get that they’re a good way to get players invested in the DLC season early and throughout the duration. With Rainbow Six though, I think they missed the mark by a pretty substantial margin.

The new content for R6 includes one-week early access to new operators, exclusive weapon skins, and a permanent reputation gain boost. There are a couple other little bits, like random skin packs and challenges, but ultimately, that’s the extent of the Season Pass. That’s really weak. There’s no word on whether R6 will have actual DLC in the form of map packs moving forward, but if there is, you can bet there will be even more backlash against this Season Pass. Ubisoft has said that they want Rainbow Six: Siege to be a prominent esport game. If that’s the case, I really think this was a tremendously bad move. No content that’s included in the $30 price tag is relevant to the extended lifespan of the game. That’s what Season Passes are supposed to be about. The content that’s in the Season Pass is much more in line with post-launch microtransaction content. I talked earlier this week about microtransactions in games, but I’ll repeat it quickly here. I think when they’re done well, they work fine. If they had made these items available that way, I think that would be no problem at all – except maybe the reputation boost.

Fallout 4 Box Art

Contrast that with the Fallout 4 Season Pass. Also costing $30, that Season Pass will give players access to all the future DLC for the game. That’s a hell of a value. Fallout: New Vegas, which I’m replaying while my Xbox One is out at service, had four full sized DLCs, along with one that added in a whole slew of weapons and mods. Those full size, story content DLC each cost $10. Assuming that Bethesda goes the same route with Fallout 4, that means that the Season Pass is a no-brainer – it saves you $10, not counting any of the other possible add-ons. Same price as the Rainbow Six one, but the content included is so much more valuable. Call of Duty goes through the same question every year too – is the Season Pass going to save me enough money VS. buying the maps separately. What Activision and the developers do with the Call of Duty Season Passes is add in a little extra, usually a weapon skin or player calling card, that adds in a little more value to help it out. Not only do you, nowadays, save $5 versus buying the maps, but you get a couple unique items.

Whether we like it or not, I think Season Passes are here to stay. They, much like a lot of elements in modern gaming, are very much a fluid entity. There are great options out there to get a bunch of awesome extra content for a more value-driven price; and there are ones that just don’t make sense from a value standpoint. Every player is going to have their own thoughts on these sort of things – hardcore fans will pretty much always go for them, as a way to support the game and keep the game fresh. Less invested players might be more inclined to skip them.

Rainbow Six: Siege Beta Thoughts and Impressions

Rainbow Six SiegeOver the weekend I got the chance to download and play the new beta for Rainbow Six: Siege. The game may have been delayed until December, but Ubisoft didn’t delay the beta at all. I actually think that this whole situation may end up being the best thing for the game. Pushing it back to December puts it right in the middle of Holiday shopping, plus gets it out of the super crowded late October/early November time period. Keeping the beta now also keeps the demand for the game up through the delay period. Of course we have to wait until December to really know if this is a return to form for the longtime classic series, but I have to think that we might be on that track after this beta.

We’ll start with what I didn’t like with the beta, because there isn’t a ton to talk about here – and the issues I have aren’t really deal breakers. In truth, my biggest issue is a personal one. In the PvP multiplayer, you only have one life. I have never liked game modes like that – Gears of War, Search and Destroy, and so on – just because my style of play is way too aggressive for it. In games like this where realism is a huge part of the play, it may make sense, but it also makes it super easy to die because of a tiny mistake. The margin for error is so small that it all but requires you to play slower and more defensive. But that’s not an actual problem with the game – it’s just a personal conflict with the mechanics.

In truth, I think the PvP actually works really well. It definitely better to go into the matchmaking with as close to a full squad as possible. This is a game where teamwork is paramount – lone wolf players will have a serious struggle, at least with what we have to play right now. Either side, attackers or defenders, need to coordinate their tactics in order to succeed. Attackers need to keep communication lines up to figure out not only where the enemies are, but also where traps are, and where they’re breaching and moving. Defenders need to coordinate how they’re setting up the defenses – which walls are being reinforced, where the barricades and traps are being set and making sure that if there’s a weak spot, everyone knows it. If there’s an actual gameplay critique here, it’s that the two different game modes really aren’t that different. TDM Bomb has the attackers diffusing a bomb – one player has to have the diffuser, while the other mode has attackers trying to find a biological weapon and then control the point for a set time. Not strictly bad, but I hope the final game has a few more modes in it.

Where I really think that Rainbow Six: Siege will shine is in the classic Terrorist Hunt mode. It’s a co-op mode for up to five players, tasked with taking out a set number of terrorists on a map. In the beta, we have two different maps – both feature in the PvP and co-op. Whether or not that’s going to be the case in the final game – in that the multiplayer maps will all feature as Terrorist Hunt maps – remains to be seen. Regardless, Terrorist Hunt is exactly what a game like Rainbow Six needs. There’s a reason that it was so popular in the two Rainbow Six: Vegas games. With the new feature of special operators in Siege I think that Terrorist Hunt could end up being the real meat of the multiplayer.

Those operators are all pretty cool – they essentially act as special playable characters. Each CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit) has a selection of operators, and each operator has a special set of weapons and gadgets. They fit into heavy, medium or light archetypes too – heavy armored characters move really slowly, but can take a few more bullets. The opposite is true too – light characters move a lot faster, but are much more fragile. Getting to know how their actual gadgets does take a few games though – but could be cleared up in the final release when the operator videos are live. I assume that there will be at least a few more operators in the final build, per CTU – which means more options, which means more variety, and that’s always a good thing.

Ultimately, it’s really hard to say with certainty that Rainbow Six: Siege is going to be a winner. But I do think that it has a couple things going for it that set it up to succeed. There’s no other shooter this season that falls into that same “super realistic” style which means less direct competition. Pushing it out of the really crowded time frame adds to that – by the time the game launches, shooter players will have already beaten Halo 5, Star Wars: Battlefront and/or Call of Duty and they’ll have picked which multiplayer to stick with. Come December that should mean an audience that is ready for a new game, and Rainbow Six is dropping at that same point. We know nothing yet about the story – but Tom Clancy games are generally strong in that aspect. It’s a game that I think is set up for success and we just have to wait to see if it delivers.

E3 2015 – Microsoft Press Conference Wrap Up

Sunset Overdrive Xbox Bundle

This morning was the Microsoft press event – the actual kick off for E3 week. Bethesda set the tone for the week last night, and Microsoft did a great job keeping that tone all morning/noon time. Let’s get going – there’s a lot to talk about.

Halo 5 Guardians

Microsoft got the show started right away, pulling out the big guns at the outset of the show. Halo 5: Guardians was the first game that we got to see – and this was gameplay showing off some new stuff. We got to see what looked like four-player co-op, featuring Spartan Locke’s squad (including the return of Sgt. Buck/Nathan Fillion) tracking down Chief on a Covenant planet. It looks pretty standard Halo – lots of action, good set-pieces, and pretty incredible vistas. To me, the big news was the announcement of Warzone – the new multiplayer mode. It features 24 players split into two teams, as well as a third force made up of A.I. enemies. It reminded me of a sort of combined Firefight mode, with some PvP elements there too. It looks like it will end up being a great side mode to play when burnt out on PvP.

We then got a new exclusive announcement for a new franchise from Keiji Inafune and the team behind Metroid Prime called Recore. The game won’t be out until next year, but based around what we saw today, it looks pretty neat. The trailer did a good job of setting the world up, but left the gameplay in mystery. It was a solid start before we hit the hardware portion of the show – the only part that was, and was pretty quick. Microsoft learned from two years ago and has really focused on games way more since then.

The big news hardware-wise is that backwards compatibility is finally coming to the Xbox One. In fact, for preview members, it’s out today. The rest of us have to wait until the Holiday, but still – that’s a huge step forward, by stepping backward. It opens up a huge library of games – digital games will automatically show up, and retail discs work similarly (pop in the disc, and download and you’re good to go). The real cool part for this is that the Xbox One features will still work – snap, taking clips, screenshots and broadcasting all work with 360 games. This announcement ran right into the new Xbox One Elite controller coming this fall. It looks a lot like the third party controllers with lots of custom features, some that I think are silly, others kinda neat.

Fallout 4 Box Art

After some Xbox specific stuff, we got back to the games. Fresh off the killer Bethesda show from last night, Todd Howard popped back in to talk more Fallout 4. We got two big Xbox specific bits of news here – first is that Fallout 3 will be included with the new game this fall. The second one is the real kicker though – for the first time ever, mods will be playable on console. Fallout 4 mods made on PC will work fine on Xbox One as well. That’s a huge step forward, and depending on whether that’s an Xbox exclusive could really shape Fallout 4‘s profile.

We then got a little bit of EA news – Madden NFL 16 comes out August 25, and a few new games are coming to EA Access: Titanfall this week, and Dragon Age: Inquisition this summer. And to go along with that, EA Access’s vault will be available for all Xbox Live Gold members this week as well. We also got the announcement of Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 which will be out next spring. The trailer was actually pretty funny and cute – fitting right in with the PvZ style. I’m sure there’s more EA stuff in their own show.

We then got a few more trailers – Forza 6 along with a release date, 9/15/15; then the debut of the trailer for Dark Souls III, which comes out next year. Seeing Dark Souls announced at a Microsoft show was pretty cool – the series has tended to be mainly a SONY franchise so far, so this is potentially big.

The Division

That got us to The Division, a new trailer for the action RPG from Ubisoft. The Tom Clancy series is pretty stacked this year, as Ubisoft showed. The Division looks great, saying there’s a beta on the Xbox One this December. And continuing the trend, Rainbow Six: Siege comes out October 13, and will actually include the classic Xbox Rainbow Six games, Vegas, and Vegas 2. Ubisoft of course showed off more of these during their own show.

We then hit the indie section – Gigantic, which looked like a free-to-play MOBA style game with a beta coming out August; Tacoma will be a space mystery from the same team behind Gone HomeAshen from Aurora 44 – an open world action shared world game; Beyond Eyes from Tiger and Squid, which honestly didn’t look like a game I will go for, just personally; and finally Cuphead – the Indie game from Studio MDHR that I’ve wanted since it was first shown off a while ago. It look so great. The ID@Xbox segued into the Xbox Game Preview program, a way to support games that are still in development – similar to Steam’s Early Access. They used this program to unveil Ion, the new game from DayZ creator Dean Hall.

We then got back to triple A games with Rise of the Tomb Raider – with a new gameplay video to show it. It showed Lara in all kinds of snowy trouble, scaling a cliff that should not humanly possible to scale. It definitely looked a lot like the reboot – which is a good thing. We will see more I’m sure, but the game launches this Holiday. This was also when we got to see what Rare studios has for us – a collection of 30 games, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the studio (complete with Battletoads). And a brand new IP – Sea of Thieves – a Pirate based MMO that looked pretty neat.

Microsoft then showed us some of their first party games – starting with Fable Legends, showing a new villain character, and restating it being free-to-play, cross platform with Windows 10 and coming out this Holiday. VR was shown – they had an actual stage demo of the Hololens and Minecraft that looked unreal with how futuristic it was. But at this point we had reached the end of our time – and Microsoft closed with a fan favorite. This August we’ll get Gears of War: Ultimate Edition – the first game, remastered for Xbox One, and with a public beta out today. Then they formally announced Gears of War 4, with a gameplay trailer that looked very much like Gears. We have a ways for this one though – not launching until Holiday 2016.

E3 2014 – Ubisoft Press Conference Impressions

E3 LogoThe final press press conference from this years show that I’m going to run through actually took place Monday evening. Ubisoft was coming into this year’s show on a high note with the success of Watch Dogs, and a strong line-up for the rest of this year into next year. Now I did miss about 10 or so minutes towards the beginning of the show, so I’ll toss that disclaimer out there, but aside from that, let’s run through the show.

Far Cry 4
Opening the show was a trailer showing off what appeared to be the beginning of the game, detailing the game’s main villain. I’m assuming that this was a cutscene from the actual game, but we’ll just have to wait to see.

The Division

Tom Clancy’s The Division
After my quick break, I came back in time to catch the end of what looked like a pretty downer of a Division trailer. It looked more like a CG trailer than gameplay to me, but with the new-gen consoles it’s sometimes tough to tell. Looking back at all the conferences now, I think the better showing of this game was during the Xbox conference, which showed off some actual gameplay, but we still have plenty of time to see all kinds of new footage until the game launches next year.

The Crew
Ubisoft’s answer to the upcoming Forza Horizon 2, The Crew is another large scale racing game, featuring two different coast-to-coast races in the U.S.A. The other cool thing I thought was that the game doesn’t have any loading while you’re driving those races. The other nice thing is that Ubisoft is launching a beta on July 23, in advance of the game’s November 11 release.

Assassins Creed Unity

Assassin’s Creed: Unity
Showing off what has probably become Ubisoft’s most popular franchise, we got a new trailer for the latest Assassin’s Creed title. The trailer was set on Bastille Day, further illustrating the French Revolution setting. Following that trailer we got another gameplay demo, set after the actual Revolution, during the Reign of Terror. The gameplay looks very much like the Assassin’s Creed we have come to expect, set in what Ubisoft is calling a “Systemic Open World.” We’ll be able to explore the French Revolution on October 28.

Shape Up
Next up, we got a stage demo of the upcoming Kinect fitness game, Shape Up. Overall it looked like a standard fitness game, just with a lighter tone and more “gamification” of the actual workouts applied. It’ll be out on the Xbox One this November.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War
We got a really change in tone after that though, in the form of a trailer for Valiant Hearts: The Great War. The actual game looks like a puzzle-platformer set during the First World War, but damn was the trailer a major downer, which I guess with a game set during such a heavy time in history isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We can judge for ourselves later this month, since the game is out on the 25th.

Rainbow Six: Siege
The show ended with a look at the return of the venerable Rainbow Six franchise, a series close to a lot of gamers’ hearts. Showing off what looked to be 5V5 gameplay of a SWAT team breaking into a home to rescue a hostage being held by terrorists, the game looked super smooth and beautiful. Walls and doors were essentially paper, allowing players to shoot through them with no issues. We learned after the show that Rainbow Six: Siege is the result of what used to be Rainbow Six: Patriots, which was cancelled and rebranded. I have a feeling that this will end up being a big player next year, with a strong showing at next year’s E3, but that’s a long ways off right now.

All in all, what I was able to see of the Ubisoft show looked promising – I think Far Cry 4, Assassin’s Creed: Unity and The Crew all look very good in their own ways, while 2015 should also be a solid year for Ubi with the two Tom Clancy games.

With that, we have gone through each press conference from this year’s E3, talked about a whole slew of games coming out this year and next, and I think we can go into the second half of this year fully hyped and ready for some really awesome games. Next week I’ll try to pick out a few “Best of Show” winners, and also talk a little bit more about some of the games I’m really hyped for now.