Infinite Lives Best of 2015 – Day Two

The Taken King LogoContinuing our look back at the year that was, today we’re talking DLC and post-launch content that came out this year. Now I didn’t play everything that came out this year, but of what I did play, there were some really great post-launch content that helped extend games lives.

First off, the big one for me really shouldn’t be a big surprise here – it’s The Taken King for Destiny. That was exactly what Destiny needed to stay relevant moving forward, and really what the game needed to fix a lot of the issues that we all knew the game had. Is it losing its luster a bit right now? Probably a bit for the hardcore crowd. But I still think that there’s a lot more to get out of The Taken King than we had with the initial game, and it’s a really good building point for Bungie moving into 2016. House of Wolves is also worth mentioning for kinda redefining the focus of end-game Destiny gameplay. We went from six-man raids and Iron Banner for PvP to three-man Prison of Elders and Trials of Osiris. Were there issues with both of those events – you bet, but they did a good job of bringing me back into Destiny after The Dark Below. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what Bungie is going to do with Destiny in 2016, especially with the focus on timed events now.

Battlefield Hardline

I did want to mention a couple other post-launch content. Battlefield Hardline has had a really strong DLC season so far – adding in new game modes, a lot of new gear for each class, and solid maps. EA and DICE tend to do really good by the Battlefield games – hell, they’re putting new content out for Battlefield 4 out this year, and that’s a two year old game now. The other game that I think has done a good job of supporting itself post-launch has been Halo 5: Guardians. Instead of having full fledged DLC map packs, 343 has been adding in good content through title updates for the game. We’ve gotten Big Team Battle added in, as well as social playlists, new maps and a whole slew of new REQ weapons. They keep using these monthly updates to address the issues in the live game as they pop up, which helps keep the actual game fresh and playing great. After the debacle that was Master Chief Collection, this is exactly what the Halo series needed.

There are a couple other little things to mention quickly. First off, Rock Band has restarted weekly DLC offerings. I always thought that that was one thing that Harmonix always had over other rhythm games. So far they’ve had a really good mix of genres as well as grabbing some deep cuts in addition to big hits. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more next year, especially as they keep adding content to the Rock Band platform. One other thing that I saw this year was Witcher 3 do a really cool thing with offering a ton of free DLC to keep the players invested moving forward. I mentioned yesterday that while I have The Witcher 3, I haven’t played it yet – and obviously that extends to the DLC. But I do like that more developers are putting in extra content to their games for free and finding other ways to fill their development costs.

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Infinite Lives Best Of 2015

We’ve only got a couple days left in 2015, so I thought that it would be a good time to wrap up the year before we move on to 2016. Instead of giving you my ten best games, DLC, microtransactions, trailers, so and so forth, I’m just going to offer up a handful of what I thought really stood out this year. I’ll focus on games today, we’ll hit DLC tomorrow and then we’ll spin it forward to 2016.

Fallout 4 Box Art

Let’s start with my favorite new game of 2015. I say new game here because I still played Destiny more than any other game this year. But of the new, 2015 titles that I played this year, I think it’s no surprise that I’ve been enjoying Fallout 4 the most. I was super excited for this game the minute it was teased back before E3. Now that I’ve spent plenty of time out in the Commonwealth, I definitely think it’s my favorite game of the year. Does it measure up with Fallout 3? I don’t really know that they’re actually that comparable. Yes, the dialogue system is a little out of character for the series; and yes, some of the more traditional RPG mechanics are simplified. But I think the whole package is actually a really great game – and the main quest line that runs through the game is I think stronger than Fallout 3‘s. The characters in the Commonwealth actually feel a little more alive – perhaps that because of the better graphics, especially the character models. The new designs on items and enemies keep classic parts of the Fallout universe fresh. And the revamped combat really makes it less of a chore to get into bigger firefights. Combat actually feels modern and I think appeals to a wider audience than just series and Bethesda fans. I think the negativity surrounding the game is totally unjustified, at least to the extent that I see it. I think people are overreacting, and maybe assuming that Bethesda will do the same things with their next Elder Scrolls game. Just relax a little, suspend that disbelief a bit and dive in and you’ll find a really exciting world to explore and get lost in.

While I think Fallout 4 is the best game that I played, I did have a lot of fun with a couple other games worth mentioning. Rock Band 4 returned music party games to the consoles. Again, there are some issues here – mainly that the game launched pretty bare-bones and they’ve been adding features moving forward. But honestly, just being able to load up a Rock Band game again and rock out on the Xbox One is awesome. I put a lot of time in over the summer with Smite on the Xbox One as well. I’ve never really gotten into MOBA’s but Smite managed to draw me in with the more third-person camera/action game style controls. The retro gamer in me really loved playing around with the Rare Replay collection, as well as the Mega Man Legacy Collection. Both featured a good mix of games for a reasonable price – and gave younger gamers a chance to go back and play some truly classic games. More recently, I’ve been playing a lot of Halo 5 – which is honestly somewhat surprising to me. I went in to that game with relatively low expectations – Master Chief Collection and Halo 4 both didn’t really excite me. But 343 finally has created a Halo game that does a great job of retaining classic Halo gameplay while also bringing in some new ideas and features we’ve seen in other recent FPS games. Add in that Warzone is I think the most ideal way to experience Halo and it all comes together to make a really solid shooter on the Xbox One. That said, I think my favorite shooter I played this year was Battlefield Hardline. I loved the new take on the classic formula – cops and robbers instead of military was actually I think a great move for the series. The maps were awesome – they worked perfectly on just about every game mode. Each class was balanced well, and I think Blood Money/Heist were fantastic additions to the franchise.

Battlefield Hardline

Before I wrap up, I want to mention a couple games that came out this year that I haven’t run through yet, but are on my short list. I already have The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, just haven’t sat down and really played it. Call of Duty: Black Ops III is on sale right now, so I’m picking that up later on and will give that a shot – I really liked the beta so, I have a hunch I’ll be enjoying the full game. Star Wars Battlefront is another game that I really liked the Beta for, just didn’t get the full game at launch. I probably will be looking into it soon to give it a better overview.

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.

Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution – Rock Band 4 Impressions

Rock Band 4

Rock Band 4 is awesome. It’s everything that I wanted from the return of my favorite music game. It’s the core features of what made Rock Band great, honed and updated to current-gen standards. In fact, my only gripes are super minimal. I wish that they carried over All Instruments Mode, that way I could see the vocal line while playing Guitar. And I would have loved a way to just import my whole DLC library in one fell swoop, but it looks like that’s a technical impossibility; as well as make sure that all owned DLC is clearly noted (currently there’s a weird glitch where owned songs are shown as not owned, but still can be installed for free). Beyond that, Rock Band 4 is exactly what I wanted it to be.

With rhythm games like this, there are two things that are the determining factor in whether they’ll be great or just okay. First is the note recognition. In the hours I played yesterday, I didn’t notice any sort of note dropping on my new Stratocaster guitar controller. In the past, I clung to my Gibson Explorer controller from Guitar Hero 2. I don’t need that anymore – I have a wireless guitar that works, and works great. Even with tremolo picking sections, the strum bar kept up and I didn’t see any misses that were because of hardware. That’s a good thing and I actually think upgrading instrument controllers isn’t a terrible idea.

Rock Band 4 Setlist

The other super important part is the actual set-list. If the songs are stinkers, what’s the point of playing them? Luckily, Harmonix has a great ear for picking both huge hits, and deep cuts. I played through the first few tours in career mode, so the easier tier songs and found a couple songs I’ve never heard that I immediately wanted to go buy; while also playing some songs that are in regular rotation on my iPod. That’s perhaps the most important thing that a game like this can do. Just like a Let’s Play can show you a game you might never have seen before, rhythm games like this can teach you all kinds of awesome new music. You just have to take the plunge and play them.

In addition to playing a few career shows, I had to try playing one of the harder songs in Quickplay mode, if for no reason other than to test my skills to make sure I haven’t gotten too rusty. I went with “Hail to the King” by Avenged Sevenfold – it’s marked as a “Devil Tier” song on Guitar and I actually think it’s one of the easier A7X songs. The charting on it made me really happy though – it’s a good split between playing the lead lick and the rhythm guitar line, with the solo feeling really well charted. If future DLC keeps that in mind, I think I’ll be putting plenty more money into the Music Store.

One new feature on guitars that’s worth mentioning is the Freestyle Solo. It lets you put in your own little touches through pre-programmed solo licks that you play during the guitar solos. It seems kinda weird at first, but it actually works really well – you have a little bit of leeway with note streaks when you’re hopping between low and high frets, and even if you decide to just ignore their prompts and go wild, you’ll only count as missing one note, not failing out. My biggest issue with them is just that I’m not used to them – sometimes they’ll have you end on the high frets and I lose my fingers when the chart begins again. That’s something that will come with play though.

All in all, Rock Band 4 is absolutely a return to form for the series. With Guitar Hero Live coming soon too, I do think that we might see a resurgence with the rhythm games. They’ve always been a great party game, and the current-gen consoles were missing something like this. If you like music games, or really if you like finding new music in general, I think this is a definite purchase.

Weekly News Recap – Week of May 11, 2015

Busy week in news this week, on all points on the spectrum; from good to weird to exciting. Let’s dive in.

Konami Logo - Classic

KONAMI DOUBLES DOWN ON MOBILE, LEAVES CONSOLES
I went with a whole article on this earlier on in the week, mainly because I still can’t wrap my head around the logic here. Konami, one of the longest gaming developing houses, is all but stopping console development. The future is super uncertain as to the details with how this will impact classic franchises, but it really looks more like they’ll be more inclined to appear on mobile platforms. It’s a cost-saving move, but at the same time it feels like it could be a risky venture, potentially alienating fans. We’ll see how this ends.

MICROSOFT ANNOUNCES E3 PLANS, BRINGS IN THE FANS
This week Microsoft announced their schedule for E3 week. On June 15, at 9:30 am PDT they’ll hold their press conference. If it’s anything like last year’s conference, I expect we’ll see a ton of games, including a couple heavy hitters, like the Gears of War leak from this week. They also announced a fan event on the 14th of June, for 500 fans in the LA area. E3 is starting to shape up, which is always an exciting part of the gaming year. This year could be a pretty intense show – I really think we’re going to see a lot of news and big reveals this year. It’s going to be fun.

Rock Band 4

ROCK BAND 4 GAMEPLAY REVEALED, FIRST 6 SONGS ANNOUNCED
Today at 3pm EDT Harmonix will show off the first gameplay footage of Rock Band 4 over on IGN. In advance of that show, they’ve announced the first six songs of the setlist. The first six hit some pretty varied genres – modern metal with Avenged Sevenfold’s “Hail to the King” (which should be a lot of fun to play), classic rock with Fleetwood Mac’s “You Make Loving Fun” and The Who’s “The Seeker,” and good ol’ 90’s rock with Spin Doctors “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong.” It’s a good mix, especially adding in the other two songs – The Killers’ “Somebody Told Me” and Jack White’s “Lazaretto” – which has me thinking that the whole setlist is going to be a winner. Guitar Hero Live also shared a couple songs from their list, and with the exception of Skrillex, I think they also have a good start. It’s a good year for music games again.

Weekly News Recap: Week of March 23, 2015

This week has been pretty busy in the world of games – two big releases, the second week online for Battlefield: Hardline, and the usual news cycle. Let’s hit a few headlines that grabbed me.

Battlefield Hardline

MARCH ENDS UP BEING CRAZY STACKED
March is beginning to turn into a second November – usually the busiest month for releases. Over the last few years we’ve started to see more and more games launch in March – and big games too. Last year we got Titanfall in March. This month alone we’ve had Battlefield: Hardline, Borderlands: The Handsome Collection and Bloodborne. Add in titles like Ori and the Blind Forest as well as DLC for Dragon Age: Inquisition and we’ve had a hell of a month. Definitely bodes well moving forward through the rest of the year. Best of all, the launches have been pretty smooth – a little hiccup with Hardline, but that’s about it.

Rock Band 4

ROCK BAND 4 NEEDS YOUR INPUT
Harmonix just today sent out a second survey in their email newsletter. Even if you aren’t a part of the newsletter, if you’re at all interested in the return of Rock Band (which you should be) you should check out the survey and fill it out. The more data they can get, the better the end result game will be. While you’re over at Harmonix’s site you should also check out their request page. If you have some songs that you really think belong in the game, submit them there, and who knows – maybe they’ll show up. I’ve already submitted a pretty damn good days worth of music – the more the better.

CALL OF DUTY CHAMPIONSHIPS ARE HAPPENING RIGHT NOW!
This weekend is the huge Call of Duty championship tournament. You can catch all the action live on Twitch – it continues through the whole weekend. If it’s anything like the Grand Finals of the Halo tournament at PAX East, this should be a crazy tournament. It’s always worth it to watch the best in the world do what they do.