Quick Thoughts: CTR Remake

We first heard about the Crash Team Racing remake back at E3 last year. Having already played a bit of the Crash Bandicoot Trilogy remake, I had a feeling this would be just as good, and knowing that this was my favorite game to feature Crash I went ahead and preordered it a few days before its release. When it became playable, I checked it out for a bit and was not disappointed, though I had to head to bed for work so I didn’t get a proper session in until the next couple of days. Since, I’ve completed the first zone, a few of the side events along with parts of the second zone. This game is what I remember it being from my early adulthood — it’s a great kart racer, and it still has a nice difficulty curve that keeps it from being something you’ll finish in a day or two. If you’re a completionist, there are trophies for completing both the “new” Nitro-Fueled version of the game, along with the original version. The differences between the two are that you can’t customize your character and you can’t change characters in the original, and the new campaign mode introduces a bunch of new characters. A “Pit Stop” feature works like a shop but is completely micro-transaction free, all currency is earned by playing the game. Many of the skins, carts and characters are also unlockable by playing, so it’s a win-win.

The campaign has a small zone that you can explore and the races are found on little teleportation pads. You’ll have to complete all of the races in a zone to open up the boss, and after completing the boss you’ll get access to new zones. Our goal is to complete four boss battles to have enough keys to unlock N. Oxide, who is the final boss (and rather difficult from what I remember). Normal Trophy races are just that, you’ll vie against 8 computer controlled racers and you’ll want to finish first in order to earn the trophy. The AI is pretty good even on medium difficulty (there’s also a trophy for beating the game on hard), they’ll wait for you to line up before they use powerups, and they’ll piss you off when they always manage to hit you right before the finish line when you’re in first place. If you can race fast enough though, you’ll get far enough ahead to avoid most retribution.

Bosses are unlocked once the zone is cleared, and they amount to a slightly more difficult race, because they have special moves and tend to be pretty fast. Once they’re bested, you’ll move onto new zones and this play pattern repeats until you complete the campaign. There is more, though.

After a boss is completed, Relic Races and CTR Challenges appear. These will take place on the same levels you’ve just completed, but they require different win conditions. Relic Races are essentially time trials, but there are crates scattered about the levels that stop the clock for 1, 2 or 3 seconds. You’ll likely need them in order to complete the race in the given time, so try to grab as many as possible! For CTR Challenges, you’ll race against AI again, but there are a C, T and R hidden around the level and you’ll have to collect those before the race is over. I’m not sure that you have to finish in first place too, but I did just to be safe. After racing a bunch, you’ll want to visit the pit stop where you can unlock new cosmetics for your kart, unlock those characters and also get skins for them, along with accessories and paint jobs.

I spent what I had earned on unlocking a sweet shark that shoots laser beams out of his helmet. Turns out he’s a better fit for my playstyle than the default characters as well.  One thing that is present with this title as opposed to the original is online play, where you can have races with friends (or strangers) along with playing sweet battle mini games. These can also be played locally, split-screen, and with AI bots if desired. There’s really a ton to do here and I really only wanted the new campaign, so it was well worth the $40 spent! I highly recommend this one if you like kart racers, Crash Bandicoot, and especially if you played the original — you’ll love it.

Quick Thoughts: Games on the Cheap

Generally speaking, there are far too many games released in a given year to play them all. Sometimes you have to spend your limited expendable funds carefully, and that means skipping some titles in favor of others. What’s great about our current gaming climate, is that typically a year or so after a game releases (or stops releasing DLC) it typically has a “Game of the Year,” “Complete” or “Ulitmate” edition. This bundle will save you money, because a) you didn’t pay full price for the base game and b) you now get all DLCs included for either the same asking price or less. Give it a little more time, and you can usually catch these bundled titles on sale and save even more money. You won’t be on the cutting edge, playing the newest, hottest games on release, but in the case of most titles, you’re not missing anything by playing them late. In most cases I’d argue you’re smarter that the guy who pays $60 at launch for a title and then pays $10-20 per DLC on top of that. Nevertheless, I have found a few titles I’ve wanted to play in recent years but hadn’t gotten around to, bundled as I’ve mentioned and on sale to boot. It was very difficult to resist a copy of each of the games I’m going to discuss, and yes that means I purchased them once I saw the price was right. Let’s jump in, shall we?

I absolutely wanted to play Horizon: Zero Dawn when it released. The first time I saw it at E3 I knew it was a title that would be up my alley. I’m at a stage in my life though, that some games that I believe will be enjoyable aren’t always. I’ve also been trying to cut down on spending on games due to the fact that so many either collect dust or disappoint me. But for $10, I knew I needed to grab a copy, particularly because the Complete Edition came with bonus goodies and the game’s lone expansion The Frozen Wilds. I have not been disappointed by this title, and the inexpensive nature of the purchase doesn’t affect this — it’s a damn fine game. You play as Aloy, a young girl outcast by a tribe in a post-apocalyptic world where robot creatures roam the landscape and tribes of humans fight among themselves.

There’s a lot to digest in the early portions of the game. It’s clear that “the Old Ones” died off for some reason or another, and somehow, robots have formed into various beasts (perhaps a form of evolution or created by the dead ancients). You’ve been taken in by Rost, an outcast from the Nora tribe. He has sheltered you, but as a little girl you don’t really understand why the tribe won’t talk to you. On one fateful day, you end up falling into a cave that is a ruin from the old days, and find a “focus” which looks eerily similar to a bluetooth ear piece, but is definitely more useful. It provides information on the environment and things within it, becoming an excellent tool. Wanting to rejoin the tribe, Rost agrees to train you for “the proving” which is a ritual that allows tribesmen to become “braves,” and for outcasts to rejoin the tribe. The meat of the game is a third person shooter style, with some stealth elements, RPG progression, and a beautiful world to explore. It’s open world to a degree, though you’re held back for a time as you grow up, complete the proving, and become a “seeker.” Having that title allows you to leave the sacred lands of your people, and find answers. At certain points you are given “choices matter” styles of conversation prompts, and are allowed to choose your path. I assume these actions have consequences, but not many have shown up yet. I’m still in the early portions of the game though, so perhaps some of these will come back around. Overall the game looks great and plays great. It’s a title on the level of games like those made by Naughty Dog, where the graphics are top notch and the game play and story matches its beauty. I’m in love with it, and definitely look forward to what comes next.

I bought the original Titanfall for PC. In the past year I’ve decided to boycott Origin though, as I prefer my PC games to be linked up through Steam. As such I wasn’t going to buy the sequel on PC (and have already purchased a copy of Dragon Age: Inquisiton for PS4 so I can avoid having to use the additional platform). That might sound stupid to some, but I don’t mind playing EA games on the console, whereas I’m annoyed with the company on PC. So here we are. Titanfall 2 looked amazing when I first saw it — it’s more of the same, but that’s definitely not a bad thing. However, I just didn’t pick it up on release and hadn’t though about it for quite some time. Seeing the Ultimate Edition on sale for $8 though, and I was sold. This being a multiplayer game, there was worry about whether or not people would still be playing it, but unlike its predecessor, this one has a single player campaign, so I knew at least I’d get to experience that. So far, it’s been okay. Very similar to Call of Duty campaigns I’ve played in the past, just with the benefit of being a better game than CoD.

Being a Titanfall game, you get the requisite boots on the ground action along with the mechs that you pilot. There’s still wall running and double jumping, fast and furious gunplay and of course, MECHS! It’s a blast to run around, jumping and sliding and calling down your titan to fuck shit up. I have yet to play the multiplayer but I did check out the menus and saw a pretty healthy population despite being fairly late when I was playing. I think because it sets itself apart from other shooters on the market it has managed to keep a following. I’m glad that not everyone is off playing Battle Royale games and still appreciates a good ol’ fashioned FPS. I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts about this one soon.

The last game isn’t a bundle deal, but is a remastered version of a game I first played on PS3. Burnout Paradise was a fantastic title that came out of nowhere for me. I believe it was my sister’s (now-ex) husband who showed me the game, and I only played it at his house and didn’t get too much out of it. I just remember thinking that it reminded me of Need For Speed Underground, which was one of my favorite NFS titles of all time. The remaster here takes the original game (and appears that the DLCs are present, so perhaps this is a bundle after all) and polishes it up a bit. The intro movie is still clearly PS3 graphics, but once you get into the game it looks a bit better than its OG version, and definitely runs at a higher frame rate.

You start the game with a crappy car and have a semi-open-world to explore. Like the Need For Speed games, you can roll up to points on the map that will start up a race, or can battle with random NPCs on the road. There are also stunts and collectibles along with challenges where you can pit your high scores against those on your friends list. It’s the same experience as before, but due to my limited time with the game in the past, I can now delve further into it. I managed to upgrade my license and open up a few new cars in my first session, and I look forward to getting down with more racing — it really is a blast.

As I said, I’ll likely have more thoughts on these games as I progress. At this point I would say they are all worth your time, even if you don’t get them for as cheap as I did. Each scratches a different itch, and I’m pleased with the expenditure.

The Crew + Wild Run Impressions

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Having disposable income almost always means making impossible decisions when you’re a gamer. Games release at such a rapid rate that the average person can’t keep up with them all. Throw in the fact that there are sales year round and it becomes a test of your patience. Do I buy something I really want now, or do I wait a few months for it to go on sale? I’ve come to accept that I’d rather get a game on sale a few months (sometimes years) after the fact to save a few bucks. That or just buy a handful of full priced indies and have too many games to play all at once. Still, when I do have some cash to throw at my gaming habit, I typically agonize over what to purchase and I went through that same ordeal a few days ago.

I decided I’d spend $40. I was deliberating between picking up several indie games or dropping the whole $40 on The Crew plus the Wild Run expansion. Part of the problem was knowing that the Steam Winter Sale is coming very soon, and it’s likely that some of these games would end up being discounted. Patience isn’t my strong suit, and I didn’t see myself waiting two weeks with that money burning a hole in my pocket, so I pulled the trigger on The Crew.

For a few months now I had been craving a racing experience. The last racing game I had played was Gran Turismo 5, which was a few years back. I had browsed the racing section on Steam, but wasn’t familiar with any of the titles as I have been removed from the genre for some time. It’s hard to blindly pick something, so I started looking around for reviews and video of various titles but never could decide what series would be best played on the PC (I had only played racers on consoles to this point). It wasn’t until I ran across a review by MrLuvvaLuvva that I gave The Crew any thought. It turns out that The Crew managed to meet and exceed my expectations, and can be most closely compared to Need For Speed Underground 2, which is one of my favorite racing games of all time.

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The Crew labels itself an MMO, and though I can see why some comparisons could be made, I wouldn’t call it one. The world persists, sure, but not in any meaningful way. There can be a massive amount of players in the world at any given time, but you’ll only see the eight closest players to you on your UI, unless they are part of your crew, which is the same thing as a party/group. Pictured above is the world map, which is a rough approximation of the continental US. Each of those little squares is a player, so you can see how many people are actually playing once you log in. Honestly, the population is kind of small, but you could effectively play this game solo and not have any issues, though I’ve been in random crews and had fun with that as well. From what I’ve read/heard, the game had a bunch of issues when it released, and people complained about the control scheme and physics. Wild Run brought a slew of tweaks and fixes and it appears very solid from my ten hours in the game. I don’t have a problem with the controls at all, but I am using a controller, because I can’t imagine playing a racing game without one.

Progression has an MMO feel to it, in that your account has a level, and you gain experience by completing missions, which can include a variety of different modes. Wild Run also added in skill challenges littered about the map that you can tackle at your leisure. There’s also the Summit, PvP modes, and various races based on what kind of vehicle spec you have. Exploration is rewarded with experience when you find landmarks, and you can also find hidden car parts to build special cars not available at dealers. Tuner parts are also rewarded from leveling up and completing missions/challenges, and those improve your car’s level. There are also perk points that you earn when leveling up, which you can spend at the garage on various across-the-board upgrades for your account. It seems that the parts you earn throughout the game can be applied to any car you own, provided you are high enough account level to use it, and provided it’s actually an upgrade for that vehicle.

When your account reaches certain levels, you can then buy different specs for your cars, effectively making them into something entirely different, despite still being the same model vehicle. For example, I bought a Nissan 370 Z for my initial purchase when starting up the game. Later, I earned the “sport” spec for the vehicle, and that increased its level significantly. Later still, I unlocked the “dirt” spec, allowing for better speed and handling on dirt tracks. There are also “performance” and “raid” specs unlocked at higher levels, and with Wild Run there are “extreme” specs as well. Monster trucks, drift and drag specs, along with motorcycles were all added in the expansion. I picked up the drag spec for my Z, and that made a world of difference in a straight line, but boy you don’t want to turn in that thing. I’ve also picked up a Subaru BRZ once I reached a certain level and was given a bunch of the crew credits which are also purchasable via RMT. The in-game currency of “bucks” are what you’ll be earning and using most of the time to customize your rides, but some cars are only available for cash, as they were part of the season pass which only included a bunch of car packs. I’ve not found the need to purchase those, but I might in the future, who knows.

The story is somewhat laughable, but that’s to be expected from a racing game. If you like The Fast and The Furious movies, then you’ll probably love this storyline. Me, I’m just in it for the racing. Basically you’re a street racer who got busted and spent some time in jail. Upon release you’re thrust into pretending to be a street racer while actually working for the government/police (not sure which, I really haven’t paid too much attention). So you’re a street racer pretending to be a cop pretending to be a street racer. Inception. Either way, it serves its purpose of showing you around the map and taking you to all the major cities. It explains various modes and functions, and like I said, you earn some goodies along the way.

Overall I really have been enjoying the game. My first day in I played a mission or two and then drove from Detroit to California just to see if it would look how I would expect, being a resident of the state and all. Day two I concentrated on missions. Day three I was invited to a crew and played with that guy twice now, and it’s been fun playing co-op and randomly causing havoc across the map. I know I’ve barely scratched the surface of all there is to do in this game, and I can’t wait to see more. It’s enthralling.

Here’s some video of random things I’ve been doing (mostly missions). Check it out:

The State of the Game: Open Worlds

This week I spent time in a variety of games, not all of which were open worlds, but there are two games on the list that were, and I spent most of my play time there. The play list this week consisted of: Terraria, Defiance, God Mode, Grid 2, Sword of the Stars: The Pit, and Rogue Legacy.

Terraria:
I’ve already expressed my opinions on Terraria. Having played the game quite a bit more, I have still been enjoying it, although I wouldn’t say that I’ve made a whole lot of progress. I did some odd things just to earn a few of the trophies (and in turn, explore) like building a “ladder” straight up to the top of the world. Gravity actually starts to lessen as you get higher up and dunking on that professional size basketball hoop seems doable. Falling to your death from such a height is pretty humorous as well. Later, I built another ladder looking for a floating island that the trophy speaks of, and found one. On it was a building made of gold bricks. That’s right, gold effing bricks! Inside was a gold chest that I couldn’t open… so while I consulted the wiki (and found out you need a golden key that I didn’t posess) the building was surrounded by Harpies. Lots of them. I thought to myself, what the hell, it’s just a couple harpies NBD, and was promptly flattened by them. I’ll tackle that island again later. Deciding that I needed to upgrade my crappy wood armor to something more, well, metal, I headed off to mine some ores and metals. I am still in the process of doing so, so that I can take on harder monsters, dig deeper and try to hunt down some of the prerequisites to summon the bosses.

Defiance:
Wait what? I thought you didn’t play MMOs anymore?! Yeah that’s what I thought too. And then this game went on sale for $2.50 and how could I say no? Be that as it may, Defiance is classified as an MMO, but really it plays like Borderlands with more people populating the world. Instead of 4 player co-op, there are many players. But that hasn’t stopped me from treating it as a single player game, and playing by myself. More on this later. So I started up the game not really knowing what to expect, as I had read many mixed reviews on the interwebs. After getting through the tutorial and figuring out the buttons and various menus, it really isn’t any harder to understand than Borderlands. A good entry-level MMO, and there isn’t an unattainable cap, though it seems that there really isn’t an end game outside of playing PVP. But I really don’t know, I’m not there yet. I rolled up an Irathien Male Survivalist, but this game doesn’t have any sort of classes, nor racial advantages. So this just boils down to appearance and starting weaponry. My choice boiled down to the Survivalist coming with a Sniper rifle, which I felt would be advantageous. After playing through the story to a point where I have a vehicle and can really go exploring, being a sniper can be a good and bad thing. It really sucks only having a pistol as a side arm, so once I picked up a SMG I felt better about things. Playing solo is dangerous, and if there isn’t anyone playing in the immediate area you can get swarmed quick. If you have ample cover it’s cool to snipe, but when cleavers are running up to your face it’s sidearm time, and the SMG handles things nicely. So far I’m enjoying the solo aspect, but it requires certain EGO levels before you are allowed to participate in the co-op missions and the PVP. Those come complete with matchmaking though, so knowing people to play with isn’t required, which is a plus. I have yet to participate in an Arkfall yet, which is an open world event, or the open world PVP Shadow War. So there will be more on this game as I get into it further.

The Others:
God Mode – I’m level 10. I fully upgraded the SMG (starting weapon), and upgraded to the plasma pistol as my sidearm. Also picked up the healing special power, which is far superior to the shield and works when you’re running some oaths (thing negative boosters like in Uncharted, or a negative attribute. I have beaten all  of the levels solo on Bronze difficulty,  and have since moved up to Silver and did one level solo. Might try out gold, as one of the trophies requires beating all levels on the hardest difficulty. There still isn’t much of a player base online, so I guess the sale I took part in wasn’t very popular.

Grid 2 – I only played a couple of races thus far, and the game seems cool, but the controls are kind of wonky. But I remember feeling that way when I first played Gran Turismo 5, and I think I had to make adjustments. I’m not sure, I don’t play racing games all that much but they are usually fun. The game plays somewhere in between Gran Turismo (simulation) and Need for Speed (arcade-y).

SotS: The Pit – I started another play through, for the 2nd time I chose a Ranger. Currently on Level 9. I’m on floor 10. I started this game on normal difficulty, and used the option to skip to level 5 and utilize banked experience from my previous Ranger play through. Picked up a fair bit of gear, though haven’t made much recipe progress.

Rogue Legacy – I’ve played sporadically. Had many more deaths, many more heirs. I have started locking the castle as I have now explored all of the castle, and have moved onto clearing out the forest. I will probably continue to lock it now as I progress through the game. Currently level 30 or so (though I’m too lazy to look right now).

On the Horizon:
This week’s Playstation Plus offering was Borderlands 2. Knowing that the player base will get a kick in the pants is getting me really itching to go back and play through the DLC that I have owned since release and haven’t played (bought the season pass, but only played through the first DLC). I had friends playing the game when it first came out, but I don’t see them playing anymore, and convincing someone who has quit a game to come back isn’t all that easy. So I’m thinking of playing and letting anyone join my game, which I have never done before. I have a headset now, so maybe this is the thing to do. I’ve been missing having the multiplayer element and it seems like everyone I used to play games with is off doing their own thing. Maybe I’ll get some new online buddies this way.