E3 – Worth keeping?

Is it still worth having E3 around?

E3 has been around since 1995 and is still going strong after all these years. However, with the revelation of the internet, showing trailers and sneak peeks of upcoming games has become easier than ever. So, whats the point of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for conferences to show off trailers that can be put right on the internet for essentially free? Let’s see both sides of why E3 is worth keeping around and why it should stop.

Stay

E3 showfloor

Community is the first word that instantly comes to mind when you think of E3. What could be better than a much of video game nerds getting together to get hyped for the new upcoming games? E3 has been around long enough to become synonyms with everything video games. Like many big industries, conferences are a common occurrence to show potential customers products available for purchase or upcoming technologies. E3 is the perfect opportunity for companies to show off the newest and biggest games for the upcoming year or years to come. It also lets developers have people play test their games and see what people think of them. All and all having E3 is the perfect opportunity everyone, young and old to gather together and enjoy a medium that gets bigger every year.

End it

End E3

From a business perspective conferences are great to show off new technology but it costs a lot of money. Setting up, speakers, prototypes, and everything else needed for a conference has to be paid for and that adds up quickly. So why bother with all that time and effort when you can release a video on Youtube showing off your product. Cost wise it is much cheaper compared to holding a full blown conference. If as a business my goal is to make money, then a conference isn’t very cost effective.

The Verdict

Overall, should E3 be discontinued? In my opinion… No. For the sake of the gaming community as a whole, E3 is the Christmas of gamers who want to see the newest games and get hyped together. Personally I look forward to watching the different conferences to learn about new upcoming games, even if some are leaked before their official announcement. Sure some presentations may seem they lack in certain areas but I still get giddy every time I see the combination E3. For more information about E3 and scheduled times for presentations you can visit the E3 website.

Virtual Reality

Is it going to change the world or is it just a fad?

Virtual Reality is starting to take the world by storm. Youtube has their 360 degree videos, video games are starting to take advantage of this new technology and you can even use special apps on your phone to play games and watch other videos in VR space. But why? Is Virtual reality really going to be the next big entertainment breakthrough? Or will it just fizzle out of the mainstream in a few years?

So how is VR going to affect how you get your entertainment? Well, imagine you are watching a video about someone who is traveling, lets say to a beautiful temple. In the traditional format, you only get too see what the camera sees at that moment. With VR you are no longer limited to these constraints, YOU the viewer can physically look around and see what you want to see. This video gives you an example of how this looks in practice. You can use the arrows at the top left of the video or click and drag your mouse across the video to look around.

This is one of many examples you can find on Youtube of how VR can change the way we view videos. But how else can it change how we view entertainment?

 

Video games are leading the charge with new technologies for VR. Many companies have already developed and released VR headsets for in home use. Some of these include Oculus, Vive, and the PS VR for PS4. Of course each comes with its own unique way of playing, Oculus and PS VR use standard controllers and are stationary VR experiences, where you stand or sit in one place and look around. While the Vive allows for complete body movement, where you physically move in a small area of your room and use your arms to control your character.

Here is a funny and excellent example of this in practice. You play as a store clerk and have to move around your work area to give the customers what they ask. Using the two controllers he can use them as hands to grab, press, toss, open, etc. different items to complete his task. This is a much simpler example of how the Vive can be played. If you are interested in more extreme examples of how the Vive is being used you can check out another game called Onward.

 

While video games are all well and good for showing VR off, many people don’t want to play video games. So what’s the next best way? Using your own phones! Companies like Google and Samsung have come out with what many will call “VR boxes”. You put your phones in these headsets that hold them so you can get the up close experience of VR without holding on to your phone. It works the same way like the Youtube 360 but you use your own head movement to look around instead of a mouse. One of the best examples I have found is the app “Within”. Even if you don’t have a VR box you can still use this app to get an idea of how VR works for yourself. You can download the app for Android and iPhone.

My Thoughts on the future of VR

Virtual Reality is growing extremely quickly, way faster then most people thought it would. Big companies to individuals are now racing to be the first to create that one big app, game, or experience that will draw people in and make having a VR headset the next big thing. VR still has a long way to go but I can see VR being used for every day use at work or home for varies reasons in the next five to ten years. I’m excited to see where VR goes in even just the next couple years.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – Movie Review

The Guardians are back!

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 brings back the beloved crazy group of misfits to save the galaxy once again, with more awesome action and hilarious dialog.

Guardians of the Galaxy cast

Volume 2 bring everything that the first movie did and brings it up 10 more notches. The visuals are even more impressive then before as they jump from planet to planet, each with its own completely unique look that makes you want more of each world they visit. All the fighting that happens is intense and grips you right when the first shot or punch is thrown. The dialog between the whole group makes it obvious they are much closer as friends and family which keeps the interactions between them stay consistently hysterical throughout the whole film. The overall story suffers because some of the plot twists are obvious well before the reveal.

Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is an awesome sequel that keeps the same great humor and action we have come to love about the Guardians. Even with its easy to read story I was still smiling the whole time seeing the antics of this amazing team. Even if you didn’t like the first movie I believe this sequel will change your mind.

I give Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, a 9/10.

Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 Part 2 – Game review

Kingdom Hearts is back and bigger than ever!

Kingdom Hearts 2 was original released on the PS2 in December 2005. You play as Sora who travels to different worlds in search of your friends Riku and Kairi. The story grows ever more complex with the introduction of new enemies and plot twists.

  • Gameplay: Just like the previous title, the FPS has been cranked up to 60. The combat is super fast and engaging which makes it a blast to play. You constantly have to watch what attacks your enemies are doing and learn to best avoid or guard them. The HD version which is a special “final mix” version of the game adds lots of new content such as a new drive form, tons of new boss fights, and new abilities to make combat more engaging.
  • Graphics: Graphics have been smoothed out but amazingly still goes toe to toe with the original on PS2. Below is a great comparison of the difference in graphics.

  • Sounds: Music most notably sounds much clearer, however the overall sound is pretty much the same. There are some cases of boss voice lines not playing like they should however it does not majorly effect boss fights.

Overall, Kingdom Hearts 2.5 is a great HD remake that adds more features and feels better than the original. If you have never played Kingdom Hearts 2, this is the best version to play and I would consider the best one in the series.

I give Kingdom Hearts 2.5 a 9/10.

Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 Part 1 – Game review

Disney and Square Enix make a child

Kingdom Hearts was originally released for the PS2 on March 28, 2002 and developed by Square Enix (SquareSoft at the time). It is an action adventure RPG set in Disney and Final Fantasy worlds. You play as Sora who wants to travel to different worlds with his friends Riku and Kairi, but get more than they expected. Because this review is for the HD version of Kingdom Hearts I will be comparing the original to the new.

  • Gameplay: The frame rate has been increased to 60 FPS which makes the combat and movement much smoother and better to look at. This unfortunately does not always apply to everyone and thing in the game. Some enemies are still in 30 FPS and this is obvious if you sit and watch some enemies for a few seconds. Otherwise, nothing major has been changed to the combat system other than an extra ability or two. This to me is a bit of a problem because the combat can feel slow and not fair at times.
  • Graphics: As mentioned above, not only has the game been cranked up to 60 FPS but the graphics have been upgraded as well. Every character model and environment has been smoothed out to make it easier to look at and not as choppy. Below is a video showing these differences using a PS3.

  • Sounds: The sound quality overall has been improved. Music doesn’t sound compressed and sounds from enemies and abilities are easier to hear.

Overall, Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD for the PS4 has greatly improved graphics and sound but no real changes in the gameplay area. If you are a Kingdom Hearts fan or someone who played them years ago and wants to play them again this is the perfect opportunity.

I give Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD an 8/10.

 

Has the best “next gen” console been decided?

Which console is the best?

Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony have all finally released their next gen consoles. Awesome! So, which console is the best console to own? Is there a way to determine that one console is better than the other? Does it matter that there is a “best” console? Let’s go through each console and see.

Nintendo – Switch

Nintendo Switch
Nintendo Switch Gamepad

The Nintendo Switch was released March 3, 2017. This makes the Switch the newest out of all the current “next gen” consoles. Its biggest selling point is that the console is portable just like a handheld, this makes it the most unique out of all the other consoles. However, with it being the newest it also has the least amount of games and additional software. Some of the software that are not included yet are a web browser and video streaming service, so currently you can only play games. Many of the games available have an emphasis on multiplayer, which makes it a great choice if you want to play with friends. Additionally, Even though the release titles are few, many games have already been announced from 3rd party developers, which means there will be plenty more games than just regular Nintendo type of games.

Microsoft – Xbox One

Xbox One Console
Xbox One Console

The Xbox One was released November 22, 2013. Xbox one has not been doing very well the last couple years. The console is has been struggling to sell because it doesn’t have anything special to offer. One of the big initial selling points is that it is integrated with your television. This means you can use your system to watch television and play games at the time on one screen. Additionally, exclusives are also few and far between. Not many exclusives have been made for the console except for some of the major titles like Halo and Gears of War, other than that any games you can get on the Xbox one you could get on the PC or PS4. The Xbox One does have backwards compatibility for Xbox 360, however it is limited to certain games. One last issue, is that Microsoft is making their games now available to play on the PC, which includes exclusives as well. This means if you have a PC you can play any Xbox One games on your PC, without even owning a Xbox One.

Sony – Playstation 4

Playstation 4 Console
Playstation 4 Console

The PS4 was released November 15, 2013. So far sales wise, the PS4 has been the most successful. The PS4 is considered the most powerful out of the other two consoles, especially with the new PS4 pro. The PS4 has also released its own PS Virtual Reality headset, the VR headset is still fairly new so there are only a few games, but the catalog is steadily growing. This is a nice perk if you are interested in VR headsets but don’t have a high end PC to run it, however, the headset only is $399. This may be too steep for some, however, all things considered a PS4 and a VR headset is the same amount as an HTC Vive by itself. Along with all this, The PS4 also has the most amount of exclusives and overall games. A downside though is if you are interested in playing online you now have to pay a monthly fee to play your games online with other players but is not needed for any of the other PS4 services.

 

Each console has their own pros and cons that make it more appealing to different people. Currently the overall of each console go as follows.

  • The Switch has the greatest potential.
  • The Xbox One is okay but only if you want to play Xbox exclusives.
  • The PS4 has the most bang for your buck.

If you are interested you can purchase a Playstation 4, an Xbox One, or a Nintendo Switch here.

 

Ori and the Blind Forest – Game Review

Beautiful environments and heart warming story

Ori and the Blind Forest is an adventure platformer created in 2015 by Moon Studios. Moon Studios also released the Definitive edition in 2016 which added more content like new abilities and hidden areas. You play as Ori, a spirit who lost her home when the life tree lost its light and the forest died. It is now up to you to restore the light and bring the forest back to life.

  • Gameplay: The game is a fast paced platformer that keeps you on your toes with a variety of enemies and tight controls. Enemies respond instantly when you attack or get near them which makes you learn to dodge effectively. You learn the story through ominous dialog as you explore to each elemental area.
Story told through ominous dialog.
  • Graphics: Everything about the graphics are incredible. The background, particle effects, character design, all have a unique style unlike any other.
The beautiful environment
  • Sound: I could listen to the music all day, its soothing and makes you feel at home while listening to it. Sound effects are intense, your attacks sound strong and environmental sounds are powerful.

Overall, Ori and the Blind Forest is a damn good game. To be honest, in my first playthrough I expected to play a couple hours but ended beating it in one sitting which took me about 8 hours. The story is enticing, the exploration is engaging, and the story gives you feels for days. I can’t recommend this game enough, its a ton of fun and its worth ever penny!

I give Ori and the Blind Forest a 10/10.

 

Beauty and the Beast (2017) – Movie Review

Be our guest to a re-imagining of a classic

The live action Beauty and the Beast is a dark and more mature recreation of the original animated movie made in 1991. Belle, our main protagonist, wishes for a greater life of adventure while stuck in a “small provincial town”, and has that dream happen sooner than she thinks.

A major part that I enjoy is the movie adds more detail to some of the unanswered questions that may have arised in the old animated version. Such as, there are some questions that are answered about Belle’s mother and why Beast is so overly protective of the rose. These answers gave the movie more depth and intrigued me.

The new songs introduced in the movie fit well within the movie and don’t take away from the original songs many people grew up with. In fact, the addition of some of the songs made the movie more enjoyable at times than the animated version.

Belle and Beast

The CGI Beauty and the Beast uses is phenomenal. Beast and the servants are extremely detailed, which puts me in awe for the amount of work put in for each character. Many times I forgot these were CGI characters because of how well they were brought to life.

Lumiere

With every movie, there are always issues. Beauty and the Beast seem to have several part rushed through. Some scenes you expect to continue will just suddenly end and go straight to the next part, as well as some strange cuts that felt out of place. This only seems to happen mostly at the beginning to speed up the village scenes to emphasize Beast’s castle. This doesn’t really hurt the movie but still has some awkward transitions that were a minor annoyance to me.

All and all, Beauty and the Beast is a wonderful live adaptation. Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast did a great job in their roles. As someone who watched the original animated version many times over I definitely enjoyed this version to its fullest extent.

I give Beauty and the Beast a 9/10.

Horizon Zero Dawn – Game Review

 Machines and nature in one world

Horizon Zero Dawn is a 3rd person action adventure game developed by Guerrilla Games. You play as Aloy, a born outcast, raised by another outcast named Roth, who wants to discover who her mother is and where she came from.

  • Gameplay: Combat wise the game bring nothing new to the table. You have two weapons, a bow that fires different types of arrows like fire or explosive arrows and you also carry a spear for melee which is also used to override different machines to give you control of them as you travel throughout the world. Horizon Zero Dawn is an open world game so you can explore and do quests whenever you want.
Bow and arrow weapon
  • Graphics: The environments and character models while exploring look amazing. Some examples you will come across are forest and desert biomes. Environments have tons of little details that bring out each biome’s unique atmosphere. However, cut scenes, specifically side quest cut scenes, can make many of the characters look very robotic, which for me personally ruins some of the immersion for the world.
The beautiful environment in Horizon Zero Dawn

 

  • Sound: Music is tribal style with drums and chanting that makes the world much more primitive than it really is. The sounds of the environments, weapons, and machine animals are fantastic. Each different sound lets you instantly know what you are up against and brings out the environments to their absolute best.

 

Overall, Horizon Zero Dawn feels like many of the more recent open world games. Follow this main quest to a village and get 5 different side quests. Find the tall object and climb it to see more of the map. Very basic skill leveling system that adds minor to moderate upgrades to your damage or already known skills. However, even with the seemingly cliche nature of the gameplay, the story and world are well made and interesting to explore which keeps the game from becoming too unoriginal. You can purchase Horizon Zero Dawn for the PS4.

I give Horizon Zero Dawn a 7/10.