Virginia (Game Review)

505 Games, Xbox One
First Impression “review”

Ahh…The Unfinished Gamer has returned! I’m a little rusty here, so bear with me as I review a new game.

The game VIRGINIA was recommended to me by my friend, fiance and gaming cohort, and I picked it up on the Black Friday sale solely on impulse but also convinced by the trailer provided in the story. The trailer itself showed very little, but what was said about the game immediately reeled me in.

I am an auditory learner and a sucker for music and sound design in games because–quite frankly–I don’t think those departments get enough credit. Right  off the bat, this thriller gets you right in the zone with a chorus of strings and piano that will chill you right to the bone. The opening credits pays a subtle homage to crime dramas of old and sets a tasty morsel of the atmosphere you are about to dive into right on the tip of your tongue.

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Watch_Dogs: The view from here

This is my POV of Ubisoft’s latest game, Watch_Dogs.
Warning, there are minor spoilers in this rundown! 😉

Fixer spotted you                 source:

I was lucky enough to get a first glance at a demo of this game at last year’s Gamestop Expo.  The demo booth was run by one of the Frag Dolls (Esper!! <3) and one of the play-testers from Ubisoft.  Aiden was voiceless, and we saw the vigilante miss an opportunity stop a crime, hold up a shop owner and evade the police, flawlessly.  I was mesmerized.  Since its announcement at E3 2012, I have wanted this game.  Nothing stopped me from wanting it.  The hype, the trailers, the gameplay footage, the other news outlets talking about it. Nothing.

Picking it up on May 27th — I find myself intrigued and ultimately pleased with how the game turned out!

So far, I’ve managed to put a few hours into this massive game, playing most of the story missions to pass time.  Here and there I’d stop to play some poker, even managed to become entertained by the puzzle solving games they’ve made with chess and I’ll even grab a few of the incoming transmissions to stray me from the linear way.  However, I’ve found that the incoming mission offers, the phone calls from various characters in the game, the mini-games along the way, all the way down to the HUD, the game is very very busy.  Normally, this would bother me but this actually poses a very nice mirror to our own lives.  You hear your phone buzz, you go for it. It’s a text message from a friend.  You hear that ringing on your computer, it’s another friend on your social media page  Then a little notification pop-up from the television.  It’s your console alerting you that another friend has logged into their account. I won’t really dig too deep into the meaning of this, but it seems like a very symmetric juxtaposition of our reality with technology and what is to come.

Hacking the City                        source: ubisoft

I haven’t had much experience with the online portion of the game, other than a handful of fixers coming into my game.  It’s frustrating sometimes; when I’m trying to get across the city to a mission I try to start the mission but am blocked from this since someone is trying hack me. It is random which is a bit realistic as life is unpredictable but with this mode overall I am a little disappointed we can’t hack our own friends yet. Even though I see something like that possibly getting out of hand — I think being able to log into someone else’s game to create some havoc would be quite entertaining.

Another thing I have noticed, and I’m sure your other friendly neighborhood gamers have said the same, is that Watch_Dogs has no sense of morality; there is no consequence for your actions.  A close comparison to this game is Infamous, the open-world sandbox type of playground, but what that game had that this title lacks is its meter that leads to a different ending if you make “wrong” or “right” decisions.  I put them in quotes simply because it is definitely up for interpretation whether or not certain actions are deemed in good faith or with bad intent.  For example, in Watch_Dogs, you are allowed to hack into a bank account of a woman walking down the street.  When the analysis pops up that she is a cancer survivor with a gross income of only 20,000 a year, there’s no remorse felt by the lead character Aiden Pearce.  Hell, even the trio of GTAV had some scruples.

This now leads into my next point: Aiden Pearce has not found his way onto my list of “likeable” characters.  Now, I understand each character has a reason for their attitude or actions but I’ve been playing this game for a while now and I’ve only come to find that he’s somewhat of a douchebag.  Driven by the anger which stems from the death of his niece Lena, we meet Aiden on a mission, already in a state of despair.  As we move beyond the mission to its completion, we meet a couple of his colleagues — to whom he is a complete jerk, blowing off any assistance.  I find him to be very cold, and because of this, he is detached from absolutely everything.  Not sure if this was done on purpose to give us an undesirable anti-hero, something different than the norm, but I can honestly say I’m not entirely sure how to understand him. While I admire his determination to seek justice, he just seems like such a downer with a one-track mind. The others featured in the game, like his partner Jordi Chin or Clara Lille seem to have more of a three-dimensional aspect about them, I’ve found them quite entertaining and bring some life into the story.

Jordi Chin & Aiden                source: ubisoft

Don’t let my opinions of Aiden fool you, though. Watch_Dogs is actually a pretty spectacular game. The controls are pretty comfortable, aside from the driving (I prefer the motorcycles!), and the scenery looks amazing.  It makes you wonder what sort of surveillance is being run now, and how far we are from a fully electronic city like this future-Chicago.  Even with the reservations I’ve listed above, I am still enjoying the game.  I’m hoping to see some things turn around for Aiden in the end.  I still have a long way to go before the end of the main storyline, but Stay tuned for my followup to this as I progress!
Thanks for tuning in!!
-IC Krys

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E3! Day One

How I wish I could see thee.

This year has been a whirlwind for me, and unfortunately I was not the fortunate few who were able to attend this years expo.  I can, however, tune in to the streams and see new and exciting things that are due out this fall/winter for gaming.  So far, my impressions of the XBox One, PS4 and I suppose the ever ambitious WiiU) are that of the careful and skeptical consumer.  The reveals back in February and May for either console left me confused and somewhat curious, so I had kept my ears, eyes and mouth shut about the entire race.  Video-chat capabilities while in-game, gameplay recording, game sharing, DRM, pre-owned sell-back, game price-points…it’s all been a nightmare fighting through the fire and flame of angry consumers, and wondering what is going to come out and how much it’s going to cost us.  E3 has proven to be quite the battlegrounds for the Next Gen race.  Luckily for the viewers, most of the jibber-jabber was laid out on the table (for the most part) and the reveals today were for the stunning and captivating games that are going to be available on next generation hardware in the coming days. So much happened today, in day one, but I will highlight some of the key features that struck my fancy, so to speak.

The first trailer I was able to see was for Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain. Snake…on a HORSE? Sounds like new Samuel L. movie, but nay– it is the newest addition to the Metal Gear franchise.  Kojima is not shy when he brings out the big guns, and having roped in voice talent like Kiefer Sutherland has to be one of the biggest weapons in his arsenal. It’s no secret that Mr. Sutherland has some big shoes to fill, and many fans will miss our beloved David Hayter in the role of Snake.  But after watching the trailer and having my breath taken away by its artistic and fluid movement, crystal clarity in design and of course Sutherland’s debut voice work, it was enough for me to say, “it’s my game, and I want it now.”

The second WOW moment that had me drooling was Ubisoft’s press conference.  I am an Assassin’s Creed fan, that’s no secret.  I am looking forward to see what Ubi is going to do with the series going forward, but I am playing my bias card and wondering if they will ever top the story of Ezio Auditore.  With that being said, one of the most impressive games I have seen so far is Tom Clancy’s: The Division.  The smooth interlacing of drop-in-drop-out co-op, interactivity with others in PVP mode, the intriguing story about a pandemic that strikes on Black Friday (quite chilling if you think about it), the gorgeous scenery, the realistic atmosphere…it almost seemed flawless, and went well being featured side-by-side with the ultimately anticipated Watchdogs.  Watchdogs has had my attention since it was announced last E3 and has not missed a beat.  The connectivity tools may discourage some from purchasing this title, but the IP is so intricate and has unique and innovative features that merits the praise for its bold efforts. And of course, I have to make a shout out to one of my most anticipated games: South Park: The Stick of Truth. I’m ready

Killer Instinct and Kingdom Hearts 3 made my list of “the most shocking games” that made an appearance at the expo.  Killer Instinct piqued my attention mostly because it pokes at my sense of nostalgia; My brother and I used to play the hell out of that game on SNES. Good times.  Kingdom Hearts 3 surprised me, as it finally surfaced.  Every day when I was working at [Game retailer] I would be asked when this game would finally come out.  Square put out 358/2 and Birth by Sleep, which only got their hopes up and crushed gamers’ hearts all at once. They wanted Kingdom Hearts 3. Lo and behold, it is coming guys! Be patient!

MMOs usually aren’t my thing.  Not because I dislike them, but because I could never play them.  I either didn’t have the right video card, the funds for the monthly subscription, the time to sit down and check it out or my brother may have deleted my character to make room for one of his… {-_-}… Elder Scrolls Online has me wanting to build a PC just to play it! (well, that and Minecraft and DayZ.)  ESO will be coming to PC, PS4 and XBox One, but I’m pretty sure I want to play with max specs so PC is where I want to be.

Quantum Break, Dead Rising 3, Minecraft (XBO edition), Outlast, The Order 1886…You are all on my radar.  Amazing games are coming and I am happy to say that I am finally excited about next generation.  The content displayed really gives me the chills!

Aside from the games, I feel Microsoft finally told us what we want to hear.  They’re going to be rid of Microsoft points so their currency system may finally make some sense.  Day One bundles will be coming with some really cool exclusive content.  But out of the darkness came Sony and the Playstation 4…without its worries of DRM, Always-Online issues — and their full support of sharing game discs and sell-back.  Each moment, each comment stated was an obvious stab at Microsoft’s current angle with the new hardware.  The killing blow was their price point, $399.99 (USD), proving that Sony did have some tricks up its sleeve.  Cheers roared through the audience, praise, tears, cries, wails, happiness … the Playstation would finally be cheaper than an Xbox (priced at $499.99).

What a day. Remember, this is only the beginning.

See you tomorrow, Players!