forza horizon 4 wheelspin
October 6th, 2018 by Kurt "Chet" Christel

You spin me right round, Forza, right round!

Racing fans all over the world rejoice. The official “only game series worth playing on Xbox” has just dropped its newest iteration, Forza Horizon 4. This is the relaxed, more open world format of the game that can be custom tailored to your play style, from arcade racer to hardcore simulator. I haven’t reviewed the game yet but I am confident it is the best racing game ever made. But we’ll have to wait for the review on that.

We are here to talk about loot boxes. They are a sticking point in the gaming industry that has recently left gamers with a bad taste in their mouths. It’s easy to say EA was the straw that broke the camel’s back with their disastrous issues brought up by Dice’s Star Wars Battlefront II. It made national headlines to the point where non-gaming outlets were covering the issue. It inspired several developers to actively patch out the aspect in their games. It even got a country to outlaw it.

Now, Microsoft has been walking on thin ice in regards to this for quite some time. The more recent games in the Forza franchise featured an alternative currency you can buy with real money. This alternative currency could be used to buy cars. But they took a step too far with Forza Motorsport 7, in which you could earn “prize crates”. These prize crates were filled with cars, in-game currency, and challenge cards. The challenge cards were interesting, in that they just offered you a bonus bounty if you complete certain conditions during a race. For example, placing in 5th or better, or making 3 perfect turns would net you some more coin.

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But the Forza Horizon Wheelspin is present in all four titles in the series. The only difference is you can’t really purchase spins, outside of using perk tokens in later titles. But, still, it is basically a slot machine that has different prizes you can win. The fourth installment expanded on the items you can win. On top of cars and money, they added cosmetics for your avatar, car horns, and emotes. Yes, emotes. However, something else changed with this version. That alternative currency is gone, completely removed from the game. You can’t buy cars with real money anymore, and you certainly can’t buy the wheel spins or the new SUPER wheelspins. You win one item for wheelspins and three items for super wheelspins. The only microtransaction outside of expansion packs is the treasure map, which reveals all of the secrets on your map for just $3.

So what makes a loot box a loot box? Overwatch may not have been the first, but it did codify the concept of loot boxes. The list of items you can win from crates are icons, skins, emotes, sprays, voice lines, victory poses, highlight intros, and loot. So, cosmetics and some currency. But you can pay to get a whole bunch of these, and you get 4 items per box. And one “rare” item is guaranteed in every box, with rare being the second tier of swag, sporting blue. After that, you have purple for epic loot and orange for legendary loot. MANY games that feature “loot” in general, box or no box, use this color-coded system and verbiage for their items. In Forza Horizon 4, that most certainly is the case, the names and colors are the same.

You only win one loot box from leveling up in Overwatch, with some exceptions for certain events and standards. In Horizon 4, the game practically throws wheelspins at you. Level up? Wheelspin. Do a couple stunts? Wheelspin. Buy a house? Wheelspin. Paint a car? Wheelspin. Take some photos? Wheelspin. Buy a few cars? Wheelspin. Get a couple perk points? Wheelspin. I could stop here but I’m going to keep going anyway. Win a few races? Wheelspin. Lose a few races? Wheelspin. Complete a championship? Wheelspin. Drive around doing absolutely nothing? Wheelspin. Participate in a live event? Wheelspin! EXIST? WHEELSPIN! DON’T EXIST? WHEELSPIN!

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I swear I could not go more than 15 minutes without getting at least one or two wheelspins. That may be because I bought the ‘Ultimate Edition’ of the game and got some generous boosts to start, but even afterward, I just kept getting more and more. It actually got annoying and broke up the pace of the game. Thankfully, you don’t have to sit through a whole wheelspin animation, which is only about 5-7 seconds, not much at all. But even then you can skip that animation, get your prize, and be on your merry way.

So, what’s different about the Horizon 4 wheelspin again? Let’s review. You cannot purchase them with real money. The alternate currency system is not present. You get them all the time. Basic wheelspins will always get you either a car or more money. Super wheelspins will get you 3 of anything else. You do not get unfair advantages in multiplayer for wheelspins. You don’t get cards that change the conditions of earning more. Every spin is a winner (unless you get 10,000CR, that’s pretty lame).

It feels a lot more like the game is using these prizes to encourage you for playing the game. You can and will play the game regardless of the wheel spins. Yet as you play, the game is constantly rewarding you pretty much just for playing it. You may feel appreciated by the game as you continue to get gift after gift after gift. You may feel far more appreciated than you ever felt possible with this inclusion. Despite the “slot machine” appearance, it feels a lot more like you are just being given some free things, instead of gambling. Because of these reasons, I assert that the Horizon Wheelspin is neither a loot box nor a form of gambling. On top of that, I appreciate Microsoft’s nerve to decide not to include alternative currency this time around. I hope this game along with others continues with that mindset for the foreseeable future.



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March 5th, 2018 by Vega Montanez

Lucky Gamer Recap!

I don’t know how much longer I can do this. It’s so excruciating trying to find interesting things that have happened this week. Why is E3 so close yet so far? This drought is awful but th show must go on. Here are the reasons to feel like a Lucky Gamer this week:

1. Looks like a lot more games are making the Switch!

As the Nintendo Switch continues to find its footing on its climb to the top, it seems to continue securing its footing along the way. Every step of the way is secured by the most dense supply of vibranium possible. That’s how safe Nintendo is being, they are using imaginary metals to secure their footing. Enough silly analogies, the entire Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Trilogy is coming to Nintendo Switch April 26th! Oh, wait theres more. Outlast, one of the scariest games I’ve ever played in my life, is available for Switch right now. The Outlast: Bundle of Terror also includes the Whistleblower DLC and is available through the eShop for only $20. So yea, the Switch is gunning for the throne at a rapid pace. You go Switch, stay strong.

2. Those guys at Sony are up to something.

First they make the announcement that starting next March, exactly one year from now, PS3 and PSVita will no longer be included in the free game monthly benefit of PS Plus. It seems like a really strange move especially considering all the effort Microsoft has put into backwards compatibility but, what do I know? Oh I know what I know actually! As of April 1st, Sony is restructuring again to focus more heavily on first party properties. This move makes sense as Microsoft announced a few months back that they were going to shift focus to first party properties as well. And last but not least, Detroit: Become Human gets a beautiful release date of May 25th, just a few days after this cool kids birthday. I really hope this game lives up to the hype, I cant afford anymore heartbreak this year.

3. Fortnite gets Jetpacks and Overwatch gets more character.

The header pretty much covers the Fortnite news. Fortnite is getting jetpacks in the near future so expect to see players soaring across the sky. Or as Epic put it, “take the fight to all new heights.” Oh boy. On the other hand Overwatch is getting an all new character named Brigitte. Brigitte is more of a support character with her strength being in armor and defense. One of her abilities is throwing a repair pack that can heal an ally. I think Brigitte’s costume design is also incredible and the color scheme is great. I’m looking forward to watching her gameplay in real competition. Who knows maybe she’ll be in an upcoming thing we might be doing.

4. And the vowels are E… A… Rumors.

As I keep saying E3 is around the way and so the interesting juicy stuff is coming in slow drips. Every now and then though we get a nice little splash of refreshing news, EA takes the cake this week with first a rumored leak that this years Battlefield game will be set in WW2. The supposed title of the new game is “Battlefield V” and if the rumor holds true, this game won’t be set in the Bad Company universe. On the other side of EA Rumor city we have a quirky game that I’m surprised is still a real thing. Plants VS Zombies: Garden Warfare will be returning for the third time. That’s right Plants VS Zombies: Garden Warfare 3 was recently leaked by a comic posting on Amazon that was described as “bridging the story gap between PVZ:GW2 and GW3. Imagine that.

5. Take a trip to the jurrasic past or the land of the witchers.

As Microsofts continues to double down on their mission to prove they car about gamers a whole new set of classics are coming to Xbox One. First we have the remasters of both Turok 1 and Turok 2: Seeds of Evil. Each title will be available for $19.99 and it was made very explicit that these are remasters not remakes. Its interesting to see this classic title being remastered, could there be plans for a new entry in the series? On the other hand we have The Witcher 2, Crackdown, Fable Anniversary, and Forza Horizon all recently released with Xbox One X enhancements. See all these cool things from the past coming back, you paying attention Sony?

6. More apes in VR!

A new Planet of the Apes game is coming to all the VR platforms on April 3rd. Thats right HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and PSVR will all be the next place to enjoy a VR experience based in the Planet of the Apes. The experience is played through the perspective of an ape trying to escape a heavily guarded scientific facility. If you are a fan of the movie series at all, this game takes place five years after the event of the Simian Flu outbreak. There you have it a VR escape game where you get to feel like an ape trying to escape. Wait a sec isn’t this the opposite of Ape Escape?

7. Whats next from the makers of Bioshock?

Blackout. That’s what’s next from the former developers of Bioshock. An all new horror game from the people who made the term “Big Daddy” terrifying. I can’t be more excited for this mostly because I have such a crazy dedication to horror games. As far as bioshock as a series, I played through the first one and had a great time. Never got a round to the rest of them cause I suck at playing video games. Either way, back to Blackout which is said to have some resemblance to Stranger Things. You know the show everyone is hooked on that I don’t like. Yea this game is supposedly gonna be similar to that story. Are you excited yet?




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February 26th, 2018 by Vega Montanez

Week 9, the drought continues. There hasn’t been any incredible news. E3 approaches ever so slowly but the rate of speculation continues. So here I am making sure to find all the coolest announcements possible. For you, for me, for us, here are the reasons you should feel like a Lucky Gamer this week:

1. Let’s Start Releasing.

We are going to be all over the place with this, so get your pen and pad buddy. Ready? Alright here we go. First off, PSVR is getting a cute little mouse adventure called Moss. The game which actually plays from a third person perspective is coming to the system on February 27th, 2018. Next, the blue bomber is letting us relive some of his memories again in the for of Mega Man Legacy Collection 1 and 2. This new classic remake is coming to Nintendo Switch on May 22nd, 2018 (my birthday!). The wildly rumored Burnout Paradise Remaster was officially announced and given a release date. Expect to race through exploding car crashes on March 16th for PS4 and Xbox One. And just for good measure we’ll throw in a release time frame. The long awaited game from Alan Wake developer Remedy Entertainment, codenamed P7, is slated for 2019.

2. And now the Death Stranding announcement that’s been baking.

As the slow drips continue to increase, we are lucky enough to receive more information about Death Stranding. Kojima and team have been very tight lipped about the project so any news is cause for excitement. This is particular though I’m pretty excited about. Voice actor Troy Baker and writer and actress Emily O’Brien have joined the cast. This Hollywood level cast continues to flex its muscle by adding a top tier voice actor and an elite actress with writing credentials. This piece of news helps us in absolutely no way at all with the mystery, but at least we know we are in good hands. No if only we get you know, David Hayter, maybe?

3. Paladins and Metal Gear need help surviving !

Released to absolutely no expecting audience, Metal Gear Survive finds its first headlines across the internet in a negative light. The first major piece of DLC comes in the form of paying an additional $10 for an extra in game save slot. Yea, you read that right. $10 to be able to have an extra save slot. It’s  outrageous and few people were interested in this game to begin with. I can undeniably confirm that everyone at Konami has lost their damn minds. On the other hand, developers working on Paladins are working tirelessly to remove the controversial loot boxes. Chris Arson from Hi Rez Studios, the developers of Paladins, openly acknowledged how upset they have made loyal fans. He says the peoples voices have been heard and they will be shifting focus on getting rid of the Cards Unbound update. The update allowed players to purchase gear and weapons which gave an advantage over players who made no purchases.

4. Sony Launches “My Playstation”.

Anyone familiar with the convenience of using the Playstation app will tell you it started off terrible but blossomed very well. That may not be the case this time around. Sony just announced a browser based version of the Playstation Network compatible with almost any up to date browser. Similar to the app, this new site will allow users to search for friends, send and respond to messages and friend request, edit their profile, and many other core functions of the Playstation Network. Still no mention of PSN ID changes anytime soon, I know that’s important to some people. I, however, remain ever so content with my PSN ID: SooperVega. Come get this work. Kidding, I’m actually really bad at video games.

5. Watson, come join us at the gaming table.

Take a step into the next level of gaming, where partnerships between gaming companies and computer technology companies are growing at an amazing rate. First we saw Oculus purchased by Facebook, Apple buying AR companies, and now Unity partnering with IBM. This new team up will be working to bring the powerful Watson AI to video games. The announcement of the “IBM Watson Unity SDK” is already live in the Unity asset store and will allow developers to integrate the cloud based AI in their games. The hope is that this combined set of tools will unlock a brand new potential in the world of AR and VR, with obvious benefits for standard games as well. Who knows, is the world ready for such powerful AI? Does this mean NPC’s will now always remember that one time I hit them pretty hard while testing my new weapons? Find out on the next episode of – Sorry I’ve been watching Dragon Ball Super.

6. Barbie goes tomb raiding.

As Tomb Raider continues to become the first video game franchise to truly succeed in crossing mediums, we get to see another cool partnership. Mattel has announced that a Tomb Raider edition Barbie will be available for $29.99. The new collectible figure is based on and model after actress Alicia Vikander’s upcoming portrayal of the gaming icon. Rebooting Tomb Raider has ended up being an all around success so far, let’s see how the film does. The figure also comes with all the necessary tomb raiding tools like a map, axe, journal, and certificate of authenticity. That last tool is critical, that’s what gets the bad stuff to happen so you can escape it.

7. Net Neutrality Scheduled to officially end in April.

Sorry to take this moment to get political for a moment but I think all gamers can agree this is important. Net neutrality is scheduled to officially go bye bye on April 23rd. For those who don’t understand what Net Neutrality is, here’s a quick summary. Net Neutrality allows the government to treat internet as a base utility, like gas or electric. This prevents private companies from being able to out do smaller companies by offering more money to block other out. Example: a small gaming website like ours vs a major conglomerate like IGN; they have a larger budget than us, so if a major internet provider said, pay more to allow your visitors more bandwidth on your site, they would immediately win that war. (This is not a real situation yet, although it is plausible, sorry IGN just keeping it real, love you) Don’t take my word for it, go do your own research. Involve yourself and take action, let’s be the changes we want to see in the world.




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February 13th, 2018 by Kurt "Chet" Christel

Prepare to Drive Edition

So recently, between bouts of Monster Hunter World, I’ve been playing a bit of Project Cars 2 on the side. No wait, that’s not right, I’ve been trying to play Project Cars 2. Okay, no, I have made several attempts to play Project Cars 2. And I’ve failed miserably, but I don’t understand why. I love my racing games and tend to reach for the simulation-oriented games like Forza Motorsport/Horizon, Gran Turismo Sport (which sucked), and Grid Autosport. Basically, it has to have “sport” somewhere in the title in order to be a simulation game. I love these games and always have a blast. Unless I’m playing Project Cars 2.

To call PC2 the Dark Souls or racing games isn’t quite right. It’s not that it’s just hard and requires you to ‘git gud.’ Its demands are far higher than that. From the very moment you start the game, it’s strongly suggested you begin at the rookie section of the game which consists of… go karts and average cars. “Oh, you played Forza? That’s cute. Learn to drive for real, dumbass.” I got schooled in the way of racing as crash after crash, restart after restart, I failed to even finish one race in anything other than last place. That’s if I manage to finish a race at all, which was also infrequent.

The legitimacy of the game’s mechanics can be seen right there in the settings when you decide how much help you want/need from the game. Back when I played Gran Turismo Sport, I had to set the game’s assists to ‘Expert’ because the ‘Intermediate’ car practically drove itself. By the end of Forza Horizon 3, I had almost all assists turned off and had the car’s AI set to Pro. In Forza Motorsport, it’s the same but I leave traction control on and race against ‘Highly Skilled’ drivatars. I’m great at these games, I had fun and I loved them. Project Cars 2? Almost all of the assists are on and I still can’t catch a break. And the number of settings there are to adjust are mind-numbing, just look at the general settings screens: [Click here for HQ]

You see that? I can’t catch a break even with all of the help the game is willing to give me. It doesn’t help that the cars you’re up against don’t seem to have any difficulty slider, and in many cases, they don’t feel like they have to obey the rules of the road as much as you do. I’ve had to restart a race 8 times because I accidentally clipped a corner or bumped into a car. These infractions can sometimes force you into the pit lane as punishment.

Another problem seems to be the controls. It appears that the game was on showcase frequently with a full steering wheel and pedal set. Driving wheels cost quite a bit, usually in the $400 range unless they are on sale. Playing the game on a regular controller doesn’t always feel right, as if it wasn’t optimized to play on it. I’m sure Project Cars 2 is a spectacular one-to-one recreation of real driving if you have a wheel. But for that price, you can also get a PSVR. Funny enough, this game has VR support on PC but not on the PS4. Not that it matters, as I’m playing it on my Xbox One.

Again, the game can get rather infuriating. You can race again and again and again and never improve. At some point, you may think that I may be being spoiled by Forza’s rewind mechanic. While I do admit it improves the racing experience, I still play plenty other racing games and fare just fine without being able to rewind. Rewind is merely an evolution of the game. It’s not cheating at the game, but instead is the game telling you that you did something wrong and that you have to do it over and over to get it right. But that’s just it. When you screw up in Forza, you hit the rewind button repeatedly until you fix it. With Project Cars 2, you end up pressing the ‘Restart Race’ button many times because in most cases, crashing will leave you so far behind there’s no point in attempting to catch up. Honestly, one of my best friends is a bonafide gearhead and racing game aficionado and even he says that this game is too hard to be enjoyed.

The game is kind of boring too. It flaunts its rules and pinpoint precision in racing mechanics, but that doesn’t make the game fun, it just makes it realistic. And that’s not always fun, especially when it’s to the extent that this game has implemented. The game doesn’t give you a whole lot in terms of motivation to keep racing, you just fail and that’s the end of it. So, having played around 5 hours of this game, I just don’t really want to play it anymore unless I’m feeling particularly masochistic. This game might be perfect for many people out there, but as a person who is more of a gaming enthusiast than a racing enthusiast, this doesn’t quite work out. Here’s the basic rating the game gets, based on our scoring system.

GRAPHICS: 1/2

Doesn’t look as good as the average racing game lately. If your racing game doesn’t look absolutely gorgeous, something terribly wrong has happened.

STORY: 0/2

I have no idea if the game offers more encouragement down the line, but as of right now, it’s practically nonexistent. The game feels empty despite everything it has to offer.

AUDIO: 1/2

Car sounds are as true to life as is expected from a racing sim. But the soundtrack is dismal, with annoying and overly dramatic movie score music playing on the main menu and nothing else.

GAMEPLAY: 2/2

This game truly is about as non-fictional as a racing game can get, if that hasn’t been made apparent in the rest of this article.

FUN: 0/2

Imagine being so annoyed by a game that you go off on a rant about it instead of doing a proper review. That’s what just happened here.

But honestly, f*ck this game.

SCORE: 4/10




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February 5th, 2018 by Vega Montanez

Controllers, Clouds, Counterstrike, and Cole Train

Good news and bad news. Comparisons of titanic forces. And all the power money could buy if money could buy power. That’s what this week looks like for the gamers who can use a little good feeling. Last week brought us interesting rumors around power moves and saddening, yet exciting delay announcements. Here are the reason you should feel like a Lucky Gamer:

1. Microsoft buys more clouds and enters the rumor mill.

Microsoft is undeniably the most financially capable of the big three video game console makers. Sony’s a company shifted their focus to Playstation a few years back to help keep the entire company afloat. Nintendo, on the other hand, really only makes video games so they are stable but not as much cash flow available. That’s why the rumor that Microsoft is considering buying EA, Valve, & PUBG corp. is incredibly believable. And with none of those three having responded to comment after nearly a week (at the time of this writing) boy oh boy what might we be in for. On the factual side of business, it’s business as usual. The super company just acquired PlayFab, a backend cloud based service provider. The goal is to have PlayFab work as an extension tool to build on Azure, the current cloud. Look at you go Microsoft, look at you go.

2. Waiting for Redemption better be worth it.

Who am I kidding, of course it will be worth it. It’s Red Dead Redemption, and even though i’m not the biggest fan, I have to admit I am among those looking forward to this adventure. With that said, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but Red Dead Redemption 2 has been delayed to October 26th. Watch out Ubisoft, Rockstar is coming hard. Not much was said about what cause the delay but it doesn’t really matter. The fact is they gave us a solid release date, that could change, and that makes me way more comfortable with the delay then anything else they could have said. You know, other than “We tested it and felt like our horse mechanics just weren’t as fun as Dynasty Warriors, so back to the drawing board.” Also they released new screenshots of gorgeous sunsets. And horses.

3. Unlike Sonic, Mario is doing pretty well.

This battle of icons has been raging for as long as the video game industry has been booming. It’s like Jay-Z v Nas. Yankees v Red Sox. Trump v Everything that makes sense for a president to do. So of course Mario got word of all the things Sonic has been up to and decided to 10 up him. Sonic got a TV series, Mario partnered with Illumination Entertainment to make a movie. A whole feature length film. That’s how you go big but there’s more. Mario Kart tour was announced for mobile which is set to release sometime before March 2019. Boom headshot! Well not exactly. See in the midst of all these upcoming plans Nintendo also took the time to humbly brag that the Nintendo Switch has outsold the Wii U lifetime sales in less than 10 months. With the best selling game being, you probably guessed it, Super Mario Odyssey. Damn Mario straight killing the game. It’s also the fastest selling console in the history of consoles though, so no big deal.

4. Enter new Dualshock 4 Controllers.

This is the most exciting news for me! As a playstation controller connoisseur, there is no way I was going to miss an opportunity to make a big deal over the new PS4 dual shock 4 remote colors. Midnight Blue (which actually happens to legitimately be my favorite color) and Steel Black. They look absolutely gorgeous. Both controls will be available in March for the standard price of $64.99. And this announcement comes hot on the heels of a sneaker partnership announcement too! Damn it Sony, I am a starving artist. You need to show some damn consideration for the little guys cause now I gotta come short with the rent so I can get one of each control and the Playstation sneakers. Oh well, totally worth it.

5. Yea I used this pun last week but, let’s Switch the topic.

If you’re the type of gamer who has been patiently waiting to be charged more money for a service you’ve kind of already been using, then boy is this the box for you. Nintendo announced that the Switch’s online service will be launching in September of this year. No other information was really given so it’s safe to say the previous statements apply. It will most likely run you $19.99 and give access to a Classic Games Selection and eShop discounts, much like the competition. Also, although announced by Microsoft, the Nintendo Switch is getting some rather unique content. The Switch version of Minecraft saw the addition of the Xbox characters pack. This means you’ll be able to play as Master Chief, Cole Train, Banjo, and many more on a Nintendo console. Does this mean we are getting closer to a future where Gamestop employees no longer have to say “Mario is not on Xbox”? The update also includes the Moana character pack featuring characters from the Disney movie.

6. Diablo creator announces new game while Counter Strike creator gets in trouble.

The good news. David Brevik, the creator of gaming classic Diablo, has announced he’s finished a new game which is already in closed beta. The new game, title “It Lurks Below”, mixes elements from Minecraft, Terraria, and Brevik’s original work Diablo. If all goes according to plan, “It Lurks Below” should launch later this year on Steam. This is also Brevik’s first major project since 2013 and he mad it on his own as a one man team. The bad news. Jesse Cliffe, co-creator of Counter-Strike, has been suspended by Valve following his arrest on charges of sexual exploitation of a child. It is important to reserve judgment as details are still emerging around these allegations. We can only hope, as gamers, that this gets resolved in an honest matter and none of it is true.

7. Gaming goes South by SouthWest

SXSW Gaming is headed to Austin, TX March 15th through March 17th.  It’s been a little while since gaming has taken part in the SXSW festivities but it’s exciting to see it making it’s return. The video game industry is booming and it really shows with events like this popping up all over the world all year around. This year the SXSW Gaming will feature eSports, indies, VR, AAA, and Mobile, which pretty much is all of gaming. Including gaming in this world of music, film, and art is just another example of the built up appreciation of video games. Hardcode gamers rejoice, a new day is coming.

Got anything that made you feel Lucky that I didn’t mention? Drop it in the comments below.




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December 20th, 2017 by Kurt "Chet" Christel

The New England weather simulator.

Par for the course of HMG, we try to start talking about the game but then move on to other things. If you’re interested in the DLC because you enjoyed the game, it’s worth getting. It’s simply more of the game added on, and you can either play it post game or during an initial run/new game+.




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March 10th, 2017 by Kurt "Chet" Christel

Can’t call this game Horizon, that title belong to Forza.

In this video, Hard Mode discusses whether or not Horizon Zero Dawn is worth getting a PS4 just to play it.




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March 7th, 2017 by Kurt "Chet" Christel

You’ve probably heard the phrase “better than the sum of its parts” at least once, never before has a video game encompassed that idiom better than Horizion Zero Dawn. By and large, all of the elements in the game aren’t very original. It’s an open world sandbox game with multiple approaches to tasks that suits different play-styles and features crafting, hunting, leveling up, and climbing some towers. Sound familiar? It should, because you’ve played “that game” at least a dozen times by now. What makes HZD so special is in what it borrows from which games, and how it implements them.

THE WITCHER 3 – You travel along a vast open landscape fighting all sorts of monsters along the way. Just like Geralt, protagonist Aloy must use skills and tactics if she wants to win the battle against the beasts within. Mashing buttons won’t get you anywhere in either game, even on easy mode. What is done better here is the streamlined crafting system used to upgrade your gear. Witcher will have you quest all across the fields to find one particular flower for a potion you need to make, whereas the requirements for potions in HZD are more generalized. You also get a sort of “Witcher-Vision” to track down objectives, but unlike Geralt, Aloy’s “Focus-Vision” is a lot easier to follow.

TOMB RAIDER – And collecting the goods to perform crafting is pretty straightforward and easy to perform. Like Tomb Raider (the new ones), you will find all the materials you need to make things all around you. In both entries, you can craft ammo for your ranged weapons in the middle of a battle using the weapon wheel. That’s a handy skill when you’re in a bind and run out of arrows. That said, Tomb Raider keeps the types of things you can grab in the wilderness minimal while HZD has a whole a bigger assortment of odds and ends you can find. It’s also notable that the targeting reticle for the bow in both games are nearly identical.

FAR CRY – The hunting aspects of this game also found their way here. The crafting at higher levels includes the need to hunt for specific animals in order to get better upgrades for your gear and outfits. Both have the perplexing tendency to be arbitrary with what animal is required for what upgrade, forcing you to hunt down a specific animal when you just need one more pelt for that potion bag you really want. Why do you need a rabbit skin for the bag? Who knows, go get it now.

ASSASSINS CREED – It’s not really like AssCreed at all, but we have only this series along with Ubisoft in general to blame for the parts where you climb some tower to unlock the map. Hell, even the latest Zelda is doing it now. Besides that, hiding in the tall grass to stalk enemies was a big part of this game and was used extensively in Assassins Creed: Black Flag.

METAL GEAR – Tell me the corruptor enemies don’t remind you of the Gekko from Metal Gear Solid. Besides the puzzling choice of having these machines moo, the big scary spider-like enemies can be rather terrifying in how quick they move. That first encounter with a corruptor was probably the first major boss fight of the game and still sends chills down my spine every time I have to face them in the game. They aren’t even the biggest boss fight characters either, just wait until you get further into it.

TUROK – Dude, remember Turok? Because I vaguely remember Turok.

MAD MAX, WATCH_DOGS 2, HOMEFRONT: THE REVOLUTION, ETC ETC – The most important lesson HZD learned about games that others failed on is that you can’t just make an open world and then simply pepper it with stuff to do. That’s not game design, that’s just stuff to do. This goes double for games that have a large open sandbox but don’t utilize much of the space for anything. The map needs to be memorable by having locations and areas that are more than just your commute from point A to point B. HZD gives you various locations and biomes all contained in one large cohesive land mass that just makes you itch to explore.

Horizon Zero Dawn has giant robot dinosaurs. That’s never been done before and that’s very unique. The rest of the game? You’ve definitely seen it before. What makes it so great is what it achieves with the design factors it borrows from other great titles. “Derivative” doesn’t have to be a dirty word. It can’t be. If doing things similar to another popular game make it bad, the reviews for Dishonored would have been terrible.




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March 1st, 2017 by Kurt "Chet" Christel

Original Videos from Hard Mode Gamers

When we first started out as a team, this was the initial few troll videos I made.

Zelda: BOTW – F1RST 1MPR3SSI0NS!!! with Chet

Some sick gameplay footage and reactions to gamings newest and greatest sensation, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, now out of Nintendo Switch and Nintendo WiiU.

Horizon Zero Dawn – F1RST 1MPR3SSI0NS!!! with Chet

See some epic gameplay footage for Horizon Zero Dawn with Chet, who is a real hardcore gamer.

Mass Effect Andromeda Patch – F1RST IMPR3SSI0NS with Chet

Mass Effect Andromeda was recently patched and I finally got a chance to play it! It’s so good, I don’t know why everyone hates on it.




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February 28th, 2017 by Kurt "Chet" Christel

Horizon Zero Dawn is an open world action/survival game developed by Guerilla Games and published by Sony Entertainment. It features Aloy, a redheaded tribal fighting in a post-apocalytpic landscape ruled by giant robot dinosaurs. The plot follows her discovering her heritage, but that’s not important because you fight giant robot dinosaurs, and that’s really the only reason you need to pick up this title. In hindsight, it’s surprising that giant robot dinosaurs haven’t been done before in video games, but here we are now. The game had a lot of hype to live up to, but did it deliver?

GRAPHICS: 2/2

Every once in a while you say to yourself, “Hey, these graphics are pretty good”. Even less rare is a game where you have to stop doing what you are doing and just look at the scenery. HZDs graphics are an exemplar of modern graphical quality. Featuring many various biomes across its massive map, this game is absolutely astounding in the level of detail and finesse put into ever square foot of landmass available to explore. If anything, the water looks a little bit “off” compared to the rest of the artwork, but by it’s own standard is still an absolute stunner.

STORY: 1/2

This is the only part where there’s a major flaw. The main quest actually feels like a waste as it manages to take a unique idea and make it less and less interesting as you delve further and further into the secrets of world. There’s a point during the campaign where you are in an old building and exposition gets dumped on you in the form of holograms and audio logs. It begins interesting enough, but as you go from one recording to the next, these tombs of secrets feel less like an intriguing adventure and more like a slow Disney ride. In the end, what happened to the world doesn’t matter because it’s happened and nothing can be done about it, and you’re left with a protagonist who has fulfilled what she set off to do. As with a lot of open world games, you will find that the side missions frequently offer more intrigue that the main story.

AUDIO: 2/2

The robots of the game sound as threatening as they look. With unearthly sounds screeching as you get spotted, the threat of the dinosaurs is made all the more real by some excellent audio design. You can hear the wind in the trees, the rushing of water in the river, the bitter cold rustling of snow in great detail. Voice acting was adequate, but Ashly Burch, who played the series protagonist Aloy, really made the mostly lonely adventure stick to you. The score of the game, while not spectacular, was a fitting mix of tribal percussion and woodwinds and some electronic pad tones that added to the already rich atmosphere of the game.

GAMEPLAY: 2/2

GIANT. ROBOT. DINOSAURS. It’s unfortunate that the game has you fight human enemies, because that’s not as fun as fighting the dinos. In fact, every second you spend on story could always be better spent just fighting the dinos. The gameplay is the core of the experience. What’s interesting is, the actual mechanics of the game aren’t that original, but the design of the game makes it feel original. HZD borrows elements from many games that have changed the scope of gaming over the past few years, but feels like a really sturdy, well-made package.

FUN: 2/2

I thought I was done with this game when I beat the campaign, but then I went back to it to complete some of the unfinished side quests. After tracking down some of the optional boss fights, I was glad I did because it really highlights how good the game is that fight after fight is a proper thrill ride. The exhilarating feel of downing a robo-saur with a spear and some arrows is one hell of a feeling. Even if there aren’t missions to complete, there’s plenty of real estate in the world to just go hunting for the fun of it, and that’s what really makes the game great. The gameplay is just that good and just that much fun.

The only thing that prevents Horizon Zero Dawn from absolute perfection is the less-than-great plot that doesn’t really do a whole lot. But it’s important to note this: if you were wondering whether or not this game is worth the purchase of a PS4, it is. Everything that makes the game great is worth experiencing on that powerhouse of a console. So if you were waiting to pull the trigger, now is the time to pick one up. This game has raised the bar to a new height.

SCORE: 9/10




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September 27th, 2016 by Kurt "Chet" Christel

Forza Horizon 3 is an open-world racing game developed by Turn 10 Studios and published by Microsoft Studios. It raises the bar for what it takes to make a great game by towing the line between simulation racing and arcade racing. Accessible to almost anyone, thanks to a very open set of options for difficulty, FH3 is an easy title to pick up if you’re a fan of racing sims or just looking to have a fun time. Taking place in many fictionalized versions of real locations throughout the series, this game lands you in Australia for one of the broadest selections of different racing setups available. Can you tell I like it?

GRAPHICS: 2/2

Lush scenery and gorgeous landscape make up the lay of the land. Ranging from the city, rainforest, outback, beach, and countryside, the diversity of scenery keeps the game visually appealing at almost every turn. Plus, with the addition of ‘ForzaVista’ for the first time in the Horizon series of games, the attention to every square inch of car is as realistic as it gets right now. The game laughed at my graphics card on the PC version of the game and my hardware is not that old.

STORY: 2/2

Having a story in a racing game is hard to pull. You want to give the player something to hold onto to drive them forward, but not too much story or you risk making the game boring. FH3 hits the sweet spot by not having any actual ongoing ‘story’, but having some context added to what you are doing, You are the organizer of the titular “Horizon Festival”, so it’s your job to set up races, take part in publicity stunts, and do outrageous top gear style challenges. Having a helpful personal assistant guide you through the game makes you feel accomplished as you set up races and expand festival sites.

AUDIO: 2/2

It’s not just the graphics that add to the realism of the game. All the cars sound like their real life counterparts, further cementing this title as the ultimate car enthusiasts experience. The licensed soundtrack, in addition, is one of the most diverse and well curated collection of tunes yet. The radio stations all have their own genre and offer something to like for everyone. When punk, hiphop, futurebass, and classical all exist in the same game, it’s hard not to find a station you’ll end up loving.

GAMEPLAY: 2/2

The game is very DIY on almost every aspect. The enemy AI can be anywhere from children to formula 1 professional. Braking, stability, ABS, and steering can all be modified to suit your level of skill, so the game’s difficulty can be set to ‘just right’ for almost anyone. There’s plenty of races to tackle, some very well designed tracks set up in the world, and some stellar challenges around every corner. The scoring system is set up so that winning isn’t the only focus when you hit the tracks.

FUN: 1/2

Nitpicking time, as obviously this game is great, but there are some issues. The content you unlock as you go can be really overbearing and litter the map to points where its hard to tell what to do next. Starting championships feel a bit messy as you don’t really get too much of an indication as to what you should be doing and in what order. Keeping to the DIY formula, the game also lets you set the parameters for the races you participate in, but there are some points where it seems like there’s so much focus on the customizing, that focus was lost on the core experience. Not to mention, charging for a car pass, then an expansion pass on top of that and not including it for people who preordered the gold edition is a bit off-putting.

If it weren’t for all the small nitpicks, Forza Horizon 3 would be the greatest game in the whole Forza Franchise. None of the issues is to big to steer you away from the game, so I you’re looking for a great racing title that will keep your busy for hours upon hours, look no further.

SCORE: 9/10




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