Remember when you just won cool gear for your character when you did well? Pepperidge Farm remembers.
Trials Rising is back. It’s the 5th game in a long-standing series of physics-based, motorcycle riding action. Although the new entry itself is rather decent, Ubisoft decided to be Ubisoft and find a way to ruin the fun. They added the basic bitch of microtransactions, loot crates, to the mix, and they don’t gel well. And they are supposted to give you cosmetic upgrades only, but the upgrades are garbage. Rewards are also few and far between, with the majority of upgrades being stickers, the least interesting cosmetic aspect. And then you can get some new gear for your rider and bike but you can also get friggin DUPLICATES. Got the same tires twice? Too bad, you can re-sell the tires for a currency that is totally worthless towards the cost of another crate. It’s shameful at best. Too bad.
But wait, there’s more!
Now, watch this and look at the stunning lack of actual features after opening so many boxes. The customization system in Trials Rising is absolute garbage.
Sadly, one person on our YouTube tried to defend this. You can help by going to the page and upvoting the video.
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.
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!
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.
Star Wars: Battlefront II is a sequel to 2015’s remake of the classic Battlefront (2004) series originally released for the sixth console generation. The new Battlefront II was developed by DICE Studios and published by EA Games. Originally, the first iteration of this remake series came into a bit of controversy when it turned out that the core game only had 4 maps and that the rest of the planned map releases would only come with a fifty dollar expansion pass. Obviously, EA have learned their lesson because there is no expansion pass for Battlefront II. It’s all just water under the bridge now, right?
I was always wondering where the missing assets from Mass Effect Andromeda ended up and wouldn’t you know it, Battlefront II had them the whole time, they were just hiding it in the single player campaign. That goes double for Iden Versio who was one N7 decal away from being a Commander Shepard stand-in. But the graphics were all good. Very good in fact, featuring some inclement weather on multiple planets. There are also some lovely high res textures and animations. The ability to switch between third and first person views also augments the experience, letting you play the game as you see fit (unless playing as a hero). The garden world you go to has rich vegetation amongst its vast stone walls, which gives it a really pleasant look. But seriously though, there were several sections of the game that looked suspiciously like they belonged more in the Mass Effect universe than they did in Star Wars, it’s weird.
The plot is so bad I’m going SPOIL IT. Skip this section if you want, but seriously, I’m doing you a favor. So as Iden Versio, you’re in a spec ops unit called Inferno Squad and you start off after the Death Star II explodes. The Empire, licking its wounds, has the perfect plan to recoup its losses. They decide to just launch an all-out attack on a planet that is loyal to the Empire. Yes, the Empire’s great plan to restore order is to destroy one of its own planets with some sub-par miniature super weapon they just had laying around (and only visually appears to cause super bad weather and nothing else). That’ll show them who’s boss, right? So, since Iden Versio actually has a brain, she goes rogue and flees, only to be captured by the rebel alliance. The rebels, executing a great amount of scrutiny, politely ask her if she’s an Imperial spy and after saying no, determine that she’s trustworthy and instantly give her access to pilot a snazzy new X-wing to help out the cause. I mean, no, she wasn’t about to betray the only people willing to help her, but the change from treating her as an enemy to an ally happens in less than a minute of actual game time. What follows after is a series of very poorly veiled excuses to go planet hopping in order to stay one step ahead of the Empire to find some MacGuffin type thing that was so utterly unmemorable that I finished the game no more than a couple of days ago and already don’t even remember what it was. The series ends with an all-out battle between the rebels and Empire within the atmosphere of Jakku, and if you’ve seen The Force Awakens, you know how that will end. At the end, Kylo Ren enters someone’s mind to find yet another MacGuffin, hinting at a possible sequel to the single player story down the line. But please, please don’t do that. Don’t ever make a Star Wars campaign again, DICE. If you’re up for another Mirror’s Edge, that would be stellar, but stay away from Star Wars.
Well, the audio has one thing going for it: at least a few of the blasters sound authentic, as if grabbed directly from the films themselves. But this is outweighed by that bad. Several points of the game have token moments where you get to play as the “Heroes” from the Star Wars canon, and pretty much all of them are piss-poor attempts at sound-alikes with Kylo Ren possibly being the only one that sounds legit. The rest of the voice acting is pretty ham-fisted, which would have been okay had the game not been trying so hard to get you invested into its seriously laughable plot. Anything new doesn’t sound great either. There’s nothing memorable audio-wise about any of the weapons or explosives, and if one were to hear just the audio, the multiplayer matches would be almost indistinguishable from a Battlefield title, save for the pew pew of the laser weapons. The score is more or less a John Williams sound-alike, but just as with the rest of the game, it doesn’t do anything special or unique. It sounds a lot more like the Star Wars music was fed to a robot on punch cards with instructions to do something similar.
You know, when I’m playing a first person shooter and I’m up close enough to punch someone, I expect to land a hit that at least damages the opponent if it doesn’t kill them. What I don’t expect however, is to teleport two meters directly through them as an overly long punch animation unloads and then take an additional second or two for an asthma inhaler dose before I’m allowed to move again. Gameplay during the campaign was just okay even at its absolute best, with almost all of the levels simply being re-purposed multiplayer maps that will yell at you if you go too far in the wrong direction, even if you’re trying to go somewhere to preempt an enemy attack (like seeing a drop ship landing). The enemy AI is basic at best with many NPCs being capable of landing shots or charging you down, but at other times seeming to almost run into your line of sight on purpose. I even experienced an NPC getting stuck and forcing me to hunt him down so an event could progress. As for multiplayer, initial impressions were optimistic at first, until I realized how long it would take me to play with a gun I don’t like just to get an SMG. I didn’t like that, so I tried to stick with playing as an officer with one of the worst weapons in the entire game, but some decent abilities to bolster friendlies with a stat boost and the ability to lay down a turret. But round after round, no progress was being made, as even playing the objective didn’t feel rewarding. We all know why that was a problem…
Now, normally, I like to make it a policy of this site to demerit a point from the score for egregious lootboxing, but even without any lootboxes, player progression is completely ruined. Offering no way to advance without the help of the now in-game-currency-only crates, they still stave off having improved versions over regular abilities, and that’s just not very good design. There’s no sense of progress when you do well and you’ll be stuck for a long time dealing with guns and abilities you aren’t going to like. Not to mention that just getting into the clusterf*ck of a system that the star cards set up is a total mess and a half. Even worse are the loading times. Either jumping into the campaign or trying out a few of the game’s “arcade” scenarios takes close to a minute, if not more. Which is a shame, too, because the arcade challenges are little more than just uninteresting bot matches. The lag was also incredible, as in “I can’t believe a game with a budget this size has this much lag!” Upon re-reading this review, I realized I forgot to mention the air combat. It sucks. Nothing else to say on that, I’ve played many other games with air combat and the amount of times it was forced into the single player campaign and how utterly useless it is in multiplayer is astonishing.
Star Wars: Battlefront II was a game I wanted to believe simply wasn’t as bad as everyone was saying, and that people were just exaggerating it’s problems. Little did I know that it would be one of the worst games I’d play this year. Even if the loot box controversy hadn’t been a thing, this still is a poorly made game with zero charm, enthusiasm, or gusto. Designed from start to finish to be nothing more than a cash grab (which backfired tremendously), this game is just a wet fart on the video games market. Purchase this game only if you are a hardcore Star Wars fan and the game is in the bargain bin.