Jumping the Soapbox: Games of 2018 (Part 2)

We’re back with Part 2 of this list!  Let’s not waste any time and jump right into the games!!

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Spider-Man (PS4)

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Developed by Insomniac Games

Am I getting too old for this?  I might be getting too old for this.  As I’m sure is a common consensus among those of us over twenty-five playing this game, I still feel a stronger connection to Spider-Man 2 from all the way back in the stone age than this one despite it still managing to be one of the best games I’ve played this year even if it can’t quite surpass my nostalgia for the one with Bruce Campbell in it.  I don’t know, I just feel that the new game is guiding me too much in my web swings; pulling visual tricks or redirecting my momentum to minimize mistakes, and while I will never claim that harder games are inherently better (or that players just need to “git gud”), I found the hectic and less controlled web slinging in Spider-Man 2 to be more rewarding and much more engaging on long trips to far off objective markers.  Other than that, the game is an improvement in every way.  The combat is fluid and allows for lots of varied combos, I LOVE it whenever a level has multiple levels so you can swoop in, kick butt, swing away, and come back to smash some faces one floor below, and even though the stealth sections are pretty unengaging, they at least function well enough.  That said, it can get a bit monotonous with some of the combat sections and I would have gladly traded all the battle challenges on the map for just one more fine-tuned and well-crafted story stages like the skyscraper one that was shown in the trailer.  Also, it felt a bit… anachronistic I guess to have the bad guys be SO defined by their Asian culture especially since the game doesn’t have much to counterbalance that.  When a minority group of people is almost exclusively shown to be terrorist (Yuri Watanabe is the only other Asian character of note), well at that point you’re basically recreating that one episode of Sherlock that’s always gonna be a bit uncomfortable to watch.  Still, this is a Spider-Man game that, at least for the modern era, will define what it means to be a Super-Hero game, and while I’ll always carry a torch for the PS2 game I won’t begrudge the new generation for having a version made for them to enjoy.

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Star Wars Battlefront / Battlefield 1 (PS4)

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Star Wars Battlefront and Battlefield 1 developed by EA DICE

There are times where I will get the urge to play some online multiplayer death matches and luckily for me I got two of DICE’s more recent games for a FANTASTIC price (why buy the latest version when the previous one is almost the same, has the bugs worked out, and is ninety percent cheaper?) so I got a chance to actually put that PlayStation Plus subscription to use.  Battlefront definitely needs work and I get the feeling that the sequel didn’t do a whole lot to improve upon it.  It could very well be my skill level, but there’s no real sense of accomplishment here as most of the time you’re just throwing yourself at the hoard as yet another meat shield with the only hope being to get a Kill to Death ratio close to one.  It just feels really shallow and the license can only do so much to improve the situation.  Sure, Walker Assault at least gives something of an objective to work towards, but it’s really not enough to save the experience.  At the price I got it for though which is about three bucks, I did get my money’s worth as it took me about four or five hours to be done with it.  Battlefield 1 on the other hand, which is my first Battlefield game, is thankfully the exact opposite and I was hooked for SO much longer!  Okay, I rarely used the Medic and… what was it, Engineer class?  Anyway, I mostly stuck to infantry for immediate responses to dire situations and snipers to set up stronger defense lines, which was an experience that’s a heck of a lot more interesting than anything I was doing in Battlefront, and the Operations Mode is brilliantly executed!  However, with only games there is always a dark side to it and I had an experience that soured me on the game entirely which I haven’t picked up in about two months now.  MAYBE for the best as I really don’t have time to play those kinds of games for the hours I inevitably do (I probably got about twenty hours in it in just a week), but it was not fun the way I kicked the habit.  I wasn’t even anything TRULY horrible; more of a petty than anything else.  I got on a losing streak, and I mean a BAD one.  I think it was about eight operations in a row where I could not for the life of me get close to a victory with my team, and after the third or fourth one I vowed to not stop playing until I won.  That was a mistake, but then that’s what can happen if a game like this can get its hooks into you.  The weird thing though is that even though I was losing focus and barely even trying at that point; just running and shooting until I ran out of ammo, I ACTUALLY got to be the top player in one of the matches, so either I’m great when I’m utterly miserable, or I was right to blame the rest of my team for performing so badly.  Eventually I got into a game that I won, but the victory was utterly hollow and I ended up going back to work on something else instead of spending more time on it.  Again, PROBABLY for the best because I really can’t get as much done as I should if I’m splitting my time between work and that kind of game, but this unpredictable turn of fortune with no real way to compensate for it (there’s no option in the game to go up against “lousy” teams if you need a confidence boost) is one of the reasons I try not to get invested in online multiplayer games to start with.  I already have enough stresses in my life; I don’t need that as well!

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Starlink: Battle for Atlas (Switch)

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Developed by Ubisoft Toronto

“Alright, Ubisoft.  What have you got?”

“It’s a space game.”

“Okay.”

“And you can travel to different planets.”

“Sounds good.”

“And you can customize your spaceship.”

“Even better.”

“By buying plastic toys as glorified DLC.”

“So like Skylanders?”

“Yup!”

“You’re starting to lose me.”

“And if you buy it for the Switch you can get a Starter Pack with Star Fox!”

“… I’m sorry, what?”

“Yeah!  You get to play as Star Fox on the Switch!”

“And you get a plastic Arwing to use in the game?”

“Not only that, but you get an adorable little Fox McCloud figure too!”

“… Okay, take my money!”

“Fantastic!  Hey wait!  Don’t you want any of this other stuff?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Yeah, we’ve got all these plastic ships that you can buy with all these pilots and weapons…”

“Can I buy a Falco Lombardi pilot?”

“No.

“Peppy Hare?  Slippy?  Krystal?”

“Yeah… none of them and she doesn’t even show up game.”

“Oh.  Nah, I think I’m good.”

Basically, that’s the game in a nutshell.  I have zero interest in any of the other characters or even the ship building mechanics, but if you’re looking for a good Star Fox game (I have Zero around here somewhere but I still haven’t played it), then I think this is a great title to pick up; especially considering how many times they’ve slashed the price on the starter sets.  If you are looking for the most authentic Star Fox experience though, I’d recommend setting the game to Easy (no higher than medium), and not even using any of the add-on weapons because to make the rest of the game even MORE irrelevant, the Arwing will just use its normal cannons is there are no weapons attached to it.  None of this speaks too well for Starlink as a franchise since I never even HEARD of it until I found out about the Star Fox stuff, but the silver lining here is that I think Ubisoft might have it in them to make a great Star Fox game on its own.  Sure this game is much more of an exploration Sandbox deal than the on rails action combat of the better games in the series, but the mechanics are solid enough that it wouldn’t take that much more to make it feel that much more authentic.  Plus, that plastic Arwing is pretty awesome and I’m surprised they’re just giving it away with the game!  Considering how overinflated the figure market is, you’d think this alone would cost as much as buying it with the full game, so the whole package is a pretty good bargain to boot!

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Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition (PS4)

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Developed by Capcom and Dimps

I’m really sick of modern gaming.  It seems that we’ve more or less peaked when it comes to actual gameplay mechanics and all the “innovation” is coming from ways to monotize it.  This is of course nothing new and I’m probably the billionth person to opine about this, but this game right here is the one that REALLY soured me on it on a personal level.  Honestly I think what pushes this over the edge is the fact that they DO let you earn Fight Money in the game instead of just charging you for each piece of DLC.  That’s basically what Smash Bros did and frankly it didn’t bother me even if I didn’t like the prices; not to mention that the SECOND iteration of that game is going to have ALL the DLC while THIS iteration (the Arcade rerelease) only came with a small portion of it.  You can earn Fight Money in the game by doing certain challenges and playing certain modes.  Me, being an average player, managed to earn about twelve thousand in one to two hours of playing.  How many points do you need to unlock one character?  A hundred thousand.  How many characters are there to unlock?  Six.  That’s just ONE of the various things you can unlock (which includes costumes, colors, stages, etc), and on top of that, relatively high earning challenges can’t be done as many times as you want.  You can do those once and then I guess you have to wait a week for them to upload new challenges.  So yeah, that is VERY obviously some bull-puckey, but you know what I kind of learned by looking at this system?  I think it very unfairly targets the casual market, or at least those who aren’t EXTREMELY into this particular fighting game.  When I play Street Fighter, I want to play as Juri, I want to play through a story mode with cut scenes, and I want to try on all the costumes.  I’m not here to learn perfect combos, when to counter, or what that V meter thing actually does, but because of that and because I’m only MILDLY skilled at it, a lot of the opportunities to earn fight money and unlock stuff is closed off due to how absurdly difficult they are.  There’s no way I’m gonna get through EXTREME difficulty Survival mode just to unlock a few color pallets unless of course I use up all my Fight Money continuing on each stage because I keep getting my ass handed to me.  Oh yeah!  That Fight Money you need to earn in order to buy unlocks instead of paying cash is ALSO used for other stuff like that.  Everything about this game just feels like it’s utterly resenting me for NOT spending five hundred bucks on costumes and is SEETHING every time it has to hand out a red cent which makes for a rather hostile environment to try and enjoy a game even if the mechanics are solid.  I’m pretty sure I mentioned this last year when I was taking a look at Tekken 7, but Fighting Games as a genre seem particularly susceptible to monetization chicanery, and low and behold we have the poster child right here.

ADDENDUM: I bought this game on Black Friday and yet was done with it before they announced IN GAME ADVERTISEMENTS.  I haven’t bothered to actually check them out or see how it affects fight money acquisition, but BOY is this game in the running for poster boy of awfulness in video games!

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Super Mario Party (Switch)

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Developed by NDcube

I haven’t had a lot of time to play this one, but I was intrigued with it once the Let’s Plays started hitting YouTube.  It feels like someone stripped Mario Party down to its base components and reconfigured it into something that felt familiar but very much modernized.  The problem with Mario Party, at least for me, is that the franchise peaked with Mario Party 3 and none of the games that came out since then really did anything to shake up the formula in new and interesting ways.  This is the first one to feel all that different from what came before even if they share almost all the same mechanics, and I liked the ways that they narrowed the focus.  You don’t have ridiculously large dice rolls anymore, the maps aren’t too big, and the mini-games are pretty good and feel a bit fairer about coin distribution.  However, the experience does feel a bit slight in places which feel like a missed opportunity to make not just a great new addition to the franchise but to make it the best one in the series.  There’s no story mode I’ve been able to find as the only real “progression” I’ve seen is just clearing the individual maps.  That was probably the best part of the third game where you had to fight against all the other players and you got these neat little cut scenes after each victory!  Here, it all feels kind of perfunctory which isn’t a problem if you’re the kind of player who can actually make use of its party mechanics, but most of the time I’m playing these games by myself so the experience can feel a bit muted; not helped by the fact that it feels like they REALLY scaled back the difficulty.  That COULD just be due to the game being better designed so it won’t cheat you out of victory so often, but it’s just not Mario Party to me if I’m not ready to throw a controller across the room after playing it.  Okay now that I say it, it’s probably a good thing they scaled back the difficulty.

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Super Smash Bros Ultimate (Switch)

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Developed by Bandai Namco Studios and Sora Ltd.

That sure is a lot of characters alright!  I am rather impressed that not only have they brought back ALL the characters from the previous games (though I’m assuming the third party developers weren’t hard to woo back to one of the most recognizable franchises of all time), but that they’ve added some very cool and interesting new characters that make this feel like a brand new entry in the series.  Heck, even mechanically it doesn’t quite feel like a rerelease of the last game as there are a few new elements in here that change things up a bit like the way that characters feel when they’re launched and I THINK they’ve nerfed the Ultimates a bit so they aren’t instant match enders.  If you’re looking for the ultimate Smash Bros fighting engine I think they knocked it out of the park here and will hopefully keep supporting this game for years to come, but for me it feels a bit lacking in features; especially with how much grinding they expect you to do.  We’ve still got Arcade Mode and Multi-Man Smash (I think it’s called Mob Smash here), but there’s no All-Star Mode, no Batting Mode, and no Target Practice.  The modes that ARE there, namely Arcade and Spirt Board, don’t offer as much cash reward as you’d hope they would considering how expensive a lot of the stuff is, so the modes that are there you’re forced to grind for hours on end which I’m starting to feel is really diluting the experience.  I guess I just need a bit more pop and fun from Smash than just a finely tuned battle and upgrade system, and while the spirits are indeed fun to collect (I’ve got Shantae AND Risky Boots!), they don’t have the same appeal to me as the trophies in previous games which came with neat information about what games they came from.  And of course, there’s The World of Light which is just an extension of the Spirit Board and doesn’t have the personality or flavor of the awkward Adventure mode in Melee or the AMAZING Subspace Emissary in Brawl.  Sure, the opening cut scene is fantastic, but that’s about all you get as far as context and flavor with the rest of it being a series of basic challenges!  By far this is the best Smash Bros game from a gameplay and character list standpoint, but I hope that future updates can throw a few more bells and whistles into it which honestly wouldn’t be that hard to do (how difficult would it be to roll the spirits into a trophy system as well?) and would push this game into all-time classic status.

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Tomb Raider (PS4)

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Developed by Crystal Dynamics

The biggest problem with this game (aside from the copious amounts of button mashing and QTE sequences) is that, well… it’s WAY too freaking grim!  So much of this game is about suffering and cruelty and how much pain someone can be put through at any given time.  The game basically turns into Silent Hill when at one point you find yourself hanging in a room that is full, and I mean FULL, of mutilated bodies.  Just blood and gore all over the darn place, and then you hide just in time to see a big dude slowly drag a heavy weapon around behind them, because I guess it wasn’t obvious ALREADY what this was going for.  Lara has NO reaction to any of this by the way, not even the part where you’re crawling through a narrow passage as an absurdly large number of severed heads just roll along beside you.  I don’t think the lighter tone in the previous games made them trivial as frankly there were STILL places where the violence was shocking, and to me they went WAY overboard in this one for that oh so coveted sense of “realism” in a game about one person single handedly taking on an army of armed dudes before fighting an ancient spirit hell bent on taking over the world or something.  And yet, the gameplay is very satisfying and the world is almost PERFECTLY sized for someone like me who can get into Sandbox style exploration for a little while but loose interest rather quickly.  This is one of the few games I’ve beaten this year if that gives you any indication which might be more of an indictment of other games that I play rather than praise for this one (EVERYTHING MUST GO ON FOREVER WITH GRINDING AND SIDE MISSIONS!), but I’ll still count that as some sort of achievement and it’s made me want to play the sequel even if I had my issues with the tone of this one.

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Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate (PS4)

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Developed by Omega Force

I usually buy one Warriors game each generation which to get my fill of the genre.  Aside from Hyrule Warriors which exists as a separate thing in its own right (and I REALLY need to get the Switch version of that), I haven’t played one of these in quite a while so when I heard that this was a high mark for the franchise I decided to give it a shot.  Eh… you know, I’m USUALLY a lot more forgiving of these kinds of games, but after Hyrule Warriors it’s really hard to go back to anything less than that.  The story is confusing with all sorts of time traveling, I haven’t really found a character I love to play as, and the whole thing feels a lot more monotonous than they usually do for me.  Maybe it’s because I DIDN’T buy an Empires variant this time that I’m feeling so lackluster on this as those games have the added strategy elements that give the button mashing a bit more context and reward and this one feels a bit lacking in that regard as I’m not entirely sure what we’re fighting over or what any individual battle means for the greater conflict.  With the way that Dynasty Warriors has gone down the tubes this year and how Omega Force seems to have grown weary of the whole franchise outside of the fun excursions like Hyrule Warriors, it might be time to retire these games once and for all; or at the very least give them a bit of time to build a new one from scratch.  Wait, that’s what they did with Dynasty Warriors 9, right?  Okay, never mind.  Maybe they should stop making these unless Nintendo asks them to.

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WWE 2K17 (PS4)

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Developed by Yuke’s

I ended up getting into wrestling this year and subscribed to the WWE Network so I could check out Wrestlemania and catch up on some of the better moments in the company’s history.  The ten bucks a month I spend on it is actually a pretty good deal considering just how much content they have on their service, and being able to stream Pay-Per-Views live at no additional cost would have justified the price alone.  As part of this renewed interest I ended up buying one of the more recent games in the series and while I was impressed with the core mechanics and JUST how deep you can get with the customization (from the wrestlers themselves to their ring entrances, animations, and move sets), I did notice some flaws right away that dragged the experience down for me.  See, the last wrestling game I played was ALL the way back in 2001 with “WWF SmackDown! Just Bring It” which was even made by the same developers who are making the WWE games to this day (including this new one I played), and yet there STILL seems to be some fundamental issues that haven’t been addressed yet!  How do you make a wrestling game which is all about larger than life personalities, and yet don’t include voice acting for the wrestlers?  What, would it have been too hard to get them into a recording studio!?  Heck, I’d rather take impersonators than for them to just be silent the whole time, and while I could forgive this back in the PS2 days, it’s utterly baffling that this is still not something that’s been addressed.  Sure, we have the ring announcers who do a solid job calling the matches, and I’m pretty sure I heard Triple H say at least one line, but how the hell do you have a Brock Lesner match where Paul Heyman doesn’t announce him!?  That’s like half the reason you WATCH Brock Lesner matches!  Even worse, how do you have a BIG part of the game be about cutting promos, and then just have the characters lips flap silently while a paragraph of text is at the bottom of the screen!?  That’s not even the worst of it as the one problem that’s more glaring than the voice acting is the lack of a Career Mode for female wrestlers as you can only create a male wrestler in this mode; an omission ESPECIALLY galling considering how much work WWE and its roster of female wrestlers have put into making it a more legitimate aspect of the company that’s becoming as equally prominent as the male side of things.  The fact that these are yearly entries that don’t seem to be improving on fundamental issues to instead focus on polishing what’s already there means I’m just gonna treat this series like Dynasty Warriors.  Pick one up every few years, mostly for a graphical upgrade, and ignore the rest of them until they start making some big changes to the formula.

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Yakuza 0 (PS4)

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Developed by Sega CS1

I know that there’s a new one that’s come out since, but this is the one that I played this year and it’s also the one that everyone was talking about as being a new benchmark (as well as a good entry point) for the series.  Having never played a Yakuza game I thought I’d give it a shot, and the results?  Yeah!  It’s pretty good!  I don’t think I fully understand why people were over the moon about it, but it’s a very interesting sandbox experience and certainly does it better than a lot of other similar games out there.  I certainly got more invested in this than I ever did playing Grand Theft Auto 5 or even the two hours or so I played of Red Dead Redemption 2 this year, so I still have no problem recommending it to people looking for a sandbox that’s focuses less on overwhelming scale.  The depth of this game far exceeds the size of it, and that’s often what I feel is lacking in other sandbox games (especially Bethesda RPGs) which want to tell you just how big the world is and never really give you a reason to care about any of it.  I actually cared about the story in here which was a neat little Yakuza film in its own right with some awesome over the top elements just to make it that much more fun!  I really should get back to this game at some point, but with how busy things have been lately I don’t know if I have the time to get as invested into this game as it would require to get the full experience.  Oh well!  I’ll just put it on the pile with the other million games I have but never have time to play!  Why do I keep buying these again!?

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And that’ll do it for the games I played in 2018!  Want to tell me what you think about the games listed?  Let me know in the comments below!!

You can also check out Part 1 of this list right here!

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