Author: Cody Hall

Where's my 3rd Tak and the Power of Juju game Activision?

Mad Max – A Past Due Review

Mad Max is a fascinating game. It does a lot of great things, some questionable things, and a few things that are not a good fit for everyone. Should you pick it up? Well that’s one of the harder questions to ask as it depends on what type of gamer you are.

But before we can attempt to answer that question we need to carefully explore this game’s various systems. In this Past Due Review we will be exploring animation quality, character and environmental modeling, lighting, particle effects, audio, game mechanics, level design, and more. Every facet of the game will be discussed for at least a paragraph, exploring which sections work well and which ones didn’t survive the wasteland.

Also keep in mind if you're used to expecting a score at the end of a review, you won't find it here. I like to let these different aspects of a game stand on their own. 

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Iron Man V Captain America V Batman V Superman

Why I'm more excited for Zak Snyder's latest film than Marvels next epic.

I'm sure you would assume I'm a DC fanboy in the  preference wars of Marvel or DC. Well fuck you. I am a comics fan, not a brand fan. I enjoy good characters, action cells, and unique stories. I don't give a shit if they come from Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, or hell, even Image Comics. If you're not 13 years old and you still give into brands buying your loyalty, you need to wake the fuck up. Yeah Marvel has some great stories, but they also have shitty ones, same goes for all publishers. You wouldn't go, "Yeah I don't really like Paramount Pictures, Universal just makes way better Movies." You judge individual films based on their characters, plot, and production value. And real comic fans do the same with our favorite form of reading.

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That said, it's with this idea of story in mind that I've come to realize that I am far more excited to see Batman V Superman than Civil War. I've read Civil War, it's a great premise and the story is paced perfectly throughout the books pages. And yeah like many I was fucking pissed when Cap kicked the bucket. Oh yeah spoilers, no never mind Fuck you y'all shoulda read the book years ago. And while I think it will be cool to see the book come to life on the big screen, I already know the story. Even those who don't know the story know it was a pretty famous comic in marvel history. But for those who don't its the story of the Registration act, a law that would be put in place requiring any being with extraordinary abilities to be registered with the government to keep track of these individuals and regulate their activities to avoid future unwanted destruction. Now yeah that's a great concept that we'd seen previously in books like Watchmen but the Civil war book kept characters true to their morals, with neither side really being wrong and causing a large and violent conflict over the legislation. But again, that story was great in the book but I'm sure that the film won't show me much that I haven't seen before.

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And that is where Batman V Superman stands apart. Yeah I know we've seen Supes and the bats duke it out many times before. Sometimes under a good premise, such as when bats actually beat supes, and sometimes it wasn't so great. But at least it wasn't as bad as Supes vs Spidey. Yeah that fucking happened.

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But we haven't seen this story yet. In Man of Steel, an inexperienced Superman becomes partially responsible for the cataclysmic destruction of Metropolis. While he gained many worshipers for saving the earth who now follow him religiously, this chaos caused the death of someone close to none other than Bruce Wayne, who has already hung up the mantle after loosing his good friend and apprentice Robin.

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That is one hell of a cool idea. Combine that with an amazing tribute to Dark Knight Returns with the Knight Armour that could very well be made of Kryptonian Technology to help him go toe to toe with basically a god. Only to have Wonder Woman and Aquaman both making their first big screen appearance in history to help these two get a cool head and stop whatever Lex is up too!!! Holy fuck, that sounds like a load of fun. And above all else, we get to watch, for the first time ever, a live action Batman, punch, and get punched by, a live action Superman. Who would pass that up? Many also criticize the art style of the Dc films. well in the past DC comics got much darker and heavy handed when Marvel was getting really kid friendly. and when Dc started to sell tons of copies of these darker books, marvel started heading the same direction to tap into the market as well. and with the MCU universe being the definition of popcorn crunching pretty colors cinematic events, I'm glad these future DC films aren't just going the same route. They aren't idiots they know its a risk to make these films have a darker tone than the traditional superhero films as of late. But it does seem like it would fit the story better to be more grounded and gritty. and again, its different from the colorful lighthearted Marvel films.Which are also great (Except for Ultron which was shit and to a minor extent so is Ant-Man) and those films have their place, and the Dc films will have theirs. I would take a kid to see Civil war, despite its heavy themes, I know its still basically a Disney film with more action. There is no way in hell i would take a kid to see BvS just based on what I've seen so far it looks like this is more a film for older comic book fans, made by older comic book fans.

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Well I bet a lot of people would do it for one reason, Ben Affleck shouldn't be Batman!!! I guarantee most of the people saying that actually thought Christina Bale was a good Bats.

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But I digress. Affleck is a great choice for a few reasons; The Chin, The acting chops, The parallels between his own Career and this Batman's life story (The whole being a huge deal only to fall off the radar after huge pitfalls from the media only to find redemption as a director). But the biggest one is one no one is fucking talking about. He is the first actor playing Batman who actually reads Batman comics. Like grew up with them, worshiped them same as you and me. While other actors maybe watched other bats on the big screen, or did some reading research once they got the part. No other bats is able to refresh on the part by pulling shit out of,their own comics collection. But he can cuz he has one. And come on, how where you people not convinced after this?

But I'm sure many don't like Ben for the same reason they don't like DC in general. Its because we listen to what's fed to us. Its in our nature, but when you look at what's in front of you and not what's being relayed in the media. Greatness is hard to ignore.

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TLDR - All the Reasons BVS Will be more Exciting

  • Original Story (Not a Retelling like Civil War)
  • First Apearance of Wonder Woman and Aquaman in a Major Motion Picture
    • This is a historic moment in comic history for Both characters.
    • Both heroes have future stand alone films lined up in the future
  • Dark Knight armor
    • Possibly created from material from kryponian ships, that kal wouldn't be able to punch through.
  • Passionate Creators behind the Project
  • Batman and Superman are going to Punch each other
  • Batman and Superman on Screen Together
  • Batman Punching Superman
  • Superman Punching Batman
  • Aquaman
  • Wonder Woman

I Watched DOTA2’s TI5 Grand Finals Live In A Movie Theater

When Fathom Events announced that they had partnered with Valve to bring this year’s International Grand Finals live into select movie theaters, my girlfriend immediately decided we were going. My girlfriend, who hates mobas almost as much as she hates movie theaters mind you, knew just what it meant to be able to take part in what could be a once in a lifetime experience. Thankfully our city of residence happened to have a theater hosting the event. There was very little excuse for us to miss the world’s largest E-Sports event being the first such tournament to be live broadcasted on the big screen. As gamers, we knew what this meant to our beloved community. Suddenly I didn’t feel any amount of disrepute for my hobby, I was proud of it. I walked boastfully and confidently into the theater to have my ticket scanned for the event. My excitement was uplifted moments before we left for the theater when Evil Geniuses defeated LGD in the Semi-Finals, meaning the team I had been rooting for would be playing for the title against the Wild Card Team who also fought their way up to the top. This was going to be an amazing show.

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We arrived to a completely empty theater a few minutes before the scheduled start of the event. We were ecstatic to have a whole theater to ourselves! But we also weren't disappointed when 4 other people showed up to witness the start of the last five matches of TI5. So now we had other people to scream and shout at the screen with as we rooted for the American team to defeat China’s Wild Card team, CDEC.

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And holy shit, the teams came out swinging. The first two matches where action packed kill fests, you would think you were watching an all star match it was so crazy. EG took the first game by a country mile, and CDEC retaliated heavily in game two. And game three, jesus if you guys missed it go watch this match. I don’t think I’ve watched a more tense match of Dota. Not as action packed, but each team kept feeling out their opponents, never fully engaging, all as CDEC slowly gained a huge gold advantage around the 40 minute mark, only to have EG make a huge comeback off of a counter gank, putting them only one victory away from becoming TI5 Champions. My hype couldn’t have been higher, I had been enjoying popcorn and a banana flavored ICEE (the only good thing about a minions movie existing) while watching an E-Sports event on a Movie Theater screen, what more could this nerd need? I know what I wanted, I wanted to see EG take home the Aegis. And I wanted them to do it in another exciting match, with epic team fights and a great hero line up.

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Well I couldn’t have asked for a better hero line up for this match. We weren’t the only ones excited, with every kill all of us in the theater where bursting with excited yelling and “Ohh Shits!” throughout the entire match. EG showed their confident and experienced tactics as the superior Dota team right from the start, with Naga Siren being the unsung Hero of the match keeping all the lanes healthy for Radiant. But the deciding moment of the match came when CDEC tried to sneak a Roshan from under EG’s nose, and were brutally punished for it.Any chance of the match being anyone's game had been completely squandered at that point, as EG took the victory (and our breath)shortly after.

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The experience in that giant room was unreal, I might as well have been a spectator in the Key Arena itself, and we couldn’t wait to hear the thoughts of both teams before the closing ceremony. We got to hear from a humble and surprised EG, but we spent no time with the 2nd place finalists who fought their way into the International all the way to the grand finals. This was only further frustrated by a very out of place closing performance by DeadMau5, who played very ominous music as the camera quickly zoomed in and out of a close up shot of the DJ. It was one of the most out of place things I have ever scene. It reminded me of being at an amazing epic Metal concert, only to have the venue play Nickleback after the show in order to get us out of the building quickly (which always worked very well). And that’s kind of what it felt like here. But I don’t think anyone is going to let an out of place DJ performance ruin the memories of that incredible series of games. Nor will I ever forget witnessing Gaming's largest tournament live on the big screen.

Rocket League: A Past Due Review

So here's the thing. I have had a lot of trouble writing this review. Every time I sit down to write about Rocket League, I gain a very large urge to just pick the game back up and start playing, which is what I've been doing since the game came out. I've actually had to uninstall the game for the time being, just to get this damn review done in a somewhat timely manner and get back to playing this marvel of a game. With that said, if you haven't read a Past Due Review from me before, do not expected a scored review. This is an examination of the game on a component by component basis. Such as, animation quality, modeling, lighting, particle effects, audio, game mechanics, level design, and more.

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The biggest reason I decided to study game design was my fascination with the concept of Play. Play is a thing we need to engage in to survive as children, and yet many of us lose sight of the notion of play as we grow older. Play makes us healthy, strong, and causes us to critically think. Many great and innovative games, whether on the field, a computer, or even a board game, show a great understanding of what it means to engage someone in the act of play. Soccer is one such game that has captivated people in play for many years (sorry, but yeah I call it that because Americans taught me a far dumber sport was called football.) And what Psyonix has done with both Rocket League and Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars was give players a brand new way to play the game, simply by altering the way we interact with the ball. In this physics based game the most impressive component is the methods you use to control your Battle-Car. At the end of the day, you only need to make your car hit the ball into the goal, but the character controller for the car gives you so many ways to hit the ball, interact with your opponents, and traverse the environment. The amount of ways you can make your car avatar move will surprise you countless times, but it stays true to the age old concept of easy to learn, hard to master. All while keeping the core concept of play at the center of it all, never letting the player forget about the heart and soul of a game that has reminded me that we all live to play. And play you will. Rocket League doesn’t just create a great experience, it re-creates what it felt like to be 6 years old, playing on the field with your friends in what ever manner it may have been.

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 The magic of all this is what Rocket League is able to do to the expectations you have of both the game and yourself. Starting out you may not feel like you can contribute much to the experience, as your skill set improves with time and experience. However, you will start to feel yourself progressing the more you play and learn the eccentricities of the games control method. It reminds me of why I fell in love with DOTA 2. I always felt a sense of progression in what I could accomplish as a player. This is no different than my time spent in Rocket League, and I still know I can dramatically improve with even more practice. Give yourself enough time and effort, and Rocket League will allow you to do some pretty amazing things.

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I can not wait to see this game played at an E-Sports level. I can see myself watching professional players play this game maybe as much as I’ll play it. And the methods of play feel dramatically different whether you choose to play the standard 3v3, 1v1, 2v2, or the absolutely hectic 4v4. No matter how you prefer to play you will always be having fun. So rarely have I played a competitive multiplayer game where I never payed attention to the score board. Win or lose, Rocket League always lets me have a blast engaging in my all-time favorite activity, Play.

animations

What I usually get to talk about a lot in these reviews are the animations of the games characters. Well Rocket League doesn’t have any characters in the traditional sense, instead it has cars that do move in a surprisingly animated fashion. Between the jumping, dodging, rolling, boosting, bouncing, and barrel rolling, there are actually a lot of appropriately exaggerated movements in Rocket League.

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The animations are subtle but they are there. Sure they’re not the most complicated things to make in the world, seeing as how most of them are just transforms of position and/or rotation, but the speed and motion is fluid. With no strange spikes or wacky jitters anywhere in the movements, ensuring that your vehicle will always be in the exact position you tell it to be in, which is extremely important in a physics based game like this.

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The game’s simplicity certainly shows itself in the games various 3D models. They all look absolutely gorgeous from a couch, but up close and personal to your computer monitor, a few things start to look a little cheap. Its not that the models aren’t constructed well, all the geometry seems to fall in the right place and the textures are suitable, but they are just that: suitable. Everything is clean and flawlessly modeled in a very simplistic fashion, yet it's not ever one thing that makes Rocket League's models and art style. It's the composition of all of them in a scene together. Combining all these simple textures and shapes with the best atmospheric effects the Unreal engine can offer, creates a saturated, but not quite cartoony art style that allows every important object to pop out at you. So even though the individual models are nothing to be impressed by, this does keep your attention where it matters without being distracted by anything too detailed.
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Again the lighting is also kept quite simple, making sure you are never distracted by what could have easily been quite an eye grabber. The lighting definitely captures the feeling of an arena.

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You can see shadows from the rafters below you as your shadow follows your movements along the ground and up the walls, all while the reflective effects on the cars and walls glisten with the warm lighting of the sunset off in the distance.  It's almost a shame that you won’t ever be looking for these things, because you’ll be so immersed in the action around you that the lighting team's hard work just becomes another impressive aspect of the games second nature.

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The effect above may be my favorite particle effect of all time. It is certainly my favorite explosion effect hands down, and the expertly crafted tech art doesn’t end there. First off, everything is subtly covered in a Minority Report esque glaze, and it is most notable when the ball is just about to enter a goal and the line it must cross fades into visibility. There are also very subtle particle effects, such as the dust left from your tires when jumping and the clash effect when you trade paint with an opponent racing to block his shot on the goal. When you take into account the number of boost trails you can apply to your Battle-Car, the hard work of the Tech Art team starts to become quite apparent.

The above effect may be my favorite particle effect of all time. It is certainly my favorite explosion effect hands down, and the expertly crafted tech art doesn’t end there. First off, everything is subtly covered in a Minority Report esque glaze, and it is most notable when the ball is just about to enter a goal and the line it must cross fades into visibility. There are also very subtle particle effects, such as the dust left from your tires when jumping and the clash effect when you trade paint with an opponent racing to block his shot on the goal. When you take into account the number of boost trails you can apply to your Battle-Car, the hard work of the Tech Art team starts to become quite apparent.

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This is how you do player feedback well. Every bump, slide, boost, jump, crash, and goal is exactly what your imagination expects these colorful and nearly cartoony objects would sound like, and like bees to the hive, the engines buzz around the map, frantically attempting to be the next one who causes the following amazing blast sound.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVpQ9Mo7EUU

This consistency with the game’s art style holds true in the games soundtrack as well. The music in the main menu will most likely stick with you for a few hours after playing.

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This is where the game’s Achilles' heel resides. At the time of this review there are only a handful of maps that are all basically the same level with different textures and day or night effects. Don’t get me wrong, this is a very masterfully crafted level, but it could begin to get repetitive if more maps weren't on the way. Thankfully though Psyonix has some more maps on the way, the first being my favorite from the previous entry in this series. It is in that game where you can find some examples of the great creativity this level design team can bring to the table, and while I’m glad they seem to be on their way to Rocket League, I wish that at least one of these unique maps was in the standard game.
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Menus and sub-menus are presented in clear way that makes sense while navigating. The options screen may even surprise you with the amount of ways you can customize your view and controls, with fully re-bindable keyboard and controller functions. While the PC port of the game runs quite well, there are a few strange quips that can be a bit annoying while navigating the menus with a Mouse. Most button icons will show the PS4 commands and quite a few buttons need to be double clicked while navigating the menu. But the game does control well in matches with either a controller or keyboard and mouse. The only strange thing for me was that the default keybinding is right click to jump and space to view the ball, but with a quick key-rebind I swapped these two and was good to go. The only time the controls are completely broken on PC are in the replay mode. It is nigh-on impossible to navigate as it will always use the max DPI of your mouse, and if you're like me and have an 8200 DPI mouse, accelerating that just makes for a crazy wacky camera.

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For those of you who love decking out your car, you’ll have a blast here. You will need to play the game a bit to unlock more options and accessories for your Battle-Car, but there are enough starting choices to make your car your own. Another great example of two incredible parts of the game, show themselves working together very well here. This being the audio and particle effects for the boost trails. There are so many different boost trails and each one of their respected sound effects compliments the effect in the best extent possible.

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For all the good I’ve talked about Rocket League, I do have one complaint. If I were to review this game as a sequel charging me $20 for the same shit I got in Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket Powered Battle-Cars, you can bet my tone would be different. So why haven’t I been looking at it that way? After all my girlfriend and I have enjoyed quite a bit of SARPBC and Rocket League is basically a reskin with less maps and a few extra features. Well to be honest, it's because this game is still just as fun. Maybe even more so now that it is much more well known, and those extra features like Seasons and Vehicle Customization do kind of enhance the experience. And I won't lie, I want as many people to experience this game as humanly possible. I have no personal gain in such a goal other than the sheer fact that if one more person gets to feel the same thing I felt when I first made an airborne goal, I’ll have brought a level of joy to someone unlike any other gaming experience. Psyonix deserves praise for their incredibly talented team members, insight into game theory, and heart that they have so celestially celebrated here. I wouldn’t feel rash in debating within my head if this is my game of the year, it's just so hard because I also really like The Witcher 3. But I have no doubts this will end up being my favorite competitive multiplayer game this year, and I have no intention of ridding myself of my addiction to a game that, as I mentioned earlier, allows me to simply play.

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Game: Rocket League
Developer: Psyonix
Source: Steam
Special thanks to Fyshokid for the GamePlay Footage!
Audio and Video: Recorded in Game

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