Mission Complete: Overcooked

It’s been a while since we’ve had a game like Overcooked. It is a frenetic, chaotic and entertaining experience. Filled with moments of intense joy and frustration. Though not frustrating in any way that is a detriment to the game. Overcooked is one of the best games of the year and has earned a warm place in my heart.

On paper, Overcooked sounds really simple. You, and up to three of you friends, take on the various kitchens, or levels, and have to cook recipes in a certain amount of time. Once the time has run out all the orders you have completed are tallied up and you are given anywhere between a 0-3 stars rating. The more points you earn from finishing orders the more stars you get. One star is required to complete a level but each level requires an increasing amount of stars to unlock it. Levels start easy enough with only one recipe and an easy kitchen to maneuver through. Rather quickly, however, you learn new recipes and eventually you have to be able to cook several different recipes at once. If that wasn’t challenging enough for you, then just wait until the levels go from being hard to “how the hell do I even cook in this place?” Later stages get extremely creative, and outlandish, especially in the latter half of the game. One moment your cooking soups on a sailboat with shifting countertops and the next your cooking burritos in a spaceship with rotating rooms. As challenging and crazy as that sounds it never feels like the game is too hard to best, a testament to developer Ghost Town Games design and balance. By the time you get to the later stages you’ve learned how to deal with the chaos. Provided you have good friends with whom to communicate with.

20170104195735

Overcooked’s gameplay is fun and chaotic but what really makes it a wonderful experience is that it is a testament to the old days of “couch co-op.” There is no online play in Overcooked, so you can’t buddy up with your pal who is at his house and play together. If you want to play with others you’ll have to bring over some friends and controllers. That might sound like a detriment but it is far from it. I love the fact that you have to play the game with people next to you as it is what makes the game so enjoyable. You and your friends will be yelling at each other to hurry up, finish up recipes, or to get out of the way. Frustration quickly sets in among you and your friends but when you finally beat that hard level or obtain that final star you feel nothing but pure satisfaction and joy. The moments when my friends and I created strategies to beat a level and it led to us being successful were moments that made me fall in love with Overcooked. After you get a taste of how great it is to play with your friends next to you then you’ll want to share Overcooked with everyone.

20170104195759

Sort of like Mario, there are different Worlds with numerous stages to conquer. As you progress you open up new parts of the map. One of my favorite things is moving through the map as you get to drive a little bus and go from one level to another. The animations and art are nothing spectacular but it is very charming and colorful which sets the tone for the game and gives it a “happy” feeling. Apart from the main stages, there are also versus stages for you and you friends to go head-to-head. These are equally as fun as you and your friends will quickly claim bragging rights over each other.

20170104195859

Overcooked Map

I loved every minute of Overcooked. It was one of the most enjoyable and fun experiences I had with a game this year. Overcooked successfully reinvigorates “couch co-op.” Ghost Town’s game is one of my favorite games of the year and I think everyone should give it a shot, even non-gamers. At its core, Overcooked is a social game meant to be enjoyed with some of your best friends and that is what I love about it.  Keep releasing more DLC and I am for sure going to come back and with some friends too. Don’t miss out on this one, please. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up. And hopefully, we get more games like this and, if all goes well, Overcooked 2.

Mission Complete: Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

After I had finished Infinite Warfare’s opening mission I was disappointed. It was a very generic Call of Duty mission that had little exposition before it and quickly turned into the “shooting gallery” that Call of Duty makes a name off of. In fact, the first mission seems only necessary because it introduces the main villain of the game Admiral Salen Kotch. To my surprise, however, Infinite Warfare quickly turned my expectations around and delivered one of the best stories from a Call of Duty game in years. I would even go as far to say that it is one of the best installments in the Call of Duty series and is one of my favorite games of the year. Infinite Warfare delivers a surprisingly emotional and riveting story along with a strong multiplayer mode.

Infinite Warfare’s opening mission might have been a letdown but the second mission quickly works to turn that around. It opens with a celebration underway back on Earth. You play as Nick Reyes a soldier in the Special Combat Air Recon unit (SCAR) of the United Nations Space Alliance (UNSA). During this celebration on Earth, a rogue group known as the Settlement Defense Front (SDF or SetDeF) attacks UNSA headquarters and renders the UNSA fleet defenseless. Playing as Reyes you play through this attack and afterwards have to come to terms with the consequences. The second mission is absolutely riveting, a complete turnaround from the first mission. As you play through the mission you witness the evil of the SDF as they attack not only soldiers but civilians. There are multiple scenes of countless civilians dead, running for their lives or pleading to stay alive. What quickly makes this mission so gripping is how the main characters react. Through dialogue and their actions, the characters show immense care for civilian life and the lives of their soldiers. In other words, your character, Nick, and his squad make you care for them and their world because of how realistically they react to the actions in the game. All the death and destruction left behind after the second mission is what sets up the rest of the game.

Death is a big theme tucked underneath the storyline of Infinite Warfare. Throughout the game, there are serious talks between characters about death and loss. After the attack on Earth, you get promoted to Captain and are charged with running your own ship. There are many times when Nick will comment on the soldiers he couldn’t save or feel regret for ordering soldiers into situations from which many of them didn’t come back. Other characters talk about how they as soldiers have to be ready to sacrifice themselves at a moments notice for the benefit of Earth. All of this helps create grounded realism and intense emotion in Infinite Warfare. What helps sell all of this drama is the supporting cast and characters.

As I mentioned Nick’s promotion gives him a new array of problems but helps add emotional depth to a man who might otherwise be another cliche war hero. The other characters in the game add personality and carry with them depth as well. Ethan (spelled E3N) is a new android specifically built for combat that joins Nick’s squad at the beginning of the game. Even though he is a robot he displays emotion and care as much as the human characters do. Ethan quickly earned a place in my heart as he has some of the funniest and most touching lines in the game. Then there is Nick’s best friend Lieutenant Nora Salter, and she steals the show. Salter’s character is the only character in the game that undergoes constant development. She is tough, funny, and charming. As Nick’s friend, she constantly is showing care for him and encouraging him. Things change between Nick and Salter when he gets promoted. Salter cannot always speak her mind as a friend can and she can’t always argue with him either because he outranks her. The relationship between the two is one of the game’s biggest highlights. Their relationship feels real and palpable and it continues to change throughout the game. Between the three main characters and their relationships come the game’s most touching, funny, and heartbreaking moments. Moments that will truly elicit emotions out of you unless you’re a robot.

Along with small emotional touches in the story, there are a number of big set pieces and amazing visual moments. Infinite Warfare does a great job of immersing you. In huge battles, there are planes buzzing overhead, bullets flying everywhere, soldiers covering your field of vision, ships exploding in the background etc. Every now and again the game throws beautiful vistas at you, like a wide shot of Saturn and it’s rings or a view of a calm Earth in the background. The graphics are good, though they aren’t up to par with games like Uncharted 4 or Battlefield 1. The character models and animation, in particular, are great as they showcase full facial expressions and realistic emotional body gestures.

Another wonderful surprise is how lenient Infinite Warfare is compared to the previous Call of Duties. Once your character Nick is promoted to captain you gain control of the ship and its various aspects. For example, you gain your own private captain’s quarters where you can read logs to flush out the story, view a most wanted list of SDF personnel, and view certain files only the captain has access too. As captain, you also get to choose which mission your ship and crew undertake next. You can choose between the main story missions, optional most wanted missions and jackal missions where you control your own spaceship and fight enemies. The spaceflight missions are fun and are as robust as possible without it feeling like an on-rails shooter. Taking on optional missions gives you rewards such as weapons, perks, and customization options for your jackal fighter. With such an open-ended mission structure and the rewards it offers, Infinite Warfare makes you want to come back for more. Before each mission, you can go to the armory in your ship and choose your loadout. Similar to how your loadout works in multiplayer. There is high replay value in the campaign.

Infinite Warfare includes the normal multiplayer that you can expect comes with a Call of Duty game and a new addition is the 80s themed zombies mode. There are twelve different maps in the multiplayer with many of the similar modes such as kill confirmed, team deathmatch and search and destroy, and fan favorites like ground war and the always fun gun game. You can pick different soldier types which work like classes in most other multiplayer games. For example, the warfighter class essentially works as the assault class. Your loadout is once again limited by points that add up with each item that you add to your loadout. Classes are the one thing in the game that you don’t have to unlock as you have three different types available from the get go. Zombies is also still the same as you try to find the power and upgrade your weapons to try and survive wave after wave of zombies. It’s still very fun and fast-paced with different, more challenging enemies popping up every five or so rounds. Just remember if you don’t cooperate with your teammates your destined for failure.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is one of the best games of the year and one of my top games for 2016. Its surprisingly touching and deep story enthralled me and its open structure made me enjoy it more than any other Call of Duty game has in a long time. If you’re a fan of first-person shooters then Infinite Warfare should be on your list. It’s the complete package of a campaign, multiplayer, and cooperate modes.

Mission Complete: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered

Few games make quiver with anticipation for their release. Of the games that do, even fewer are remastered versions and re-releases for new consoles. But when it was announced that Modern Warfare was getting the remastered treatment I was ecstatic. Modern Warfare is a masterclass game, a first-person shooter (FPS) for the ages. It was a game that redefined what it meant to be at the top of FPSs. There are so many memories that come back to me from playing this game, so it was no surprise I was incredibly excited to dive back into a video game classic. For the most part, it was a great revisit.

Call of Duty®: Modern Warfare® Remastered_20161106020855

 

I remember the first time I played Modern Warfare. My dad and I were decent Call of Duty fans and we were looking forward to Modern Warfare because it was the first Call of Duty to be set during modern times. At the time it was one of the few shooters that wasn’t set in another time period. As soon as my dad got home with a copy we sat down and played it. As if it was yesterday, I remember the first grandiose moments of the game. The opening training scene, the epic first mission on the tanker with the incredible score to boot. Afterwards, a slow, low tempo score begins with a black background and words appear: “Infinity Ward Presents. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.”Chills went down my spine, I knew this was going to be a great experience.

Modern Warfare was the complete package: a fast, frenetic and tense single-player campaign with a deep, fun and addictive multiplayer. The multiplayer especially was what set Modern Warfare apart and would eventually turn Call of Duty into a household name and a huge money maker. It is fitting then that Modern Warfare got the remastered treatment. How well does it hold it up, though? In a nutshell, pretty well.

 

First off, the game still feels great and looks great too. Modern Warfare Remastered’s gameplay remains untouched from the original, so the gameplay feels great but that means it lacks the speed that many modern day shooters have today. Especially when you sprint, it feels more of a jog now than a full blown run. Fortunately, that is the only problem I noticed with the gameplay. Everything else feels just like the original Modern Warfare. However, Remastered is much prettier. The new graphics pop with modern day detail and lighting. The background vistas especially pop because now you can see much more detail from afar. I don’t think it looks as good as some of the best looking games (i.e. Battlefield 1 and Infinite Warfare) but it still looks better than most games. There is one big gripe I found with the game: the sound. I mentioned earlier how much I noticed the soundtrack the first time I played. Well now the soundtrack, along with most of the sound in the game, is lacking. Guns sound weak and muffled and for some reason, it sounds like the in-game music was turned down. My sound setup includes a soundbar with subwoofer and I had to turn it up more than usual to get decent sound. However, I quickly forgave the sound problem since everything else seemed good. All in all the campaign is still good and enjoyable, especially with the new graphics. Let’s be honest, though. As with all Call of Duty games you were probably going to buy this one because of the multiplayer. And yes, the multiplayer is still well intact with all its glory.

 

Modern Warfare’s multiplayer is what made it a classic. Once people got a taste of the multiplayer they became hooked. This is what started the Call of Duty craze. To be honest, since Black Ops 2 I haven’t really been invested in Call of Duty games or their multiplayer. But when I heard that Modern Warfare Remastered would come with its multiplayer intact I lost my mind. Funny story: I refused to play Modern Warfare’s multiplayer when it released back in 2007. I was a Halo 3 kid. Friends would tell me it was just as good as Halo 3’s multiplayer, if not better. “Blasphemy,” I thought. Then one day I gave it go and afterwards I didn’t let up for weeks. Yes, it’s still good today. In fact, the only things that have changed are that it only has 10 of the original 16 maps in launched with, and the level cap/prestige level has been reduced to level 55. I believe in the original it was 60 or 65. Remastered has its hooks in me again just like the original did. I have only been playing it for two days and I am wanting to go back for more.

Call of Duty®: Modern Warfare® Remastered_20161106105312

 

Modern Warfare Remastered is great. It sucks you can’t buy it standalone and only with Infinite Warfare. But those extra ten dollars get you a game that people and video game critics adore. It is one of the greatest games ever made. I have a feeling more people are going to be playing Remastered’s multiplayer  more than Infinite Warfare’s multiplayer. If you have never played it, get it and experience a classic. It might feel slow but you are in the presence of a great game. If you have played it, chances are you already bought it or on your way to get it right now. Enjoy it and now excuse me I have to go hit my first prestige.

Mission Complete: No Man’s Sky

As I traveled the galaxy and visited No Man’s Sky planets there was a sense of wonder and magic. Never has a game captured things from my imagination and made me feel like I was actually experiencing them. At its best, No Man’s Sky surprises you, fills you with wonder, and will make you smile while in awe. It elicits emotions that bring back memories when I was a kid when I used my imagination to create and play in a world I wanted to. Unfortunately, at its worst, it becomes riddled with small problems. Although its problems aren’t enough to take away from the sense of wonder, they do bring down the game significantly.

In case you didn’t know, No Man’s Sky is a game where you can travel to a quintillion different planets. That is no exaggeration. You can literally travel to that many planets. How? Well according to developer Hello Games it is all based on math. An algorithm creates and develops worlds as you travel to them. Each world is randomly created based on different variables that the algorithm controls. In essence, no world, along with its creatures and plant life, will ever look the same. Even different solar systems look different because they can vary in colors, the number of planets, and even number of stars. Plus the planets have day and night cycles that vary with the number of stars it orbits and its distance from them. I could go on and on with the details but basically, No Man’s Sky universe is as realistic as it possibly can be.

Now the gameplay is simple. You mine resources on planets to power you suit, craft useful items and weapons, and power your ship in order to keep traveling further. Think Minecraft but in space. As you mine resources sentinel bots (the space police) will take note and eventually try to eliminate you once you’ve mined too many resources. This is No Man’s Sky first problem. Your mining laser is essentially your blaster as well and shooting is not fun at all. It is hard to aim and bots move fairly quickly. Combat quickly becomes annoying and frustrating.

In the beginning, you are stranded on a random planet. To leave, you have to collect resources to rebuild your ship and power it up. No Man’s Sky doesn’t hold your hand and it is a poor decision. It very briefly explains controls and then sets you free in less than five minutes. Crafting isn’t as robust as in Minecraft. Often you’ll have to craft multiple things in order to finally craft the final resource you actually need for something. Of course, you don’t know this unless you explore the menu. Then even the menus get complicated because there are two different ones and it takes some time to get used to which one you need. Even as an experienced gamer, it take me a few hours before I completely understood all the mechanics. Now you do learn them as you begin to travel into space but things are not explained well.

My biggest frustration came about eight hours into the game. I had been collecting resources for an hour and finally I was ready to return to my ship. As I looked back my ships icon said “arriving in 20:00.” Twenty minutes to walk back. The game runs in real time so if a planet is three hours away, you are going to fly for three hours. Now you can warp drive but while on foot you cannot call your ship to you at any point. It is weird to say this but even as realistic a space sim No Man’s Sky is I wish it was a little more “game-like”. My inner astronomer loves the realism of the game but I can’t deny that it detracts from the game at times. Coupled with the lack of tutorials and poor combat the game can be quite annoying.

When No Man’s Sky works it soars above any other space game out there. But when the games problems arise I quickly begin to lose interest in continuing my journey. I don’t dislike the game but it fails to keep me engaged and coming back for more. Sometimes I feel guilty I that I don’t feel like playing a game that I was so excited for. In the end, that is ultimately the game’s fault. I hope that, like Minecraft, No Man’s Sky continues to get updates and new features added. Maybe one day it will be the juggernaut we all wanted it to be. For now, all I can say is give it a shot. Some people really like it while others not so much. I definitely will come back with lowered expectations and see if my thoughts change.

Mission Complete: Quantum Break

When I was younger I used to love playing the Max Payne series by developer Remedy. The noir story and chaotic gameplay made it an awesome experience. I also really liked Alan Wake, it too had a great story and gameplay. It is no surprise then that I was looking forward to Quantum Break.

Quantum Break takes a lot of inspiration from Remedy’s past games. It has an emotional and exciting story fused with fun, chaotic gameplay. You play as Jack Joyce, a young man with time powers who is trying to save the world from a “time disaster”. I know I am giving a really vague premise but I don’t want to ruin any of the story for you. I went into the story completely blind and I am glad I did. Just know the story is really great with some really good poignant moments.

If you didn’t know, between each act in the game there is an episode of the Quantum Break TV show. You can only get the TV show from the game but you can choose to skip them and watch all four episodes later, or watch each one in between each act of gameplay. Each episode is only thirty minutes long, so about the length of your average sitcom. It is also all live action meaning it uses real actors and sets, in case you were thinking it was more of a really long cutscene. There are some notable actors including Shawn Ashmore as Jack Joyce, a.k.a. Iceman from X-men. The TV show focuses on the side characters in the game and also the antagonists and their motives. Overall it is pretty well done but don’t expect Netflix or HBO level of production values. I did look forward to watching each one, it served as a nice pure story break from the gameplay.

The main story is really well done and has great moments. Remedy shines with narratives quite often and Quantum Break is no exception. Quantum Break’s gameplay is also well done. Think Max Payne but with time powers instead. As you take on baddies you get a small assortment of time powers to help you in combat. One power lets you quickly time skip across small distances to quickly get away from gunfire and set up another angle to return fire. Another power allows you to distort time in a bubble around you causing enemy gunfire to not be able to penetrate the bubble. There are a few more powers that can be used both offensively and defensively and all of them are upgradable throughout the game. There is no cover system and Jack moves at a pretty quick pace which makes the gunplay move very fast. You’ll find yourself quickly zipping past large numbers of enemies, using a few time powers and then zipping away when they all turn their fire on you. If it sounds like it could get old doing the same thing over and over again just know that the game overall is only about ten hours long.

Overall I really liked Quantum Break. The story was well done and at times had me really enthralled at certain events. With the quick move and pop gameplay, it was really fun. I’d recommend people who like single-player experiences to give it a shot. It could really be worth you time.

 

Mission Complete: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Welcome to my first Quality Time article. Quality Time articles will be my thoughts on the most recent games I have played. Not a review, I will not score the games I play. Instead, I will go into what I think about the game and its aspects. Although a little late, my first Quality Time will cover Uncharted 4. Let’s get to it.

Without a doubt, Uncharted 4 is one of the best games I have every played. Arguably, it is one of the greatest games ever created. From the top down the game shines from all the polish and love developer Naughty Dog has thrown into Uncharted 4. Aesthetically it is mind blowing how great it looks. From small snowflakes resting on Nate’s face to the facial gestures on display in all of the game’s characters, Uncharted 4 is absolutely beautiful. If you have played any Uncharted game you pretty much know the formula. You go to a beautiful location, shoot bad guys, and then traverse the environment while solving a few puzzles along the way. All of that still works great and, more importantly, feels as good as it ever has. The one minor gripe I have with the game is the lack of major set pieces. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any cool shootout sequences or car chases, but nothing new has been thrown into the mix. However, that isn’t a bad thing. What set pieces are here are fun and exciting nonetheless. This minor gripe I easily forgave because of how incredible the story in Uncharted 4 is. The acting and writing are on par with any great television series or movie out there. Never have I been more connected to the characters in a game. You definitely see the carry overs from Naughty Dog’s last game The Last of Us. I have to say that I feel Uncharted 4’s story takes the cake from The Last of Us. The story covers themes of love, marriage, family, what matters to one, sacrifice and losing yourself in your pursuit for pride. What makes this game so special is how the gameplay serves the story. Inside collectibles, you uncover the stories of others and they provide harsh metaphors to what the characters are going through. Not only that but there are entire sections of the game where you are deliberately put into situations simply to experience the emotions, feelings, and relationships between characters. Although these sections are deliberate they flow expertly together thanks to the incredible writing. This game is an experience from start to finish. One that everyone, even maybe the non-gamer, should embark on.

Uncharted 4 is one of my favorite games ever. If this truly is the last Uncharted, then I will put the franchise up on high pedestals among others like the Metal Gear series. It is a game that understands that good writing is important, no matter what the medium is. Naughty Dog brings a level of craft that is unparalleled right now. I cannot tell you how much I love this game and its legacy. Once I got to the final part of the story, it pulled at my heart strings and tears ran down my eyes. I cant praise this game enough. If you haven’t yet, go out and get Uncharted 4. Turn off the lights, turn up the sound (better yet use headphones) and just let go for a few hours. You won’t regret it.