Who IS Batman In The Next Open World Game?

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In the wake of our confirmation that one of the numerous villains you’d be facing in the next open world Batman game is The Judge, there’s still one VERY big question about this game which people have been dying to get confirmation of (you already know if you’ve been listening to the podcast, though).

Originally, I had reported the protagonist under the cowl this time would be ‘Batman’s son’.  As I, myself, am Batman illiterate, I wasn’t aware that this information would have been perceived as controversial.  The outlets which ran my story had decided to slap Damian Wayne’s name on this, but they were jumping the gun, and I spent a good amount of energy attempting to set the record straight.

Honestly, Batman’s son could have been anyone.  Depending on how many ‘universes’ you’re willing to take into consideration:  Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Clark Wayne, Terry McGinnis, Tallant Wayne, Ibn al Xu’ffasch (yeah, I’ve been doing a little research)… and I don’t even know if that exhausts all the possibilities.  You can argue alternate timelines, people he loved LIKE sons, or anyone that’s been ‘developed’ rather than naturally created isn’t a connection that shouldn’t be considered.  But, fact of the matter is, if the game’s development studio is willing to change the face of Batman in gaming from Bruce to… well, someone else… then theoretically, they could go in any direction they please.  As long as the player spends most, if not all of the game as a dude dressed as Batman, will game sales ultimately be affected?  Doubtful.

In light of the recent information that’s come along, however, I made sure to inquire about the true identity of Batman in the new game.

And Damian Wayne it is. 

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To my understanding, Damian is the only TRUE son of Batman in the main continuity, so I guess the devs ARE trying to stay within that particular universe.

With people guessing Damian would be in the new game, I’ve seen opinions split down the middle.  Some just don’t want to lose Kevin Conroy behind the mic, others are too used to seeing Bruce Wayne as the Bat, and some just flat out dislike Damian’s reckless behavior… or at least, reckless when compared to Bruce’s vigilante-in-hiding styling.  On the other hand, there are plenty of others who genuinely prefer the fresh take that Damian has provided to a character that had been established for decades without TOO much change.

For additional news on this game – and there WILL be more – make sure to add bytesizeimpressions.com to your favorites list in your browser, and check out the podcast, which is available to stream or download on this site, or through iTunes Podcasts if you live in North America.  After all, we did break the true identity of this Batman on the podcast first…

 

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Greatness Delayed Podcast – Pokemon Violence Gambling Disclosures

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Mike and Gus discuss the Nintendo Mini, Pokemon Go, violence in video games, CS:GO gambling, Shadow of Mordor disclosures, and more!

 

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Listen Up, Fanboys

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E3 was supposed to be Christmas for gamers.  Sure, the conferences exist mostly to appease investors, but this should have been the one time of year internet hate mongers set their differences aside, treat each other like human beings, and rejoice in a weeklong celebration.  Instead, what I’ve seen is a resurgence of the console wars, and it looks even sillier than it did at the beginning of the generation.

Since when did ‘fan’ become synonymous with gnarling your face and spitting the most putrid bile imaginable?  Like, why is this even a thing?  From where I’m sitting, it seems like all it takes is a difference of opinion.  Forget context, forget reason.  Hell, a number of the attacks I’ve seen on the net are completely unsolicited.

Is this really where we’re at?  We’ve struggled for decades to show the world that gamers aren’t childish… and for what?  To ultimately prove that stereotype is true?

Bravo, ladies and gentlemen.  Bravo.

Now, I’m not blanketing my anger over the entirety of the gaming community, but for those of you that have engaged in pointless cock-measurement contests – and you know who you are – I feel a reminder is needed.

In case you’ve forgotten, we’re on the same team… all of us.  So much time is wasted in Sony vs. Microsoft debates, and there’s so much wrong with this I don’t even know where to begin.

How about the fact that this isn’t a two horse race?  Why do people tend to forget about Nintendo?  I know they haven’t done very well with the Wii-U, but it’s still a great platform to play great games on.  Some people even prefer it.  And let’s not forget about the PC, which plays pretty much all third party games and even has some exclusives that can’t be found on consoles.

I don’t think I’m being too idealistic here, either.  If you want to know how dumb it is to compare consoles, just remember that most of what we play are the third party games.  And you know what the conversation centers around when we talk about them?  The games themselves, right?  When you meet up with friends, you might say, “Have you played the new Doom?  It’s freaking awesome!”  They’ll probably nod their heads and say, “Yeah man.  SO much fun!”  Know what they’re NOT going to say?  “Yeah man, totally!  I’ve been playing it on my PS4, and guess what?!  MY DYNAMIC RESOLUTION BUFFER IS BETTER THAN IT IS ON THAT CRAPPY XBOX!”  These conversations don’t happen.  They just don’t.  And when performance IS discussed, it’s because there’s glaring issues that go wayyyyy beyond hardware capability.

See what I’m saying here?  It’s all about the GAMES.  But, since you console warring trolls – again, you know who you are – can’t help but feed your superiority complex, I have a message I want each ‘side’ to consider:

Xbots – You fools.  You damn fools.  Sony fans have been giving you the business for years.  I imagine you’ve been waiting for the perfect opportunity to show the world you’re classier, more mature… and yet, the moment you felt victory within reach, you lost your minds.  No, really.  You did.  I don’t think you understand just how stupid you’ve looked since the Scorprio was revealed at E3.  It’s been like watching William Wallace’s army in Braveheart when they mooned their enemies… except instead of the ‘freedom’ battle cry, you’ve been banging on about teraflops.  Who cares about freakin’ teraflops?  I don’t.  And you know what’s funny?  Most of you don’t even know what a teraflop is.  All you’ve been doing is parroting the latest buzzword.  And besides, your victory is imagined anyway.  You’re comparing two consoles that have yet to see the light of day.  If that doesn’t make you feel sheepish, then you have a severe lack of self-awareness, my friends.

Sony Ponies – Yeah, the Xbots are coming off like a bunch of delusional lunatics right now, but to be fair, this is how your fan base has looked throughout the entirety of this generation.  900p or 1080p, 30fps or 60fps… who gives a shit?  You act like hardware performance is the most important thing in the world, but if you really felt that way, you’d buy a PC.  It’s really that simple.  Why compare nickels to quarters when you can get those dolla dolla bills, y’all?  And, I know what you’re going to say, too.  “Not everyone can afford a PC!”  True.  Consoles are less expensive than a PC.  There’s no denying that.  But I see a ton of you excited to drop at least another $400 on the Neo… after having already spent $400 on the OG PS4.  That’s $800 in a single generation… just for hardware.  You could have spent that money up front to get a machine that was capable of Neo-like graphics a while ago.  “But Sony are for the players!”  Nope.  They’re not.  They’re the same as any other major corporation out there.  They’ll smile in your face while they reach for the wallet resting in your back pocket.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gotten a lot of use out of my PS4, but that doesn’t mean I’m comfortable with bowing at Yoshida’s feet.

And while we’re talking about console fanboys being a little too mouthy for their own good, there’s a couple other camps that also need to be addressed:

Nintendo Fans – You are, undoubtedly, the nicest fan base of the bunch… but some of you take your affection for this brand wayyyyy too seriously.  Yes, Nintendo is a great place to play great games that can’t be found elsewhere.  But some of you straight-up pretend that games on other platforms aren’t any fun.  I totally get that we’re inundated with annual franchises and iterative formulas, but I still – and this is coming from someone who loves Nintendo – find plenty of great games to play.  Unfortunately, some of you believe it’s your job to hype the company up, and feed their bottom line by supporting every shitty business decision they’ll ever make.  Folks, on occasion, it’s OK to hold Nintendo’s feet to the fire.  You won’t lose your fan badge.  I promise.  Complaining is the only way to keep major corporations reasonably ‘honest’.  Do you really think having DLC in physical form is a good idea, especially in such short supply?  How about the short charge life on the Wii-U gamepad’s battery?  Have gimmicky controllers ever made any of their games better?  You don’t have to shy away from these issues.  I’ve made my feelings quite clear on Nintendo’s business practices (read here and here), and yet, I still enjoy their games.  I still consider myself a fan.  Crazy, right?

PC Master Race – With a name like ‘master race,’ you’d think some level of ACTUAL superiority would come into play… but oh, the hypocrisy.  You act like gaming on a PC puts you above the squabbles of console fans, yet you actively seek opportunities to fight with them, to let them know how much better your rig is, and likely has been for years.  But at the end of the day, you’re no better than those people, especially since you fight amongst yourselves over which brand of GPU is best.  I see hateful AMD vs. Nvidia arguments far too often, and I’ve only been actively looking in on those conversations since the beginning of 2016.  This year, PC has been my platform of choice, but your community is by far the most negative.  Outside of those pitiful GPU battles, you also come off as spoiled brats who won’t spend more than $5 per game.  Oh, and you try way too hard to justify piracy.  As gamers, we should all want to ensure devs get paid for the games we’re about to enjoy.  I get you want a better deal and all, but even without taking advantage of Ebay-like sites, pricing on PC games have been WAY better than anything I’ve seen in the console market.  There’s zero need to steal stuff.  So, when you cry a game isn’t within your insulting price range, I’ve got zero tears to shed.

Look, at the end of the day, we’re all gamers.  Is it really worth arguing over minor fluctuations in performance?  No.  Of course it isn’t.  For the most part, we’re still playing the same exact games.  There’s only two times off the top of my head where I felt a noticeable difference because of a change in platform:

Dragon Age Origins – Its battle system was designed around a keyboard and mouse, and unfortunately, that means the console iterations had to suffer.  Having played both PC and console versions of Origins, I can tell you that playing on a PC is almost like playing an entirely different game.  I’ll never play this on consoles again.

Diablo III – Oddly enough, Diablo III’s situation is precisely the opposite.  While the mouse and keyboard configuration worked well enough, hacking-and-slashing at a thousand clicks a minute wasn’t very comfortable.  In Blizzard’s quest for more money, however, Diablo III was eventually ported to consoles.  Not content with following in the steps of Dragon Age, Blizzard worked hard on ensuring the game felt nice to play on a controller.  Well, not only does it feel nice, it is, in my opinion, the definitive way to play the game.  Not sure they’ll ever convince me to play the PC version again… unless they patch in controller support at a later date.  Seriously Blizzard, why haven’t you done this yet?!

I’m sure you guys have some other examples where gameplay itself can change from one platform to the next, but point is, these are exceptions to the rule.  So, stop your squabbling.  You’re wasting your time on that ‘mine is better than yours’ crusade.  The cold, hard truth is that each platform comes with its own unique set of flaws.  So, when you make it a point to attack another ‘side’ of the equation… well, you know what they say: “Don’t throw stones in a house of glass.”

My goal today wasn’t to just sit here and sling a bunch of shit talk your way, so please, don’t take it like that.  Instead, I’ve merely attempted to show you all how foolish you look when you behave like children, a look which gamers simply do not need perpetuated by people who aren’t secure in the financial decisions they’ve made.  Game on, everyone… but please, let’s do it quietly, or at the very least, positively.

The Illusion of Choice

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Unless I’m misreading how people feel about the gaming industry’s economic climate, they’re sick to death of microtransactions and DLC. However, instead of rallying against these business models, folks are opening their wallets, and I can’t for the life of me understand why they’re not seeing the forest through the trees. The average consumer should be ashamed of how often they’ve fallen for the carrot-on-a-stick routine… but I guess from their perspective, ignorance is bliss. While that’s okay for some, I’m the kind of guy that would rather be bummed by knowledge than be oblivious to what’s going on. But unfortunately, consumer complacency reigns supreme, and some recent headlines have brought to light a new business model which hopes to further exploit that. And what is it? The illusion of choice.

First, let’s talk about Sony.

They’re taking a proactive approach to consumer grumblings. Instead of allowing minor complaints to fester into nasty headlines, they’re finding creative ways to appease their audience. That said, Sony’s peace offerings have been rather inadequate.

PS+ has changed a great deal since the initial launch, but much of the good will it’s garnered comes from a single perk: ‘Free’ AAA games. We’re talking Infamous 2, Bioshock Infinite, Demon’s Souls, Uncharted 3, Shadow of the Colossus, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Dead Space 3, and the list goes on.

Have gamers been spoiled? Perhaps, but Sony implemented this strategy to combat the multiplayer paywall known as Xbox Live. But that’s lost on them nowadays. They, too, have shackled multiplayer behind the bars of subscription fees, and those ‘free’ titles have devolved into an eighth generation indie-thon. Not that indie titles are bad, but it’s not what PS+ subscribers have been conditioned to expect.

I don’t think anybody expected Sony to give us retail games in the PS4’s first year. If they did, they were naive and just looking for a reason to bitch. Why would they cannibalize sales just to satisfy a few loose-lipped idiots on the net? But now after two years in this generation, we have yet to see so much as a launch title on the program. Are Killzone and Knack REALLY still selling enough copies to warrant their exclusion from PS+? I doubt it. Hell, even Microsoft – who, by the way, are still losing money per console sold (once taking research, development, and marketing into consideration) – have given Gold subscribers Tomb Raider and Rayman Legends. So, what gives?

This means the value of PS+ is plummeting, regardless of whether consumers care to perceive it that way or not. The promise behind this program, specifically in regards to the Playstation 4, was to strengthen both their servers and quality of ‘free’ content, while enhancing their community-based features.

I’d argue they haven’t done that.

Their servers are weaker than their (direct) competition. The quality of ‘free’ games have gone downhill. Their community-based features are nearly non-existent… unless you count clicking the ‘thumbs up’ button on a game or app a ‘community feature’.

And little by little, people have taken notice. So, Sony have invited PS+ subscribers to collectively vote for one of three indie titles… which is smart. VERY smart. When you give your customers the power of choice, they feel appreciated and shower you with good will. But in the business world, very few – if any – decisions are made with our best interest in mind. This vote was manufactured to extract good will, and more importantly, make people forget the ‘where’s our AAA’ discussion. And unfortunately, if the comments I’ve seen can act as a decent barometer, it worked. People don’t get that this was a diversionary tactic. They’d rather believe Sony are gracious and altruistic.

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The next headline that fits in with this ‘illusion of choice’ theme, is the recently unveiled Deus Ex: Mankind Divided ‘Augment Your Pre-Order’ program.

Pre-order exclusives have plagued this industry for a long time. Publishers have held content for ransom unless you’ve promised to buy their products sight unseen, and when you do, you’re STILL missing out because of retailer specific pre-order exclusives. “Buy it in advance, FROM US, or fuck you.” That’s the gist.

How much worse could it possibly get?

How about Kickstarter-inspired reward tiers based on pre-order numbers? The more people that pre-order, the more content they’ll get! Isn’t that GREAT?!

So, let’s break down why this sucks major donkey dick:

Kickstarter is meant to fund projects that wouldn’t exist without some financial help. But Square Enix and Eidos Montreal aren’t doing this to bring a passion project to life, but to sucker people into a ‘buy before you try’ agreement.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a loyal fan of the franchise, either. If enough people don’t pre-order, these companies are basically going to punish you and say, “Too bad, so sad. You should have told all your friends to pre-order, too.”

Now, pre-order DLC usually consists of cosmetic items, but the third tier for Mankind Divided features an in-game mission.

Last but certainly not least, three of the five tiers force you to choose between one piece of content over another. That means there’s no possible way to acquire all the extra goodies in the ‘Augment Your Pre-Order’ program… unless you feel like buying multiple copies..

Of course, the whole idea of ‘Augment Your Pre-Order’ isn’t meant to make you feel like you’re being raped by the anal splitting cock of a minotaur. No, it’s supposed to make you feel like you’re in control of your own destiny.

Well, whoopy-fuckin’-doo.

All gamers really want is to get a complete game at the complete price. But is there an option for that? Of course there isn’t. And why? Because ‘fuck you’. That’s why.

The ‘choose your own rewards’ mantra, much like ‘vote for your next PS+ game’, is little more than marketing bullshit to make you forget how hard you’re being screwed. I sincerely hope consumers are wise enough to tell Square Enix and Eidos Montreal to shove it up their ass. If that message isn’t delivered loud-and-clear, make no doubt about it: We WILL see more of this. A LOT more.

Review – LEGO: Jurassic World

When you open the door to a discussion on LEGO games, a few people that mosey in can’t wait to tell you how terrible they are. They’d go on about how they’d be nothing if they hadn’t stood on the shoulders of franchised giants, and inevitably bust out the ‘they’re for kids, anyway’ remark.

What’s frustrating is that, well… they aren’t wrong.

LEGO games ARE for children, and a major part of what makes them work for big kids are the licenses at play. But these complaints often come from narrow-minded plebeians that have never played a LEGO game, so I’ll lump them in the ‘broken clock is right twice a day’ category.

Once upon a time, I, too, was a LEGO naysayer. It wasn’t because the character models were too cutesy, nor because the gameplay was simple. No, it was because the most important character of all had been missing: Good stage design. Tackling Star Wars had been a grand idea, but the backdrops were too sterile and felt restrictive. But as time went on, this aspect of the LEGO games had gradually improved.

The real turning point had been Harry Potter Years 1-4. It did a fantastic job of adapting the film world into something that wasn’t entirely devoid of life… into something that was merely accented by LEGO as opposed to being ruled by it. Ever since, each successive game has only gotten better, with Pirates of the Caribbean and Marvel the developer’s greatest achievements to date.

Now, all four ‘Jurassic’ films have been adapted for the world of LEGO. Question was, would it roar onto the scene, or whimper its way to bargain bins?

Undoubtedly, one of the largest obstacles LEGO Jurassic World had was translating the second and third films. I’m a HUGE fan of the original, but The Lost World and Jurassic Park III left a lot to be desired.

While The Lost World had some good ideas at play and Steven Spielberg at the helm, it suffered from sluggish pacing and a silly, overindulgent finale. Jurassic Park III was smart to bring back Alan Grant, but… man, I don’t even know where to begin. Everyone else had been miscast to a horrifying degree. William H. Macy had nothing to work with, and Tea Leoni spent all her screen time screaming “ERIIIIIIIC!” Any semblance of plot or charm were nowhere to be found, instead opting to engage the audience as a 92 minute dino extravaganza… but, I guess that’s what happens when the director and his advisor (Spielberg himself) decided to reject a working script FIVE WEEKS before filming was set to begin. Bad jokes, T-Rex pee, a talking raptor, and a disrespected fan-favorite dinosaur, all culminate into a project that should have remained extinct.

I know some will disagree with this harsh assessment, but there’s a lot of people who have little-to-no love for the sequels. So, why would people want to play through them in a LEGO game?

Simply put, the devs understand how to keep things interesting. In this case, all four films are adapted into a total of 11 hours of playtime (or 15+ if you’re a completionist). All the meat’s been stripped from the bone, and all fat trimmed from the edges. What we have here is a lovingly crafted homage to the ‘greatest hits’ of the franchise. Every major set piece you’d expect would make an appearance does, and they’ve all been laced with the dev’s unique brand of family friendly humor. This means we don’t have to suffer to get to The Lost World’s exciting moments, while the plotless, yet action-packed Jurassic Park III works better as a cut-to-the-chase game than it ever did as a film. And hell, because LEGO Jurassic World incorporates the orchestral soundtrack and even original voice work from the films, there’s more than enough nostalgic driven charm to keep the Dinosaur Train a-chuggin’.

Of course, the gameplay itself hasn’t changed one iota. You typically have two characters at your disposal, each with their own special abilities. You move from one area to the next by breaking nearly everything in sight. Break the right stuff down, and you’re left with building blocks that will help you reach the next part of the stage. Specific skills are required to reach certain locations, so no single (primary) character will be neglected. Otherwise, everything else you beat down will leave behind LEGO bits, the game’s currency which can be used to unlock new characters, vehicles, and even dinosaurs.

Yes. You can even play as your favorite JP dinosaurs.

Very few are accessible through the primary campaign, however. You’ll constantly come across obstacles that can only be broken by certain dinosaurs (or other characters, for that matter), so you’re constantly reminded that you’ll need to play through the game multiple times if you’re looking for 100% completion. It would have been great to give us more control of the T-Rex, but the only extended time spent with him (her?) is during a playable bonus stage during the end-credits of each ‘film’.

Before moving on, let’s address something about those character abilities, because honestly, I’m surprised the doofs of #gamergate haven’t caught wind of them. While the guys are sneaking, shooting, grappling, chopping, or fixing their way through obstacles, the girls – get this – scream to break glass, and leap into ginormous piles of dinosaur shit. Now, I’m not personally bothered by this, because it echoes the source material. Women in the entirety of the franchise are quite strong, and digging through poo actually showcased their intellect, not some kind of weakness. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work as well in the context of a LEGO game. But, let’s be honest: If you’re playing LEGO Jurassic World, you’ve likely seen the films and know what the deal is.

But if you have yet to see Jurassic World, stay away from that portion of the game until you do (shouldn’t be long, I anticipate a DVD/Blu-ray release in October). In my opinion, it’s the first sequel that actually behaves like a worthy successor, but that experience might be lost on an audience that’s already had key moments spoiled by this game.

Anyway, the gameplay does get a little tedious, and the devs acknowledge that by tossing an occasional ‘chase sequence’ at us. Once in a while, you’ll find your characters running at the screen with a dinosaur licking their chops a few dozen feet behind. There’s pieces of LEGO currency to collect here as well, but unless you know what side of the screen they’ll appear on next (since you can’t see what’s coming), you’re bound to miss out on more of the goods than you’d like. Unfortunately, these chase sequences ALSO get tedious, since they seem to be the only variation in gameplay throughout.

Well, almost.

Once you hit the Jurassic World portion of the game, you’ll get to ride around in those human-sized hamster balls (as seen in the trailer), which provide new ways to solve environmental puzzles. You’ll also shoot projectiles from turrets, guide Compys through green pipes, bash Triceratops through concrete barriers, and quick-time event your way through massive dino battles. All are a welcome change of pace, but these moments are very brief, and too few and far between.

As far as performance is concerned, the game ran smooth on the Xbox One. LEGO titles aren’t exactly demanding though, so that isn’t much of a surprise. The only issue I stumbled upon during my time with the game was that a character would get stuck, meaning I’d have to quit and reload my most recent save. This wasn’t an isolated incident either, as it happened a total of four or five times. Thankfully, the game auto-saves enough to make this a minor issue, but that doesn’t make it any less disappointing.

Despite the flaws mentioned throughout this review, they’re all par for the course in LEGO-land. I really did have a blast playing through LEGO Jurassic World, and I’m not afraid to admit it’s because I’m a huge fan of the franchise. I mean, that’s the appeal of any LEGO game, is it not? It’s fun to play in a virtual playground that’s been designed as your favorite entertainment property, and the brand really knocked it out of the ‘Park’ this time. If you’re the kind of gamer that can just sit back and chill with something that offers little in the way of challenge or complexity… well, as John Hammond would say: “It’s right up your alley!” However, if you’ve never played a LEGO game before, there’s no better place to start than right here.