Journey (PS4)

Journey is an indie video game developed by “thatgamecompany” and is available exclusively on PlayStation 3 and 4 via the PlayStation Network (PSN.) The goal of the game is to travel through the desert towards a mountain off in the distance. There is only one character playable and it is a robbed figured that wears a trailing magical scarf that allows you to fly short distances. Throughout the game you collect pieces to add to your scarf that increase the distance you can fly.

Journey does not have a typical multiplayer or single-player campaign like many games. The campaign is an online campaign in which you play alone but can run into other players from around the world to complete levels. However, there is no way to communicate with the other player through speech or text, but simply a musical chime. You also have no idea who they are or where they are from but you have to work together in order to complete the level. The players can help each other by recharging each others scarves allowing them to fly greater distances and they can also help show the way or find hidden collectibles. Throughout the game there are also strips of cloth that can carry you through parts of the level, create bridges, and open doors that lead to the next stages of the game. In all, the game takes about two to three hours to complete.

As far as the aesthetic qualities of the game it is absolutely beautiful. Between the imagery and the music in the game they mesh together perfectly to form an amazing gameplay experience that allows the user to fully immerse themselves into the environment. Since Journey takes place in the desert, the scenery in the game is mostly open fields of sand with crumbled bridges and ancient-esque buildings in ruins. The developers did a great job making the game come to life whether it was the way the sun reflects off the sand or the way the wind transforms the visibility to nearly nothing as you venture through a snowy mountain. The composer, Austin Wintory, won a number of awards for his work on Journey as well as being Grammy nominated for “Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media.” The music in the game changes along with the scenery between upbeat inspiring sounds when surfing down a sand dune or the dark and ominous sounds when trying to go undetected by a dragon-like monster made of rock. The music tugs at your heartstrings through moments of joy and despair.

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The user interface is very minimalistic, the only controls available are walking, jumping/flying, and the musical chime I mentioned earlier. In the opening of the game you are in an open, empty desert not knowing where you are supposed to go or what you should be doing. As you progress through the game the environment becomes slightly more compact helping you complete the levels. As mentioned above, the musical chime is the only form of communication between players even though it doesn’t communicate much at all and the longer you hold the button the louder the chime becomes. This is used to get the attention of other players or to express gratitude for helping each other out.

The biggest social theme from Journey would have to be the idea of teamwork and companionship. Working with another character certainly isn’t necessary to complete the game, however it makes the game easier. Since there is no way to tell who you are playing with or to communicate with the player, it is amazing to see the level of teamwork involved in the game. With the recent election and the amount of hatred and violence we see in the media today, Journey does a great job to throw all of that out the window and force you to work together with someone you will never meet in your life.

This medium is unique in that it is essentially a playable short film. Some critics and reviewers have stated that Journey is more an experience than a game and it could potentially have been better suited as an animated short film rather than an interactive game.

Overall Journey is an amazing game that I would recommend to anyone that plays video games. The artwork and music alone were enough to pull me in and the gameplay and somewhat mysterious feel got me hooked. Like mentioned above, Journey only takes two to three hours to complete so it is a great game to just sit down and play and before you know it you have beaten the entire game and helped complete strangers along the way.

NBA 2K17:MyCareer Mode

NBA 2K17 is a basketball video game developed by Visual Concepts and published by 2K Sports. The video game allows players to do anything they want in regards to the National Basketball Association. There are five game modes within the game that appeals to all gamers. The five game modes are MyCareer, MyGM, MyLeague, MyTeam and Quick Game. MyCareer allows you to create a player and gives you a glimpse of what it is like being an NBA player. MyGM allows you to be the General Manager of a basketball franchise and make various decisions such as ticket prices, while playing through an NBA season. MyLeague Online allows you to play with your friends online to earn bragging rights in your circle. MyTeam mode allows gamers to build their own team with players that they obtain/receive in their journey of building the best team possible. Quick Game allows you to play an NBA contest with your friends or online against anyone in the world. 2k tries to appeal to all basketball fans with its’ various game modes and it succeeds. However, within this review I will focus on MyCareer.

The aesthetics of MyCareer in NBA 2K17 are solid overall. It gives you the opportunity to change the camera and sound when you are playing the 82 game season. However, a feature within the mode is you can see your player’s timeline and text messages. The responses to your player get dry after you play the game a few times.2k1720720-vadapt-767-high-0 For example, when you are trying to renegotiate a sponsorship your agent will respond the same regardless of it the deal is a shoe company or local restaurant.

Overall NBA 2K17 took a step back in the story mode from NBA 2k16 but made strides from a user experience. Director Spike Lee, directed NBA 2k16 MyCareer mode. Spike Lee directing was good overall but it did have cheesy storylines such as your childhood friend dying and your biological family being black regardless of your color. NBA 2K17 does not lack in storylines though with Michael B. Jordan, star of Creed being your best friend and teammate. But it did take a step back from the heavy scenes to balance out gameplay and story.

MyCareer has values because it has friends that you meet along the way and a love interest and mother in your corner at all times. It gives you the opportunity to choose how you want to act with your friends and women in your life on your off days. For example, you can choose to practice/hang out with a Michael B. Jordan or neglect him with an excuse. This can be seen as realistic because it is relatable to how we live our daily life. MyCareer also gives you the option to continue your relationship with your love interest or start drifting away from her.maxresdefault1 Socially and culturally this can drive the user to continue playing the game because of how interesting it is to see what the average NBA player would go through regarding relationships.

This mode is seen as a new form because of how dynamic the experience is for basketball fans. We never had the opportunity before to be able to be in such control of our player. For example, your player grows from a HS top prospect to an All-Star and along the way you navigate major direction and choices that will give you a different story line from the generic story. The creators utilize the features of choice to keep you interested and continue moving forward with the game. They fall short in this mode with two things: practice and tedious scenes. Practice is not fun but it is the only way you can further advance your player attributes. The tedious scenes in this mode are the showing of your player walking and it does not give you the opportunity to skip the scene.

Overall, the mode is effective because of how interesting it is. Witnessing your player grow is fun to people because it allows people to live their dreams of being a professional athlete. It even allows you to brag amongst your friends because you can play against your friends and other online users with your created players. NBA 2k17 MyCareer bounced back from a disappointing 2K16 story mode, fans of this mode has to wait to see how 2K Visual Concepts continue to improve for NBA 2K18.

Grand Theft Auto: V (Five)

Grand Theft Auto: Five, is the fifth installment of the Grand Theft gaming series. It features three main characters Michael, Franklin, and Trevor. Michael is under witness protection by the Federal Investigation Bureau (FIB), going by the alias Michael De Santa, because of a botched robbery nine years prior to when the current story starts. Trevor Phillips, one of Michael accomplices during that botched job, thinks that his friend (Michael) has been in prison for the past nine years, but in reality Michael has been living under the name Michael De Santa, not to far from where Trevor was laying low. Franklin is a gangbanger who befriends Michael. Franklin works as a repo man for a corrupt Armenian car salesman, and is assigned to repo Michael’s sons car, but little does Franklin know that Michael is in the back seat trying to catch the Armenian in the act. That is where the fun really starts. Michael is, by accident, back in the criminal game of theft and burglary.

Aesthetically, this game has great sound effects and graphics that makes the player feel as though they are really playing as each character. Sounds like, police sirens, gunshots, helicopters, bombs etc… are all very realistic (thats what I am assuming anyway). The use of voice over is important, but it is not to narrate the story like it would be used in the movies. In GTA 5, the voices you hear are those of the characters, their dialogue, to propel the story forward. Again, the graphics are very well done. I remember playing the older GTA games and thinking that the graphics were pretty unrealistic, especially when characters are dying etc…

The way you navigate through the game is first person game play. Anytime you play as Franklin, Michael, or Trevor you are playing as that person, but what is even more interesting is that you as the player can switch to one of the three characters at anytime during the game. There are a lot of “missions” the player can do, but you can also just free play and go on a killing spree, or drive around and cause all kinds of trouble. I personally like playing the missions, because if I was just driving around as each character I would definitely lose interest. Compared to the other games in the GTA saga, I think five is definitely my favorite, because you are able to play as multiple characters, and have a little more control when playing the game. I also really liked the story line in this one than in the previous GTA games.

There are many different social themes being represented in this game, one of which is violence. GTA is known for stealing cars and killing people, and you can definitely do both. Because violence is littered throughout the entire game, the rating of it is M: Mature players only (meaning you pretty much have to be 17 or older to play the game). Sexual content is another aspect that is littered throughout the game as well. You can have sex with prostitutes, go to strip clubs etc… and you also see prostitutes “trolling” on the streets during the game. It doesn’t matter what character you are playing as; you can proposition a prostitute during the game. Another aspect is the portrayal of woman and minorities. There are absolutely no women “lead” characters in the game, the women are either portrayed as prostitutes or of people in the background. As a woman (never thought I would say that phrase) playing this game, I would like to see a woman lead. The company that makes the game is ignoring an entire demographic, in my own opinion, but there are games like Tomb Raider, that are showing women in a “leading” role of a video game. Minorities are not portrayed in a positive light either. Franklin is a gangbanger, and lives in a very poor neighborhood until the “White man” shows up and “saves” him from his life, and Franklin is more than willing to go along with it.

I think that this game tends to confirm many stereotypical assumptions what the media thinks if the real world. But it is a fun game and can’t be taken too seriously, because it’s a game, and is made up of fictional ideas of white collar crimes, and the criminals who are carrying out these crimes. I play the game as a form of mindless entertainment, or a stress reliever. I can take my anger out on the people in the game and escape from whatever stressors I’ve encountered that day.

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Above: The game cover and title

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Above (from left to right): Michael, Franklin, Trevor

The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

The only decent thing that this film had going for itself was the special effects of the storm. Although the first hour of this film was somewhat decent, The Day After Tomorrow was overall a very dull, predictable, and cliche film. This film tries to display the dangers of global warming, but really does a bad job with it. One thing that really annoyed me was when there was a tornado in the beginning of the movie and there are people flying around in helicopters trying to get a closer look at the tornadoes… as if people would actually have the nerve to do that and the helicopters should not be able to even last in those conditions. It also made absolutely no sense how lines of communication were not effected for anyone even under the freezing temperatures and winds except for the main characters. Another terrible part of the script was how Jack walked all the way from Washington D.C. to New York in just a couple of days all during this terrible storm, it just seemed so stupid and unrealistic to me. The scene with the wolves also angered me. First off, why are these wolves able to escape so easily from a zoo and second off, the wolves look so unrealistic that it was just hilarious. Another scene that made no sense was how that one girl found a big wardrobe of dry clothes in a library… I have never seen a wardrobe in a library and how did she find it so quickly? Speaking of the library, why did all of the people who stay at the library decide to burn books rather than stuff that would actually burn longer like all of the tables and chairs in the library? This film was just miserable and predictable in so many ways I don’t understand how anyone could have enjoyed it minus some of the special effects of the storm.

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PlayStation 4 Virtual Reality

Introduction

In October 2016, Sony has launched its virtual reality gaming for the PlayStation 4. This is first home virtual reality unit designed for a mainstream market. The virtual reality headset is a very comfortable and well made design. The headset rests nicely on your head, and the rubber on the inside feels nice around your eyes and nose. The virtual reality headset is shown below…

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The PlayStation camera uses lights on the virtual reality headset, and from the controllers, to track your position. You only need to stand, or sit, about 5 or 6 feet from the camera when using the virtual reality headset. As soon as you put the headset and the earphones on, it truly feels as if you are entering another world like no other.

Critical Analysis

The aesthetic qualities of this home virtual reality set are amazing. The second you put the headset on it feels as if you are really in the game. The colors are clear, and the sound effects are so on point that it really feels like real life. The set is pricey at around $400 dollars to purchase, but the qualities of this set are worth the money that you spend. The only issue I have with the virtual reality set is the framing and set up of the camera in relation to the headset. It can be hard to set up the camera in sync to where you are sitting or standing and if the camera is just slightly out of position, then it will effect your gaming experience.

I have only played a couple games on the virtual reality headset. My favorite game was soccer. I play soccer a lot because it is my favorite sport, and I can truly say that this experience felt like I was really on the soccer field playing the game in real life. The game I was playing was practicing header goals from corner kicks. To score the goal, you must wait for the ball to get close to your head and you move your head as if you were really heading a soccer ball in the goal. Once you get the camera and headset set up in sync, the game is really fun and realistic. The game had targets in the corners of the goals to work on accuracy as well and when I scored a goal, I could hear the fans screaming with cheer and joy. The picture below is a simulation, seen through the headset, of being stuck in a cage under water with sharks all around you…

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Some people believe that Sony has gone too far with the virtual reality world, while others believe that it is the next new hit to enhance the gaming experience. I truly believe that virtual reality will be the most popular medium of gaming in years to come because it is so realistic and fun. Once you try the virtual reality headset, the old ways of gaming with just a controller won’t be as fun anymore. It could have some consequence in the gaming world too. I found myself lost in this virtual reality world for hours at a time. People can get lost in this virtual world for hours, and become get addicted to it which could be consequential.

This work is a new form because it is really like no other. You can experience things you have never experienced before like being in a tank under water with sharks biting at your tank and it feels so realistic. The uniqueness of experiencing things you have never experienced before is like no other. The creators utilize these features very well, as new games are being created for this virtual world every day.

 

Fallout 4

Fallout 4 is an action role-playing video game created by Bethesda Game Studios, which was released on November 10th, 2015. It is a post-apocalyptic open world, as cliché as that sounds it’s actually a good game. It takes place in Boston and the environment surrounding it. You are the “Sole Survivor,” a male/female citizen of prewar America who is cryogenically frozen in an underground vault known as “Vault 111,” for 210 years. You emerge as the sole survivor of the vault, your son kidnapped, and your wife murdered; you must explore the commonwealth wasteland in order to find your son.

Before we begin this review I must mention that for the sake of time I am going to be skipping a lot of material for many reasons, but mostly it’s because the game is so massive and I do not want to spoil the game for anyone new to it. There will still be spoilers, so you have been warned!

With that out of the way, I’d like to talk about the game’s looks. It is safe to say that the game is one of their best looking games, but that doesn’t mean that it is without it’s flaws. For example, although I myself love the way the environment looks, from the lighting, to the land, to the buildings, the people still look ugly. Bethesda has certainly improved their character design, but sometimes I’ll come across someone like the minutemen’s “Mama Murphy,” and be shocked at just how revolting she looks. The first time I met her, I remember trying to pry myself away from the dialogue feature that locks you in place until the conversation is over. Besides character design, I would also come across buildings or junk on the ground that would look blurry compared to the rest of the game, which would really bug me since I look at that as a lack of consistency. That might be considered “nitpicky,” but Bethesda has made some of the best selling role-playing games of all time, and is one of the biggest game developers right now. They have the money, resources, and time to make a game that looks like it’s meant to be played on the newest game consoles and computers. But at the same time, they are also known for making games that have a lot of bugs and that crash a lot, which brings me to my next point.The User experience, the nice thing about the fallout series is that in the sense of the story you can have multiple experiences based off the decisions you make in game. But when talking about the game itself, you may run into some issues playing it. It is known by anyone who plays games from Bethesda that the games are going to crash, and there are bugs that can easily be fixed but simply aren’t when the game releases. Updates do make things better as time goes on but I still find that objects and people “clipping” into walls ruins the experience for me. And I’m not lying about the easy fixes, since there is a mod (user made downloadable modification) called the “unofficial fallout 4 patch” which fixes a lot of issues that Bethesda should have in the beginning.

There are 4 different factions in the game questionable morals (Minutemen, Railroad, Brotherhood of Steel, Institute), that you can align yourself with in order to beat the game, and either way, you’ll make a ton of friends and enemies as time progresses on. One thing I like in this game is that no matter which faction you side with, there are always two sides to them. Whether your companions/followers tell you how they feel or if you just hear people talking about them, the game will really make you think about your decisions. To be honest, the companion’s opinions alone made me rethink even the smallest of decisions, which is a great feature that makes the world feel more realistic.

Fallout 4 is one of my favorite games to come out in the past few years and I believe that there is a lot to it even with it’s shortcomings. Even though it’s the fourth installment in the series anyone new to the series can pick up a copy, and I recommend that they do. If I had to rate this game, I’d give it an 8/10. I look forward to what comes next for Bethesda, and the Fallout series.

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Critical Review 3 -President Infinity

David Fisher

President Infinity is a political strategy computer game that simulates United States’ presidential elections. It is primarily written to have a player control a candidate, but it can also do pure simulation. A player selects a candidate at the start and makes various moves to capture at least 270 electoral votes. But President Infinity is not a casual game; strategy is multifaceted and the game is full of complex variables. A typical short game can take 2-5 hours. President Infinity allows for play in previous elections, such as 2008 or 1960, or to create one’s own scenarios.

At the start of a campaign, a player can choose to begin in the primary or the general election. One chooses their party and then candidate, and candidates can be set to run (or not to run). In addition to the Democrat and Republican parties, the game also has options for the Libertarian and Green parties.

The number of factors in President Infinity is both astounding and realistic. Gameplay progresses day to day (there is an option for week to week to speed things up or make planning easier), and each day the candidate has a certain amount of stamina based on actions from the previous turn. Candidates can barnstorm, hold rallies, give speeches, fundraise, prepare for debates, etc. Each action consumes a certain amount of command points and energy points (command points dictate how much the campaign itself can do in a day). Doing too much in one day can lead to negative consequences such as not being able to do much the next day and committing errors. The campaign can also use command points to run ads, poll states, set up organizational structure and ground game in individual states, develop surrogates, get endorsements, and do opposition research. The player can also adjust where they stand on each campaign issue (at the risk of flip-flopping). Each day a news cycle is shown with a player being able to spin a limited number of news stories. Polls are not always accurate, leading to a lot of back-and-forth in contested states. Players develop momentum in states which contributes to receiving a share of the vote. Momentum shifts all the time so players must be ready to counter any moves against them.

President Infinity allows for custom campaigns. It is possible to create a completely fictitious campaign. The player can set the year, create new candidates and their traits, set the polling numbers, create campaign issues, and even create the news shows on which they appear.

The aesthetics of the game are simple: a map of the United States with the states in various shades of blue and red (and white for a tie). Each candidate has a profile picture. However, the controls of the game are numerous and confusing. Each button has a symbol, but no readily identifiable text, requiring that players exert effort to learn all the controls. At the end of the game, a live election map appears and results come in as they would in real life. The results come in stages and states accurately close polls at their allotted times. The results come in without fanfare; the game doesn’t call states for a candidate, forcing the player to click on each state to see the results. One problem is that the results still come in too fast even though the vote tallies are broken into stages. In a closely contested state, results could instantly jump from 92% to 100% reporting; it would be nice to have nail-biting tension in states where it comes down to several thousand votes between the candidates. Maybe the game could incorporate too-close-to-call scenarios where it goes late into the night. It would also be nice to have detailed county by county results (like CNN’s election map).

An example of the election night simulator at the end of the campaign.

On each turn a player can perform a minimum of 19 different actions. A typical turn consists of holding rallies, holding barnstorm events, running ads and setting up organizational structure. In order to swing a state in your candidate’s favor, one must gain and sustain momentum in the aforementioned ways until enough undecided voters have turned in one’s direction. Polls have a margin of error so results in closely contested states can swing erratically. One problem with the game is that momentum is not assured. Even after holding a successful event in a state, momentum can still drop. This could be due to the other candidate’s actions. The player doesn’t know about everything that the other candidates do; they do know which states they were in and some opposing candidate’s events make it into the daily news, but by no means do all their actions get revealed. One pointless feature is opposition research, which consumes one command points point every turn and only yields a 1-2% chance of completion. Since a player only has 8-12 command points per turn, it is not cost-effective.

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Some of the many options available to a player.

The narrative in President Infinity consists of daily newspaper stories about the candidates. When the stories break, candidates can flip, neutralize or spin the story in an attempt to gain favorable coverage. Positive and negative coverage can affect momentum, and occasionally a scandal is broken in the news. In the latest version, the developers added real events to the 2016 election news (as opposed to generic events) such as events related to WikiLeaks and the Clinton email investigation. The news events give players the feeling of re-enacting a real election.

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Daily news clips with options for spinning stories. A maximum of 4 ‘spin points’ can be used. Surrogates can also spin stories with greater success.

President Infinity deals with social issues both internally and externally. In the game, players can set their candidate’s positions on the left-right political spectrum. All major issues are included in the game, including issues such as gay marriage and war, and specifics like the Iran deal. It is also possible to create one’s own issue. It is not easy to run on an agenda that is not close to the political center because most of the swing states have constituencies very close to the center. Changing positions can be risky as it will most likely lead to a negative news cycle or two about flip-flopping. External from the gameplay itself, players learn how to strategize and remain patient through tough situations. A full day-to-day gameplay starting from the primaries can take over 365 turns. Even a short game is 60-100 turns. The game also lets people simulate elections so it has potential as a tool and data resource for real elections. It also provides interesting information on elections that can be debated and discussed among friends. It is interesting to note that the game has seemed to always put Trump in a better position than many people expected. In fact, I simulated the results of this election over 20 times to find that Trump wins almost every time, despite losing the popular vote. Whether this is a virtue or flaw is unknown to me. (This simulation was done with the election results already known with accurate polls coded in the scenario).

The game is very different from a film in many ways. The game is much more static than a movie, with changes only coming with the player’s mouse clicks. It is map and text reliant. It allows for players to have greater control over the outcome. Because of the multitude of options, players can advance a myriad of strategies. While these options are confusing at first, they are very effective in determining outcomes. But President Infinity falls short on the storyline. The daily news clips do not create an engrossing storyline. They are just a bunch of disjointed stories. It would be nice to see political commentary headlines as well as background on the candidates. Also missing is a polished, tension-filled election results report.

President Infinity is not easy even on easy mode. I played a game as Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump and lost 53% to 46% or 314 to 224, albeit this was before the game updated the polls (I used an older version because the update does not work well on my computer). I fought hard in many states; some I won by narrow margins and other I lost by the same amount. For instance, I prevailed in North Carolina 50% to 49% but lost in Virginia 49% to 50%. The game was ahead of the real polls in this last election in showing that Trump performs well in states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

President Infinity is a game for hardcore political junkies and the game is tailored as such. The game’s best feature is its options for strategy, which is a step above many strategy games and other light political games. It allows for a multi-layered strategy to occur over the course of many months. President Infinity’s simple graphics and serious gameplay set it apart from the crowd. I consider it the best election simulator I have found on the market.

Week-to-week gameplay.