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I go by many names. Masterace, Perfidious Sinn, KD Beaston, Perfidious Syn...uh, that might be it actually.

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The Legend of Korra is a Good Video Game.

When it was announced, the reactions were rightfully mixed. It's a licensed game...but it is a licensed game based on the best show on (sort-of) television. Activision is publishing...but Platinum Games is developing. Platinum is really good at making games...but they're also split between development of Bayonetta 2.

All of that mood whiplash had me looking like I was just sentenced to death by snu-snu.

 

But in the end, I trust Platinum to make a Good Video Game. Allow me to make a series of bold, audience alienating statements to state how much I trust them.

They made Bayonetta, the best action game of the PS3/360 generation.

They made Vanquish, the best third-person shooter of the PS3/360 generation.

You should own a copy of The Wonderful 101 if you've even thought about buying a Wii U.

Anarchy Reigns should have been at Evolution 2013.

Most websites cannot be trusted to review character action games because they aren't given enough time to analyze their depth (read this article on why: http://zeboyd.com/2013/09/10/why-games-like-the-wonderful-101-are-a-poor-fit-for-the-gaming-press/)

You get the idea.

You start off The Legend of Korra with no bending and it sucks. The first level is awful after the early Metroid-esque tease where you have every power. You can switch styles which changes your animations but you're not shooting out cool elemental stuff. It looks like someone turned the “special effects” toggle off while editing a film.

In fact, that's one of the biggest negative points of the game. They dole out the elemental powers slowly, and by doing so, lock off the interesting parts of the combat until you've got at least two of them. I can't defend it either. I just wish they started you off with all of the elements, because fighting while switching through them is the best part of the game. I love the show, but this game's story is not satisfying. There's none of the drama, character development or humor from The Legend of Korra. You get the voice actors from the show, a couple animated cutscenes, and some inside jokes in the Achievement list and item descriptions. The combat is why this game exists.

The game SLOWLY gets around to getting your elements. You get waterbending early, but it doesn't get interesting until you get earthbending. Then you can start doing combos where you switch between both elements. That's also when I discovered this video and found out how much fun the combat can be.

  

When I had two elements, the game significantly improved. If my attacks were too weak, I knew to charge them up to get more damage and powerful secondary attacks. Secondary attacks like MINI TORNADOS swirling around every time I kicked in Airbending style.

I saw that this game kept the Dodge Offset system made famous in Bayonetta. I saw that you can basically cancel every single animation into a guard or dodge roll. If you learn how lenient the cancel windows are, you can easily avoid or counter every attack in the game. You can cancel the Chi charging animations to get huge damage and not leave yourself vulnerable.

The combat in The Legend of Korra is nowhere near as complex as Bayonetta, and the inputs for combos are not lengthy. However, its simplicity begs the player to experiment with it, and the way it lets you cancel seemingly EVERY move with a guard or dodge roll feels more loose and free than other Platinum Games...which allows you to do some goofy stuff.

Want to juggle enemies with infinite looping wind-powered Shoryukens? You can. I practiced the loop on enemies for so long just because it was fun. Up, Up, Heavy, Guard. Up, Up, Heavy, Guard. I never get tired of it.

 

 

I played this game on Normal the first time through, and found it mostly manageable outside of a few mini-boss fights. You become obscenely powerful as you level up your bending styles (intuitively done by having each style gain experience as you use it) but your health is low. That's where the shop comes in.

Between levels, ALWAYS VISIT THE SHOP. You can buy Scrolls that unlock new attacks, and I'd recommend it because it keeps the combat fresh. You can also buy Talismans with various effects. The Health Talisman is essential if you are anything less than a god of action games. There are situations on your first playthrough where tough enemies will gang up on you and pummel you. Health pickups are limited. The Health Talisman eases up this somewhat unfair balance by allowing you to fully heal in seconds, if you're willing to run from battle for a bit.

The Talismans also allow you to give Korra a unique loadout, as each offers a buff and a risky drawback. You can get constantly charged Chi for devastating power, but your health will but cut in half. You can get double XP to level up your bending and get stronger quicker, but that also cuts your health in half. There's a lot of Talismans and they're varied enough to fit many different playstyles. The optimum build for Extreme Difficulty is kind of set in stone, but we'll come back to that.

 

I will admit that a big negative of the game is the low enemy variety, but it's balanced by the number of ways you can kick the crap out of enemies. And the last few levels introduce a new batch of enemies, forcing you to change your tactics and learn new counter timings. These happen to be the best levels in the game, and the final boss battle is completely satisfying and a nice change of pace from fighting the small handful of goons throughout the game.

If you stop playing this game after the credits roll, you're missing the best part. Like every other Platinum game ever and every action game worth playing, New Game+ changes everything. You've got your powers from the start, so you can focus on doing cool things in combat instead of lamenting that you're missing powers. The Extreme difficulty changes the enemy layouts and gives them more health, boosting the challenge significantly. However, you can ease that difficulty with Talismans. On Extreme, I chose a build that gave me fully charged Chi at all times, health regeneration, and armor that prevented stuns and knockback. It would be overpowered on lower difficulties, but is balanced compared to the challenge of Extreme mode.

I don't know what the content of the demo contains, but I fully recommend The Legend of Korra. I know it starts badly, but it improves and hooked me for an immediate second playthrough. Watch that tutorial (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIZWM5v89-U) to put the advanced mechanics in the back of your head. If you're dying a lot, get the healing talisman. Switch styles in the middle of combat. Try dodging or countering when you're about to get hit, and it's likely to work. The Legend of Korra rewards you for experimentation and gets better as you play it more to understand how the systems work.

It's not Platinum's best game, but they did what they always do. They made a Good Video Game.











I've looked at a lot of games since I started taking fighting games seriously around two years ago. I've covered most of the subgenres and found what I like and dislike about most of them. However, this is my first time covering a game that isn't finished.

Street Fighter IV isn't a new game, and I guess some of its various problems and weird glitches can't really be fixed in this incremental update (Check out this article for more on that). There's things wrong with Ultra Street Fighter IV that were wrong with the game when it first came out...but the bug list is pretty intense. http://forums.shoryuken.com/discussion/190962/usf4-bugs-and-improper-set-character-data-list-please-contribute/p1

I don't care enough about frame data to get upset about some of this, but there are things that affect the characters I play, and I can feel it.

For Poison,

“On block Super grants the opponent 100% of the "on hit" meter.

Ultra 2 input cannot end with any UP input. 2X half circle back -> up back +3P results in EX Rekka instead of U2. Fireball input cannot end with any UP input. QCF+Up results in a jump instead of canceling the prejump frames into fireball.”

For Elena,

“Move list priority is incorrectly set. Elena's super and ultras are ranked as higher than appeal or focus. This allows for canceling focus attack into ultra / super by utilizing an armor absorb cancel.

Most multi hit specials are inconsistent on a large majority of the cast resulting in mid move drop outs.”

It may not mean much to new players, but I ended up spending around $35 for this game ($20 for the base game, $15 for the Ultra update) and that's a lot of money for a game that's not finished. The weird glitches aren't the only reason why I say this. There's things that I found which hampered my ability to learn SF4 as a new player.

Ultra Street Fighter IV has no tutorial. The previous iteration Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition 2012 had no tutorial. And despite the theory that Street Fighter IV is great to get beginners into fighting games, I don't see it. I'm not new to the genre, but I am new to this game and there is just one included resource to learn how to play: an in-game text manual.

Do you know what a Focus Attack is or how to perform it? I didn't without looking it up! I also didn't know that Focus Attacks have three levels with different attack properties or how to do the extremely important Focus Attack Dash Cancel.

The “Trial” mode is the closest the game comes to a tutorial. You're given a set of 24 combos to perform, the first few teaching you how to input some of your character's special moves and Ultras.



The problem is that Trial mode is one part of the game that's currently unfinished. Upon entering Trial Mode you see this screen:



This game has seen many iterations since 2009. The Ultra Street Fighter IV versions of characters have changed since the previous iteration, AE2012. Trial Mode gives you combos that might not even be possible in Ultra. The inputs for Super or Ultra Combos are occasionally inaccurate, since a handful of them did change with the latest update. And Trial Mode never teaches you about the new mechanics for Ultra, Delayed Wakeup and Red Focus. There are entire characters missing from Trial Mode, so you'll have to go to Training Mode to try out their movesets.

And even if this mode were fully updated, it would be inferior to Persona 4 Arena's challenge mode. That challenge mode displays your needed inputs for Special Moves on screen at all times, allows you to quickly reset both characters positions with one button press, and includes a Demonstration where you can see the computer performing the combo so you can tell what you need to do.



For a game where combos are extremely reliant on timing and 1 frame button presses, it's crazy to me that there's no Demonstration so I can even see how the combo should look.

Since the game just straight up leaves out the resources you'll want or need to learn it, I looked elsewhere. Luckily there's a large database online, and I'll link a few videos that helped me a lot in learning.

UltraDavid and James Chen go over the basics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aq3pJ-LvxVA&list=PL45-KVgrSkf7Yz5S3dGWZ3Sfti-3A8k0d

The USF4 Guidebook by MetalMusicMan04: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uiWHE0iGG74

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wf35PwXonb0

Shoryuken Bruh on Combos, Links and Timing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CU7xRoVRUxQ&list=UUrq8B--z8VyqzrQBtv5JxOw

It's good that this game has been around so long that people are REALLY good at it and willing to teach.

So, since there were no Trials for my character of choice, I jumped into Training Mode and just messed around for a while. Training has its ups and downs.

+You can set the CPU to “Auto Block” which is crucial for learning the timing on combos. If you time your combo correctly, every attack will connect. If you mess up, the CPU will block and you'll know that the timing is wrong. “Random Block” is also useful for learning to cut your combos short if they're getting blocked.

+Input Display lets you see if you're inputting a move incorrectly, so you know why it's not coming out.

+It's very easy and quick to record and replay a training dummy's actions

+You can turn on Fight Request from here, allowing you to train while waiting for online matches. Way better than sitting in a lobby!

-You can't quickly restart the training state by hitting the Back or Select button

-You can disable Fight Request from Training Mode, but you can't turn it back on

-It takes too long to leave Training, pick a character, and go back in due to the load times

-You can't set the dummy to break throws

-You can't set the dummy to do Delayed Wakeup

The last one is also silly because Delayed Wakeup affects some characters significantly. Characters like Ibuki and Cammy prey on opponents getting up after a knockdown because they can put them in an extremely difficult to block situation, but Delayed Wakeup can throw off their timing when used correctly. So why isn't a Training option? The game's not finished.


(Your worst nightmare until you get good at the game)

So, after spending not enough time learning my commands I jumped into Ranked mode online. I would highly recommend going into Ranked over Endless Battle, and be sure to set the skill level to “Same Skill”. Jumping into Endless Battle or Ranked (not on Same Skill) is like diving into shark infested waters. This game has been around for so long that basically everyone playing it is good, or at least better than you will be at first.

I found getting into matches via Fight Request in Training was preferable, because the experience of going to “Xbox Live Battle” is a mess of refreshing, clicking lobbies as they disappear and kick you back a layer, loading, refreshing the search, loading, loading again.

Once you get online, the netcode ranges from “OK” to “atrocious”. I've had many matches where “Waiting For Player” messages pop up every few seconds, making the game nearly unplayable. I've had matches where the game felt fine but my controller inputs were blatantly not coming out, resulting in it registering two simultaneous button presses when I presses three, or a double QCF registering as only one. I've been playing with friends for several matches in a row, and for some matches it randomly decides to make the netcode much worse for no real reason. It's not the worst netcode I've ever experienced, but it's outclassed by nearly all of its contemporaries.

Playing Ultra Street Fighter IV online actually wasn't an endless loop of me losing every match like I expected, but I'm sure it's only because I'm on Same Skill. I win the majority of my matches in my rank, but if I'm fighting someone more skilled it's never close. I feel like I'm stuck and won't ever be able to beat people at a higher rank than me, no matter how often I play.

But I can admit Street Fighter IV is a unique case here. There are people playing this game that have been playing since 2009. I can't realistically expect to get to that level because I can't make up for the several years of practice other people have on me. It's one of the reasons why I wouldn't recommend this game to beginners.



The timing for combos and inputs for certain special moves makes this game even more difficult to get into. Many combos rely on one frame links which rely on pressing buttons in some esoteric, unexplained timing. There are a few characters with “Target Combos” which work like strings in other fighing games (input moves as quickly as possible) but not everyone has the benefit of having easy, reliable combos. Some special moves like Cammy's Hooligan Throw have weird inputs like

360 commands are very difficult to do without jumping, so playing grappler characters as a beginner is an exercise in accidentally jumping forward when trying to do a command throw, and your opponent realizing you're trying to do a command throw and avoiding it. I still can't do double 360s consistently without jumping. I've had issues pulling off Delayed Wakeup even though I input it correctly, and I can't really explain why.



What I Liked:
+Large cast of unique characters. Even the ones who fall into the same class feel different

+Launching into online Ranked mode straight from Training or Arcade

+Animated cutscenes in Story Mode

+Ability to individually change character voice languages

What I Didn't Like:
-No tutorial

-Trials aren't helpful

-Online netcode isn't good

-Combos rely on strict timing and it's difficult to tell how to do them correctly

-Numerous glitches, some of which affected my gameplay (like hurtbox glitches and inputs being overlapped)

-Some special moves have very complex inputs

-Training Mode lacks a few options like setting the dummy to break throws or use Delayed Wakeup

-Arcade Mode isn't useful for learning the game because the AI reads inputs, making it an unfair match

-Online menus are clunky

-Lots of loading

Ultra Street Fighter IV is an update of an older game and will understandably have some drawbacks. From my perspective as a new player trying to learn it, it wasn't very enjoyable. I think it's difficult for new players to get into in terms of gameplay and its dated presentation. The only reason I've won 100 online matches so far is because I've built up fundamentals playing other games. I keep it simple online and never try to do advanced combos, partly because of online lag, partly because I find the combo system awkward.

Ultra Street Fighter IV is a good game to get into if you've already been playing Street Fighter IV for a while, or you're incredibly dedicated and want to dedicate your time to making it the only fighting game you play. For new players, trying to play this game as your first will be frustrating and I'd recommend other, more modern games.

Here's some links again for beginner tutorials that helped me out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aq3pJ-LvxVA&list=PL45-KVgrSkf7Yz5S3dGWZ3Sfti-3A8k0d

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uiWHE0iGG74

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wf35PwXonb0

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrq8B--z8VyqzrQBtv5JxOw
Photo Photo Photo








I can't claim to know much about the history of DC's heroes and villains. I never watched the Batman or Superman cartoons when I was a kid, and I've read a grand total of five comic books in my life. The appeal of DC characters punching each other didn't draw me into Injustice: Gods Among Us. What drew me in were the things I saw in Injustice that no other current fighting game had.



The mechanics that makes Injustice stand out aren't new. Dead or Alive had level transitions for years. Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee had interactive objects as a major part of gameplay, as you threw bridges and buildings at your opponents. Still, seeing these elements combined in one game immediately set it apart from other 2D fighting games. In movies and cartoons, superheroes and villains always smash their opponents through buildings and throw heavy junk at each other. It only makes sense to put it in a game about superheroes.

To beginners, the interactive objects in Injustice can seem cheap. They do a punishing amount of damage for what seems like relatively low risk. However, the tradeoff is using any interactive object has a slow startup that can be punished easily. If the object is a thrown item, it always travels in the same path. I quickly memorized how each object would react so I could jump out of the way or evade it with the small amount of invincibility frames on backdashing.



The level transitions are very painful to get hit by, but not every stage has them and are only activated if you get hit by a slow wall bounce move that is easy to avoid.



And if you still find these elements of the game too distracting or unfair, you can turn them off. The Injustice community has generally accepted level transitions and interactables as fair for tournament play, which is cool because it's one of the things that sets the game apart from others, especially its predecessor Mortal Kombat 9.

But before I started worrying about getting hit in the face with air conditioners, I tested out various single player options to see if Injustice would be a game I could get into. The tutorial is highly recommended, as it teaches nearly every aspect of the game quickly.



I had a couple of issues with the tutorial in the end. One is just an issue with the Reversal system. After you block any attack you can input a special move and do it faster than normal, which is a feature in most fighting games (Street Fighter comes to mind). I like how it says “Reversal Window” when it's possible, but the timing is so awkward that I never really go for Reversal moves because I don't know if they'll come out or not.

The second issue is that the tutorial doesn't teach you enough about your meter.



You can hit the meter burn button while using an interactable to gain several hits of armor, making many of them basically safe to use. To assist in stage transitions, you can also meter burn your wall bounce (back+heavy) and your ground bound (forward+heavy). The tutorial also doesn't teach you which interactables can be Meter Burned, which might be understandable because there's a lot of them.



After the tutorial, I jumped into the Story Mode. Similar to Mortal Kombat 9, you play a large cast of characters through the story, giving you a chance to learn their moves. I also enjoyed the minigames that took place between fights to break the monotony. But what was up with Superman killing all those civilians?



That's not all for the single player content. There's Battles mode where you fight several characters while hindered by a gimmick like draining health, handicap matches or a shortened time limit. There's S.T.A.R. Labs that contain a huge amount of challenges for each character. If you want to learn more about how to play a character, the S.T.A.R. Labs all contain a mission that acts as a brief tutorial. There's even some missions that are execution drills, forcing you to use a handful of special moves over and over until you can do them easily.



There's one issue with S.T.A.R. Labs as a training device, however. You have to unlock later character's missions by getting enough stars on the earlier ones. If you want to play Wonder Woman or Ares' tutorials, you might have to beat over 100 missions just to unlock them! Also, some of the downloadable characters don't have tutorials at all.

For those characters, the excellent Training mode makes things a lot easier. On top of expected features like full control of the AI's states including record and playback, you can turn on a detailed display that tells you how much damage a move did and what region it will hit (mid, high, low, or overhead). You can highlight where you need to stand to use an interactive object or transition. You can tag up to six moves to appear at the top of your screen so you don't forget them as you practice, eliminating the need to return to the pause screen and look up moves every couple of seconds.

That last one is something I think should be included in every fighting game. Tagging moves is amazing. You can even tag moves for multiplayer matches if you're the type of person to freak out and forget your moves mid match (I am!)There's frame data on each move and combo string, but I've heard it's not accurate.


(credit: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-HApsuNV7Qb5QAxXVucW0g)

So in my quest to Get Good, I found the S.T.A.R. Labs missions were actually more helpful than I thought. Missions where you can't let you opponent hit you once are a quick drill on your character's movement options and keepaway attacks. Missions where you have to hit a high-damaging combo force you to innovate on the spot and maximize your damage. Of course, looking up YouTube videos like the one I linked above helped a lot too.

Now that I've been playing online a lot and winning enough to get a fair amount of hatemail, I've really found out what I enjoy about Injustice. With the exception of maybe The Joker and Cyborg, there aren't any matchups that have felt hopeless. Most characters can perform a 20%-30% basic combo with one bar of meter, and their Character Power helps them out of desperate situations. I play lame in most fighting games, which naturally drew me to Raven as a keepaway character. Raven's Character Power lets her cover basically anywhere on the screen with projectiles and grab her opponent from full screen. The Character Power is a great feature that makes each character feel totally different even as they share the universal inputs.

I feel like the game is fairly easy to pick up because of the universal mechanics like down+Medium for launchers and back+Heavy for wall bounces. If you can hit those, you can get a quick and easy combo. It just takes training to maximize your damage off of that one hit.

With the exception of a few weird command grabs and Close/Far projectiles, the inputs aren't difficult and the combo strings aren't dependent on strict timing; you just input them as quickly as possible and they work. Clash is an interesting twist on a traditional “combo breaker” because you only get one and it's dependent on meter, so even if you break the combo you could still be one hit away from losing.



I've enjoyed Injustice: Gods Among Us more than I thought I would, and I've been playing it regularly since April, just recently passing 200 matches played (with a little over 100 wins). The game is balanced well enough that you can get wins with most characters (except for The Joker and Cyborg probably), and I have fun playing it. It would be an injustice if this game doesn't get a sequel with even more DC characters I don't know.

What I Liked:

-Execution barrier is low. Most combos don't rely on strict timing and are easy to execute

-Many strategic uses for meter

-Story Mode that lets you try out many characters, and has fun minigames

-S.T.A.R. Labs provide more solo content than most other fighting games

-Very detailed and customizable Training mode

-Daily Challenges gives an incentive to keep playing online

-Unique online multiplayer modes

What I Didn't Like:

-S.T.A.R. Labs contain character tutorials, but they aren't all unlocked from the start.

-Netcode can be unreliable

-Lots of quitters online

-Awkward inputs for some special moves like command throws and Close/Far projectiles

-Damage effects don't look good

-Load times are frequent and too long

-Input window for reversal attacks is difficult to discern

If you're looking for a good starting point to learning a character, check out http://testyourmight.com/forums/choose-your-hero-villain.233/
Photo










Since the initial trailer, Grand Theft Auto Online seemed like a dream coming true for me. I've been a fan of Grand Theft Auto for a while, and have lots of memories playing the game with friends locally. I remember the extremely limited and strange feature in San Andreas that allowed you to play brief 2 player Rampages.




The online function of Grand Theft Auto IV was a little better, but the awkward menus and my growing apathy toward most of the game kept it from being the GTA Online experience I really wanted. I liked Grand Theft Auto V a lot more, and the online function looked like exactly what I wanted.




Creating and leveling your own character, participating in structured Jobs and Missions with friends, or just roaming the enormous game map. It was everything I wanted and I couldn't wait to jump into it with friends.

I've played Grand Theft Auto V for about 300 hours now, and about 100 of them were spent in GTA Online. While I'm still having fun when teaming up with friends, and while the game has significantly improved since release, I have a handful of issues with it that I'd like to see improved with future patches. I want Grand Theft Auto Online to be the best it can possibly be, and maybe fixing some of these issues will help with that.

Character Creator Is Bad




I have very few positive things to say about GTA Online's character creator. It's confusing, convoluted, and probably worse than every modern character creation system out there. Instead of choosing your character's physical appearance with sliders, you choose what your parents and grandparents looked like and they give you an appearance linked to that. You also choose your character's lifestyle with a weird time assignment system that doesn't seem to affect anything but starting stats...which doesn't matter because you'll level all those stats up to full naturally.

The biggest problem here is that your character looks different in the Creator than they do in the game. So I had to start over after creating them and sitting through copious load screens, because they had a weird face in game. My proposed solution is to incorporate a plastic surgeon in GTA Online so you can fix your appearance as needed. It might link back to the same broken character creation screen, but it's better than having to remake them from scratch.

Failed To Find A Compatible GTA Online Session
Revisiting the image I posted at the top.




I get this message 90% of the time that I try to join GTA Online from the main menu. The process is as such:

1. Hit A at startup to join GTA Online

2. Sit through several minutes of loading time

3. Failed To Find A Compatible Session

4. Sit through brief load time to get kicked into GTA V single player

5. Try to join GTA Online again

6. Sit through several minutes loading time

And if I don't get step 7 (get kicked out again), I'm in the game. It's silly. My proposed solution is to put me in a solo session if I can't connect to a group one. Kicking the player back to GTA V for them to start the loading process again is maddening, especially when the game takes so long to load up in the first place.

GTA Online separates lobbies by your Targeting Mode: Free Aim, Traditional GTA, or Assisted Aiming. I only play Free Aim and I assume the other lobbies are more populated, which could lead to my repeated “failed to join” experiences. But don't punish me by making me wait longer. Just put me into a Solo Session if necessary. There are plenty of things to do solo! I really don't mind!

Passive Mode and the Broken Spawn System
Most players in GTA Online lobbies want to kill you. A lot. In theory, you can go into Passive Mode and be left alone while you go about your business. Passive Mode protects you from getting shot by other players.

In practice, Passive Mode isn't passive enough. I've found in this state, you can still be killed if a player runs you over or kills you with explosives. If you get into your car, they can shoot you and your car can be blown up.

If you're getting hounded by a player who is killing you over and over, Passive Mode is near worthless because of another oversight: the respawn system. After death, you respawn close to where you were killed and in many cases, close to the player who killed you. I have had more than a few instances of getting killed by a player, respawning, trying to get a car to drive away, and getting shot down because Passive Mode disables when you're in a car.

My solution to this problem is allow you to respawn at a chosen location after death/suicide. The handy Interaction Menu allows you to set a waypoint for major landmarks at any time. How about adding an option to choose your respawn point on death? If you want to stay near the place you died, leave it off. If you need to get out of there and avoid spawn kills, pick a location from the menu. Seems like an easy fix.




"On Call" Doesn't Actually Work
I've complained multiple times about no one joining lobbies in GTA Online. Maybe it's a complaint about the playerbase as a whole, but I haven't had a race or mission start quickly in months. People just don't want to join. This could also be linked to Free Aim lobbies having lower population, I admit.

So, this was my routine. I'd make a lobby for a race/deathmatch/whatever, and wait.



I've waited up to 20 minutes for games to start before, even using the “Auto-Invite And Play” button which allegedly “Finds players to quickly start a session” for you. No dice. I've probably spent more time waiting in empty lobbies in GTA Online than doing anything else.

So, in a recent patch Rockstar added “On Call” mode. You can queue up an event and continue to roam the open world as players join. But I've never seen anyone join. Tried every match type, waited for over 10 minutes, and nothing. Does the feature even function? Can I still change match options when I join?

No one really knows!

I guess my solution is to yell at everyone playing the game to make them join lobbies, but that's unrealistic.

No Tracker For Online Goals
One cool things about GTA Online is that you can level up and are given a HUGE amount of tasks and challenges to complete to help you level faster.



It's anything from spending cash on clothes to killing people in Deathmatches enough times with a shotgun. A lot of these challenges can be completed alone, so I still enjoy jumping into GTA Online alone just to grind through some of them. It's a cool feature that gives GTA Online some added value outside of “roaming about” and “doing missions”

My nitpick is that you can't tell how much of a challenge you've done until you finish it. Well, you can't tell QUICKLY at least. To look at your progress you have to pause the game, go to Stats, go to Awards, and find the progress of what you've done by scrolling through multiple pages. The pause menu isn't really slow, but it doesn't load fast enough!

You know what would be nice? A progress tracker that pops up as you get closer to completing an Award. Think Gears of War.





See how the bars in the bottom left aren't fully filled, just a reminder of how close you are? GTA Online should definitely have that.

In the end, a few of my problems can be solved just by “get more people playing matches”. The general mindset of GTA Online players seems unfocused on the missions and more on killing random players; just go into any lobby and see how many people with bright red Mental States you see. Even though I prefer playing races and co-operative missions, I can't change how those people want to play the game (yet?)

GTA Online is fun, and I wouldn't have put 100 hours into it if I weren't enjoying it on some level. But there's a lot of improvements to be made before it can reach its full potential, and I hope they are made so it can really become the multiplayer Grand Theft Auto experience I've always wanted.

Heists.

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Some of the pictures used in this post are from Old Abbot.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/124173938@N02/sets/72157644502259238/ 
They're the ones that look great, in comparison to the ones I took myself on my phone.

Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament 9 was a blast in 2013. I chose wisely for my first tournament ever, and had fun throughout the weekend even when I wasn't competing. I was a little bummed to hear that this year's event would be the last Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament, but I also knew that going to it was a necessity.




In contrast to last year, I entered less games which allowed me to manage training time better. I learned from playing in 2013's event that there are certain games that I just don't do well in competitively and avoided them this year. My tournament results benefited from doing so, but only slightly.

Friday

Street Fighter X Tekken:
http://ufgt10.challonge.com/UFGTX_SFxT_PoolC1



Divekick:
http://ufgt10.challonge.com/UFGTX_DK_PoolD1

I have no way to play Divekick at home. The last time I played was before Addition Edition, a huge balance patch that changed the majority of the cast. However, since Divekick fundamentals are impossible to forget, I got back into the swing of things very quickly. I also got some help from other players during casuals, asking them a lot of details about the changes my characters (Markman and Mr. N) received as well as theirs. That's what I've found in general when playing fighting games locally. If you've got questions, 99% of people are nice enough to help you.

In the tournament, I lost my first game, won the second, lost the third and got eliminated. I'm fine with that because I am completely out of practice and Divekick is a game that never makes me upset (for long) when I play it. I still think it's great fun to play casually and a good way to secretly turn your friends into fighting game fans. What I really liked to see were the people who play Divekick as a main game and are incredibly good at it. It's so exciting to watch at high levels, and see how different the game looks a year later.

Also, shoutout to the guy playing Divekick with Donkey Konga bongos.



Saturday

Mystery Game: http://ufgt10.challonge.com/UFGTX_MYST_PoolI1

I wouldn't have felt right if I went to UFGT and didn't enter the Mystery Game Tournament. I was quickly eliminated after playing Bloody Roar and another fighting game I cannot recall (which involved leveling up or absorbing enemy powers Mega Man style...it was unclear) but this tournament is always fun and moments of it had me laughing harder than anything else all weekend. I saw people playing Burnout, indescribable Japanese minigame collections, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Tournament Fighters, and it all culminated in the most unbelievable Grand Finals of the night: Don't Break The Ice.




I can't wait for that video to go up.

That was it for the tournaments I entered. Here's some other observations I had throughout the weekend.

Playing Casuals


I made sure to play many more non-tournament matches this weekend than I did last year. In my downtime, I was playing Injustice, Street Fighter X Tekken, Divekick, and a little bit of Skullgirls. The whole time I made sure to ask questions. It was extremely helpful to get some matchup experience against characters I don't really see in online play. I didn't enter the Injustice tournament, but I played a lot of casual matches against people better than me. I lost a lot, but I learned a lot more and I'd love to play that game in a tournament some day.

As I try to improve in more fighting games, I've found that this is a lot more helpful than grinding out training mode alone. Having people to share ideas and strategies with is great, even if you're still losing a lot. Really, I just wish I played more casuals during the weekend.

Side Tournaments


Through Saturday and Sunday, I heard a TON of side tournaments being announced over the speakers. I remember hearing them for Persona 4 Arena, Chaos Code, Melty Blood, Super Turbo and more that I surely missed. It was really cool to see people organizing these tournaments for games that weren't on the main schedule. Some of the games I've put a ton of time into and enjoy are less popular, but it was encouraging to see that there's basically a scene out there for any game if you're looking hard enough.

The Crowd Experience



Since I entered less games this year, I had more time to spend just sitting in the crowd watching people play. Even for games I know nothing about, it's so much fun just to watch them being played on stage. There are countless moments that I can't capture in photos or videos that weekend. The crowd broke out in dueling “Let's Go Cena/Cena Sucks!” chants while WWE All Stars was played during the Mystery Game Tournament. People loudly heckled and cheered for players on stage during the Marvel X tournament, excited to see many characters that almost never show up in tournament play. I came dangerously close to losing my voice cheering for Double A as he got extremely far in the Marvel X tournament (good job dude! Follow him on Twitter!) I might not be good enough play on the stage, but watching people play on streams is nothing like seeing it in person.



The ending of Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament is a little sad. Even though I've only been for two years, I've grown attached to it as it was the very first tournament I went to. The brackets ran very smoothly again thanks to the people running pools (and Keits, of course) wasting zero time screwing around, and I appreciate it. I can only hope any future tournaments I go to run as well.

Going to these tournaments has been a strong step forward into me becoming better than “mediocre” at fighting games. I still enjoy playing Street Fighter X Tekken and Injustice a lot, and playing casuals made me just want to play the games more and improve. I'd like to check out some local tournaments around my area now that I have more free time and the ability to get to them.

I had a lot of fun at Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament X, and I'm glad I got to be there for the last one. I can't wait for Combo Breaker.


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The “next generation” of game consoles isn't just around the corner anymore. We're fully into it and it's an exciting thing to observe. I've already seen how the Wii U, Playstation 4, and Xbox One have all found their places in the market and drawn unique audiences despite their general similarity.

Xbox One is still plagued by its bad reputation and weak start, but is making up for its stumbles with a price drop (and Kinect drop), dropping the Gold requirement to watch Netflix, and a handful of excellent exclusives like Killer Instinct and Dead Rising 3. It's still not the place to go for exclusive games, but there are enough titles there that make it a very attractive option for me. Mostly due to my overwhelming love of Dead Rising.

Playstation 4 has been riding high on its early trouncing of Xbox One, overshadowing it in support for indie games, less scumbag business tactics, and large number of console exclusives. They're pretty lucky that Microsoft messed up so badly right out of the gate, as I imagine that turned many indecisive co
nsumers into surefire Playstation 4 buyers. Giving away free games with Playstation Plus and regular discounts can't hurt as well. If they're still in first place for console sales, it's easy to see why.

Wii U has seemingly struggled with the issue of games being few and far between. Mario Kart 8 was just released, but the next big titles like Bayonetta 2, Hyrule Warriors, and Super Smash Bros are still floating around with an annoyingly unspecific “2014” release date. I know Wii U owners that are upset with a number of things: the limited utility of the GamePad, publishers dropping support, paying for the console before the price drop and not having enough games to play. But at least those few games are genuinely great. Wii U might not take the lead as far as sales go, but I think overall it has the most games I'd like to play right now. In the end, that's what matters most.

So after considering the pros and cons for each system, I have a solid idea of which one I'd like to buy first. They're all worth a purchase for different reasons, but deciding which one to get first is important to me. It could be years before I get another.

Before that, however, I got another gaming platform. While I think most people are willing to pay attention to pros and cons of the major current gen systems, this one a lot less love. The games available range from shallow wastes of time to disgusting, blatant cash grabs in the eyes of gamers. But the funny part is most people already own it.



I received my first smartphone, an iPhone 4, as a gift last year. I probably spent more time fascinated by the features in the first month of ownership than actually making calls. It's a brilliant piece of technology to just have in my pocket at all times, and cuts down on the amount of time I spend struggling with my dying laptop significantly.

More importantly, there are games! A huge, scary App Store filled with them. There are clones of more popular games, games that I don't know why were even allowed onto the store, and even ports or adaptations of games I've played on other consoles. I feel like in my social circle, the general reception of iPhone games ranges from “negative” to “they aren't even games”. So over the past few months, I took recommendations and followed my own interests to see what iPhone games are like. There are obviously some duds in the bunch, but there are many more games that shocked me with their quality. For better or worse, iPhone games can accomplish things no other console games can do.

Device 6




Device 6 was probably the first iPhone game that surprised me with its depth, especially because most of the game is just reading. However, the developers took full advantage of the platform to make a game FOR the iPhone that feels like it. The text wraps and slinks around the screen, forcing you to rotate the phone as you slide through it. Clues for puzzles are hidden in strange audio logs and songs, meaning you'll need to put on headphones or be in a very quiet room if you want to progress. There's 'backtracking' that means you'll have to go back to a previous text passage/room to explore another branching path.

It's definitely challenging as well. I had a notepad beside me to scribble down notes on the more complex puzzles. It never gets as confusing as old PC adventure games, but it is surely a test. This isn't a game to kill time with at work. It's one you want to sit down at home by the fireplace with. Hot chocolate and notepad close at hand, obviously.

The only issue is as a puzzle game it isn't very replayable. Once you know the solutions to the puzzles it's tough to forget them. I've deleted it from my phone for now, but I'd love to revisit it in a year or later when I've forgotten how to automatically complete everything.


Sonic Dash



Sonic Dash, in comparison, is not a game that requires much brainpower or time investment. It's the game I played while sitting in a waiting room, on a bus or during downtime at work. A simple free-to-play endless runner with the hook of adding characters from the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. To be honest, this is the only game of its type that interested me because I do like Sonic games so much.

It was also my first experience with how an advertisement supported free-to-play game works. In this case, it was a little annoying. After every run, a skippable 15 second video ad plays. It'll be for another game or app that is not related to Sonic Dash at all. I was confused by this because the games are so unrelated, it's like a different company just bought ad space in this game! Also, it liked to replay videos every time you went from the game's shop or Challenge Menu back to the main menu...which led to me often getting stuck in a loop of accidentally watching ads over and over.

The game rewards you for continually playing. You get to spin the Wheel of Fortune once per day to get powerups or the Grand Prize (or you can spend an in-game currency for more spins). There are daily challenges that grant you score multipliers and more in-game currency (or you can spend in-game currency to automatically beat the challenges). I came across one challenge too annoyingly time consuming to bother with, and ended up spending $3 for enough in-game currency to bypass it. This also completely removed the advertisements from the game, which is a nice touch.





After working my way up to my goal over a month, I unlocked my favorite Sonic character to play as...and my motivation to keep at the game dropped. The challenges are now too difficult to reasonably complete, and I won't spend more money on the game to pass them. Since I've reached my personal “goal” with the game, I've played it much less.

Ridiculous Fishing



Ridiculous Fishing is another great game to play in short bursts, but has much more longevity than Sonic Dash. As a paid game, there are no advertisements, daily challenges, or even an option to pay real money to progress. It all depends on your skill. Even with the upgrades you can purchase, if you're not good at tilting your phone to avoid fish you will not reach to bottom of the pond. Speaking of tilting, this is the only time I've used the accelerometer in my iPhone. Didn't know it had one until playing the game.

It has an excellent sense of humor with the goofy encyclopedia of fish, constantly updated in-game Twitter parody, and the concept of blowing up fish with machine guns for money. Since reaching the ending I've played it a lot less, but its charm keeps me coming back as much as my drive to catch every fish in the game.

Injustice: Gods Among Us





Wondering how fighting games would work with a touchscreen, I picked up this game after spending a lot of time with the console version. Injustice mobile and console link up, rewarding you for accomplishing tasks in each game. Beat a tough challenge in the console version? Get a rare card for the mobile game. Beat enough battles in the mobile game? Get a new skin for the console game.

The gameplay is pretty simple. Taps are light attacks, swipes are heavy attacks, and you build up meter for special attacks which are simple minigames that grant bonus damage for doing well in. It's not too challenging or deep, but it's a mostly inoffensive time killer.

Where Injustice mobile falls apart for me is the currency system. You get very little money for completing each battle, from 400 to 1000 coins. The cool characters you actually want to play as start at 45,000 coins and go up. Also, the battles get progressively harder as you go on, so you WILL need to spend coins upgrading your special moves to get further in the game.

Overall, it leads to a feeling of never having enough coins. I'll beat the game by consistently upgrading my team, but that means I'll have no coins to buy a cool character I want. The struggle is eased a bit by getting a daily Login Reward, but those are rarely coins or good characters. I played many hours of this game before recently hitting the wall. Even if I kept playing it, I'd never be able to get the characters I want without spending money. And while the game is free and you never NEED to spend money, it's unreasonably time-consuming to get the Cool Stuff (TM) without spending money.



Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective




I have no idea how this game played on the Nintendo DS. I can tell you that it translated so perfectly to the iPhone that I never noticed it was a DS game. All of the information and gameplay options are on the one screen, and I never felt like I was missing a perspective by not having the second screen.

The game itself is excellent. The animation is fluid and beautiful, the music is so catchy it's almost annoying to have these tracks stuck in my head all day, and it delivers a mystery in a slow pace that makes big reveals even more satisfying. It is NOT a game to play on the go at all. There is a lot of text to read, and there are many opportunities to ignore the story and explore the world and its characters. I have my phone on me everywhere, but I only played this game at home so I could absorb every clue and line of dialog. And while the puzzles are mostly easy (there were only two I had to restart multiple times), seeing how I altered time and saved someone's life made me smile. It's not just “good for the iPhone”, I think Ghost Trick is a game everyone should play no matter how you get to it.

It wasn't my first choice for a new gaming platform, but I'm happy with my iPhone so far. Recently games like Hitman GO and Monument Valley have taken up my time, both of them being games I sit down at home with a good pair of headphones on to play. I have had more difficulty finding games to play in short sessions that interest me, now that the appeal of Injustice and Sonic Dash have worn off. Still, if the only games I have on my phone are ones that I can only play when I'm NOT on the move, I'm fine with that.

I've spent plenty of time considering what my next big console purchase will be, and getting that will cut into my time playing iPhone games significantly. Still, I'm glad I took the time to give the underdog a chance.
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