Video Games

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Blackout Mode Has Me Pumped!

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I have already written in some depth about my complicated relationship with Epic Games’ smash hit, Fortnite: Battle Royale.  It’s the most talked-about game in America (maybe the world?) right now, and I appreciate the amount of content Epic Games provides the community with their weekly updates . . . but in my opinion, the game is super over-hyped, and is trying too hard with its “Everything and the Kitchen Sink” approach

Maybe not a popular opinion, but sue me: it’s mine!

I have given PUBG’s Battlegrounds some time on my Xbox One S, but that game is still quite rough around the edges, unlike Fortnite, which is pretty polished for a game that is still in beta.  Right now, then, when I feel like playing a battle royale-style game, I am pretty much stuck with Fortnite . . . but there is hope right around the corner for someone like me, courtesy of Treyarch studio’s upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.

For starters, I still don’t feel as comfortable with third-person shooters.  I was terrible at all of the SOCOM games, never did that great in Gears of War multiplayer, and just generally don’t feel confident in Battle Royale firefights.  (Same goes for me when I am playing third person in Battlegrounds, which is why I almost never do that!)

On the other hand, I perform much better in first-person shooters, so automatically I feel like my odds of being successful in Blackout are much better than in Fortnite: Battle Royale.   Having played every version of Black Ops also helps, since I am pretty sure Treyarch will roll with the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset, meaning returning players will feel right at home.

Another reason I feel good about my odds?  No building.  I cannot tell you how many firefights I have lost in Fortnite: Battle Royale because I was outbuilt.  I get it: building is a huge part of the game.  I’m not complaining or suggesting Epic Games provide a no-building mode.  I’m just stating a fact: I suck at building in the heat of the moment, and I don’t have enough time to practice.  So give me a battle royale mode without building, and I’m in like Flynn!

Of course, the biggest reason I am stoked about this mode: vehicles. I enjoy ripping around the Battlegrounds map in a car or boat, but if Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 allows us to hop into choppers and airplanes, lookout!  That would be wild, although I cannot decided whether I am more excited about the possibility of being able to take to the sky, or knock someone from the day courtesy of a well-placed RPG.  Decisions, decisions!

All in all, I am really looking forward to this release. Check out the trailer for Call of Duty’s first entry in the battle royale genre, and tell me what you think!




Video Games

Fortnite is Getting Jetpacks and I Just Don’t Know About This!

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If rumors are to be believed – and if I have learned anything in my 46 years on this planet, it is that you should ALWAYS believe in rumors! – then jetpacks will be making an appearance in the so-popular-you-would-think-it’s-good game Fortnite: Battle Royale.

I am not here to speculate on whether this item actually will be available in the game – this is not the first time jetpacks have been teased, so you know they are coming eventually – and I don’t plan on guessing if they will be a permanent or temporary addition.

Nah – I’m just here to pull one of these:

It could just be me – maybe I am the only one who finds Battle Royale to be fun, but not worth the hype. I mean, in all honesty, I get way more enjoyment out of playing Overwatch or Call of Duty: WWII. Even Titanfall 2 gave me way more entertainment value than Battle Royale, although I absolutely commend Epic Games for consistently trying to provide variety, in terms of both gameplay and cosmetic items.

It could be the repetitive nature of the game – whether you are playing solo, duo, squad, or one of the limited-time only modes, you find yourself on the same map trying to accomplish the exact same objective every single time – and I am sure my kids will argue that the fact that I am just an average Battle Royale player has something to do with my refusal to justify people playing this game for ten hours straight (although to be honest, when it comes to first person shooters I have always been one of those good-but-not-great kind of players).

Whatever the reason, I am just a casual fan of Fortnite: Battle Royale, and actually feel LESS inclined to play the game the more they tinker with it. The “everything and kitchen sink” approach the developers take with the game might make the writers over at Polygon and Kotaku gush about how amazing the game is, but it sort of makes me want to play less, if we’re being honest. That feeling started with the addition of remote-controlled rockets (which have since been removed) and culminated with the Infinity Gauntlet mode, which really added nothing to the game for me and was the sort of cheap promotional stunt that would have made everyone cringe if a less popular game had attempted it.

Now we’re getting jetpacks, because . . . I don’t know. There really is nothing about the world of Fortnite: Battle Royale that would explain the inclusion of jetpacks, and the recent meteor shower that kicked off season 4 has given players the ability to bust out some gravity-defying jumps (and even these don’t really need to be in the game, but hey: superheroes!), so why do we need jetpacks now?

Because . . . jetpacks!

I’m all for new, free content, but I cannot be the only one who would rather see some new maps and different game modes instead of little gimmicks like jetpacks. For example: why not a melee-weapons only mode, which would definitely make the game feel more Hunger Games-ish? Or, if Epic Games wants to tease the superhero theme in Season 4, why not actually provide a super-hero mode in which players can either use futuristic weapons or actually develop super powers for a limited time only? Any of those tweaks would make more sense, and fit the game world better, than simply throwing jetpacks into the mix because hey . . . jetpacks!

Video Games

Marvel’s Spider-Man is a PS4 Exclusive So Of Course Now I Have To Get a PS4

There’s a new Spider-Man coming to video game consoles this year!  I cannot wait to pop that disc into my Xbox One X and enjoy the webslinger in 4k glory and . . . wait.

What’s that you say – it’s a Playstation 4 exclusive?

Damn it all to hell.

Over spring break, my wife and I surprised the kids by taking them to New York City. with one of our* highlights being our visit to the Microsoft Store on Fifth Ave.

*My wife and daughter not included

The boys and I spend close to an hour in the Microsoft Store, and came THIS close to walking out of the store with an Xbox One X.  Had it not been for the fact that I would have had to carry that box around the city for the next eight hours, I probably would have pulled the trigger on the purchase; instead, I opted to wait, knowing that I could probably score some kind of deal around the holidays.

So even when the new PlayStation-exclusive God of War came out and received phenomenal reviews, I wasn’t too worried.  Sure, it sounds like a game I would play, and my oldest son has expressed an interest.  Still, we have no shortage of titles that we want to play, and to be honest, outside of Destiny (whose single player campaign was ridiculously short), the last time I completed a single player campaign for a video game was . . . hmmm . . . hold on, it will come to me!

Honestly, I used to own a PS3 and I enjoyed it, but ever since I traded that it and decided to commit to Xbox, my family and I have had zero complaints.  All I really have time for any more are games I can hop into and play for 30 minutes at a time.  The same goes for my boys; we limit how much time they get, so they mostly stick with multiplayer games because it sucks to play a game with a story when you find yourself constantly having to stop before you have even completed a level.   There is never a shortage of multiplayer-heavy games to play, and even though PlayStation does get some exclusive titles, they have never had one that was important enough BY ITSELF to make me regret my decision to pass up a PS4 and snag a second Xbox One . . . until now.

There’s just something about Spider-Man that is impossible for my family to resist (and by “my family” I mostly mean “me”).    My infatuation with the web slinger is well-documented (just ask me how I broke my arm in kindergarten!), so the appeal of playing as him in video game form is too much for me to resist.  Check out the gameplay footage below of Insomniac’s upcoming Marvel’s Spider-Man and I’m sure you’ll agree: this game looks sick.  Guess I’ll be paying closer attention to PS4 deals from here on out!

Video Games

Destiny 2: Warmind DLC is Available . . . And I Could Care Less

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Say what you will about the original Destiny, but my boys and I loved that game.

We’re not blind fanboys: we know it had its faults. The single player campaign never had a story worth a damn until The Taken King DLC hit, the original voice acting for your ghost was cringe-worthy, your character never speaks a word, personalizing your characters was extremely limited – it was not a perfect game, by any stretch.

However, Destiny did one thing really well: it made shooting guns SO MUCH FUN.  Seriously, the game play mechanics for the original Destiny were so solid, and the weapons were so interesting, that shooting enemies and other players in the Crucible never got old.    You would have to go back to my college days to find a video game that I invested as much time in as I did for Destiny; I mean, I would literally go home and play during lunch every single time the Iron Banner returned, and it was the ONLY game I played for months.

As for the two boys, Destiny is the first FPS that I allowed them to play, as it is bloodless and mostly involves shooting aliens and monsters, instead of human beings.  (And even when you do shoot players in the Crucible, their body just drops, so that’s how I justify the violence – don’t judge me!)   My twelve year-old owned a titan who was ALMOST as powerful as my hunter, while my seven year-old used a warlock to navigate about half of the campaign and some games in the Crucible.

Yep: many hours in the Spalding household were spent playing Destiny, so naturally, when Destiny 2 came out I pre-ordered it, played it, and . . . stopped.  I’m not sure if either of the boys got through the campaign, and I know for a fact that neither of them has spent even one second working through the Curse of Osiris DLC.  Hell, even I didn’t complete the campaign for Curse of Osiris, and believe me: it kills me to say that.  I rarely purchase DLC for games, and to drop $19.99 on DLC that I abandoned with a week?   Literally NEVER HAPPENED . . . before Destiny 2, of course.

The list of problems I have with Destiny 2 is too long to go into here, so let’s just say that the game failed to improve on the original’s weaknesses AND managed to weaken the Crucible, which was easily the best part of the first game, IMO.   Bungie has taken some steps toward making Destiny 2 a more enjoyable experience – making the Crucible 6v6 instead of 4v4, finally including ranked play in the Crucible, and adding the new Escalation Protocol mode, among other things – and recently released the new Warmind DLC.

And I still don’t care.

I had high hopes for the Destiny franchise, and there is still I chance might get back into it down the road.  It had such potential . . . but looking at the reviews for Warmind it seems as if Bungie still has not quite gotten the message.  With games like Titanfall 2, Overwatch and Rainbow Six Siege handing out free DLC in order to keep fans engaged, and the insanely popular Fortnite: Battle Royale providing new game modes and customization options weekly, you would think Bungie would realize that if you are going to charge people twenty bucks for each DLC, you better be giving gamers a serious chunk of new content to sift through.  Instead, they are giving players a campaign that you can blow through in less than three hours, filled with the same bad guys we have been fighting since day one.

Aside from a few new maps in the Crucible, and some secrets to unlock in a new public space – you know, the sort of stuff we should be getting for free in the first place – Warmind is the sort of disappointing, over-priced DLC Bungie churned out for the first Destiny, until they finally gave us The Taken King, which was actually worth the price.  As much as I was hoping Bungie would give me a reason to reinstall Destiny 2 on my Xbox One S, I’m going to pass on this DLC and keep paying games like Fortnite, Surviving Mars and Sea of Thieves, with a little PUBG mixed in.  Better luck next time, Bungie.




Video Games

Fortnite Infinity War Limited Time Mashup Is Live!

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Do you like to play Fortnite: Battle Royale?

Okay – that’s probably a stupid question.

Then let me ask you this: are you a COMPLETE nerd?  Or at least, did you enjoy Avengers: Infinity War?


Well today, and probably this entire week, is your lucky day!  And week!

Why, you ask? Because Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet have come to Fortnite: Battle Royale you noob!

That’s right: there is a limited time solo player mode in which you can find the Infinity Gauntlet on the map and become Thanos. And you thought the golden scar was OP, eh?

Thankfully, if you don’t find the Infinity Gauntlet, you can take comfort in the fact that only rare (blue), Epic (purple), and Legendary (gold) weapons appear in this mode.  As of this point, I don;t have an idea of just how much damage a player can take as Thanos before dying, but I’m sure I will have fun finding out!

Check out the quick video below and go play some Fortnite this week – as if you needed another reason to do that!

Video Games

Surviving Mars: Review Preview

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Time for a bit of brutal honesty: I truly suck at Fortnite: Battle Royale.

Sure, I have finished solo games in second place at least ten times now, and yes, I do actually get kills now and then (about one per game).  But I have never won a single goddamn match of that infuriating game, mostly because I suck at building and have NEVER been good at third-person shooters.  (I used to get kicked from SOCOM games all the time.)

And let’s face it: nothing short of quitting my day job and investing 10 hours a day playing the stupid game is going to make me better.  Playing Fortnite is for everyone, but winning Fortnite: Battle Royale is a young man’s game, and I have come to peace with that, which is why I plan to spend more of my gaming time exploring the high seas in Sea of Thieves and trying not to get my colonists killed in Surviving Mars

Surviving Mars is a game that has been on my radar for a while now, and I was just able to snag a copy of it recently for Xbox One so I have not put very much time into it.  The game is a simulator that tasks you with setting up a colony on Mars, making sure it can sustain life, and then maintaining and improving your colony as humans begin to populate it.  From what I read, it is quite difficult – colonists will die! – but also very satisfying when you finally succeed.

I can get behind letting younger kids play games like Surviving Mars and Jurassic World Evolution, so I hope to be able to put some time in on Mars and get back to you all with a review!  Until then, check out the gameplay reveal trailer to see how cool this looks!

Video Games

Video Games We Are Excited About: Jurassic World Evolution


Not too long ago, my sister-in-law shared the following image on Facebook and tagged me in it:

Times You Know THE MOST About Dinosaurs

The image describes my family perfectly, since my oldest son was exactly four years old when he had a conversation about dinosaurs with a graduate student at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. The student was duly impressed with my kid’s grasp of the subject matter, and at one point he may have even remarked, “This kid knows more about dinosaurs than I do!”

Both of my sons, and even my daughter to an extent, have gone through their dinosaur phases . . . but it just so happens that my oldest son is sort of still in his dinosaur phase, as he often breaks out dinosaurs that we purchased years ago and plays with them in the den, or pits two stuffed dinosaurs against each other while he is unwinding in his bed after a long day. (Yes, he would kill me if he knew I was sharing this!)

I absolutely love the fact that my oldest son still wants to play with his dinosaurs, and that my seven year-old still wants to build Jurassic World LEGO sets, because it means my kids are still using their imaginations, something that is in short supply nowadays. While I do appreciate the creativity and imagination that goes into MAKING a quality video game, playing video games requires very little creativity and imagination. The work has already been done for you, and while you may have to use strategy to survive in a game like Fortnite: Battle Royale or solve some puzzles in various games, the amount of brain power required to play most video games is minimal.

On the other hand, simulation/building games, such as Sim City and Minecraft, DO interest me, precisely because they present players with a blank slate and literally force the player to use his or imagination to bring the world to life. If someone would only combine a simulation game with dinosaurs, I might actually be able to own a game I would not feel guilty about letting my kids play . . . .

Obviously, I’m headed somewhere with this, so let’s get to the point: game developer Frontier Developments has created a simulation game called Jurassic World Evolution, and it is all my oldest son wants to talk about right now.

And who can blame him? I’m excited by the thought of being able to design my own Jurassic World resort, populate it with dinosaurs, and watch the fun, and the shit, hit the fan! I mean, if you have EVER gone through a dinosaur phase, how could such a premise NOT interest you?

This isn’t the first time the Jurassic Park franchise has been translated into a simulation game – older gamers might remember Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis, which is considered by many to be the best Jurassic Park game ever made. Jurassic World Evolution will follow in the older game’s footsteps in the sense that it will task players with the goal of building a fully-functional park, but maintaining a thriving resort is only part of the game. Players will also be allowed to unlock dinosaur DNA, which will allow players to not only breed known species of dinosaurs, but to genetically modify their dinosaurs and even create their own hybrids.

Normally, I try to limit my kids to between 20-45 minutes of gameplay the handful of times a week we allow them to play, and I have no intention of loosening the reins TOO much once Jurassic World Evolution is released, but the game’s combination of site building/business simulation/scientific research might persuade me to be a little bit more liberal with my time allotment. Kids should be encouraged to use their imagination as often as possible, be it the old-fashioned way or digitally. Personally, I cannot wait to see what my kids come up with!

Check out the pre-order trailer and mark June 12, 2018 on your calendars!