The Witcher 3’s Tribute to Paul Walker

 

paul walker fast and furious gif
Image Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Illegal Street Racing as Geralt

I’m finally finishing up The Witcher 3, year too late I know, and just participated in an illegal street race that is a subtle nod to the late and great Paul Walker and the Fast and Furious series.

It’s well documented that there is an achievement titled “Fast and Furious” that players can earn by winning all of the horse races throughout the game, but I couldn’t find any record of this other reference to the series, and Paul Walker specifically.

witcher 3 palio paul walker race
Image Courtesy of CP Projekt Red

A Race for Cash, and Respect

The race I’m referring too takes place as part of “The Great Erasmus Vegelbud Memorial Derby” side quest. After you beat every other contestant in the derby, you are crowned champion and subsequently approached my one of Cleaver’s henchman, Cleaver is a dwarf crime boss in the city of Novigrad. Meeting with Cleaver results in him inviting you to compete in an underground and illegal street race through the city of Novigrad. There’s a vague reference here to Fast and Furious being that’s  it’s an “illegal street race” in a fantasy setting, which seems intentional, but it is also still part of the previously mentioned “Memorial” side quest and the race is known as the Palio for no discernable reason. Still pretty thin I know, I didn’t even make the connection yet, I had to replay the section after the race.

The King of Beggars isn’t exactly one of the scantily clad women that kicks off almost every race in Fast and Furious movies, but the line about respect is an obvious allusion to the scene in the original Fast and the Furious movie where Paul Walker’s character makes himself know the street racing kingpin, Dominic Toretto.

“I lose, winner takes my car, clean and clear. But if I win, I take the cash, and I take the respect… To some people that’s more important.”

The Palio is introduced as, “above all, a race of honor,” where, “the winner doesn’t  just win a reward, he earns our respect as well.” Taken altogether, this is a wonderful tribute to the late Paul Walker that seems to have been completely overlooked by most fans. Given that I’m a huge fan of the Fast and Furious and now the Witcher games, it was still pretty subtle overall.

But that’s not all! The icing on the cake is that after the races conclusion, there’s a humorous nod to the police chase following the race in the movie, except it’s a dwarf shouting, “temple guard, scatter,” rather than a street racer yelling, “we’ve got cops, cops, cops, go!” over a mic.

Someone at CD Projekt Red is obviously a fan alongside me, and that only makes me love the experience that is the Witcher 3 even more.

 

Destiny 2 on the PC Sounds Great

destiny 2 rumors for pc

The Struggles of a Controller Enthusiast and PC Shooters

Some information came out about Destiny 2, most importantly the fact that it’s likely to be released on the PC this time around. This is kind of a big deal for me. I sold my consoles and made the switch to a PC in my living room with a Xbox controller not too long ago and I’ve loved it so far. The only regret I have is in the area of first person shooters.

I love competitive first  person shooters, but my current setup locks me into playing all of my games with a Xbox 360 gamepad. Back on the 360, I was a pretty competitively skilled player in Call of Duty and the like. I can’t say the same anymore. Besides the fact that I’ve had less time to play, playing with a gamepad is technically inferior to a mouse and keyboard. I’ve tried my best with Overwatch and Black Ops 3, but you can feel that the controls are less precise than the competition. Since giving Overwatch the old college try, the idea of getting a console just for competitive shooters has been in the back of my mind. The idea just won’t go away.

Destiny raid co-op gameplay

Destiny’s Co-Op Seems Controller Friendly

Destiny 2 has given me a chance to save some cash. Destiny is known to be a finely honed shooter experience that is also, for the most part, not a competitive player vs. player experience. With this news, I’m hoping to scratch my shooter itch with some of the cooperative Destiny 2 action, with a little team death match mixed in for good measure. Unlike the majority of shooters, the focus of Destiny is the cooperative mode and not the cutthroat competitive multiplayer that my controller handicaps me at.

Controllers on PC and Steam Big Picture

It seems like the amount of players that use a controller on the PC and Steam is growing. Almost every newish game that I’m interested in has controller support, and hopefully the issue will be addressed at some time. I’ve heard rumors of games adding matchmaking that takes the type of input players are using into account and makes games from either all controllers or all mouse and keyboard, but I haven’t seen any examples of it actually happening yet.

This is such a first world problem, but I’m still hopeful that I’ll be able to use my more powerful PC and controller to play the shooters I miss so much sometime. Most specifically, I’m psyched for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered, whenever they decide to start selling it outside of a bundle that is.

Then again, a game like this emerging on a new platform could be bad for some people…

Images courtesy of Bungie

Beer Gaming Pairing: 3 Floyds Zombie Dust and Dark Souls 3

Beer Pair Dark Souls 3

Beer and Gaming Coming Together

I’ve been working on this one for a while, it’s an idea that I’m excited about. There are many reasons why I am so passionate about both beer and gaming, but one at the forefront is how well they go together. Pairing beer and food is all good and fun, but this idea is more me. It’s obvious that gaming is experiential, but drinking a great beer is an awesome experience as well.

As you know from several of my other posts, I love the Dark Souls series and Dark Souls 3 was the first of the games that I had the opportunity to play the moment of its release. Right around that time, I had also luckily acquired some of what would become one of my favorite beers that I’ve ever tasted, 3 Floyd’s Zombie Dust. The game and the beer paired together seemed like a match made in heaven, and they proved to be such.

Dark Souls 3 beer pairing zombie dust

Two Parallel Acquired Tastes

Almost everyone that follows video games knows about the punishing difficulty that has made the Souls series of games notorious. They are a grinding and sometimes stressful experience, but for certain people, they are also the most rewarding game experiences you can have. I happen to be one of those people, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the final entry in the trilogy. I have an acquired taste for the difficulty curve at this point, I’ve finished the first Dark Souls a few times and I’m in the middle of my second play through of Dark Souls 2. Even with my seasoning, sometimes you hit a wall in these games and it can be frustrating. In those situations, the Zombie Dust was a welcome complement to the game.

Much like the Dark Souls game, aggressively hoppy beers can be overwhelming and are an acquired taste among craft beer drinkers. But, just like the game, they have a habit of hooking people who embrace them. After you’re hooked, there’s nothing else like a well hopped IPA. Zombie Dust happens to be one of the most renowned hoppy beers in the country, marketed as a pale ale, but likely actually closer to an IPA. To those imbued with an unnatural appreciation for overly bitter beverages, this one is a gem.

For anyone who likes beating up their palate while they’re getting beat up in a game, this is a great beer gaming pairing. There wasn’t anything too ridiculous in the early parts of the game within which I was partaking of these fine brews, but Dark Souls games are always hard, they just aren’t always ridiculous. Whenever “You Died” appeared on screen, a hefty swig of Zombie Dust was an awesome counter-balance. The citra hops are aggressive, but the citrus notes they add make this beer nothing but refreshing to an IPA enthusiast.

Dark Souls 3 viewpoint

A Niche Appeal, Executed Perfectly

It’s interesting that both of these products most likely weren’t going for universal appeal when they were first released, speaking specifically to the original Dark Souls or even Demon’s Souls. They both set out to stand out from the crowd to a very certain type of gamer or beer drinker, but through the undeniable quality of the experience they present, each has transcended through to the mainstream. More people probably discovered a love of hops because of how fine a beer Zombie Dust is and I know gamers started to warm up to challenging games more as Dark Souls devotees raved about the quality of the experience that the Souls games offered being above any other.

Zombie Dust -4

That all sounds a bit dramatic, but I freaking love Zombie Dust and Dark Souls.

I wanted to start this idea for a series off right with something I knew I would enjoy writing about. This pairing definitely did not let me down.

Let me know what you thought of the post and the idea for the series in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

South Park: The Stick of Truth Finally Does Game Humor Right

South Park stick of truth avatar
That’s me with Cartman in fantasy South Park form with a sweet eye scar!

The Stick of Truth is Fucking Hilarious

I love South Park, it has its highs and lows, but on average, I think its a terrific show that’s grown up as its aged. Video games have tried to take advantage of the quality of South Park quite a few times with limited success. The best attempt might have been a Xbox Live Arcade tower defense game with a quality skin of South Park over the entire thing. It was an alright game, but it felt like a pretty generic game with a few sound bites and some licensed assets added in. South Park: The Stick of Truth is what South Park games should have always been, and displays the potential of both humor in gaming and licensed video games.

Firstly, I cannot believe that I waited this long to play this game. I’ve looked forward to every new episode of South Park for years and loved the arc featuring the Stick of Truth, but this game came out when I was doing limited gaming and slipped by me. What a shame. But with the hype building around South Park: The Fractured But Whole and a great Summer Steam Sale deal, it was about time I jumped in.

SOuth park stick of truth jimmie
Jimmy could stutter on forever if you don’t “Hold to Skip”

Poking Fun at Cliche Game Mechanics

It’s amazing how genuinely the entire game looks like the show. Even though this was originally an Xbox 360 game, I can’t see it looking any better than this due to the art style of the show. I’ve seen this license squandered in the past though, and graphics themselves don’t do much for me although these are a bit of a special case due to subject matter. I’ve heard Matt and Trey took a more active role in the creation of this game due to the mixed results of South Park games in the past, and it shows. I am a biased South Park fan,  but this may be the funniest game I’ve ever played and one of the best uses of a license. It pulls the player into what feels like a genuine, feature length, South Park story while never forgetting that it is also a video game.

It is at its best when it feels like a great South Park sequence that would only work in an interactive medium. It makes players a part of the joke and often attaches a video game trope mechanic to the joke to make sure it lands just right. This is fan service in the best possible way, while especially catering to fans that love gaming as well. This ranges from context sensitive lines from characters to hilarious button prompts. My favorites were scenes where Jimmy’s stuttering is never ending until you use the now cliche “press and hold to skip” button mechanic.

south park post-2

RPG mechanics  and tropes are fully taken advantage of in the best ways as well. You get the chance to create your own avatar in the style of the show, which is great fun for fans. Then you get to name your character, but when Cartman asks you what your name is and the text input box appears you realize that you are a very literal silent protagonist. You can’t answer so the box defaults to a blank box and Cartman decides only one title is fit for a hero such as you… Douchebag, of course.

Befitting a fourth grader in South Park, you get made fun of a bunch for being weird and never talking, but you are also the hero of the town and the entire game. Fitting the classic silent protagonist role , there is also an awesome elf costume, which straight up makes you a South Park style Link from the Legend of Zelda.

South Park stick of truth legend of zelda link

So Many Great Video Game References

That isn’t the only funny and blatant nod to gaming culture though. The toxic goo in town from a UFO that’s causing so much trouble is doing so by turning anyone exposed to it into, wait for it…. Nazi zombies. The only enemy more played out than generic zombies. But they do it in a hilarious way by making fun of how done the idea Nazi zombies is, even as the zombie is running amok. Oh, and there are zombie nazi cats and mutant rats to, as well as babies…. I’ll let you figure that one out.

South Park stick of truth Canada retro map

The adventure takes you to far off lands as well, well Canada, which hilariously transforms the game into a 16-bit classic RPG as soon as you cross the border.

Get into Your Own Epic South Park Adventure!

The whole gang is in tow on this epic too, so you can look forward to all of your favorites making appearances and doing what they do best. The main quest is definitely the main attraction in this game, but the side quests flesh out the world. Talking to characters at home often gets you a fun side quest to do a wide range of activities from play hide and seek with kindergartners to hunting down manbearpig and then Al Gore to unfriend him. They’re a blast and the art style makes it feel like each one is a South Park short hidden in the game.

Hilarious situations and dialogue are around every corner in the Stick of Truth. I’m glad I finally sat down with it and I cannot wait until the undoubtedly epic Marvel Civil War parody, South Park: The Fractured But Whole, comes out this winter. Thanks for reading and feel free to leave a comment below!

Enter the Gungeon Review- It Kicks Some Serious Ass, Seriously Fast

enter-the-gungeon-1

My New Go-To Quick Play Game

I’ve been playing way more Enter the Gungeon than I anticipated that I would when I picked it up. I’ve also been more steadily busy recently and unable to devote the kind of attention to games like I gave to Dark Souls 3. I still want to play, but I want quick sessions that give me a full experience in not too much time. Enter the Gungeon is exactly what I want right now.

An Entrie Game Experience Every time you Sit Down

Enter the Gungeon is a humorous, roguelike, bullet hell indie game from Devolver Digital and Dodge Roll Games. Sounds weird, I know. You explore dungeons slaying monsters with your trusty firearms which range from generic starter weapons to Mega-Mans blaster and a lightsaber gun. The floors are procedurally generated and contain random chests which feature guns you can unlock in the lobby with the in-game currency. Each floor ends with a boss selected from a few possibilities that allows access to the next floor through a giant, bullet elevator.

enter-the-gungeon-2

They Love Crazy Guns as Much as Borderlands

That elevator doesn’t stand out rocketing you between levels though, just about everything in this game is gun themed. They really went with the “Gungeon” theme. Bullets with arms and legs waddle toward you shooting pistols and machine guns. Fittingly, shotgun shells are armed with shotguns that spray large amounts of shots. Further down on the second floor, you’ll find large caliber bullets armed with high damage sniper rifles. If everything stuck to these conventions, it could get a little tiresome though. Luckily, there are still some more typical dungeon dwellers, like angry, magic-wielding, spell books and huge knights to fight. The best Gungeon dwelling monsters come with creative crossovers though.

enter-the-gungeon-3

My favorite monster I’ve run into is the Beholster. It’s a clever take on the well know D&D giant, floating eyeball monster known as a Beholder. At least I think its well know enough for people to get it, I’ve never played D&D and I’ve definitely seen this thing a few places before. In the Gungeon, instead of each of his tentacles ending with another eye, they each hold a different huge gun so he can attack in a multitude of ways. That’s not an uncommon sight in the Gungeon though. In addition to being a roguelike, this is definitely inspired by bullet hell games.

Simple Combat that’s Hard to Master

Not a far shot from the Dark Souls games I love, rolling is crucial in Enter the Gungeon. Your arsenal includes a diving combat roll. While you’re in the air, bullets don’t hurt. Its a crucial skill to be able to duck and roll while firing away at enemies almost constantly. Face your fears and dive straight into a wall of bullets, if your timing’s on point, you’ll emerge unscathed.

The deepest I’ve made it is to a boss on the third floor. I’ve heard there’s 5 floors total and I’ve only unlocked 2 of the 48 Steam Achievements, so I’ve got some work left to do. I’ve played for almost 10 hours already and I feel like I’m barely scratching the surface. I just discovered an entirely secret floor you can unlock behind a fireplace on the first floor, and I doubt that’s all the game has hidden from me.

Secrets, Depth, and Plenty of Replaybility

It’s not a huge game, but it’s got plenty to offer for the $15 price tag. It could be exactly what you were looking for, it has been for me. I’m playing on my Alienware Alpha PC with a Xbox 360 controller and the game looks and runs great. I’m loving Enter the Gungeon so far, and I’m sure I’ll be putting quite a bit more time into it, I can’t wait to try out the local co-op with some friends.

Let me know what you think of Enter the Gungeon or the review in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

Photo Credits: Devolver Digital, Dodge Roll Games, and in-game Captures from Enter the Gungeon

E3 Thoughts So Far After Day 1

e3-day-1-1

This is the first year I’ve ever rally paid a lot of attention to E3, which is a little ironic but we’ll get to that. I’ve watched the Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo press conferences and checked out some highlights of all of the other press conferences. It’s a good year to be a gamer.

e3-day-1-2

Microsoft Put on a Great Xbox Show

Microsoft’s set it off right with a killer conference showing a ton of upcoming games, albeit with some somewhat awkward presentations in between, and then put he rumors to rest by pulling a sweet “one more thing” move and officially unveiling Project Scorpio. Overall, it was a great showing that got me excited about the Xbox brand again. I even liked the Xbox One S, though it might have some sales issues given that they already have released details about the upcoming Scorpio to be released next year. I imagine that’s a core gamer mentality though, and there will be a ton of people who could care less about picking up the most powerful console in history and just want a smaller, sleeker, Xbox One.

Microsoft is pushing their Windows 10 gaming platform, nearly every game shown off was labeled as a “Xbox One and Windows 10 exclusive.” It’s a bold strategy that could grow  their brand and get them some good will with their “Play Anywhere” feature. Play Anywhere allows cross play between both a Xbox One and a PC with a single purchase. Personally, I’m psyched for Forza Horizon 3 and some of the great looking indie games that ID@Xbox showed off like Inside and We Happy Few. All told, Microsoft knocked it out of the park and couldn’t have done much better.

e3-day-1-3

Sony is All About the Games

Sony came out next with a more epic styled showing, mostly due to full orchestra. They contrasted Microsoft and focused much less on the people bringing games out and much more on the games themselves. Sony went from one trailer to the next, rarely with anyone speaking in between. Microsoft is working on getting away from their initial Xbox One platform focusing on one total media box to do everything in addition to playing games, and Sony capitalized on that with a complete focus on games. They opened with a restyled God of War, one with a new setting in Norse mythology and updated gameplay mechanics to bring it in line with contemporary conventions. The action was gritty and close up, in comparison with the animated and zoomed out style of previous entries. The Last Guardian finally has a release date, and Kojima’s new project definitely looks interesting even though we won’t see it for years.

Sony is doubling down on PSVR, as they should, and showed off a ton of games coming out for it in addition to a release date and price point for the peripheral. The announcement that the Kitchen demo that I have heard so many people refer to was actually an early preview of Reident Evil 7 blew me away. The fact that you can play the entire game in PSVR as well as on the console is also nuts. From the looks of the preview, I’m not sure I actually want to play in VR because it looks scary as shit in a very good way. It became a little difficult to tell which games are coming to PSVR and which are not due to to their being no segues in between the trailers, but you can see which ones seem more fit for the platform.

One thing that was a little bit of a surprise given the fact that Microsoft had already presented was the lack of any mention of the PS4K. Microsoft confirmed the existence of their iterative console that morning and Sony has already confirmed their new console’s development outside of E3. One thought that’s been floating around is that Sony might be working on some further development on the Neo. Given the current consoles narrative and Sony’s dominance based almost purely on a more powerful machine, they might be redeveloping based on Microsoft’s statements about the performance level of their upcoming Scorpio console. That could be huge for Microsoft if they manage to get their new console out before Sony, as Sony might decide to redesign aspects of it.

I’m a fan of both consoles right now, even though I own neither. This arms race of console power that’s developing might be a pain for Microsoft, Sony, and any game developers out there, but its nothing but good for consumers and gamers.

e3-day-1-4

Nintendo’s Focus is Away from E3

To finish out, Nintendo showed their Treehouse 2016 stream this morning. It was nowhere near the spectacle that Microsoft and Sony put on, you can tell the bulk of their resources are focused elsewhere as they see the faults of E3. They released a gorgeous looking trailer for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and then moved on to a sedate gameplay demo of the new Pokemon games. The games look great, but the presenting pace was slow compared to everything else I’ve seen at E3. There are probably a ton of people who were super into the gameplay demo though, so I can’t fault Nintendo for taking advantage of the spotlight that Zelda gave them.

Nintendo seems to give no shits about E3, but they know Zelda will get them attention, and for good reason. The new entry in the series looks amazing and seemingly shakes the series up in a ton of well thought out ways that will add to the experience. It’s an open world with gear, weapons, and and ton of content off the beaten path to keep players interested. It was shown on the Wii U and looked great, so I can only imagine how sweet it’s going to run on the NX since its been confirmed on the system.

What a Year to Start Paying Attention to E3

All in all, this has been a great year to give E3 my attention. I haven’t been able to watch many of the presentations live, but the breadth of content around the event has made it easy for me to catch up whenever I have some time. The interesting part of this being the first E3 I have given my attention to is that this is the year in which E3 seems to be losing relevance. I watched the Giant Bomb day 1 wrap up video, and they hit on the amount of open space at the event many imes. Seems like in years past, this event was packed to the brim with journalists and publishers, that is not the case this year. Many publishers and studios have given up their space to save the huge cost of entry for more meaningful ways to reach out to their audience.

In the era of social media and a connected world, there might not be as much value in an event focused on industry professionals when its cheaper and more effective to reach directly out to the audience that supports the game makers.

Image Credits: E3 Expo, Microsoft, Kotaku, Sony, and Nintendo

Microsoft is Going All Out on New Xbox, Partnering with Oculus Rift

Xbox Scorpio Oculus

New Microsoft Xbox “Scorpio” Rumors to Compete with “Neo”

As you have probably heard by now, details have leaked about Microsoft’s plans to iterate on the Xbox One by not only releasing a slimmer version of the box, but also by releasing a more beefy, PS4K-esque, Xbox next year. Kotaku reported that multiple sources have leaked information to them about plans for the new-ish consoles, saying that Microsoft is “moving toward an iterative approach for their consoles, not unlike Apple.” Polygon also corroborated this discovery from sources of their own, adding that Microsoft aims to make their new xbox significantly more powerful than the PS4 “Neo” that Giant Bomb leaked details about a bit ago.

Microsoft xbox scorpio performance chart
Awesome chart courtesy of Polygon

Microsoft Going All In on Xbox Performance

The story of this generation has been all about Sony’s consistent messaging and the PS4’s slight graphical edge that have made it a better buy in many consumers’ minds. Performance benchmarks of the original PS4 and Xbox One put them at 1.84 and 1.32 teraflops respectively, where reputable sources have put the PS4 Neo at 4.14 teraflops. According to Polygon’s sources, the next Xbox evolution, code-named “Scorpio,” will clock in at 6 teraflops.

That’s more than 4 times more powerful than the current Xbox. If true, this should give it a significant performance edge over the competition, assuming the Nintendo NX isn’t even more powerful with it’s industry leading chips. Combined with Phil Spencer’s much more consistent messaging around the console, the promise of the Windows Universal Platform, and a growing backwards compatibility library, this new version could give Microsoft the edge in consumers’ eyes that Sony has been enjoying so far. Will it be enough to convert a large amount of the over 40 million people who currently own the PS4 though?

Xbox One Destined to Support Oculus Rift?

Microsoft might have one more surprise in the future though. As hinted by their partnership with Oculus to bundle Xbox One controllers with the headset, the significant performance upgrades in the new console might be in order to bring it in line with the requirements of the Oculus Rift. The PSVR is definitely on its way, but Facebook’s Oculus is still the biggest name in VR. They could give Microsoft the competitive advantage that they’ve been looking for.

Keep in mind, all of this information is currently leaked rumors with no official word on the accuracy of them. The console game definitely seems to be changing though. We’ll know for sure when these plans from Sony and Microsoft are officially confirmed, but they seem like solid rumors. What do you think about the evolving landscape of game consoles as they move to shorter cycles in a more phone like production model?

 

Images and references courtesy of Oculus, Microsoft,

Kotaku, Giant Bomb, and Polygon.