Narrative is important for games, even online, multiplayer shooters. While that might seem counterintuitive, a game like Overwatch has shown just how important storytelling can be in a game that has no single player mode and no story mode in the game at all. Instead, Overwatch is straightforward, boot-up-and-play, featuring a cast of colorful characters. So while it might seem like there isn’t any room to tell a story, Blizzard still did exactly that.

The part of me that excitedly bought my way into the Star Citizen universe is still there, but after what feels like years of nothing, I fear that the love affair has turned ugly. There have been public releases for Star Citizen and the promise of what the game could and should be is still there, but the reality of what is currently available is rather grim. Right now the game is distributed via it’s own launcher, which is fine in theory, but it’s also a mess.

It may have been called Local Sesh, but driving to San Diego all the way from Los Angeles on a Sunday Morning for our Fifth Qualifying Tournament of the 2016 Stoned Gamer Season was far from local. More like Far Away Sesh, but it didn't matter because the venue the event was held at was incredibly stunning.

Thursday, 19 May 2016 00:00

Driving While High Led Me To OPUS

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OPUS: The Day We Found Earth is Sour Diesel in my system. Sour Diesel in my system is just like playing OPUS. It was destiny that I ran into OPUS the morning after I drove through the streets of San Antonio completely consumed by Sour Diesel. I didn’t even know I was smoking Sour Diesel until it was absolutely too late. I was gone but I knew that I still had to drive through the hideous San Antonio highways; I knew I was screwed. Yes, I was a nervous sack of nerves while I drove, still, the Texas roads looked beautiful as I drove through them at 50 MPH in a 65 zone -- Siri guided me home. The complexities of the highway system became man-made concrete constellations and I was their spectator.

When we have excellent games like Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen at our disposal, and No Man’s Sky on the horizon, it’s easy to let less ambitious space combat and exploration titles fall by the wayside as we strap on our VR goggles and fire up the HOTAS. It’s a shame, really, because there’s something satisfying about the tight controls and simplicity of the classic twin sticks and shmups that you just don’t get with the newer, more simulationist games that carry on their legacy. While I still regularly fire up titles like Luftrausers, Jamestown, and Geometry Wars to get my fix, it saddens me to see the gulf widening between the space games of old and the newer, bigger, and often slower-paced titles of the modern age. I have an appreciation for both styles of gameplay, and that’s prompted me to search for something that bridges the gap. Something with satisfying twin-stick bullet hell gameplay and the depth of resource management, ship customization and macro-level mechanics that I crave in one package. Up until recently, the titles I’ve explored have come short of the mark. Plenty are fun in their own way, but just don’t scratch all of the itches I have when it comes to sci-fi ship-to- ship combat. That is, until I found Reassembly.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016 00:00

420 Character Reviews: Mystery Castle (7.2)

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420 Character Reviews: Mystery Castle (7.2)

Hey it’s a straight-forward game but this one is funny when you’re high. You’re a dude who’s helping a miniature stereotype of a viking collect keys and diamonds. Those keys will be used to open doors to rooms with diamonds. But in your way a quirky moving challenges. I found the dialogue seriously funny for some reason. You’ve played games like this before, but give mystery castle a try while you’re high. I did.

This game holds the distinction of being the first independently developed game to be Sony’s centrepiece reveal at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. Back in 2014, the announcement of this game slipped my attention. However, the first time I heard about this game, I was instantly hooked. Can No Man’s Sky really get past the glaringly obvious finite-ness of every game I’ve ever played? Infinity is a finicky thing, as anyone that has studied mathematics can tell you. The average person’s understanding of infinity (as well as concepts such as randomness) is also usually flawed. Like many of us, if something is beyond the capacity of my own human experience, I consider it infinite. Infinity, for most humans, is defined as such. Somewhere above a few billion, beyond where we can conceivably count.

The internet based tech media has been abuzz with news from nVidia’s Pascal launch event. Youtube “influencers” and other elements in entertainment media were invited to a ranch in Texas, where they were given early access to the GTX 1080 and review samples. They were also given NDAs to sign to stop early real world benchmarks from getting out. Notably absent from the launch event: hard, broad spectrum benchmark data, and representatives from more objective and journalistic media outlets. Masterful marketing on nVidia’s part, sure, but we should all take the rumours about the launch card’s performance with a grain of salt. There are good reasons youtube personalities are called influencers and not reporters. This turn of events has generated a hurricane of forum posts and social media comments making assumptions based on misinformation, and I’m starting to get sick of it.

420 Character Reviews: Slither.io (8.4)

Slither.io is the snake pit that Indiana Jones fell into. This arena game is surging on Agar.io’s House of Cards fame bump. Tap or click to tell your snake where to go. Double tap to go in for the kill with a rush of speed. Collide with another snake and die. Eat snake poop and get bigger! Once you fire this game up you can’t leave... So don’t play while you’re sitting in the restroom - that’s unhealthy.

As a man of distinguished tastes (read: too old for twitchy games) I find myself enjoying strategy games more and more over the past few years. Sitting down and thinking my way through a situation tends to be more rewarding than running through tight corridors with an assault rifle looking to explode heads. Mind you, I still enjoy a good shooter from time-to-time, but strategy games are far more appealing right now, even if they are giant time sucks. I’ve also written a ton of science fiction and consumed a lot of it in my life, so Paradox’s new strategy game, Stellaris, seemed like something I had to buy.

There is such an over saturation of zombie games on the market. The blame rests solely on The Walking Dead because it made the entire zombie genre 'cool.' They created a subculture of lonely mothers who religiously wear t-shirts with pictures of Murphy MacManus promising riots #IfDarrylDies. You can easily spot these people as they make early exits from a showing of Day of the Dead. Honestly, outside of the early Resident Evil games, the only zombie game you need to play is Project Zomboid. You can’t proclaim to be an expert at zombie-survival if you can’t stay alive for a week while playing PZ.

I’m a fan of all things horror and have been since I was a little kid. Sneaking onto the staircase after my parents put me to bed to watch movies like Kairo, The Thing, and Alien through the slats on the bannister are some of my earliest memories. As fond as I am of terrifying fiction, though, I have accepted that the difficulty inherent to the genre’s execution leaves long gaps in between great works of horror. For me, these holes are felt most sorely in video games. I can’t remember the last time I played a modern horror game (PT was a demo, people) that couldn’t be boiled down to pressing the sprint button to the next jump scare, then backtracking so you can do the same thing in a new area. That’s not to say those types of games aren’t good on their own or entertaining; they just aren’t good horror.

Monday, 09 May 2016 00:00

Explore Real Hauntings in Ghost Theory

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I've been to a cemetery at 4 a.m. I was with my colleague Alex -- his name has not been changed to protect the identity of those involved. We armed ourselves with a camera and tequila. Our intention was to capture an orb with the flash of the camera; the fact that those orbs were really just dust particles did nothing to stop us. On that night we were ghost hunters, and while amateurs, we were still doing a better job than those clowns on the SyFy Network. We were pretty obsessed with the paranormal, actually. There was an intent to break into an abandoned hospital but a sleeping hobo thwarted our plans. Look, you don't know and don't want to know what's it's like to startled a sleeping homeless man.

Our fourth qualifying tournament of The 2016 Stoned Gamer Season wrapped up at Compassesh this past weekend, and it marked the end of our first group of competitors for our year-end Grand Finale Tournament, which will be held in California -- somewhere. We can't even tell you when everything is going down. The suspense we're building up is approaching M. Night Shyamalan levels. Well, M. Night before he directed The Last Airbender. Everything since then has been just ridic...oh, wait he's producing the new Tales from the Crypt series? Dammit, M. Night -- we need this one to be good. Just this one time. 

Friday, 06 May 2016 00:00

420 Character Reviews: The Park (8.1)

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420 Character Reviews: The Park (8.1)

Set in a theme park, you play an irresponsible mother who is looking for her son. The Park has you collecting items and while jump scares are cheap, they work well here. Someone should call CPS to bring some real horror to this mom’s life. Ghouls will appear behind you; I suggest you work out those kegel muscles before playing. This game is worth trying for the final act alone but dont play it if you cant read.

You really don’t need to tell me that there are better shooters than the Call of Duty franchise, because I get it. Yet, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was a damned good game. At the time it felt fresh. After the shooter genre was bogged down with World War II for so long someone moved away from that and did so in one of the most fast-paced and balanced online multiplayer shooters in ages. As someone who had never really gotten hooked on playing a game online before, Modern Warfare was exactly that game that got me hooked.

By becoming a better version of ourselves we could actually become a worse version of what we were. Jared Fogle was a fat, pale, smelly, obese man at one time. He wasn't famous. He was just Jared -- ‘Fat Jared’ in the minds of those around his gravitational pull. Life was probably simpler before he lost all the weight and gained popularity with lazy Americans who'd rather lose weight by eating sandwiches than exercising and a researching a real diet. Jared was once morbidly obese but now he's thinner and incarcerated and it's thanks losing weight with subs -- without mayo. Fogle became a better version of himself and because of that, transformed into a monster.

Our third qualifying tournament of The 2016 Stoned Gamer Season was held at an event called @BlacklistSesh on May 1st 2016. In the history of our Stoned Gamer Tournaments, Blacklist Sesh was the fourth time we visited San Bernardino, CA. Granted, most of you know San Bernardino from that terrorist attack that happened just days before our Blazers Cup tournament. One day we're going to cut all the footage of politicians using San Bernardino to further their platform and then make it appear as if they're talking about us. Maybe we shouldn't have told you this and just made it happen instead. Damn.

At some point in the near future I’m going to have kids. I know that. This isn’t a stunning revelation or any sort of carefully planned out fact. I’m married, own a house, we both have jobs that allow us to live kind of comfortably and kids are a logical step. I’m also a guy that plays videogames and is totally alright with that. I grew up with them and, in a way, they grew up with me, becoming more mature and trying to continue appealing to me. That’s okay. Growing up, though, I was a Nintendo kid.

Three times now I’ve purchased the Square Enix open world game Sleeping Dogs. Three times. I think that the first might have been on Xbox 360 when they gave it away with Games with Gold, but I’m really not sure, I fiddled around with it a bit and it was really fun, but for some reason I didn’t keep going. This prompted a purchase during a Steam sale a long time ago, thinking that I’d get into it on PC where I could crank the graphics and goof around with it. I’m not sure that I’ve ever launched it.

Something that I’ve noticed, and I’m sure you have as well, is the sentiment of “Fuck 2016.” Every year features beloved celebrity deaths, but 2016 has felt like a real punch in the gut. Lemmy from Motorhead got the metalheads, David Bowie’s death took everyone by surprise and now the untimely demise of Prince has the world on end. Bowie was a huge blow, but man, I wasn’t ready for Prince, just no way. Oddly enough, Prince’s death came the same week that Banner Saga 2 was released and man, is that game depressing.

Like many others out there, the whole concept of the “PS4.5” or the “PS4 Neo” seems almost entirely lost on me. So Sony has it in their mind that they are going to release a new PlayStation 4 with updated hardware, which should be able to run newer games a bit more smoothly, but these games have to be developed to work on both the base-model PS4 and the PS4 Neo. A cursory glance at VGChartz shows us that Sony has moved a whopping 39.8 million units and counting of the PlayStation 4 over the span of the three years that it’s been available.

Just hours after we wrapped up the debut of The 2016 Stoned Gamer Tournament at Xtravaganja in San Diego, CA, the show was headed to San Bernardino, CA -- home of our first two tournaments, along with that ridiculous domestic terrorist attack that happened last year. Those killings actually occurred a week before Blazers Cup was scheduled to take place, located just minutes from the incident. We thought the event was going to be canceled, but fortunately the FBI and local police viewed the cannabis festival as a 'non-threatening gathering.' Only in California.

I’m not sure why it took me so long to play Firewatch, but it did. I’ve heard mixed things about, which seems to come with the territory in narrative-based games where you aren’t a mass murderer. The term “walking simulator” is used for games like this, but it’s usually seen as a detraction more than a genre label. It’s meant as an insult to games that are more contemplative and don’t see you taking control of a musclebound guy with a lot of guns at his disposal.

Our last Stoned Gamer Tournament took place at Blazers Cup last December, and it was undeniably the biggest event we've ever held on this planet. On other planets and solar systems, it ranked a little bit above average. If you don't believe us, feel free to check out the wrap-up article, filled with timeless photos of stoned gamers getting as high as humanly possible to crank out moves on our custom TSG Championship Edition Arcades. Granted, the photos are timeless because we got every competitor so high that the concept of time or space meant nothing to them.

Very rarely do I find myself super excited after playing a game. Often times I play games because I’m bored or because I’m familiar with them, not because I find them to be interesting or challenging. See, when you get older, the whole concept of “challenging” changes. Bullet storms and killer enemies aren’t the challenge that I’m looking for anymore, instead I’m looking for a game that challenges me in different ways. That’s exactly what I found in Consortium.

For many, the last title in Deep Silver's clone-turned-parody franchise is old news. It's been available for some time on all the relevant platforms, and the people that purchased the title have gotten their jollies out of it for the most part. For me, Saint’s Row IV scratches that same itch that Movies like John Dies at the End, Evil Dead 2, and Samurai Cop might for film buffs. Its writing and storyline fall squarely between GTA V and Borderlands 2 in an incredibly satisfying way. Enough camp to keep me entertained without sacrificing gameplay, and just enough self-awareness and fan-service to avoid presenting like Gearbox's calculated meme dictionary. The reason my attentions have shifted to Saint's Row IV isn't because I enjoy it more than my core game library, it's because I recently moved my work machine over to Linux. To my surprise, there was a native port available, and I downloaded it out of curiosity. The experience changed the way I think about PC gaming, and the sacrifices PC gamers take for granted nowadays.

Before I acquired a copy of EA UFC 2 this week I had no interest in that game whatsoever. As a former MMA superfan, writer and podcaster I feel like I’ve run the gambit of emotions when it comes to that sport and I can pretty much say that it has passed me by and that I’ve made my peace with it. People tell me that it’ll pass, that I’ll be able to get back into it or that maybe it’ll be fun again to just watch a few fights, but that feeling simply isn’t there. That’s why getting a copy of EA UFC 2 was just so strange. A friend had an extra copy and there I was, downloading it and wondering what the hell I was doing with my life.

The term “cord cutting” has been around for as long as services like Hulu and Netflix have been around and offering streaming video services. Things really started to pick up steam in this department in the mid-00’s, around 2008 or so, and now over eight years later I’ve finally become one of those people. I’ve had cable or satellite on-and-off for most of my adult life, but recently was subscribing to Comcast for what was a whopping $180 a month for what was sub-par service. We’re talking half the channels being pixelated garbage because they bury their lines out here and it has happened to be extremely rainy for the desert, meaning that their lines get soaked and have blown out a number of times.

420 Character Reviews: Viridi (7.1)

Have you ever wanted to grow cacti without the chance of falling down and hurting yourself? Viridi is a game of simplicity, which is something you prefer if you’re tending to cacti instead of more demanding pot plants. This game is also perfect for anyone with a spare screen and a penchant for virtual items. Don’t forget to water the snail. Make sure to ask the devs for some special species of cactus, too :)

If there’s been any defining factor for the latest trend in virtual reality, it would have to be that people just really, genuinely want this to become the next big thing. How much so? At first this generation of VR was seen as a risk, with the Oculus Kickstarter coming out of nowhere and captivating consumers into tossing money at them. Then again, it was a sort of new technology and that can always find early adopters. But then it kept gathering momentum, to the point where a company like Facebook decided to invest in Oculus. Then stuff got real.

The beginning of my disdain for Pokemon started with my Canadian ex-girlfriend. Actually it started with my Canadian ex-girlfriend's adopted cat.

When I first put together my new PC one of the first games that I played was the 2012 release Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. Chivalry is a brutish, gory depiction of medieval combat that focuses on fast-paced, first person action without a ton of refinement. This was a follow-up to an earlier mod for Half-Life 2 called Age of Chivalry, only pushed as a commercial product. The relative success of 2010’s Mount & Blade: Warband was the catalyst of sort for this genre of games, which has included games like War of the Roses, War of the Vikings and the Chivalry expansion Deadliest Warrior.

If you were to ask me if the Witness was a retro throwback game I’d probably say no, as would creator Jonathan Blow. According to what the industry deems as a “retro throwback” games need to be heavily stylized like the games of yesteryear, looking like they were ripped from the NES or SNES, featuring chiptune tracks and simple mechanics. Because really, that’s what old games were, right? Old games were platformers, top down shooters, side scrollers and whatever else we’ve gotten from indie developers trying to recapture their collective youths. Yet, the deluge of these throwbacks has left me with a bit of retrovertigo. I’m over it. Every month’s PlayStation Plus offerings get added to my library but rarely ever downloaded because, seriously, I don’t need to keep snidely revisiting my childhood at this point. I’ve done it and been doing it for years.