Review of Grid (2019) — I always race to win

I know I’ve said this at least several times before, but I’m gonna have to say it again  — Codemasters has a long resume when it comes to racing games. Whether it be rallying, Formula 1, or even over-the-top off-roading, the British publisher has done it all. But while Dirt and F1 have still been going strong, fans had been wondering if/when the Grid series would return to the track.  Well, after five years, we don’t have to wonder anymore.  This self-titled reboot is the series’ debut on current-gen hardware, and I’m here to give you the full synopsis on everything it brings to the table.  So with that out of the way, let’s drop the green flag and get this review started.

Turn the car into the wind

Like other established series such as Gran Turismo and Forza MotorsportGrid tasks you with making a name for yourself in a variety of racing disciplines.  You won’t find rally racing or modern Formula 1 in here, but you get to race sports cars, open-wheelers, touring cars, tuner cars, and stock cars from different eras of the sport.  During your career, you must not only place high in the standings, but also manage your race team properly.  It’s your job to collect prize money, buy (And paint) the cars you want, and hire teammates.  No virtual racing career would be complete without a diverse track roster, and this game delivers a hefty number of road-course, street-course, and oval configurations.  There are only 13 locations at the moment, but more will be added in free updates.

GRID-dle cakes

Of course, all of the above would be meaningless if the racing itself wasn’t solid, and the folks at Codemasters have once again delivered solid racing in spades.  While not an arcade racer like Need for Speed or BurnoutGrid tries to be a little more accessible than Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport.  Despite the car-setup functionality being quite simplified, the driving does have weight and realism on both gamepad and wheel.  Flags and pit stops are non-existent, but you still have to drive carefully to avoid crashing out or being penalized.  If you race an opponent too aggressively, they’ll become a Nemesis and try to give you a taste of your own medicine.  Like the previous game in the series, you have the ability to ask your teammate to charge through the pack or play defense, not that they’ll always be able/willing to do what you ask them to do.

Online multiplayer is a bit shallow in this game, as you only have quick-match and private-match options.  Without any search options for public lobbies, you basically jump into public races hoping that the events found are to your liking.  If you want an online race that can be run the way you want it, you have no other alternative but to invite 1-15 friends who have the game.  It’s not a dealbreaker, but I do hope this online-mode drawback can be sorted out.

Pedal to the floor, lap is runnin’ faster

After sitting in its garage for the last five years, the long-running Grid series has made a satisfactory comeback in the form of this reboot.  It may occasionally bust a flat or drop some horsepower, but it still belongs on the shelf of any type of racing-game junkie.  Checkered flag, here I come!

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Destiny 2 Year 3 First Impressions

As of this writing, I’ve been playing Destiny 2 Year 3 for 12 hours. There are very good things, and some not so good things. Grab your ship, we’re going for a ride.

The Moon

How are things now on the moon? Well, in short, it’s hell. The geography has gotten even worse with giant fissures where cracks in the ground were once seen. The Hive are even more prevalent then back in Destiny, and they’re more powerful now. Needless to say, they’ve been up to no good up here. I won’t say any more than that because of spoilers. But, it’s a fun challenge.

Eris is still up here, brooding (and so can you if you got that pre-order exotic emote). She’s created a Sanctuary up there, or about as good as you can get on the Hive-infested Moon. Here you can watch her brood, pick up bounties, and some other cool stuff that you’ll discover as you progress through the missions of Shadowkeep.

Brood with me, Guardian, and face fear.

Power Resets

So everyone, whether you’re a new player with New Light, or a veteran who had already reached power cap in Year 2, starts at the new lowest light of 750. This is both good and bad. Good because if you’re like me and haven’t done a bunch of adventures, you can now go do them and get decent rewards for it. Bad for new players because they don’t get the experience of leveling from zero, which to me is essential, but maybe not to others.

Season Pass

Okay, so there has been some controversy over Bungie including a season pass in to the game. Most battle royale style games have season passes which require you to play an absurd amount of games just to get anything good out of it. This one, however, seems to be rewarding both free players and those who purchase it the same at the start. You gain experience here just by doing your normal stuff- campaign, quests, strikes, PvP. It doesn’t take long to gain levels either. In my 12 hours logged (about 2 of those were idle and in menus and such) I’ve gained 8 tiers, almost to the 9th. If you hard push you can gain even faster too.

Free tier on top, Paid tier on the bottom (not my screenshot)

There are two tiers: free and paid. Free season pass is included for everyone and this is where the Season Artifact resides, and it seems pretty well balanced, at the start. There are some tiers where free players get nothing, but up until rank 35 (where you would get Eliana’s Vow) there aren’t many of these. After this, however there are more blank spots, especially as you get above rank 60. Plus, most of the free rewards in the higher tiers are the Nostalgic Engrams from Eververse, so is this really a reward for all the time spent playing?

The paid season pass (included if you bought the deluxe edition of Shadowkeep) is where most of the good rewards lie. Glimmer and XP boosts for you and your fireteam, awesome weapons, and ornaments, as well as more frequent Upgrade Modules are here. Also, if you get the season pass, at rank 1 you get a crate that has Eliana’s Vow and a set of seasonal armor for your class.

Each season can be purchased as a whole set, or individually. The current season is Season of the Undying, which features Vex events and the seasonal artifact- Eye of the Gate Lord- which can be upgraded to give you armor mods and other effects.

Weasels and Squirrels and bugs, oh my!

Squirrels are not good, in this sense, or in legacy Magic The Gathering. If you need context on the latter, Google it. Personal qualms aside, Weasel and Squirrel are error codes dealing with connection issues in Destiny 2. They took down their servers shortly after launch on October 1st because people could not log in. Shut down at 4 pm EST and back up at 9 pm EST, I’d say that’s a decent turnaround for login issues on the first day with new servers on a different service. Bugs are still being found and fixed, including where The Scarlet Keep strike on PC wasn’t performing matchmaking. I ended up beating that strike solo, in just under 40 minutes, and it was actually pretty fun!

Review ongoing

Overall, I’m having a blast with this new year and new expansion. I hope that sometime down the line that Bungie adds more free tier rewards and doesn’t just focus on the paid season pass. I’m wishing them luck that their bugs get fixed quickly, and I hope that those who are playing New Light are enjoying their time in the universe. Eyes up Guardian, we’re just getting started.

Vlast plays Destiny 2 on PC and streams on our Twitch channel! Give us a follow and see him live Friday mornings at 10 am EST.

Review of FIFA ‘20 — Where the street is named VOLTA

The whistle has blown, and it’s once again time to lace up the cleats and jugar futbol.  EA Sports’ global juggernaut in FIFA has hit the pitch for the 27th time, and while it’s certainly not completely different from its predecessor, it does include a handful of obligatory refinements, not to mention a throwback to its spin-off series.  Do these new features make FIFA ’20 worth the $60 price of admission? Let’s dust off our vuvuzelas and find out.

You held the world in your arms

This iteration’s most hyped-up feature is a mode that replaces the Journey mode from the last three games.  Known as VOLTA Football, this mode is essentially a callback to the FIFA Street series.  The two teams have 3-5 players apiece, and you get to choose whether or not the match has goalies and walls.  The pitches are set in some of the world’s most famous cities, and they come with commentary spoken in the native languages.  If you prefer matches that emphasize showmanship over teamwork, this mode is tailor-made for you.

Don’t worry, the VOLTA mode isn’t the only addition to this year’s game.  The ball physics, penalty kicks, and free kicks have been given some tweaks, making the on-pitch action more fluid than ever.  The Mystery Ball and King of the Hill match types are now not only in single games, but in Ultimate Team as well.  The offline career mode has been updated quite heavily, featuring interactive press conferences and player convos, the ability to fully customize your created manager, and a very streamlined user interface.

I am just a copy of a…

Despite facing the usual tough competition from Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer, EA Sports’ globally-iconic FIFA series continues to nail its headers and volleys.  Whether you prefer team-based strategy or fancy footwork when it comes to how you play soccer games, this installment won’t disappoint you.

Destiny 2 Prepares for Shadowkeep Launch

Destiny 2 is releasing their latest expansion Shadowkeep on Tuesday October 1st. There are a few things players should know before this.

Maintainence

The game will be down for maintainence today, Monday September 30th, for 24 hours. This is to prepare for the move over to Steam and for the launch of Shadowkeep.

From Battle.net to Steam

Remember that you will no longer be able to play via the Battle.net launcher, it will only be available on Steam. If you have not already moved your account over from Battle.net to Steam, you can link your account on Bungie’s website.

Bright Dust changes

Bright dust can no longer be acquired by breaking down Eververse items starting October 1st- they will now break down into legendary shards.

Also, break down any unused mods, they’re permanent with the new update, so you only need one of each.

New Light releases

New Light is the free-to-play version of Destiny 2, meaning that if you’ve been on the fence about playing, jump in! The base game, and all campaigns through Forsaken will be included. Worlds will be unlocked via experience, not campaign progress, with this update.

Pre-load to get a head start

You can pre-load the game on Steam now to get ready for launch tomorrow. It’s almost 80 GB, so free up some space on your drive if you need to.

That’s all, looking forward to seeing new Guardians and returning veterans!

Review of NASCAR Heat 4 — I want you to build me a car

For what’s felt like a long time, the NASCAR gaming market has endured a bumpy ride.  There are plenty of really good racing games/sims out there that happen to include stock car racing, but games that are dedicated to NASCAR have been very rough around the edges lately.  And due to low budgets and game-engine difficulties, 704Games has had a very tough time giving the NASCAR Heat series the successful pit stop it’s been in need of.  However, after this year’s iteration was announced and its new features were slowly being revealed, longtime NASCAR gamers like myself had plenty of valid reasons to get revved up.  And now that NASCAR Heat 4 has taken the green flag, it’s time to find out if it lives up to the hype.  Let’s pull those belts tight and get into the meat and potatoes.

I’m droppin’ the hammer

The most noticeable changes in this year’s game are the changes to the racing itself.  The weight and aerodynamics of the cars have a more realistic feeling, the contact physics aren’t nearly as frustrating they’ve been in the past, and multi-groove racing has been successfully implemented.  It should also be noted that there are different tire compounds for different tracks, which in turn makes each track noticeably different in terms of tire wear.  Drafting has also been greatly emphasized with the concept of draft partners.  As the race progresses, your HUD will inform you if AI cars are lining up and asking to join forces with you.  Slipstreaming is highly important in stock car racing, and Heat 4 does an excellent job taking that importance into account.

The racing in this year’s game is absolutely awesome, and thankfully there’s plenty of deep modes to race in.  The career mode is mostly the same as its been in previous games, except that the interface has been polished up and you can choose which of the four leagues you’ll be starting your career in.  Also returning is the challenge mode, where you recreate/rewrite the finishes of recent real-life NASCAR races.  The incentive this time around is that you unlock “race-winning” paint schemes for each challenge you complete, which brings back memories of NASCAR games from EA Sports and Atari.  Speaking of EA Sports games, the championship mode now has special types of short seasons that you can take part in.  Sadly, the ability to make your own season hasn’t been granted yet, but never say never.  And if racing against AI isn’t enough for you, you’ll be pleased to know that the 40-player online mode has been given some polish.

Shake and bake

The graphics in this year’s game give a greater sense of speed, even though the framerate slows down from time to time when you’ve got heavy traffic near you.  You even get day-to-night transitions during races, but the catch is that you can only see them if you race with the multi-stage format.  While the visuals definitely won’t please everybody, the audio is absolutely stellar.  Thanks to the FMOD program, the sounds of the engines, crashes, and track surfaces are more realistic than ever.

I feel like I’m ready to roll

After a few blown tires, 704Games and Monster Games have finally given the NASCAR Heat series a true revival.  I personally find this to be the best dedicated NASCAR game I’ve played since NASCAR Racing 2003 Season.  And considering just how much I loved that final hurrah from Papyrus Racing Games, what I just said about Heat 4 is incredibly high praise and it’s not hyperbolic whatsoever.  If you’re a racing game fanatic of any sort, NASCAR Heat 4 is well-deserving of a spot in your gaming garage.  Boogity boogity boogity…Let’s go racin’, gamers!

Review of NBA 2K20 — As cinematic and emotional as virtual basketball can be

There have been many competitors when it comes to basketball games, and NBA 2K has been on the top of the mountain since its opening tip-off in 1999.  For many years, it faced its toughest competition in EA’s NBA Live series, but the latter began throwing up very bad bricks as the eighth generation of consoles started.  The 2K series has been heavily lauded for its spectacular graphics, tight controls, and incredible depth, and this year’s iteration once again delivers all of the above in spades.  With that being said, let’s hit the paint and discuss all the three-pointers that NBA 2K20 effortlessly drains.

A virtual Mike Lupica novel

The most notable change in this year’s game is the overhauled MyCareer mode.  You still have the usual prelude games and exercises, as well as off-court interactions with NPC’s, but the storyline of your career is more cinematic and emotional than ever before.  It feels like 2K took notes from the story modes of FIFA and Madden NFL, and that’s not a bad thing.  The cutscenes look beautiful and the voice-acting drains its layups.  Did I mention the story was written by a team that includes LeBron James?

Other than a career mode with a new structure, the list of modes is business as usual.  You’ve got obligatory modes like exhibition games, MyTeam, MyGM, MyLeague, Blacktop, and online play.  Also, you can now play through a full WNBA season if you’re up for shooting hoops with the ladies.  The Neighborhood has new additions like a day/night cycle, seasonal changes, and even a disc golf course.  The sheer level of depth that NBA 2K is known for once again delivers.

Shot clock cheese

The graphical improvement is very subtle, but the visuals are still as crisp and beautiful as ever.  2K20 also has stellar audio, with the usual butt-ton of above-average commentary lines and a decent soundtrack that blares everything from Ariana Grande to Motley Crue.

I like the way they dribble up and down the court

Ever since ’99, it’s clear that the folks at Take-Two Interactive love basketball, and they’ve once again proven just how serious that love is.  Even if basketball isn’t your favorite sport, NBA 2K20 belongs on your shelf if you need a sports game that constantly delivers backboard-shattering dunks worthy of the highlight reel.

Sunscreen at the ready — EA reveals Need for Speed: Heat

Despite its last game being filled with loot-box controversy, Need for Speed‘s engine is still revving loudly.  EA’s long-running, high-selling driving franchise returns this November in the form of Need for Speed: Heat.  The team at Ghost Games promised months prior that the series would once again return to its cops-and-racers roots, and the reveal trailer has proven that to be true.  Palm City is full of cops that get more and more aggressive as the sun goes down and the moon comes up.  You’ll be competing in the Speedhunters Showdown competition during the day, and partaking in illegal street races at night.  And in typical NFS fashion, every car in your garage will be customizable in numerous ways.  On November 8, Need for Speed: Heat busts out of the starting blocks.