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.

Review of Madden NFL ’20 — Leather or laces?

For the kids, August means it’s time to go back to school.  But for fans of sports games, August means it’s time for another game of virtual pigskin.  The 30th iteration of EA Sports’ iconic Madden NFL franchise has stepped onto the gridiron, bringing with it some obligatory tweaks and things that might remind you of features from older titles.  So without further ado, let’s take the field and discuss where Madden ’20 completes its passes and where it loses a few yards.

Commander in Kansas City Chiefs

This year, the folks at EA heavily hyped up how much more important each of the teams’ star players are in terms of their stats and statistics, meaning that the difference between them and lesser-known players is bigger than ever.  That might sound like a weird thing to advertise regarding sports games, but it’s not something to sneeze at.  On the field, the controls for things like catching and blocking are tighter than they were last year.  As for game modes, one has been added/brought back and one has been sacked.  The “Longshot” mode has been replaced by “Face of the Franchise: QB1.” After the College Football Playoff, you enter the NFL Draft and it’s on from there.  This mode is basically supposed to bring back memories of the “Superstar” mode that has been absent since Madden 25.  Also, this mode includes ten officially-licensed NCAA teams, which might be foreshadowing a future return of the NCAA Football series (I ain’t gonna bank on that, though).  Unfortunately, existing modes like Franchise and Ultimate Team haven’t had any highly-noticeable upgrades, but at least they’re not broken or unrefined.

The Colts of personality

Not much has changed within the graphics engine, but the animations and physics look a lot smoother than they did last year.  What stood out to more than the graphics was the much-improved chatter from all the players on the field.  Another change with the audio is that the soundtrack only contains songs specifically composed for the game by a variety of well-known artists.  It’s mainly full of rap, which isn’t my favorite genre, but you’ll be satisfied if that’s your cup of tea.

Don’t get mad, get Madden

It may hit the uprights here and there, but Madden ’20 is still a fun game of football that manages to complete the passes that matter.  Whether you’re an adamant sports gamer or a member of a family of football diehards, this year’s installment is another well-produced dose of gridiron goodness for both newbies and veterans of what is probably the most influential franchise in all of sports games.

A Way Out Review

This review is a bit overdue, but is 100% Certified Spoiler Free!™

Co-op games are nothing new, and these days where battle-royale experiences are all the rage, small-scale story-driven co-ops can be hard to find. Shortly after playing A Way Out for the first time, I called my brother and told him that he needed to get his hands on a copy, saying “this is the most unique multiplayer since Portal 2.” But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself.

A Way Out was definitely good fun, and was genius in its unique advances. But oddly, it was where the game tried to stick to the script of the action genre that brought it down.

Premise and Story: 

The premise is rather straightforward. Vincent and Leo are jail-mates trying to break out of prison in order to go after a mob boss by the name of Harvey (that’s not a spoiler by the way, that’s made explicit fairly early on). But things are rarely that simple in life. The story-line of the game complicates itself pretty quickly and throws in some pretty good twists and turns along the way: definitely more than enough to keep the player interested. I did find myself docking some points for its story-line, but for reasons that I unfortunately cannot disclose due to spoilers. Sorry, fam.

Mechanics:

This is where my partner and I found major fault with A Way Out.

We were co-oping half a continent away from each other: he was playing using an Xbox controller and me  just using the keyboard and mouse of my PC. While we were both playing on Windows, it became clear to us pretty quickly that the initial control settings were geared toward console gamers. Controls on my end (good ol’ WASD) often felt clunky and awkward, which put a damper in our illicit activities in-game.

The collaboration puzzles and stealth missions were where this game really would shine, with unique mechanics that meant that you really had to assist each other in order to advance the game-play. It forced my partner and I to figure out how to communicate with clarity via voice chat, which was an interesting way the mechanics broke the fourth wall: it challenged the players to communicate with each other as much as it challenged the chatty and cocky Leo and reserved and calculating Vincent.

I really liked how the dialogue and options for tackling obstacles often presented you with two choices, “Leo’s Way” and “Vincent’s Way.” The players themselves would vote on which avenue they wanted to take, which was a unique way to make the game branch and allowed the players to essentially choose how they wanted the escape to pan out. Even more so, this democratic system re-enforced the collaborative elements of the game…even though my partner and I always took Vincent’s way.

Unfortunately, it seemed it was the places where the game tried to fit into the action genre that really brought it down. Things like the typical car chases you would expect when playing a game dealing with fugitives, were clunky and irritating. The physics would often make no sense, and on multiple occasions, one or both of us had been sent flying up into the air for apparently no reason, or getting stuck on an object like a plant. In a way, it seemed almost sad that it was the occasions where the game tried to adhere to convention that it fell flat. I found myself wishing that they had really taken the plunge to wholeheartedly make it stand out in every facet, as that’s where it really succeeded. I can’t help but feel that if they had done so, and pushed the envelope in every way that they could, it would have been a better game.

Overall Rating: 7/10

I had to give this game a 7/10 – with deductions due to clunky mechanics and some story elements that seemed to depart from the previously established importance of letting the players determine how the story was to go. But in the end, it was a pretty good time, and definitely laid some fascinating groundwork for the future of story-driven co-ops.