Category Archives: Reviews

NHL 15 Review (PS4 and Xbox One)

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EA’s NHL series has finally hit next generation consoles for the first time in the PS4 and Xbox One era this year and there is a lot of excitement for next gen hockey this year, but does NHL 15 live up to its hype? Read my review to find out.

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NHL 15 Review (PS3 and Xbox 360)

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It is a little less than three weeks until the NHL season kicks off on October 8th and that means NHL video games are out, or should I say EA’s NHL game is out. How does NHL 15 match up against NHL 14? Read the review to find out.

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MLB ’14 the Show Review (PS4)

mlb the show reviewBaseball season is about a quarter of the way through and we’re finally digging into a PS4 version of the MLB 14: The Show through and through. Over the last couple of weeks I have played this game a lot, there is a lot in this game that isn’t new, but pretty well done. So let’s not waste anymore time, let’s dig in.

 

MLB the Show has a tradition of being one of the better sports games on an annual basis and this year is no different, MLB the show is a very solid game with minor issues.

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Gameplay

The gameplay is great until you have to field and are forced to make a throw, unlike in years past, there seems to be no forgiveness if you hold the button down too long, or too little which can lead to a lot of throwing errors if you are not sure on your timing, even on rookie difficulty on the throwing you will see a few errors. The only work around to this seems to be using the button interface.

Outside of that however the game plays very well in all aspects from pitching to defense to offense. The game with it’s fast play option in a well pitched game is roughly 3o minutes without using quick counts (randomized pitch counts) to complete the game.

Graphically the game is a bit of a miss, sure the graphics are very good, boardering great, but they are not overly impressive given games like Killzone: Shadow Fall and Infamous: Second Son have stellar visuals which take advantage of the PS4′s power.

Speaking of graphics, I want to also point out that there is a lighting issue at certain parks such as Petco, and PNC parks where the seats in the outfield are poorly lighted. It is expected to be taken care of in a future patch.

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Franchise Mode

Franchise mode has improved, not because it had much added to it (more on that in a second), but mainly because the improved CPU draft logic which now takes prospects off the board unlike in MLB ’13 when it took pretty much no prospects off the board. Another thing that Franchise Mode got was improved overall ratings logic, which means no longer is 20-25% of Major League Baseball a 99 overall. In fact, most of the league is rated much better, though you still have some head scratchers such as Milwaukee’s Carlos Gomez being a low 90′s overall. But as I’ve said, comparing this year to last year, the ratings are more in line with what they really should be.

Because of the ratings improvements, it makes the mode so much more fun to play knowing that you don’t have at least 10 elite talents on every team.

In terms of additions the two biggest ones are the new menu layout, and a player search feature. Other than that, the mode is pretty much the same outside of what is discussed within this section.

The mode is not without some flaws however, I’ve give an example of two. First is the trade logic, while it is improved, it is still a little too easy to trade an elite talent for 3 top prospects, which would not be so bad but unfortunately the game doesn’t really believe in busts, so all of these prospects turn out to be great players on your team down the road making the trade look like a steal.

The second issue I have is the free agent signing, in two areas in particular. First would be signing rookies to long contracts is too easy, they will most likely take 10 years for $25 Million or $2.5 Million a season throughout the length of the contract, making it easy to make insanely good teams. Once the contract is up the players are on the decline and you end up tendering them a qualifying offer and getting draft picks in return if they sign elsewhere, it is that or you let them walk because they’ve regressed so much that they are not worth the money or roster space.

The second free agent complaint is, at the end of free agency you can sign players for 30k/yr for 10 yrs, which most of the time is okay, but in my multi-player Franchise with my brother he got Hanley Ramirez to take a deal like this and Ramirez was still pretty good even towards the end of his career.

The free agent glitches have been in the game for years, and it is something I am not happy with, it makes keeping a team good way too easy, especially since most of the time I take small market teams with small budgets to make it hard on myself, and the game gives me an easy way to stay good or great without much of a struggle. And teams who are usually pretty good like the Pirates, Rays, and Royals know that they can not keep up with the Yankees, Angels,  Red Sox, and Dodgers when it comes to funds which means they end up losing the prospects.

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Road to the Show

Road to the Show has not changed a whole lot, the biggest change comes in the form of the prospect showcase.

The prospect showcase is where you play three exhibition games for your region and you are trying to do the best that you can in order to get a higher draft stock. I had five rookie showcases, my first one was the best where I was drafted third overall by the White Sox. The other four attempts yielded bad results leading me to be taken in the late third round in my last attempt by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

I made myself a closer, I wanted to try to catch Mariano Rivera’s records, so I knew I needed to be on a winning team, unfortunately none of the five selections did anything to help me, I was taken by four AL Central teams before finally ending up on the Pirates.

So after bombing my opportunities with the showcase, I had to redeem myself, which I think I did okay with putting up insane numbers in my AA experience.

When I first got to AAA I ran into some issues, but then I settled down and figured it out towards the end of my second professional season.

I made the Majors in my third professional season for a short stint before I stunk the place up and I ended up back in AAA, and I struggled a bit there, but currently as I write this I have an ERA under 2 despite being a set up man for the closer.

Overall my time with Road to the Show to this point has been really good, I did find one thing annoying and that was being drafted in “2014″ despite going to college for four seasons, I should have had a later draft date than that and there was no random order to the draft, which seemed sort of cheap to me.

Conclusion

Overall my experience with MLB the Show has been really good, there are some frustrations in the game but they don’t kill the game in any way. In fact the game plays as well as it looks if you can overlook its issues.

The game modes are well done as usual, but I did find a lack of a fielding practice feature a bit of a pain considering the difficulty that is throwing the baseball across the diamond.

Community Challenges is also a good mode to try out, there are some good situations to try such as trying to make a diving catch to preserve a Cliff Lee no-hitter, to completing Yu Darvish’s no-hitter that was broken up in the 9th inning in a May 9th game against the Boston Red Sox.

Overall MLB the Show is an outstanding game of baseball and it should be part of any baseball fans game collection.

Scores

  • Sound: 8.5
  • Visuals: 8.0
  • Gameplay: 9.0
  • Features: 9.0
  • Lasting Appeal: 8.5
  • Overall: 8.7

NBA 2k14 Review (Next Gen: Reviewed on PS4)

It’s finally time for me to dig in to reviewing PS4 games, not so much because of any sort of embargo or any of the likes. But mainly because I’ve been trying to get a good feel for these games. And NBA 2k14 has had me cultivated to say the least.

Preface

The part about NBA that really caught my eye was that it plays great and the visuals are amazingly detailed, far more than on current gen consoles, which was to be expected right? At least the visuals were expected, but the game play, I had some reservations about that.

Let me be honest, the last NBA game I played before 2k14 was NBA 2k11, and while that game was good, it wasn’t great in my eyes. And I feel like 3 years later that NBA 2k is mainly the same but looks prettier and the defense appears better than in the past which is good because the old games for me used to be scoring fests, and it still is, but to a much lesser extent.

Gameplay

In terms of gameplay, I like it, the game feels very fluid whether you are walking the ball up the court, or driving to the hoop for a hoop the players look and feel very good. The defense from 2k11 to 2k14 appears much improved, mainly in terms of contesting shots and grabbing rebounds on the defensive glass. Perhaps defensive rebounds are a little too easy for the CPU to snatch.

I think the most fun of all of the gameplay is trying to match up man to man against your opponent, this is even more the case in MyCareer mode where you guard your assignment it is up to the CPU team mates to do their job otherwise whatever work you’ve done to stifle your opposing point guard in my case is completely worthless, and against great teams that is typically the case.

The coaching parts of the game are a bit annoying since none of the settings previously saved seem to stay, so every time you play you have to turn timeouts, substitutions, and points of emphasis from auto to manual if you like making your own choices, and personally it adds to the depth of the experience trying to do things all on your own. That’s not to say auto is a bad way to play, but for someone like me it is not ideal if you’re somewhat of a control freak. And coming from someone who is addicted to the NHL hockey series from EA, I usually set those type of things up so I am used to making those decisions and that translates into this basketball series, even if my knowledge of basketball is not nearly to the level of what it is for hockey, baseball or football I still want to make these decisions, even if it sinks my team like it usually does.

MyCareer

I loved the career mode in NBA 2k11, the post game interviews were really the best thing about the mode back then because you could be a complete jerk and really have no drawbacks from anyone. Sure your team mates would never get you the ball but surely that was just because they were afraid to be exposed for the frauds that they were.

But in the MyCareer mode in NBA 2k14, things have changed, and not for the better. First off back in NBA 2k11 you were speaking to the media right out of the gate, but now, the only time I speak to the media is if I do something terribly wrong like have a bad night on the court. There is literally nothing to do most games in between outside of meeting with the coach and GM every now and then except for when the vets try to haze you. And you better believe I wasn’t going to be hazed by Elton Brand, and it showed on the practice court one time where my player had a bit of a dust up with Brand on the practice court. Trust me, he didn’t scare me, I was ready to put him on the ground. But outside of these rare occurrences and a chance at a “film study” which is merely a cut scene with no film to go over which is a disappointment since that could have been a nice touch to have pointers from these supposed mentors like Al Horford was mine.

Plus there seems to a period where you have to wait to be traded, I’ve yet to have the option to demand a trade from my current team, which is a shame because they blow so badly. I mean sure real superstars lift cruddy teams, but the idiot coach that I deal with only plays me 8 minutes a game, he’d be lucky to get blown out by 20 points a game with the way he misuses the talent that he has on the team.

But in all seriousness, this mode really does restrict what you can and can not do, I don’t even think there is a practice mode to work on timing your shots, free throws or whatever you want to work on, so the days of practicing and earning points towards your ratings have gone by. Now in order to improve you need to use virtual coins, and that is not the only thing that virtual coins are used for in the mode, but it is the most annoying. Instead of being rewarded for working on your game in a practice mode, you literally have to wing it and hope to get your timing down in a game which is never an easy time to learn your player in any game. In fact the only practice you really get is a 5 on 5 practice with team mates once in a blue moon. Therefore the only time you get to get used to your player is in game, or in these 5 on 5 scrimmages, which in all actuality, is a big problem that I bet 2k never considered.

Another thing with the mode that is an oversight in my mind is that when that rare case comes where you actually have a chance to interact with a team mate you are forced to read from subtitles on the screen. Why? Because there is literally no voice acting outside of when you are going up against your rival in the rookie showcase and later in your career and I believe the LeBron James cut scene was also done with voice acting, but if you want a mentor on your actual team, or someone who is acted out in a way where you can feel the interaction and you’ll be let down in that regard.

NBA 2k14 screen

MyGM Mode

Kind of like MyCareer mode, the MyGM mode is limited on things you can do, and that is mostly because a lot of the things you would do is being held back by virtual currency, that’s right in game fake money. How absurd is this problem? Well lets put it this way, remember the days were you could do your own player rotations? Yes? Good, because now such a simple task will set you back a cool 500 VC.

That’s right, the things that should be available from the start are sometimes tied to VC, like the rotations, the hiring/firing of scouts, the CFO, the assistant GM, and various coaches are now tied to virtual coins.  It may sound absurd, and in reality it is. In fact for review purposes I ended up spending the $10 PSN wallet voucher I got with my PS4 pre-order and I ended up buying 35,000 virtual coins or whatever you want to call it, just so I didn’t have to play games to earn VC, I did that because that was A) too time consuming for the review process which is now 3 or 4 weeks in the making as it is, and B) it didn’t sit well for people who typically like to simulate their way through their career mode and just play various rivalry/playoff games with their favorite teams.

The mode isn’t all bad though even if I did start out bashing it. The experience is definitely different and a step in the right direction for GM type modes. But it isn’t perfect by any means, not only is Virtual Coins an issue, but the depth of the dialogue boxes are disappointing, You literally see the same replied throughout the season when dealing with your scout, trainer, and head coach. There is little variation in that respect, though I do like the boxes for the free agents, but then again, the replies are limited, and grow tiresome.

The good news is that actual GM work like trades, and free agent signings are not hindered by VC nor is setting up your coach options for game plans, for some reason they targeted rotations but I do not recall them hitting an other coaching method outside of encouragement traits but as the GM that doesn’t matter all that much. If you want to full experience expect to pay a lot of VC throughout your experience with MyGM, I spent roughly 30,000 VC of the 35,000 I got from my voucher on MyGM and it still only filled up half of the badges as it was within the mode. The ones that I didn’t fill were tied to staff contract reductions and little things like that which have little to no effect on how the team is run.

Online

I played one quick 2min quarter game with a friend and it went okay, there was no lag at all on my end, and he didn’t report any issues. However this experience is not typical if reports are to be believed from players on other sites such as Operation Sports and PastaPadre. I feel bad for those players, I think if online is as smooth as what me and my friend had that one night then the game would be a really big success all around, but it seems like their is some problems with online and unless it’s fixed gamers won’t be able to fully enjoy the experience.

Conclusion

NBA 2k14 is a great game on the court in my opinion. Coming from 2k11, the game feels a lot better and the defense appears to be tougher to play against, in particular inside passes to the hoop are hard to make, which is good because that would be exploited big time if that was an easy dish every time up court. The only minor complaint to me would probably be the CPU rebounding being a little too overpowering.

The MyCareer and MyGM modes are decent, not great.

In the case of MyCareer it feels like the mode suffers from a lack of a practice mode, and ways to develop your player outside of using virtual coins. The lack of things to do in between games is a little sickening for a mode that has so much potential to be amazing, you can’t even use the social media function yourself, the only good that does is looking for comments about you, and some challenges from upcoming opponents. But you yourself cannot interact in anyway making the social media screen and function underused and a missed opportunity.

Maybe once I advance more into MyCareer it will be better, but for now I will call it a missed opportunity for 2k to make a big impact on the mode. In fact in several ways it feels like a bit of a step back at this point.

On the other hand MyGM is actually a really good mode, which might surprise some people with as much as I ragged on it. But the over importance of virtual coins in the mode really stops it from being a huge success in the short term,  also hurting the mode is the lack of variation in the dialogue boxes between you, and your coaches and players take away from an asset that can be critical to the modes success in the long term. I mean I don’t mind earning the skills needed to be a successful GM but at least give me the basics like player rotations right from the start.

Despite that though, MyGM has the makings to be a success in the long term if they do some of my suggestions. But what the mode misses with that it more than makes up for with a good simulation engine, an impressive draft presentation (though I wish we could skip after the first go round since it doesn’t change at all outside of the names being called), and outstanding scouting reports that include a strengths and weaknesses section which I loved from the old NBA Live games. There are also plenty of stats, and rumors to sort through if that is your thing as well.

The game overall is a very good experience and should be in any next generation line-up, not only does it look great but it also plays great. The modes are either hit or miss, it will depend on the player and how much he/she is willing to put up with. But as a whole the game is definitely a buy in my book mainly on gameplay alone, which is saying a lot since I am usually a GM Mode type of player in these sports games.

Scores

nba 2k14 review

Grand Theft Auto V Review

NOTE: Due to the problems that have hit GTA Online I am basing this review off of the offline play only. I might do a brief GTA Online review in the future, I am still figuring that out. 

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On September 17th the gaming world was hit with Grand Theft Auto V’s release, a game that many critics and gamers were eagerly awaiting for. The series that layed the ground work for other sandbox type games such as Saints Row and Sleeping Dogs (formerly the True Crime series that made its mark on PS2/Xbox and was originally supposed to be another True Crime game before being dropped and scooped up by Square Enix) to be released this console generation. Grand Theft Auto V had a huge bill to live up to but does it hit the mark?

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NHL 14 Review

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Once again our friends at EA Sports gave us an advanced copy of an upcoming title. And this one, I have to admit, is the one I was looking most forward to the most being a hardcore hockey fan. So I was elated to find out that they choose me as one of the reviewers for the upcoming title.

I went into this game not knowing what to expect, while I played NHL 13 a lot, I found myself towards the end of the games cycle growing increasingly tired of the slow menus, choppy gameplay, and the slow connection to the online games I tried to play. NHL 13 while it was played a lot really never clicked with me. And it isn’t because the game was bad, because it had good qualities, including the new skating engine. It was playing the career modes and managing my way through the slow menus that got me fed up with NHL 13. NHL 13 unintentionally, really tried my patience and it got to the point to where my patience was gone, and that was the first time in a long time that I lost interest in a hockey game over a calendar year, which is a day I never thought could or would ever take place.

Now enter NHL 14’s demo, and it seemed like a breath of fresh air. There was definitely a chance at some success for EA’s NHL franchise with the game play refinements. Not only did it play very well but was also lot of fun.

But if you were like me and hated the menus in NHL 13 than you probably tinkered around with the menus to see how fast they were to the best of your ability and overall you probably saw potential in the game.

The signs were pretty promising, but does that translate well into the final product? Lets take a look.

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Madden NFL 25 Review

Madden 25 Screen 1

Our good friends at EA afforded me the pleasure of getting my hands on a review copy of EA’s annual NFL title Madden NFL 25.

I’ve for a long time have been a fan of the Madden series dating back to the games in the mid to late 1990’s which was essentially a good portion of my childhood. So every year I get excited to play the latest release of Madden.

This years Madden has the Infinity Engine 2.0 and it really shows, the game plays a lot smoother than last years game which to me felt rushed and unpolished, in fact once the NHL 13 demo came out I pretty much retired Madden 13, and that says a lot because I really like football, but I had a hard time getting into the game enough to tide me over to NHL 13. Between sloppy on the field play, and to me what felt like a incomplete Connected Careers mode, I was not impressed.

Now enter Madden 25, with the inclusion of owner mode, and Infinity Engine 2.0 it seems like the guys at EA had the right idea for the game, but do they execute on the plan? Let’s dig in and find out.

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Gameplay:

The game on the field is pretty solid, it is a good amount better than last years game. On offense it seems harder to do anything right, I can no longer complete slant passes with the same success as I used to, which is a good thing. The passing game is harder, but not only because of the CPU AI improvements, it also has to do with dropped passes as you will see in the full game video I will post a down further in the blog.

The bad thing for me is that I couldn’t get a good feel for the running game, so that is not the weapon that I expected it to be, which is good and bad. Because while I am struggling to use it properly, I am having a heck of a time trying to stop it when I am facing it. And that is not something I blame the game for, I have always sort of lacked the knowledge to put together a sound defensive gameplan for Madden. But it seems like whatever I try I am always allowing 3-5 yards per play and a spot long run to add to the frustration. 

Overall gameplay wise the game plays pretty well, I haven’t seen anything in my time with the game that looked un-natural except maybe for possibly the lunging tackles but overall I don’t think those are excessive at all. Speaking of tackling I am thrilled to say that tackling seems much improved upon, which to me is great since one of my biggest problems with the tackling was it being fairly weak and ineffective.

After the play no longer are players toppling over one another nearly as much as they did in Madden 13.

One of the things I might suggest is that you increase the penalty sliders if you found that in prior games there were a lack of penalties, I bumped the default sliders from 50 to 70 to see if it made a difference and it really did, there were a good amount of penalties, not too many and not too few either, it seemed to strike a good balance between the two. I can only imagine a game with the slider all the way up for penalties.

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Connected Franchise (Coach Mode) + Multi-Player Impressions

I tried this mode with my brother to get a feel for the multi-player experience in this mode. And I am glad I did because it gave me a chance to see what the multi-player experience was like and I can unfortunately say that this mode is not meant to be two players or more. Sure it is an option, but the speed of the menu’s and simulation speeds (about 45-60 secs per week simmed) and it can lead up to a time consuming process with preseason, regular season and post seasons to go through.

It is particularly annoying if you’re like us and take two teams that need to be rebuilt (Cardinals and Rams in this case since we wanted to be in the same division) and just want to get to the off-season as fast as possible. Couple in the fact that there is no way to simulate through the teams schedule screen and you kind of feel taken out of the experience of the mode because if you want to get a good feel on how good or bad it’s going you’d have to go through the menu system and look at the league or team schedule to view the game’s boxscores to see how your team performed on a given week. In my opinion what could have helped with the process is if the game had the scores displayed during the simulation process was going on so that you can see how your team did on any given week. You’d have a better idea of how close the games truly are as opposed to seeing your St. Louis Rams finish the season 2-14 and not know whether you’re in a lot of close games or in a lot of butt kickings.

However with that complaint the mode isn’t bad, in fact, once you get to managing your roster you will have some fun. Trades are not easy to pull off but they are fun to attempt. Especially in our cases where we did our best Bill Belichick impersonations and traded down the draft numerous times and accumulated picks in future drafts and the later rounds. Going into the next off-season as I write this I think we both have 3 first round picks from pick trading and player trading. For teams like ours that is the best strategy for the rebuild process of both teams moving forward with the focus on patience during the process.

My final thought on Coach Mode is this, it is a solid mode for those who want to be the GM without dealing with the ownership side of things. You can scout, sign free agents, trade, re-sign players and so on in this mode, so there is no need to dip into owner mode if you have no interest in setting ticket prices or keeping your stadium in tip top shape to appease ungrateful fictional fans who will just find a way to complain about the price of $1 sodas. In all seriousness though, coach mode is fun and enjoyable.

I just wish they made coach mode more multi-player friendly. For example if you are at the off-season and about to re-sign your free agents and you start out as one team and go through the re-signing process and switch over to the other team the mode starts you out on the main menu instead of keeping you at the re-sign stage so the second player can quickly do the process that is required to keep these players.

Surely that may seem like a minor thing, but the the time it takes to switch players and the menu system being so heavy and mildly on the slow side, the time really adds up over time.

However we did figure out how to deal with the draft. You can make selections for both teams on one coach, meaning that if you have a two player game going you can stay on the primary teams coach which is good because only the primary coach aka commissioner can advance the draft to the next users pick so being able to make the picks for all teams in the offline mode under the primary coach is a good way to save time. The only time you’d switch over is to make a trade to move up or down.

So as you can tell, multi-player is hit or miss depending on how patient you are. If you have enough time to wait through the simulation process and have the patience to deal with its quarks than you’ll enjoy the mode a lot. However if you’re not than you’re better off just doing one player.

NHL 13 - GM Connected Playoffs Game 4 - 2013-08-26 02-57-35

Connected Careers (Owner Mode)

The long awaited return of owner mode, a mode I really loved on the PS2 when it was on those games. I was happy to see that it has finally made it’s long awaited return to Madden in Madden 25. But how does it play? Let’s dive in.

My first owner mode I started with the Bills (I’ll explain why I needed a second shortly) with the main idea of relocating them to Toronto, that was the one thing I was looking forward to doing in owner mode because, what’s the fun of the mode if you cannot relocate the team? So of course I tried to stay within a realistic possibility.

But before I could relocate I had to simulate a season so that I didn’t look like a complete butthole, so I did that and the Bills did terribly, but there were good things to come from it, EJ Manuel progressed nicely and the team was getting better thanks to the auto progression I choose to do since the mode takes enough time to simulate through. The Bills are slowly but surely becoming a better team.

Finally something is going right, the future is bright, I am bound to have a quarterback who will be able to compete with comparable Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, with Tom Brady due to retire any day now, all I needed was to build a better structure around Manuel and company.

The first piece of business for me was to fire the level one God awful head coach. This is where I encountered my first issue within Owner Mode, for some reason from the staff re-hiring screen after the season, I was not able to fire the guy. I did this for two seasons before I gave up on this Owner Mode session and did another one.

But before we get to that and see if anything changed I want to touch briefly on the relocation process to Toronto because I feel like this is a major point of the mode, and it needs to be touched upon. As stated above I relocated to Toronto, I took the pre-determined name and logo with was the Huskies, not bad, I’ve seen cruddier pre-created team names and logos in EA games, so I was content with that part.

The part that was surprising to me once I got to Toronto was that my logo was that while my logo have the primary colors of black and blue with white boarders, and it looked nice in my mind, my uniforms were a pale dark green color with gold stripes. It made zero sense to me. The design of the jersey was great otherwise, it had a modern look to it, it was a similar style as what the Seahawks have with the exception of the colors. In Owner mode, when you relocate a team there is no way to edit the jerseys you wear, which is different from the owner modes in the past. If they just had a jersey creator in owner mode, this mismatch never would have happened.

With that out of the way let’s move on to Owner attempt number two. I used the Eagles and spiked the prices on everything so that I can replicate how the owners of the Flyers do their business since they’re like that. Anyway once I simmed the season the first thing I tried was to fire the coach, scout, and/or the trainer. And sure enough it was an option this time. So as I write this there is no assurance I can give you in terms of being able to hire/fire coaches since it is currently a 50-50 split in terms of success rate. I wonder if I messed up somehow the first time through, but then again I know others whom had the same issue, so I don’t think this is an isolated thing that is happening, but the problem is figuring out why it was happening to begin with.

Another thing that I found to be odd, and somewhat disappointing is that you no longer have offensive and defensive coordinators anymore nor do you have a special teams coach. This to me was a let down since it isn’t fair to put all the blame on one coach when there is really an entire staff behind the game plans on a given Sunday and for this game not to include that is disappointing. 

Another thing I noticed was a lack of graphs the game has compared to the other games owner modes. For someone who takes an interest in finances and so on, that is one thing I really noticed when I was looking into the mode at first.

As much as I point out the negative stuff, I feel like owner mode/coach mode are really good modes now, and the owner mode in particular has the potential to be amazing and a strong piece of Madden moving forward in the future assuming it gets proper tweaks, and adding in a jersey customizer for the times a team relocates so that the same thing that happened in my experience can be avoided.

But overall the experience they give is pretty good, and EA added nice changes to the game between the return of owner mode and the return of multi-player in franchise mode, it just adds a lot to the game even if these seem like the smallest of additions.

Other Stuff

Madden 25 added the Nike Skills Trainer over from NCAA football and added various drills so that people can learn the game better and its new features such as the improved running. This mode I skipped over but it is worthy of mention.

Connected Franchise also has a player mode just like last year, and it which remained pretty much unchanged outside of the addition of adding a screen for your player mode so that before you select a team it brings up a menu of all 32 teams and you can see where you see your player fitting in. For example if you’re using a quarterback you might fit in well with Jacksonville or Oakland better than Green Bay or New England. Madden 25 also has an improved skill points system for performances during played games and practices. For example even if you fail in the task you choose to bring into practice mode, you will still get experience points for going into the practice and trying to accomplish that task.

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Conclusion:

Madden 25 returns the Owner Mode and it comes with mixed results, it is mostly good but has a issue with the coach hiring and firing part. The lack of a jersey creator could make for an interesting situation with uniforms that don’t match the logos of relocated teams. Other than that owner mode is great and is a welcome addition and return to the Madden series. Coach Mode is also better with improved trade logic and draft logic. The re-introduction of multi-player is a welcome addition but also comes with a few annoyances that could be frustrating to gamers who are on a time crunch or have little patience at all.

On the field the game plays better than last year, but I feel like it is a step behind the NCAA Football ’14, not by much but NCAA felt a little more polished than Madden 25. The improvements to the run game seem a little too powerful to me, and the CPU passing on all-pro difficulty is usually insanely accurate. A great thing for gameplay this year is the physics and in particular a better tackling system.

Overall the game is a much better game than Madden NFL 13 in many ways, but it isn’t perfect. It has its moments of sloppiness, or just flat of features not working 100% of the time like the coach firing problem I had. But with that in mind this is a great stepping stone going forward into the future especially with the game heading to the Playstation 4 and Xbox One in November when the consoles release but even more so with Madden NFL 15 next summer.

Scores:

Madden 25 review graphic

NCAA Football ’14 Review

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Overview

EA Sports was nice enough to pass along an early review copy of NCAA Football ’14 for me to review this year and it is a perfect choice for me because I love football, so I am excited to share whatNCAA Football ’14 has to offer this year and what my impressions are of the game.

Gameplay

On the field NCAA Football might be the best on the field football game to date. It plays like a dream in terms of fluidness of how the game plays. You see in Madden ’13 the game felt incomplete and it just seemed like there was something missing with the Infinity Engine the first time around, it just seemed very very sloppy and whenever you got touched it seemed to throw you off a lot sometimes leading to tackles or falling to the ground when maybe you shouldn’t have.

But with Infinity Engine 2 that is solved, in the case of NCAA Football ’14 the game is more fluid than Madden ’13 was with the first Infinity Engine and it really makes for an enjoyable complete experience. To add to the smoothness and overall great feel of NCAA comes a tougher AI, which sucks for me since I have a hard time with the CPU to begin with, but no in all honesty my first game was with Boston College and I played Boise State and it ended up being a great game, I lost the game 21-14 but I had fun playing it. I found that mixing up the plays works a lot better than airing it out like I like to do. 

Part of the reason I ran the ball so much is because they worked on the running game and it shows, no longer will you be stuffed at the line of scrimmage like I found to be a problem in last years game, the added work on the O-Line is definitely noticeable as it creates more holes to run through. NCAA rewards you for wanting to play a manage the clock style of game unlike any other game I’ve played, which is fantastic. Let me also mention that not all runs are long runs, in fact more times than not it’s only a few yards say 3-4 if you have a good running back which I did with Boston College.

On defense I struggled, but not because of the game, it was because Boston College isn’t that good on defense to begin with and my coaching ability on defense is not the best, usually when I win it is due to offense and not a stellar defensive effort or game plan.

But overall I felt the game played great on the field, it is leaps better than Madden ’13 with the advancements made to Infinity Engine 2.

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Dynasty Mode

Dynasty Mode is tough, because I choose to create a coach and I started my career using the Oregon Ducks which was the #6 ranked team when I started the franchise, but as I write the review I am 4-5 with the Ducks and I was in the middle of the Conference. But I wasn’t sure if the team is faltering because of simulation logic or if I am somehow sabotaging the team with the coaching style I am running. So I started a second one, and I am using the Ducks with their current coach and the results were much better than when I started to as a rookie head coach. This Ducks team went from 4-5 to 9-3 and a Conference title of the UCLA Bruins with a bowl game set up to be played at a later date against Ohio State.

I attribute the success to two things:

1. I had a better idea on how to run the dynasty this time around, so it made things easier. 2. The coaching strategy, the coach that is the default for the Ducks plays a much more aggressive style than I did.  Another thing that is part of the success and failure of a coach I think, is the coach skills. New to NCAA Football ’14 is the coach skills tree, and they are broken down into four sections. For head coaches they have categories of game management and recruiting, and they have a section for offensive coordinator and  one defensive coordinator.

The best strategy is to add to these trees using the improvements that suits your of game. For example as an offensive coordinator you might work on the passing and receiving slots if you’re a pass happy offensive before you worry about the rushing slots. But as a rookie coach you have to build these from the ground up, but when I used the Ducks coach I had a bit of a head start and built on top of the presets.

Another thing I noticed were phone calls are gone, and that is great, because when you think of it the phone calls were nothing more than a waste of time, and effort that could have gone into simulating or playing games. I’d say the time used for recruiting in this years game is about 1/3 of what they were last year, especially once you set up the recruit board with players you want to recruit. The rest takes care of itself, you still have to scout players week to week and schedule visits but overall it doesn’t take that much time at all unless you lose out on a recruit or you get locked out, then you have to find one or multiple replacements on the prospect board.

Overall I like the changes to the mode and I think the game is better because there is less time devoted to the recruiting process, it helps the seasons go faster if you’re a simulation type like I am.  

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Road to Glory

Road to Glory mode returns this year, and since I didn’t try last years mode, but this year I did try it for the review. And I must say, the mode is fun. I had fun playing for my home town high school team trying to get recruited to a highly touted school. I started as a left handed quarterback with a scrambling style. When you start the mode you can choose your three top schools, so my original teams were Oregon, Boston College and I think Florida when I had the chance to pick my top schools. I played through an 8 week season and 4 rounds of a playoff with mixed results, some strong games but also some miserable games.

On national signing day I had multiple chooses, but my top options placed me as a second string quarterback, so I ended up signing with the Auburn Tigers over the likes of Oregon, Wisconsin, or Florida even though those would have been much better options in terms of team rating.

I played through a game on the NCAA level, and one thing I noticed and didn’t necessarily care for was not being able to audible or set hot routes for the receiver because NCAA has a coach trust component to it on the NCAA level. And since I like to read defenses and make adjustments, I had a hard time really adjusting. We lost the game, but not because of me, I gave Auburn a chip shot to win the game on a field goal but the kicker missed it which sucked, but I felt good about the game I played, I gave us a good chance to win only to lose because of a botched extra point earlier in the game.

Another thing about the mode that drove me a little crazy is during your high school football career there is no way to check your season stats. I mean this is just a minor complaint since you can in the NCAA.

Ultimate Team

This year NCAA added Ultimate Team mode, which allows you to build a team the same way you’ve done in Madden or NHL with their Ultimate Team modes so I won’t even bother going into details here. Mostly because I am not much of a fan of the mode to begin with in other games, so I didn’t spend any time with this.

Though on a side note I heard that they took Aaron Hernandez out of this mode for both Madden and NCAA in light of his recent actions off the field.

Online

I would have liked to have tried online but during the week I had no time to sit down during the week and when I tried earlier to get a game in there was no one in the lobbies. So I will post this review without a tested portion for online. If I hear any problems I will do a follow up article on it.

Other Modes of Interest

New to NCAA Football ’14 is a season mode which allows users to play through one season of real life games from the real NCAA schedule without the need to do any recruiting, scouting or upgrading coach levels, season mode is meant for those who just want to play and forget the rest of the stuff that might be to complex or time consuming.

Another mode of interest is the Nike Skills Trainer, which is pretty much a sponsored practice mode, which can be good for beginners of the series, or veterans like myself of the series to fine tune their skills or just go out there and relearn the control scheme.

Conclusion

NCAA Football ’14 is a complete and solid package, whether on the field or off the field you can find ways to enjoy the game.

On the field the game runs like the dream on higher difficulty levels, the physics just seem much more fine tuned on the higher difficulty levels, and the players are much smarter. When you get to lower difficulty levels I have seen some weird things on the physics side of things such as tripping over one another after the play which is one thing that I disliked about years Madden 13 with the original Infinity Engine. Also on the lower difficulty ratings the computer seems way too stupid, they never learn from their mistakes, and since my Road to Glory was on varsity difficulty, I ended up having it be a little to easy with this level.

Dynasty Mode doesn’t disappoint, in fact one of the reasons I did not care for dynasty mode last year was how long it took to recruit, but since the time it takes now is much better, the mode is overall more enjoyable. Plus throw in Coach Skills and you have one heck of a combination of elements to keep track of.

And Road to Glory was untouched so those who are veterans of the mode might not find too much use for the mode, but for new players like myself it is worth trying out because it is a nice experience. However for a real test I recommend All American or Heisman difficulty otherwise you might be tearing up the high school league and NCAA.

Overall NCAA Football is a great game with a nice list of game modes and features, and the Infinity Engine 2 is great and adds great physics to the game while the revamped AI adds more difficulty to the game which is a nice change even to All American difficulty I was using. 

Scores

NCAA FOOTBALL 14 REVIEW

Review: The Last of Us (PS3)

TLOU Screen 1

Overview

In this tale you play an middle named man named Joel who has been put in charge of a teenage girl along with his significant other named Tess to return a teenage girl, named Ellie to a group called the Fireflies.  Along the way it is discovered that Tess was infected along the way on their journey across the United States (as it turned out, it was originally only supposed to be across town) and you left Tess to fend for herself at her own wishes so that you as Joel can get Ellie back to the Fireflies safely.

You actually start the game as Joel’s late daughter Sara and you go looking for your father during the middle of the night and you eventually find him in the office and you’re then told to get into a Jeep looking vehicle and you get to look outside the windows and view the city for awhile. During the ride however you get t-boned and are switched over to Joel and you pick up your daughter and start trying to make your way through the city with her in your arms, and you scamper through the city fighting off the infected until you reach an opening in a brick wall and you run away until you come across a military servicemen who helps you out. But it’s too late, Sara eventually dies.

The story continues 20 years later, you play as Joel for majority of the story and you have Ellie by your side for the majority of the storyline as it plays out.

You get to deal with the infected, and there are several stages of the fungus that is going around starting with runners who are recently infected and are on the same level as you strength and look wise they are the most zombie like of them all. You can take the runners out in hand to hand combat as well as the stalkers, Stalkers are in the second stage of being infected and they start to show the start of the deformity in the head area. Then there are the clickers who are in the third stage of being infected and their heads are really deformed at this point, in fact their faces are white and the back of their heads have sort of a yellowish and orange color to them, not only are they ugly as sin, but they are strong and if they get to you and you have nothing to fight them off with such as a shotgun, you are as good as dead. And that leads us to the last of the infected called bloaters, bloaters are easy to spot but hard to describe, bloaters are the most deformed in the head and body, you can tell who they are once you see them because their heads are completely deformed but also their body as well, part of their stomach have these pieces hanging down that sort of look like utters of a cow but not quite the same look, but I am not sure what else to compare it to, so I tried to think of something common to compare how it looks.

I don’t want to ruin the story so I won’t really go much further than that, but you should also know that during the story you run into two black males one older gentleman and one younger boy who is also a teenager like Ellie. During your time with the two brothers the youngest, Sam, discovers he is infected one night and he hides the fact during a conversation with Ellie, so everything goes off without a hitch that night. So the next morning Ellie was sent to get Sam for breakfast and Ellie was attacked and Joel was going to help her and Henry who is the older of the two brothers stopped Joel but then Henry realized it had to be done, so Henry killed his younger brother with a shot to the head to save Ellie’s life. Then he blames Joel and was going to shoot Joel but he instead turned the gun on himself and shoots himself in the head and dies.

I tell that story and not much else in the story line because I feel like that is controversial enough to warn people about, I know I was surprised to see how it happened, I can only imagine what others might have thought. This part comes at a later portion of the story, a little past the halfway point.

But let me go on and dive into all aspects of the game, because while the story is great, it means nothing if the rest of the game is broken. So let me get to the rest of the games areas.

TLOU Screen 2

Gameplay

In terms of game play, this game plays great, the normal difficulty is what I played on and I thought it was fantastic in terms of how hard it was, not to hard, but yet not to easy either. There is a good balance there. Another element to gameplay which usually drives me off the wall in games is a stealth element of games. But in The Last of Us, it isn’t required at any point, but it is used quite a bit as a strategy to take down enemies quietly to avoid being spotted. And the reason for trying to be not spotted is that on some levels there are a lot of enemies and a very limited supply of weapons and ammunition that you’re dealt with so going into a war full on is not a smart idea in some cases.

In terms of hand to hand combat you will be hard pressed to find a better hand to hand combat from all the games I have played. That and the melee weapons add a little of fun to the game. There is a way to add to your combat weapons whether is be a blade at the end of a baseball bat. I rarely used it so I can’t comment on that part of the game.

In terms of gun play, at first I had problems with the aiming with them, but it is more rewarding once you get used to it and be able to execute at the higher success rate. The array of guns include various hand guns, shotgun, sniper rifles, and an assault rifle.

TLOU screen 3

Controls

The controls are really well done, at first a little confusing for me coming from the typical sandbox style games which pretty much have the same sandbox control schemes. Surely over time you figure out the control short cuts and how the controls operate in general.

Granted I take fault for this lack of control knowledge and lack of ability to quickly adapt to it since it is a pretty simple control scheme, but the way it was explained made it seem a little harder than it really was, and over time you adapt to it.

TLOU Screen 4

Graphics

I’ll say this about the graphics, these might be the best graphics I have seen in any game. The game is beautiful, the landscapes is very well done, especially in Pittsburgh where they nailed the Fort Pitt Bridge that Pittsburgh has as one of its landmarks.

But not just landscapes and landmarks, but all the areas are amazingly done with the little details and lighting. For example one of the late parts of the game you have to swim under water and on Joel’s shirt I noticed water running down his arm like it would have in real life. Granted that may seem like a minor detail, but it’s little details like this that make this game stand out not just graphically but also in terms of game play.

Sound/Audio

The audio in this game is as great as the rest of the game. The Last of Us really benefits from the sound quality because it sets the tone not just in terms of the talking aspect between the characters, but also the sounds of the enemies, nature sounds, and the sounds of animals such as dogs. The sound really makes the game complete, because without it the gameplay and visuals might be greatly effected. Because you need to feel engaged and in The Last of Us it really helps to enhance it.

Storyline

The story pretty much goes like this, you play as Joel and your main plot is to take Ellie back to the Fireflies and along the way you run into trouble from the infected, various characters who want Ellie, more so in the latter portion of the story, but you also must fight through human forces as well in the form of security guards.

The game ends with deep dialounge between Joel and Ellie, and the two form a very deep friendship over time.

Conclusion

The Last of Us is truly a great game, from the visuals to the audio to the story lines, the game has no misses at all that I can think of. Maybe perhaps, one minor complaint is at some points I spent a lof of time trying to figure out which way I was supposed to go because there were no clear options. I think a map overlay would have been a help. Other than that, this game is really just a smash hit. It makes a strong case for game of the year, which is amazing to considering that we’re only halfway through the year. And typically the great games are released in the fall time, so great games in summer are rare and should be commended.

Scores

The Last of Us Review Graphic

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