Now that the weekend is finally upon us, feel free to discuss your gaming plans down in the comment section below!

Lately I’ve been jumping in to games that lie outside of my comfort zone in order to fish around for new experiences. Well, not necessarily new, but genres I don’t normally dabble in extensively. So far it’s paid off, giving me a newfound appreciation for games like FIFA, Madden, and Forza Horizon 3.

Last weekend I took advantage of Target’s online price flub and picked up a digital copy of Forza Horizon 3 for a mere $20. My primary interests lie in the RPG and horror genres, and with little interest in racing I would have otherwise avoided the game altogether. I’m certainly glad I didn’t.

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I was pleasantly surprised by how accessible Forza Horizon 3 was, easing me in to the mechanics, letting me tinker with difficulty settings, and exploring the open world of Australia at my leisure.

The game is insanely beautiful, which is a bit of an understatement. It’s easily the most visually impressive game I’ve seen yet on the current generation of home consoles. Australia is the perfect setting for an open-world racer, giving players a variety of settings to zoom across in an impressive array of unlockable vehicles. There’s beaches, the outback, farms, mountains, busy suburban neighborhoods, and construction sites, all filled to the brim with street races, stunt spots, and the drivatars of other players.

I’ve sank 15 hours in to Horizon 3 within the last week, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. What I love most is the friendly competition it offers by way of the drivatar technology. Basically, anyone on your Xbox Live friend list that’s played a Forza game has their driving data saved in the cloud as a “drivatar,” which is then transformed in to virtual racers that show up in your game while you’re playing.

I’m mostly playing offline, but seeing a friend’s car whiz by me during a race flicks a competitive trigger in my brain that I just don’t get racing against the normal AI. Besting your friend’s drivatar in a street race also allows you to hire them in to your crew, where they’ll win you credits by appearing in other races. The same goes for your drivatar, as mine has appeared in nearly 4,000 races across the games of other players. Neat stuff!

I’ve made it a point to smother every car I unlock with busty anime girls, since I want to catch the eye of players I pass up in my drivatar. So far, so good. I also have a few cars with paint jobs based on The Flash and Jurassic Park.

I’ve also been playing a ton of FIFA 17. I really enjoyed the trial that was offered through EA Access, particularly the single-player story mode The Journey.

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The Journey is a brand new mode added to FIFA this year, where you take the role of English football fanatic Alex Hunter. Born of a black mother and white father, the game does absolutely nothing to draw attention to his race throughout the entire 15-hour story. I love that they didn’t go for that low hanging fruit to cheaply draw me in to the narrative, but instead bravely shows what life might be like if we don’t judge a person simply by the color of their skin (racism is fucking stupid, might I add).

Rather it focuses on his love of football, his family, and the struggles he faces from his childhood through his appearance in the Premier League. Alex’s grandfather is Jim Hunter, a legendary football player. His (Alex’s) father was set to follow in his (Jim’s) footsteps until an injury cut his career short, which turned him in to the monstrous, aggressive person that eventually abandoned Alex and his mother at a young age.

As a result, he’s extremely close to his mother, grandfather, and best friend Gaz Walker, who all encourage him to follow his dreams — to which he does exactly that. You enter a walk-in trial, get signed to a Premier League team of your choice (I chose Arsenal, by the way) along with Gaz, and work your way up from the reserves to being a substitute hoping for as many minutes on the grass as possible to prove your worth.

Between drills and games are well acted story segments where you can choose dialogue responses that affect your internet following (the game uses a version of Twitter), sponsorship offers, and status with your team and manager. There’s a lot of drama going on, where you and your best friend Gaz compete for a spot on the team, you get put on loan in the EFC (I chose to help out the undesirable Norwich Canaries), and work you way out of your mental slump back to the Premier League.

The Journey was a lot longer than I anticipated, but it’s essentially an RPG with Mass Effect’s dialogue wheel, separate skill trees to allocate points, and FIFA’s gameplay. Even if you don’t care about football (I have a hard time saying soccer now as an American, thanks to the game), if you have a love for RPGs, character growth, and engaging stories, I encourage you to give FIFA 17 a shot. The gameplay is accessible and there’s just a ton of content outside of The Journey.

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I also rented Madden 17 during the week and got sucked in to the Madden Ultimate Team. My favorite part of PlayStation’s MLB The Show series is collecting trading cards and using them to build my own squad. MUT is essentially the same thing, where you complete challenges and use the currency to purchase packs of trading cards. You can also use the currency in the online community’s auction house to buy specific cards and pad out your weaker links.

Madden 17 was only an overnight rental, but I still managed to commit about 10 hours of gameplay. That’s 9 more hours than I’ve played any other Madden game. Color me impressed.

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Outside of those three, I’ve been plugging away at the fanservice hack-and-slash game Senran Kagura: Estival Versus on PS4. Underneath all of the boobs and butts lies a really fun action game with a ton of content to experience. I like the characters, their stories, and the overall gameplay, which I didn’t expect to going in. I hear this is the weaker of the Senran Kagura narratives, but I’m digging it.

Essentially five rival shinobi clans are teleported to a magical beach that slows down time in the real world. Here, they must compete against one another for the grand prize of becoming Kagura. The beach also mysteriously allows the girls to speak with their deceased friends and family, which leads to a few touching moments in the otherwise unapologetically sexual story segments.

It’s a weak plot device that allows the individual characters to shine on their own, which works out well. Of course there’s your typical boob and upskirt moments that serve as both fanservice and comic relief, but there’s a lot of serious talk that takes place in between. I went in expecting a light-hearted action game, but I’m becoming absorbed in the different stories (while laughing at the ridiculousness that ensues to break up the pacing a bit) and characters.

Many other games with large rosters fail to distinguish them beyond a few key character types, but Estival Versus delivers in spades. Each girl has their own personality and weapon, ranging from your typical katana and and other giant swords, to umbrellas housing chainguns and a soul devouring scythe. It’s anime levels of absurd here. Hell, one girl fights with water guns while summoning dolphins to her aid, while another has whirling blades o’ death tied to her pigtails. It’s kind of glorious, if you think about it.

Gameplay-wise it’s a bit like Dynasty Warriors without the base defending, thrown together with fighting game-style boss fights. Attacks are limited to two buttons, but you can air juggle for days, rip off all of your clothing to increase your attack power (at the cost of taking additional damage, of course — you’re essentially naked), and transform in to a more powerful version of yourself (complete with revealing outfit) to unleash devastating special moves. Receiving damage continues to rip away pieces of clothing, and I assume you can see the trend here.

If boobs and anime girls make you blush, this isn’t for you.

There’s about 15 hours of campaign to dig through and a 5-chapter side story for each girl in the game’s absurdly large roster, which plays in to the game’s strengths of action, unlockables, fanservice, and quirky narrative.

Needless to say, I’ll be busy for a while.

What about you folks? What are you getting in to this weekend? Mafia 3? Gears of War 4 (available now for Ultimate Edition owners)? Sound off down in the comments!

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26 thoughts on “It’s the Freakin’ Weekend! What are You Playing?

  1. I have a ten hour day of work ahead of me tomorrow, but after that I’m sure to do some gaming. I’ll probably be playing some more Toxikk, which is a lot of fun. But with Retro World coming up in a week I’ll be practicing up my Centipede arcade version skills in Atari Vault, and firing up my 2600 to play some recent pickups like No Escape!, Dragonfire, James Bond 007, and Survival Run. Of course I’ll be taking notes at the show for my recap article. The big news is that Nintendo is going to be present this year. I don’t know that they’ll have any major announcements, but hopefully they’ll have something cool at the show. I also hope someone has a Cosmic Commander 2600 controller, and it doesn’t cost a kidney. In addition to the hope I can find some Commodore 64 games for my collection.

    So yeah, I’ll be playing Toxikk, and a lot of retro this weekend.

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  2. Lord, it’s been forever since I’ve played a racing game, and they were staple of my childhood ever since the first Top Gear. I still remember the awesome music that game used, one of the first games I remember that had soundtrack on its side. I think Gran Turismo (not sure the number) was the last racing game I played, and I specifically wanted a PT Cruiser, because I was obsessed with those cars, but have never managed to own one.

    I leveled up, but still lost to Zeromus in FFIV last week so it’s leveling up some more and trying again. I need to find a game to play in between my finishing IV and writing up my review, since one of my rules is I have to write the review/analysis before I move on to the next number. I may be brushing off my DS or purchasing a VIta before too long.

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    • Viiiiitttaaaaaaa!

      My dad was one of the top mechanics in Maryland before he passed. That man ate, lived, and breathed cars and racing, so I’m surprised I’ve never once given a shit about them.

      I did have a friend who loved racing games, so I remember playing Top Gear 4 (loved the Dodge Viper in that game) and 5. I was too dumb for Gran Turismo and ended up just driving in to walls most of the time. I liked the arcadey stuff more, like Sega Rally, Daytona USA, San Francisco Rush, and Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, but I really in to Colin McRay Rally on PSone for whatever reason. That game made me want to own a Subaru Impreza lol.

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  3. I’ve been playing Dark Souls II on and off all week long and I plan on finishing it this weekend. I’m really enjoying it and after that I’ll mostly likely get my characters prepared for the DLC in Dark Souls III.

    I’m about 20 hours into Shin Megami Tensei IV and I plan on trying to finish that game this weekend. I can’t wait to play Civilization VI later this month. That’s going to take all of my gaming time for a long, long time :)

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    • I really liked the original Dark Souls, but didn’t care for 2’s level design. It was missing that labyrinthine expansiveness of the original. I *did* pick up the Scholar of the First Sin remaster for cheap though, so I’ve been meaning to give it another shot.

      SMT4 is excellent, dude.

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      • I know it’s not a very popular opinion, but Dark Souls II is my favorite in the series. I like how different it is when compared to part 1, and 3. It has a lot in common with Demon Souls too. The level design is weak when compared to part 1, but the lore, story, characters, and gameplay is great.

        I’m currently lost in Shin Megami Tensei IV at the moment. I can’t figure out where to go next :].

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      • People like what they like, right? Fuck unpopular opinions lol. I know I’m in the minority in a lot of things. I grew up thinking Castlevania 2 was the best NES Castlevania, Super Mario Bros 2 was better than SMB3, and actually thinking the 2D Zelda 2 was a great game.

        I’m sure I’ll enjoy DS2 when I eventually get to it. I bought it at a bad time and just had a lot of shit going on, so it didn’t get the attention it deserved. I found something I didn’t care for, latched on to it, and used it as an excuse to play something else instead. It happens!

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  4. I accidentally downloaded that crap add-on for ‘Life’ called ‘Cold’. Had to download the DLC called ‘Soup, Juice and Drugs’ to try to uninstall it.

    I was goofing off on FFXIV but had to stop because my head was hurting too bad. May play some Overwatch. May play some PS3 games. Finally got my hands on a PS3 again and spent this week downloading everything I’ve ever bought on PSN. KH 1.5 has been calling my name, if my brain cooperates this weekend. That add-on is horrible.

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    • I only have room to keep my PS4 and Xbox One hooked up right now until I have a chance to rearrange the room. Our youngest cat is an asshole and walks all over the consoles sitting on top of the TV stand, so I had to shelf the PS3 and Wii U to keep them out of harm’s way lol.

      I have quite the RPG backlog on PS3 though, namely the FF13 trilogy, Ni no Kuni, and Tales of Symphonia Chronicles/Xillia 1 & 2. Bleeeeeegh, need more free time.

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      • I miss having a cat that could walk all over and get tangled in stuff.

        I think the PS3 is where I have the biggest backlog, it’s freaking insane. Just means I’ll be playing the damn thing for years to come, I guess!

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      • I have a lot of smaller PS2 games I’d like to get to, but I’m with you. PS3 definitely has the biggest backlog for me.

        On Xbox One, I’m only left with BioShock Collection, The Evil Within, and Grand Theft Auto V. PS4 is a lot beefier because of all the JRPGs/weird Japanese stuff. 360 is small too, with Red Dead Redemption, Alan Wake, LA Noire, Lost Odyssey, Blue Dragon, and Tales of Zestiria. RDR, AW, and LO are all BC on Xbox One, so I’m just waiting for the others so I don’t have to hook my 360 back up.

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      • I think my Xboner-PS4 backlog is pretty even. The 360 backlog for me isn’t actually too bad. Most of those games I own now are ones that I played and beat pretty often, I don’t have many titles I haven’t finished or at least started.

        My Vita backlog is starting to grow though, since I keep getting all the freebie games and most of my vita games are classic JRPG games I never had an opportunity to really play, so not much is under 30-40 hours.

        Then my poor 3DS is just chilling. Mostly Pokémon games and RPG games on that but not a whole lot.

        If I ever get a better computer, however, my Steam backlog will be the end of me. That’s something I’d take a week off just to try to power through.

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  5. A really nice post! I must say that going out of the comfort zone is awesome sometimes. I’m also an RPG lover but have recently fallen in love with PES 2016 and VituaTennis 4. Recently I finished Firewatch so I don’t know what to play next. Maybe GTA5, the newest Deus Ex or The Witcher 3.

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    • I hear PES has a better, more realistic feel than FIFA. I’d like to check it out now that I’m more familiar with the ruleset. Being American, I went in knowing dick about football, haha.

      Firewatch was really well done, I thought. I just finished that myself near the end of September.

      I really enjoyed Witcher 3. Lots of content with great characters and storytelling. That has my vote! I just installed GTAV on my Xbox One, with the intention of playing it sooner rather than later. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

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