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.
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.
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.
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.
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!