Valiant Hearts: a hit with kids & dogs

Gamer Dude’s playing Valiant Hearts — released today on XboxLive and there’s a valiant dog protagonist that’s caught our dog Astrid’s attention. She’s watching the screen wagging her tail and offering her computer game dog friend the lacrosse ball she pinched from the ball bag! LOL

Valiant Hearts was released today for Microsoft Windows, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and Steam.  Powered by the same engine as Rayman Origins the game was developed by Ubisoft Montpellier. I’m already a fan. The game art, storyline and musical score is compelling and has a arty feel to it. It’s not an epic war game, but this game has plenty of heart. From the looks of things, the puzzles are satisfying too.

According to Hayden Dingman from PCWorld.com,

Far from a detriment, the silent-film nature of Valiant Hearts is one of its greatest strengths. The game is able to support a multicultural cast—French, German, American, Canadian—without any one culture dominating. And still, these are some of the best characters I’ve played in recent memory, thanks to some strong archetyping and brilliant animated cutscenes.

You also fall in with a trained war dog early in the game, and it’s this dog that most of the game revolves around. The story is the primary draw here, but play revolves around solving a cadre of puzzles more than actual combat.

I’m literally watching Dude play as I write. I’ll update later after the game’s done!

 

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South Park takes on next-gen console war

As console wars kick into high gear in time for the holidays, the passion behind both sides was played out on the popular Comedy Central TV show, South Park, reports Wesley Yin-Poole (Eurogamer).

GamerDewd has been after me for over a year about watching South Park, but it’s still an M (17+) rating as far as I’m concerned. He’s also itching to play the soon-to-be released game, South Park: Stick of Truth, which is slated for a March 4, 2014 release.

Published by Ubisoft and developed by Obsidian Entertainment, this RPG is targeting a Mature to adult audience. The goal of the game is to assist Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman as they attempt to save South Park and to become cool. The action starts with the player as the new kid in town who is faced with the task of making friends. The kids of South Park are in the midst of a live-action-role-playing-game which turns into a universal fight between good and evil, reports IGN.

Like most South Park plots, the simple story arc seems fitting with the protagonists’ age (Grade 4), but the target rating of M or AO suggests there will be plenty of the boundary-pushing scenarios the South Park TV show has become (in)famous for. Still, like all games that are on GamerDewd’s radar, when it comes out, I’ll have a look and make a judgement call at that time.

The console war clip above is hilarious, and, while there’s one bleeped swear (the F-word, I believe), I’d say the clip is  ON for 12 and up. And like Cartman, Kenny and Kyle, it looks like we’re going to start with Xbox One in this house. We’d like to have both, but the economics of the situation demand that we make the choice (and then save, save, save for the PS4!)…because, as Stan says, “that’s how Xbox people are.” 😉

Oh Foxconn, PS4 being built on backs of students?

Foxconn @ Public Eye Awards 2011 (WHY?)

Foxconn @ Public Eye Awards 2011 (WHY?) (Photo credit: Greenpeace Switzerland)

I know, I totally owe you all an actual gaming review. But I read this report about Foxconn allegedly using forced student labor to build PS4s and I really wanted to weigh in with you. Mere minutes ago, my phone buzzed with breaking news from AppyGamer. According to them,

“Reports suggest that the PS4 may be being built using forced labour in China by manufacturer, Foxconn.”

Apparently students from China’s Xi’an Institute of Technology have been told they will lose course credits if they don’t participate in Foxconn’s internship. The internship has students working in distribution and shipping as well as production, which have little, if nothing, to do with their program of study. Further, students aren’t being paid for their labor.

It is not clear whether Sony knows about this situation, reports NowGamer.

 

Microsoft testing backward compatibility on Xbox One

We still haven’t decided whether we’re buying Xbox One or PS4 consoles in this gaming house, so you can imagine the excitement around here when we read the breaking news report from Appy Gamer this morning:

Some fantastic rumors are emerging this week, suggesting that Microsoft has been secretly testing a feature, to allow the playback of Xbox 360 games running on a PC — using streaming and Microsoft’s new-found cloud technologies.

As you may or may not already know, PS4 will not be accepting PS3 discs. That said, Sony and Gaikai are positioned to change the PlayStation gaming experience in a massive way with Gaikai’s cloud service. Gaikai and Sony plan to release a PlayStation app which would allow users to tether smartphones and tablets to the console’s hub. Users will then be able to stream mobile games and access PSN and the PS Store. Using Gaikai’s cloud, Sony plans to offer users remote play and streaming of PS3 games on the PS4.

I’ll provide more news about Microsoft’s plans to use their cloud for backward compatibility as I have it. Looks like the competition between the new-gen consoles continues to be close…

Xbox One or PS4? Choice is yours.

Not sure if you’ve heard the news about Xbox and Playstation — they’re soon unveiling their newest consoles: Xbox One and PS4 respectively. Microsoft is currently taking preorders for Xbox One and Playstation is taking preorders for its PS4. At my house the debate about which one GamerDude will choose to spend his dough-re-mi on is anyone’s guess.

Today we found this fantastic music video from Machinima which provides some insight  into the gamer’s console choice dilemma:

*note, it gets a little sweary at the very end of the video. The swears are bleeped (for comic effect), so if that kind of thing bothers you, skip the end (or the video — your choice).

Verdict: Controlled Yes on COD: Black Ops II

The victory for GamerDude is a bittersweet one (my WordPress friend, Bitter Ben would argue there’s no other kind of sweetness) — I’ve

Keep your cool while playing, ebayUK

Contolled playing, ebayUK

given him permission to play Call of Duty: Black Ops II, if he plays within the following parameters:

1. blood, gore, & language controls on, and

2. no online multiplayer gameplay

Of course, I believe this is a massive step for me in my relationship with video games, but in the time I’ve taken to reach a verdict on this game, the creators of COD: Black Ops II have released one DLC — a map: Revolution — last month. Further, this review/MOMmentary is being published the weekend before a gaming platform-wide release of the second DLC: Uprising (which includes a zombie setting called “Mob of the Dead”). Turns out, keeping up with this franchise is a full-time job.

A little background about COD: Black Ops II

It was released for PS3, Xbox 360, and Microsoft Windows November 2012, and it’s the first game in the COD franchise that features branching storylines influenced by players’ choices — these storylines/choices are called “Strike Force missions”. It’s also the first COD game to use futuristic warfare technology.

The game narrative is complex and compelling — in its single player mode, the campaign showcases two connecting storylines with Black Ops protagonist Alex Mason starring in the first section of the game and his son, David, in the second half. The game spans from 1986 to 1989 (the final years of the first Cold War) and then in 2025 — the onset of a second Cold War (this is where we see futuristic weapons and action). Soldiers in the game are tasked with — among other duties — preventing a terrorist attack.

Zombies

According to Patricia Hernandez (Kotaku), Zombie mode is a bit of a letdown. In her review of zombie mode for Kotaku, Hernandez writes:

There are three game types: the story-based “Tranzit,” the classic “Survival,” and, less excitingly, the maliciously spirited “Grief.” All overtly have the same premise: using teamwork, survive/kill the zombies.

Zombie mode is also very violent. Like, in a gratuitous way. I’ve banned it in our house because I haven’t found any evidence of zombie mode/maps being anything other than gross — and not in a cool, Super Meatboy way!

Violence and Gore (and Language — Oh My!)

COD: Black Ops II is a violent FPS (first person shooter) game, with and without the use of control settings. This review, and my verdict, have taken about two weeks longer than I’d hoped because of my inherent discomfort with the genre. That said, my decision to allow GamerDude to play the game is rooted in my the ability to control the level of gore, violence, and objectionable language in the game. With the content controls on, the screen literally goes black in places — to his frustration and my satisfaction. Also, in at least one instance, I’ve seen a cutscene that was appallingly horrific in the uncontrolled game — a man being burned alive — edited in the gore control mode.  The effect: a cutscene free of graphic visual and sound effects (preferable).

I’ve watched GamerDude play COD: Black Ops II — avec content controls — and, while it’s still intensely violent, the strategy, narrative, and decision-making aspects of the game really shine in this mode (as opposed to being outshone by violent, gory, and profane content). These are factors that contributed to my decision to allow the game in my home.

Closing

The ESRB rates the game Mature for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes, and Use of Drugs. The first four themes are controllable and the last two are (virtually) unavoidable. It should be noted that the suggestive themes entail your player entering a nightclub with exotic dancers — in silhouette — and it’s not a primary aspect of the game action or narrative. Regarding the use of drugs in the game, it’s limited to a mission set in a cocaine bunker. To complete the game players need to complete these missions, but if you don’t want to experience these worlds, you can avoid the missions.

I also want to add that the musical score for COD: Black Ops II is stunning. Composed by Jack Wall and Trent Reznor, it’s a powerful combination of classical and contemporary music that serves to enhance the gameplay and enrich what’s already a detail-rich world. Despite the fact that FPS isn’t my bag, I dig the task responsibility of watching GamerDude play this game.

VERDICT: RECOMMEND — with content controls ON — FOR SOME 12 YEARS PLUS

 

Response to The Double Parent

In the comments section of yesterday’s Uniting the generations through COD The Double Parent asked:

I started writing a response in the comments, and then I realized that it was becoming a blog post. So here’s my response:

Personally, the shoot’em up style FPS games continue to make me uncomfortable. That said, I’m packing less testosterone than a lot of FPS fans. My intent isn’t to reinforce gender stereotypes re: boys are more aggressive than girls (or snakes, snails & puppy dog tails, which, as a little girl I always thought seemed much better than sugar, spice & all things nice!). But generally speaking, boys find violent and physical  play to be more cathartic — even therapeutic — than girls.

I used to be very strict with the no-violent-video-games rule in my house and you know what? At that time, my son was getting into playground fights at school. I allow some violent games now, and he hasn’t been in a playground fight in over two years.

Admittedly, there are a lot of factors that contributed to the playground fights, as well as to his current success in regulating and managing himself when he sees injustices on the playground — his MO has always been “defender of social justice”; fighting for what’s fair for himself and others. But he tells me that after a crappy and/or frustrating day, he finds respite in his violent video games. It’s a zone of total fantasy where he can take a break from civil society and be pure id for a spot of time.  And I don’t have a difficult time getting him to stop playing when I ask him to stop.

I think it’s also important to emphasize that violent video games represent a fraction of Gamer Boy’s collection of video games. He’s also quite outdoorsy and sporty.

The Verdict

Between us, I’m leaning toward a yes and I’ll elaborate on that in an actual review. I plan on keeping this from Gamer Boy though, otherwise I’ll never hear the end of it!