- Xbox LIVE renewal (Xbox One): $59.99
- Severed (Vita): $14.99
- TMNT (Xbox One): $6.54 (Redbox 2-day rental)
- Homefront: Revolution (Xbox One): $6.54 (Redbox 2-day rental)
- Mirror’s Edge (Xbox 360): $4.79
- EA Access (Xbox One): $4.99
YTD Total: $1,023.10
- DOOM (Xbox One): 6h 15m
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manattan (Xbox One): 3h 7m
- Assassin’s Creed Rogue (PS3): 2h 21m
- Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien (Vita): 2h 4m
- Homefront: Revolution (Xbox One): 1h 58m
- Severed (Vita): 1h 30m
- God of War III Remastered (PS4): 1h 3m
- Suikoden II (PS1): 40m
- Kirby and the Rainbow Curse (WiiU): 29m
- Mr. Crab 2 (iOS): 20m
- Hot Shots Golf World Invitational (Vita): 13m
“Worth a Rental”
When I was writing for video game magazines (1999-2004), Blockbuster Video stores were as commonplace as Starbucks cafes are today. Our staff at GameNOW would frequently recommend that players rent games that fell into the “good, but not great” category. Renting games was a great way to taste everything that came out without breaking the bank.
When Blockbuster Video started to die, renting games became much more difficult. I tried Gamefly for a while, which would send you games by mail – like the old Netflix DVD distribution system. But getting a new release from Gamefly on its first week of release seemed as rare as winning the lottery. When PS Plus started offering free games with a subscription, I stopped renting games altogether, finding my plate was full enough between cool freebies like DMC and full-priced new releases from GameStop.
Then came Redbox video game rentals. At the start, they did not offer next-generation games, but now that Xbox One and PS4 titles are in their rotation, the service has become a fantastic way to keep up. I check the machines whenever I’m at a 7-11 or Safeway. If you’re an Xbox One gamer, like me, the service is particularly handy, because Redbox carries both versions of every major release, and there are fewer players fighting to take home the Xbox One versions. They are always in stock! I’m beginning to think I’m the only person in Half Moon Bay with the Xbox One.
This week, the service helped me to dodge two bullets: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan (Xbox One), and Homefront: The Revolution (Xbox One). I had been planning to purchase both. Not anymore!
I was really impressed with Transformers: Devastation, so I was thrilled to learn that Platinum, the development team behind that game, was also working on a game based on the Ninja Turtles. At first glance, the shared DNA between the two games is obvious, from the beautiful cell-shaded visuals to the open world city maps. But where Transformers let you choose to focus on one hero at a time, TMNT puts you in charge of all four heroes from beginning to end. This clutters the screen, making it very difficult to keep track of which Turtle you are controlling. The game introduces parry and dodge systems in the tutorial, but I never found either to be helpful. For the most part, gameplay devolves into running towards the crowd and aggressively tapping the two attack buttons, hoping some of your hits land.
About two hours in, I dropped the game to easy mode. The battles didn’t feel strategic, so I figured it would not diminish the experience to set up enemies to fall after fewer hits. This kept me going for an hour longer, but after that, I quit. Perhaps I would have played longer if the game supported couch co-op. I understand why it doesn’t – that would make camera control a nightmare – but my five-year-old son was disappointed that he couldn’t play along with me. Don’t buy it. It’s fine for an evening or two of mindless action, but you won’t be coming back to improve your scores.
Homefront: The Revolution has a fascinating development backstory, having been passed between four developers and two publishers over the course of five years. It’s an open world game, while the original game was on rails. It seems to share little in terms of the first game’s story, and there are no recurring characters.
Trying the game is interesting in the same way that Duke Nuke ‘Em Forever (Xbox 360) was interesting. After Homefront: The Revolution went to the 9th level of development hell and back, how cohesive could the final game be?
After after enjoying The Division, a vastly superior urban chaos shooter, it’s hard to dig into Homefront. The characters are straddled with terrible dialogue, the frame rate is inconsistent, and the shooting felt light and muted. I only played for a few hours, which was enough to get a feel for the game’s world and combat. Neither convinced me to continue playing.
Now, here’s the rub with Red Box. When they say that a game is due in 24 hours, they mean EXACTLY 24 hours. Run even a minute late, and you are paying for another day. This stung me with both games, but I’m still happy the cumulative spend turned out to be $13.08, not $119.98.
“The Greatest Electronics Device of All-Time”
I’m generally not a prickly customer when I’m at a retail shop. I worked for years at a Software Etc., so when a clerk is rude, I usually cut them some slack. Their jobs are not fun, and feeling subordinate to every jerk who walks in from the street feels awful.
But this past Monday was a different matter. The clerk I was talking to at Best Buy was removing all of the Vita games and hardware from the shelves.
“That’s really sad to see,” I said, mournfully. “I love the Vita.”
“Well, nobody was buying it. It was a crap system from a software perspective,” the clerk replied, not even looking me in the eye.
Crap software? The nerve!
“What about Gravity Rush? Or Uncharted? Or Persona 4 Golden? Or all the outstanding indie games? The library is amazing!” I hissed.
He’d have none of it. He kept using the term ‘dead system’, and I kept correcting him by calling it the ‘best handheld machine of all-time’.
He wasn’t professional, but to be fair, I was being an insufferable customer. We agreed to disagree.
The Vita was on my mind because it’s recently replaced my new 3DS XL as the “machine I carry around everywhere”. I have fallen back in love with the catalog of games I own, having spent some time in Suikoden II and Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien. What amazing games! I love the characters in Suikoden II, and I can’t get enough of Runner 2’s rhythm jumping.
I also purchased Drink Box’s new game Vita game, Severed. It is unlike anything you’ve ever played before. It combines first-person navigation with Infinity Blade-style swiping combat. Severed is set in a paper cardboard world that makes it instantly recognizable as a Drink Box game. The game doesn’t provide the same adrenaline rush from the get-go that Mutant Blobs or Guacamelee did. The slower pace can make the game feel a bit too sedate in the first hour. But it picks up as you are introduced to new monsters, who require increasingly nimble finger swipes to defeat. Some of the navigation can be frustrating – I had to get help from a YouTube walkthrough video more than once. But still, despite it flaws, you have to love a game that is so dedicated to giving players something new. Severed is likely to be referenced on many “Best VITA Games of All-Time” Top 10 lists.
“I Call B.S. on howlongtobeat.com”
According to howlongtobeat.com – a great site that combines the player completion rates on games – the average completion time of DOOM is 11 hours and 30 minutes. So far, I have put 14 hours and 38 minutes into it, and still have two stages to go. I have only been doing main story content. Does this mean that I suck at games? Compared to a Mountain Dew swilling 20-year-old, for sure. But this also points to the importance of taking sites like these with a grain of salt. Every player will complete their games at a slightly different pace. I’m looking forward to seeing what the end boss is all about!
My two cents: that Best Buy clerk is a lousy salesperson. His job is to sell stuff whether he likes the product or not (and I’d bet a penny he’s not a Vita owner), but he’s actively discouraging people from buying with that attitude.
‘m a Vita fan as well and KNOW this is possibly the best year the handheld. In fact, my dealings with game section employees as opposed to game STORE employees shows those who own the systems they sell tend to do a better job at selling them. On the other paw, those who are only clocking for hours, aren’t gamers, or are biased towards a certain system tend to look down their noses at something and pass that on to potential consumers.
Yeah, the Vita isn’t flying off store shelves right now. But I’d bet a very small part of that reason has less to do with content than it does with how the system has been sold up to this point at some shops.