Say No to Unlicensed Shilling

Recently we experienced E3 2018. As I stated in my E3 2018 post, I thought this was an exceptional year for the show. The best I’ve seen in years actually. As with any E3, many announcements were made. And as with many if not most gaming announcements, there was some controversy. This is of course because entertainment is subjective and people always have different opinions and preferences when it comes to their entertainment. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But what’s become a huge problem in the gaming community is unlicensed (unpaid) shilling.

Let’s be very clear, when talking specifically about game design choices such as mechanics, genre, and art style, there are very few wrong opinions. As an example, some people like their games in first person. Some prefer them in third. While there are certainly good and bad arguments in support of both, neither can be said to be objectively right or wrong. When talking about issues not related to design choices, there are certainly wrong opinions, such as that it’s not OK for a woman to be on the cover of an FPS game set in WWII. But I’m not talking about that. I’m talking specifically about the validity of differing opinions on completely subjective topics within the world of game design.

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Everyone has the right to an opinion and everyone has the right to voice that opinion. But what’s become the norm is people trying to stop other people from voicing their opposing subjective opinion. This is a problem for a number of reasons. First of all, you’re not right. Your opinion is an opinion. The opposing opinion is an opinion. Neither side has more of a right to voice their opinion than the other outside of more specific contexts, which aren’t relevant to the discussion here. Everyone should be able to voice their opinion on a game’s design choices without being attacked for it. But that’s not even the biggest issue.

A shill is a person who appears/pretends to be a member of the public that is secretly working for a company. Shills use the perception of being a consumer to try to influence other consumers to support a company both financially and critically. The key feature of a shill is that they’re paid by a company to covertly influence the public to support that company. While I don’t like shills, I respect them. Like with any job, they are paid to provide a service and they do it. It’s no different than being a lobbyist, lawyer, or IRS agent. They have a dirty job that often calls for them to act unethically at the expense of hardworking people but it is their job and they do it because they have bills to pay too. But there is no excuse for unlicensed shilling. When a person is not paid by a company and goes out of their way to defend them and argue for them against other consumers, it’s not only illogical but also counterproductive for consumers as a whole. Getting paid to do a job is sensible. Doing a job for free is the height of stupidity. This is unlicensed (unpaid) shilling.

will not work for free

Negative reception isn’t a bad thing for consumers. In fact, it’s an objectively good thing. When people send out angry tweets, write critical blog posts, post negative remarks on Reddit, and make dissenting YouTube videos, that’s a good thing for consumers. Even when you disagree with the negative opinions voiced, it’s still good for you as a consumer. Realistically speaking, larger studios and publishers no longer go out of business due to lack of sales. EA, Ubisoft, Rockstar, Sony, and so on aren’t going anywhere. There are too many power house franchises and so many customers worldwide that it would be almost impossible for any of these larger companies to go bankrupt. Studios within those companies like Visceral Games can be shut down, but that’s not a question of financials. It’s simply management making decisions about the future direction of the company. What that means is that there is no excuse to defend these larger companies because the longevity of their business is in no way affected by consumers posting their views, whether positive or negative, on social media.

The benefits of negative opinions being pushed out on social media is that companies respond to them in a number of ways, that either help all consumers or at least the unhappy ones without harming the ones that weren’t unhappy. Negative reception causes prices to drop faster. Negative reception causes free additional content to be released. Negative reception adds additional gameplay options to games to meet demands. Negative reception almost never harms players, unless it’s so bad that a game gets cancelled because of it, which is very rare in the AAA space. So there’s really no excuse to fight against other consumers about opposing opinions on social media because you’re only harming yourself in the long run by removing cause for these companies to grant extra boons to the entire public.

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I’m of course talking about larger studios only. Indie studios and games work a bit differently because of limited budgets and manpower so in many, but not all, situations there is a valid reason to shill for them. It’s very possible that enough negative reception could kill off an indie studio by driving it into bankruptcy. So let’s be very clear about the context of this discussion and stay focused on larger studios and projects.

Two notable examples of unlicensed shilling I saw during this year’s E3 surrounded Smash Bros Ultimate and Cyberpunk 2077. The reception to the Smash Bros Ultimate announcement(s) were overwhelmingly positive. This game has every character that’s ever been in the franchise returning for free with no paid DLC, as of yet announced, plus new characters and stages. This is great news for all Smash Bros. fans. But let’s not pretend like the Smash Bros. franchise has a perfect track record and that the team hasn’t screwed many players over throughout the franchise. I’m a Roy main. It’s been 10 years since I could use my main. Do you know why Roy is back? It’s not because for the past 10 years me and people like me have been silent and not voiced our anger about our mains not being available. It’s because we were vocal about it. There’s no paid DLC characters in this Smash Bros. like there were in the last one. Do you know why? It’s not because Nintendo decided to be benevolent this time around. It’s because a large number of people voiced their anger over this issue since the last game. It was the voicing of negative opinions that made Smash Bros. Ultimate the great game it will be. Not the positive opinions and the shills defending everything Nintendo does like mindless drones. Negative posts made the franchise better. Unlicensed shilling made it worse.

Everyone is here

A lot of people are angry about Waluigi not being playable in this latest Smash Bros. Personally I don’t care about this topic but I respect their desire to have him playable and I support them voicing that opinion. Yet tons of people have gone out of their way to try to put down the pro-Waluigi crowd from voicing their desires. Why? What do you gain from telling people “he’s already an assist trophy”? With enough support of the issue, Nintendo may patch in Waluigi as playable later. Why try to prevent this? Why even get involved? Nintendo doesn’t need your help. They’re a multi-billion dollar company with teams of lawyers, PR reps, and marketing teams. There is no reason for you to come to their aid. If anything, you should be helping your fellow consumers have their needs met. Nintendo will be just fine even if millions of angry tweets are posted calling for Waluigi to be playable.

To clarify, I’m advocating people voicing their negative opinions about game design choices. Not attacking private citizens who happen to be game developers. Attacking people in their private lives for doing their jobs is never OK. I don’t think Sakurai is a god like too many people do, but there is no justification for attacking him personally for any choices made concerning Smash Bros. If you aren’t happy with something tweet Nintendo and the Smash Bros. account and keep your posts focused on the game. If you see someone attacking a developer personally, you should come to that developer’s defense. That’s not what I’m talking about here.

Waluigi

I would say Cyberpunk 2077 had an even more polarizing announcement during E3 this year. CD Projeckt Red announced that the game would be a first person shooter. Many people, myself included, were unhappy about this and took the time to voice that opinion. Many people were also very happy about the announcement. The difference is that the pro-FPS crowd went out of their way to attack those of us voicing our desire for the game to be in third person. Now there are many legitimate reasons to be unhappy with this game being an FPS game. If you want me to go into those in detail, let me know in the comments. But it’s not the purpose of this post so I’m not going to do that here. The real issue is that so many people felt like it was necessary to come to CD Projekt Red’s aid over this issue. No one is worried about the game being cancelled. No one is concerned that the negative reception may get the studio shut down. These are not issues on the table for discussion. What is on discussion is CD Projekt Red adding the option to play in third person. What is on the table is many people not buying the game at release because it’s in first person, causing the price to fall faster for everyone. Neither of these things are/would be bad for consumers. So why try to stop them from happening? The first doesn’t affect you if you want to play the game in first person and the second helps you if you aren’t a day one buyer regardless of the reason why you aren’t a day one buyer. So what is to be gained from attacking your fellow consumers for having an opinion you don’t agree with?

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Some people will argue that CD Projekt Red could end up changing the game into a third person only game with enough negative reception as a justification for their unlicensed shilling, but that’s an illogical conclusion. The game is already being made in third person. CD Projekt Red has stated that they intentionally built the map to work “better” in first person. Many people are excited to play the game in first person and have stated as much. Even with all the negative reception in the world, what would be the logic in completely removing the first person gameplay option altogether? That wouldn’t make any sense. What can, and should, happen is that both first and third person gameplay options are made available like in Star Wars Battlefront and later versions of Skyrim. Why anyone would be against giving players the option to play in their preferred view is beyond me.

The point is that you stand to gain for every negative post made about a game and gain literally nothing from the positive ones. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t post when you’re happy about something a studio announces because you definitely should. These are hardworking people who take pride in their work and enjoy being commended for it. But that in no way means that people who aren’t happy about something in a game shouldn’t be allowed to voice their opinions as well. And all consumers stand to benefit from those negative opinions being posted. So please stop shilling for free. It’s serves you in no way, makes you look like an idiot for being illogical, and costs you possible free benefits such as free additional content and multiple gameplay options in the long run. I liken unlicensed shilling to a person defending the integrity of a pickpocket from an angry mob while the pickpocket is stealing said person’s wallet. Defend your fellow consumers, not the companies that don’t need your help to stay in business.

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E3 2018 Does it Better

Last week was E3 2018. I’ve been highly opposed to E3 for the past several years. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while or follow me on Twitter then you probably know this already. I’ve had a great distaste for the event in recent years because there are just so many things wrong with the concept and format in the modern world. My largest complaint has always been that it’s not open to the public and serves as an unnecessary and expensive event that could easily be conducted digitally with current technology that serves no purpose other than to help washed out media entities gain undeserved hits for their ad revenue. It’s like Twitch streaming at the corporate level. This is the reason that I was very happy when Nintendo changed their E3 format a few years back. Their pre-recorded videos that focus on presenting games is exactly what gamers actually want, costs less money to produce, doesn’t help media get undeserved hits, and isn’t live so gamers from all over the world can experience it when it works best for them. Nintendo realized that E3 should be for consumers and that the format should be shaped to help us. I honestly don’t even watch the conferences outside of Nintendo’s E3 Direct anymore and haven’t for some time. I just check the highlights/recaps after the fact because I just need the info about new games and I refuse to support this wasteful media circle jerk.

I’m happy to say that after many years of voicing my complaints, some progress has finally been made. For the first time ever, E3 tickets were made available to the public. These were of course limited access and had a number of caveats to them, but they allowed normal people to purchase tickets directly from E3’s website and enter the event to see and experience new games at booths. This is how it should be. Like Computex and many other tech industry events, the focus should be on businesses and end users, not media. E3 is finally moving in that direction. And so this year I praise E3 for finally evolving the format. There’s still a ways to go but at least real progress has finally been made.

E3expo 2018 prices

In celebration of this year’s E3 moving towards tolerable, I will take the time to quickly recap my highlights from the show. I have to say that this year was quite good for announcements and new footage shown. Much better than I remember from past years. I certainly have a lot of saving to do and need to really work on clearing some of my backlog to make room for new games.

In no particular order, my highlights/recap of E3 2018:

  1. Kingdom Hearts III Release Date

Finally! I’ve waited since the original tease in 2006 for this game. Like with The Last Guardian, there were many times where I genuinely gave up hope that it would ever be released. They kept teasing it and showing images and footage over the years but they just didn’t give us anything substantial. I’m happy that we finally got a hard release date of January 29, 2019. I will be preordering it through the PS4 All-In-One bundle because I need a refresher course on the storyline and haven’t played most of the spin off titles anyway. At $100 I think it’s a bit more than I should have to pay after my years of loyalty but it’s certainly not an unfair price for the amount of content.

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  1. Spider-Man

We’ve seen this game before and didn’t get anything substantial as far as news during E3, but they did release more gameplay and this game looks great. I won’t be buying it day one, but it’s certainly on my must buy list.

  1. Roy Battle Royale aka Smash Bros. Ultimate

Let me be very clear about something. No intelligent person that’s been following Nintendo since the N64 was surprised by the announcement of a new Smash Bros. It was time for the latest Nintendo console to get an installment of this franchise. This is not the important part of the announcement. What’s important is that they brought back Roy. OK I clearly have a bias. All past characters will be returning and that’s great. For once, every single Smash Bros. player from any gen can main their actual main and we can truly have battles where, assuming the balancing is done properly, the true kings can be decided. I main Roy and Mr. Game & Watch in that order. I haven’t had my true main since Melee. Finally the king can retake his crown. Day one purchase and/or preorder.

ROY

  1. Super Mario Party

I haven’t played Mario Party since probably 3. I didn’t have the ability to meet up with friends and play past the N64 era because most people wanted to play Smash Bros. or shooters in my college days and I haven’t had the people in my life since then to do so in later versions. I loved playing this franchise as a kid and I’m glad to see a return to the original format. As long as it has online play I’ll certainly be buying it, but probably not day one. If it doesn’t have online play then it’s a useless game for me because I simply don’t have the people to play with in real life.

  1. Fist of the North Star (PS4) NA Version

Really happy to see this being localized. I played it at the most recent Taipei Game Show and was really impressed by it. Loved the original Ken’s Rage on PS3 but never got the chance to play Ken’s Rage 2. Really happy they’re finally doing an English version of the latest game to be released in October. Gonna wait for a price drop but this is certainly a must play for fans of the games and anime/manga series.

fist of the north star

  1. Cyberpunk 2077

We’ve all been waiting for this game since the first announcement after The Witcher 3 changed RPG expectations forever.  The idea of getting an even bigger RPG set in the future by CDPR was mouthwatering. But then they announced it would be an FPS gameplay system. This was very disappointing to me and many others, if Twitter is any indication. There are people on both sides of the issue and that’s fine because everyone has the right to their opinion. My hope is that the game ultimately has both third and first person options so players can play the game the way they want but ultimately it is up to CDPR to present what they believe to be the best, most enjoyable game possible for their established consumer base. I’ll continue to watch this game with curiosity but can’t say if I’ll buy it or not with the current information available.

  1. Shadow of the Tomb Raider

They don’t really have to sell me this game. The first two games in the current Tomb Raider franchise were/are excellent. The fact that they’re making another game with the same studio is enough for me to purchase it. I’ve done very little research on this project because I trust the established team to continue to deliver a great gaming experience. Not a day one but absolute must play.

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  1. The Last of Us Part 2

Pretending like this game isn’t already a must buy for anyone who played the first one is just naïve. It was sold as soon as it was announced. I was very impressed by the gameplay footage shown and Naughty Dog is a studio that really doesn’t disappoint. I am unhappy that Joel hasn’t been announced as a playable character in the game because I really wasn’t done with him at the end of the first one. But I have no issue with Ellie being a playable main character because that’s the logical progression in the franchise. Really I wish they had done another game with Joel as the lead and then moved on to Ellie about half way through or in a third installment. But suffice it to say this is a must buy.

  1. Nioh 2

I still haven’t given Nioh its proper time, but finally started it for real last week. I purchased it a while ago and loved both the alpha and the beta. I know it’s a good game and I’m happy it’s getting a sequel. As long as it’s at least as solid as Dark Souls 2, the weakest in the Souls series according to most people, I think Nioh 2 will be just fine and even end up spawning a third game. Glad this franchise took off.

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  1. Jump Force

This game really came out of nowhere. I don’t normally buy the Shonen Jump games but this project looks amazing and I’ll probably end up picking it up after a price drop. The gameplay I’ve seen so far is awesome and really it kicks the crap out of the other anime fighters I’ve seen including the past Jump games, none of which I was interested in enough to buy.

  1. Ghost of Tsushima

I can’t recall the last time I saw a gameplay trailer that was so visually stunning that it nearly brought me to tears. This game is art in motion. It’s just visual perfection down to the individual blades of grass. I’d like to try the gameplay first hand so I hope they do a demo but from what I’ve seen I’m fairly certain I’m buying this game. And Sucker Punch has always done solid enough work, in my opinion, so I don’t really have many or even any doubts about this one.

  1. Death Stranding

I still don’t know what the hell this game is about. The gameplay footage shown didn’t make me want to play the game. It was just lots of walking. Beautiful landscapes and solid acting, but from what I saw it’s just a glorified delivery boy game with some freaky floating ghost type monsters and babies for some Kojima related reason. I’m not saying I’m not going to buy this game, but I’m not saying I am either.

  1. Beyond Good & Evil 2

This game is all hype at this point. They’ve shown no gameplay. They’ve shown no establishing story. Pretty much the only thing we know at this point is Jade and Pey’j are coming back, the graphics are beautiful, and the cast of characters is pretty diverse. Other than that it’s all speculation and Ubisoft is leveraging the cult following the first game has hoping that’s enough to guarantee sales because currently there’s no justifiable reason to consider purchasing or even really talking about this game in its current public form.

  1. Unravel 2

Really happy to see Unravel get a sequel. Really impressed that they released it with the E3 announcement. The coop looks great. It looks like everything I would want in a sequel. Definitely picking this one up after a price drop.

unravel-2

  1. Anthem

I still just don’t know how I feel about Anthem. It looks amazing. It sounds great, but it reminds me of both Destiny and The Division way too much. My biggest concern is end game. Anthem looks like it plays well. Looks like the coop is quite good. Doesn’t seem to focus on PVP, which is a good thing. Won’t have gameplay affecting microtransactions. Amen. It sounds glorious. But they’ve not confirmed whether or not I’m gonna get a properly functioning narrative with a conclusive ending. I don’t need or want this game, or any game I play, to last forever. I just want it to last 60 or more hours without me having to replay missions or do PVP matches and have a story with a clear ending. That’s all I want. If they can guarantee me that there’s a conclusive ending to an overarching narrative where I can choose to stop playing and feel that I did everything the game has to offer, then I’ll buy it. That’s literally all I need to choose to buy this game. I’m happy with everything else I’ve seen and heard about it.

  1. Daemon X Machina

This game looks interesting. I don’t know much about it but I was sort of impressed by the Nintendo Direct footage. I’m not in love with the graphics, but I do love mech games and fighting giant bosses. I’ll definitely have to follow up on this more before I can make a final decision.

  1. Pokémon Let’s Go

I don’t really need to say much about these games. Either you want to play a Yellow remake with better graphics or you don’t. What I am not happy about though is that you are required to buy a Pokeball Plus to get Mew. That kind of bullshit isn’t right. That’s a $40 controller that can only be used for 1 (or 2 if you prefer) game. Completing the Pokedex should never be about microtransactions or additional purchases. I was actually considering picking the Eevee version up but after that announcement I decided I just didn’t feel comfortable supporting that type of shady business conduct. The ironic part being that I actually was considering buying the Pokeball Plus before they announced that Mew pay wall.

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Those are my highlights for this year’s E3. I want to make it clear that these are not the only games that were shown at E3 by any stretch of the imagination. These are simply the ones that stood out to me personally enough to warrant discussing them here. There are other games that were shown that I will be buying such as Just Dance 2019, like I do every year. And there were other games shown that I have little interest in but are very newsworthy such as Devil May Cry 5.

All in all, this was a great E3. Quite possibly the best I’ve seen in many years. I look forward to a great year of gaming. What are you most interested in from this year’s show?

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As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

Gaming Photography – Sonic Forces (NS)

Computex is now over but I’m still very busy with work. This week I’m not even home because I’m traveling for work so rather than write my customary E3 rant (hopefully I’ll have time for that next week) here’s another Gaming Photography post. I don’t like the fact that I ended up doing these back to back but I do what I can with the time and resources I have. Somehow I was able to beat Sonic Forces on the Nintendo Switch in the midst of Computex so I wanted to do my customary screenshots recap.

I have to say that Sonic Forces was better than I expected it to be. It’s been literal years since the last time I played a Sonic game that I thought was actually good. Even average makes me happy for this franchise in recent years. This game was genuinely good. The gameplay was solid yet had some originality to it. The story was pretty good and had some real drama in it. My only real complaint was that this game was extremely short. Even with the Shadow DLC, I managed to beat the whole thing in under six hours.

I only took just over 200 pictures while playing this game so it’s not a huge number to choose from. Here’s my top 10 screenshots. For this game I used the Nintendo Switch capture system and then recaptured those images with my Elgato HD60 Pro. I also post game photos on my Twitter and Instagram often.

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*If you’d like to see the full resolution image please right click and press “view image”.

Please let me know what you think of my shots. Any feedback is appreciated because I would like to improve my gaming photography skills.

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As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

Gaming Photography – God of War (PS4)

I’ve been quite busy lately at work because of Computex, which I’m working at, so I’ve not had time to work on much content in the last two weeks. You probably noticed last week’s post was much later in the week than usual and I did pretty much no streaming other than The Crew 2 closed beta, which I wrote a review of in case you’re interested. So this week I’m soft balling it in with a gaming photography post when really I had planned to do a much more serious post about my experience with the latest God of War title. I still plan on writing something more noteworthy about the game, which I got the platinum for on my channel so you can watch the whole playthrough if you’re interested or don’t own a PS4 to play it yourself, which you absolutely should. But this week I only had time to do a Gaming Photography post so here we are.

I took more than 1700 screenshots while playing God of War plus a number of video clips. As I did with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I’m going to do my top 30 screenshots because I could never hope to capture this game with just 10 or even 100. So here’s my attempt to capture my experience playing the latest God of War in a limited number of amazing screenshots. I never actually used the later added photo mode in this game. These are all pure screen captures using an Elgato HD 60 Pro. I also post game photos on my Twitter and Instagram often.

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*If you’d like to see the full resolution image please right click and press “view image”.

Please let me know what you think of my shots. Any feedback is appreciated because I would like to improve my gaming photography skills.

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The Crew 2 (PS4) Closed Beta Review

I was invited to participate in the most recent closed beta for The Crew 2.  I streamed the footage, which you can view here if you’re interested. I wanted to review it to give those who didn’t get a chance to participate some insight into the game in case they were considering picking it up. Let me clarify that I have not played The Crew and in general I don’t buy modern racing games, outside of Mario Kart, but I do have a lot of experience with the genre.

The first thing I’ll say about The Crew 2 is that it’s a nice looking game. It has a wealth of detail in both the landscapes and the vehicles. I was very impressed by how good the water looks, how detailed the character models are, and the level of specifics that went into the vehicle models and paint jobs. While it may not be the nicest, most realistic looking game I’ve ever seen, it’s exactly what I require in a realistic modern racing game to be happy. That being said, there’s a wee bit too much brand placement in this game. I know that makes sense and has to happen because of the way these companies contract to have their vehicles and names in games, but it’s really over the top in this. At the start of every race you get a 3-2-1 countdown that comes off like the vehicle is modeling on a runway. And the brand name placement makes NASCAR look subtle on some of the stuff you’re driving. What’s interesting is that a lot of the branding is fabricated with made up brands to help make the real ones look less obvious but that just clutters the screen more. But overall it’s a nice looking game. One visual issue I did have with the beta, which I’ve had with countless others, is that the edges of the screen cut off. This didn’t affect my racing performance at all but it did prevent me from seeing all the HUD information including some of my stats, even in the pause menu.

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I really liked the photo mode in this beta. It allowed me to really make the snapshots I wanted with lots of control while maintaining the integrity of what you actually pulled off. You can choose when and where your pictures are taken from but you can’t alter the reality of them. If you were at point A you can’t shift your vehicle to point B because it would look cooler for the photo. That being said, finding the post event photo ops was not easy. The game claimed there was some kind of radar system but I couldn’t figure out how to use it. And since the photo ops are timed, it really hurt my experience. I was only able to get to one photo op in time and that was in a plane, which seemed to trigger automatically. To be clear, photo ops are an active challenge that leverages photo mode to net you rewards. You can enter normal photo mode whenever you want to take your own pictures.

Gameplay wise, I was very impressed by a number of things in this beta. The first was that my default avatar was African American. I don’t know if this was because Ubisoft knows I’m Black from my user data or if the default for this game is Black or maybe it’s random, but I really appreciated my default avatar representing me/not assuming I was Caucasian from the start. I actually ended up using one of the other characters, also Black, but right away was I pleasantly surprised by this occurrence. The map system works really well and teleporting to your next event is very fast. You can also of course drive to them, which was a big selling point of The Crew, but I never did that. The one thing I didn’t like about the map system was that at full view it didn’t show all the smaller events. You had to zoom into certain regions to see many of the events. The full view only shows you the main attractions. You can use the filters to show certain smaller events on the large view, but I wasn’t able to have everything showing at the same time. This may look cleaner but it doesn’t help the player as much when it comes to actually playing the game.

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I really liked how the map is instantly dynamic, allowing you to go from your local surroundings map at vehicle view all the way out to the full map view just by adjusting your zoom in real time with the shoulder buttons. No having to scroll between multiple map menus to see where you want to go next. You can just zoom in or out to whatever level of the map you want. At vehicle view you can even see the path you’ve driven for the last 10 minutes and rewind through it to recap where you’ve been and what you did. Great for capturing those awesome moments that took place when you weren’t recording. I also liked that you could pause during events without it affecting your progress. I didn’t try any races with other real players though so I can’t speak to how/if that works in a multiplayer scenario.

Since this is a racing game, let’s finally talk about actual racing gameplay. Probably the most noteworthy thing I can say about The Crew 2 is that your vehicle matters. In the 90 minutes that I played the beta, I drove off road vehicles, street racing cars, speed boats, planes, an F1 racecar, and an off-road motorcycle. Each of these vehicles handles differently. I don’t mean that the controls are different, because other than for a few subtleties they don’t. What I mean is that they genuinely feel different. Driving the speedboats is nothing like driving the planes. Even just driving the off road cars feels totally different at a control level than the street racing cars. Things like resistance, handling, vibrations in the controller when gears shift, and so on all feel very specific to the type of vehicle you’re driving. The specific vehicles in each category feel slightly different from each other as well, but it’s not as pronounced until you compare base level vehicles to much higher end stuff. This creates a very personal and dynamic experience for the player because you tend to do the events and vehicle types you’re better at. So for me that meant mostly ignoring street racing, which I suck at, and leaning heavily on off road and plane events. Your vehicle progression matters too.

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You can upgrade seven different internal aspects of your vehicles, like the gearbox, axel, and tires in the case of cars, to improve things like top speed, acceleration, and handling. But you don’t get these upgrades by paying for them with in game currency. You have to win the upgrades by completing events and then picking up loot. The amount and quality of loot you get appears to be dependent on the type of event you do, your performance in it, and some form of RNG. Loot comes in the form of specific parts in one of those seven aspects and can range in quality level from normal to rare from what I saw. And you can get up to 15 types of the same part, improved with each iteration of that loot drop. I actually really liked this system but it also felt limiting because you don’t necessarily get the upgrades you want when you want them. Say your car handles really well but the top speed is too slow. I couldn’t see any way to influence the type of loot you get for a specific vehicle so it’s possible, depending on how the algorithm works, to keep improving handling and not be getting the speed improvements you want early on. And these aspects matter a lot. I did a speed boat race where I drove the course perfectly with no errors but I got blown away by all seven NPCs because their boats were simply way faster than mine. I have no doubt that I could have returned to and won that race later after getting some upgrades but who knows how long it would have taken to get the upgrades I required to match their top speeds? To the best of my knowledge, there is no way to purchase performance upgrades for vehicles.

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You win money by completing events of various types. Money seemed to be distributed fairly enough, but you will still have to put the time in to get the nice vehicles you really want, which I don’t consider a bad thing. I appreciated being able to test drive the nicer stuff without being able to afford it because it motivated me to want to earn enough to unlock those vehicles. Money is used to buy new vehicles, but not performance upgrades for them. Every vehicle you buy requires time on the track and victories to upgrade them via loot drops. Some vehicles also can’t be purchased, but have to be won by completing challenges. The most common challenge I saw was “defeat your rival” but the beta didn’t let me get far enough to get a rival so I could beat them. The Crew 2 allows you to create the experience you want. It can be single player, multiplayer, or in the middle ground as a shared world that allows you to isolate yourself from other players while interacting with them indirectly. World records are a key component of this. There are countless challenges scattered throughout the map that have already been completed by others. The game shows you the current world record and allows you to attempt to beat it. It also records your accomplishments and adds them to the map for other people to try to beat. You can have an active crew of up to four players, a friends list, and up to seven friends in any one session/lobby at the same time. My only complaint about the gameplay was that it didn’t have enough tutorial resources for specialized events/occurrences. For example, one world record I attempted was a water drift in the speed boat. While it did show me the ghost image of the record being broken, I couldn’t figure out how to initiate it or what constituted a valid record attempt. Eventually I just gave up and moved on to something else. Some sort of tutorial or manual in game that was easily referenced would make the experience a lot more accessible in many such occasions.

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While I found the gameplay to be very good overall, I did have a few complaints and glitches occur. As I previously stated, the game assumes too much knowledge on the player’s part. I had to replay some events after a failure not because I wasn’t good enough to complete them but simply because I didn’t understand what I was supposed to be attempting to do. It’s not always as simple as win the race. A top land speed challenge was one such example of this. I went through it not sure what I was supposed to do the first time. It was only after I failed it that it explained to me what I was trying to accomplish. I completed it successfully the following try. I should have had this information before my first attempt. Along with this, there doesn’t appear to be any way to restart events mid-attempt. Meaning if you’re attempting a record and you know you failed, you still have to finish the race/event before you can try again. This gets old really fast with longer races. It’s sensible in a multiplayer scenario, but when you’re playing solo or only with NPCs, you should be able to restart mid-event. I couldn’t figure out how to logout of the game or return to the main menu. It auto logged me out after being inactive for a period of time, but when I tried to quit the game I couldn’t figure out how so I just exited the application with the PS button. I experienced a small number of glitches, which is fine for a beta. The beta froze one time, but it didn’t freeze my PS4. I simply had to close and restart the application. There was also one time where the game didn’t automatically change my vehicle for the event I was traveling to. This just happened to be when I was going from a boat event to a car event so it ended up tossing me onto a highway in a speedboat. Changing your vehicle is easy to do from the pause menu so it wasn’t a serious issue, but every other event I traveled to initiated an automatic vehicle change.

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One thing I really liked about this beta was the writing. The game has a plot of sorts, but not a set in stone story. Yet it comes off like you’re playing a game with a story. You are a new and upcoming racer trying to make it to the big time. You do this by joining racing crews, each led by a different and very realistic character who gives you a chance to join their crew. Each crew is different, focusing on different types of events, vehicles, and career choices/ideals. You can join all crews concurrently, so that’s a non-issue. I liked that each of these crew leaders came off as real people and you felt pressure to try to impress them so they would let you join their crew. And you feel the need to get into their crews so you can jumpstart your career. They even give you free vehicles when you get in but tell you it’s an investment in their own success through you, which is a nice realistic narrative touch. You even have a manager/mechanic who you have a seemingly close relationship with. While playing it, I really felt like I was my character because of the dialog, even though your character doesn’t actually say anything. But you see him in all these interactions and in the various vehicles while driving, which is an important touch.

The thing I both loved and hated the most about the driving, no pun intended, narrative and tied in gameplay mechanic was the follower count. The game has a social media mechanic where you have to collect followers. You do this by winning/completing events, doing stunts, setting records, and other such achievements. The amount of followers you gain for any specific accomplishment is based on the difficulty and popularity of what it is. You can gain a few for pulling off a random stunt. You can gain more than 1000 for winning certain races. Followers aren’t just for show. They are the limiting factor of your career. Money can buy you new vehicles, but followers buy you popularity which translates into access. The logic being that companies won’t sponsor you for races if they don’t think people will take the time to tune in and watch you participate. Your player ranking isn’t based on performance or experience. It’s based on follower count. When you start the game, you’re a “Rookie”. This lets you participate in level 1 events. You have to amass enough followers to reach the “Popular” rank to unlock more events. You can level up all the way to “Icon” but the beta stops you from getting past Rookie.

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Followers stand in place of experience. They do pretty much the same thing. I don’t know if real players can follow other ones to add to their follower count, but I could see that happening in The Crew 3 if not in this game. I think this is a really realistic mechanic that emulates the current real world of racing and entertainment in general. Followers mean everything today. So kudos to Ubisoft for realizing that could work effectively in a game. At the same time, this is exactly the type of thing I personally hate about the modern era and I don’t want to see my games affected by social media popularity any more than they already are. Imagine a world where follower count is tied to your actual social media following or even just in game following and you can’t access certain content until you’ve amassed enough real world followers. That’s a scary thought.

The sound was good. I feel like music is lacking in this game, but that also adds to the realism so maybe it’s not a bad thing. It’s crucial to a game like GTA, but this isn’t that sort of RPG style character role so maybe it’s not necessary. The effects sound exactly how I expect and want them to in a racing game. No complaints there.

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This was a good beta. The Crew 2 is a good racing game. I know I won’t personally buy it because it’s not really my genre, but I can very much appreciate that this is a high quality, ultra-realistic racing game that remains accessible to an audience of gamers that don’t know much about actual vehicles. Yet it still makes you at least start to think about internal parts and upgrades. It walks the line very well and plays in a way that all racing game enthusiasts can enjoy. If racing games are your thing, I can definitely recommend this game based on what I played. It has a ton of replay value, a seemingly lengthy progression system that retains balance, and long term goals with realistic achievement rates. Other than the lack of defined end game, I can definitely endorse purchasing The Crew 2 from what I’ve seen and experienced in this beta.

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