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The following are 5 things that I learned from a parents perspective about Grand Theft Auto 5 just by watching the game play trailer.

#1: It is still GTA

The Grand Theft Auto franchise has moved beyond its role as a simple crime simulator. Instead, we are treated with an expansive world to explore and play in. Rockstar Games takes the time to craft a massive world and crams as many details into the game as possible. They even fit a complete golf simulator into it!

#2: That might not be a bad thing

Games that are this large in scope provide ample opportunities for varied gaming experiences without even taking the disc out. There is very little to stop you from firing up a round of golf or tennis with your kids and then going off to complete a story mission once they go to bed.

Call me crazy, but kids only experience the content that you let them consume. My sons still think Assassin’s Creed is about climbing historical buildings. My youngest son thinks Skyrim is a hunting and leatherworking simulator with dragons in it. The Extra Credits crew spends some time in one of their recent videos detailing how a teacher plays Grand Theft Auto 4 with his child by driving around, obeying traffic laws, and asking their child to say what color the different cars are. That little kid has no idea what the code of the game could let his father do. I’ll bet that there will be opportunities for similar experiences in GTA V.

#3: This game looks like it will definitely give you something to talk about

I’m not endorsing this game as something that you should play in its entirety with young kids. The violence is obviously way off the charts. The game is named after a felony after all! But, those parents who have teenaged children might be able to use this game and the narrative within it as a springboard into some serious discussion about society, crime, poverty vs affluence, etc. The sharp contrast between the three protagonists alone should generate some excellent discussions.

#4: The “three protagonist” game play is going to make my head spin

One of the biggest features in this game is that the player can switch seamlessly between any one of three protagonists at any point in the game leaving the other two to be controlled by the computer. This leads to some pretty complex game play situations. I can just picture popping into the wrong guy’s head at the exact wrong time and ruining a few missions.

#5: Online Multiplayer for GTA? Wow. Bust out the parental controls!

Online multiplayer is already questionable for kids. You never know what kind of players you will be stuck with and the language/attitude of a lot of the online players is downright caustic. I am also going to assume that the multiplayer game isn’t going to be all about playing golf either.

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NCAA Football 14 will be released for the PS3 and Xbox360 on July 9th. I spent some time with the demo and wanted to take a moment to share my immediate impressions.  (A full review will follow after the game releases.)

The first thing that needs to be said when we talk about any of the EA Sports games is that they are simulators. They are not designed to be easy to pick up and play. Instead, they focus on creating an experience that is authentic. These games assume that the person on the other end of the controller knows a lot about the sport they will be playing. NCAA Football 14 is no exception.

 In years past the NCAA games have felt like they were playing the role of the forgotten older sibling in compared to the effort placed on the Madden football franchise. EA just didn’t put the effort into crafting the unique experience that is college football in America . It honestly looked like they re-skinned Madden with college helmets and jerseys and called it a day. Those days appear to be over. I’ll be blunt and save us some time: the game looks and sounds amazing. The animations are smooth. The colors are bright. A casual observer would need to look closely to make sure it wasn’t a live television broadcast. The crowd even sounds believable. Of course,nothing is perfect. Some of the sideline animations can be a little stiff. But, this is still better than in previous years. 

There is nothing here from a content standpoint that concerns me in regards to children. This game is designed to be played by football enthusiasts so they will likely have football on in the background most Saturday’s anyway. With that said, if you aren’t a football fan and are just “looking for something for your child to play” this doesn’t look like a great option.

The demo itself provides a preview of the head to head game play by featuring 3 major college match-ups  Alabama vs VPI, Oregon vs Texas A&M, and Ohio State vs Michigan. It also includes the Nike Skills Trainer minigame, a heavily stylized tutorial mode that will help newer players get used to the (rather advanced) controls. This is a well executed feature because it manages to turn a boring tutorial into a mini-game with achievements. The minigame will also help unlock players for the “Ultimate Team” mode in the retail game. 

The meat-and-potatoes of the game come in the form of Dynasty and Season mode which let you choose your favorite team and try your luck at running them for a season or longer. These modes were, understandably, left out of the demo so we’ll need to wait for the full release to see how they play.

Our copy of NCAA Football 14 is on the way. We’ll have a full review up as soon as possible!

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By Banzi – Sports/Racing Editor [Editor’s note: Banzi is our newest contributor and he’ll be lending his expertise on sports titles and racing games! We’ll be doing a little catch up over the next few weeks and then we’ll spend some time talking about what the next generation has in store for our little sports fans!]

Produced by EA Sports

PS3/Xbox

Rated E
From the avid hockey fan to the novice just being introduced to the sport, NHL 13 by EA Sports has something for everyone. It sports amazing graphics, solid gameplay, and a multitude of game modes that provide hours of hockey for everyone in the family.

I’ve played most of the hockey games on the market and I have to say NHL 13 tops them all. NHL 13 provides the most realistic gameplay and is, above all else, the most fun. The controls are quite easy to learn; you will be scoring and dangling by the defense in no time. NHL 13 is simple to learn. There are tutorials on all aspects of the game from the rules of the game all the way to the controller functions.

EA Sports has done an outstanding job paying attention to all the small details. Player movement is fluid and realistic feeling. With improved A.I. defense and goalies gone are the days of running up the score. This year there has been a huge emphasis on team play and puck movement. EA has designed the game to force players to use the whole team and employ a more team oriented game strategy.

The controls may seem overwhelming, even confusing at first, however I assure you that with enough practice they will become second nature to you and your kids. Here are some highlights to get the little guys going:

  • In the most simplistic form, the left stick controls your player’s movement and the right stick controls you actual stick. For example, if you want to shoot, all you have to do is push up on the right stick. If you want to wind up for a huge slap shot, all you have to do is pull back on the right stick and then push up.
  • If you keep in mind that the right stick controls your stick on the ice most of the movement is intuitive. Even hitting is based on the right stick. All you have to do is push the right stick in the general direction you want to send you player and he will charge forward for a hit.
  • Just like in real life, practice makes perfect. If all these controls seem to be overwhelming you have the option to use the classic controls. Which are more a little easier for younger kids to grasp since it relies on button presses as opposed to joystick movement.
  • The more you play and experiment with you player the faster you will be dangling around the defense like Pavel Datsyuk.

There are a ton of game modes to choose from in NHL 13. Here are some of the highlights:

  • There is the General Manager mode which allows you to control every aspect of a NHL team. Manage your team through draft day all the way to raising Lord Stanley’s cup. This involves thing like contract negotiations, and long term team development. This is where some of the “meat and potatoes” of the simulation come in.
  • Be a Pro mode allows you to create a player and follow him all the way to the big leagues. Through your play you will earn points to upgrade you player’s skills.
  • Finally, there is the more classic “Versus” mode. Pick your favorite team and challenge the computer or a second player. Here you will control all the players on the ice and lead your team to victory or back to the drawing board.

These are some of the more popular game modes, but there are plenty more to choose from. They mix up the action a bit and keep the game from getting stale.

Most games include the option to play online these days; NHL 13 is no exception. You are able to bring your favorite team online and connect with thousands of players across the country and even the world. I would think long and hard about allowing your child to play online thanks to the varied personality types they might encounter. They could manage to end up in a game with someone else that is pleasant and interested in honest fun. But they could also end up with a profanity spewing monster. There is no real way to filter that out (currently)

I believe there is more than enough gameplay off line to keep your child occupied. So that doesn’t really take away from the value of the game.

Overall NHL 13 brings all the aspects of a great game together. With the ease of play and realistic gameplay this game is a great way to learn the game of hockey. There are countless hours of gameplay ahead for your budding hockey star!
For more information about this game and other games by EA Sports visit

www.easports.com

 

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By Bill Gibbs, Staff Writer

Editors Note: I know what you might be saying. “This game is rated M. How could this be reviewed on a family gaming website?” The reality is that we will be reviewing major M rated releases because teenagers are part of the family too! We recognize that there are parents who are willing to let their 15 and 16 year olds play rated M games. So there is no reason to hide the information from anyone.

 

ESRB Rating: M for Mature

This review is intentionally vague on the details of the game as to not require a spoiler warning. Main themes, visual elements, dialog, gameplay, and age suitability are discussed below.

Overall Review:

Remember Me is a game which starts with a truly interesting yet classical feeling science fiction concept: digitizing human memory and the consequences thereof. The world created is deceptively deep given the game’s story (more on that in a bit) although most of the world of the 2080’s is revealed by optionally found journal entries. These entries detail a world ravaged by global weather changes, war, and the dramatic shift of society due to the invention of the “Sensation Engine” (called Sensen). Sensen allows for the digitalization of thoughts and the overlay of digital information in real time into the mind, an idea which the game uses constantly.

Which brings us to the problem with Remember Me. Without any major spoilers, the game itself does little to capitalize on all of this set up. The story for the game itself is fairly straightforward, and although it throws a few curves to keep things interesting the game never really deviates from a basic “topple the evil corporation” line until the last second. Overall the story is average with a few interesting bits, but it’s nothing to be amazed at.

While the soundtrack is not terribly memorable, it does its job during game play to set all the needed moods and set the pace for combat. Voice acting is well done with a particularly good job by the game’s main character Nilin.

Graphics are nearly not worth judging in today’s AAA games unless they are subpar. That is not the case here. The game is good looking, its best features being water effects, lighting, and shadows. These are the basic hallmarks of graphical ability and the game does them well. The neat thing about the visuals in this game isn’t the quality. It is the way the Sensen is intergraded into the world. Shops have their names and menu’s floating in the air directly in front of them, out of order elevators have warnings floating directly in front of them. It takes everything that is being talked about today regarding augmented reality and takes it to its logical conclusion. It’s another example of the depth and detailed thought put into this game in every area accept the gameplay or the main story. A lot of effort went into creating an amazing setting; they just failed to tell an interesting story in that setting.

This brings up the gameplay. This is unfortunately where the game is really lacking, which is a problem since this is a GAME. The primary problem is the simplicity of the combat, the insultingly straightforwardness of the platforming, and the shear linearity of the game as a whole. Starting with the combat, you can customize your combos by selecting “pressens” which is the game’s version of individual hits in the combos, into four combos. 3, 5, 6, and 8 hit combos are available which sounds like a great level of customization but in combat it breaks down into rinse and repeat the same four combos over and over for the whole game. There are a few special pressens which grant short term extra power or the ability to one shot certain enemies, but they do little to break up the monotony of combat and in many of the fights are unfortunate requirements due to enemy invulnerabilities to standard attacks.

The platforming sections which separate the fights have only one way to go: forward. There are no mistakes to be made, no having to figure out where to go or going the wrong way. To top it all off the Sensen displays in real time the next jump or move to make, so although you are playing traditional platforming sections (ala Prince of Persia), these sections are little more than an exercise in going through the motions.

There is one saving grace to the gameplay and that is the “memory remix”. In these sequences the game shows someone’s memory of a key event in their life. You then have the power to fast forward, rewind, and pause the memory while you change key details to dramatically alter the target’s personality. Not only are these sequences challenging puzzles but they are brilliant examples of the core theme of the game. How much of whom we are is dependent on our memories? What happens when you start tinkering with the most important events of a person’s life? These questions are directly addressed by the remix sections. There are 4 of them in the game, and they are the clear high points as well as being some of the darkest parts of the story.

Family Gaming Assessment:

Remember Me deals with some very dark topics at times as well as being visually graphic where its enemy designs and environments are concerned. That being said, there is little in the game’s fighting that would not be found in any PG-13 adventure or monster movie. A few moments of foul language complicate matters for the young teen audience but aside from some mutated humans called “leapers” the overall themes and events of the game are acceptable to anyone over the age of about 17.

The game does deal with some dark topics however. Differences in economic class to the point of near slavery, personal manipulation leading to suicide, and generally involved questioning just how far society can fall when given to its own vices are the core themes explored in the game. It is a dystopian world strife with inequality and violence. Although the punch kick combat is fairly sanitized (no blood, guns, or gore) the environments range from filthy flooded sewers full of mutated humans to secret high tech labs where the poor have been experimented on. These environments are not directly inappropriate for early teen players, but they also imply a lot of unseen violence and human suffering. The other issue, as noted before, is the use of profanity in some stages of the game. Though none of these sections are particularly gratuitous and in fact the language used is fairly acceptable given the situations, the fact remains it is profanity and it does happen a few times throughout the course of the game. If you don’t want your 15 year old hearing an F-bomb dropped during the memory of a man arguing with his girlfriend, then this game is not for them. Despite the thin main story, the characters and the setting itself are very real, very charged with emotion, and full of adult themes as noted above.

Playability Assessment:

All things being equal, this game uses a very simple series of mechanics. As mentioned above, the Sensen is used as an “in-game” way for the game to basically hold your hand throughout every section and basically tell you where to go. The combo system is limited and very simple. Anyone with the ability to play “Simon Says” can get through this game with little overall difficulty. The “custom” part of building your combos, while cool, is very easy to exploit which eliminates most of the challenge in the game fairly early on. There are maybe two hard fights in the game on normal difficulty, and they are less hard because they require skill and more because they require the use of a specific special move in order to do any damage to the bosses, and that move has a 2 min cooldown. Frustrating, yes. Difficult, no. Anyone with even a modicum of prior video game experience will quickly master everything this game offers in terms of challenge. Everyone else just has to be able to follow on screen instructions and learn some basic button timing. The price of failure is also not too steep, as you will quickly automatically load the last checkpoint. Checkpoints are well spaced out and after each fight, platforming sections, or major cutscene. This is good pacing but it also means that if you die during a fight all that happens is you end up restarting the fight.

Conclusion:

Remember Me is an ok game meant for a more mature audience based on its themes and dialog but will likely be ok for anyone 17 and up (again, with the profanity exception). The gameplay is lackluster and very point A to point B with little change as the game progresses. The story is thin, but the setting is fantastic. Remember Me will likely not provide much of a challenge to an experience gamer but does rely on some very common core gaming mechanics which allows anyone to pick up the game and learn some important basics.

Bottom line: the game is worth it if you are interested in experiencing a brilliant setting of a dystopian future where man’s quest for technological improvement to the self has resulted in terrible unforeseen consequences. Excellent characters that are well voiced and react fantastically to their dystopian world but unfortunately do so while undergoing very little of an overall story. If you’re looking for innovation in gameplay, a challenge, or a deep and complicated story, you’re going to end up skipping Remember Me or picking it up in the discount bin in a few months.

Parents: Though visually the game is tame and lacks most of the gore, guns, knives, and other implements of violence in its combat, the game is still not suitable for pre or even young teens. The themes are dark and disturbing, the language is adult and laced with profanity, and the atmosphere often depicts vast human suffering. ESRB has it rated as M for “Mature Audiences” citing blood, partial nudity, strong language, and violence.

This review, based on the PC version.

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