A while back, my Xbox One seemed like it had finally died on me. It turned out to just be a power supply issue, but for the week that it was out of order, I found myself revisiting a lot of games from when I was a kid. Most were from the PS1 and PS2 era, things like Twisted Metal, Tomb Raider, Spiderman, etc. Unsurprisingly, I found myself unable to play most of them for more than a couple of hours, as the controls, visuals, and cameras became too difficult to contend with. There turned out to only be a few that held up well under modern scrutiny, chief among them being Tony Hawk’s Underground 2. 

My metric for determining whether a game has held up well is to ask myself one question: If this game came out today, exactly as it is right now, could I still enjoy it? Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of games from the era that I still love, but I understand the power of nostalgia. The truth is, if the original Twisted Metal came out today, I doubt I would give it more than half an hour of my time. However, with THUG 2, and most of the Tony Hawk games, I honestly think I would enjoy them every bit as much, and I want to dive into why that is. 


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A Dead Genre

The thing with skating games is that, until recently, it seemed like they were a dead genre. We recently got the announcements of a new Skate game, as well remasters of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2, but before that, the closest we had was the disastrous Pro Skater 5 (a game that isn’t even available to purchase anymore on digital storefronts). In the absence of new proper entries into either franchise or any newcomers to the genre, skating games stagnated for well over a decade.

As a result, there was never any innovation, never any refinement of the formula after the golden age of the skating game genre in the early 2000’s. On the flip side, many of the other games from the era went on to newer generations, growing with the industry and their fan bases. Take Tomb Raider as a prime example. One of the reasons it can be so difficult to go back to the originals is because the medium has advanced so far past what they used to be. Third-person shooting, parkour, puzzle-solving, all the mechanics that made up the original Tomb Raider games have been improved massively in the last 20 years. The difference between the originals and the reboot trilogy is night and day, and unless you have rose-colored glasses the size of night-vision goggles, you’re going to find it difficult to go back. This isn’t the case with skating games. Because nothing has come out in the intervening years that have changed the game, so to speak, there are no improvements or refinements that I find I’m missing when I go back and play them. 

Another reason for the games aging well is the inherent simplicity. It’s the same reason that really old games, such as Tetris, are still commonly played to this day. Let’s focus specifically on THUG 2, which I personally consider to be the apex of the genre. While a lot of mainstream games these days tend to give us giant, sprawling worlds, packed to the brim with things to do, skating games never really tried to do that (and when they did, they failed miserably). They just wanted to be fun, and typically had no great ambitions beyond that.

In the case of THUG 2, there may be a lot to criticize, such as the camera controls when on foot, the shoddy voice acting, and the weird animations, but there were only a few things it really needed to get right. It made sure that the act of skating around open levels, causing chaos, and performing cool tricks was inherently fun. It felt like the rest of the game was built around that core mechanic, and everything else, while appreciated, was extraneous. As I mentioned before, the lack of any new games recently to build on that premise ensures that, if that’s what you want from a game, you aren’t going to find it done better than THUG 2 on the Playstation 2. Throw in a timeless and exceptionally well-curated soundtrack that combines punk rock, old school hip-hop, and some Frank Sinatra for good measure, and you have a game that’s going to hold up for decades to come. That’s a quality that just wasn’t shared by other games from the time, no matter their qualities. 

The Future of Skating Games

With a potential revival of the genre on the rise, I’m looking forward to seeing if I still think this in a few years. To be honest, I think I will. I’ve seen modern games try to do similar things, but none really seemed to grasp the essential components of a skating game. Take Sunset Overdrive, for example, an Xbox One launch title that you probably haven’t thought about in years. I heard people at the time compare it to a Tony Hawk game with guns, a fairly apt comparison.

That being said, I’ve played that game once since I got it, and I’ve played THUG 2 through to completion twice so far this year. The traversal was bare-bones, the soundtrack was forgettable, and the humor fell flat more often than not. However, it did make me think that if anyone were to try a new Tony Hawk game, and put some effort into it, it would be a smash hit. For that matter, it could be one of the very few live service games that I could see succeeding. After all, when you do something so much better than any of your competitors, it’s not really a competition at all, and in a medium where skating games are all but gone, I’m willing to bet that a new one would keep people coming back for years after launch. 

Please, for the love of God, leave the dub-step behind though. Bring back the punk. 

Blackout:

Blackout is a game mode within Call of Duty Black Ops 4 and features classic locations known thought the Black Ops universe. Black ops 4 was a different kind of Black ops compared to Black ops 3 or 2 because while all Black ops feature zombies and multiplayer aspects, Black Ops 4 had a battle royale instead of a campaign story mode. This enticed many players looking for a new game to play and Black Ops sales skyrocketed. Blackout is like many is a realistic battle royal where you players must find natural cover and be the last one standing at the end of the game. This is normal for any battle royal where the ultimate goal is to beat every player in your lobby and be the final person standing. 

Warzone: 

Warzone is similar to Blackout in which they are both subcategories of another game. Blackout under the Black ops name and Warzone is under the Modern Warfare name. Warzone is a game where 150 people drop into a map and duke it out until you’re the last person standing.

Warzone has many unique features that other battle royals don’t have such as the fact that after you die you get sent to the Gulag where if you win your 1v1 you get back into the game. Players absolutely love this concept as there is nothing more frustrating than dying mid-game and not being able to do anything except watch your team play.

The thing that sets Warzone apart is even if you lose the 1v1 there is still a big chance you’ll be able to come back into the game. This is through a system called buy stations. At these stations, you can buy UAV’s, Loadout Drops, and many others but one important thing that players can buy is their teammates. Scattered around the map there is money that players can collect and use at these stations for $4500 if your teammate is completely dead you can buy them back and they will return to the game with full health and armor.


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Price Difference:

One unique difference between Blackout and Warzone is the price they each cost. Blackout is included in the game Black Ops 4 and the only way to play it is to buy Black Ops 4 which on release was around $69.99 which is one of the more expensive games at the time.

Warzone is unique in the way that you don’t have to buy Modern Warfare to play it, Warzone is technically a separate game under the name of Modern Warfare. This means that Warzone is going to be a lot cheaper than Black Ops 4, and it was, Warzone is completely free. This means that the player base for Warzone will be drastically higher than the player base for Blackout as you don’t need to spend anything to play it.

Weapons Players use:

In Blackout, players use weapons that are featured within the Black Ops 4 multiplayer whereas in Warzone players use the Weapons featured within the Modern Warfare multiplayer. This difference may seem small but is actually quite big.

The weapons you use will ultimately determine whether or not the game is fun. If all a game has is useless weapons that are too difficult to use then the player base will slowly start to deteriorate as people leave the game for something else. The weapons in Blackout although good wasn’t as well-received as the weapons in Warzone. Warzone has much more variety within their weapons allowing for more interesting gameplay and cooler combinations. 

Gamemodes available within these games:

In Blackout many game modes were featured to invasive on a specific part of combat. Similar to Fortnite game modes such as Close quarters force players to play more aggressively and which keeps the game higher paced and exciting. In Blackout there is the option to play Solo, Duo, or Quads allowing players to play with up to 4 friends.

This is where Warzone differs because while Warzone also has specific game modes such as Juggernaught battle royal there is also an option to play trios along with solos duos and quads. This allows for smaller friend groups of 3 to be allowed to play together. The game modes within Blackout feature more diversity and intensity within the play style and ultimately are better than what Warzone has to offer. Warzone wouldn’t be able to hold a candle to Blackout had it not been for them also having trios. Trios is one of Warzone’s most popular ways of playing is one of the most fun things you can do within the game.


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Overall thoughts:

My overall thoughts on which game is better are clear in my eyes. After playing them both for a considerable amount of time I think that Warzone is far superior to Blackout. Warzone has so many unique aspects that no one has ever thought of before making it a revolutionary game in the industry. With the whole gulag and buy system players never have to feel bored as there is a big chance, they will come back and rejoin their teammates.

While Blackout has more interesting game modes Warzone doesn’t need anything special to keep its player base engaged and entertained. The other major aspect of why Warzone is better and will do better in the industry than Blackout is because its free to play. There is virtually no pay to win aspects in Warzone meaning even if you spend no money you can be just as good if not better than people who spend 100’s on cosmetics. With all these things considered in my opinion Warzone is a better game than Blackout.

A new martial arts anime in the form of an ONA has recently aired as part of the 2020 summer season lineup. The first episode hits us with a good impression that will have many new fans tuning in for more. This article will contain spoilers for the first episode of the anime adaptation but will not mention anything included in the original webcomic.     

The God of High School, a South Korean webcomic by Yongje Park has finally been adapted into a 13-episode anime. The debut episode launched on July 6, 2020 as a Crunchyroll original and has many fans hyped to see the long-time Webtoon hit the big stages.

After watching the first episode, there is no surprise as to why this particular series has garnered quite the attraction from both Asian and North American fanbases. The characters are distinct and the fighting styles, though limited in the first episode, are flashy yet graceful at the same time. Not much is given regarding character backgrounds or story context, but timing is, of course, of the essence and it looks like The God of High School will give us the information we need piece by piece. Although we only have the first episode to work with, it gave the viewers enough of a preview to get a feel of what the God of High School is all about.  

The Gods of High School

The show starts off with the main character, Jin, waking up late for the preliminaries of a martial arts tournament called ‘The God of High School.’ Although he wakes up from a dream regarding his grandfather, not much else is given about that relationship. On his bustling commute to the arena, he unfortunately witnesses a robbery, much to his dismay. Despite already being late, Jin, like a true selfless hero, decides to retrieve the stolen purse from a man riding away in a motorcycle. Equipped with only his bicycle, it would appear to be quite the uphill climb for Jin to apprehend the robber. Thanks to two others who were coincidentally caught up in the incident, Han Daewi, and Yoo Mira, the robber was stopped and the purse was retrieved. As the strings of fate would have it, Han and Yoo, the two people who assisted Jin, are also contestants in the martial arts tournament.

Even though we don’t know much about our three protagonists, it goes without saying that we can assume they have a strong sense of morality and righteousness. In no way did Jin request for aid, but everyone stepped up to the occasion to apprehend a suspect they were not involved in at all. Many would-be inclined to simply stay out of trouble, or perhaps let someone else more capable help in the situation. But Jin, Han, and Yoo all decided to put it on themselves and help out when no one else would. They all have reasons to fight and participate in the tournament, but this selfless act of vigilance implies that all three compete for reasons beyond the satisfaction of pummeling the opponent into smithereens.

As the story develops and we learn more about the characters, it would be quite the delight if they were to retain these kind personalities all throughout the season. As mentioned before, we know very little about our heroines. However, one thing is absolutely certain. Jin is as hilarious as his star-shaped eyes would suggest. Only someone who enjoys humor in all of its forms would pants his opponent just to check the type of undergarment they’re wearing. Despite being a fun person Jin is more than capable of handling his own in a fight, even when outnumbered. Han and Yoo have also shown a great amount of skill when it comes to combat, Han with this thunderous punching power, and Yoo with her precise swordsmanship. Hopefully, they’re all fighting for a noble cause and not simply because they enjoy being involved in violent battles.

0 to 100 real quick

The first episode throws world-building out the window and it surprisingly works. Instead of gradually introducing us to the characters and the setting in which they must interact with, The God of High School quite literally puts a bunch of fighters in an arena for them to beat each other into submission. Apart from the motorcycle theft incident, we don’t know anything about anyone. Apparently, this martial arts tournament is extremely popular and instead of the contestants applying directly to compete, they are hand chosen by recruiters. The administrators are donned in black suits and appear to be quite the shady organization on the surface.

The winner of the tournament is said to have their wish granted, but that sounds unbearably vague and unachievable. Despite all the signs of a business having somewhat of an ulterior motive, hundreds are seen participating anyway, only for most of them to get beaten up. The anime is far from what you would call slow-pace, in fact, it’s moving at a rather absurdly fast pace that may end up being detrimental to the plot. Regardless, it still remains to be an interesting anime with much to be discovered.

Fighting tournaments are not overly complicated. Two or more people fight on a platform, and the one who remains standing is the victor. However, fans should expect the show to have a supernatural aspect later down the line. Superpowers and elements beyond any form of martial arts are definitely hinted throughout the show, especially at the beginning when an entire island is crushed by, what appears to be, a human hand. The heightened abilities from fighters will either enhance the show’s fighting scenes or blow it out of proportion with ungauged power levels. From the looks of it, The God of High School looks to take an old format and add a touch of razzle-dazzle to it that no one has seen before.

The first episode was well done, despite taking a very different approach from most openers. It has a ton of action scenes but with much of the story to be told. This mysterious martial arts tournament, combined with several characters that look interesting on the surface is a certified recipe for a worthwhile watching experience. From just one episode, we can tell that The God of High School is more than just a fighting tournament anime. Fans will just have to wait in suspense for the show to naturally unfold every week. If patience is not something you can endure, The God of High School can be read on Webtoons here. The anime is expected to air until its season finale in early September.

There’s been a lot lately that has had me considering the graphical power of modern gaming.  The PS5 reveal showed off some impressive tech, and the recent launch of The Last of Us: Part 2 has shown the power of current-gen consoles like arguably no other game has. Despite these advancements though, I’ve just ceased to be impressed by realistic looking graphics. 

Now, the graphics vs. gameplay debate has been done to death, especially by traditional games media. Frankly, I don’t think it’s worth even considering anymore. Just about every rational person is going to choose the game that’s fun to play over the one that looks as close to life as possible. After all, games are an interactive medium at their heart, and while pretty graphics can bolster the immersion or “wow-factor” of any game that’s already great, people simply looking for stunning, photo-realistic visuals can get them in another medium. What I don’t see talked about nearly as much, however, is the art style vs. photo realism debate. 


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What the next generation has in store

Allow me to get my exceptionally controversial stance out of the way before I go much further; I don’t see myself ever being impressed by “realistic” looking graphics in games again. I think that, if we’re talking about gaming technology in terms of how realistic we can make our games look, we’ve just about hit the ceiling on how impressive it can be. Sure, there will always be a million little details that could be added to make a game more true to life, but generally speaking, those details just do nothing to impress me or absorb me into an experience.

While I was watching the PS5 reveal, I remember the utter apathy that I felt at the 2K21 reveal, watching the sweat slide down the nose of the man in the trailer. It wasn’t interesting, impressive, fun, or anything else that might make the visuals something to take note of. If you had told me that this level of detail could already be achieved on current-gen consoles, I would have believed you without question, because there just doesn’t seem to be the same technical jump in visual quality that there has been in other generations. 

On the other end of the spectrum, there was plenty in the PS5 reveal that did impress me. Kena: Bridge of Spirits, Goodbye Volcano High, Deathloop, and more, all boasted unique art styles that looked visually spectacular and set them apart from many of the other games shown. Out of all the games that were shown, those are the ones I remember most, not the ones that looked like glorified tech demos. So, why buy a new console for games that, on a visual level, look like they could be played on a PS5?

Well, we won’t know for sure until it comes out and we can see the difference that the new box makes on the ways those games are played. For all Sony did right in that presentation, arguably their biggest misstep was keeping the biggest improvements somewhat more subtle than you’d expect. The Project Athia trailer didn’t impress me, but the new Ratchet and Clank game did. The speed at which new worlds loaded, the fluidity of not just the gameplay, but the dimension-hopping, demonstrated a massive improvement over the current-gen. Those are the innovations that I want to see trumpeted, not the realistic-looking sweat from 2K21. 

I’ve been asked what I think the best looking game of the generation is, and people always expect one of several recent games as my response: God of War, Red Dead Redemption 2, The Last of Us: Part 2, or some other big-budget, Triple-A blockbuster. The truth is, I think the best looking game of the generation is Cuphead.

Never before have I seen visuals that truly elevated an experience so high above what it would have been otherwise. I showed that game to relatives who had no interest in gaming and watched their jaws drop as they soaked in the lovingly crafted environments, character models, and animations. Every ounce of that game dripped with love and passion, and the art style was a true testament to that. Things like Red Dead Redemption 2 just don’t even come close to that for me. 

The aforementioned games aren’t even the best in class for triple-A, in my opinion. Aside from Cuphead, I personally feel as though Dishonored 2 was the best looking game of the last generation. Gorgeous and immersive, the watercolor look of the world was such that I found myself thoroughly exploring every room in the game, soaking in the atmosphere. It was so much more impressive to me than anything else I’ve played lately and more impressive than most of what I saw in the PS5 reveal.

Why are publishers still pushing realistic visuals?

A lot of the reason that realistic graphics have been pushed as an essential part of the future of gaming is that they are arguably the easiest way to measure and demonstrate progress. The easiest way to sell a new console to someone who might only be a casual player of video games is to show them the leap in graphical power. If the reveal of the PS5 told me anything, though, it’s that that isn’t enough anymore. People have come to expect more, they’re bored with realism. The aforementioned 2K21 trailer was the subject of a lot of mockery, because it advertised the game in a way that just isn’t effective anymore. Even Project Athia, supposedly the big tech showcase, hasn’t garnered nearly as much coverage as, say, Bugsnax.

This isn’t to say that there’s no place for realistic graphics. There will always be an audience for those kinds of games. The thing is, publishers are starting to realize that audience is not the only one they need to serve. A lot of people are ready to move on from that, and it’s time for the industry to start providing choices.