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Let’s Talk Character Creators

One of the biggest hooks a game can have to draw me in, is a character creator. I really appreciate games that offer a lot of choices in them and having a character creator is a huge step in that direction, even if the story is fairly linear. It allows the player a very tangible sense of agency in the game and separates their experience from those of other player. When I booted up Monster Hunter: World for the first time, I spent  more than a hour creating a character. It is rare for me to spend that long doing so, but it has such a unique set of options –  that I wanted to explore them at length. Reflecting on Monster Hunter‘s character creator led me to thinking about character creators in general. So I thought it would be interesting to explore a few games and their character creators.

Monster Hunter: World

A few things about my experience with Monster Hunter: World‘s character creator struck me. The first was that most of the hairstyles are awful. I ended up going with the hairstyle that I began with (seen above) as it was the only one that really looked right to me. The second thing I noticed was the staggering amount of color options. This is what ate up most of my time. Purple hair? Nah. Yellow eyes? Nah. Slightly different purple hair? Still no. As you can see, I eventually settled on a natural color, but that didn’t stop me from using the color gradient options to their full capacity. I was really pleasantly surprised by the ability to create a character with heterochromia. Monster Hunter: World is definitely the only game I can think of that allows for this option. Basically, its character creator excels despite the lack of decent hair styles because it provides so many different options in terms of color.

Mass Effect: Andromeda

If it wasn’t already obvious, I adore Mass Effect. I still maintain that Andromeda is a good game despite its issues. I, however, will not deny that its character creator is definitely one its drawbacks. I’m not quite sure how it all went so wrong with the character creator, but it was so bad that I actually went with the default appearance for Ryder on my first playthrough.

One of the biggest problems with the Andromeda character creator is that your character’s nose and eye shape cannot be changed depending upon the preset that you select. You wouldn’t think that it would make that much of a difference not being able to edit these features, but trust me, it does. Eyebrows also suffer from this issue with the added problem of not being able to change their color. Not being able to change eyebrow color essentially makes one of the few good things about the creator useless. Andromeda includs a staggering number of different hair colors for players to choose from, but they all look odd because your character would always have black eyebrows. Also, like Monster Hunter, the hairstyle options are lacking. The game’s animation issues do little to help the situation and even the best looking characters can look way older than they were in certain cutscenes. To the game’s credit, however, there is a lot of freedom regarding eye color and neck tattoos were offereda significant improvement upon the face tattoos that games usually make available.

Sunset Overdrive

While Sunset Overdrive let players change the appearance of their characters with a myriad of different clothing options, its character creator is interesting for a few reasons. The game allows the player to choose between two different body types (slim and bulky) which is not unheard of, but is still fairly rare. Additionally, despite all its color wheels and options, Monster Hunter: World  lacks one option that Sunset Overdrive sports: two-toned hair. Each hairstyle can be made two different colors and while the game lacks the color options of recent character creators, there are still many colors to choose from and the ability to select two helps make each character unique. Though again, hairstyles are lacking. The game also allows for characters to have a traditional eye color or use some zany contacts to create different effects like pure black eyes or cat eyes. I don’t recall any other game I’ve played offering this kind of option. Besides the lack of hairstyles, the game’s creator suffers in other other significant way. Face shape and skin tone can not be selected independently. So if you want your character to have a certain facial structure, then you had better hope you also like the skin tone that accompanied it. Otherwise you were out of luck. The presets are an unfortunate miss for a game with two of the most unique options I’ve seen in a character creator.

Dragon Age: Inquisition

Despite Dragon Age: Inquistion sharing the fate of every other game on this list, that being terrible hairstyles (seriously, why is this so hard?), my first Inquisitor is probably my favorite character that I’ve created in any game. Many of the presets in the game just look great. Sure, there are some that are pretty meh, but the game allows for such a degree of customization, that the player can make any preset look pleasing with enough time. The main thing the game’s creator has going for it is just how much you can fine tune your character’s appearance. Vertical and horizontal sliders for nose depth, brow height, lip glossiness, etc.it’s a little absurd at times honestly, but because there are some really nice presets, one doesn’t have to mess with all these options if they prefer not to. This game does feature the color wheel for makeup, tattoos, and eye color which is much appreciated. Every character customized with the wheel will have a different eye color than any other character (minute though the difference may be). Options like having a broken nose and adjusting the size of the Adam’s apple remain as unique features as well. Inquistion doesn’t really do one single thing impressively well, rather, it just puts a lot of effort into every detail of a character’s appearance…besides their hairstyle. Keep in mind that there are alos four different species to choose from and customizing a human is going to be very different from customizing a Qunari.

There are of course many more games that have character creators attached to them. I just wanted to touch on a few that have stood out to me recentlyor better and worse. Feel free to share what your favorite characters and creators on our social media pages.

 

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Gaming News

Games With Gold Freebies For April 2016

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Microsoft recently announced the April Games With Gold titles on Xbox One and Xbox 360, and it’s clear that Microsoft is pulling no punches with this month’s titles either as two more AAA games are made available to all Xbox Live subscribers for free next month on Xbox One.
April’s offerings are:
  • The Wolf Among Us (Episodes 1-5) (Available from April 1-30 on Xbox One)
  • Sunset Overdrive (Available from April 16-May 15 on Xbox One)
  • Dead Space (Available from April 1-15 on Xbox 360)
  • Saints Row IV (Available from April 16-30 on Xbox 360)
The Xbox 360 titles are playable on Xbox One via backwards compatibility and thanks to the recent system update for March, can now be downloaded directly from the Xbox Store on Xbox One.

 

What do you think of Xbox’s free titles this month? How do they stack up against Sony’s free games? Let us know in the comments.

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Gaming Reviews Xbox One

Review: Sunset Overdrive (Xbox One)

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Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Platform: Xbox One (Reviewed)

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Content Warning

With Sunset Overdrive, there is some content to be concerned about from a Christian/parental perspective. The game has gore, foul language, and some suggestive material as well.

While the suggestive material can’t really be avoided if you play through the game, the team at Insomniac has gone a long way toward making the game more friendly by adding in both a gore filter and a language filter. While the language filter won’t remove the cuss words from the dialog, it will issue a censor-style *bleep* noise in its place. You can still use context to figure out what was said, but it’s a step in the right direction (and it makes for some hilarious moments).

There’s a scene in the game that aims to mock a drug trip. It’s fairly brief and involves no paraphernalia. One of the items that particularly concerned me, though, is that even with the language filter turned on, the music isn’t censored. From what I could make out, some of the lyrics were still pretty salty.

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Opening

Sunset Overdrive is one of those games I’ve had on my radar for quite some time. I’m no open-world connoisseur, but I occasionally find one to dig my teeth into. With a promising look and sense of style. I couldn’t help but be excited for Insomniac’s newest entry. I’m ecstatic to report that I’m not disappointed.

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Story

FizzCo runs Sunset City. The popular energy drink company is on the cusp of doing it again. The night they’re set to launch their newest product, Overcharge, something goes terribly wrong. Everyone at the launch party begins to mutate, slaughtering everyone in their path before turning on you. Saved by a grizzly old man, you’re led to a group of survivors willing to help you root out the evil that’s trying to plant its roots.

Sunset Overdrive‘s story is a rollercoaster ride from one minute the next, chock full of crazy, colorful characters that will have fun running all over the city to complete tasks for them. There’s a ton of cheese here but it’s used to great effect, digging into pop culture and beyond. The pacing is solid and the characters are vibrant and memorable. It’s no Citizen Kane, but they keep it fun and lighthearted throughout.

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Gameplay

I love what Insomniac has done with Sunset Overdrive. They’ve taken an open world, added some wild traversal mechanics, style multipliers, and crazy weapons, and sent you to wreak havoc.

First, let’s talk about the traversal mechanics. You can grind on rails, wires, and the like to get from one place to another. To help keep you off the ground and moving, you can also bounce off nearly anything else – cars, umbrellas, you name it. If you get off track, you can always wall run to keep your momentum. You can also glide across the water and air-dash later in the game. There’s really no need to ever set foot on the ground or fast-travel. Getting there with what they give you is just too much fun.

In conjunction with the traversal mechanics, you can get upgrades that grant bonuses when your style multiplier reaches different tiers. You can roll into a fireball at level 1 and have the ground breaking apart in an inferno by level 4. You can also get bonuses to style generation, ammo capacity, and much more based solely on your play style.

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The weaponry in the game is totally bananas. Sure, there are a couple of traditional weapons, but why would you even consider those when you can get guns that shoot vinyl records, explosive teddy bears, bowling balls, and more? Your guns can even level up, allowing you to boost them with weapon upgrades, like a chance to freeze enemies. It gives you ample opportunity to experiment and find what you like.

There’s little in this package I can complain about. If I had to pick something, it would be defend-a-point missions. They apply a lot more pressure with waves of mutants, but they let you exercise some cool traps along the way and they really aren’t too stringent, so they still remain fun and interesting.

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Presentation

In sticking with the game’s thematic elements, the aesthetic further drives home the look and feel of whimsy the “Awesomepocalypse” has brought. Everything in Sunset City, from mutants, to the various characters, to the respawn animations all ooze style and humor. Insomniac has always excelled with a less hard-nosed style and it has never been more evident than here.

While I personally could have done without the punk music that accompanies the game, it’s never intrusive (though some may find some of the lyrics offensive) and does an excellent job matching the game’s aesthetic and driving the on-screen action.

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Conclusion

Microsoft and Insomniac have risen to the challenge set forth by Sony’s inFAMOUS: Second Son. Both have their merits. If I were to compare them to literature, inFAMOUS would be a hard-nosed graphic novel while Sunset Overdrive is a vibrant, arcadey bubble gum comic. At the end of the day, however, Sunset Overdrive wins out on fun factor alone.

I dare say Sunset Overdrive is one of my favorite open world games to date. In terms of sheer fun, precious few games can keep the action pumping so fluidly with such high entertainment value. Everything about this game is in top form: the traversal mechanics, weaponry, characters, and humor, to name a few. Sunset Overdrive is all of the explosive rampage of an energy drink without those nasty, mutant side effects.

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Gaming News Xbox One

XBOX One Price Falls to $350

Here’s some great news for your wallet (if you live in North America).  Starting November 2nd, the Xbox One will cost $349, fifty dollars less than it’s current price and 150 dollars less than its launch price. According to IGN, the price cut will also apply to the Sunset Overdrive, Assassin’s Creed Unity, and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare special edition bundles. It also appears that Amazon is already applying these discounts for the Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed  bundles. The deal is set to end January 3rd, 2015.

 

In case you have forgotten, the One was released less than a year ago but has already seen huge price slashes. Granted, the original $100 price cut came from the separation of the Kinect device from the console, as many consumers found the attachment undesirable and were willing to have a console without it. The Xbox One’s competitor, the PS4, has remained steady at $399. Whether or not this is a sign of unsatisfactory console sales, or simply Microsoft trying to massively undercut Sony this holiday season, is as of yet unknown. Either way, the latter is what is happening, and will likely work in Microsoft’s favor. Not going to lie, I was leaning towards getting myself a PS4 before this news. Now I have been given pause.

Always remember to do your research before you make a purchase folks; make sure that the console is actually what you want, and that you’re not buying it only for savings. Still, this offer is pretty enticing; this deal makes it a good time to pull the trigger on going next gen.

(Images courtesy of Amazon and the Inquirer)

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