Gaming

NBA 2K18 review: Not a swish, but still a made basket

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The NBA season is right around the corner but for those of us who can’t wait, the next best thing is already here. We got our hands on NBA 2K18 for PS4 and we’ll share with you which changes we think are hits, and which ones are misses.

Shot Meter

One of the first things you’ll notice when you dive right into the game is the shot meter. Previously, it was a circle at the bottom of the player. In 2K18, the shot meter appears right around the shooting arm area when you’re taking a jump shot. 2K says it’s a more natural area for the shot meter to be at and we tend to agree.

Now, the shooting itself takes some getting used to. Other than the shot meter, 2K also shows you the status of the shot. In NBA 2K17 it used to only say if your release is too early, good, excellent, or too late. This time around, it adds if the player you’re shooting with is wide open, lightly contested, or heavily contested. Your timing, the player’s shooting ability, as well as the aforementioned factors, affect the accuracy of the shot.

It seems like it’s a lot to take in but after a few games, you’ll slowly get a feel for how the release works. It’s worth noting too that 2K really did take time to make sure the release of each player is as accurate as possible. If you follow your favorite player closely, chances are the timing and manner by which he takes shots in real life are accurately replicated in the game.

Gameplay

Basketball is a team sport, so for the rest of this piece, I decided to pull in fellow hoop junkies Nico Baguio and Toby Pavon who have had more time playing some of the game modes we’re about to tackle.

The game starts you off at Pro level difficulty (the second to the lowest), and if you’re an NBA 2K veteran, you’ll soon find yourself dominating the AI. Slide up to Superstar or even Hall of Fame and you’ll immediately feel the difference. The opposing team will learn your tendencies and you won’t be able to keep running the same plays to score. You’ll need to make adjustments, just like in a real basketball game.

Prior to the game’s actual release, early reviewers mentioned a noticeable difference in how you can link dribble moves together. You’ll certainly feel this with players that are known ball handlers. Cover athlete Kyrie Irving is an absolute joy to use in isolation situations.

According to Toby, the pick and roll and driving mechanics are a bit more punishing than before but more rewarding when done right. I’m not going to lie: The pick and roll is my go-to play and I have had a harder time executing it, but it does feel more rewarding when you do it right.

That said, it’s not all smooth at the moment. Toby says players seem to phase in and out of having upper-body hit detection, resulting in scenarios where players don’t collide when they’re supposed to. This might be the result of footwork emphasizing design, but it creates a mechanical disconnect in trying to be a simulation game. There are also some forced animations that sometimes break the flow.

We experienced this early on too, but one thing 2K is really good at are the updates. Of course, we would all like the game to feel more complete at launch, but 2K’s history suggests they will be able to iron out these few hiccups here and there.

MyCareer, The Neighborhood

Here we go. This is the game mode that keeps evolving year after year and in 2K18, 2K Sports made some significant changes that have so far gotten mixed reviews.

This year, 2K introduced The Neighborhood, effectively merging the MyCareer and MyPark experiences and putting them in a Massive Multiplayer Online-esque environment. You can tell that’s the direction they’re headed, especially with the growth of eSports — but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The biggest issue most players have with 2K18‘s version of my career are the micro transactions. The amount of in-game purchases through the game’s money called VC or virtual currency is insane.

For instance, getting a haircut feels a little too much like real life. Each time you feel like changing your look, you have to pay. And you can’t even preview the look so you’re not sure if you’re getting your VC’s worth. Now we know that’s how it works in real life, but this is still a video game. 2K has to let the players live a little.

The grind can get challenging too. You start off at 60 and have to work your way up to 99, thus the “Road to 99 tag.” If you’re not willing to spend, it might take a while before you actually reach that level. For instance, if I focus on upgrading a single skill for my player, I’ll need around 30,000 VC just to get him from 60 to 61. Wild.

Toby pointed something out that was a surprise to Nico. Games now give out a minimum of 500 VCs which help make the initial grind go faster until you reach the point where your player is getting decent minutes. Another thing: The difficulty multiplier is no more. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing Pro or Hall of Fame, you will get 500 VC. That’s Toby dropping some pro tip right there.

Go around the neighborhood, and you’ll see some mini-games you can play. There’s a three-point shot half court as well as a slam dunk half court. Watch my player struggle in the slam dunk court (P.S. I didn’t start off with the athletic type. Mine’s a three-and-D guy)

 

MyGM, MyTeam

MyGM and MyTeam pretty much follow the same formula from previous iterations. However, there are a few changes in MyGM that rubbed Nico the wrong way.

2K decided to add some backstory to MyGM. In 2K18, you’re a former NBA star who suffered a career-ending injury which is why you were forced to transition into being a GM. Neat, right? Except really early on it feels too much like role-playing games (RPG) from way back. There are too many cut scenes with no audio and you’re forced to read through tons of dialogue.

That said, the best parts are still there. The same trade restrictions apply if you choose to play that way, but you also have the option to turn them off if you just want to build a super team.

Look and style

2K18 is the best-looking 2K game yet. Of course, it has to be. While the current teams and players were well thought out and designed, we can’t say the same for the classic and all-time teams.

Our very own Marvin Velasco and Alven Villavicencio had issues with how 03-04 Shaq didn’t look as big as they thought he’d be.

The general look of some of the players aren’t that good, either. While this is also true for 2K17, we hope future iterations of the classic teams are designed better.

It’s also worth pointing out that some classic teams don’t have full rosters. At least not of actual players. You get about seven to eight rotation players that were actually part of those teams and then the rest of the bench is filled with what seems like randomly generated players all sporting head bands and arm sleeves.

Shoot or pass?

NBA 2K18 is still hands down one of the best sports simulation games out there. It has some competition this year with NBA Live 18 coming out, but the EA Sports franchise dropped the ball last year and are still in catch-up mode.

If you’re a huge NBA fan, chances are you already have this game or are planning to buy it come holiday season. You’ll find that some of the things you love from 2K17, and previous versions of the game, are still present with a few improvements here and there.

2K is experimenting with the story-telling part for some of the game modes, and while there are growing pains, it’s good to see that they are trying.

SEE ALSO: 8 PS4 multimedia features you must try out

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Gaming

Players finally meet as HoYo FEST kicks off in SEA this November

It’s a grand meetup!

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hoyo fest

miHoYo, the global interactive entertainment developer and publisher behind hit multiplayer games such as Honkai Impact 3rd, Tears of Themis, and Genshin Impact, announced that HoYo FEST is coming to Southeast Asia this November.

The interactive festival shall be held in six countries: Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

The annual celebration will allow for fellow players to finally convene and meet each other off their screens and in real life, allowing for an opportunity to relive memorable, happy, and touching moments in the game together.

Gaming world-themed cafés

All HoYo FEST-related events will be held at collaboration cafés themed after Honkai Impact 3rd, Tears of Themis, and Genshin Impact between November 5 and December 14.

These specific cafés will offer special set menus on dine-in, takeout, and delivery options. Ordering via takeout and delivery also gives customers an additional printed tote bag and cup sleeve.

The interiors will be furnished in the styles of Honkai Impact 3rd, Tears of Themis, and Genshin Impact in order, which is accompanied by photography zones.

That way, fans and players will be able to enjoy exquisite foods and immerse themselves in a real-life feel of the game worlds while bonding with new friends they’ve only previously met in-game.

Mystery gifts and exciting merchandise

Ordering collaboration combos or spending a certain amount of money at a café also entitles guests to an exciting mystery gift box.

The pop-up stores found only at specific cafés will also sell a variety of exclusive Honkai Impact 3rd, Tears of Themis, and Genshin Impact merchandise, to be distributed only by the staff of the collaboration cafés.

Preparations for the celebration are underway, so Captains, Travelers, and Attorneys should brace themselves for upcoming surprises.

Festival Schedule

  • Honkai Impact 3rd: November 5 to November 16
  • Tears of Themis: November 19 to November 30
  • Genshin Impact: December 3 to December 14

Collaboration Cafés

  • Singapore: Aniplus Cafe
  • Malaysia: my Burger Lab
  • Thailand: NANA Coffee Roasters Ari
  • Philippines: Moon Rabbit Café + Restaurant
  • Indonesia: Warung Koffie Batavia
  • Vietnam: To Be Announced

For more event details and pandemic precautions, please visit the miHoYo official website: https://mhy.link/686SLBA6.

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War journalists use Call of Duty Vanguard to capture life-like photos

A one-of-a-kind collaboration and experience

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For me, Photo Mode is a wonderful thing to have when doing game reviews every now and then. Honestly, I would prefer setting the mood for those insane game shots instead of just screenshoting them from the device. For Activision, however, they wanted to take this concept to the next level with Call of Duty: Vanguard. With this one, they enlisted some experts in the field of war photojournalism.

Activision revealed a collaboration with renowned war photojournalists Alex Potter and Sebastiano Tomada Piccolomini. As a refresher, these two photojournalists have vast experience in taking photos of some of the most gruesome battles in war-torn countries. In this special collaboration, Activision gave them access to the game’s engine through a virtual camera console.

As seen in the trailer, the two photojournalists were inside Activision’s motion capture studios as they grab images straight off the game engine. From the explosion of tanks to the banging gunfire during World War II, these two captured photos that depict the reality of war. In the end, they were at awe at the stunning details and the level of immersion the game brought.

Call of Duty: Vanguard will be available on November 5, 2021 for both current and next-generation consoles and PC.

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Hot Wheels Unleashed review: A childhood dream realized

It’s action-packed and rather nostalgic

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Hot Wheels Unleashed

As a kid, I wanted all kinds of toys whenever we went to toy stores in the city. One of the very first toys I had an obsession over was Hot Wheels. From collecting cars to building tracks in the living room, it became the quintessential set of toys that got me into racing games all this time.

When Hot Wheels Unleashed was released, I instantly knew that this was a game I didn’t want to miss. As someone who plays a ton of racing games, this one felt right at home next to Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled. Unlike CTR:NF, the nostalgia I felt for this game was more on the side of “playing my toys on a virtual screen” type of thing.

However, if you’re looking for another game to help you pass the time, is this a game worth considering?

A racing game at its core

As with most games involving toy cars, Hot Wheels Unleashed feels right at home as a racing game. It even comes with some of the most standard game modes you can think of for any racing game, so you won’t necessarily miss out if you’re a racing game fan. Where this game sets itself apart is in its easy-to-grasp game mechanics.

Usually, all you have to do is drive around the course and win 1st Place by outspeeding and outsmarting (in some situations) your opponents. You still do that but with some key differences, particularly towards boosting. Honestly, I like the fact that boosts are activated by button pushes and accumulated by drifting. To me, it’s friendly even to new players getting into racing games.

Hot Wheels Unleashed

The other thing I like is the fact that each Hot Wheels toy car comes with its own cart stats, and not just a general one all throughout. This also gives you an incentive to try and get every available model in the game and try them out for yourself. Furthermore, you can even upgrade these stats using Gears, and customize their Livery to however you like.

Creativity and originality in track design

Every racing game needs some interesting tracks to race around, especially with something like Hot Wheels. In Hot Wheels Unleashed, you have access to 5 main backdrops, each with about 8-9 different tracks that come with their own surprises. From high-arching loops to acid pits, each track will have you doing things a bit differently each time you race.

In fact, the first thing I noticed was that the elements in the tracks are quite similar to the actual models in those track builder sets. The designers did an incredible job with maximizing the entire backdrop to produce tracks with enough twists and turns along the way. Also, I would even argue that these tracks let you play around with the driving mechanics.

Now, I have some good news and bad news for you on these tracks. The bad news is that when you start the game, most of the tracks are locked as in-game transactions. If you wanted to unlock them the easy way, just pay a few bucks to get in-game currency and buy them.

However, the good news is you can unlock them by completing the Hot Wheels City Rumble mode. Although it will be an immense grind on your part, but I honestly think it’s worth it!

Wait, you can make your own tracks?!

Yes, you read that right: Hot Wheels Unleashed also allows you to create your own tracks to race on with your friends online. See, one unique mode to the game is the Track Builder, and I guess the name is self-explanatory. To be honest, this game mode was the best and it actually brings me back to my childhood.

Once you start the game mode, you basically have a blank canvas to work with, depending on the main backdrop you choose. After choosing your desired backdrop, you have a variety of track builder pieces to choose from and customize. Also, it even comes with your set of obstacles and boost pads to add some flavor to your tracks.

I absolutely enjoyed going on Track Builder as someone who collected Hot Wheels track sets before. Basically, you can create some of the most death-defying tracks that your younger self could not afford to before. Seriously, Hot Wheels track builder sets are expensive, and this game basically lets you experience this without spending a hefty amount.

Some low points

Much like most racing games, this one doesn’t come with its own set of shortcomings. To no one’s surprise, this game comes with a Hot Pass that allows you to earn more cars, tracks, and track builder sets. The good thing about it is, well, it’s more content at your disposal. At the time of writing, they’re currently running one with Batman vehicles as the main rewards,

The thing I don’t like about it is that you have to pay for it. I genuinely feel that this is something that would have been better off as a Battle Pass-type of package instead of paid DLC. I mean, it’s additional content that people also want to try out but with a rather hefty price tag. Maybe if they did it this way, people would continue to grind out the game.

Another thing that felt lacking in my eyes was the Basement, particularly the customization aspect.

I get it, it’s another main backdrop for your tracks and you can work with a ton of elements when creating your own. However, I didn’t like that the customization was limited to just the exterior design. Honestly,  I was looking for more customization options like moving the furniture around.

A roaring good time

Hot Wheels Unleashed is a racing game that feels right at home with the best of them. From a vast selection of carts to creative and unique track design, it feels fresh to anybody trying to get into racing games. Also, if you grew up playing your Hot Wheels car collection, this takes you back to simpler times.

Again, it’s not perfect and hopefully with upcoming patches, the game does get better. However, they missed out on some opportunities to make it a worthwhile game to play for any occasion. Sure, if you had money to burn, this wouldn’t be an issue; for others, however, they want a lot more without spending too much.

Overall, this game will give you a roaring good time, especially when you just need some down time from all the stress. What made it even more special for me was that this game pretty much made one of my childhood dreams a reality!

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