Gaming

NBA 2K21 review: Fading glory of basketball

Apart from a few fixes, it doesn’t try to reinvent anything

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As of writing, we’re still in the midst of the NBA Playoffs taking place in Orlando, Florida. As the NBA turned to a quarantine bubble setup, the game just doesn’t feel the same. Fortunately, this time of the year — as weird as 2020 has gone — brings one constant thing to NBA fans alike. That’s right, a new NBA 2K video game!

NBA 2K21 comes around with almost the exact same flavor as its predecessor. It’s still the same kind of sports simulation that mirrors pre-pandemic NBA basketball. The live crowds, the clutch plays, and the jaw-dropping moments — it’s the same full NBA experience. But is this version of the game worth even looking at, now?

Is there anything new to look forward to?

Rodneil: There really wasn’t anything that’s remarkably new that was announced leading up to the game. It’s a little disappointing. But that may also be because 2K has already done everything it can do on the PS4/PS4 Pro platform?

Gab: I personally had zero expectations coming into the game. I got to play the demo a little bit and I got a glimpse of some of the changes — like the shot meter. Also, that demo pretty much jinxed the NBA Finals by putting the Bucks and Clippers in it. But again, it’s still the same NBA 2K game as before.

What made NBA 2K21 stand out from last year?

Gab: In my opinion, they didn’t do much to make this version stand out in any way. It’s still the same core experience as the previous two games. However, they tweaked the Pro Stick a little bit to add more fluidity to certain actions done in-game. And of course, there’s the change in the shooting controls when using the Pro Stick.

Rodneil: Some face scans and overall character models for players in the all-time and classic teams also look better. Previously, they looked like “lite” versions of players models in current teams, but no longer seems to be the case. 

That said, some classic teams are in desperate need of more real players. If all 2K has rights to are just five players from that classic team, that isn’t much of a team. Either they put more thought into the generic players or they just scrap the team altogether and just add them when they have at least 8 players from that team. 

What about the game modes? Are they any different from before?

Rodneil: I only really spend most of my time on three game modes: Quick Play, MyCareer, MyLeague/MyGM. For MyLeague/MyGM, I mostly customize the experience to my liking. Since I grew up looking up to players that entered the league around the 90s to 2000s, I would usually load user-created rosters and relive a particular NBA season. 

I’m not sure if there are enough players like me, but I think a good addition would be a “What if” or “Legacy” option in MyLeague. What it will do is let you relive a particular season and make your own trades. 

Of course, I understand the challenges of getting the rights to all the players but perhaps what 2K can do is highlight user-created rosters that can be used for each mode but have the year change from 2020-201 to whatever season you’re trying to relive. 

Gab: Apart from the usual Quick Play and MyCareer, I do play MyTeam from time to time. Even in the previous versions, I always found myself going through this game mode to take a break from getting triple-doubles in MyCareer. I honestly felt that this time around, there’s actually an incentive to keep playing.

The usual roster of mini game modes and weekly challenges are there, which also ultimately test your game skill. This time, they even included a whole progression-type of reward system like how most shooter games have battle passes. Essentially, you earn XP to level up and earn rewards as you reach certain levels.

This is honestly a great addition to MyTeam as a whole. Before, I felt like there’s really nothing much you could do in it when you’ve finished the challenges. With this added feature of a progression-style reward system, I get to explore more of MyTeam.

Speaking of MyCareer, how did NBA 2K21 handle it?

Gab: MyCareer this time around was disappointing, at best. Last year, they did an entire college stretch, and it just felt like it wasn’t worth the wait. While I applaud going all the way back into a high school root, it just made the tedious part even more so.

For starters, I don’t know if it’s pretty common to switch sports in your senior year of high school. But somehow, that’s how this story begins: with Junior switching to high school basketball at the wake of his dad, Duke’s death. It doesn’t necessarily add anything new to the MyCareer experience, and instead makes the campaign longer.

Rodneil: The whole prep-to-pro thing just feels really out of place now. Plus your player during that period just doesn’t feel like it’s worth playing.

I want a story that chronicles an NBA journey, not some forced narrative about who I am as a player.  It’s called MyCareer but every year it just keeps feeling like the story doesn’t match the game mode. 

After all of that, is this still worth playing?

NBA 2K21 serves the obvious mixed bag of great basketball with roughly the same mix of game modes to boot. The action, player movement, and dynamic player moments is still top-notch. And while questionable decisions were made to the core gameplay, it’s still a joy to play even when you’re just passing time.

If you were getting into NBA 2K21 with a lot of expectations, I assure you that you will be disappointed, at best. An extended MyCareer storyline, coupled with not-so-stacked Classic teams for Quick Play don’t seem to incentivize you to maximize the game. While MyTeam actually gets some shine, I was sort of hoping every other game mode did too.

In the end, you will still consider getting this game, and possibly go for the Mamba Edition if you’re dead set on the PlayStation 5. If you still love playing the game of basketball from the comfort of your home, it will surely bring you that. 

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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Gaming

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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