Final Fantasy X HD Remaster Review

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Nostalgia has a way of making things from our childhoods seem amazing, regardless of if they were or not. Take the 1998 Godzilla movie, for instance. Despite being panned by critics and movie-goers alike, my seven-year-old self loved that movie. And even though I can see the movie’s flaws now, I still love it. The same thing goes for other things from my past, like Britney Spears and NSYNC’s music. I like it even though it’s absolutely terrible. It’s an oddity of human nature and it makes no sense.

29. godzilla 1998That being said, not all things from our past that we hold in a high regard are bad. In fact, some things are actually worthy of all the praise we give them. Final Fantasy X is a game from my childhood that definitely holds up to the the high standards of my biased memory, speaking as objectively as possible, of course.

Final Fantasy X was one of the first truly great games for the Playstation 2, and was the first Final Fantasy game to feature voice acting (more on that later). It was also the first game that I had ever played that had a story that really pulled at my emotions. In fact, its story is one of the best things about it.

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After nearly a decade since I beat the original, one of the first things I noticed when I started playing the the HD remaster was just how many cut scenes there were. I’d say that I spent nearly as much time watching the characters talk to each other as I did actually moving them around. At times it felt more like I was watching a movie than playing a video game.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however, as the story, to this day, is one of the most well thought out and entertaining ones ever put into a game. You really start to feel for the characters as they develop throughout the game. And in a franchise known for great stories, Final Fantasy X is one of the best, and it certainly has some of the most dynamic and fleshed out characters in the series.

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At its core, Final Fantasy X is a love story, and like half of all good love stories, it ends in tragedy. If you like true love and unfortunate plot twists, then you’ll certainly like this game.

Of course, there’s more to a game than just its story, and Final Fantasy X delivers on those things, too.

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The gameplay is as fun as it has ever been, combining a mixture of exploration, treasure hunting, and classic turn based battles. In fact, Final Fantasy X was the last Final Fantasy game to feature the turn based battle system that had been a staple of the series up until that point. That’s a shame too, because it really is a lot of fun. The only downside to it, and probably the reason it was replaced in later installments, is that it slows down the pace of the game considerably. Final Fantasy X, however, did a good job of adding dialogue and story elements into some of the important battles to make them seem more like they were part of a cut scene.

Unfortunately, the voice acting isn’t very good. At the time, voice acting in video games was relatively new, and wasn’t very good no matter what you played. The problem is, this game has a lot of it. Even some of the random characters on the street have voice actors. To be honest, I’m probably making it sound worse than it really is, and it didn’t take me long to get used to it.

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The updated graphics are the biggest change to the game. Not only are edges sharper and more defined, but colors are more vibrant and new detail has been added to make the game look more up to date. The thing is, it really doesn’t look up to date. The characters appear a bit like paper cutouts laid on top of the backgrounds. There just ins’t much depth. I’ve seen smartphone games that look better. That being said, Final Fantasy X was released nearly 13 years ago, so I really can’t fault it too much for being old. And to be fair, the HD remaster looks much better than the original did.

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The most frustrating thing about the game, and what makes it really show its age is all the loading screens. The areas that a player walks around in are minuscule compared to modern games, and because of this there are loading screens galore. Fortunately, the loading times are fast, usually taking only a couple of seconds, and I stopped noticing them after a while.

The added content to the game isn’t very significant. There are a few new optional, albeit extremely difficult, bosses, a slightly different, optional “expert” leveling-up system, a few new abilities, and a short cinematic sequence that connects X to it’s sequel, X-2 (which has also been remastered and is bundled with X, though I have not played it yet). The new stuff isn’t anything to go crazy over; however, I did really enjoy the new leveling-up system.

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Another thing worth mentioning is the music. It’s fantastic! I don’t know what it is about Japanese games, but they always seem to have awesome music, and Final Fantasy has some of the very best of it. The only franchises that I would say has it beat in that regard is Mario and The Legend of Zelda.

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Overall, Final Fantasy X HD Remaster is a wonderful gaming experience. Its story has held up very well over the years, though its graphics certainly haven’t. Its old turn based battle system is a lot of fun, and I wish that it would be implemented in some newer games, even if it does slow the flow of the game down a bit. Nevertheless, the things that made this game great back in 2001 make it great today, and though it does feel a little dated, its pros certainly outweigh its cons. If you’ve never played it, you’d be doing yourself a serious disservice by not picking it up. If you have played it, and are a bit of a nostalgia nut like me, you won’t be disappointed. I’ll bet it’ll be almost as good as you remember it.

All in all, I give this game a 8.5 out of 10.

Pros:

  • Fantastic story
  • Fun battle system
  • Great music

Cons:

  • Lousy voice acting
  • Dated graphics
  • Lots of loading screens

Capital Cities: In a Tidal Wave of Mystery – Review

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Every once in a while, you come across a song, album, movie, or book that no one is talking about. For whatever reason, it has been overlooked by society and left to be forgotten. Capital Cities’ new, and first, album doesn’t quite fit this description–or at least it doesn’t yet.

Aside from one radio friendly single, In a Tidal Wave of Mystery doesn’t have much going for it. The album has been privately produced, so it doesn’t have the marketing budget behind it that more high-profile albums receive. It also doesn’t exactly follow popular music trends or feature any current mainstream artists on any of its songs (Andre 3000 is the one exception). No, if it weren’t for In a Tidal Wave of Mystery‘s single radio friendly track, “Safe and Sound”, I probably would never had stumbled on this album at all, and that would have really been a shame, because this album so SO GOOD!

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Okay, so maybe it’s not the best thing I’ve ever heard, or even the best album that came out in 2013, but it definitely deserves more praise and recognition than it’s getting.

One of the greatest things about this album–which is probably a result of being privately produced–is that it doesn’t sound much like anything else out there right now. It’s a mixture of funk, EDM, jazz, and has a real strong `80s vibe. And believe it or not, it works! There is no song on the album that doesn’t feature either a trumpet, a saxophone, or a guitar, and I honestly wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s so rare to have real instruments in music today, so hearing instruments being featured prominently in an album is truly a breath of fresh air. Take that fact and add to it that every song is incredibly upbeat, and it’s a wonder that Capital Cities isn’t already starting to become a household name.

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That being said, this album is far from perfect. There’s more than a song or two that just aren’t good. For instance, there’s an almost whimsical quality to “Lazy Lies,” that just annoys me. And “Patience Gets Us Nowhere Fast” and “Love Away”, while not being terrible or unpleasant, are not memorable, and they come off as a bit bland.

One of the most interesting things about many of the songs from In a Tidal Wave of Mystery is that I generally enjoyed the singing in the verses more than in the choruses – an odd thing, considering that most songwriters strive for the opposite.

There were exceptions, of course. “Safe and Sound” and “Farrah Fawcett Hair” had great choruses that made me think, “I’ll probably be humming this later.” The others, however, like “Kangaroo Court,” “Origami,” and “I Sold My Bed, But Not My Stereo,” had choruses that either came off as a little harsh or uninspired. That’s not to say that these songs are not good, though. To be fair, “Kangaroo Court” is one of the best songs on the album.

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Overall, In a Tidal Wave of Mystery is a wonderful album, bringing some fresh sounds to a very stale music scene. It is a great first record attempt by a couple of ad jingle writers, especially considering that they made the album under their own label and produced it entirely by themselves. I said that this album could very well be forgotten by the mainstream in a few years, and unless Capital Cities knocks out a homerun with their next album, it very well may. If it wasn’t for the success of their Safe and Sound EP from 2011, the album may have never been made.

But maybe I’m being a bit too pessimistic. Capital Cities is an extremely talented duo. I’m sure they can be twice as successful with their next album, although I imagine they might hire another producer to help them make some more radio friendly tracks. Whatever their future is, I am in love with their current offering. If you haven’t listened to In a Tidal Wave of Mystery, you’re really doing yourself a disservice.

Overall, I give this album an 8 out of 10.

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And for those who care to know, I have ranked the songs from the album from best to least best.

1. Safe and Sound
2. Farrah Fawcett Hair (feat. Andre 3000)
3. Kangaroo Court
4. Origami
5. I Sold My Bed, But Not My Stereo
6. Center Stage
7. Chartreuse
8. Chasing You
9. Patience Gets Us Nowhere Fast
10. Love Away
11. Tell Me How To Live
12. Lazy Lies

The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD – Review

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The Legend of Zelda as a franchise, let’s be fair, lacks in many areas when compared to other games. It is not the prettiest or most graphically refined, nor does it have the most original story or gameplay. Heck, each game is basically the same thing over and over again. The games, for the most part, don’t appear to occur in any particular order, and if one tries to tie them together, there are discrepancies galore. Despite this, the Legend of Zelda is probably one of my favorite video game series.

The games have a certain charm about them. They have that certain something that not only keeps you entertained while you’re playing, but also keeps you wanting more when they’re over. Nintendo seems to have found the perfect balance between story, action, and puzzles that keep people coming back. The only changing variable between the games within the franchise is the tone that that basic story is told in. This is perhaps what truly keeps the games fresh.

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The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker is one of the more notable entries in regards to this. It followed one of the most critically acclaimed games ever made at the time, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and dared to change just about every aspect that people loved about it. Instead of being dark and more realistic like its predecessor, Wind Waker went in the complete opposite direction, choosing to be bright, colorful, and very cartoony.

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Originally released on the Nintendo Gamecube in 2003, the game is based in an open sea full of little islands, and not much else. The player plays as the reincarnated Hero of Time, who, despite being a child, discovers that he has to stop the evil intentions of the resurrected Ganon and rescue the descendant of princess Zelda. Its slightly changed-up story is by far one of the most interesting in the series, but its departure from its darker predecessor to its new bright and cartoony style was met with a lot of criticism, not least of which came from me.

I played the game when it was first released, and enjoyed it, but longed for the return of the old, darker look. That being said, Wind Waker has grown on me over the years, and after playing its HD remastered version, I find myself appreciating it in ways my 12-year-old self probably couldn’t have.

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First and foremost, in regards to The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD, the new updated graphics must be mentioned. They are absolutely stunning! Nintendo adjusted the color gamut and the lighting, changed some of the effects, altered the appearance of the clouds and sunlight, and DANG does it look pretty. I found myself sometimes just looking at the screen, not even caring to play. It was like a work of art. It has an effect that more realistic games just can’t compete with. It has style! It is a 100% improvement over the old version of the game, and the graphics alone, in all of their cartoony glory, make it worth playing.

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Wii U version is on the right

Its art style aside, Wind Waker also had some of the best gameplay in the series, perfecting the auto-targeting system that its predecessor introduced, and adding gameplay mechanics that the series never had before. Puzzles and dungeons however, for the most part, aren’t the best or most memorable compared to other Zelda games, and the game is by far one of the easiest titles to beat in the series.

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One of the biggest drags on the game is the sailing required to get from one island to the next. The act of sailing can easily take up a good third or quarter of the time spent in the game, and aside from dodging the occasional shark, mine, or octopus, there really isn’t much to do while you are traveling. Added to that, if you want to go in another direction, you have to change the direction of the wind, which involves playing a song and can be a bit time-consuming. The HD version does address this, however, adding an extra, optional item called the Swift Sail, which allows you to sail twice as fast and eliminates the need to change the wind’s direction as it does it for you automatically.

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Another item that was added to the HD version is the selfie camera. In the original version, you could find a camera hidden on one of the islands, and use it to complete some of the side quests in the game. In the newer version, you can now turn the camera back on your character and have him make faces over whatever happens to be behind you. You can then upload those onto Nintendo’s social network and have people Like and comment on it.

I can’t tell you how many selfies I took with bosses and clever (I thought) captions in the background. Of all the additions Nintendo added to this game, this one was by far the best. I’d be surprised if more games don’t have this Twitter-esk function in the future. It was a blast to use!

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As I said before, the dungeons in the game are not as memorable or difficult as some of the others in the series. There also seemed to be fewer of them as well. The final dungeon, however, is an exception. It, along with the final showdown with Ganon is actually one of the best finales of any game I’ve played. I don’t want to spoil anything, so all I’ll say is that it was pretty dang epic.

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Some people are now calling this game a masterpiece. I wouldn’t go that far, although it may be close. There are certainly things that could be better about it. The sailing was tedious, despite being a novel idea when the game was first introduced, and the dungeons could definitely have been more difficult. It leaves something to be said of a game that can be played ten years after its release and not feel outdated. By the nature of hardware limitations and changes in storytelling trends, such games are extremely rare. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker is definitely one of those games. Even its graphics, updated to HD or not, thanks to its heavy cartoon style, hold up better than even some of the newer entries in the series.

Overall, I give this game a 9 out of 10.

What do you guys think? Comment below!

Fable: Anniversary Review

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There have been a lot of HD remastered games out recently, and even more set to be released in the not so distant future. I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to playing all of them, but there are definitely a handful that I’m looking forward to picking up. Fable: Anniversary just so happens to be the first on my list.

And with that being said, I really need to let out some frustration.

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AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I. feel. so. much. better.

And sorry if that hurt your ears (eyes?). I just had to let out some steam, and seriously, if you play this game, you will need to, too. So, before I give a more detailed analysis, I want to make this very clear:

DO NOT BUY THIS GAME!!!

Or at least not yet.

Why? Because it freezes. And it freezes a lot. That means having to get up, unplug your console, plug it back in, and restart your game from the last point you saved. That is a hassle, and it completely kills this game.

Now, in the future, there may be some patches that will fix this, but at the time I am writing this, I’ve already downloaded two, and the problem is still there. I don’t care how much nostalgia you have for this game. WAIT!

Glaring problems that make this game nearly unplayable aside, it’s really not too bad.

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One of the remastered enemies from the later portion of the game

If you’ve never played the game before, it’s set in a medieval world filled with an assortment of magical and mythical creatures and unnaturally powerful people called heroes (not to be confused with superheroes). You play as an especially gifted hero who discovers that he is the only one who can save the world from the evil Jack of Blades, who is bent on conquering it.

If that doesn’t sound like a very original or inspiring story, it’s because it isn’t. But it really doesn’t need to be. This game’s claim to fame is that players can progress though the story however they like. What does that mean? Quite a bit actually, not least of which is total freedom, or at least as much freedom as an old game can give you.

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You can dress and wear your hair however you like. You can eat so much you become fat, drink so much you become drunk, and you even get other characters in the game drunk, too. You can buy a house, make people fall in love with you, marry people, including people of the same sex, have sex, flirt, give people the bird, smile, fart, and a ton of other things. You even age as the game progresses.

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The evil version of the main character from the original version of the game

And you can choose to be really evil, really saintly, or somewhere in between. You can either help people, or hurt them. You can save cities and towns, or run through and kill all the inhabitants and buy their vacant property. The more good things you do, the more attractive and saintly your character looks. The more evil things you do, the uglier and more fiendish you become. You even get giant devil horns and glowing red eyes! I personally prefer to be good, but you certainly don’t have to be if you don’t want to.

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The good version of the character from the original version of the game

It was a bold concept when the game first came out in 2004, and it even sounds great today, but due to the limited hardware of the original Xbox, it certainly feels a little underwhelming when you actually play it. The problem is, you have the ability to do all of these things, but the AI of the non playable characters is so basic, all they can really do in response to your actions is cheer, run away screaming, and comment on how good or bad you look. The saddest thing is, the sequels never really improved on this weakness.

So what’s different about the anniversary edition? Quite a bit, actually, but the changes aren’t all welcome.

The first thing worth mentioning is the completely overhauled graphics. I remember when this game was first released, it had some of the best graphics I had seen up until that point. As you’d expect, compared to games now, it looks kind of meh. So when the developers decided to re-release the game for its 10 year anniversary, they re-skinned the whole thing, using new textures and a new lighting system.

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See the difference?

The new graphics aren’t spectacular, though. To be fair, this is an old game, but putting pretty textures on polygonal characters is akin to putting lipstick on a pig. It’s certainly better than it was, but I’d say if this is the reason the game has poor frame rates and freezes at times, then I would have been perfectly happy with just an upscaled version of the old graphics.

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There are also some odd, uglificated (my new word: to be made ugly) things in the new version of the game that used to look a bit more, um… normal. I’m sure you can thank laziness on the developers’ part with the new textures for that. The saddest thing is, the worst offender for this is the main character. His face is just hideous! Thank goodness you can change his hairstyle and facial hair so that it covers more of his face. But even then, some of the styles that used to look good are just terrifying now. I’ve resigned to making my character look like Gandalf – hair everywhere. It’s the only way I can get by without having to look at his ugly mug.

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A very good angle of your character as a kid. Believe me, he is usually much uglier than this

Another thing worth mentioning is the altered gameplay and menus. Players are now given the option to play with the Fable II and Fable III control schemes if they wish. The inventory and start menus have been completely overhauled, as well.

And it really is nice that the developers gave the option for different controls, but the menu change was wholly unnecessary, and turned out to come with a pretty big learning curve. That’s not to say it’s really difficult to use, it’s just not easy to find everything. The old menu definitely could have used some tweaking, but they went in the complete wrong direction when they tried to fix it.

Also new to the game are Xbox Live achievements. There are a total of 1000 achievement points available. I’ve never really cared to earn them, but they’re there for anyone who wants them to boost their score.

Xbox Smartglass integration was also added to this game, meaning that players can now use their iPad or tablet to access maps and take screenshots while playing. I haven’t used this feature, so I can’t comment on how well it works, but I can say with a good amount of certainty that, unless you just really want to use a second screen while you play, you don’t need it.

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Look familiar?

And of course, there is new DLC available (any way to get more of our money, right?). It isn’t much, though. All there is are few new skins and weapons, most of which will cost around $5. There is also a free Minecraft-ish hat that you can download, which is honestly the only DLC worth getting. 

All in all, I’d say Fable: Anniversary is an okay game. The graphics have been improved, but just about everything else is the same. If you haven’t played this game before, I’d recommend picking up the original Xbox version, Fable: The Lost Chapters, as it will still run on the Xbox 360. But if you really want the updated graphics experience and you simply just cannot wait a few months for a patch to fix the freezing issue, you won’t be too sorely disappointed. It is a good game. In fact it was one of my favorites on the original Xbox. Just be ready to throw a few tantrums (see the beginning of the review for a good example).

Considering the lag/freezing issue, I give this game a 4 out of 10.

If the lag/freezing issue ever gets fixed, it’s a 7.5 out of 10.

I Fall, You Fall, We All Fall for Titanfall (Or Something Like That…)

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I’m not a big fan of first person shooters. There, I said it!

It’s heresy, I know. How could someone from my generation not be into super repetitive gameplay, short and unoriginal single player campaigns, and cowardly camping a-holes who do their darnedest to make online multiplayer as un-fun as possible? Maybe I’m being a little too harsh. Then again, I really don’t think I am. I’m truly in the minority, I guess.

So, when I heard about Titanfall, I just shrugged it off as another boring and unoriginal first person shooter. And when I heard it wasn’t going to even have a single player campaign, I literally laughed out loud. I couldn’t help but think it was just a cheap cash-in on the genre.

Nevertheless, the hype for the game was otherworldly, so when the beta was opened for all Xbox One owners (and yes, I was one of the poor saps who bought the system on launch day thinking that there would actually be a good number of games to play on it right out of the gate), I thought I might as well give the game a shot. Turns out, I was blown away.

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The first thing I noticed was the graphics. Now, I’ll admit, I am a bit of a graphics nut. It’s not anywhere close to the determining factor in how much I like a game, but I definitely appreciate it when it’s there. Titanfall is beautiful. The colors are vibrant, the lighting is realistic, and the textures are crisp. This is truly a next-gen game. I haven’t seen any screenshots of the Xbox 360 version, but I can imagine it will look pretty good on that system, too.

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The next thing that stood out, and probably the most important thing for any shooter, is the controls. They are as smooth as silk. The default controls are mostly the same as Call of Duty (aka: the most overhyped franchise ever – sorry CoD fans), and other elements like wall running and double jumping are as easy and intuitive as they could probably ever be.

And seriously, the new gameplay mechanics are really what make this game shine. Wall running in a first person shooter is sheer brilliance. And don’t even get me started on the mechs, or Titans, as they’re called. They completely change how the genre is played. There’s no more just blindly sprinting around corners and through the streets on a multiplayer map. The Titans can kill you in an instant. Players can kill them too, but if they take one on alone, they have to be either extremely good, or extremely lucky. And once you get your Titan, other players better run for cover.

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And how do you get your Titan, you ask? After a match begins, a two minute timer counts down. Once it reaches zero, you will have the option of calling your Titan down, hence the name Titanfall. You can call your Titan sooner, however, by racking up kills.

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What’s more, concept art for the game was recently released, showcasing – get ready for it – giant monsters! Now, at this point, it’s not known if the monsters will interact with combatants on the map, but here’s to hoping they will. Seriously, as awesome as this game is, having giant monsters interrupt a firefight would be just amazing. Then again, they might just be a part of the background, or not even in the game at all, but honestly, why tease us with them if they aren’t part of the gameplay?

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Now, so far I’ve told you everything about the game except how it’s actually played. Matches are played with two teams of six, and there are three game modes in the beta: Attrition, Hardpoint, and Last Titan Standing.

Attrition is a point match. Teams have 10 minutes to earn 250 Attrition points, or XP. If no team has 250 XP by the end of the match, the team with the highest number wins. There is also an epilogue after a match, where the losing team has the opportunity to evacuate the map via an extraction point to earn some extra XP before the match truly ends. The catch here is that respawns are turned off during this epilogue portion of the match, so it is much more difficult to get that bonus.

Hardpoint Domination is a bit like capture the flag, or more appropriately, capture the bases. There are three neutral spots on the map that the two teams must fight over. When a team controls a spot, or Hardpoint, they begin accruing XP. The more hardpoints that are controlled by a single team, the faster XP is built up. Whichever team reaches 400 XP first wins. There is a 15 minute time limit, however, and if that time is reached before a team has 400 points, whichever team has the most points wins. Like Attrition, there is an epilogue to the match where the losing team has to try to escape. The rules are also the same.

Last Titan Standing is the final game mode in the beta. In it, players are placed in their Titans at the beginning of the match, and they must work together with their team to destroy the other team’s Titans. The catch? There are no respawns, so once a player dies, it’s up to the teammates to pick up the slack. Like the title of the mode suggests, once a team is completely wiped out, it is game over.

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To sum it all up, I can honestly say that I haven’t felt this way about a shooter since Halo 2 on the original Xbox, and that is a very very good thing! My only wish is that they would have put in a campaign mode for single player or co-op. With this much potential for sci-fi mayhem, it’s really hard to believe that there’s not one.

So, what do you guys think? Will Titanfall be the shooter we’ve all been waiting for, or is it just another addition to an overdone genre? Comment below!