Pokémon Rumble World Review: I should hope it’s obvious I don’t really work at Nintendo

Hello, everyone. I’m Reece Real-Employee from Nintendo with a very special message for you about Pokémon Rumble World. It’s a brand new game, available right now on the Nintendo 3DS e-Shop, and it has everything you want in a game!

You want bare-bones gameplay? Pokémon Rumble World has that. You want microtransactions? It has those, too. You want cheap, one-hit kills that will force you to pay real-world money to avoid wasting your own time? You better believe it has that. Welcome to the Video Game New World Order, where every game will have a timer on every activity and, for the low, low price of two cents (every time it happens, and it will happen a lot… I mean, like, way more than however much you’re thinking), you can hop right back into the action instead of waiting 2 hours for your turn!

“But, Reece, how are these obviously exciting things possible?” Glad you asked, me. This is possible because of a resource that you can acquire at an agonizingly slow rate in-game called “Poké Diamonds.” We couldn’t be bothered to give them a more interesting name or even think to call them by the same name as an existing resource from the franchise because we were too busy reading this copy of “How To Make a Mobile Game that Looks and Works Exactly Like Every Other Bullshit Free-to-Play Game and Rob a Small Handful of People Who Literally Cannot Help Themselves Blind in the Process!” which we got from the same store that we got “How To Use as Little of the Power at Your Fingertips as Possible When Developing Video Games.” And it worked! This game looks like absolute shit compared to most of the rest of what’s available for the 3DS, and no amount of Poké Diamonds can improve it. Poké Diamonds are used for almost every common action in the game, and drop rates are kept conveniently low so you have more opportunities to buy them at roughly a penny apiece in the e-Shop! It’s a win/win! For us!

Sound appealing? You can show us at Nintendo how much this appeals to you RIGHT NOW by downloading Pokémon Rumble World and spending hundreds of dollars on gems to buy backgrounds that match your shittily-rendered, barely animated Pokémon so you can take EXTREMELY EXCITING pictures of them! Have a Voltorb you particularly like? Spend a dollar on a soccer background so you can pretend you’re kicking the shit out of him! Love Audino, but frustrated that they’re never in Pokémon centers where their healing asses belong? Buy a hospital background and pretend that that’s a solution! With so many Pokémon and classy-ass backgrounds available, the options are nearly limitless.

“But, Reece, it only seems as though there are roughly enough items to buy to add up to about fifteen or twenty dollars, and that seems like just a reasonable price for a download-only 3DS game. Why didn’t you call it good there and charge us twenty dollars so we don’t have to buy everything piecemeal?” Well, Valued Consumer, if we’d done that, then we couldn’t charge you two cents every time you died or, heaven forbid, wanted to actually play the fucking game you paid for. Now, we can view it as still being our game, since you didn’t pay for it, and that makes it easier for us to rationalize charging admission! No, idiot, there is so much more that you will have to pay for in this game. Died? Two cents to pick a new Pokémon and keep going. If you don’t pay, you lose everything and go back to town and you can’t do that level again for two hours. “But, Reece, what if I want to play the level again, now, instead of waiting two hours, because, you know, this is a video game, not a trip to the DMV?” An excellent and on-point question, imaginary audience member, and the answer bolsters my excitement for this game as well as the point I was making, anyway! You can pay another two cents to eliminate the artificial timer and play the game you’ve been trying to play this whole time! CONVENIENT!

Yes, finally, a Pokémon game for people who are too dumb for Pokémon games. Here at Nintendo, we heard what our fans asked for and we gave it to them. Here is list of concerns that we addressed with Pokémon Rumble World:

“Choosing just six Pokémon for my party is too overwhelming!” Here, scroll through a list of hundreds of Pokémon every time one gets low on health! That sounds way easier, right?

“Four moves is confusing. Can you maybe slim it down to just two moves per Pokémon?” Shit, we’ll do you one better and make half of them show up with only one move!

“My Mii is getting pretty lonely. He should be able to stand next to a fucking store and do nothing while weird-looking Pokémon do even more nothing near him.” WE DID EXACTLY THAT, JUST FOR YOU, VALUED CUSTOMER!

“I love making divine entities do embarrassing things, but Pokémon-amie only gives me like seven or eight options for mortifying the Pokémon Gods of space, time, life, death, etc. If only there was a game designed specifically for my stupid face.”

WELL, IDIOT, THERE IS. It’s called Pokémon Rumble Blast, and it has so many pointless animations that you won’t even think about Pokémon-amie any more. Who needs cupcakes when you can watch the world’s shortest game of hide-and-seek any time you want? No one, that’s who. Fuck cupcakes.

We know that you’re already done with Pokémon Omega Ruby and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire and hungry for more, but it’s getting harder and harder to write games with negligible stories, so, rather than strain ourselves, we’ve hired a studio called Ambrella to make another game that you’ll play because you’re a weirdly co-dependent dumbass who can’t go more than an hour without taking care of some sort of digital pet. They’re the studio that made “Hey You, Pikachu!” a game about yelling at your Nintendo 64, so this game is guaranteed to be a hit! It’s all the fun and social aspects of Farmville, but with a Pokémon motif instead of something you can play without having to be afraid that hoodlums will view you as the weakest target, as well as resource-management that can be bypassed with your hard-earned money!

We here at Nintendo sincerely believe that you don’t know how to play video games, so we made this game even easier to play than the previous Pokémon Rumble games! Having trouble pushing the A button? Great! This game defaults to a setting called “auto-attack,” which makes your Pokémon attack whatever your palsy-stricken fingers happen to randomly point the analog stick toward all by itself, so you won’t miss out on one second of giving us your money, even if you are differently-abled!

“But, Reece, can I pay real-world money to unlock content that should have been available in the first place?” Of fucking course you can. We only started you off with three levels, so you better believe you can get in on all the content-purchasing action as soon as you load up the game for the first time! We’ll even give you the first gems for free then slowly increase the price over time, to really make it sink in that we are the pusher and you are the addict. Honestly, this moral position is really liberating! As long as we keep thinking of you as dirty fucking addicts, we don’t have to feel bad about these predatory business practices that prey primarily, not on the addicts I mentioned (that’s you, in case you forgot, you fucking addict), but on children, instead. It’s just like the drug war!

I… I mean… Where was I? OH RIGHT, GIVE US YOUR MONEY. I LOVE THIS GAME SO MUCH. ABSOLUTE TEN OUTTA TEN. PUT IT ON YOUR 3DS, THEN BUY EVERYONE ELSE IN YOUR FAMILY A 3DS SO YOU CAN ENGAGE IN ABSOLUTELY NO MULTIPLAYER MODE AT ALL BECAUSE THIS IS A FUCKING FREEMIUM GAME AND WE DON’T HAVE TO TRY TO WIN YOU OVER WITH GOOD MECHANICS OR FUN FEATURES WHEN YOU’LL JUST THROW MONEY AT IT, ANYWAY.

Pokémon MOTHERFUCKING RUMBLE BLAST: Because, here at Nintendo, we think all of our customers are goddamn morons.

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, man, I can not keep that up any more, and the sarcasm doesn’t play for what I have to say last, in summation. But, don’t worry, I’m still very fucking angry.

Nintendo, get it together. Sure, it’s cheaper than most games this malicious, but that doesn’t mean there is no malice in its design. You’re robbing people in the present at the expense of your future and you don’t seem to see it. You were supposed to be the good guys. You were supposed to be a bastion of quality standing against a sea of day-one patches and shitty download-only titles. You were supposed to be the ones who didn’t nickel and dime us with paid content like every other fucking developer. You were supposed to be the immovable wall between us and the money-grubbing shovelware enthusiasts at Treyarch and Ubisoft Montreal and DICE, but you’re becoming just like them. Worse, even, you have a full-on freemium game going on, here, and one that uses all of the nastiest tricks in the freemium book to part people with their money.

I did purchase gems from the store, using the two “introductory” packages or whatever they’re called. They are the same as two of the cheapest packs of gems, and they are half-off one time only. I paid less than two dollars, I was able to buy access to about two-thirds of the levels, and I even had about seventy cents worth of normally-priced gems left. But, they didn’t last long. One could try to carefully ration them, but many bosses will leap across stages and do lethal amounts of unexpected damage. Very few people would be able to make the choice to lose everything they’d just earned instead of paying the two cents to keep going. It’s even easier than actually spending two cents, though, because you paid for the gems long before you spent them, ideally. That gap in time creates a sort of disconnect, where the money doesn’t really feel like money, any more. It’s been Poké Diamonds for so long, you’ve forgotten that it was ever money at all, or that this is the twentieth time you’ve paid to stay alive in a game where you already had to pay for the individual fucking levels, and that makes forty cents worth of staying alive, which means that that miserable minute and a half you spent at work getting yelled at by your boss today was a complete waste because you spent that money on dying in a freemium game on your beloved portable gaming system.

There is little to no playing this game without spending money on it. Poké Diamonds are quite rare in the game and the timer on levels means that, if you try to earn them without buying them, you will either be completely enslaved to a schedule revolving around your 3DS, or it will take you months to be able to afford the later levels. This is the worst kind of game, and Nintendo, you should be ashamed to put your name on it. It’s not even trying to pretend to be a real game. It is unabashedly a phone game, and I want my two dollars back.

Zero out of ten. Like, negative twelve hundred out of ten. It’s not fun. It’s hardly even a game. It’s just a gaping hole for you to endlessly throw your money into, two cents at a time.

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate Review: Kitty Cat Battle Royale

The Monster Hunter games are pretty polarizing. I performed an experiment while writing this review, and asked all of my gamer friends what they thought of the franchise. The results were this: everybody hates it (or is indifferent toward, or unaware of, its existence) except for the slim handful who are actually right and love it. No, really. Only the opinions of those select few are right.

Not one person falls in the middle in my circle of friends. No one says, “Yeah, I play it every once in a while;” it’s either all-out, ravenous fandom, or it isn’t on their radar at all. Those who do like it also tend to like Demon’s Souls and its ilk, so there’s an easy correlation. The Souls games are equally as polarizing and difficult to get into. However, I think that Monster Hunter 4 will be the iteration to break the cycle. That’s what we’re focusing on, today. Rather than looking at this game on its own, we’re gonna talk more about what sets it apart from previous entries, and why someone who didn’t like the older games might like this one.

Let’s jump right into it.

Monster Hunter is a game. You hunt monsters. That’s pretty much all there is to it. At least, that’s all there is to it when I have to bottom-line the game. The devil’s in the details, though, and Monster Hunter doesn’t fuck around as far as its details go. You play as a hunter-gatherer in a village whose greatest technological advancement is being able to roast two steaks over a campfire at the same time. Their biggest exports are grass and bugs, and their political system is based entirely around who has the largest animal skull in his or her hut. Impressive stuff, right? This setting provides the context. Sure, you could still set a game about hunting giant monsters in a technologically-advanced world, but you’d have to dig pretty deep in your bag of plot to give me a compelling reason to root around in piles of mushrooms all day.

If this sounds appealing to you, you’re probably correct. This game is all about the survival, and we’ve had a lot of opportunities recently to play games that have taught us just how fun survival can be. Forget to eat, and you won’t have any energy to run around. Forget to pick flowers, and you won’t have enough potions to carry you through the next quest. Every action you take is a small step toward surviving just one more monster. This feeling dissipates as the game progresses and you gain new and interesting ways to acquire materials, but the beginning of the game sets the tone for the rest, and that tone boils down to surviving.

Here is what should interest you if you aren’t compelled, already: Multiplayer, plot, and tutorials.

If you’ve played any Monster Hunter games, you know that multiplayer has always been the primary driving force for the game, and the other two concepts are weirdly missing. We’re gonna take a serious look at these three things to see if maybe you’ll finally try out a Monster Hunter game and pick up 4 Ultimate.

First, multiplayer. Suffice to say that if you have a friend who you regularly play games with and they want you to play it with them, you will probably enjoy it. My fiancée finally started playing with me, and she is clearly getting some kind of emotional high from it. She’ll correct me if I’m wrong once she reads this, but she always has a very strong reaction to seeing a new monster for the first time. That reaction is something like, “WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT THING KILL IT KILL IT KILL IT HOW DO WE KILL IT OH GOD WE’RE GONNA DIE.” The first few monsters are unnervingly large on their own, but by the time you defeat three or four, the rest are downright terrifying to behold. The Tetsucabra is the first truly large monster you have to face in MH4U, and it is easily five times the size of the next largest monster you’ve gone up against before facing it. The shock factor is very real and it never stops. I’ve gotten through most of the single-player story at this point, and one monster in particular, the Najarala, is so large that I am still afraid of it.

This fear, though, only lasts for so long in multiplayer play. Since the game is split between the single and multiplayer experiences, one player will almost always have more time spent on the game than the others, and it’s difficult to be too terribly afraid of the giant rattlesnake attacking you when your more confident friend is riding its back and stabbing it in the neck. This split in experiences is one of Monster Hunter’s big draws, from my point of view. No village upgrades are gained in multiplayer, which keeps you playing the solo campaign, and all of the biggest fights are missing from the campaign, which keeps you playing multiplayer quests. Each method of play rewards you in different ways. Great design, all around. The long and short of it is that the multiplayer hasn’t changed at all. If you’ve played these games before, you know that’s a good thing, and if you haven’t, take our word for it. Best of all, as has been the case in the past, if you’re really confident in your gear and skills, you can even tackle the multiplayer quests on your own, providing an extra layer of challenge to an already challenging game.

The challenge of the game leads us to my next point: tutorials. Those of you who have played prior Monster Hunter games without playing the new one are probably pretty confused, right now. “Reece,” you’d say, I’m sure, “tutorials have no place in a Monster Hunter game,” and you’d be right. In the past, you had to essentially run your own tutorials and learn how the game worked through trial and error. In Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, though, you can learn so fucking much about the weapons and the world you live in. The first tier of quests is entirely comprised of tutorial quests, from how to make potions, to how to grill steaks, to how each of the weapons work. This is good, because the already complicated combat became even more complicated this time around. I chose the Insect Glaive as my primary weapon, because I heard it allowed one to pole-vault and that sounded pretty awesome. I can now confirm that pole-vaulting is, in fact, extremely awesome, but I couldn’t sort out how to do it on my own right away, and had to resort to playing the Insect Glaive tutorial mission to figure it out. Not only did it teach me the skills needed to effectively use the weapon, it also let me put those skills to the test against a very weak monster, and it didn’t make me fight for a terribly long time once I’d figured it out. Within minutes, it was over, and I was quite grateful for the fast-track book-learnin’ I’d acquired.

So, the multiplayer, the most important part of the game, is intact, and tutorials abound where they did not, before. This is good news, but the biggest complaint I hear from detractors is that Monster Hunter doesn’t do it for them from a story standpoint. And, to be perfectly honest, I can agree with them. Lucky for everyone, then, that Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate has more story than any previous game in the series. Nearly every other improvement we’ll be talking about falls into this category, so brace yourself for just an absolute shitload of words. We have much to discuss.

Those of us who love this franchise have certain expectations about the dialogue. We expect that it will be well-written, but ultimately needless and forgettable. As with Fantasy Life, which I reviewed, previously, you wouldn’t be missing much if you mashed buttons to skip past the dialogue, but you’d enjoy it if you took the time to read it.

MH4U is still like this to some extent, but after the first several cutscenes, you will actually be interested in what’s happening and invested in your character. Your hunter still has no dialogue at all; spoken lines will be handled by the much more fleshed-out supporting characters in your caravan. However, almost all of the cutscenes are done in the game engine, so it is your hunter who will appear, along with your weapons and armor. This allows for something new, as far as your hunter is concerned: characterization. For the first time, I find myself wondering who my hunter is. Even though the hunter does not speak, you will still get something of a feel for his or her personality. This is primarily communicated non-verbally, obviously, with your hunter’s posture and actions communicating a very capable, yet cautious personality. These characterizing cutscenes primarily occur when encountering a new monster for the first time, and your hunter acts quite rationally. No fear is evident, but you also won’t see him or her blindly running at a monster, sword raised to the heavens. He or she is right in the middle. Your hunter values careful observation over improvisation and courage over heroics. Let’s face it, the Palicoes provide the heroics, here.

I’m gonna piss off a lot of people when I say this, but Palicoes were fucking worthless before this game. I know they were around, before, and they had most of the same function, but holy shit, they function so much better, now. Not only has their AI been improved, there are also so many of them, now, and they have so many fucking outfits. I spend at least 30 minutes playing dress-up with my cats every time I turn the game on, and I love every second of it.

Palicoes are just what they sound like: calico cats that are your pals. They can come along with you on hunts, providing extra damage, healing, support, or all three while you fight, as well as picking up extra loot for you. More importantly, though, they provide the majority of the compelling story. When you reach the third city (yeah, more than one city to live in; I know, it’s a lot to handle), a Palico will approach you and ask for your help in protecting the Palico village. You do so, and gain the ability to hire additional Palicoes who your main Palico can take under his wing and teach the ways of the cat. These kitties live on Sunsnug Isle when they aren’t palling around with you, and Sunsnug Isle is the single most important location in the game.

To illustrate this, I’m gonna take you through my thought process, which means we’re gonna have to look back at another game I’ve reviewed previously with a similar mechanic: Assassin’s Creed 4 Black Flag. Black Flag has this odd little system tacked on to it in which you build a fleet. You send these ships out to earn resources that can only be used on upgrading these theoretical, only-seen-on-paper ships, so they can be better at going out and earning Paper Ship Dollars, so you can upgrade more ships to go out and earn more Big Ship Bucks to upgrade your ships. I could go on for hours. And so could the armada minigame in Black Flag. And both would have just as much point.

Monster Hunter 4 has a minigame that initially feels similar, called goddamn (no lie) Meownster Hunters. This “minigame” (and I use the term very loosely) allows you to send up to five of your gotta-catch-‘em-all Palicoes on adorable little hunts acted out with adorable little puppets so they can get adorable little loot drops to make adorable little weapons and armor. Initially, this feels a bit like the armada bullshit from Black Flag, since this system is almost entirely self-contained, until you realize that these weapons and armor have stats and they don’t just look adorable (which, let me be clear, they definitely do), they also improve the combat prowess of your furry friends. This is particularly awesome because you can take up to two of the Palicoes with you on quests. If we take this comparison to its logical conclusion, that’s like Black Flag’s Edward taking two pirate ships along with him into the house where his next assassination target waits. The power boost from two well-equipped Palicoes isn’t quite that overwhelming, but it is noticeable. And, in case I haven’t been one hundred percent clear, the Palico weapons and armor are so adorable that you absolutely will baby-talk your 3DS. I’m talkin’ little wizard hats and monster costumes and tiny versions of armor your hunter can wear. Yes, that means you and your cat friends can match. Absoloutely incredible. Kitty-Cat Dress-Up Simulator is worth the forty bucks, alone.

The more cohesive story has also served to give the quests a better flow that draws you through the campaign more thoroughly than before. Each city has its own Big Bad for you to Take Care Of, which clears up the awkward situations we used to have, where we’d find ourselves fighting yet another monster that had supposedly somehow caused all of the village’s problems. In addition, most of the village upgrades have been relocated to side-quests, instead of the resource-burning Villager Requests of yesteryear. The Villager Requests are still around, but they are much fewer and further between and you won’t find them inconveniencing you like they did in the last game. Instead, most requests will be handled by fighting some new monster, and you’ll get to watch one of the stellar cutscenes while you do it, and you’ll feel much more rewarded than if you’d simply walked up and put all of your rarest rocks in a box.

The biggest draw for me is that there seem to be a lot more monsters to fight, this time around. And great strides were taken to ensure that at least the items that every monster drops are in the game. Sadly, many of them (particularly the aquatic monsters of Monster Hunter 3) do not appear in the game, partly because of the lack of underwater segments, but mostly (I assume) because there just isn’t enough damn space on the cartridge. I think everyone is impressed with the way they still managed to make the Plesioth appear, so I’ll try to avoid spoiling it, but if you really want to know, just google the same thing you googled to find this review and click any other link. I’m sure everyone else will tell you about how great the Plesioth is.

In case I glossed over that too much, there is no underwater combat in Monster Hunter 4. The third game was very focused on the underwater fighting, and I liked it a lot, but it has been replaced with real, honest-to-goodness vertical design and movement, and I like that a lot more. Climbing and jumping off things are more fun than they’ve ever been, and combat was smoothed out so that you can attack in midair and continue your combo once you hit the ground. This is the cornerstone of my favorite new mechanic: mounting. Much like Dragon’s Dogma or Shadow of the Colossus, you can climb on enemies and stab them in the back to bring them down. This is accomplished through leaping through the air, hitting the monster while airborne, then playing a very small minigame in which you must balance stabbing them until they fall with hanging on for dear life. If your friends hit you while you do this, they could knock you off the monster’s back, but many of these monsters are large enough that this is not an overly large risk. And the payout for success is staggering. Literally. It has always been possible to knock monsters over in previous games, and it can still be done in Monster Hunter 4 without mounting, but the length of time to beat the downed monster’s ass is significantly increased if you mount it to do so. A new weapon, called the Insect Glaive, was introduced to help facilitate this. If you are unsure which weapon to use when starting, pick this one. The Insect Glaive is a big-ass stick you hit things with and a big-ass bug that rests on your arm until you send him out to attack and buff your character. More importantly, though, the Insect Glaive allows you to pole-vault, which marks the first time that a Monster Hunter game has allowed us to jump at will. Why would you want to do this? To get on the monster’s back, dummy, and then beat them senseless. Even in multiplayer, when you have to announce to the group that you are mounting something so your friends don’t knock you the fuck off, everyone seems to recognize the power increase the glaive provides, and respectfully gives you the room you need to do it. The glaive isn’t entirely needed for this shenanigans, though it is very helpful. If you’re married to a certain type of weapon, you can always climb a wall and jump off to mount monsters, or your hammer-wielding buddy can launch you through the air with his base combo, or you can wait it out and hire a “Launching” Palico later on who will toss you around all you want.

So, that’s it. I could gush for a while about all of the changes I think have really improved the formula, but it wouldn’t serve to convince you, much. I hesitate to score this game, because some people will still have a difficult time figuring out the controls, and if you don’t have friends to play with, it simply won’t be the same. I’m gonna say it in caps, now, too, in case you skipped to the end to see the score, and why would you do that? Go back and read it. I probably said mean things about a game you like, and I’m one of those people who likes to see you squirm. Anyway, what I want to say is:

THIS GAME HAS A SERIOUS LEARNING CURVE. IF YOU ARE NOT PREPARED TO SPEND AN HOUR OR TWO EDUCATING YOURSELF AND PRACTICING THE COMBAT, YOU WILL FAIL AND YOU SHOULD CONSIDER NOT BUYING THIS GAME.

If, however, you’re willing to put up with that, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is a solid 9.5/10, in my book. We could still use a little more story, but it’s not an absolute must when the combat and crafting systems are exactly as robust as they’ve always been. This will definitely do, for now.

NHL 15 Review

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s the bottom of the 9th and we have a barnburner here at the ballpark! In a tie game, with a runner on 2nd, EA Sports is up to bat. He digs into the box… the pitch…! And it’s a weak ground ball to short and he’s out at first.

In fairness… It wasn’t a strikeout. They at least made contact.

Let’s begin by me asking for forgiveness from my obviously bored readers for a sports analogy from a different game than the topic of the review. I truly have no excuse for my actions.

I’m going to open my discussion on the game with how the game opens to the user. An oddly structured, casserole of a menu is presented that ends up having the same (basic) options that many sports-sims do. Your franchise mode is there, creating a prospective player and, of course, quick play to just play once with a friend and call each other turd-gobblers.

EA did something with this game, at the beginning of the experience, which many of these types of games have failed to do in the past – an actual tutorial walk through of the controls in an in-game fashion. Sure, 2k and other developers have thrown in a warm-up game for you to munch on while the game itself installs but, if we’re honest with each other, how advantageous is that? You’re playing as an entire team is these warm ups. With no real guidance or direction, a mass trial-and-error process ensues. Many of the controls aren’t even going to be messed with in those types of introductions. Ultimately, you know you’re not posting up as Steph Curry, or King James – why even try the shoulder buttons – just pull up for a jumper and kill some time.

What EA does is going to be an underappreciated piece of this game. The first time a user logs into the game (take advantage, it won’t come back) in any mode, you are thrown into a one-man crash course of game mechanics. The nice gentleman comes onto the empty-arena speakers, “Now we’re going to see if you can perform a Slap-shot!” Condescending? Sure. But what do you care?! It’s teaching you how to truly play the game successfully and maximize your experience. It even delves into details that I had forgotten were possible with NHL style games. Shot and even pass placement are major focuses along with developing a feel for how a player moves on the ice. It teaches everything about the game’s wacky controls – which we can talk about later. It may be therapeutic.

Like many people that play sports games with an odd combination of “devoted” and “casually” as I do, the main mode of EA Sports’ new project, NHL 15 is the “Live the Life” mode. Sure, this game (nor any other sports game) will not and likely never will live up to the single player mode of the now legendary MLB The Show.

It does however make a fairly solid attempt at The Show’s model and player creation. A start-as-an-amateur timeline is put into place for your place where you initially choose your junior hockey path of WHL or some other garbage Canadian league. The process is appealing and challenging to build a career and, to some degree, dictate how well you’ll do in the draft.

A situation presents itself to give you no attachment to this team at all. With The Show, success came from the fact that you could be placed at the AA level as a baseball player, and actually care how that team does during the season. Because, hey, who knows how long you’re going to be there? In this bizarre, wildly impersonal situation, you’re put onto a team with 3 games to play in the regular season. Yet, seemingly, the ENTIRE season is based on those 3 games. You decide the fate of the Regina Camel-Toes or whatever the hell team you decide to hitch your wagon to. If (god forbid) you win two or even three of those games, you’ll likely be put into the playoffs for the league you chose – which I guarantee has a playoff trophy named after a Canadian with a goofy name.

That’s neither here nor there. Once you’ve made your way through the handful of games you have for the team you don’t care about, you start the draft process. You’ll do a mock couple of questions for teams where you’re slated and there will be only one good answer of the four choices. Fuck up if you don’t want to play for that team, ultimately.

We can spend some time talking about actual game play as I know most reading have probably been yelling about. If I were asked to sum it up in a word, it would be “eh”. Mostly because of the gameplay itself, but partially as a respectful vernacular not to our Canadian brothers.

Ultimately, the main complaint I have is the lack of control with the user’s skater. Skating is this odd amorphous blob of tough-to-change velocity and direction. In our Live the Life mode, the CPU (at least on the low setting I’m playing on) assists with ice position. An arrow pops up under the user to guide them. If I were to guess.. I’ve been in good position about 4% of the time. So, most of the time I’m skating to wherever the hell I’m supposed to be and over-shoot it due to the lack of control you seem to have.

The basic controls also have a few flaws. Namely, and not to rant, but WHY THE FUCK ISN’T THE A OR X BUTTON DEVOTED TO PASSING!!! This is how sports games have existed since the damn pilgrims landed and Normandy or whatever. Instead, it’s a right shoulder button and doesn’t (initially) mold well with the game. In fairness, I’ve put 10 to 12 hours into the game on an overall level thus far, and I have gotten used to it. When I go back to NBA 2k, I will likely throw a fit. Article forthcoming.

I digress. Back to our “Live the Life” Mode. The menu itself in the mode is somewhat of a confusing hodge-podge. There’s a calendar centered at the top, but only for the coming week. Surrounding it is some stats and reactions to previous performances of your player. The bottom right panel of the menu is the one I want to focus on. This is where you are able to see Fan, Management, Team and Family reaction to recent performances and public interactions made by your player. Sport-sims have done this, or a version of it, forever. You answer a question correctly in an interview, fans and management like you. Perform well on the ice, team likes you. But why is family one of these categories? I haven’t yet reached the sub-game mode where I return home from the arena at night to a house with 3 screaming toddlers and a wife claiming “YOU DON’T DO ANYTHING TO HELP ME WITH THIS!!” But again, I’m only 10 to 12 hours in.

One of the other modes is an interesting idea of playing as a “legend”. This, on the surface, is a decent idea. Let’s allow users to go back and play as players they remember watching or, even, learn about players they have heard other generations talking about. However, there are three… THREE.. players available to play as. Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemeux and Cammi Granato. Three. Not thirty. Three. A wise woman once told me, “Hey! Go wake up your grandfather, we’re going to Perkins.” EA Sports should have had someone give them this advice. Not because they necessarily needed delicious pancakes, but because they needed something else to do instead of putting a half-assed effort into what could have been a GREAT game mode.

The final mode I’ll cover briefly is what is traditionally known as franchise mode in other sports-sims. It’s labeled as “Be a GM Mode” in NHL 15. An interesting take on the franchise cookie cutter and more for the veteran players and hard-core hockey fans. It caters to the NHL guru’s who know all 30 rosters and how to build an empire with those pieces. The one (and fairly substantial) problem is the fact that you don’t have the ability to play, or sim, a full NHL length 82 game season. You are able to select 25 games as a maximum length and decrease by incriments of 5 if necessary. This leads me to believe one thing – The game mode wasn’t meant for gameplay at all. It was truly meant to build and sim. Draft and wait. Trade and cross-your-fingers. When you read “Be a GM Mode” on the menu, take the advisement (not good, bad or otherwise) that that’s EXACTLY what you’ll get.

The gameplay along pregame and postgame scenes obviously look stunning. No game that doesn’t even makes it to the shelves these days. But don’t buy it thinking you’re walking into a flawless hockey sim. The game, across most chains and smaller sellers, has lowered from the opening $60 to $50. However, as fun as it is at some points, I’m not putting a stamp of approval down for that price. I, as it should be noted, am a much, MUCH bigger basketball fan than a hockey fan. So, NHL 15 and its intricacies are subject to be lost. But for the common man, wait for one more price drop. Like I said, EA Sports didn’t strike out, but they didn’t knock it out of the park.