For starters, I’m no Buffy buff. I never watched the show growing up, nor did I as an adult. That’s okay though, as there are many great video games based on movies and TV shows that are fun without needing to watch the material it is based on. Buffy seems like this kind of game at first. While it’s clearly geared toward fans of the show, I have no idea what’s going on in the story. You are basically trying to stop some evil vampire spirit from ending the world. That’s literally it. You chase him around as he possesses various characters from the show. It’s dull and rather uninteresting and the game is also poorly written. Buffy’s one-liners get old as all five of them repeat constantly throughout the game and so do the one-liners from the enemies.
That’s just the beginning. Buffy has an array of acrobatic moves and they are actually quite good for such an early 64-bit era game. The animations are well done and the combat, when it does work, is pretty awesome. Buffy can punch and kick and execute enemies with a wooden stake. She also has Slayer Power which allows her to add-on some powerful moves at the end of combo chains. This, again, seems great on paper, but it’s poorly executed. While the animations are nice there’s constant knockback and you can’t interrupt the enemies’ attacks. This is the key flaw in the entire combat system. There’s no dodge button, no parry, and no way to counter attacks at all. You just have to take it and fall down and get back up, but some enemies will stomp you, and then multiple enemies join in and you end up dying and losing health over cheap gameplay mechanics. The game is just very cheap all around.
Another issue revolved around this is the terrible jumping and extreme distance you get knocked back at. This leads to cheap deaths off cliffs as some of the fighting areas are tiny and are not designed around how far Buffy can be thrown. I would make it to the end of a level and die just because I got picked up and thrown off of a cliff due to the poor level design. It’s everywhere in this game including platforming segments that shouldn’t exist here. I never finished the game due to the second to last level having so many cliffs of death, tiny arenas, and platforming woes that after the 7th time dying from a cheap death I put the disc back in the box and shelved it. I’m not missing out on much anyway.
If that isn’t painful enough the level design is boring and trite. You walk down boring brown or gray hallways, fight a few enemies, flip a switch, and move on. The level design is just bad and every location is so uninteresting. A foundry, a high school, a sunken church, all just blandly designed. At least the character models look decent and the voice acting is all right. This also leads to healing and other items which leads to the biggest flaw this entire game has, and what I think, completely breaks it. All these other things would be doing if you didn’t have to execute every enemy with a stake. You can knock them down to no health and they won’t die until you execute them. This leads to more cheap deaths as instead of them dying when their health is down you then have to break through their constant blocking, get knocked around more, lose more health, just to get in an execution. They will not die unless you have a stake or the glaive. Enemies block every single move you do, making combat take way longer than necessary, and they also shouldn’t take so long to die. For a beat ’em up enemies should have more balanced health bars.
There are also items like holy water, hellfire, and a super soaker that contains both. This is a completely useless tool as it depletes within seconds and requires fonts to replenish and only a few levels have them. It’s mostly used just to take down certain force fields. Seriously, what a waste of time and effort. And that’s pretty much all Buffy has to offer. Some decent combat and animations are all the game has going for it but is horrendously broken with terrible gameplay mechanics throughout the entire game.
I honestly can’t recommend this to anyone unless you are a Buffy fan, and even then you aren’t missing out on much at all. The story is boring, the level design is uninspired and bland, and the game is nearly broken thanks to poor design decisions.
PC cases are something you don’t change very often. Usually once in awhile when you buy a new motherboard and CPU, but in my case(!) I wanted to just upgrade. My previous case was purchased due to what was available at my local Fry’s Electronics at the time and I wasn’t impressed with the Thermaltake View 31 much. It didn’t have a PSU shroud so all the ugly cables were just visible and all the rear cable management was displayed behind glass…which was odd. It also had flimsy thumb screws and the panels were a pain to put back on. My front USB ports were going out and it didn’t support USB 3.1 Thunderbolt. I was just tired of looking at the thing despite the space it had.
So, while switching to all Corsair RGB components, I decided to switch to a Corsair case. The only “smart” thing about the case is that it includes three LL120 fans and a Commander Pro which was not in the description anywhere! I had no idea it included this and it was a huge surprise. Corsair RGB fans are a pain to cable manage. Each fan has a PWM cable and an RGB cable. You then have to connect it to a Lighting Node Pro which controls the fans. Then you have to connect the LED hub to the Node Pro. The lighting hub then connects to the internal USB and the Node Pro connects to the internal SATA power. It’s a huge pain, but the fan hub eliminates needing that LED hub.
The case itself was easy to build in. The case comes with pre-installed stand-offs and the motherboard went in with no issue. The side glass panel is magnetically held closed and then a single screw allows you to lift it off its hinge. The back panel is a solid sheet of aluminum with a filter for the PSU. The top glass is raised on rubber stand-offs and you can insert an optional filter if you have a 240mm radiator you are installing on top. The rear has a slide out filter panel and so does the front. I love how the PSU is side mounted in the back and I had plenty of room for all the cables and there were plenty of tie offs and rubber slots in the back. The case also has a 3.5″ and 2.5″ drive cage. I chose to remove the 3.5″ cage and the 2.5″ cage has four toolless slots that can be snapped apart. I then just screwed this back in to free up some room.
The case has an option to side mount your GPU, but it’s pretty close to the glass and these mounts are typically not recommended for high-end cards that get hot. My RTX 2080 barely fit in here as the GPU clearance is only 330mm and my card was 327mm, but MSI cards are usually on the larger side. The pointy end of the GPU shroud is mere millimeters away from a fan so it was a tight fit. You could do a SLI setup in here, but it would be super tight. The case comes with four thermal sensor cables which I chose not to use, at least not for now. It also came with four PWM fan cable extensions. The usual front panel cables were present, but I never plug in the front audio as most of these cables aren’t shielded properly and you get interference and I just never use it. What is nice is that the front USB is 3.0 only, but there are only two which is limiting, but most PCs have plenty of USB parts on the rear. I only use it for my mouse dongle and a USB stick or phone.
When it comes to aesthetics the case is gorgeous. The soft aluminum accompanied by glass and that top raised panel is beautiful. It’s not the best when it comes to fan noise or even temps, probably mid-tier, but it’s good enough for most gamers. I wouldn’t recommend a SLI 3090 setup in here, but with a single card and a liquid cooled CPU you’re going to be able to drop your fan fairly low. At idle my RTX 2080 stays at a cool 32c and at heavy load it hovers around the mid to high 50’s which is better than my previous case. It might be due to my bottom intake fans blowing that cool air on to the GPU at a closer proximity. My AIO cooled Intel i7-8700 idles around 38c and at full load the cores never go past the mid to high 60’s. That could be cooler if I had a 240mm rad instead of a 120mm, but it will do.
Overall, the Corsair 680X is pricey, but worth the money. A lot of that cost is the three LL120 fans which normally costs $130 alone and the Commander Pro which is another $80. It’s a premium case for those who love Corsair’s suite of RGB components, but if you aren’t an RGB person than this case isn’t for you and you should get a non glass case.
There are a lot of quality channels on YouTube for every category imaginable. While there is quite a bit of junk on there, there are a lot of hidden gems and large channels that are incredibly informative and entertaining. Other the last decade I have been subscribing to channels little by little and I think as of now I have a fairly large subscription base to share. Some of these channels I’ve just found, and many I have been following for years. You have may heard of some of these and maybe you’ll discover something new and original.
Caddicarus is a channel I have been following for around 5 years now. He’s a British gamer and lover of the PlayStation which is hard to come by on YouTube. His British humor hit all the right spots and I feel he’s very original compared to many other gaming channels out there. His format has changed over the years, but my favorite videos are reviews of older PlayStation games. He does talk about new PlayStation titles, but these aren’t my thing.
Channel Awesome (Gaming…kinda)
Specifically The Nostalgia Critic. While it’s mostly regular movies or TV shows, video game related movies or TV shows do pop-up every so often. He may seem cringy to some, but his format has been the same for almost ten years and it’s highly entertaining. He’s very knowledgable in movies and TV shows across most decades. He usually reviews awful or lesser known movies, but sometimes he will review gems or classic well known films. Occasionally he will feature guests, but the other Channel Awesome staff will reguarly engage in skits themed around the reviewed film.
Cinemassacre (Gaming – Pre Screen Wave Buy-Out)
Yes, The Angry Video Game nerd is actually one of the first YouTubers I regularly watched. This was around 11 years ago. I also mention the pre-Screen Wave buy-out as his quality has dropped over the years. While a lot of popular shows have stopped such as Board James, The Angry Video Game Nerd is his bread and butter. Cussing and trash talking, mostly, NES games is his claim to fame and it holds up very well to this day, but the issue over the last few years has been his lack of enthusiasm on screen. He no longer writes most of his episodes anymore and they come off dry and disconnected sometimes. Other famous shows like Cinemassacre’s Monster Madness during October is also gone, but his other movie reviews are enjoyable. I suggest watching his backlog of episodes pre-2017 or so and you will enjoy it quite a bit.
Most people will probably have heard of this channel, but these guys are fantastic. The UK team of researchers have given us years of entertaining gaming trivia, that I myself would never have found out otherwise. The formatting has mostly stayed the same over the years but with added episodes like Did You Know Gaming – Extra, and episodes focusing on lost games by Unseen64 and various other trivia. One of the popular things DYKG does are their guest narrators. These are mostly YouTube gaming channels from well-known to rising stars. It’s fun to see who is featured next and sometimes your favorite YouTuber might pop-up.
Game Sack (Gaming)
An upcoming YouTube who mostly talks about retro gaming. This ranges from perusing old catalogs to taking apart arcade machines and systems. He’s incredibly informative and if you are a retro gamer might enjoy the knowledge he brings to the scene.
GVMERS is in my top five favorite channels. This incredibly informative long form documentary style channel is one-of-a-kind. While DidYouKnowGaming? does short rapid fire clips, GVMERS focuses on a single series or game giving you full insight into the development, personal issues, and overall story of a game or series. The formatting hasn’t changed, but the narrator has an incredible voice and this is a fantastic channel to binge watch.
Jayz is a fantastic channel for exclusive PC gaming knowledge, mostly on the hardware side. He dives deep into overclocks, benchmarking, PC building, and is overall a charming personality on screen. Some say he’s cringy and egotistical, but I believe in the toxic world of PC gaming we live in these days you need to stand your ground and stick to facts which he does. I think his goofiness brings a “dad” feeling to the younger PC gaming YouTube crowd.
JonTron is one of my favorite YouTubers of all time, but his schedule is rather inconsistent. Sometimes going on hiatus for an entire year, he at least brings quality content and has a striking personality that no one else on YouTube has. His videos have veered away from gaming these days, but his back catalog is quite entertaining to binge watch. It’s not so much the knowledge he brings to his show, but his explosive personality.
LGR – Lazy Game Reviews (Tech/Gaming)
LGR is in my top five favorite YouTube channels for sure. His content has been phenomenal over the years and his charm, voice, and demeanor over the camera is just so enjoyable. You could easily binge his whole channel in a week and be left wanting more. He mostly focuses on retro PC gaming, but he does have various shows like LGR Oddware that looks at old hardware, mostly from the 90’s and early 2000’s, that is one of my favorite shows on YouTube period. It’s such a niche and fascinating channel yet can attract even the most curious observer. Clint is someone I hope stays on YouTube for years to come, and the only bad thing I have to say about the channel is there aren’t enough uploads per week, but what we get is pure quality.
Linus Tech Tips (Tech/Gaming)…kinda
Well everyone and their mom has heard of Linus. The Canadian super star who flaunts the ability to live on the bleeding edge of technology mostly from just sponsorships. The millionaire YouTube star has a fully staffed studio and warehouse, and you can tell he isn’t afraid to show off the cash. Videos ranging from $50k+ orders for machining equipment,and some of the most expensive PC builds no one will ever be able to obtain. He also lets you tour his mansion where he frequently installs insanely expensive systems of various kinds. He clearly has a successful business and his videos are still only for a certain audience. He focuses mostly on mainstream consumer electronics and PC building, benchmarking, and testing. Some of his videos are very informative, but he’s not a source for deep knowledge of anything really. He has reviews for all the latest tech, albeit short and not in depth, but still entertaining.
Linus is also just a personality and is fun to watch on screen. His staff have grown to become popular people on his channel and are beloved sometimes more than Linus himself. He clearly has a staff of varying expertise, but you tell the channel overwhelms him and he’s pulled in too many directions. Some claim his audience is mostly 12 year-olds, and it might be, but his convention LTX is also very popular and attended in the tens of thousands. Some of their tactics have been questioned and scrutinized like the click-baity thumbnails and short video lengths that bow down to the almighty YouTube algorithms for pure profit have been considered shady and cheap. Take the channel with a grain of salt and enjoy just seeing the latest tech being used.
Matt McMuscles (Gaming)
A YouTuber in my area (Seattle), Matt’s series “Wha Happun?” is similar to GVMERS’ documentary episodes, but in shorter episodes and posted more frequently and also covers more obscure games. He regularly plays niche and hidden gems, but it’s this series that makes his channel a true gem. The series is so entertaining you can binge watch them all and want more.
RMC – The Cave (Gaming/Tech)
RMC is a very relaxing channel. The host, Niel, has a calming British accent and takes us into his world of 8-bit computing and gaming by restoring pieces of hardware, showing off forgotten tech, and overall just having a good time. His channel is very binge worthy and if you love 8-bit computers, or just old tech in general, this is a wonderful channel to get into.
His series “Trash to Treasure” is by far one of the favorites. From retro-briting systems to resoldering chips and resistors, the list goes on. It’s very cathartic and relaxing.
Scott the Woz (Gaming)
Scott is easily in my top five favorite YouTubers. His personality is just smooth, smart, clever, and witty. He’s what Cinemassacre used to be in their hayday, but without all the cursing. His love for Nintendo games from his childhood is what drives the channel. He frequently will go in depth on various Nintendo franchises from the past and even talk about shovelware for various systems. He’s a joy to watch on screen and frequently gets laughs out of me.
Shesez’ main show Boundary Break is a wonderful education show like DidYouKnowGaming? but with breaking the game’s camera and pulling off the curtain of illusion that games give us. He will go around game levels showing hidden Easter eggs, curious anomalies, and various things that a niche group of gamers like myself enjoy watching. He has a wonderfully charming personality and has been steadily growing over the last couple of years. It’s a very unique channel and there is nothing like it out there that’s dedicated to this type of thing.
Stop Skeletons From Fighting (Gaming)
From my own neck of the woods, the Seattle based gaming couple is just chock full of trivia when it comes to retro gaming. From covering obscure hidden gems, weird hardware, and overall coverage. He has a bubbly and explosive personality and the various shows on the channel are quite entertaining with my favorite being Punching Weight.
Techmoan is one of my top five favorite YouTubers. He mostly focuses on retro audio equipment and is your go-to source for knowledge in retro 80’s and 90’s hi-fi equipment, stereos, tape recorders, and boom boxes. His channel is so vast it took me over a month to binge watch all his shows. They are so entertaining and his British voice is so soothing and just captures you attention and keeps you focused. It’s a channel unlike any other on YouTube and he’s peaked at over 1 million subscribers.
Technology Connections (Tech)
Alec is a wonderful person to watch on screen. He talks about technology in regards to mostly what we live and deal with daily. From air conditioners to dish washers to how reflectors in signs work. His channel may be a bit dry to some as he goes deep into the technology and science of things, but overall I have come to binge his channel and find everything he posts fascinating. There’s no other channel that dives into the science of everyday things we take for granted.
The 8-Bit Guy (Gaming/Tech)
The 8-Bit Guy is both a game developer and lover of 8-bit computers. His vast knowledge is something you won’t get on any other channel as he also programs frequently and delves into the technical aspect of all 8-bit computers. He videos are made at a steady pace and are easy to keep up with. He frequently restores computers on his channel and it’s niche, but very interesting nonetheless. One of my favorite shows he did was traveling around Texas visiting retro tech and gaming companies’ buildings and sites. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but sadly due to lack of popularity, he couldn’t finish the show. It’s things like this that make me love YouTube and you would never see on TV.
Adrian’s Digital Basement (Tech/Gaming)
Similar to RMC, LGR, and The 8-Bit Guy. Adrian talks about retro gaming both the tech and the games. He’s very informative, a joy on camera, and it just feels like your hanging with the guy in his gaming den talking about retro tech and there’s a clear passion for it here. His channel is steadily rising and is a blast to binge watch.
Game of the year is the hardest category to choose and I often think about this throughout the entire year. While there were so many great runner-ups, like there is every year, the one that makes it to the top for me is the most memorable. It’s not a mathematical score of what game received the most awards or had the highest score, but what was the most fun and memorable. A game has to leave something with me and resonate. A game that needs to be discussed and admired and something even revolutionary or groundbreaking.
Ghost of Tsushima
This is going to seem really strange. Despite Cyberpunk being strong in many areas its far from game of the year, which is a huge disappointment to me. After 60+ hours in I have to say the game falls short in many areas that keep it from being game of the year. The numerous bugs, cut content, poor balancing, terrible driving mechanics, etc. Sure, it gives us a rich story, great characters, and a fun city to play in, but Ghost of Tsushima was all this without the issues. Tsushima had a fantastic balance in its gameplay loop, the open world was a blast to explore, and I couldn’t put the game down.
Everyone has their first memory with a video game. They also have memories of their first games with each console, usually, and the whole experience of a new console and game is usually quite magical. Discovering a whole new world on new technology isn’t something you forget. In my 27 years of video game experience I had quite a few of these memories and hopefully they won’t slow down any time soon. I’m going to take you on a trip down memory lane from my first experience all the way to my last memorable magical memory and hopefully it will get your traveling down your own memories and nostalgia train,
Sega Genesis – My very first video game memory was Mortal Kombat for the Sega Genesis. I was around three, maybe four years old, and I remember watching my cousin pull off Scorpion’s fatality. I remember the whole thing from the screen going dark to Scorpion pulling off his mask and seeing that bare skull. It was what got me into video games and I realized it was something different over TV as I could do these things in game. Mortal Kombat quickly became my favorite video game of all time and still is to this day.
After I got my own Genesis for Christmas that year I received Sonic the Hedgehog 2 with the system. I also remember my Genesis was problematic and kept freezing during gameplay no matter what my mom did. The old ISA and Q-Tip trick in both the cartridge and slot didn’t work. Different power source, etc. I remember taking it back to Circuit City with her and exchanging it for a new one and that worked perfectly. My Genesis time was limited, as were all my early consoles, as I didn’t get any games hardly ever after the initial console purchase as most were just rentals. Some other game memories were Ecco the Dolphin, Sword of Sodan, Sonic the Hedgehog 3,Sonic & Knuckles, Gynoug, Vectroman, Aladdin, The Lion King, and there were more I just don’t remember them as much.
I also remember getting The Sega Channel. My mom surprised me with it one day and I remember thanking her for all the new games, but she explained to me that it was from the cable company and they updated weekly. I remember when the games would refresh I would keep thanking her for the games. It was short lived as my parents couldn’t afford it for very long.
Super Nintendo – The first game I remember playing was Mortal Kombat as I didn’t have my Genesis anymore. It most likely got pawned to pay bills or broke, I honestly can’t remember. I also had Math Blaster and Stun Race FX with the system, it was used unlike my new Genesis two years prior, and I remember how disappointing Mortal Kombat was. I realized the game was censored, there was no blood code, no fatalities, but I played it to death anyways. That Christmas was magical for me and Math Blaster was also a lot of fun, and I remember Stunt Race FX being incredibly difficult.
Some other memories on the system were Mortal Kombat II,Mortal Kombat 3, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, Gargoyles, Boogerman, Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage, Super Mario World. I had this SNES until I traded it with a neighbor for a few PS1 games. Big mistake.
PlayStation – This was the first time I got so excited I couldn’t contain it. My parents bought one used from a pawn shop and it came with a Crash Bandicoot demo disc. They also picked up Mortal Kombat 3. This was one of the best times I had with a system, but sadly I didn’t get to play it more than year before my youngest sister ruined it by putting food inside of it. This was my first 3D game console and I was blown away by the visuals and what the system could do. I even remember trying to burn game rentals and not knowing why it didn’t work.
Some of my fondest memories are Syphon Filter. This was one of the first game I bonded over with my dad. We memorized every level, weapon and enemy placement, and learned to finish the entire game without getting caught in the stealth levels. Same went for Syphon Filter 2. I also had fond memories of Silent Hill. I remember I was trying to rent Syphon Filter a second time and forgot the name and picked up Silent Hill on accident. When my sister and I got to the alley with the skinless dogs we screamed and my mom sent the game back. Spyro 1 and 2 were also huge frequent repeats in the family as well as Crash 1 and 2. I also remember my only brand new PS1 gaming being Mortal Kombat 4 that was picked up at Wal-Mart one day. My first Final Fantasy experience was FF8 and I could never get past the second disc. Gran Turismo also got me into racing simulators and was another game I bonded over with my dad frequently.
Nintendo 64 – I got my first Watermelon Nintendo 64 used from a pawn shop in Christmas of ’99. This was the only system I played the very little games on due to the sheer expense of them even used. My parents picked up Goldeneye: 007 and Top Gear Rally with the system. This was something I wasn’t too excited over. I didn’t have an expansion pack, no memory card, and no second controller. I had never played a first-person shooter before so I was confused on how the game was actually played. Top Gear was fun for awhile, but I picked up Mortal Kombat Trilogy used for $20 somewhere and played the hell out of this game. I also remember Conker’s Bad Fur Day that was quickly returned back to Blockbuster. I also played Glover and Paper Mario quite a bit on here. The only other three games I owned were thanks to a $45 gift card to Funcoland form my grandma the following Christmas. I picked up Quake II, 1080 Snowboarding, and Pokemon Stadium. Stadium was played and rented a lot before and so was Winback.
I didn’t spend too much time with my N64. I had it until the mid-2000’s, but never used it after I got my PS2 in the fall of 2002. It was a great system and for some reason I completely missed most of the popular Mario games and never played a single Zelda game on it.
PlayStation 2 – I had seen the system in action at a friend’s house before, but before that was another younger neighbor. I still had my old N64 and I remember he had Silent Hill 2 and Grand Theft Auto III. I was so jealous and mad. The games looked unreal, incredible, and life-like. I had to have one. I did eventually get to play Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 at a friend’s house frequently. I got my PS2 for babysitting my sisters for a whole summer. Fall of 2002 and the system just dropped down to $200. I remember fighting with my dad as he wanted to get one used, but they were only $179 and it wasn’t worth it. He insisted and also wouldn’t let me get a PS2 game. We walked out with a used PS2 $20 cheaper than a new one and Syphon Filter 3 – a PS1 game. I was so mad when I got home, but a neighbor let me borrow Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3.
This is the system I played for the next four years until I got an Xbox 360. I played so many games on this system. My fondest memories were Shadow of the Colossus, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, Call of Duty: Finest Hour, Killzone, Jak II, Ratchet & Clank, Bully, Kingdom Hearts, Okami, and many more. I also pre-ordered my first game, Mortal Kombat: Deception, in 2004. I had never been that excited for a game in ages. I also remember playing my first online game. I picked up a PS2 keyboard and network adapter at Best Buy on sale. SOCOM was incredibly addictive and I put dozens of hours into that game. I remember buying it from a school mate for $10.
I did eventually get the fatal disc read error and wound up getting a Slim PS2 a couple years later. I remember being devastated when the system wouldn’t read blue discs and then wouldn’t read anything after that. I didn’t know what to do. We then went to Comp USA and picked up a Slim PS2 for $100 just a few months after it was released. This was also around the time I was heavily reading video game magazines and wanted to play Final Fantasy XI really badly, but the HDD add-on was expensive, and my parents wouldn’t pay the $15 a month for the subscription, and the
GameBoy Advance – I got my first SP during Christmas 2003, the 26th to be precise. My dad gave us $100 each for shopping money and I went to a local KB Toys (RIP) and inside a display case with tons of crap at the bottom was the last SP. A silver one. I slapped down the money and went over to GameStop and picked up the cheapest GBA game I could as I already spent my money: Dungeons & Dragons: Eye of the Beholder. Holy crap was that a mistake. I was stuck with this game for some time until I bought Sword of Mana brand new as well as Spyro: Season of Flame and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. I didn’t like these games all that much, Spyro and Sword of Mana were okay, but my GBA experience was very much mixed. I couldn’t rent GBA games so I was stuck buying them and they were always very expensive. I then sold it to a school mate for $200 and then turned around and bought the Flame Red one that I actually wanted a couple of months later.
PSP – Man was this the most exciting thing ever. This is the first and only video game system I ever pre-ordered. I saved up my allowance for 6 months to pick this baby up. I remember making wallpapers, watching videos, and inhaling every morsel of information leading up to release. I remember not being able to sleep the previous night before the launch day. I also remember being short one whole cent after taxes and instead of running out to my mom (I was 15 at the time) a nice person in line tossed me the penny. I remember picking up that black and white box and just being in pure awe at how futuristic the system looked. Ridge Racer was the game I picked up with the system and it looked so much like the future. That much power in the palm of your hands was fascinating and amazing. I also hacked the thing that week and kept up on the hacking scene ever since.
I don’t have that PSP anymore though. Sadly, the morning I went to my first driving school lesson later that year I put the thing in my front pocket and the jeans stretched too tight and cracked the screen. I was devastated. I did eventually get a new one a few months later, but I also don’t have that system either. I currently have a PSP-3000 which I received from my fiance for Christmas of 2009 and I also have a white PSP-GO. It’s still my favorite handheld system to this date.
Some notable game memories was God of War: Chains of Olympus. A full console God of War experience on the go was just mind-blowing. It was also the only other PSP game I pre-ordered outside of Ridge Racer. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII really showed how much power the system had as well and was an amazing experience. Mortal Kombat Unchained was also great, albeit a flawed and rushed port, Burnout Legends showed just how beautiful the LCD screen looked with high framerate games. Coded Arms was also a lot of fun despite how basic the game is. Playing a first-person shooter on a handheld was both fun and challenging due to the controls. But the best thing I remember is Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror. If you remember I played the crap out of that game on PS1 and I loved this game so much I even wrote my own walkthrough for it and its sequel. It was the first game to show that a shooter can work with the limited controls. I also remember being blown away by Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories despite the game’s many flaws.
Other games of note: Jeanne D’Arc, Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords, Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions, MotorStorm: Arctic Edge, Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops, Gran Turismo, Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep.
Nintendo DS – A year later I picked up a used red DS on eBay and bought Metroid Prime Hunters. I was a little underwhelmed with this system and later gave up on it until the DSi XL came a couple of years later. I didn’t really get into the DS until much later after I started collecting for the system full-time. The library is vast and underrated and I love it. I got into the DS library after the 3DS was released, but to date I only have a white DSi. I didn’t have too many memories with this system as I rented and bought very few games for it.
Xbox 360 – This was probably the most exciting system I had ever received as a gift, and it was also the last from my parents. I was 16 at the time and I remember knowing I had the system by weighing and measuring the box. I then took my birthday money and bought Gears of War and Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter. I remember being so excited and losing sleep leading up to Christmas morning. I received Prey with the system and I also had GameFly send me Condemned: Criminal Origins before hand. I was prepared. It was the first introduction to true next-generation gaming as I didn’t have a gaming PC yet. Gears of War remains one of my favorite and most memorable moments in my whole life. I have played that game over half a dozen times since. It was so polished, and was nearly revolutionary for the third-person shooter genre. I had a lot of fun with the Xbox 360 up until I got a PS3 four years later.
Some other memorable gaming moments was Condemned. I remember watching the reveal gameplay at E3 the previous year and was just taken aback. It was scary, dark, and well polished and looked next-gen. Ghost Recon was also a fantastic reboots and remains my favorite game in the series. I also did my first midnight launch for a game which was for Gears of War 2.
Nintendo Wii – This was a magical moment for sure. I was super skeptical with this system and it took me almost a year before buying one. I remember having fun with the system at first and quickly lost interest and got rid of it a year or two later. The most fun I had was Twilight Princess, Resident Evil 4, and Link’s Crossbow Training. I remember WarioWare: Smooth Moves really showed off what the motion controls could do and I had a blast with a few WiiWare games like World of Goo. The light gun games were a hit with me such as Medal of Honor Heroes 2, Ghost Squad, and Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles. By far the most memorable game for me was No More Heroes. It was one of the few ultra-violent games on the Wii and was a blast to play through.
I remember eventually buying rechargeable battery packs and thinking the online component was sub-part to the Xbox 360. The Wii was never my main system, and after about 6 months I lost faith due the sheer amount of shovelware on the system.
First Gaming Laptop – This was one of the major exciting turning points in my gaming life. For the longest time my family only had a PC purchased in 1998. It was a business/graphical artist PC that was a little underwhelming even for its time. It was used all the way until 2005 when it died for good. It could only play DOS games and when PC gaming really took off into 3D in the early 2000’s my PC was left in the dust. I had to play Unreal Tournament in a 320×240 window to get 60FPS.
I finally purchased an Alienware M17x-R2 with a second generation dual-core Intel i5 CPU and an ATI Radeon HD 5870 and 4GB of RAM. This was also underwhelming even for its time and I mostly screwed myself by not getting a quad-core CPU. The dual-core bottlenecked my GPU like crazy and was already obsolete at purchase. It was a fine laptop, never had any hardware issues for the 8 years I did use it, but it wasn’t upgradeable and it struggled to play DirectX 11 games such as The Witcher 2, Batman: Arkham City, Tomb Raider, and various other games just a couple short years after I got it. It was still exciting though and it allowed me to enjoy the massive backlog I otherwise was unable to play.
PS3 – I received this as a Christmas gift from my fiance and it wound up becoming my main system. By this time the PS3 was knocking it out of the park with exclusives and the Xbox 360 was winding down in that department. I remember picking up Killzone 2, Heavenly Sword, and receiving Metal Gear Solid 4 from my parents that year. While these games were older, they still blew me away and looked miles better than any Xbox 360 launch title. Uncharted was also fun, while not the best in the series, helped me admire the series as a whole.
I mostly played games on that system from then on out. Other great moments was Gran Turismo 5, Killzone 3, Uncharted 2 and 3, Journey, and Mortal Kombat. Oh man, I hadn’t been that excited for an MK game since Deception six years prior. I pre-ordered the collector’s edition and played the hell out of the demo. God of War III was also a game that blew my mind. 60 FPS and it just looked so amazing. That was another midnight launch I attended.
PS Vita – This wasn’t a pre-order as I wasn’t sure how the system was going to be received. After a lot of positive reception and a decent launch line-up I picked one up two days after launch with a 4GB memory card and Rayman Origins. The system was very familiar thanks to the PSP, but not as magical or exciting. The rear touchpad was a hindrance for the system and despite a huge power increase the system was rarely taken advantage in this department outside of PS3 ports.
The system’s library waned and only had a strong two years and minimal first party releases. I remember played Uncharted and Killzone Mercenary and being blown away by the system’s ability to bring console games into handheld form. There weren’t too many games that amazed me, but I still had a lot of fun with it. The many HD ports from the PS3 were a welcome addition despite some framerate issues. Tearaway was one of the only games that made the Vita feel magical, and the Mortal Kombat port was solid despite being and ugly downgrade visually. It was the only Vita game I actually ever pre-ordered.
Nintendo 3DS – I was super skeptical about the 3DS, but after tons of amazing games and the quality surpassing the Vita, my fiance got me one during Christmas of that year. The Zelda: Ocarina of Time system to be exact. I remember the 3D effects were actually quite good and they didn’t make me sick, but in the end most games didn’t use this very well. I had Dead or Alive Dimensions, Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition, and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars, and Zelda: Ocarina of Time. These games were a lot of fun and I had a blast with the system early on.
Nintendo Wii U – This was actually only purchased because of a shopping spree I did at Fry’s Electronics. I was never interested in the Wii U and would never have purchased one otherwise. I picked up the 32GB model with Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Injustice, LEGO City: Undercover, Mario Party 9 and New Super Mario Bros. U. I had a blast with the system at first. Call of Duty felt good and looked great. Injustice was fine and I remember Mario Bros. U was a pain the butt and difficult to play. The gamepad is something I never quite cared for. It was big and bulky and my hands constantly cramped when using it as a standard controller.
Surprisingly, the most enjoyable game was LEGO City. I should have bought a Wii U Pro Controller and never did, but I did have some fun in Nintendo Land with my fiance and sister. After the first couple of weeks with the system I was over it. My fiance picked up Mario Kart 8 at one point and that was about it. I sold it off to pay some debt and this was before Bayonetta 2, The Wonderful 101, and many other end of life Wii U favorites hit the system. I hated the small hard drive space and the price was absurd. I also was sick of all the crappy ports the system had. I used it for more Wii games I think than Wii U. It’s actually the only system I have no desire to repurchase since all games have been ported to Switch.
PS4 – This was something my fiance surprised me with. I was just about to leave for work in the Summer of 2015 and she came over one day with the system in hand. It was such a huge surprise and my fondest memory was coming home from a 14 hour shift from work where I was sent afar to help a team in the same company with an event. It was incredibly hot that day and I ordered a pizza as we could get two meals comped from the company (refunded) by keeping the receipts. I sat back and played Killzone: Shadow Fall that day and it was peaceful and relaxing. I was exhausted, but it was my first weekend with the system.
Xbox One – Again, my fiance surprised me with this one as well. I was still on the fence about an Xbox One. It was sitting on the coffee table when I got home from work one night and it came with The Master Chief Collection. I remember spending many weekends on that system, but the PS4 was still my main console until I required a One X, so now the One X is my main system for multi-platform games that don’t end up on PC, and these days, there aren’t many anymore. I love the One X and the original system as well. I also had a One S for a brief period of time. I remember playing Gears of War 4, Halo 5, and one of the most memorable games on that system: Forza Motorsport 5 and 6.
Nintendo Switch – The Switch was a system I was sure was going to fail. I remember the system launching at the beginning of the year, which was odd, and completely missing the 2016 holiday lineup. When I did pick one up during Christmas of that year several months allowed for a large amount of games to show up, but my fondest memory of the system is with Super Mario Odyssey. It made me feel like a kid again experience a revolutionary Mario game. The game was perfect in every way reminded me of how I felt when I first played Mario Galaxy. While I still actively play the Switch today, I collect for it quite a bit as it’s become a very collectable console. With publishers like Limited Run Games, and ones like it, as well as many third part publishers backing the system, this may be Nintendo’s most successful console yet.
Those are just some memories I have had during my first console experiences. With the PS5 and Xbox Series X out now, and impossible to obtain, I’m sure my memories with my PS5 will be quite enjoyable and memorable. I will most likely skip the Series X as I know mostly game on PC these days. It’s sad that dedicated handhelds are gone, but who knows what video games will bring in the next 5 to 10 years.
Headsets are not something that is vital to my PC setup, but I do enjoy them. I have my own place so I can enjoy loud booming speakers (which I do have), but some times when people are sleeping or I want to block out noise I enjoy a good headset. I’ve ever had three in the past, with this being my fourth headset, and I have to say I’m quite impressed with these for various reasons.
The unboxing experience is quite nice as the box is very large, and when you open it the headphones are just laying there strapped in with velcro ties. Below it is a compartment which house the cables and that’s about it. The headphones are quite heavy and bulky, but for my large head they felt fine. The strap cushion is rather nice and made of a soft silicone rubber type material and the ear cups are large, soft, and cushy. The earphones adjust inside the strap rather than the strap lengthening. I found this rather nice and the cups always swing out 90 degrees so they rest flat. There is a nice alien head logo on each ear cup and the name across the strap. They are very minimalist and sleek looking. I picked the white ones to match my Lunar Light laptop and mouse.
You have the option of the USB DAC cable and a 3.5mm jack with a splitter for the mic. Obviously, when using a PC you should use the included DAC cable as it drives the audio better than just analog input. I installed the DAC software and there wasn’t much tinkering after that. There’s no RGB so they don’t show up in Alienware Command Center, but you do use the audio section to set everything up to make it sound how you like. Once I installed the driver and restarted I booted up some music and it sounded absolutely fantastic albeit a bit tinny. I had to turn on the Treble Enhancer to make the tinniness go away, but the bass booster was awesome. This is the largest bass I’ve heard in any headset to date.
Once I booted up a game, I picked Doom Eternal, I was met with fantastic audio including some that affected me physically. Because these are noise cancelling and create a suction when you have them on and they audio works differently than standard headphones. There are plenty of YouTube videos that explain how noise cancelling works. When I moved my mouse around on the menu in Doom Eternal I literally felt the sound in my skull, and it felt like a dentist drill. That sounds unpleasant, but it was actually quite awesome. The enemies surround you and the guns boom and rock your ears and you can’t hear a thing outside of the headphones. I felt fully immersed, and I now see why noise cancelling headphones are loved by audiophiles and how they actually immerse you into the sound more. The 7.1 Surround option in ACC seemed to have helped, and while this isn’t true 7.1, the simulation sounds great and I enjoyed it quite a bit.
After a few months with this headset I have to say I quite enjoy it. The physical build is holding up, it still sounds amazing, and it’s a perfect match for any Alienware PC. While most people wouldn’t reach for these if they didn’t have an Alienware system, for those who do have one, this goes great with the latest systems aesthetics and is a great sounding headset.
Well, well, well, here we are a year later with Treyarch’s installment of the series once again after a decent hiatus. Black Ops is back on the table with an entirely new reboot just like Modern Warfare was last year, but does it make as big of an impact? Well, most people will jump straight into the campaign first which is one of four modes that flesh out Cold War’s myriad of gameplay variations.
The campaign is set during the Cold War as if the title hasn’t clued you in at all. The game is specifically set in the early ’80s as you play as a band of special operatives ordered directly by U.S. President Ronald Reagan to stop a Russian terrorist from setting off a bunch of American nukes. The story is well-paced and the characters have potential, but here’s the main problem with Cold War – the story is only a few hours long and is probably the shortest Call of Duty campaign to date. It was over way before I wanted it to be as the slow burn was a nice pace over Modern Warfare’s fast-paced action, but that game had a much longer campaign and stronger characters that were, dare I say, pretty memorable and stood out. Cold War is set up differently and takes a different approach to the campaign in an almost 80’s spy type of way and I enjoyed those brief moments. You walk about a hideout and on the evidence board is your next mission, but also two of them that require you to solve decoding puzzles which were rather fun and neat. You need to find all the evidence pieces in the campaign to solve these and they were quite challenging. Once you do, you get a short side missions, nothing special, but those puzzles are one of many things that didn’t get enough time to mature.
There are bombastic scripted events like in every Call of Duty, but the quieter more subtle moments are just as enjoyable. There’s an intense open-ended level in a KGB base in Russia that has you playing as a double agent. It’s very tense as you have to decide how to plant evidence to get access to a vault. You can do it in many ways by sneaking around restricted areas and planting things, opening things, and the various cat and mouse of everyone being on to you, but not quite knowing it’s you yet. You have to stay one step ahead and the script is well written for this. I loved this level and that was the only one like it. The final level is a repetitive mess and feels too much like previous Black Ops campaigns that made no sense, but the campaign is enjoyable albeit just way too short and underdeveloped.
When it’s all said and done you’re going to uninstall the campaign and move on to Zombies and multiplayer. Let’s get into multiplayer first. I can’t stress enough that Cold War is more arcadey than Modern Warfare. Even in the campaign, the guns don’t have the same realistic weight, quick scoping is faster, and everything feels like it’s on fast-forward. The movement is about three times as fast, there are health bars above everyone’s heads, and there are scorestreaks instead of killstreaks. It seems like chaos coming from Modern Warfare, but it’s a nice alternative to a more serious and realistic game. The UI and menu are pretty much identical to Modern Warfare with a few tweaks so you can jump right in without having to relearn where everything is. Blueprints, attachments, load-outs, and all that are still here. It just feels a bit more streamlined and maybe some fat has been shaved off. Some will like it and some will hate it.
The actual playing of the multiplayer is standard Black Ops affair. The same modes from Modern Warfare carry over like Team Deathmatch, Domination, Kill Confirmed, etc. The maps are also just as hit or miss as Modern Warfare and take some getting used to. Not everyone will be fans of these maps as they were with Modern Warfare’s launch maps. The game is faster paced and more arcade like than Modern Warfare with enemies darting across the map at an alarming and almost too hard to target speed. Sliding is extended, shooting feels less weighty, and the overall scope of the game is just faster and lighter. This isn’t something I prefer. I like the more realistic physics and weight of Modern Warfare as it makes the game a bit more tactical and slower paced, but not necessarily easier mind you. I do like the era specific weapons like the M-16, M-79, M-60, and various other weapons that have been discontinued in today’s military practices.
Most people will probably come to Black Ops for its Zombies mode though. That’s the bread and butter of this series and it doesn’t disappoint here. I won’t delve too far into this mode, but the newest features are larger maps and a weapon rarity system similar to RPGs. You’re allowed to bring in your multiplayer loadouts the first time and I liked the larger areas with the many hidden secrets. I feel like this mode needs to broken off and expanded into its own game honestly. There is also the Dead Ops top down shooter mode which is a complete waste of time. It’s boring, repetitive, and feels half-baked. At this point Black Ops is running into the ridiculous amount of modes and heading into Mortal Kombat territory for half-baked mini-games and too many ideas at once.
With that said, Cold War isn’t as good as Modern Warfare. It doesn’t feel as polished or as well thought out and honestly feels rushed. I think another year and the game could have been better if not just as good, but as it stands, Modern Warfare is still the best game in the series to date. I love the faster-paced multiplayer, it was fun and exciting, but the maps are lackluster and left me wanting more. I also got bored of the multiplayer much faster than Modern Warfare. I honestly haven’t touched the game since the week of the game’s launch. I didn’t get that excited addictive feeling of wanting more. The campaign was actually a lot of fun and really interesting, but it felt rushed and half-finished and just wasn’t long enough. There are a lot of good ideas here that didn’t get a chance to flourish and that’s quite a shame.
Well here we are, and it’s been one hell of a year. Between COVID-19 lockdowns, electronic shortages, panic shopping, and many other things that happened this will be a year for the history books. It doesn’t surprise me that even my own game awards have changed drastically due to the video game landscape shifting. I’ll explain what categories have been excluded and why, what has been added, and the overall view of video games this year.
Let’s start with what’s been removed. The biggest change we saw this year was the lack of console exclusives. These are what usually drive sales of systems, especially with a new generation of hardware launching, and there was a serious lack of them. For another year Xbox One has been excluded and it will remain that way since this is the year Microsoft announced all exclusives will be on the Xbox Series X. With a lack of handhelds this year that entire category is gone most likely forever. We have seen the dawn and dusking of dedicated handhelds, but I am also excluding mobile awards this year. Over the years mobile games’ quality has declined and there are maybe only a couple a year. The microtransaction heavy shovelware is in full force this year. Even the iOS and Android reddit pages have almost jumped ship due to this. The mobile landscape is a hot mess indeed.
With all that said, that leaves the PS4, Switch, and PC and this wasn’t the best year for exclusives for any system. Not to mention PS5 and XSX launch games were mostly ports and upgrades. This is a strange year for exclusives as we are in an in between where only a few big budget ones released and then mostly smaller ones. I am also excluding a few achievement categories such as music as there weren’t enough games whose music blew me away like previous years. Fighting games are also excluded as there just wasn’t much. It was a sad year for fighting games and every single heavy hitter was also absent outside of continued DLC. Puzzle games are also out as it was a lackluster year. Mostly just small tiny budget games that didn’t make much off an impact.
The only category I added was Best Single Player game. Single player games are making a huge comeback as gamers are getting tired of online multiplayer features never evolving. I’m actually really happy about this as we saw a ton of great single player only games this year. This year was also a heavy year of botched releases. Cyberpunk 2077, Watch Dogs Legion, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Fallout 76 Wastelanders, Horizon: Zero Dawn Complete Edition, Crysis Remastered, the list goes on! This is one of the worst years for buggy releases I have ever seen and it doesn’t seem to be trending downward.
With that said this was still a great year for gaming, and hopefully after the lockdowns lift more games can be released on a timely manner. It’s been an odd year for software and hardware developers around the world.
Atmosphere in a game is very finicky and hard to get right. The game can look and sound good and feel amazing to play, but pulling you into its world and immersing you is another thing. Very few games can do this well even the best of them out there. A game’s setting needs to fully pull in the player in every way it can and that’s visuals, storytelling, characters, art, and design.
Something about a dystopian cyberpunk universe that feels like Blade Runner just sits so well with me. This could have easily been screwed up and felt like a cybernetic GTA clone, but I felt like I was in the game and story thanks to the towering buildings, immersive characters and storytelling, and there’s a ton of detail in every corner. Lots of clutter objects, tons of messages to read throughout the game, advertisements, posters, and the vehicles. The game oozes with atmosphere more than any game this year.