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31 Days of Horror – ‘Stranger Things: The Game’ is a Great Nod to 1980s Gaming

If you’ve ever wanted to explore the town of Hawkins, wait no more. Stranger Things: The Game is a fun new adventure available for both iOS and Android that combines the characters, setting and creepy vibes from the Netflix smash hit series with a simplistic control scheme that makes it easy to learn, but difficult to master.
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Can the Switch revitalize Nintendo?

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The recent handheld console market hasn’t been the most successful. Sony’s PSVita was a failure because it lacked the power to deliver on the “home console in your hand” promise. Nintendo’s own WiiU failed because, well, it just wasn’t that great either, offering slightly better graphics than the original Wii, but with the clunky WiiU controller. The outstanding 3DS is an outlier, but mainly because it plays Pokemon and Mario really well, and offers graphics akin to the Super Nintendo, which isn’t exactly stressing the hardware – we don’t expect it to look like a next-gen console.

So when Nintendo finally announced its new home console – the Nintendo Switch – on Thursday, we finally got to see what it was all about. Read the rest of this entry

Empowering and Relevant, New Series “Pitch” Starts Strong

With a strong plot and great characters, Pitch gets off to a good start in its pilot episode. Read more after the jump!

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Mat Langford’s Gaming World – Shadow of the Beast PS4 – Review

I’ve never played the original Shadow of the Beast (Amiga, 1989), but from what I’m told, this game is a pretty faithful remake. It’s a short play – roughly 3 hours on normal – but it’s an enjoyable mix of counter-based combat and side-scrolling platforming.

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Ratchet and Clank PS4 – Review

Ratchet and Clank is one of the most fun games I’ve played all year. It’s not long – about 6-10 hours depending on how much of a perfectionist you are – but it’s chalk full of great gameplay and fun and interesting characters.

ratchet-038-clank-ps4-8211-pokitaru-gameplay-reboot Read the rest of this entry

Mat Langford’s Gaming World – Street Fighter V Review

When we got our review copy of Street Fighter V, I immediately thought who better to review it than Jett Landicho, my partner in crime from our Recurring Bosscast days. He’s got his own blog at www.inthirdperson.com and has personally logged over 2,000 hours combined on all versions of SFIV across PS3, PS4 and Xbox 360. He’s the #1 ranked Rose and #2 ranked Evil Ryu in Ultra Street Fighter IV on PS4 as of February 12, 2016 and even participated in the T12 and Toryuken tournaments. It’s a pleasure to welcome him as a guest writer here at Biff Bam Pop.

So ladies and gents, here’s Jett Landicho.

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After almost a decade of iterative “Super­Ultra­Arcade­Edition­v. 2012” updates to Street Fighter IV, Capcom hits the reset button with Street Fighter V. While Ryu will continue to throw fireballs and smash jaws with uppercuts, pretty much everything else about how the game looks and plays has been completely overhauled. Out now for the PlayStation 4 and PC, is it time to move the fight over to this new battleground?

When you first boot up the game, you’ll be treated to a tutorial; a first for the franchise. Taking place during the Street Fighter Alpha timeline, you’ll learn how to play the game as Ryu while he’s sparring with Ken. I love how the tutorial directly ties into the story and the fact that Capcom has finally put in some effort towards teaching players how to play the game within the game itself. A novel concept, I know.

However, it covers the bare minimum of what you’ll need to know, stopping short of teaching you how to perform special moves and woefully short of how to actually play the game with any sort of competency. A Challenge Mode is set to be released in March, which hopefully contains more specific tips on how to improve. As of writing though, the paltry in­game teaching tools fall well short of those found in its competitors like Killer Instinct, Skullgirls and Guilty Gear Xrd.

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Here’s to hoping that this free Challenge Mode update scheduled for release in March addresses this deficiency, as players who aren’t fluent in the series already will need to consult with outside help for guidance.

Graphically, you’ll be treated to a great looking game that moves at a solid 60 frames per second. While it retains the 3D graphical approach and general art direction of Street Fighter IV, the graphics have been completely redone in Unreal Engine 4, giving the game its own visual identity. The extra level of fidelity makes it easier to see the pain an opponent feels when they take a punch to the gut, while it’s hard to ignore the ways in which Necalli’s dreadlocks naturally sway during the course of battle. One of my favourite touches is the way that certain moves have different recovery animations based on whether the move successfully hits or is blocked, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen in any other fighting game before. Little touches like those add to the immersion in ways I’ve never really thought about.

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You’ll enter the battle as one of 16 available combatants. Of those, 8 are mainstays you would expect, 4 are returning characters that haven’t been seen in awhile, and the remaining 4 are fresh faces. For the likes of Ryu, Ken, and Chun­Li, I love the fact that they’ve all been given new moves, abilities and combos to master. In some cases, like Vega or Birdie, they’ve been reworked so heavily that they’re essentially brand new characters. As for Rashid, Necalli, Laura and F.A.N.G, these new characters ooze with personality while providing players with new techniques to smack the opposition with. This initial group provides players with a lot of diversity in terms of play styles.

The cast will only get bigger with time, as Capcom has already announced that six more characters will be released over the course of 2016. The good news is that if you have enough Fight Money, the game’s in­game currency that is earned by playing the game, you can unlock these additional characters for free. However, if you’re strapped for digital cash or you don’t have the patience to earn more, you can just buy them the old fashioned way. It’s great that Capcom gives players the ability to earn it for free, even if it’s going to take some work to accumulate enough Fight Money for your purchases.

Once it’s time to throw down, you’re in for a treat. All of the fireball tossing and dragon punching action you’d expect remains, though it’s only gotten better as Capcom has rebuilt the combat engine from the ground up. Casual players will appreciate the adjustments made to input timing that make combos easier than ever to perform. Meanwhile, series veterans will appreciate the myriad of ways it improves upon the past game.

One of my favourite new wrinkles to the action is that players cannot lose a round unless they take a clean hit or are forced to block a super move. This means that if you’re down to a sliver of life, your opponent can’t force you to eat the chip damage from a blocked fireball and call it a day. Instead, they’re going to have to earn the win by making contact, which can be a lot harder when the pressure is on. Conversely, you’re never truly out of a fight if you can play great defense. Adjustments like this help make this feel like the purest form of the franchise since Street Fighter II.

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The biggest new addition to the gameplay is the V­Gauge. Built up by taking damage, you can use this resource to perform two different moves: a V­Reversal and a V­Trigger. The former allows you to burst out of a high­ pressure situation by spending a portion of your meter. The latter uses your whole meter and its effect varies from character­to­character. For Ryu, he enters a charged­up state where he can throw electrified fireballs at his foes. Other V­Triggers are one­time moves such as Nash’s teleport. Both tools are great to have when the going gets tough, though those two maneuvers alone won’t completely change your fortune. Having said that, if you’re playing well and have these abilities in your back pocket, they might be the moves that help you complete a comeback.

Another new aspect of the game that is tied to the V­Gauge are V­Skills. Activated by pressing medium punch and medium kick simultaneously, your character will perform a unique move that also builds meter. For example, executing Ryu’s V­Skill causes yu to perform a parry. This sort of acts like a replacement for Focus Attacks in Street Fighter IV, which unsuccessfully tried to shoehorn every character into a specific mechanic. Instead, V­Skill moves are custom designed to improve each character in ways that make sense for them.

Street Fighter V is designed with online play in mind. You can now set the game so that it’s constantly searching for ranked or casual matches to put you in at all times, even when you’re navigating through menus. This helps minimize your downtime between matches. You can also

create lobbies, though they’re currently capped at only 2 players. A free update to the game will be made in March to support larger player counts and Spectator mode.The biggest improvement to the online experience is that the game is now running on GGPO-style rollback netcode. This better ensures that your button presses are registered at the right times, even when the connection isn’t optimal. Thanks to this, Street Fighter V performs much better online than its predecessor.

Most of my matches ran really well with no noticeable hiccups, even when squaring off against opponents outside of North America. During the few instances where things go awry, you’ll experience a rewind effect where the game will overwrite a specific  moment in the match so that both players are in sync. It can be frustrating at times when you see your attack work, only to have the game take that back and show it being blocked, but this happens so infrequently that it’s not a big deal. Overall, online warriors are going to love playing on this new setup, as it does an admirable job of keeping the integrity of your inputs intact.

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Another huge benefit to this new game is cross­ platform play. Whether you’ve purchased the game on the PlayStation 4 or PC, you’ll all be able to square off against each other as part of one unified ecosystem. Playing it on the Sony console, I never noticed any difference between opponents on either platform. This also means one unified leaderboard, allowing you to truly see where you rank in relation to the rest of the world. Not having to worry about you or your friends being left out because they bought it on different platforms is also a huge plus.

Save for a few nitpicky things, you’re getting a pretty comprehensive multiplayer package out of the box. As for solo players hoping for something more substantial than a traditional Arcade Mode, there’s good and bad news. Capcom has shown a trailer for the single player campaign, which will feature fully ­animated cutscenes and voice acting. Maybe I’m projecting a bit, but it appears to be their answer to the excellent campaigns that NetherRealm Studios have been including in their Mortal Kombat games. Sadly, we won’t know for sure until it’s released later this year as a free update.

Instead, you’ll get access to a Character Story mode. Each character gets a mini story­arc that outlines their path into the big campaign that will be released later this year. The experience is about 15 minutes long per character, with two or three fights, while featuring static artwork and full voice acting in between. As an alternative to a traditional Arcade mode, I like how this better ties your actions with the story. However, the actual stories themselves are pretty rudimentary, providing little in actual entertainment value. The computer is also a complete pushover, so the fights themselves aren’t even that engaging. Even if you don’t skip each scene, I was able to beat every Character Story in one sitting. That campaign mode can’t come soon enough, as his is a rather sad alternative.

Solo­ only players and those who demand better teaching tools may want to wait until Capcom releases their promised updates to address both issues. But for everyone else that’s interested in duking it out with their friends or other online warriors, don’t hesitate to pick up Street Fighter V. Rebuilt from the ground­ up, this game out of the box offers a fresh and refined take on this storied franchise that casual and hardcore players will love for years to come. Also, since Capcom has a support plan in place for free system ­level updates and unlockable characters, this is a package that should only get better with time.

Fan Expo 2015: Gaming, The Vibe, SiriusXM and Mads Mikkelsen, oh my!

The end of summer just wouldn’t be complete without the return of Fan Expo. It’s Canada’s answer to San Diego Comic-Con, including big name celebs, lots to see and do, and lines. Lots of lines.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Over the past two years, under new ownership, Fan Expo has done an excellent job at getting people in and out of the North and South Buildings of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. There were years where convention goers were stuck outside for hours at a time waiting to get in. It was horrible, and certainly not fun for the fans. But those issues became more prominent as the festival continued to get bigger and outgrew utilizing only one building. With two, yes, there’s still throngs of people to navigate through, but the experience is far, far better than it was a few years ago.  Read the rest of this entry

Fan Expo 2015 – Project Morpheus, Star Wars Battlefront, Uncharted and more…

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I haven’t been to a Fan Expo in a few years, so when I got the tap on the shoulder from our fearless leader Andy Burns to head to Fan Expo 2015 to get the scoop on the new Playstation offerings, I was stoked. I love the atmosphere at these events – Fan Expo in particular. The cosplay, the games, the freebies…it always adds up to a great overall experience.

In a turn of luck, I arrived a bit late to my Playstation tour – after a bit of a mix-up – to find out that I was gonna go through with none other than ex-EP Daily host Shaun Hatton, who I watched all the time on TV (and who also throws an awesome party called Nerd Noise Night every year in TO coinciding with the expo). We met up with Robert and Maria from Media Profile and Richard from Playstation and the tour was on! Read the rest of this entry

Batman: Arkham Knight – First Impressions

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What time is it? Batman time.

Damn delivery guy.

As I waited in the office yesterday for my copy of Arkham Knight to arrive, I actually caught myself counting the minutes. And then there he was: “Delivery for Mat Langford!”. I took the package and shook it, stating, “This sounds like an Arkham Knight!”.

“You know who the Arkham Knight is right?” the delivery guy asks. I’m not sure if it was simple elation from knowing that my game was here on time – after a bit of a mix-up with Best Buy – or simply not paying attention. But without thinking I blindly…nay, stupidly, asked, “Who?”

Before the word left my mouth, I knew that it was too late.

“__________!”

And there it was. Well, I kind of figured it anyway, but at least I had some shred of mystery there until this moment.

Damn delivery guy. Read the rest of this entry

Mat Langford’s Gaming World – Tomb Raider

Admittedly, I’ve not been a huge fan of the Tomb Raider series. I’ve played a few of the older titles, and I have the collection on Steam, but it’s never been much more than a filler in my gaming library; a series that ‘I’ll play through one day‘.

That being said, I was immediately intrigued at the early mentions of a TR reboot, one that would show us the origin story of our historically disproportionate heroine and give her more of a gritty, vulnerable feel. The final product, simply called Tomb Raider, is not only a staggeringly beautiful action adventure game, but its combination of visuals, stealth/action gameplay and story also serves to reinvigorate a series and a character that were becoming stale.

Lara’s character development is front and center.

Lara’s character development is front and center.

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