Despite my lukewarm response upon its initial release in 2008, I have kept up the tradition of playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare exclusively during the winter holiday season for years now. There’s something incredibly satisfying about the arcade-style, fast-paced FPS action that keeps me coming back. Although the military propaganda and gun violence stand in stark contrast to the traditional Christmas aesthetic, I find it fills a hole in my holiday spirit that can only be satisfied by hiding from relatives and repeatedly queuing for Shipment over and over.
To make things better, the original Modern Warfare had holiday-specific maps and special effects. “Ho! Ho! Ho!” signals the coming of Santa on his sleigh, ready to airstrike your opponent’s position at your command. On specific holiday-themed maps, players explode in puffs of red and green smoke and snowflakes. Lots of games have holiday content, but there’s something oddly appealing about the way that the original Modern Warfare decked the halls despite it being over a decade old and glorifying US military imperialism.
Taking advantage of the influx of new players around the holidays is definitely a perk, but there must be a reason I’m not coming back to Counter-Strike: GO, Apex Legends, or other, more modern FPS to get my fix. What about COD: MW has created this permanent connection in my mind with an otherwise wholesome human holiday?
It could certainly be the map familiarity, but if that was the only case I would be playing cs_office or de_dust on a 24/7 server instead. My previously established legacy skill could be another factor, but I am traditionally a PC player, am currently playing Call of Duty on my PlayStation 4, and have a tough time mastering the controller.
After wondering why I’ve associated Call of Duty with Christmas for years, I think I may finally have a grasp on the situation. First, I suspect that for something to be considered a guilty pleasure, it would have to be outside of the norm for that specific individual. For myself, jumping over to Call of Duty from Counter-Strike, Unreal Tournament, and Quake 3 Arena was enough of a step out of my comfort zone to qualify. Now that I’ve come to love Modern Warfare, playing it on a console brings back fond memories of grinding for prestige over holiday breaks when I was younger.
The instant gratification of Call of Duty’s signature arcade-style approach to FPS also helps keep the good times rolling when combined with soy eggnog and Christmas cheer. Explosive damage, the potential for racking up huge killstreaks, and near-instant respawn timers help grease the wheels a bit, making the bad times feel less bad while accentuating the good times with flashing lights and fanfare. Being able to turn my brain off, not feel as invested in my kill/death ratio, and relax while fragging randos online is my Christmas guilty pleasure, I guess.
I hope you’ve had a very happy holiday and an eventful New Year!
‘Tis the season to reflect on the past 11 months, including all of the games we’ve played along the way. With everything else going on in the world around us, it’s sometimes nice to focus on the things that bring us together through mutual enjoyment and appreciation. Since I’m not a stickler for rules, I’ll be extending this out to any games I’ve played this year, not just those released within the last four quarters. Keep in mind that these are purely based on my opinions and are limited to games I’ve personally played firsthand. Enjoy!
Best Fighting Game – Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid
Runner’s Up: Tekken 7, Under Night In Birth Exe: Late [st], Smash Bros Ultimate, Fighting EX Layer, Fate Stay: Unlimited Codes, Battle High 2 A+
There is a reason why there are a lot less categories in my list this year than normal and that reason is Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid. Not only would it win Underdog of the Year, Best DLC of the Year, and Best Updates of the Year, but Battle for the Grid is also an amazing fighting game to boot! This little fighting game has had its fair share of ups and downs since its release, but the developers have proved that they’re willing to work on improving the game and providing amazing additional content as the community grows and the competitive landscape develops. If you’re a fan of versus-style fighting games, the Power Rangers franchise, or labbing combos in kusoge fighters, Power Rangers: BftG is well worth your time.
Best Multiplayer Game – Guild Wars 2
Runner’s Up: Apex Legends, AutoChess, World of Warcrat (Vanilla), Overcooked
Rarely does an MMORPG recapture my attention as swiftly and as totally as Guild Wars 2 did this year. I played the game upon its original release and a little bit after the release of Heart of Thorns, but a recent surge in players due to frequent updates drew a group of my friends and me in for another go. It’s hard to say how much of my experiences playing Guild Wars 2 were due to the game itself or instead due to the thrill of playing an MMO with a group of friends, but either way, it’s well deserving of the best multiplayer experience I’ve had this year.
Best Party Game – Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Runner’s Up:Gubs, Fighting EX Layer, Overcooked, Wipeout Omega Collection
First thing’s first, Super Smash Bros. is, and has always been, a fighting game. It also happens to be a kick ass game to throw on during a party to beat the crap out of your friends. With Ultimate staying true to its name, the latest release in the franchise acts as a kitchen sink collection of classic video game IPs, a playable video game museum of sorts. Not only does this version have the largest roster and the most guest characters, but the gameplay stands out by improving on the gameplay formula and adding even more features than I thought was possible. To top it all off, the Switch allows for portable Smash Bros., making the game even more mobile and suited for bringing to your friends house to jam a few sets or play with all of your friends.
As a game designer, I try to keep myself up-to-date on all of the latest releases, especially those developed by the legendary Richard Garfield. In an attempt to recreate some of the industry disruption brought about by the release of Magic: the Gathering, Mr. Garfield’s Keyforge provides a completely unique style of competitive card game limited format. Instead of buying booster packs and drafting a deck, Keyforge allows players to buy an entirely distinct deck of their own, randomly assembled by an algorithm to create one that is wholly unique. What may sound like a shallow gimmick at first only serves to complement what is an incredibly engaging and interesting strategic card game, similar in many ways to Magic: the Gathering without all of the superfluous crap weighing it down.
Best Game Narrative – What Remains of Edith Finch
Runner’s Up: Life is Strange: Before the Storm, Guild Wars 2, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
No spoilers. I’m a huge fan of the rise in popularity of walking simulators, given that I cut my teeth on Myst and Zork back in the day, but I’m not often as taken aback as I was with Editch Finch. What started out as a quirky, narrative driven game about a young girl (think Gone Home) ended up being a surprisingly cerebral, intimate, and even scary adventure. There are some scenes in Editch Finch that I can’t say I have ever seen or experienced in a video game before and that’s not something I’ll ever forget.
Best Art Direction – Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
Runner’s Up: Final Fantasy XII: the Zodiac Age, Marvel’s Spiderman (2018), Katana Zero, Baba Is You, Tekken 7
I’ve never been a fan of the Assassin’s Creed series, especially given how many were released within the last decade, but my girlfriend is a fan and helped reintroduce me to the series by way of the Ezio Collection and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. While the RPG elements give me pause when backstabbing a higher leveled enemy results in them shrugging it off like a mosquito bite, the game stands out as one of the most gorgeous pieces of interactive artwork there is on the market. If there is a title that shows the power of a console generation, this game might be it for me and the PlayStation 4.
Game of the Year – World of Warcraft (Vanilla)
Runner’s Up:Guild Wars 2, Super Smash Bros: Ultimate, Tekken 7, Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid, God of War
I’m going to cheat a little bit, given that I’ve never actually played World of Warcraft Classic. What I have played, however, is World of Warcraft prior to the release of The Burning Crusade, also known as Vanilla WoW. I’m reserving this top slot specifically for World of Warcraft Classic because, prior to this year, I would never have imagined that the re-release of a 15 year old MMORPG would not only warrant the attention of the gaming community at large, but also dominate the video game media landscape.
Obviously, this runs completely contrary to what Blizzard executives had told fans repeatedly as an excuse to not release vanilla servers in the past. It’s at least a little cathartic to be able to say that the smug developers who tried to gaslight their fans were dead wrong, not to mention that they were also missing a huge financial opportunity that they’re only now cashing in on to help save their franchise.
And save the franchise it did! Ever since its announcement, the MMORPG community has been buzzing about what precedent World of Warcraft Classic might set for other retro MMOs. I even took a dip back into the vanilla server scene to see whether it was worth investing in the final product. For a game that’s selling point is that it is an unchanged version of a game released in 2004, being able to once again control the community’s attention is an astounding feat. Being able to do so despite Blizzard having to be dragged kicking and screaming through the entire process only makes things even more impressive.
All in all, I hesitate to award the Game of the Year to a game developed by Blizzard Entertainment, who cowardly threw their players and community under the bus instead of standing up for democracy and the right to peaceful protest. In this case, however, I consider World of Warcraft Classic a win for the fan base, as much as it will continue to enrich a company I don’t think deserves anymore of my money. The fans of Vanilla WoW have been playing the game without Blizzard for years and will continue to do so without them. The difference is that this time they finally learned to trust their fans rather than trying to convince them that they know better.
Rarely am I as excited for a whodunit murder mystery as I was after watching the trailer for Rian Johnson’s latest film, Knives Out. As revealed in the trailer, the story loosely revolves around the death of a famous murder mystery writer after his 85th birthday. His family was visiting over that night, leaving each of them as a potential suspect. To make things more interesting, the detective who is on the case has been hired by someone anonymously to find the killer.
With a star-studded cast, including Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Chris Evans, Knives Out takes a slightly lighter heart approach to the genre, leaving you laughing just as much as trying to piece together the puzzle or watching the legendary Detective Blanc at work. The characters are perfectly cast, giving added credibility to each of them as potential killers.
Although the genre is known for its twists and turns as clues are discovered, Knives Out takes this formula to whole new level and managed to thrill me despite my best efforts to stay ahead of the plot and potential foreshadowing. This is the kind of script that caused me to spend much of Knives Out’s run time wishing I was clever enough to write it.
Without spoiling too much, Knives Out knows exactly what you think it is and will pull you along for a wild ride that borrows cues from several other types of stories to create something surprisingly unique and memorable. I’d suggest a watch, even if you’re not the biggest fan of whodunit stories to begin with. You will not be disappointed.
As apprehensive as I was to give Jeff Bezos another dollar, Amazon’s marketing campaign for their latest origin series, The Boys, worked like a charm. After watching the trailer (where a Flash-esque superhero accidentally runs into a citizen at Mach-speed, turning her instantly into jelly), I was immediately intrigued. The theme of superheroes pushed to the brink and forced to contend with real-world consequences may not be new, but The Boys treads familiar ground in a way that both pays homage to classic comic book stories while also exploring lots of new ideas due to a significant change in perspective and a much darker tone. That same tone and focus on adult situations may also be a deal-breaker for a few, but anyone who can wince through the gory special effects is in for a thrilling and thought-provoking ride.
The Boys quickly introduces us to its main character, Hughie, who is as goofy and awkward as his name suggests. A traditional fish out of water story quickly ratchets up the stakes as our protagonist’s girlfriend is accidentally killed right before his eyes (remember that girl I mentioned earlier?), which sends him on a quest for revenge against the most popular superheroes of the city, The Seven. Hughie ends up joining a group of criminal vigilantes called the Boys who collectively seek justice against the superhumans. This comic book adaptation could have easily been another “what if Superman was bad?” story beat-for-beat, but instead, it took plenty of opportunities to explore just how brutal and bizarre the world would actually be with superheroes flying about.
Like any good ensemble superhero story, the characters are the core of the plot in The Boys. There is no giant laser beam in the sky or evil alien empire menacing Earth. It turns out that superheroes would be total dicks if they were real, and The Boys pulls no punches in explaining just how corrupt they would become in modern-day corporate-run America. The fact that this series was released in 2019 is no accident, and the political and philosophical overtones are both pertinent to today’s issues and expressed eloquently enough to not be patronizing.
Homelander, this story’s amalgamation of Captain American and Superman, is a perfect poster boy for a series intent on exploring complex topics such as nationalism, morality, war, religion, sexism, and corporate greed. He’s the asshole that you love to hate, but that doesn’t mean that our protagonists are much better off. Hughie’s mentor, played by Kyle Urban, is the quintessential foul-mouthed anti-hero. We’re clearly meant to cheer for the namesake group of vigilantes, but The Boys rack up quite a body count as well. Frenchie and Mother’s Milk round out the rest of the crew, making for a large range of interesting characters who each get their own room to breath in the complex world that the show presents. Out of all of them, however, Hughie ended up being my favorite given his propensity for transforming his own incompetence into a form of superpower when things start to go south.
As is expected of a modern show with significant financial backing, The Boys doesn’t wrap up all of the questions it poses by the finale, expecting the story to continue through for another season. What we do get, however, is a satisfying ending that made me want to rewatch past episodes to find any clues I might have missed. If the goal of the show was to make me want to immediately read the comics, it’s done its job in spades. The fact that I was already knee-deep in Wikipedia articles before I finished the last episode should tell you something about how far I’ve fallen into the rabbit hole.
If you’re looking for a raunchy, gory, thoroughly adult-themed superhero show to binge and you already have an Amazon Prime subscription, I recommend you take the time to watch the series from beginning to end. The Boys won’t be for everyone, but those who can stomach what it has to offer will enjoy its complex and dynamic characters, thrilling plot, and twists and turns that will keep you smashing “Next Episode” after every shocking cliffhanger.
Hey y’all! I’ve been busy playing a lot of Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid lately, so I decided to create a few touch of death combo videos for my new team of Jason (Red Ranger), Goldar, and Udonna. I hope you enjoy these as much as I enjoyed making them:
Goldar 100% Damage Corner Combo
I recently picked up Goldar because of his assist, oppressive normals, and flight shenanigans. His damage potential in the corner is pretty on par for the cast, but his power in the neutral by himself or as an assist makes him stand out. This combo takes advantage of Jason’s OTG assist.
Udonna 100% Damage Corner Combo
Udonna has been my girl since day 1, but patch v0.6 has given her a lot of new tools to keep up with the rest of the cast. She can now combo after her super and OTG with her forward special and sweep.
Jason (Red Ranger) 100% Damage Combo
Like Goldar, I picked up Jason recently because he’s easy to use, deals tons of damage, and has lots of utility as an assist. This combo can start anywhere and leads to your opponent dying for 3 bars and a Goldar assist.
I highly suggest you try out Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid if you enjoy the Rangers franchise, versus-style fighting games, or fun and flexible combo systems. Check it out!