Mass Effect 2 and 3 Available on Xbox One Store

Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3, two of the most critically acclaimed games of all time (despite the ending of the latter), are now available digitally on the Xbox One. While the Xbox One has had it tough lately when it comes to new games, they are continuing to build their digital library of older games that gamers yearn for. The games cost $19.99 a piece, which doesn’t include the DLC. If you already owned the titles and bought the downloadable content previously though, you’ll automatically get them free of charge, as you’ve already purchased them.

Mass Effect 2 and 3 Available on Xbox One Store

Mass Effect 2 has a 96 Metacritic score, one of the most renowned games of all time, while Mass Effect 3 has a score of a 93, which isn’t too shabby either. In fact, if the ending hadn’t needed fixing in the first place, the game may have scored even higher. If you haven’t played the Mass Effect trilogy before or a loved one hasn’t and you have an Xbox One, this would be a perfect holiday gift. The Mass Effect Trilogy is one of the best series’ in all of gaming and it’s a shame that Mass Effect Andromeda couldn’t live up to its predecessor’s legacy.

Regardless, these games are a must-have for anyone who doesn’t own them or hasn’t played them and will fill the gap with the lack of exclusive games on the Xbox One this holiday season.


Top Games of 2017 So Far

2017 has been a great year for gaming, even though there haven’t been a ton of games that I would category as quality AAA titles. Regardless of that fact, it has been a great year for gamers. A new Nintendo console released, the Nintendo Switch, and with it a plethora of high-quality games and a consistent software release schedule. Sony has also had their share of excellent exclusives, such as Horizon Zero DawnPersona 5, and NieR: Automata. Microsoft has struggled in this respect and the only noteworthy exclusives I can name that they have released this year are Forza 7 and Halo Wars 2, which is not acceptable for such a major publisher and console manufacturer. Unfortunately Microsoft is banking on the Xbox One X, but if there isn’t much to play on it, what’s the point?

There has been something for everyone this year. The holiday season will give gamers even more to be excited about. Battlefront 2 and Call of Duty WWII look especially promising. Bethesda has some great titles coming out in The Evil Within 2 and Wolfenstein II, along with Skyrim and Doom on the Nintendo Switch. That doesn’t even take into account the VR versions of SkyrimFallout 4, and Doom, two of which (Skyrim and Doom) which are coming to the PlayStation VR. It’s a great time to be a gamer and while this list will be re-visited at the end of the year, here are the top five games of 2017 up to this point.

5. Destiny 2

Destiny 2 sure is a treat. It is not merely Destiny 1.5 as some have tried to claim. It stands on its own two feet, has a much better campaign than the original, NPCs you actually develop some affection for, and great all around gameplay. The PVP is great, but the PVE is really the pinnacle of what Destiny is about, for me. I’ve fallen in love with the game and while I hope it doesn’t consume my life like the first game did (The Taken King literally had me hooked), there is a chance it will. Strikes are back, Nightfalls are back, and the weapon system has been tweaked to near perfection. One of my main complaints is that shotguns are now power weapons, but considering how powerful they are it was needed for gameplay balance. Regardless, there is so much to do in Destiny 2 and it is easily one of the best games to come out this year.

4. Persona 5

Persona 5 may well be the greatest JRPG to ever be released (although personally I love Xenoblade X). Fans have been waiting years for this game and they were not disappointed. Atlus poured their heart and soul into this game and it truly shows. What’s even more incredible, from my perspective, is that the game utilizes a turn-based combat system. So many people complain about turn-based RPGs, yet they are ready to sing Persona 5 praises. The bottom line though is that the story is superb with twists and turns, the characters are interesting, the dungeons are great, and it’s an utterly satisfying experience.

3. Horizon Zero Dawn

Horizon Zero Dawn set the tone for the PlayStation 4 this year. Hopes were incredibly high for this epic, and the developers at Guerrilla Games exceeded all expectations and then some. It even went on to be the second best selling PlayStation 4 game year-to-date, only trailing Uncharted 4. This is quite an accomplishment. Sales do not equate with quality though, but Horizon delivered on all fronts. Some like to compare Horizon to Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and although comparisons are valid, they are two different kinds of games. Horizon does have freedom of exploration but the narrative is much deeper. The exploration, puzzles, level of freedom, and game design does make Breath of the Wild superior, but honestly does that even matter? Both are incredible games and deserve recognition as two of the best games to come out this year. I’m really interested to see what they do going forward with the Horizon franchise, as the game did leave things rather open-ended.

2. NieR: Automata

I’ve been told by so many people that I need to play NieR: Automata and it was one of the best games of the year. I finally caved. While it is on Microsoft Windows, it might as well be a PlayStation 4 exclusive. NieR: Automata is an action-RPG which takes place in a dystopian future. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the story is told in a very unique way and is very satisfying. The combat is also a lot of fun and the game is very versatile and incorporates a lot of different genres. It was developed by Platinum Games and published by Square Enix and is by far my favorite Platinum game (Bayonetta included). The story drew me in, the gameplay was a lot of fun, and this is by far one of the best games of 2017.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Breath of the Wild really needs no introduction. From a gameplay standpoint it has no rival. While the main narrative is a little lackluster, there are so many great moments with NPCs and if you put the effort necessary into the game, the story actually fleshes itself out. The puzzles are some of the best in the franchise and the conventions of the Zelda franchise, as promised, were turned upside down. I hope the final DLC pack, The Champions’ Ballad, adds more to the story, as it seems that it will. The main dungeons are atypical but they’re a nice change of pace. The world map is enormous and finding shrines and other locations is a puzzle within itself which is actually really rewarding once you find what you’re looking for. The game may be the best of all-time.

While there are a lot more games coming out in 2017, there will be very few that can challenge the ones listed above. From a quality standpoint these games are the best of the best and any one of them can end up as GOTY 2017, although my money is still on Zelda.

The 2017 Xbox One Lineup is Lackluster

I own an Xbox One. Last year they had a fantastic year with releases such as Quantum Break, Forza Horizon 3, ReCore, Gears of War 4, and Dead Rising 4 to name a few. What happened? One of their major titles, Sea of Thieves, has been delayed. There has been no mention of Halo 6, and if that were coming out this year, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. In fact, I would argue it should have been shown at E3 2017. Yes, there is a new Forza game that was just released and Halo Wars 2 released earlier in the year, but besides that, there really hasn’t been much. It’s actually kind of sad, as I love my Xbox One. Frankly, there’s no excuse.

The Xbox One X is a powerhouse, but how many people (outside of hardcore gamers) are actually going to purchase it? Not to mention the fact that the naming of the console is so confusing that my local GameStop actually told me they had customers come in asking about the system and consumers were confusing the One S and the One X. This is unacceptable. In my mind, they should have just called it the Scorpio, which is a much cooler name and differentiates it from its counterparts. It feels like the Wii and the Wii U all over again.

Power is one thing, but will developers actually be able to utilize it? Microsoft has already gone on the record saying they aren’t concerning themselves with VR until it’s more viable (a huge mistake), even though the Xbox One X can more than easily handle it (it is the most powerful system to date). While Sony has come out with their own VR headset, Microsoft isn’t going down that route and is seemingly relying on third parties, such as Oculus. Now, I am very familiar with the Oculus Rift. The cords are a nightmare and to use this in a living room would be a nightmare. Microsoft should come up with their own VR headset for the Xbox One X, but aren’t (as far as we know). Again, a major mistake on their part. Sony is way ahead in this regard and there are even rumors that Nintendo will be coming out with VR for the Nintendo Switch. What’s the point in having the most powerful video console ever if you’re not going to utilize its power?

Another main point is that the Xbox One X isn’t coming out with any exclusives to the console; it will play any game in the Xbox One family. What is the point of this? If this is the case they should break from the Xbox One make it a brand new console altogether. While the performance may be enhanced on the Xbox One X from previous Xbox One games, and it may be noticeable, the average gamer won’t care. This is a system that is marketed towards the hardcore gamer and most gamers won’t see the upside. The human eye can only detect so much, so visually it may not even be as much of an upgrade as they claim. If they make a game that is optimized for the Xbox One X, just as Nintendo did with New Nintendo 3DS, they could have a disaster on their hands. There were a few games that could play on both systems (3DS), but they played horribly on the normal 3DS as opposed to the New Nintendo 3DS with all kinds of framerate problems.

Let’s be clear: I still have faith in Microsoft and the Xbox One to rectify the current predicament they are in. Things are not looking good though. If Halo 6 were coming out, that would be a different story, as that is their hallmark title (although after Halo 5, I would argue that Gears is). Instead of focusing on software, as Nintendo and Sony are with their respective consoles, Microsoft is focusing on hardware, which may be a downfall. The Switch is selling like wildfire and there is a chance that the Xbox One finishes last in this current console cycle.

Hopefully, 2018 will be a much brighter year for them and they can finally put forth some quality software that gamers actually care about.

Top Exotic Weapons in Destiny 2

Destiny 2 has been an unexpected surprise surprise. While diehard fans of the series has faith in Bungie’s ability to put together a more full, cohesive game, many did have their doubts. The narrative of the game served its purpose and the lore is deeper than before. The campaign actually makes sense, and the game seems to take inspiration from The Taken King and how that revolutionized Destiny and brought it to the forefront, finally, in the FPS/MMO genre. The game isn’t perfect, but no game is. We even did a story review of the game.

Destiny has always been about quests and powering up your gear, and Destiny 2 does not disappoint. Already, fans have found numerous exotic weapons, which are game-changer weapons, so much so that you can only wield one exotic weapon at a time. Here are our top 5 Destiny 2 exotic weapons.

5. Sweet Business

Sweet Business was the first exotic I got in Destiny 2. While it is like a fully loaded machine gun, which tends to be harder to utilize, this gun isn’t as bad as it may appear. It has a huge mag (99 rounds per if I remember), and if you pick up any ammo it will actually go right into your magazine. The gun also has increased hip accuracy, which is always a nice bonus. One downside is low ammo (compared to other assault rifles), but, Sweet Business is incredibly effective on bosses with its large magazine and the fact that shots get more and more accurate the longer you fire the gun is a huge upside. It’s definitely one of the best exotic guns in Destiny 2.

4. Mida Multi-Tool

Oh, the Mida Multi-Tool. Disdained by many, loved my many more. The Scout Rifle that seemingly everyone is complaining about yet so many people are still using (the same complainers most likely.) The weapon allows you to view your radar while still holding down the sights. Also, when the Mida Mini-Tool is equipped in the energy slot you get additional benefits. This gun has caused a lot of controversy as some feel the gun is “overused,” but, there are so many alternatives in the game and we have only begun to scratch the surface of Bungie’s Masterpiece.

3. Skyburner’s Oath

Skyburner’s Oath is a fantastic Scout Rifle for anyone who loves mid-to-long range attacks. The Weapon is very balanced, having solid impact, range, and stability. Its handling, as well as its reload speed do leave a bit to be desired. The weapon is fully automatic though and when you aim down the sights, slugs are stronger. This weapon is very effective against the Cabal, dealing extra damage, and will penetrate Phalanx shields. Enough with the stats though. The Scout Rifle feels great in your hands and will while these weapons require a little bit more skill, once a player knows how to utilize it, nothing can stand in their way.

2. The Wardcliffe Coil

The Wardcliffe Coil has a relatively high blast radius, extremely high velocity, good stability, and excellent handling. The only thing I can say is that the reload speed leaves a bit to be desired, but the volley of rockets it fires is impressive. It seems like a top-notch rocket launcher. While it may not be player’s go-to exotic in PvE, it is definitely beyond useful in both PVP and Trials. It has a huge blast radius depending on how you choose to configure your weapon and may show some shades of the Gjallahorn.

1. Sunshot

The Sunshot is not only the best hand cannon in Destiny 2, but it is also the best exotic weapon in the game. Period. As a hand cannon user myself, although I’ve switched back-and-forth since Destiny year one, I was skeptical at first when I picked this weapon up as one of my rewards from a quest (I was given a choice of three weapons.) The Sunshot, hands down, was the best of the bunch. The handling is fantastic, the reload makes it a must-have for any hand cannon user, the impact will decimate shields, and it has decent range. Not to mention that rounds literally explode, taking their allies with them in the heat of battle.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 is Better Than Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy XV has been a massive disappointment. While people thought it would be the series’ saving grace, it plunged the series into an even deeper hole. While the Final Fantasy XIII series has been blasted by critics, XIII and XIII-2 have comparable metacritic scores compared to XV. Final Fantasy XIII-2 has a 79 metacritic score, while Final Fantasy XV has an 81 score. What’s even more amusing is Final Fantasy XIII, which is criticized so heavily, has an 83 score. Yes, different times, different reviewers, but it’s still relevant. Final Fantasy XIII-2 is better than Final Fantasy XV because the characters are more engaging, the story is superior and well told, the combat is better, and it’s just more enjoyable.

Where Final Fantasy XV really falters is the narrative. The story has an interesting premise, but the story is so poorly told. Parts of the story are not even told in-game, which is an absolute joke. I should not have to watch a film and an anime series to get the full story. Put it in the game. On the other hand, Final Fantasy XIII-2’s story is fantastic. Yes, it does use a lot of the set pieces from XIII, but the time travel aspect of the game really makes the narrative shine. Final Fantasy is all about story and is one of the paramount reasons why Final Fantasy XIII-2 is better than Final Fantasy XV. The narrative isn’t sloppily put together like XV and it’s a very enjoyable tale.

Final Fantasy XV is a story about a boy band gone wrong. At least that’s what it feels like. The brotherhood aspect is understandable, but the characters are so underdeveloped and really boring. Noctis is a horrible lead character and the only member of the cast I even cared about was Ardyn; he was a fantastic villain. Final Fantasy XIII-2’s story was fantastic. It always kept you guessing what was coming next. The Historia Crux was a great way to navigate the world and keep the game from being linear. One of the major problems with XV is that it gives the illusion of an open world. Yes, you can go around and explore, but it’s nothing like Xenoblade X where you can go and explore each continent from the get go. This is what many Final Fantasy fans were hoping for and were let down. Driving the car is a total pain and the game’s story was a major let down, especially chapter 13.

The characters in Final Fantasy XIII-2 have a lot more depth than the characters in Final Fantasy XV. It’s what makes the game and is one of the reasons why Final Fantasy XIII-2 is better than Final Fantasy XV. One of the major problems with Final Fantasy XV is that there are no strong female characters. This is a huge problem; there’s no diversity. It’s just four guys traveling around in a car. XIII-2’s Serah may appear weak in the beginning of the game, but as the game goes on she shows her inner strength. There is so much character development in the game and it’s really powerful that the lead character in the game is a young woman. Noel is also a great character and and develops throughout the game and is the perfect companion for Serah. It’s also helpful that there are just two main characters compared to four in XV. Even the villain Caius has a complex motivation and while Ardyn is a great villain, I would put him on par with Caius.

The combat in Final Fantasy XV is weak. It’s full of button mashing and simply put, it’s not enjoyable. Just attempt to cast magic spells. Your party members will get caught up in the blast. Have your party members cast spells and you are most certainly to get caught up in the blast. Final Fantasy XIII-2 is better than Final Fantasy XV because the combat is better, in part. While Final Fantasy XV’s combat is more button mashing and action-adventure, Final Fantasy XIII-2 utilizes paradigms and is actually quite fun. You can either attack manually or have your characters attack automatically once you figure out the enemies’ weaknesses. Real time turn-based combat in JRPGs are almost always superior to action-type button mashing, proving once again Final Fantasy XIII-2 is better than Final Fantasy XV.

Final Fantasy XV can be an enjoyable game, but it is a huge letdown. Final Fantasy XIII-2 is superior in almost every facet, it just gets a lukewarm rap because it’s associated with the XIII series, which is actually quite good. It just has a group of vocal fans who dislike it intensely. XIII-2 is the best Final Fantasy game to come out since X, and I would argue it’s better than that game. From the characters, combat, and narrative, Final Fantasy XV is just weak. There are so many reasons why Final Fantasy XIII-2 is better than Final Fantasy XV. Come a year from now after the hype has subsided, people will rip into Final Fantasy XV like they did XIII.

Dead Rising 4 Review — The Circle is Now Complete

Frank West is back for the latest installment in Capcom’s popular Dead Rising franchise. The wisecracks, hilarity, and endless supply of zombies are still there, but the question remains if Dead Rising 4 lives up to the franchise’s name or merely drags it through the mud, again. A big deal was made of this game at E3, with Frank West even appearing in person at E3 (!) and our impressions from our short demo of the game were promising. The question remains though, did we find that it lived up to this promise in our Dead Rising 4 review?

Dead Rising 4 Review — Story

Dead Rising 4 is a breath of fresh air in the survival horror genre. The game doesn’t take its self too seriously, as evidenced by the main character Frank West, who is sarcastic, cocky, and constantly making hilarious wisecracks. The story takes place 16 years after the original zombie outbreak at Williamette, bringing the story full circle. Frank is now a renowned journalist for his coverage of the outbreak, but when he attempted to expose those responsible, he was shut down. Everything is about getting the story and Frank has some unresolved issues pertaining to this point. Now a professor, Frank teams up with his protégée Vick to get to the bottom of what is going on in Williamette, Colorado.

The Christmas theme is a nice touch, especially with its December release. The fact that the outbreak took place on Black Friday makes it all the more hilarious. There’s a hidden depth to the story though and a true mystery at hand which balances out the witty banter and ridiculousness of aspects of the story. The humor is a nice change of pace though for a zombie-centric game, contrasting nicely to The Walking Dead which is so grim.

Dead Rising 4 Review — Gameplay

The most satisfying part of Dead Rising 4 is taking on a horde of zombies and mowing them down. There are so many different weapons that you can wield/pick up, with three categories: melee, thrown, and ranged. Each has their own strengths and some of the weapons are ridiculous, in a good way, going along with the general theme of the game. There are also vehicles you can use to plow through zombies. The game is very much a hack-and-slash title, but when fighting against hordes of zombies, that is not a bad thing. To put it simply, the game is a ton of fun.

What I found most enjoyable was finding a spot with a ton of zombies laying in wait, throwing a Molotov cocktail, and then making my way through with a blaze sword and wiping them all out. It’s just cool. There are some minor glitches in the game, like zombies being stuck inside of counters and whatnot, but this is so minimal that to me it doesn’t really hold much significance. What’s also really awesome is that everyone’s experience while playing the game will be different because everyone has different styles of play and strategies. There are so many weapons to choose from.

There is also a basic skill tree where you can upgrade Frank’s abilities, such as his brawling, fortitude, shooting, and survival skills with skill points. It is rather basic, but, it works along with the leveling system. As Frank is an investigative journalist, he has a knack for taking pictures, and this is a lot of fun. There is a detective aspect to this and Frank’s camera is like something out of Batman when investigating a scene. Taking selfies with hordes of zombies in the background with Frank’s cheesy smile is priceless.

The game also has an open-world aspect complete with a map, giving the player more freedom than previous titles.

Dead Rising 4 Review — Atmosphere/Visuals and Multiplayer

One of the places where Dead Rising 4 really shines is in its atmosphere. It takes place during the holidays. The music is festive and eerily vibes well, ironically, with the grotesqueness of bashing in the brains of thousands of zombies. There’s a kind of humor to it, that again, is really the heart of the game. The town of Williamette is lit up with Christmas decorations and is beautiful, minus the zombie infestation. The game looks great and the re-imagined Williamette is everything fans could ask for and more. The fact that a good portion of it takes place in a shopping mall is so fitting, filled with holiday cheer. It is the perfect holiday game, literally.

There is also a multiplayer mode. The game is really a single-player experience, but the multiplayer mode is a nice touch. It allows you to play with three friends in a co-op mode outside of the main story and complete objectives. While it may be a disappointment there is no co-op campaign, the multiplayer doesn’t feel forced and is executed well.

Dead Rising 4 Review — Going Back to the Beginning

Dead Rising 4 really does go back to the series’ roots. It’s not a perfect game, but it’s a really fun game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. As fun is something that Video Game Culture HQ values a great deal, we thoroughly enjoyed this game. The atmosphere and setting of the game is so fitting considering its holiday release, and it contrasts nicely to the ridiculousness of the whole thing. The game is a breath of fresh air in the zombie genre. It brings the series full circle, and as Darth Vader once said, “The circle is now complete.”

This couldn’t be more true in this case.

Thank you to Microsoft Studios for providing Video Game Culture HQ a review copy of Dead Rising 4.

Video Game Culture HQ — 2016 GOTY

2016 was a great year in gaming following a rather lackluster couple of years. This year we really saw this console cycle come into its own with original content after a few years of non-stop remasters. It made people excited about gaming again. The announcement of the Nintendo Switch only exacerbated this excitement. With so many great titles coming out it is always difficult to narrow a list down, but these are the best games from 2016, our 2016 GOTY.

2016 GOTY — Most Underrated Game: Zero Time Dilemma

Zero Time Dilemma was the final installment in the Zero Escape series, and it included the best puzzles and the best narrative in the series to date. While it may not have been on everybody’s radar, it was one of the best games to come out in 2016 and is more than deserving to be recognized as one of 2016’s GOTY candidates.

2016 GOTY — Most Disappointing: Uncharted 4

Yes, Uncharted 4 has been heralded by some as the second coming. In reality, it’s just an OK game. The narrative is slightly intriguing, but at the end of the day it isn’t a great video game, and that is what matters most in the end. The combat is very robust and it is incredibly repetitive. It is a shame because it had the chance to allow the PlayStation 4 to shine, but instead it fell flat on its face.

2016 GOTY — Best RPG: Pokemon Sun/Moon

Nintendo pulled out all the stops for Pokemon’s 20th anniversary, first with Pokemon GO and then with Pokemon Sun/Moon. Pokemon Sun and Moon saw both a revival and reinvention of the series. The formula was mixed up and created an enjoyable experience for both old players and new. The addictive nature of the gameplay is still there and the abundance of old and new Pokemon present, with a twist, is a nice touch. Pokemon has gone back to its roots in many respects which is why Pokemon Sun/Moon is the best RPG to come out in 2016.

 2016 GOTY: Best Action/Adventure Game: Quantum Break

Many considered Quantum Break to be a disappointment, but it was one of the best games of the year, even if it was overshadowed. The gameplay was a lot of fun and it had a really fascinating story. While there were many other Action/Adventure games out there, Quantum Break was unique and a breath of fresh air. This is why it was the best of its genre in 2016.

2016 GOTY — Best Shooter: Gears of War 4

Gears of War 4 was one of the most anticipated games of the year. The Coalition had some huge shoes to fill in Epic Games’ wake, but they didn’t falter. Gears of War 4 brought something old yet something new in terms of both story and gameplay. The game played great, the story was fantastic but not too heavy, and it was one of the most satisfying experiences of 2016.

2016 GOTY — Best Handheld: Zero Time Dilemma

Zero Time Dilemma was released on the Nintendo 3DS and the PlayStation Vita. Given the limited amount of resources available for development, it’s astounding the game turned out the way it did. So much has been and will be said about the game, but there is a reason why it was the best handheld title of 2016.

2016 GOTY — Best Multiplayer Experience: Gears of War 4

Gears has become the face of Xbox and while the campaign was fantastic, the multiplayer was just as good. With co-operative multiplayer returning such as the renowned Horde mode being revamped (for the better) as well as competitive multiplayer returning with a few new modes, it’s by far the most satisfying multiplayer experience of the year. Gears multiplayer went back to its roots, which is a good thing. That, coupled with new and old maps alike, make it the best multiplayer experience of 2016.

2016 GOTY — Best Narrative: Zero Time Dilemma

Zero Time Dilemma’s story had a lot to live up to. It had to wrap up a trilogy and multiple plot points in a very story-driven series. It passed with flying colors. The story is the best of the year and arguably one of the best stories in gaming, period. It has a perfect balance of philosophy, science fiction, and most importantly, character development. The characters dominate ZTD and make the game what it is, even with the philosophy and science fictional elements thrown in. No story can succeed without a complex, interesting cast of characters. Zero Time Dilemma has just that and ends the series on a superb note.

2016 GOTY — 2016 Game of the Year: Zero Time Dilemma

There were so many quality games to come out this year. This was not an easy choice, but when it came down to it Zero Time Dilemma was the best game to come out in 2016. It had the perfect balance of gameplay and story. The puzzles in the game are second to none and really make you think. The story tugs at your heart. It is an excellent commentary on the human condition while still maintaining the indentity of a video game, which shows just how far the medium has come, making it 2016’s Game of the Year.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments!