Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I’ve finally embraced my oldmaness and didn’t “celebrate” this year. My liver is thanking me today.

News broke last week that Canada is getting a bit of a squeeze when it comes to the new consoles and new games. Some brick and mortar retailers have bumped up the price of the PS4 from $400 to $450, and some unreleased games have been spotted at $70 vs. the traditional $60 (Destiny at EB Games, for example).

What’s a consumer to do? Well, shop around for one. Amazon still has games at their “normal” price – here’s Destiny again. You can also buy digitally for cheaper. Most importantly, you can vote with your wallet: Refuse to pay these new prices, and retailers will be forced to rethink their pricing model. Just look what happened to Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground ZeroesKonami responded to feedback and cut prices.

So, considering that pressure can be put on prices either due to international influence (like the weak CAD), or higher next-gen development costs… What do you think of these new pricing structures we’ve been seeing? Fair? Unfair? 

Thursday, 2:53 pm – Ricky

Great points on pricing, Gavin – we sure weren’t quick to drop prices on the back of the strong CAD. Some retailers are resisting – I’ve found a local shop that’s still planning to sell Infamous: Second Son at $60 vs. $70 found at bigger retailers. That said, it sounds like Sony Canada has put the hammer down on console and accessory pricing, and that’s pretty disappointing.

Speaking of Infamous, reviews are pretty great so far! Looks like this is the PS4s killer app, and only 4 months after launch. Of course, if you’re looking for a large library to dive into, you’re probably going to be left wanting, but if you like superhero games and the Infamous series in particular, there’s no better time to jump on the Ps4 train.

I’m going to be holding off for the time being – like matt, I have a ton of games to play from my backlog, including The Last of Us, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and South Park: The Stick of Truth, all of which are currently in my rotation. With my new basement all set up, Last of Us will soon be completed! I can then turn back to a proper sneaky-sneaky game and a happy-laughy game.  

Wednesday, 1:20 pm – matt

I agree the dollar thing sucks, I posted about it on my own site because while it is not the first industry to see prices rise due to our weaker loonie, it certainly wont be the last (which certainly worries a proud Canadian like myself because Gavin mentioned that unfortunately the U.S is the standard). I hate to think what will happen in the NHL, which does have the majority of teams south of our border, the revenue and market still comes from Canadians. We were able to bring the Jets back to Winnipeg, the smallest hockey market in the NHL due to the strong dollar. Now that that it’s no longer the case, will Winnipeg be able to afford their team going forward? Will Microsoft up their already overpriced XBONE as well? Will Nintendo be able to swoop in and push a (MUCH) lower priced system now and reclaim some of that old Wii thunder for the U?

On a side note, I seem to be building quite a backlog of games myself for the PS VITA. currently I have over 8 games installed on the system, and with the PS+ program continually giving me more free games, well, the list just grows. Sure, just because a game is free doesn’t mean I’ll play it, but being a portable system my time with it is nowhere near that of the PS4 or Xbox 360 so any game that gets downloaded already has a few titles in the way that need “clearing” before I can justifiably move on. Not only that but the VITA plays AAA titles, indie games commonly find testing ground on the VITA, and oh yeah, I can play my entire library of PS4 games while on the go through system link adding even more gaming options.

Dammit.

VITA titles:
TEARAWAY | NFS RIVALS | METAL GEAR HD | HOT SHOTS | BRAIN AGE | UNIT 13 | SPELUNKY | OLLIOLLI | METALGEAR PSONE | FF7 | FF9 | UNCHARTED | LBP |

Monday, 1:32 pm – Gavin

To be honest, I don’t necessarily have a problem with Sony putting prices up if the Canadian dollar is doing poorly against the US dollar.  The US dollar appears to be the world standard, and that’s fine.  But if you’re going to do that, you damn well better price things accordingly when the US dollar is weaker than the Canadian dollar, which Sony didn’t do last time the dollar was stronger.

The optics of this are poor.  When the PS4 was released, it was when the CAD was $1.04 to the USD $1.00.  Now, it’s $1.10 CAD.  I understand that the value is different, but honestly, when is the last time that a console saw a price INCREASE?

And also, be mindful that pricing things thusly is going to create an underground economy and a lot of cross-border shopping.  If I can just pop over the border to Buffalo and pick up a game or system cheaper than I can here, I’ll do it.  I’m currently in the market for headphones, and looking at Amazon.com, not .ca, I can order a nice pair of headphones for $150, pay for international shipping and customs, and it’s still $160 cheaper than buying the same pair in Canada.  Not that this works for all items, but it’s going to drive people to smuggle goods across the border, considering how much of our population lives so close to the US border.

Anyway, I finally did it and finished Splinter Cell: Blacklist yesterday.  I tallied it up, 40 hours including a few bouts of long-pause, so let’s be generous and say 38 hours.  Since I started timing how long I was spending in games (in fairness, that was only fairly recently), I have only played two individual save files for games longer – The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword at 55 hours and Deus Ex: Human Revolution at 42 hours.  I honestly didn’t expect that.  I expected something more along the lines of Double Agent’s 16 hours.  Now, in fairness, a LOT of that time was spent on the bonus missions.  The actual campaign missions themselves are fairly straightforward and easy, especially if you decide that murderdeath is an acceptable way out of a problem.  I can count on one hand the number of conflicts wherein I needed to kill (that is, where I decided to kill rather than incapacitate) in order to proceed.

My final assessment is that while the story is admirable, plenty of the plot devices are ridiculously bad.  They left a few loose ends there, and I get the feeling that it was more forgetfulness than deliberateness that caused that.  Still, this is a game where I’m OK to sacrifice the story in favour of the gameplay, because while the story is rah-rah white-bread GO USA, a) it isn’t nearly as offensive as Call of Duty: Ghosts, b) the story development in the final mission is admirably tense, and c) the gameplay remains very cerebral, as it does in every Splinter Cell game (yes, even Conviction).

Carlo Rota’s performance only got better towards the end, and was spectacular in the last mission, to the point that I could see an argument for his being one of the best performances of 2013.  Yes, it was that good.  There was a lot of subtlety to his voice, and in his moments of intensity, you could really feel it.  Eric Johnson’s turn at Sam Fisher was fine, if bland – I didn’t dislike it as much as other purists did, but he’s no Michael Ironside.  The actors who played Charlie and Grim were both serviceably good in their roles.  Elias Toufexis as Andriy Kobin was the comic relief of the game – they gave him a lot of good one-liners and he delivered them well.  It’s a shame his role was more supporting in this one than anything, but it meant getting Carlo Rota in there, which was ideal.

Gameplay?  It’s a Splinter Cell game.  It’s exactly what you think it is.  However, I do like that some of the stages do make you change it up.  The heavy-armour troops are identifiable when you “mark” them to keep tabs on them.  As the name implies, they have heavy armour, so they can take a LOT of bullets (an unreasonable amount, if I’m honest).  If you get into a firefight with them, your only hope is two very quick headshots.  You can kill or incapacitate them from behind using hand-to-hand combat, not from the front, so that makes your strategies such that you need to get behind them or just avoid them altogether.  You can knock their helmets off with a “mark and execute” maneuver, but then they are aware that you’re out there and you’ll probably get stuck in a firefight with them unless your aim is very good.

Other enemy types to mess you up:

  • Snipers make your life very difficult.  They have IR scopes, meaning that darkness doesn’t work against them.  Also, one shot and you’re dead (at higher difficulties).
  • IR/NV goggle troops, same basic principle except that they have basic conventional weapons.
  • Drone operators.  GODDAMN DRONE OPERATORS.  They’re stationary troops, and they control remote wheeled drones with IR vision.  They patrol level ground and can go down stairs, but not up.  The drones can attack you and kill you quickly.  You can incapacitate them with a single bullet, but two bullets causes them to blow up and alert enemies to your presence.  Use that to your advantage if you can explode a drone right next to a pesky enemy, but odds are you want to act quickly and quietly.  Also, when a drone operator does his thing, your goggles are jammed due to competing radio frequencies.  It’s a cool feature that makes life very difficult until you take him out.

It isn’t what I would call a game of the year; it isn’t even knocking off Gone Home from its third-place spot.  However, I can’t argue with the numbers – I spent 38 hours in-game and I wouldn’t do that if I didn’t genuinely enjoy the game.  I could have kept going, for that matter.

Another title in the challenge down.  Now on to the next – most likely Assassin’s Creed IV.  I probably won’t spend as much time in this world as I did Splinter Cell simply due to my immense investment in the SC universe, but I look forward to playing my first AC game!

Monday, 8:18 am – Ricky

Oh yeah, Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes, Infamous: Second Son and Luftwausers highlight the new releases this week. It’s a packed one, but I’ll be sticking with what I have for now. I plan to finally start playing The Walking Dead: Season 2 – Episode 2 tonight. Finally…

Also, this week marks the 2 year anniversary of our site re-launch. Thanks for the memories.

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