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Free Comic Book Day Gallery 2014

 The first saturday in May means one thing, Free Comic Book Day! This year Lawrence Young from the Fantastic Forum, Chip Cella from the B-Team, and Derrick Hopkins from Dead Pixel Live visited two of the best comic shops in Los Angeles to chronical the event. Geoffrey's Comics and Comic Bug were both filled with comic lovers of all ages. Geoffrey's added to the fun with a sale of 25% off of everything in the store and while Comic Bug gave you the chance to meet and greet some comic book royalty. Check out some images from the day below and feel free to share how you spent Free Comic Book Day 2014.

Retro Shouldn't Mean Pixelated

A few weeks ago, while playing through yet another batch of indie games, I realized that I had finally been elevated into ‘grumpy old man’ territory. Because I was looking at all of these great, imaginative, fun to play games and I found myself annoyed. Instead of enjoying the bounty of independent game development in front of me, I could only think, 'What are these idiot kids thinking?'

There are a lot of games today that have embraced ‘pixel art’ as the style of choice. Low color, blocky, detail-less objects on the screen that are often described as ‘retro’. The thing is, it’s not retro, not at all. Back in the good old days of 8bit gaming, game developers worked with what they had, and admittedly, it wasn’t a lot. 4 color sprites built in a 32x32 grid was as good as it got. They did some great work. But gamers and developers both wanted more. Thats why we went from 8bit to 16bit to 32bit and on. Thats why each year consoles got more powerful. Retro shouldn’t mean ‘blocky graphics with good gameplay’ Retro shouldn’t mean ‘blocky graphics with good gameplay’ Retro should mean good gameplay with the best graphics you can squeeze from the machine.

Two Tigers - 1984 - Bally MidwayLuftrausers-300x200

 

 

 


Every game doesn’t need to reach Infamous 2 or Titanfall levels of 3D open world grandeuer. But if you’re going to make a title, it should look as good as you can make it, whatever the genre. If you have a 2D platformer that has less frames of animation than Mickey’s Castle of Illusion on the Sega Genesis, then why? If you have a WW2 dogfighting game that is less graphically impressive than Two Tigers from 1984, then why? I no longer believe that it’s a style choice. And even if it is, it’s a style I’m not willing to pay for.  I lived through that time, and I waited patiently for games to claw their way out of the era of eye scorching, gaudy, 8 bit graphics. I have no desire to go back. And it also upsets me to have gameplay used as a scapegoat for poor visuals in a game. It’s not an either/or situation. There isnt a gameplay->graphics slider in a console. Hearing the words ‘we focused on gameplay’ makes me cringe because too often it means ‘It looks pretty bad, but if you can get past that it’s kinda fun’.

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And don’t think I haven’t noticed the odd double standard the industry has when it comes to graphics. If you walk into one room and proclaim, ‘Graphics don’t matter! It’s all about Gameplay!’ You’ll get a round of applause. Walk into that same room an hour later and say ‘720p is good enough, we dont need 1080p graphics’ you’ll get booed into submission. There are sites that have spent pages on zooming in on screenshots to see if the anti-aliasing for Ground Zeroes is better on the Xbox One or the PS4. And then those same sites will explain how endearing and detailed the squares are in SuperMeatBoy.It’s enough to make your head spin.

say ‘720p is good enough, we dont need 1080p graphics’ you’ll get booed into submission

I’ve had this conversation a lot with people and I’m usually told at this point that games like Titanfall and Luftrausers are completely different and have different goals and budgets when it comes to graphics. I know this. My point is that there’s no reason for any game released on hardware as powerful as 99% of the consoles and PC’s available today, not to at least be on the same graphical level as games released 30 years ago on hardware 1000 times less powerful. Thats not an exaggeration. A modern console is exponentially more powerful and easier to develop on than systems of the past. So why am I looking at something that would have been rejected from a Tecmo board meeting? The indie community is filled with talented artists The indie community is filled with talented artists that could use your screen as a virtual canvas if given the chance. Instead their work is reduced to the lowest common denominator and then reduced even more.

Not all indie games fall into this bracket. There are legitimately beautiful titles available that fulfill the goal of ‘retro style’ gameplay while not insulting the player with poor graphics just to make sure you know you’re playing a ‘retro indie’ game. You can find them everywhere from the PC, Ouya, Phones, and even on next gen consoles.

 

 

Forza Motorsport 4 (X360)

 

Forza4 LogoEvery year, a couple of the local Mercedes dealerships get together and rent out the Richmond International Speedway. They then spend a full day attempting to convince ‘VIPs’ to buy a new overpriced luxury car. They do this by letting you speed around in an assortment of Mercs on an assortment of courses specifically designed to make you want one right now. And being a VIP just means that they’ve sold you a car in the past or they’re pretty sure they’re gonna sell you one on the next week or so. Today, I was a VIP. So that there’s no suspense, I’ll jump to the end. I didn’t leave that day with a new Mercedes. I’m very happy with my Crown Vic, thank you very much. But I did leave with the knowledge of what it means to love driving.

  • Published in Xbox 360

The DPL XBox One and PS4 Fanboy Series

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With the new console launches comes the return of a phenomenon known as 'fanboyism'. It's where a gamer makes a decision on which system to buy, and then justifies the choice by vehemently trashing the alternative console. To a fanboy, it's much more important to find faults with the 'opposition' rather than find positive points for their chosen platform. DPL sees this as a huge opportunity to please everyone, and to also anger everyone. So in two special episodes, Dead Pixel Live becomes a fanboy for both sides. In Episode 785, we go deep into why the PS4 should have never been made and point out every one of it's many flaws. Then in Episode 786, we go deep into why the Xbox One should have never been made and point out every one of it's many flaws.

So no matter which system you're a fanboy of, DPL has you covered. Some people may see this as a way to show how little sense 'fanboyism' makes, and that such negativity doesnt help anyone. But Dead Pixel Live sees it as a marketing opportunity.   

 

Click here for DPL Episode 785 (Xbox Fanboys)

Click Here for DPL Episode 786 (PS4 Fanboys)

 

Supergirl Recap - Episode 6 Seeing Red

The episode opens with Supergirl flying over the city in a shot so nice it almost makes up for some of the extra wire-y flying scenes in the past. The tranquil moment is interrupted when Supergirl hears a couple of cars battling in a road rage duel. I would think that traffic skirmishes aren’t really the most effective way to use super powers, but it seems every episode has her being a glorified traffic cop.

Two guys are banging their cars together like extras in a Mad Max movie as they drive down the street while yelling PG approved near obscenities at each other. Supergirl flies in and stops both cars right before they careen into a bunch of school kids crossing the street.

First of all, this crossing guard needs to be fired immediately. There’s no way he didn’t see 2 cars playing destruction derby for nearly a mile heading directly for him. In fact, I’m sure he saw them because instead of being in the middle of the street holding up a stop sign as the kids crossed, he was on the opposite sidewalk, watching the ensuing carnage unfold. As a crossing guard, you had one job, to guard the crossing.

With both cars stopped, the kids are seemingly nonplussed that they were mere inches away from the end of their lives. They all cheer ‘YAY!’ But I’m sure more than a few will spend a years in therapy because they wake up screaming from a nightmare of two 4,000 pound vehicles hurtling directly at them.

Supergirl is soaking in the cheers as one of the drivers gets out of the car to yell at her for wrecking his car. This makes no sense. None. Unless this guy is a psychopath, he should be happy that he didn't just become a mass murderer over a traffic violation. Instead he throws a punch at Supergirl. What? Yep, he throws a punch at Supergirl. Who does that? It would take me 4 pages to analyze what could possibly be behind this action. Maybe he’s under the influence of some rage toxin. Supergirl catches the punch of course, but now everyone looks like they’re afraid of her? What? She just saved a bunch of kids and protected herself from a maniac assaulting her, but now -she’s- the bad guy? My head is spinning.

Cut to Gruff But Lovable watching a tv news report titled ‘Supergirl scares schoolchildren’. That's a headline so skewed, even Fox News wouldn’t run it. Supergirl comes in complaining how it’s always men getting road rage. That's a weird generalization. But there's so much wonky stuff happening in this episode I don't even have time to dive into it. Gruff but Lovable says that Supergirl needs to learn how to control her anger. What? Did I miss something, because we’re 6 eps in and I don't think I’ve seen her even raise her voice. Now she’s supposed to be an out of control rage monster? There has to be a rage toxin infecting everyone. Has to be.

Now some government worker runs up to show Supergirl another video, this one is Maxwell Lord calling her dangerous. Good time to pile it on there, Betty. You know that friend that loves to call you up when your car is broken down in the shop to remind you they ‘oh yeah, I heard your Grandma is sick, too. And I want to let you know that i clogged your toilet last night. Plus, your dog died. Have a great day pal!.’ That's Betty.

Meanwhile, James and HotExGirlfriend are at a coffee shop when Kara walks in. Hot Ex invites herself to ‘game night’ which I have no idea what it is. I guess we’ll all find out later.

Prada is her office talking to her mom who is just crapping on everything. Wow. This lady is just toxic. Her daughter is a super rich, award winning, head of a communications empire and still, she’s crapping on her job choices like Prada just got fired from mopping up at Hooters. No one is this mean...unless they were infected by a rage toxin. Mommy Dearest spends the next few minutes continuing to degrade Prada and ends up comparing Supergirl to Superman by saying ‘I still prefer a male doctor’. Is she expecting to get an xray vision mammogram from one of the Kryptonians soon? Does Obamacare cover that?

Kara’s sister shows up so they can ask Friendzone to hack into the government to get info about their dad. He says no. I’d assume because, 1) There no evidence that as a low level I.T. guy for a magazine, that he has anywhere near the skills to pull off anything like that. and 2) It’s super illegal. But Friendzone ends up saying yes. Why? Well, because he’s Friendzone, that's why. This is basically the superhero version of ‘Can you come over and fix my computer while I talk to my boyfriend on the phone?’

supergirl ep6

Now we’re out in the desert and the gang’s all here. Supergirl, Gruff But Lovable, the Sister, General, and... Hot Ex Girlfriend? Yep, she’s also an army lawyer. Ok. Sure. Why not. This episode is already super confusing to me so I can’t bring myself to analyze this. The General is here to get Supergirl to fight their new robot as a test. And she has to do it, because the president said so! (btw, they tossed in a throwaway line that the president is a woman. I’m assuming it’s Diana Prince).

The bot she’s fighting is called ‘Red Tornado’. If you’re a comic book geek you’re doing cartwheels right now, if not, i’ll give you time to go look it up…. Cool eh?

Kara goes and tells FriendZone and Jimmy Olsen about the fight. Jimmy gets in real close and breathes on Kara as he talks. He lets her know she can say no. Is he mansplaining her civil rights to her? I think he is. Kara breathes in deep and is so dizzied by the amount of CK for Men she’s inhaling that she stumbles over her words. She wants to prove to everyone that she can be a team player for the government.

I’m skipping this scene with Mommy Dearest and Prada. I’m assuming it’s here to demonstrate the effects of the rage toxin that I’m sure will show up at some point to explain why everyone is acting so out of character.

supergirl ep6 gamenight

Game night time! Im expecting a room full of people playing some Wii U games. But nope. It’s just Kara, Jimmy, Friendzone, and Hot Ex playing charades. What? So before Hot Ex showed up, game night was just 3 people sitting around playing lame party games? You’re kidding me. That sounds extremely boring. So boring that the only people who’d show up to that is someone trying hard to sleep with you, or someone so madly in love with you that they’re happy to just be close by. Hmm, so yeah, that does explain why Jimmy and Friendzone would show up for this.

Hot Ex and Jimmy win at charades. Friendzone causes his team to lose and is heartbroken yet again.

supergirl ep6 freeze

Superfight time! Supergirl and Red Tornado fight and to be honest, it’s not even close. Supergirl wipes the floor with the robot. Even rips off its own arm to beat it with it. The General is very upset about this, yelling at Supergirl. Even though she just did what he asked. But now he says she’s unleashed an uncontrollable killing machine on the city. What? I must’ve missed something. Because it sounds like he’s saying the government just made an uncontrollable killing machine programmed to destroy the city. And it’s Supergirl’s fault? I rewatched this part a few times and I still can’t follow the logic trail. Unless the General is under the influence of...a rage toxin! The General wants the robot destroyed but the android’s creator, Dr. T. O. Morrow (look it up) doesnt want to see all of his work going to waste. I think I know where this is going.

Kara goes back to the office. Which is odd because I could’ve sworn there was an uncontrollable killing machine out to destroy the city and maybe that should be her priority. Prada yells at her about something and this time Kara yells right back at her. My rage virus idea is making a lot of sense now, isn't it?

The General is at dinner with Jimmy and Hot Ex Girlfriend. Which is odd because I could’ve sworn there was an uncontrollable killing machine out to destroy the city and maybe that should be his priority. Jimmy orders club soda and we find out that the General doesn’t trust a man who doesn't drink. Which makes him the only father in the world who is upset that his daughter isn't dating a fall down drunk. What could be the cause of all of this animosity. Could it be that the General is super racist? Maybe. Or maybe he’s infected...by a rage inducing toxin!

Prada gives Kara a long boring talk about how women aren't allowed to get angry at work. Which is news to me because I’m getting yelled at by women I work with almost daily. Hmm, maybe I should be better at my job so they won't get so angry at me. Nah, that can’t be it.

supergirl ep6 tornado

Red Tornado shows up and immediately knocks Hot Ex Girlfriend into a table. Obviously it analyzed everyone and determined she was the biggest threat. The Red Tornado’s biggest weapon is that is can spin it’s legs and make a tornado. (the tornado isn’t red, so it loses a couple of cool points, but still, not a bad effect). The robot sends a tornado down the street and Supergirl dissipates it by flying really fast in a circle. I shouldn't mention that Flash did this last year. I shouldn’t, but I will. Flash did this last year.

The General is still yelling at Supergirl, even though she just saved his daughter. This guy.

Kara and Jimmy meetup to talk about their feelings while working out. They both lament how because of their gender and race they aren’t encouraged to show anger. Look, I know this is a deep and complex issue with a lot of societal and cultural implications to be explored. That being said, this show is doing a very poor job of delving into it. This episode is like a suburban kid from Ohio writing a 2 page report on apartheid (double spaced, wide margins). Somehow I don't think the subject will be done justice. Also, this is basically a workout date. And it’s very cool seeing Kara use a hanging car for a punching bag.

supergirl ep6 car

Kara has a breakthrough while beating on the car and starts crying when she realizes she really wants a boyfriend. Which seems to really undermine literally everything this show has been about so far. The only thing that could save this episode is...wait for it...a rage toxin that messes with your emotions.

Back at the DEO, Supergirl says she isn't afraid of her anger and will use it to work for her, and not against her. What? I thought the purpose of this entire episode was to underline that there’s nothing wrong with women showing anger. But I guess the moral of the story is that girls better learn how to keep those silly female emotions in check and learn how to channel them into something useful..like knitting, or gardening.

Red Tornado shows up and Supergirl...shoots him with a gun. WTF!? A gun? She shoots him with a gun? Supergirl. A Gun. I give up. I’m speed recapping the rest of this ep before my brain explodes (from a rage toxin!).

supergirl ep6 gun

The Sister tracks down Dr. T.O. Morrow and kills him. Supergirl beats up the robot and kills it. Hot ExGirlFriend quits her career to hangout with her boyfriend. And Prada kills what's left of the relationship with Mommy Dearest.

Show ends. And there was no rage toxin at all. Next week lets just pretend none of this happened, ok? Oh yeah, at the end of the episode, Supergirl cuts herself on a piece of broken glass, so there’s that.

Review: Midnight Club Los Angeles Xbox 360

One of the worst feelings in the world is when you realize you're number two. The 'Backup Plan', the 'Just in Case', the 'If All Else Fails', 'Second'. Because even when you do get to step up to the plate, its only a matter of time before you're back on the bench. It doesn't matter how good you are or how well you perform. You're only there because the first choice wasn't available. It was you or boredom.


That's Midnight Club L.A. It likes to pretend it's a glitzy blinged out arcade racer. It tries hard to impress with a lot of licensed cars and a pseudo representation of L.A.'s streets and highways. But as soon as you load it up and the poorly scripted 'story' starts, it's true nature shines through. Its really just a slightly ramped up version of the driving sections in GTA IV. And you're only playing it because you've already played through Nico's storyline twice.


Sitting across from the table from someone while they wait for their cell phone to ring is not the best way to enjoy a meal. It doesn't matter if you're funny or smart or know how to order the wine in French. Because you're the second choice. They'd happily trade you in for a cold sandwich with someone else. The pasta is bland and dry as you swallow because you know that all it takes is one phone call, and you're eating alone again. Look at those eyes. They're looking through you.
Being second sucks. You're always waiting for the hammer to fall when number one decides that they're ready to take over again. You can never get too comfortable because there's nothing stopping the door from slamming on you. What will happen when the first choice stops showing up at all? It doesn't really matter, because no matter what, you're number two. Someone else will go to the top of the list while you brush up on witty reparte.


Burnout Paradise is what Midnight Club wants to be. It wishes it could have Burnout's style and graphics and falls short imitating its gameplay options. MCLA's modes consist of 'Race from A to B', and 'Race from A to B to C'. Sure, you can plow through traffic like a madman, but it lacks Burnout's wild stunts or crashes. Adding in motorcycles and a race editor don't make up for the yawn inducing treks through the city. It wants to be more, but it falls short.


Being second sucks. Your phone only rings because someone else didn't pick up. You only get invited because someone else dropped out. You're only on the speed dial until they need the room. Midnight Club L.A. is only in the Xbox because Need For Speed Undercover wasn't on the shelves. You'd rather be playing EA's version of cops and robbers than Rockstar's. The cops that roam the streets in MC:LA act like after thoughts. The car customization tool looks like it was pulled directly from old versions of NFS. Nothing is terrible, its just 'okay'. But 'okay' is only good enough until the real deal is available.


Being second sucks. You wonder how it would feel to not get dismissed. No more sick feeling in the pit of your stomach when you hear the click of call waiting. What would you do if every call didn't end with 'my other line is ringing, I gotta go'. It must be staggering to have someone's full attention. Being first would be great. Intoxicating.


Midnight Club:LA doesn't do a lot wrong. The rubber band AI, uninspired gameplay, and lax graphics aren't it's biggest flaws. Its biggest flaw is that it's a second choice. And being second sucks.
Score 5/10

Asus GL551j Laptop Review [PC]

When I was younger, I put a pair of house speakers in my used 1979 Mustang . I did that because I was a kid and kids like loud cars. Plus I liked telling people that I have house speakers in the back of my car. A couple of years later, I spent way more money than I should have installing a full blown audio system in my Audi 5000. I did this even though there was a flashing red light on the dash telling me the brakes didn’t actually work. I did that because I was a kid and kid like loud cars. The other night I was riding down the road in my Crown Vic listening to some radio station that claimed to be ‘Hot’ through the stock speakers and I kinda missed having a trunk full of bass. But not really. Because I’m an adult.

It may sound like I’m lamenting the path to adulthood, but I’m actually not. I can fondly look back on the days when it was important to let everyone I drove by know what type of music I was enjoying. These days though, it’s more important to me that I enjoy the music. Because I’m an adult.

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A few weeks ago, a package was left at my door containing a shiny new ASUS gaming laptop. A GL551J to be exact. Since it was a ‘gaming laptop’ I had certain expectations when I opened the box. I expected a firebreathing, neon clad, vent covered, wildly shaped beast of a machine ready to rip the throat out of anything I could throw at it. The GL551J did not live up to those expectations. And that made me happy. It seemed to have been built for a group of people that are often overlooked when it comes to high end gaming hardware. Adults. I have no aspirations to lug around a 10 pound machine whose first purpose is to let everyone around me how extreme it is. There’s a demographic of people who like to set up shop in Starbucks, flip open their PC and make sure that anyone within earshot knows that they’re in the middle of an intense firefight on ARMA at 60 frames per second. But I’m an adult, so I don’t go to Starbucks to pimp by computer to strangers. Hell, I don’t even go to Starbucks. I have a Keurig which makes a great cup of coffee in under a minute right in the comfort of my own home. The GL551j is a powerful gaming laptop that does it’s best not to call attention to the fact that it’s a powerful gaming laptop.

The Asus doesn’t fly completely under the radar though. It’s still sports a Republic of Gamers logo on the case along with a keyboard backlit in red. But it’s a far cry from the boy racer looks of offerings from other vendors. You could easily get away with sitting down in the office breakroom and finishing off a few levels of Defense Grid 2 while your co-workers think you’re catching up on some late reports. At 6 pounds the laptop isn’t svelte, but it’s still a good traveling companion. Sitting on a plane while exploring the realms of Dragon Age won’t leave you with a scorched crotch, since the single side exhaust vent does a good job of shooting the heat over to the traveller in seat 15B. As far as power goes, it’s a gaming laptop. So you can play games on it. But if you’re into running benchmarks trying to reach 120fps at 4k resolution, then this isn’t the machine for you. The Intel i7 cpu and Nvidia 860m GPU do a great job at getting you up and running at 1080p all day long (or about 3-4 hours on battery), but you won’t be bragging to all of your friends about your incredible 3DMark numbers at 4k resolution. But adults know that 1: 3DMark isnt a game, and 2: You didn’t just drop $1,099 on a laptop to look at statistics.

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At a little over a thousand dollars, the GL551J won’t force you to sit down with your kids and explain to them why they won’t be going to Disney World this year. Asus has managed to pack a lot of performance into the unassuming satin black finish for a price that won’t force you to put in overtime at the office. It’s difficult to find which, if any, corners were cut. Although the 15.6 inch display has a slightly washed out look to it that kept me angling it away from the light. My time with the Asus did have one hiccup. I don’t know if was because I had a well used review unit or because of some other reason, but every so often the screen would go black when I set it down. And it would only come back when I pressed the latch on the battery case. At first it was an annoyance, and then it became frustrating. I’m an adult. I don’t have time to be fiddling with battery latches.

The Asus made me wonder how the kid version of me would have liked it. The version of myself leaning against a mechanically dangerous Audi with a sound system that cost more than the car. Wondering if I should spend my latest paycheck adding another amp or chrome exhaust tips (spoiler, I did both). That kid would not have looked twice at the GL551j. He’d be asking ‘where’s the neon?‘ and ‘why aren’t there more vents all over it?’ The kid me would not have liked it. The adult me however, likes it a lot.

It’s been a long time since I’ve gone through a neighborhood revving my engine while blasting the radio in a car with no brakes. Now my car has more power under the hood, and can stop on a dime and my ears don’t ring when I turn the radio off. Being an adult doesn’t mean you give up all the fun stuff kids have, it just means you don’t spend time and money trying to impress everyone else around you. I don’t have time for that. Because I’m an adult, and I have games to play. And the Asus GL551j is just the machine to play them on.

Take a look at our unboxing of the GL551J
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  • Published in PC

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Review (PS3)

 

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The best part about video game conventions aren’t the games on the show floor, it’s the parties afterward where a bunch of geeks can hang out and be themselves. Its not like going to the neighborhood bar where the smell of cigarettes and alcohol is outmatched by the cheap cologne of men talking to women with cheaper perfume.

An industry party is different. Mostly you’re just standing around with a drink in your hand talking to someone about how the big name actors like Patrick Stewart are showing up more and more in games. There’s not a lot of cheesy lines or male bravado because to be honest, there’s not a lot of reason for it. The women at a gamer party don’t have a lot to fear from guys who spend a good chunk of time retracing levels to find that one last health gem.

This party was no different. I had come with my friend who just happened to  fit the role of a stunningly attractive woman. She may not have officially been my date, but that didn’t stop me from feeling just a little bit good about the approving nod I got from the bouncer at the door. As the night progressed we slowly drifted to opposite sides of the room. Every so often I’d see her out of the cornier of my eye hanging out by a Mrs Pacman machine. Even though I’m deep into a discussion about whether the migration from 2D to 3D in classic remakes is a natural evolution or a just money grab, I can still pick out her laugh across the room amongst the background noise. I looked past the blogger blocking my view and see  that she’s talking to a guy we had interviewed  earlier that day on the show floor .I also notice that he had ditched the lanyard and controller based accessories he was sporting at the show and swapped them  for a shiny dress shirt and jacket topped by a gold chain that would be more at home on an MTV reality show than a bar filled with podcasters. I knew the look on his face from experience. He was on the prowl.

NASCAR 2011: The Game - Review

 

nascar-2011-the-game

I’ve driven on two NASCAR tracks in my life. And by driven, I mean  I’ve sat in a car, pressed my foot to the ground, and went around those ovals as fast as my nerves would let me. The first time was at Richmond Raceway, a high banked oval designed for the fastest race cars in the world,  and I was driving a high powered AMG Mercedes coupe capable of 155 mph, courtesy of the local dealership. The second NASCAR track I drove on was Langley Speedway. A small quarter-mile oval that looks like it was paved in someones backyard. And I was driving my own car, a bone stock Crown Victoria LX Sport. Guess which time was more fun.


To call Langley Speedway a ‘Speedway’ is kind of like calling Snookie an ‘actress’. That’s being a little unfair to Langley, but not by much. Unlike it’s heyday in the 70’s and 80’s, where the track was a haven for short track racers on their way to the ‘big leagues’, now it’s mostly used for Late Model and ‘Legends’ races. The term ‘stepping stone’ would be a fitting caption for most of the divisions that run at Langley now. A few times during the summer though, they open the track to anyone with a license and a helmet for what’s called ‘Wacky Wednsday’. That’s where me and the Crown Vic come in. 

The Golf Club Review [Xbox One]

I’ve only been on a golf course once in my life. I’m not talking about the Putt Putt courses with a spinning windmill and an orange ball. I practically used to live at those things. But a real, honest to goodness 18 hole PGA level golf course. That count stands at one.

At the time I was a web programmer. I spent my days sitting in an office, writing the same apps over and over while our salesman convinced local businesses that they really needed a contact page added to the new website he just sold them. Suddenly, I found myself in the passenger seat of Pete the salesman’s convertible BMW, on our way to a golf course in the middle of nowhere. According to Pete, I was there to ‘check out the golf pro’s system’.

HB Studio’s ‘The Golf Club’ on the Xbox One doesn’t boast PGA courses or professional golfers. Instead it offers you the chance to create your own course via the built in, Greg Norman branded, editor. You can share your courses online and have them rated and ranked by other players. I can’t help but think that whatever HB Studios paid for the Greg Norman licence was could have been used elsewhere because the legendary golfer makes no appearances in the game. No helpful tips on what makes a good course, or a critique of your creations, or even a simple audio clip saying ‘Hi I’m Greg Norman’ show up. Instead the only impact I see from the trademark is his Shark logo on the main menu. Your choice of golfer consists of either guy or girl. I admit that I’ve been spoiled by the extensive character creators of other sports titles, but at this point it’s almost a prerequisite.

TGC Screenshot-1

A major part of The Golf Club is the voice of your golf buddy, John, who gives you tips on certain shots and comments on your play. He has a friendly, ‘one of the guys’ tone but unfortunately, he quickly gets repetitive. Before I had finished 18 holes I was already hearing some of the same remarks over and over again.

When we arrive it’s eerie how close the scene was to the stereotypical golf clubs you’d see on TV and the movies. You’re immediately greeted by beautiful mahogany decor with deep leather furniture carefully placed throughout the sprawling lobby. There was even a chandelier. I quickly asked where the server room was, hoping to be in and out of the building in a few minutes. Pete gave me a quizzical look and informed me that the computer could wait, we were on our way to the dining room to get lunch. As someone who was living on a diet of Subway and Rally’s I was a little out of my depth when the waiter came to our table and asked to show the wine list. I just ordered a chicken salad sandwich.

In The Golf Club, the decor is a bit more sparse. I know that actually hanging out at in the proverbial clubhouse in the game may have been too much to ask for, but John, the disembodied voice keeps bringing it up, making the absence of an (admittedly gratuitous) visual lobby even more noticeable. The game boasts local and online multiplayer, and it also allows you to play against your own best rounds or those of your friends. You may be a little disappointed when you don’t see your opponents on the screen though. I would have enjoyed the feeling of a group of golf buddies on the course together. Instead only their golf balls make an appearance.

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We had been there over an hour and I had yet to see anything resembling a computer. Finally, the golf pro appeared and we led us back to his office, overlooking the driving range. After deciphering his non-technical explanation of ‘This computer aint working’ I realized why I was there. Tech support. It turned out that he had ordered a video capture card because he wanted to tape his lessons and sell them online. The problem was, he had no idea what a capture card was and definitely didn’t know how to install one. The next thing I know, Im installing drivers, screwing in video cards and configuring the network adapter.‘Sure I got Internet, but It don’t work’ was translated into ‘I never plugged in the network cable and don’t know if I even have one’.

Controlling your golfer on the XBox One is a very straightforward and intuitive affair. Instead of the standard 3 button-press control scheme for your swing, The Golf Club relies solely on the analog stick. Pulling the stick back winds up your swing and moving it forward completes the motion. It’s the same for driving or putting. It’s a natural feel and easy to get used to. The downside is that you aren’t given much in the way of gauging how much power you’re using. You have to guess how far back a swing you’ll need for a 28 ft putt or a 53 yard chip shot. It’s frustrating and transforms each hole into a difficult series of guessing games. There’s no kinect based control options.

In the middle of downloading drivers for an ancient Creative Labs card, I realize that I’m alone in the office. I look out the window and see Pete practicing his swing and getting a steady supply of tips from the golf pro. I could hear them both in between swings, sometimes talking about how important to bend your knees when on the backswing. And sometimes discussing just how they’d split the commission if the golf pro convinced the Club to ’add this internet stuff’ to the building. And thats when it hit me. I was living a textbook example of how the world works. These two guys, puffing on cigars, playing golf, were deciding how much money they were going to make from the work I was doing. And the numbers being tossed around were way above the hourly rate I was getting. As a matter of fact, my workday was done hours ago, so I wasn’t even being paid for this.

I put down the screwdriver and announce that I’m done. I gave some technobabble excuse as to why the videocard wouldn’t work and that he needed to buy a new one. Maybe it was true, maybe it wasn’t. I honestly don’t remember. But I do remember deciding I wasn’t going to spend another second sweating over some old rich guy’s computer while he squabbled with another old rich guy about how much money they were going to make from me.

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The Golf Club is a solid golf game. There’s is no denying that. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go much further. On the XBox One the game looks beautiful in still shots, but in motion, cracks appear under the surface. You can’t help but to notice the trees popping into existence during long drives or the emptiness of the course thats void of any other golfers or even a caddy. The Golf Club is perfect for a simple relaxing game of golf on the XBox One. One of the things HB Studios’ title has over the golf club I was a guest at, is with it’s budget price tag, you won’t feel like some old rich guys are trying to cheat you out of a dollar.

Score 6/10

  • Published in Xbox One
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