Holidays are notorious for being bad times to be on the road, what with the higher volume of people traveling. Of course, based on what we’ve been up to this last week, apparently, it’s probably pretty unsafe to be on the road with anyone who writes for Tap, ever. There should be a registry or something.
Developed by Eat Sleep Play | Published by Sony Computer Entertainment | PS3 | 2012
Another recent games night saw me, my brother and a friend crack open a newly purchased copy of David Jaffe’s long awaited 2012 follow-up to the excellent Twisted Metal: Black.
Now, my brother and I have a long history playing vehicular combat games, from the original Twisted Metal right through to Vigilante 8 and Rogue Trip (which I wrote about fairly recently). I don’t recall why we didn’t pick up Twisted Metal sooner but after spending a while scraping off the rust and re-oiling our gears we were back up to speed and giggling like we were 14 and 12 again. Much of what made the series so much fun remains: the goofy characters, vehicles and abilities; the buoyant physics and handling; the deceptively expansive and multi-tiered arenas; the numerous pick-ups and repair stations (moving trucks in this case!) to fight over.
It’s disappointing then that Twisted Metal only features a few characters, unlike the previous games where there was one for every vehicle and each with their own unique story (as well as a suitably twisted and grim ending). And, although Twisted Metal hasn’t been butchered by censorship like the European version of Black was, there are still a number of questionable — and disappointing — differences between the US and European versions. Aesthetically the game’s taken a nosedive since Black, particularly with regards to the menus, loading screens, typography, music, and to some extent the cutscenes and writing, but who’s playing Twisted Metal for the aesthetics, right? I look forward to the next marathon split-screen session, hopefully with a fourth player this time. Unfortunately, the online multiplayer community is all but dead so there’s little chance of that. — Gregg
Vez Con 2014
Developed by Pete Boivin, Peter McShane, Matt Sakey, Vince Tranchida, & Kris Vezner | Tabletop | 2014
You know how they say “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family?” Well, I’m perfectly happy with my family, and I chose my friends long ago. We’re all – all of us – either nearing or past our fortieth circumnavigation of the sun, but we still love what we love, and one of those things is tabletop roleplaying. Sure, it was a lot easier when we were all in school rather than doctors and lawyers (and me, none of those things), but you find the time when it matters to you. We’ve been going to Gen Con for years now, and a couple times a year we get together for our own invented “Cons.” I give you… Vez Con, named after Kris “Vez” Vezner, one of my oldest friends and the organizer of this event. Our eighth Vez Con, by most calculations, recently moved from Grosse Ile Michigan to Chicago.
We’ve been enmeshed in ongoing campaigns for years now, in some cases, many of which have moved well past their original one-shot settings, all of which were created by my gang. Vince ran Rescue Station – an All Flesh Must be Eaten Zombo-pocalypse in which I play Archie Stevens, a 25 year old Peace of Mind (insurance) salesman from South Texas. Pete ran Seven Devils, classic 3rd Edition D&D (we never transitioned to 4th) in which a group of sometimes very reluctant heroes are really doing quite a poor job of saving the world from the depredations of Darkness. McShane ran a couple iterations of Todrick’s Hold, another 3ED&D with a decidedly political bent. Despite that political bent my cleric Bennick did manage to get gutted like a fish last time we played.
It was a good time, and I already miss the weekend. Plans are afoot already for Gen Con, at which I think I’m on the hook to run Centralia, a modern-day adventure I still have them believing is inspired by STALKER. They’ll learn the truth soon enough.
We have all kinds of games On Tap, not just the video ones! —Steerpike
You do not want me to start mentioning every board game I play each week. That’s a Pantera’s Box you do not want to open. —Dix
Need for Speed Rivals
Developed by Ghost Games | Published by EA | PS4 | 2014
I’m a very fair-weather racing fan, and only get the itch maybe once or twice a year to play a racing game for a few days. I’m usually more of a Gran Turismo type these days, but Need for Speed Rivals is a cool, and great looking, alternative with solid arcade-style driving and some neat features. As usual for NFS, it’s all about street racing rather than track racing, but in Rivals you can take the role of the street racers and the cops charged with catching them. The result is a pleasantly asymmetric play experience, with each career requiring different types of missions, allowing different options, and, most importantly, unlocking different cars. Crucially, it is very simple to switch between these roles just by entering a garage, and the game encourages you to do this frequently in career mode, just because.
One of the coolest features of Rivals, though, is Overwatch mode, where you drop in and out of a world shared by half a dozen or so other drivers, who likewise can be playing cops or racers. The world is big enough that you can treat them entirely like just other AI drivers if you want, but they’re definitely liable to make things a bit more interesting than the AI cars that exist otherwise. You can also do your garage business without leaving the same world, so if you find that most of the players on your server are racers, it’s simple to switch over to police to try to collar one or more of them (by catching them and damaging their car beyond drivability, since that’s how police work in the real world, obviously, duh). —Dix
Is Centralia about a giant underground fire?
A giant underground fire is involved, yes. I needed a hunk of geography where the land could eat you so I ran with the mine fire idea. That reminds me! To Do: at Gen Con, have land eat someone. Probably McShane since as DM he’s technically responsible for stabbing my cleric.
We are wheel-based in this On Tap, aren’t we? Well, wheels and sitting indoors on nice days.
Too bad you were playing D&D instead of Burning Wheel. For a few reasons.
It was an excellent time. And, for the record, two of the three GMs had very controversial moments in their games and one did not.
I have heard a lot about “Burning Wheel.” It was all the rage several GenCons ago. I actually bought “Burning Empires” at that very GenCon. It was pretty interesting and a fun read, we just have never really run any kind of successful sci-fi type of campaign. Outside a “Mutant Chronicles” campaign back in college (almost 20 years ago now), that ran for a while, it’s just never clicked.
I don’t know the in’s and out’s of “Burning Wheel” (or “Burning Empires” for that matter), but based on what I do know I don’t think it’d mesh while with our particular style. That said, I would like to hear more about it.
I’ve only ever read the rules for Burning Empires – my actual play experience with Burning Wheel is primarily through Mouse Guard, which is a bit simpler while keeping the fundamental mechanics intact (and also has more of a pseudo-fantasy bent). The thing I really like about the system is that it maintains some interesting gameplay mechanics while still being narrative-focused rather than mechanics-focused; a lot of “rules light” RPG systems tend to sacrifice the game itself being very interesting to achieve that goal.
The bigger idea behind Burning Wheel – and Burning Empires in particular, I suppose – is one I’m not sure I’m comfortable with, sort of making the GM a little more of a referee than a storyteller in some cases. I think that’s a thing that could potentially work out okay, maybe, but I’d be wary of plots just not working out as well and probably end up constantly fudging the results for story purposes. Mouse Guard doesn’t really use that part of the system, though, so it’s a bit more traditional in that regard.
Wait, Steerpike, you’ll be at GenCon? Hm, I just was asked yesterday if I was going…
Yes, I think this year we’re definitely on! We had troubles last year on account of hotel rooms but the Planning Committee (of which I am not a part) seems to have gotten it all sorted.
The Planning Committee (of which I am the sole member) has sorted it all out! All it took was four separate hotel reservations and some uncanny luck with the rather poor GenCon housing portal and we’re golden!