Thursday, February 23, 2017

Ranking Nintendo's Home Consoles

All aboard the hype train.

With the impending launch of the Nintendo Switch, I figured now would be the time to rank Nintendo's home consoles. Despite the Switch being the home/portable hybrid that it is, I will primarily be playing it as a home gaming device--at least my intention--and that's why I'm ranking only the home consoles with this article.

As always, whenever I do a ranking-based writing, I feel the need to clarify that this is simply my opinion, and is based on my experiences with the consoles. Your experience was different than mine for each of these beautiful machines, so your level of love and affection will differ, so let's keep it clean.

6. Nintendo 64
Released: September 29th, 1996 (NA)
Favorite games: WCW/nWo Revenge, Goldeneye 007

Coming in at the bottom of the barrel is the one Nintendo console that I just never got into. Outside of a six month ownership where the only games I owned were WCW/nWo Revenge and Fox Sports College Hoops, all of my time spent with the Nintendo 64 was at various friend's houses during birthday parties and sleepovers.

Since becoming a collector, I've acquired most of the N64's more popular games, but I'll be completely honest, I'm not into those games as a lot of people are. Super Mario 64 is revolutionary, but I don't love that game. I think Ocarina of Time is just above average, and I just simply don't like Star Fox 64. I did enjoy Goldeneye 007's multiplayer mode, which outside of the aforementioned WCW/nWo Revenge was the game we spent the most time playing at birthday parties, but I was so terrible at it that I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated with each successive match.

I spent a lot of time playing as this guy.

If we can blame anyone for the loveless relationship I have with the Nintendo 64, it's Sony. I was so entrenched in the world of PlayStation that I didn't feel the need for any other consoles. This is where I found my now deep and abiding affection for series like Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, and Twisted Metal. The Sony PlayStation seemed like a much more adult console, and since I have an old brother who was approaching his teens at the time, he was adamant that the PlayStation was the way to go, and I followed.

5. Wii U
Released: November 18th, 2012 (US/CA)
Favorite games: Super Mario 3D World, Splatoon, Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze

For those of you who aren't familiar with this piece of hardware, let me fill you in. The Wii U was a videogame console created by Nintendo and released in 2012. To this day, many people are still unaware that the thing exists, and among those who are aware, a percentage of them don't know that it's different from the mega hit Wii console.

While that paragraph was written for humor, you'd be surprised how many people come into my store looking for Wii games, and when I ask "Wii or Wii U?" the confused patron asks "What's the Wii U?" That still happens to this day, and it's really a shame. The Wii U has some of my favorite games in recent memory and some of the best games for respective franchises. Super Mario 3D World is absolute incredible, Yoshi's Woolly World is the best game adorning the Yoshi name, Super Mario Maker gave me the ability to play and create a never ending number of Mario levels, and Splatoon is perhaps the best new IP of the generation across all consoles.

The off TV play was a great addition (though it's not something that I ever used), and laid the framework for what we'll be getting with the Nintendo Switch. It's a shame the Wii U floundered the way it did, but Nintendo really has no one to blame that on but themselves.

4. GameCube
Released: November 18th, 2001 (NA)
Favorite games: Resident Evil 4, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, Mario Kart Double Dash

Another console that I shunned in favor of a Sony system, this time with the PS2. The difference between the GameCube and N64 for me is that I actually spent a lot of time playing the GameCube in its prime. My buddy had one, and we were dating sisters at the time, so we had a lot of GameCube parties. I also played it to mentally escape the girl I was dating (I never said it was a good relationship).

I know this is going to sound like blasphemy, but I think all of Nintendo's franchises that had mediocre N64 titles had much better entries on the GameCube. I like Super Mario Sunshine more than Super Mario 64. I like Wind Waker more than Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. I like Mario Kart Double Dash more than Mario Kart 64. And even though I've never been high on Super Smash Bros., my friends sure were, and Melee to them is the be-all and end-all of fighting games.

Throw in some genuinely great third-party games like Eternal Darkness, Resident Evil 4 and REmake, an inferior but still solid upgrade of Metal Gear Solid, and couple those with Nintendo's new games like Luigi's Mansion, Metroid Prime, and solid sports titles in Super Mario Strikers and Mario Superstar Baseball, and you've got yourself a console that has a little bit for everyone.

3. Wii
Released: November 19th, 2006 (NA)
Favorite games: Super Mario Galaxy, Punch Out!!, Donkey Kong Country Returns

What's better than a GameCube? Two GameCubes duct taped together!

I don't care what anyone says, the Nintendo Wii is a fantastic system. There's a reason the thing sold over 100 million units, and it's not just because everyone's grandma bought it. 100 million Nintendo Wii systems, that's an insane amount of units sold. That's, like, three times the population of the entire planet (though I admit that fact checking is not my strong suit).

I bought one, you bought one, you probably know a guy that bought three and sold them all for twice as much as he paid. The thing was a phenomenon, and was still very difficult to find two years after its launch. These days we like to criticize the thing because of all the garbage games that wound up on it, but the system did have some truly great games. Super Mario Galaxy is my favorite game to come out this century, Twilight Princess was a top quality Zelda game (I know, it's not the "true version" of the game, please get over yourself), and many people swear by the Resident Evil 4 port as the best version of the game.

But let's not look past Wii Sports, the pack-in game. We can downplay it as nothing more than a tech demo, but I played a whole lot of that tech demo, and so did you. The motion control was such a cool thing, and while many companies tried to break that ground in the past, their results were sub par. Having motion control that worked just felt good. Was it perfect? No. Did I have to calibrate it every so often? Yes. But that's a minor annoyance. When you consider the ability to play Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. online with friends--which I did a lot of--it only increases its value to me, despite the online not always being stable.

It's fun to take our shots at it now and try to discredit it as a viable gaming platform, and even though there's lots of third-party garbage on the system, there are a lot of really great third-party games as well, like Lost in Shadow, Dead Space Extraction, Muramasa, No More Heroes, Zack and Wiki, and many more. Looking back, I think the Wii deserves its place (as of right now) in the top half of Nintendo's consoles.

2. NES
Released: October 1985 (NA)
Favorite Games: Super Mario Bros. 3, DuckTales, Castlevania

This was very hard for me. I will preface this entry by saying that the NES is my all-time favorite videogame console. It's the first system I ever owned (or played, for that matter), it's the system that began this love of videogames, and the thing owns my heart completely. That being said, I can't let it take the top spot for several reasons, which I'll comment on in the next entry, but for now, let me heap praise upon praise on this revolutionary machine.

There's a reason that I still get calls at work--every single day--asking if we have the NES Classic in stock. There's a reason why the thing is still hard to find (outside of Nintendo's lack of production). It's because the NES changed the world. That's not hyperbole. The NES was estimated to have been in 1 of every 3 homes in the United States at its peak. It's still Nintendo's second highest selling console, second only to the juggernaut that was the Wii. This console is the reason my grandmother--God rest her soul--called every videogame system "a Nintendo."

We all know that this was a very different time, and nothing in better evidence of that than the fact that we who were around for it still hold even bad games in high regard. Remember Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? The one that confused every kid in America because the cover art depicted every turtle wearing their comic book red as opposed to the various colors we knew from the cartoon? That game is terrible. Screw the bomb diffusing section in particular, and I've still never gotten past level three. I hate that game. I love that game!

But the NES is also responsible for cementing many characters places in videogame history. Mario, Link, Mega Man, the Belmonts, Samus. The good games on the NES were more than just games to us. They were life-changing adventures. They were the topic of recess conversations. They laid the foundation of what we thought was possible in our own lives. Maybe we couldn't grow up to be a young elf boy slaying Ganon, but when we thought about The Legend of Zelda, we were inspired to conjure up new adventures in the backyards with our friends.

Very few things in this world have impacted my life as much as the NES has, and for that, I salute you, NES. God bless you. Now cue the National Anthem.

1. Super Nintendo
Released: August 23rd, 1991 (NA)
Favorite games: Super Mario World, TMNT IV: Turtles in Time, Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball

Every game that I loved on the NES, the SNES had a better sequel to. If you've read my writing for any length of time, you already know that Super Mario World is my favorite game of all-time, but we also got a better Legend of Zelda game, a better Contra game, better Mega Man games, better Castlevania games, better Kirby games, the best TMNT game ever, and the list continues on and on and on.

It also helped that the system actually worked when you turned it on.

The RPG really hit its stride with the Super Nintendo with the Final Fantasy sequels, Chrono Trigger, Earthbound, Secret of Mana, and again, the list just continues. The ports of games like Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat II, Sunset Riders, and NBA Jam may not have looked as great as their arcade counterparts, and some concessions had to be made for them to be on the SNES in terms of gameplay, but as a kid, I didn't care or notice. They still played great, and many of my elementary school weekends were spent with an SNES controller in my hands, a pizza on the table, and my best friends on the couch beside me.

Even though the NES was my first console, the Super Nintendo is the one that makes me the most nostalgic for my childhood. Many of its titles I would consider some of my favorite games of all time. I already mentioned Super Mario World, but Turtles in Time is probably my favorite beat 'em up, and Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball is still, without question, my favorite sports game ever.

The face of greatness.

Many SNES games have aged beautifully, and now that I'm older and understand a little bit more about how videogames work, I'm able to appreciate them even more than I did as a young tyke. The Super Nintendo didn't perform as well as its predecessor due to the fact that it had a legitimate competitor in the Sega Genesis, and even though I still hold a bigger place in my heart for the NES, I can't deny that the Super Nintendo is the zenith of Nintendo's home console line.

Thanks for reading, don't forget to check me out everywhere else I do stuff!

Twitter: @TheDustinThomas
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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Does Backwards Compatibility Matter to You?

Recently, Grand Theft Auto IV became backwards compatible on the Xbox One. Any time a game becomes backwards compatible, I think to myself "that's rad" and then put on some wicked bad shades and throw on a backwards t-shirt featuring Bugs Bunny and Taz (who are also wearing clothing in an improper fashion).

A picture for those of you too young to remember how rad we were in the 90s.
However, I did not carry out this particular wardrobe upgrade when GTA IV was announced as backwards compatible. Instead, my reaction was one less of excitement and more of confusion. If I were to give Grand Theft Auto IV a very quick and dirty review, I would say the combat sucked, the driving was terrible, I hated every character, the world was drab, and I don't understand why so many gaming outlets gave it their game of the year award in 2008. I just can't understand who would want to play GTA IV on their Xbox One when you already have a far superior Grand Theft Auto game available to you in GTA V.

Look at that big, dumb face.

While at work this past week, a customer asked me if we had a copy of 2009 Ghostbusters on the Xbox 360. After looking it up in our inventory, I discovered three things:
  1. We did not have it.
  2. That game is super overpriced, and the reason for that is...
  3. It is backwards compatible.
Like clockwork, any time an Xbox 360 game becomes playable on it's successor console, the price shoots up, and I don't understand it. The games don't suddenly become harder to find, but the demand for them skyrockets. I'll be the first to tell you that I absolutely loved the 2009 Ghostbusters game. I pre-ordered and paid the full $59.99 on release day, receiving the sweet pre-order bonus t-shirt that I was too fat for at the time. When I discovered I could play Ghostbusters again, I got really excited. I still have my copy, so I could just pop that bad boy in and immediately I'm transported back to New York City in the midst of a paranormal epidemic. But why would I want to do that?

The problem backwards compatibility causes for me as someone who works in video game retail is that suddenly we have an influx of people looking for the latest backwards compatible game, then our warehouse sends us twenty more copies, and then all those people that bought the game realize they didn't really want it and then trade it back in to us, and now were sitting on a ton of copies that we can't sell.

If you're thinking "Dustin, isn't that a good thing? You get the sale and then get the trade in a couple of weeks later, that's what your company's goal is." And to you, I say "Hey, you're right."

That's it, you're right, there's no argument I can give to that. You make a valid point. You were right, and I was wrong. Sitting on so many copies is sometimes a nuisance, but it's always better to have too many copies than too little.

Getting back to the "why" that I proposed earlier, why would I want to play Ghostbusters again?
Why would I want to play Grand Theft Auto IV again?
Why would I want to play Alan Wake again?

Did I really just say that? I love Alan Wake. It almost cracked the top 10 when I did my top games of the century list a few weeks back. But as much as I love that game, it's been backwards compatible for over a year now and I haven't even taken it off the shelf. I keep telling myself that I need to play it again, but I haven't, and don't see myself doing so any time soon.

In fact, the only backwards compatible game that I've played any amount of is Dead Space, and the only reason I did so is because it was the first episode of Til Games Do Us Part that my wife and I did, and I thought it would be fun to freak her out.

I was right, it was incredibly fun.

But I haven't gone back to Dead Space since and likely never will, despite being an amazing game.

The problem lies within. I, like a lot of gamers, feel the need to stay current. I feel like I need to be playing the latest hotness at all times. Financially, purchasing the Nintendo Switch is not a good idea for me right now, but my pre-order is still intact. I want to be one of the first to experience The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I want to be able to talk to my friends about it. I want to be able to talk with my customers about it. I want to talk about it to all 20 people that listen to the Error Machine Podcast.

Perhaps another reason backwards compatibility isn't very important to me is because I'm a collector. I'll occasionally sell or trade a game, but I never get rid of my systems (I've made that mistake before and regretted every moment until I got that system back). I never got rid of my Xbox 360, so if I wasn't all gung-ho about replaying Alan Wake during the years prior, why would I get so excited about being able to play it on my current Xbox console?

If they can shoehorn in new Twin Peaks references, I'm back on board.

But there are many people that are not like me. Many people part ways with their systems to put towards the purchase of the latest and greatest console, but I don't allow myself to do that. I can almost guarantee you that despite the fact that the Wii U has some of the best games I've played in the past few years, I will never bring that thing out of the box again. The collector mentality rears its ugly head yet again.

For people that no longer have old consoles for whatever reason, backwards compatibility is a big thing. If I didn't still have my copies of games like Alan Wake, Left 4 Dead, Portal 2, and Ghostbusters, I would have been right there alongside my customers that had a sudden and irrational frothing demand for Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Some people are upset that the Switch won't be compatible with Wii or Wii U games. That shouldn't surprise anyone. Yes, their recent track record has seen them promoting backwards compatibility as a reason to purchase their systems, but prior to the Wii, there had never been a Nintendo home console with backwards compatibility. Let us not forget the shoulder-padded moms of the early 90s upset that they were being "forced" to buy a new Nintendo.

I wish my official title could be "Super-Nintendo User."

Let me clarify that I'm not upset that backwards compatibility is a thing. For anyone that wants it, I'm glad that you have it. If you're not like me and find yourself playing those older games again, I'm very happy that you have a way to replay these games that you love.

The point I want to make is that I don't think backwards compatibility should be something to get upset over for not being present on a new system. A game being backwards compatible on Xbox One should not cause a sudden spike in a game's price. The prices of games like Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto IV increased anywhere from double to quadruple what the price was before being updated.

The pricing structure of any consumer product is dependent upon supply and demand. Supply is up, demand is down? Prices plummet. Supply is low, demand is high? Time to sell that NES Classic on eBay. But backwards compatibility increases demand with no change to the supply. These games aren't being produced anymore, but they're not hard to find. Walk into any used video game store, pawn shop, or flea market and you're going to find a copy of GTA IV with Niko Bellic's big, dumb face staring back at you.

Seriously, so big and so dumb.

Red Dead Redemption
sold so many copies that it's like that old saying about spiders: You're never more than eight feet away from a copy of Red Dead Redemption. That game is suddenly $25+ despite being overrated and terrible. Yeah, I said it.

For me, backwards compatibility isn't a selling point and honestly doesn't matter to me a whole lot. It's a nice feature for those that want it, but it's not something that I feel needs to cause the kind of frenzy that it does. A popular game becomes backwards compatible and suddenly it's trending on Twitter.

I feel like backwards compatibility has a lot more impact on the gaming industry than it should. But, at the very least, it beats paying $60 for a remastered version of the same game.

What are your thoughts on backwards compatibility?

Thanks for reading, and don't forget to check me out elsewhere on the internet.

Error Machine YouTube page
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Friday, February 10, 2017

Thoughts on Tim Lambesis' Release from Prison

(Before reading, understand that this blog is not being written for the purpose of debate. This is a blog written by a Christian man and former huge fan of As I Lay Dying. This isn't about news, this is a blog written by a man that loves the Lord, and simply wants to give his thoughts on Tim Lambesis.)

For those of you that haven't heard, former frontman of metalcore band As I Lay Dying, Tim Lambesis, has been released from prison after serving less than half of his sentence for attempting to hire a hitman to kill his wife.

Back in May of 2013, when the story first broke that Lambesis had been arrested, I wrote a blog the very same morning giving my thoughts and expressing my confusion over the situation. A little backstory first:

I'm a Christian. As I Lay Dying was touted as the premier Christian metal band for a long time, and they were easily my favorite group. I found much inspiration from the lyrics Lambesis would scream. Even songs with darker subjects still had an underlying message of hope. So many people have the mindset that as Christians, life is supposed to be all sunshine and rainbows, but it is, in fact, the direct opposite. Jesus Himself even told His disciples "And you will be hated for My name's sake." (Matthew 10:22 NKJV) and "From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force." (Matthew 11:12 NKJV)

One thing that my Pastor always stresses to people going through trials in life is that God never promised us happiness, He promised us joy. There's a big difference between happiness and joy. So, for me personally, when the storms of life raged, I turned to bands like As I Lay Dying for the message of hope, as well as the aggressiveness of their sound, as I've been a fan of heavy music for the great majority of my life.

I looked up to Tim Lambesis. And when he fell, I felt like a lost sheep. During this process, The Lord showed me just how dangerous it is to put our hope into anyone or anything other than Jesus Christ. That's what happened with Tim Lambesis, he began to put his faith in the things of this world: fame, steroids, promiscuity, and I've even heard reports he had fallen into harder drugs like heroin. Tim Lambesis began to let the wrong people speak into his life, and as a result, fell away from his faith in Jesus.

In a recent interview with Dokken guitarist George Lynch--who had a relationship with Lambesis--Lynch stated that Lambesis' faith and knowledge of the word of God were on theologian levels, and every argument Lynch made that were contrary to Tim's beliefs, Lambesis had an immediate rebuttal.

So what causes a man with that much faith to fall? There's no definitive answer, and it's easy for someone like me to ask that question because since I've begun a faithful walk with Jesus, I've been fortunate enough to have not been tempted by the things of my past. I don't know what happened with Tim Lambesis, and I can only pray that his time spent in jail was a redemptive process orchestrated by the King of Kings.

I find myself with mixed feelings following the announcement of Lambesis' early release from prison. In May of 2014, he was sentenced to six years in prison, but was released after meeting less than half that sentence. I believe in forgiveness, but I also believe in justice. Even if he had served his entire prison sentence, I still think that would be too little time for the crime he attempted to carry out. Many people find their faith while imprisoned, but that doesn't mean there aren't still consequences for their actions.

However, I'm not here to judge whether or not the man served the correct amount of time. If I had the power to determine that, I wouldn't be writing this blog right now because I would have a much more important job to do. I'm also not going to sit here and tell you that I'll never listen to As I Lay Dying again, because I still do on occasion. I still find those lyrics to be incredibly powerful and uplifting. I'm able to separate the art from the artist, which is why I'm also able to find spiritual inspiration from a band like Hatebreed.

Still one of my favorite songs ever.

The only thing that concerns me is that I'm afraid Lambesis is going to benefit from his crimes. He will likely return to making music, and people will listen to it. He will likely write a book about the whole ordeal, and I'm sure it'll be a bestseller. He will benefit from this, but his family won't. His former wife and their adoptive children, where is the upside of this situation for them? Does As I Lay Dying get back together after this? I doubt it, as it seems his former band mates have moved on to their new project, Wovenwar (which is terrible), and want nothing to do with Lambesis any longer.

Few other details have been released about Lambesis and his return home, but I'd be interested to know where he stands on his faith now. He claims to have lost his faith prior to his imprisonment, but he's had a lot of time to sit and think about things for the past two-and-a-half years. As a fan of his art, I pray Hebrews 12:29 over him, that he be consumed by the fire of God, and that his greatest days lie before him and not behind him. I pray that he begins to burn for Jesus with greater fervor than he ever has, and that his failures become a testimony to the greatness of an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God.

And for any person reading this that professes the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, understand the dangers of putting your hope into anything other than our Savior.

"And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid." And Peter answered Him and said, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." So He said, "Come." And when Peter had come down out of the boat he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!" And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him and said to him, "O you of little faith, why do you doubt?" And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, "Truly You are the Son of God." (Matthew 14:26-33 NKJV)

Tim Lambesis took his eyes off of Jesus, and therefore, sank. Let this be an encouragement to you to keep your eyes fixed upon the one true Son of God, and when the tumultuous waters of life seek to destroy your ship, fear not, for the One who has the power to calm the waters is also the One who created them.

God bless you all, and thanks for reading.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Ghost Recon Wildlands Beta Impressions

Sometimes games come out that defy your expectations. Sometimes games come out that try to break the mold. They open your eyes to new possibilities that you never would have foreseen. They bring something new to the table.

But sometimes games come out that are perfectly content with just being at the table and hanging out. Ghost Recon Wildlands feels like that kind of game. If I were choosing to be super reductive, I would say that Ghost Recon Wildlands is what The Division would be if it were a tactical military shooter. There's a bit more to it than that, but that gives you a basic idea of what you're getting into here.

I don't necessarily say this is a negative manner, because I genuinely enjoyed the time I spent with The Division. It didn't keep my attention very long after I finished the final story mission outside of picking up some achievements that I was relatively close to getting, but for the month or so that I was playing it, I had a good time.

Based solely on the recent closed beta, Ghost Recon Wildlands feels like The Division without the loot, which is a positive or a negative depending on your personal preference. For me, I love games with loot if the game makes it interesting. The reason I love looting in the Borderlands franchise is because the guns, shields, relics, and grenades all feel like they do something different. When you break it down, they're just choosing from a few different options of gun type, a few different options of effects, a few different varieties of ammo, and shuffling them around to create new weapons. I am being reductive here, but at least when I get a new gun, I have to weigh my preference of do I want this shotgun that shoots incendiary rounds or do I want the shotgun that only shoots regular ammo but does more damage? It's simple, but it works.

Ghost Recon Wildlands is based more in reality, so I can't discredit it for not having a gun that shoots swords, but every gun feels the same as all the others, making it less intriguing when you do equip something new.

Wildlands has a decent amount of customization, but not as much as you've seen in other games.

One thing that Wildlands does that separates it from The Division is the emphasis on stealth. You're encouraged to approach each outpost or encounter with caution and to take things slow, executing your targets with swiftness and precision. That is, until you inevitably miss your target because aiming in this game is not very good, resulting in a shootout that will leave you on the ground waiting for a teammate to revive you.

This part of the game bums me out. I love being stealthy in games, and if a game gives you the option of stealth or balls-to-the-wall guns blazing, I always choose the stealth option. I love the idea of making my way to an outpost and taking out ten dudes without one of them knowing what's going on until I send them to meet their maker.

I encountered two different types of enemies during my time in the Wildlands. First, we have the Santa Blanca cartel, which are your run-of-the-mill bad guys wielding sub machine guns and other small arms. They usually run in packs, and even though they're not much of a challenge when separated, you can get taken out quite easily when you have a few of them coming down on you.

Then you have the Unidad forces. These guys are armored and carry heavier firepower. Early on in the beta, I encountered some Unidad soldiers. I didn't take them out quickly enough, so reinforcements closed in on my location. So I took those guys out as well, and then more reinforcements came. Before I knew it, I was being chased down by helicopters, which were easily taken out with the standard assault rifle I was carrying. But no matter how many helicopters I took out, there were two more replacing them. I couldn't get away by killing them, and I couldn't escape them in a vehicle. Eventually I just had to back out to the main menu and return to the game to get out of that situation.

The world itself doesn't do anything special, at least not from what I found. I didn't do any exploring and only moved from mission to mission with the occasional veering off to tackle a side mission or pick up a collectible, but considering that the beta was only a fraction of the world that will be available in the main game, Based on different screenshots Ubisoft has released, I trust that they're going to have some scenery worth looking at.

As far as the matchmaking goes, I attempted once to play with other people. It took a long five minutes for the game to actually start, and when I did, two of my three squad members backed out immediatley, and the one that stayed was on the opposite end of the map. Of course, I'm not going to judge that experience based on such a small sample size (one is a pretty small number), but that's the main reason I avoid playing cooperatively with players I don't know. However, if I had a crew of friends that could all get together and play this the same way I do with Gears of War 4's Horde mode, then I can see great potential with Wildlands.

So, what exactly am I saying about Ghost Recon Wildlands? I'm not telling you it's a bad game. Even for a beta it seemed pretty well polished. The only glitch I encountered was a squad mate getting stuck atop a small platform, which was fixed with a quick nudge on my part. I have a strong sense that there's going to be a lot to do and see, and I did play several different mission types. However, my grievances will likely cause Wildlands to take a backseat to other major titles launching near the same time, specifically The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

I knew I loved you before I met you.

I'm sure the game will sell gangbusters, but I'm also sure that it'll wind up at the magical $20 price point some time before the holiday season, which is when I'll take the plunge. It's not going to set the world on fire, but I think it'll be a good game to fill time with during the annual summer lull.

Thanks for reading, and don't forget to check out all the other places you can find me.

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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Is John Cena the Greatest of All-Time?

Your immediate reaction is most likely an emphatic "NO!" But I ask you why not? Because you don't like his cookie cutter image? Because you're sick of him being at the top? Because you're sick of watching excellent matches from a guy you despise for no reason other than the fact that he's this era's Hulk Hogan?

Those are poor arguments, however, if I hadn't spent ten years in the wrestling business, I would be inclined to agree that he doesn't deserve that title. But when you spend that much time doing this thing, your perspective changes.

If you hate him because he "doesn't have ring gear," which is a legitimate argument I've heard several times throughout the years, then you also must denounce Kevin Owens and Dean Ambrose for the same reason. Also, let us not forget that CM Punk wore basketball shorts for in ring gear for the majority of his career. So the ring gear argument is invalid.

If you hate him because "so-and-so could work circles around him," then tell me the last time John Cena had the worst match on the card. Cena routinely puts on matches that are rated 4 stars or higher by the Pro Wrestling Observer. Since Summerslam of 2012, Cena has had 21 matches--not counting his amazing match with A.J. Styles at the most recent Royal Rumble which will most certainly get at least a 4 star rating--that have been rated 4.0 or higher, and his opponents are always different. That list includes matches with CM Punk, Bray Wyatt, Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro, and many more. You know what this tells me? It tells me that John Cena can have a good match with anyone, and keep in mind that these are only pay-per-view matches and don't count any match he's had on Raw or Smackdown.

Also take into consideration that he's doing this on the biggest stages. I'm sure that the "5-star match" you had at the armory in front of 17 people was right up there with what John Cena and A.J. Styles did at the 2017 Royal Rumble in front of 50,000+, but until you're able to do what he does on that kind of stage, you have no place criticizing the man for his in-ring work.

He's now won the WWE Heavyweight Championship (or equivalent titles) 16 times, tying the immortal Ric Flair. If your argument here is "that just means he's lost it 15 times," then let me tell you how hard it is to regain the title. At one point in my career, I won the Northern Wrestling Federation title. I won it after a very well done build-up--easily the most well built story I was ever a part of--and it culminated with me winning the title. I held it for 8 months, dropped it back to the man I beat for it, and never won it again. Sure, I wrestled for it on several more occasions because I'm such a big guy that I was usually brought in to give the babyface champion a legitimate heel threat, but I never got it back. I didn't have it in me. If a wrestling company is run properly, then they don't just put a title on someone for no reason.

John Cena has earned every title he's ever won, and to be on top for as long as he has is nothing short of incredible. He won his first WWE Title in 2005, and has been on or near the top ever since. That's almost 12 years. No other wrestler than can be argued for the greatest of all-time had that kind of longevity. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's run--which was definitely the hottest run any wrestler has ever seen--only last about 5-6 years. It may have lasted longer had it not been for injuries forcing "The Rattlesnake" out of competition, but I'm not here to argue "what if." The Rock's run was about the same as Austin's. Hulk Hogan's run was a bit longer, but between his constant retirements and drama surrounding his run in WCW, it doesn't compare to Cena. Lastly, let's compare him to the man he just tied in title wins: Ric Flair.

Ric Flair is a legend, no doubt about that one. But if you try to tell me that all of those title reigns were legitimate, I will laugh at you. The final years of World Championship Wrestling saw the company playing hot potato with their title. Flair's final three runs with the belt were less than one month long, and his final two were only a week or less.

John Cena has been a workhorse and a class act for the WWE for 15 years. He's never been charged with domestic abuse (Steve Austin), he's never exposed himself to a flight attendant (Ric Flair), he's never had a racist tirade turn into a million dollar lawsuit (Hulk Hogan), and he's never bashed his employer for pushing part-time wrestlers and then go to UFC and become the thing he denounced.

Just in case you don't know who I'm referring to here.

So I must ask, why does the Internet Wrestling Community still hate John Cena so much? We hate him for regularly putting on great and entertaining matches, never getting in trouble, doing more Make-A-Wish events than anyone else in history, being a positive role model, and spreading a positive message. So we hate him for doing everything right?

"Okada/Omega > Styles/Cena" I hear you shouting at your computer screen like a crazy person. Look, I didn't watch Okada vs Omega, and I likely never will. I'm sure it was a great match, and I'm sure if I ever do watch it, I'll be entertained, but New Japan is a different style than the WWE. Places like Ring of Honor and Dragon Gate are different styles than the WWE. Even NXT is a different style than the WWE, that's why so many NXT guys come up to the main roster and flounder.

I don't say this to bash anyone, because every wrestler at every one of those companies accomplished way more than I ever did in my career, but who's to say that indy darlings like Kenny Omega won't one day get signed by the WWE and fail? I hope that doesn't happen, but that's a real possibility, because we've all seen it happen before. A lot of wrestlers make it to the main roster, get their fifteen minutes of fame, and either get released or repackaged into something different because their star burned out so quickly. Remember how hot Fandango was? His theme song was the hottest song on iTunes for a brief time, and now he's a bit player.

Being a WWE superstar is hard, and it's about more than just in-ring work. No one here is arguing that John Cena is the best in-ring performer ever. But when you take his consistently great in-ring performance, add his longevity, his merchandise sales, his connection to the fans, and the scrutiny he's been under for the majority of his career without a single blemish on his record, how could John Cena not be in consideration for the great of all-time?

Thanks for reading, and check out all the other things I do at the links below.

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