作者彙整:Matthew Kato

Horizon Zero Dawn’s Aloy Once Again Crossing Over Into Monster Hunter: World On PS4

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Heading Into The Season

PES 2020 comes out on September 10 (PS4, Xbox One, and PC), but its demo already gives us a glimpse of what we may see in the game’s final iteration. Although Konami has promised that some changes are on the way, such as to fouls (see below for more), the demo could advertise that a solid year of gameplay is in store. Here’s what the demo does well and what I hope it means come release time.

GETTING PHYSICAL

The demo showcases more player contact expressed through jostling animations, providing players a way to slow down and pester attackers until numbers arrive or to prevent clean passes and shots. You can even tactically foul players in some situations.

Related to this are the number of fouls the refs call. I like that more calls are being made than in previous years, since they are called on you when you’re trying to make standing tackles from behind or slightly to the side of the dribbler. This is as it should be since these are risky areas. I’ve also noticed in the demo that even defensively engaging opponents from the front can cause fouls if you are rash and don’t time it right. Konami says that it believes the refs in the demo call fouls too excessively, so I hope they balance the final game correctly.

One thing related to fouls I would like to see is more of them called on the opponents, since it seems like the A.I. still gets away with bloody murder at times.

HEADERS

I’ve never been very good at headers in the game, but I like their timing in the demo. I think the window to execute them isn’t as early or is possibly more forgiving than last year. This includes being on defense, where clearances are of the upmost importance.

DEFENSIVE POSITIVES & NEGATIVES

Your A.I. teammates are very helpful in throwing their bodies, feet, and even faces at shots which is great. The one speculative concern I have with this for the final game is that I hope my teammates are smart enough and defensively organized enough to clear the resulting rebounds. I say this because there are times in the demo, like in PES 2019, that defenders are unaware of what’s going on or switch off. Having said that, and ending on a positive note, I’ve seen plenty of times in the demo where your teammates get in good defensive positions and harass dribblers without being directly commanded to.

ONLINE CONNECTIONS

Dependable online play has consistently been a problem for the series, whether it’s lag or simply getting matched with an opponent with a good connection. While the demo environment doesn’t match the final release, one thing I really liked in the demo was the ability to see your opponent’s connection before deciding to accept or decline. This won’t stop lag cheaters who purposely overload their connection to produce automatic drops when they are losing, but at least it gives you a heads up before your jump in.

GAME FLOW & SPECIAL MOVES

The default speed for the game feels slower than last year, which I don’t have a problem with. This highlights one-on-one matchups, which themselves are helped by a new finesse dribbling technique performed by letting go of the left analog stick and just using the right analog. This is advertised as a new feature, but it’s basically a refresh of the old R2 close control. Either way it’s a useful and easy-to-perform way to buy yourself some time by dragging the ball back or shifting from one foot to the other to keep opponents at bay without having to go into a multi-input, full-blown special move.

THE A.I. IN ATTACK

PES 2019 was notorious for the way the A.I. patterned its attack. This had to be addressed in a post-release patch, and it’s nice to see the demo carriers forward that progress. Long balls into the channels, lay-offs and cuts inside at the top of the box, and drags along the end line, are all different ways the A.I. attacks.

The larger question for PES 2020 proper is the matter of overall A.I. scripting – something that fans complained about in 2019. How overpowered will teams feel when behind and/or nerfed when ahead? It’s a big issue that the game has to sort out, whether it’s overt or a more subtle balancing issue that gives players that sensation.

THE TICKER

NBA 2K12 Adds the WNBA

FIFA 20 Career Mode Details

FIFA 20 Volta Trailer & Footage

Skater XL Update

Dirt Rally 2.0 Gets VR

More Information About Madden 20 Archetypes

Great Sales News for NBA 2K19

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The Madden 20 X-Factors & Superstars Guide

Madden 20 introduces powerful X-Factor players and Superstar abilities only available to select players. Superstar abilities are always on, meaning players with the Shutdown ability, like Jaguars corner Jalen Ramsey, always have an increased chance of disrupting receiver catches. X-Factor players, however, must activate their X-Factor by meeting specific gameplay goals. For instance, for Adam Thielen to earn his Double Me X-Factor that increases the chances of him winning an aggressive catch against single coverage, he first must catch two 20-plus yard passes. Once the X-Factor is turned on, it can be turned off, and the conditions for this are similarly prescriptive. Odell Beckham Jr. falls out of the zone and his X-Factor turns off when you don’t target him on consecutive plays.

Both X-Factors and Superstar abilities can be very useful, but some are definitely handier than others. Some aren’t even used by any players at launch, and others might be more helpful to some users depending on their play style. Conversely, if you’re playing against an opponent with these abilities, you’re going to want to know what you’re going up against.

These abilities are used throughout the game, but they can only be switched in/out in Madden Ultimate Team and QB1 Face of the Franchise. Otherwise, they’re tied to specific players in regular franchise modes – including players you draft.

To see the current list of which players have which abilities, their full descriptions, and the requisites to turn on/off the X-Factors, click into the special rotating menu (the far-left panel at the bottom of the screen) from the game’s main menu screen. Developer EA Tiburon plans to add and subtract from the list during the season, tweaking which players have what, so you’ll have to be on the lookout for that.

If you have your own thoughts on which X-Factors or Superstar abilities are valuable, list them down in the comments section below.

I’ve broken down the game’s current abilities based on a few broad categories:

ELITE COMBOS

These abilities combine two separate Superstar abilities, making them rare and particularly effective. My favorite is Edge Threat Elite, which helps your DE off the edge, but also affects QB throwing accuracy even if you don’t get the sack outright.

Superstar Abilities: Edge Threat Elite, Evasive, In/Out Elite, In/Post Elite, Out/Corner Elite, Pass Lead Elite, Pass Rush Elite, Pick Artist, Post/Flag Elite, Route Apprentice, Run Stopper, Tackle Supreme, Universal Coverage

HOT ROUTES

Using hot routes at the line of scrimmage on offense is a great way to tailor each play and player to your liking. Some gamers use them to great effect, but if you don’t use them, then obviously these abilities won’t help you at all. The game’s Superstar Abilities revolving around hot routes apply to QBs as well as running backs, receivers, and tight ends.

Superstar Abilities: Backfield Master, Hot Route Master, Outside Apprentice, RB Apprentice, Route Apprentice, Slot Apprentice, WR Apprentice

ROUTES & CATCHES

These Superstar abilities and X-Factors naturally aid in specific routes and catch types, making them all useful. Of particular note is the X-Factor Double Me (increased chance of an Aggressive catch against single coverage) given how powerful aggressive catches are in the game. The Satellite, Backfield Mismatch, and Safety Valve abilities relate to running backs, while Playmaker applies to that user-control feature, so milage on these will vary depending on the user. I like doing slants, so Slant specialist is good to hold onto the ball while going over the middle, but Slot-O-Matic might be more generally effective since it confers different advantages to short routes from the slot.

Superstar Abilities: Backfield Mismatch, Cross Specialist, Curl Specialist, Double-Move Elite, Grab-N-Go, In Specialist, Matchup Nightmare, Playmaker, Post Specialist, Red Zone Threat, Route Technician, Safety Valve, Slant Specialist, Slot-O-Matic, Streak Specialist

X-Factors: Double Me, Max Security, RAC Em Up, Satellite

QB MOBILITY

Madden 20 has a new control allowing QBs to pull down the ball, giving them full access to any ball carrier moves in the pocket. Apart from that, this year’s abilities add to your mobility in and out of the pocket, and are pretty much good across the board (see below for a list of some of the more questionable abilities). My favorite is Russell Wilson’s Blitz Radar, which highlights extra blitzers. Also, Protected and Secure Protector relate to the o-line, so you can’t ignore those either.

Superstar Abilities: Agile Extender, Anchored Extender, Escape Artist, Fastbreak, Protected, Secure Protector

X-Factors: Blitz Radar

QB THROWING

Apart from the mobility-related abilities for QBs listed above, most of the rest are related to throwing accuracy under specific conditions (called Deadeye) and precision passing. The ones I gravitate toward are the accuracy abilities when outside the pocket like Dashing Deadeye (when throwing on the run outside the pocket) and Roaming Deadeye (when feet are set outside the pocket). I also like the Fearless X-Factor (accuracy unaffected by defensive pressure) and Sleight of Hand (improves pump fake), especially since the latter is easier to perform this year. Currently nobody has the Gunslinger ability, which speeds up the animation and ball speed for bullet passes, so this is one I’m really looking forward to using since it’s often paramount to get the ball out quickly when the receiver is between zones.

Superstar Abilities: Conductor, Dashing Deadeye, Gift Wrapped, Gunslinger, Gutsy Scrambler, Identifier, Inside Deadeye, Last Ditch, Lofting Deadeye, Long Range Deadeye, No-Look Deadeye, Pass Lead Elite, Pocket Deadeye, Pocket Lead, QB Playmaker, Red Zone Deadeye, Roaming Deadeye, Secure Protector, Set Feet Lead, Sideline Deadeye, Sleight of Hand

X-Factors: Bazooka, Fearless, Gambler, Pro Reads, Run N Gun

RUNNING WITH AUTHORITY

This year’s game has improved the feel of the running game, and these abilities help that tremendously, from powering up your stiff arm, juke, hurdle, and spin to improving the blocking inside and out. MUT head-to-head gameplay is awash with ball carrier special moves, so these abilities fit right in. That being said, the current X-Factors in this department seem limited (see Are They Worth It? below for more). If I had to go with one, I’d look for a player with Outside Zone Guru since outside runs can be big gainers, and sometimes the A.I. blocking needs help on the perimeter.

Superstar Abilities: Arm Bar, Balance Beam, Bruiser, Bulldozer, Human Joystick, Inside Zone Guru, Juke Box, Leap Frog, Outside Zone Guru, Pin-n-Pull Guru, Spin Cycle

X-Factors: First One Free, Freight Train, Wrecking Ball

DOMINANT DEFENSE

There aren’t many that fit into this category, but I think almost all of them bring something to the table, affecting play from pass breakups to defensive line moves, better tackling, hits, and interceptions. A handful of elite abilities combine multiple abilities, so you know these are valuable. Among the X-Factors, if I had to choose, it would would be Zone Hawk, which increases the rate of knockouts and INTs. Reinforcement is a close second, which helps defensive backs shed blocks and make stops closer to the line of scrimmage, but also aids in pass disruption.

Superstar Abilities: Acrobat, Edge Threat, Edge Threat Elite, Enforcer, Finesse Specialist, Lurker, Man Up, Pass Rush Elite, Pick Artist, Power Specialist, Reach Elite, Run Stopper, Secure Tackler, Strip Specialist, Tackle Supreme, Under Pressure, Unfakeable, Universal Coverage, Zoned Out

X-Factors: Fearmonger, Reinforcement, Run Stuffer, Shutdown, Unstoppable Force, Zone Hawk

GETTING INTO THE ZONE

The Clutch, Homer, and Indoor Baller Superstar abilities all get you into the zone for your X-Factors faster, making them all useful assuming you like your player’s X-Factor.

ARE THEY WORTH IT?

I wouldn’t say any Superstar ability or X-Factor is completely worthless, but some are less useful than others.

Pro Reads (X-Factor) – While it sounds great that your first open read as a QB is highlighted, in practice I found that either I already made the read before the A.I. or it simply wasn’t useful to me, like when the running back is highlighted coming out of the backfield when I’m looking to push the ball downfield instead.

Bazooka (X-Factor) – Cover star Patrick Mahomes has this, and I’m as big a fan of his as anyone, but frankly I don’t know how many situations I’m going to be in where I have to throw an 80-yard bomb. I’m not saying it’s not useful, I’d just rather have another X-Factor instead.

Conductor (Superstar) – This lets QBs make pre-play adjustments twice as fast, except audibles. Most players rarely have a problem with this in the first place.

Fast Break (Superstar) – This gives QBs faster control to execute QB-designed runs. I personally don’t call many of these in the first place.

First One Free (X-Factor) – This running back X-Factor gives you an increased chance to pull off a spin, juke, or hurdle – but only the first one. Although the X-Factor isn’t turned off unless the player is tackled for a loss, it’s arguably not even as powerful as some regular always-on Superstar abilities.

Freight Train (X-Factor) – Currently only Cam Newton has this ability, which gives him a better chance of breaking the first tackle (like First One Free). In practice, I didn’t find it super useful. Whether in the pocket or out, it usually wasn’t hard for defenses to rally enough defenders to take him down.

Last Ditch (Superstar) – An ability that lets you throw the ball when being sacked may sound like a life-saver, but you’ll mainly just be chucking incompletions anyway. If you’re outside of the pocket you can always throw it away instead.

Strip Specialist (Superstar) – This makes you immune to broken tackles when going in for the strip. This isn’t super useful since it doesn’t increase the chance of causing an actual fumble.

ONES TO WATCH

At the time of this writing, there are some X-Factors and Superstar abilities in the game that aren’t utilized by any players yet. In the future, if you see a player with one of these abilities, you should give them serious consideration because these sound valuable. Description text from EA Tiburon.

Balance Beam – Automatic stumble recovery when carrying the ball.

Bruiser – Ballcarriers with this ability have more powerful truck and stiff arm animations.

Bulldozer – Excels at the truck special move when carrying the ball.

Clutch Kicker – Kicker cannot be iced by an opponent timeout during critical field goals.

Focused Kicker – Kick-meter cursor speed is significantly slower for more precise place kicking.

Gunslinger – Faster passing animations & increased max pass speed on bullet passes.

Gutsy Scrambler – Passers with this ability won’t be adversely affected by pass rush pressure while throwing on the run.

Human Joystick – Increased agility as a ball carrier.

In Post Elite – Combines In Specialist and Post Specialist.

Long Range Deadeye – Perfect passing accuracy on all deep throws except high & low throws with the QB’s feet set.

Lurker – Ability to make jumping and 180 degree interceptions when in coverage over the middle of the field.

Out Corner Elite – Combines Out Specialist and Corner Specialist.

Playmaker – Grants receivers the ability to immediately and precisely react to playmaker requests.

QB Playmaker – Passers with this ability can elicit immediate and precise playmaker reactions from any receiver.

Run N Gun – Many passers use a combination mobility and aggressiveness to make big plays. When they enter the zone; they can’t be intercepted (by AI defenders) while throwing on the run.

Run Stuffer – Run Stuffers can singlehandedly disrupt an offense. When they enter the zone; this ability increases their win rate and block shed speed against one-on-one run blocks.

Secure Protector – When pass blocking, provides more time in the pocket when engaged by not allowing quick pass-rush blocksheds, unless defender has Edge Rush Elite.

Secure Tackler – Prevents auto-broken tackles vs. ball carriers when using the conservative or dive tackle mechanics.

Wrecking Ball – Wrecking Ball runners don’t avoid contact. They create it. When they enter the zone; this ability increases their success rate on the next three trucks or stiff arms.

THE TICKER

The Madden NFL 20 Review

Seven Gameplay Changes Coming to NBA 2K20

NBA 2K20 Gameplay Trailer

NBA Live 20 Releasing in Late 2019

More Impressions From the NHL 20 Beta

Minnesota Timberwolves NBA 2K League Affiliate Wins the 2019 Championship

PES 2020 Cover Stars Announced

Draft Day Sports: Pro Football 2020 Out Now

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Madden NFL 20 Review – Coming Up Short

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Tiburon
Release:
Rating: Rating Pending
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
Also on:
Xbox One, PC

No team starts the season thinking they’re going to be average. Coaches and GMs believe they can get the most out of their players. Incoming free agents and rookies improve the roster. Coaches try to out-think the competition with new plays. It all works on paper until it doesn’t. Madden 20 claims to improve aspects of its core gameplay. It adds mid-season scenarios in hopes of  bolstering both a new career mode and the stagnant franchise mode, and Madden Ultimate Team continues to be one of the best fantasy card modes around. It’s a sound game plan, but it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Madden 20’s gameplay makes a decent first impression. Controlling players in the running game and out in the open feels nice. Both smaller movements with the left stick and gregarious special moves let you weave around and assert your authority. You’ll still see animations not sync properly (like when receivers go up for the ball), awkwardly sped up animations, wonky ball and player physics, and oblivious blockers, but for the most part it’s satisfying to grab the ball and take control. Users must adjust their pursuit angles and tackles to account for stick skill pros, and the new command to pull down the ball in the pocket increases the threat of mobile QBs. Super-jumping linebackers snagging interceptions has even been fixed.

Click here to watch embedded media

This year’s X-Factor players and superstar abilities integrate well with the overall feel of the gameplay, making you account for special players on both sides of the ball. I like having to release the ball quicker knowing Khalil Mack is coming, just like it’s fun to knockdown passes and people with Bobby Wagner. Thankfully, they’re not so powerful they overtake the game. X-Factors don’t occur super often since they require meeting specific goals before they’re activated, and they turn off when the player scores a TD or gets tackled for a loss, for instance.

The superstar abilities, which more players have than the X-Factors, are arguably more dangerous since they are always on. For example, they bestow QBs more accuracy, WRs better catching in specific situations, and defenders surer tackles. But on any given play, there are enough variables so an X-Factor or superstar ability isn’t working in isolation. Todd Gurley might be able to stiff arm one defender out of the way, but if you’ve called the right defense and are swarming to the ball, he can’t get past everyone. These new abilities help give the game a big-play feel that mimics what we like about the NFL, and since they can be swapped in and out of players in Ultimate Team, they add value and new strategic opportunities to the mode.

These abilities translate to the new QB1 Face of the Franchise career mode where you star as a starting QB, but the mode doesn’t make for an illustrious career. The scenario engine that generates conversations with coaches, teammates, and other players doesn’t create an interesting story for your character. For instance, the cinematic cutscenes that help give you a backdrop stop after the beginning of the mode. QB1 also doesn’t capture the drama and pressure of the NFL. It’s simply a mechanism to feed you XP to grow your player. The mode is caught in the middle of trying to tell an interesting story and being a full-blown player career like NBA 2K’s MyCareer mode, and it succeeds at neither. Furthermore, on the field, your QB has to rely on not-so-smart A.I. teammates who often don’t pick the right hole in the line or catch type for passes.

Click image thumbnails to view larger version

 

                                                                                                            

The scenarios and the XP they generate are cross over into the regular Franchise mode (as do the abilities), but these additions don’t transform the areas that have needed updating for years. Free agency and the draft are boring. The sim engine can’t tabulate realistic game or season stats or trade intelligently. The teams and the league as a whole are void of the intrigue and machinations that fans love. Contracts’ total dollar amounts are more realistic, but with simple signing mechanisms and A.I. that can’t manage its own rosters correctly, this is a minor improvement.

The one positive facet of Franchise mode is that scouting is more interesting due to a stretch in player ratings (meaning even players rated in the 70s are useful) and the fact that players can develop into superstars and X-Factors with appropriate abilities. These players’ development trait is hidden during the draft, and since the A.I. scouts more in line with users’ own tendencies, there’s more competition for the good players. 

I like aspects of Madden 20 like the addictiveness and slightly easier progression of Ultimate Team, the way players feel, and the new abilities. But too much remains stagnant and unchanged. It’s like expecting a few free agents to change the course of an entire organization when there are key areas the franchise needs to have addressed yesterday. Instead, its roster has gotten old fast and the problems are mounting.

Score: 7.5

Summary: New features can only do so much for a series that needs work in multiple areas.

Concept: EA adds to the series’ gameplay and modes, but it all feels too similar to make a significant progress

Graphics: The players and their uniform details look good on the field, but some of the player models in the career and franchise modes have strange, oversized melons

Sound: The commentary is a mix of good contextual lines referring events that happened earlier in the game or even the previous week, but lines predictably repeat as well

Playability: The new in-pocket QB controls, TE block-and-release function, and pump fake are useful and easy to execute

Entertainment: The football is fun – helped by gameplay improvements and the X-Factor and superstar abilities. Unfortunately, the limited nature and lack of progress in the franchise and career modes is very clear

Replay: Moderately High

Click to Purchase

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Raw NHL 20 Gameplay Footage Lights The Lamp

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The beta for NHL 19 opened a can of gameplay worms after the final release of that title changed what some fans liked during the beta. So it’ll be interesting to see what NHL 20 looks and feels like at launch on September 13, and if any changes are made after the new NHL 20 beta.

We recently played the game, experiencing new wrinkles like improved one-timers and stick handling (read more about NHL 20’s gameplay here), and so far it feels like a mix of helpful tweaks and some familiar issues from NHL 19.

You can judge for yourself, however, by taking a look at some raw gameplay footage – including the new presentation package – in our video above.

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Playing College Football In Madden

College football fans are still waiting for the mess between the NCAA and athletes regarding compensation to resolve itself so companies like EA Sports can get back to putting out video games.

In the meantime, modders have taken matters into their own hands using the PC version of Madden NFL 19 to wedge the college game into the NFL title the best they can. One of the latest, called College Football Mod 19 (CFBM19), replaces the NFL’s 32 teams in Play Now mode with the pre-season top 25 college teams (plus seven others) and also includes rosters and some college-only rules.

I recently played the mod, and found it an easy – albeit limited – way to experience the college game.

Installing the PC mod (via the Operation Sports forums) is simple. One of its creators, TheBleedingRed21, has easy-to-follow instructions in both video and text form for downloading and installing the mod. There is also a roster file (with one update already out) of real-life players as well as an optional file of custom gameplay settings. Other small things to note: The mod only uses DX11, and it’s launched through the Frosty Mod Manager (which you install through the instructions above), not Origin.

Once installed, arguably the most compelling feature of the mod, other than the ability to play with the teams themselves, is the uniforms. Teams like Oregon and Clemson have alternate uniform options (all the mods uniforms are from the 2018 season) that include different helmets and there are even conference patches. Teams don’t have the bloated college rosters, but they do have the real player names and an attempt at player likenesses. 

The mod also tries to deliver some of the college-only aspects of gameplay that set it apart from the NFL. Fields’ hashmarks are set wider than in the pro game (affecting playcalling and field-goal attempts), the clock stops after a first down, and catches only require one foot to be inbounds.

The mod includes University of Central Florida’s Space Game unis.

The game itself isn’t fully moddable, so the changes only go so far. The mod covers Play Now and practice modes, and is not intended for Franchise or the online modes, and does not include the college overtime format. Presentation-wise, there are some college team-branded overlays, but the commentary is unchanged, the stadiums are vague approximations at best, and coaches roam the sidelines in team gear but are the same models as in the regular NFL game.

There are plans for a similar mod for Madden 20 that should hopefully be out sooner in the game’s lifecycle than this one was for Madden 19, but that all depends on how much of the code the makers can access in the new game.

It’s limited, but the CFBM19 mod shows that fans’ appetite for the college game has not diminished one bit, it’s just getting more inventive.

THE TICKER

Madden 20 Player Ratings Are Out

PES 2020 Signs Bayern München License

FIFA 19 Gameplay Pitch Notes

Grid Trailer

OOTP 20 Summer Sale Extended

Dirt Rally 2.0 Update 1.6 Patch Notes

DDS: Pro Football 2020 Announced for August 5

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New Monster Hunter World: Iceborne Trailer Debuts Two Terrifying Subspecies

Click here to watch embedded media

Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Release:
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

The Monster Hunter World: Iceborne expansion gives fans a new region to explore in which variants of known monsters and all-new beasts test the upmost of your abilities. The game’s new trailer features two such variants: Fulgur Anjanath and Ebony Odogaron, as well as a look at the Seliana home base.

Fulgur Anajanath uses lightning instead of fire, and Ebony Odogaron has a wider attack range as well as a dragon-elemental attack. The new trailer also shows off Glavenus, with its sweeping tail attack.

Before you go out and tackle these fearsome beasts, you can recharge and stock up at the Seliana base in Hoarfrost Reach, complete with a streamlined gathering hub, gear-crafting smithy, resource center, gardens, and more. Players can also customize their My Room in Seliana, and after the game’s launch Capcom says players will be able to visit each other’s rooms.

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne comes out September 6 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (the PC version is planned for the winter). For more on the expansion, be sure to check out the exclusive stories in our cover-story hub (click below).

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TGC Tours Adds A New Layer To The Golf Club 2019

The majority of gamers buy and play a game just the way it was intended, even if modes or functionality are missing or incomplete. In the case of TGC Tours, for the last five years over 16,000 video game golf fans have used the website as a jumping off point for their own ambitions of becoming a golfing legend in HB Studios’ The Golf Club series.

TGC Tours is a website not officially affiliated with The Golf Club 2019 that allows players to play a full PGA Tour and tournaments in TGC 2019, and then have their results synthesized and posted on the TGC Tours website as part of a larger, cross-platform leaderboard and season structure that is not otherwise found in TGC 2019.

First players go to the website to sign up and register for Q-School. In the game you’ll join the TGCTours (CC-Pro) society and play four rounds, with your score auto-submitted to the Q-School event leaderboard. Based on where you finish you’ll then get your TGCT Tour card and can play TGC Tour events. The website features multiple tours, including the European and Web.com tours, as well as a variety of other user-made challenge circuit tournaments.

TGC Tours uses data straight from developer HB Studios, and TGC Tours adds more features to the career mode of The Golf Club 2019 (even though it has the actual PGA Tour license) with real opponents, a money list, stats, and other amenities to give players the feeling of competing on a real circuit.

I talked to two of the three founders – Jeff Weese and Scott Doyley – about setting up TGC Tours and the challenges involved in trying to give golfers around the world the tour experience they crave.

How did TGC Tours get started?
Weese: Scott was running some competitive events Prior to TGC Tours just by using a spreadsheet. He was running it off the HB Studios forums. It was very casual. Tim Owens had this vision of creating a bigger competition site, something that would kind of mirror the PGA. And so it was really Tim’s vision. He saw what Scott was doing and approached Scott about creating a site, you know, to run Tim’s sims.

Tim didn’t have any ability to do the front-end of the site. He was mostly just going to handle the logic, and he wanted somebody to come alongside him and handle the front-end of the site. So he posted in the HB forums to see if anybody would be interested in helping him to design and build the site, and that’s when I came along. I had some experience in kind of running some golf competitions in the past and my trade is web development. So I agreed to come alongside him and help him build up the site. So the three of us sort of partnered together and started building the site before we had any idea what the end result was going to be, which was a real challenge.

It looks like you have instituted some of your own Fair Play rules to make things as fair as possible. Have you had to add new rules to make sure the golf is represented realistically on the website?
Weese: The data is what the data is, there’s nothing to change. There are rules that we apply that aren’t game rules, like we have a rule that you can’t chip on the greens if you’re outside of 100 feet, which is obviously not a game rule – it’s not even a golf rule. But in terms of competitive fairness, we want people putting on the green. That’s sort of a legacy rule, because it was more important in previous versions of the game where chipping was easier, but now that chipping is a little harder it’s probably not as important, but we’re keeping the rule. So there are rules like that, like tiebreakers – we set our own tiebreak rules. Obviously in the PGA they would have playoff holes; we can’t do that in this golf setting because there’s no logic built in for playing things off, especially when it’s cross-platform. The events really aren’t cross-platform. The data we’re getting is cross-platform and our leaderboard is cross-platform, but the game itself is not.

Is there a difference between the systems in cross-platform play? Do PS4 users have an inherent advantage due to the controller?
Weese: The PS4 is by far statistically the easiest version to play on, or at least, there’s certain aspects of PS4 that are easier [in terms of control – Ed.]. An Xbox seems to be hardest, and PC kind of runs the gamut in between. PS4 also has the largest user base. It always has, not just because this version of the game seems to favor PS4, but our users – the highly competitive ones; the ones that are at the top tiers of our tours – they know that PS4 has an advantage. They know it. They accept it. You play on the platform you choose to play on… If you prefer to do PC and try and compete that way, you may be at a disadvantage, but you have to go from there. I mean, our hope is the next iteration of the game will be a little more balanced between platforms.

In terms of that cross-platform play, Have you guys considered not doing that because PS4 has such an advantage?
Doyley:  Yeah, we’ve talked about it. It’s kind of more complicated than just PS4/Xbox. It’s basically the club set. The three systems are really balanced for the two easier club sets – it’s just on the hardest one where the discrepancy is. So, it almost becomes a point where you’ve got to split it by console, and then by club set almost to create the most balanced tours for this game. So no, I don’t think that’s something that we’re looking to go to because I think the pull for TGC Tours is the fact that everyone is kind under one roof and one leaderboard. So splitting by cross-platform would probably be our least-favorable option.

You mentioned chipping on the greens and we just talked about some of the challenges with cross-platform play. Is there anything else users are doing that you either had to institute a rule for or just had to work around?
Doyley: A couple of things. Obviously, the Fair Play policy was kind of brought in just because of the differences in controllers out there. So we kind of had to set a boundary where we base everything off of stock Xbox and PS4 controllers and the data we get is fairly consistent with what the average player gets. So when you get a third-party controller that’s fairly an outlier, We decided to kind of put in a boundary there. Mouse users too are a bit tricky since that’s such a configurable device. The other thing I should mention too – I guess the other big drama from this year from the PS4 side would be the flick swing. A lot of the top players have figured out that they don’t need to swing the entire full length of a controller. And it’s one of the reasons why we say that PS4 probably has a bit of an edge because it’s hard to replicate on Xbox or PC.

Your schedule uses real event names and people can replicate the courses. Have you guys run into any licensing/legal issues?
Weese: No, we’ve never been contacted. We’re not for profit, so we’re basically using all the PGA names and whatnot under the parody law.

Do you guys rotate the courses used or have them replaced with new creations?
Weese: We change the courses every year. The majority of our events play on fictional courses. Some of them play on real course, or the real-life counterparts to their current events on the PGA Tour, for example. The course designer community is such a huge part of what we’re about at TGC Tours and really what this game is about. And so we want to reward our course designers, who spend upwards of 100 hours per course that they create.

We get I think somewhere around three to four courses per day submitted to our course database – way more than we could ever field events for, but we do want to reward our course designers by showcasing their work every year. So yeah, we rotate the courses as much as we can.

Is there anything you would like to see improved in the game to help TGC Tours in particular?
Doyley: I think the main gripe most people would like to fix is the lack of backspin on a lot of the clubs. You might have issues with the PGA season mode. But obviously, for us, we operate outside that, so as long as the gameplay is fine we can tailor our site to whatever things that we might think is lacking under the PGA career mode. I find I still love the game; I’m still having a blast.

[I would like] a little more variety too in the course conditions, in what we can actually set. They have these basically unlimited settings for designers, but then for us in the game we only get like four or five settings… 

Anything you guys can talk about in terms of what you’re working on for the future of the tour?
Doyley: I don’t see any sweeping changes to what we have now. Usually the main decision we have to make in the offseason is, if the new game is drastically different do we have to do a whole new Q school for everyone. Because everyone’s kind of at a certain skill level, and if the game completely changes, it can kind of unbalance that [At this time developer HB Studios has not announced its plans for the next Golf Club – Ed.].

Weese: I think there are a couple of other minor things that we tweak. Overall I think the structure will be the same for the main tours. We may add to what we have. Every year we’ve made changes based on feedback from our users and based on game changes, and I think this is the first year, out of the five seasons we’ve done, where everybody seems to be overall pretty happy with the structure of the tours to the extent that we can control.

There are other things that we do want to do that provided the programming time, we would be able to implement. Some of those things are simple like adding new statistics and some things that we can display on the site to make the user-experience a little more in-depth. We have a sort of a development board of ideas and features to add to the site that is pretty long, and it grows every week. I know Tim would love to have a ladder system for additional competitions, not as part of the main tour structure, but just a separate thing as another outlet for more competitive play.

 

For more information on TGC Tours, check out the website.

THE TICKER

NASCAR Heat 4 Announced For September

The F1 2019 Review

Grid Delayed Until October 11

PES 2020 Adds Manchester United License, Loses Liverpool

New Star Manager Coming To PS4 On July 9

Wreckfest Hitting Consoles On August 27

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NASCAR Heat 4 Hits The Track This September

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Publisher: 704Games
Developer: Monster Games
Release: September
Rating: Rating Pending
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Publisher 704Games and developer Monster Games have announced the next iteration in the NASCAR Heat series, NASCAR Heat 4, which is scheduled to hit the PS4, Xbox One, and PC this September. Although details on the game are light at the moment, new tire models for the different track types and more career mode flexibility are highlighted among other additions such as a needed graphical upgrade.

NASCAR Heat 3 added dirt racing, and although that may be a big draw for some (legend Tony Stewart is featured on the game’s cover), one of the new features of career mode is the ability to start in any of the game’s four racing series – dirt, trucks, the Xfinity series, and the Monster Energy cup series.

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Whether this is the mode’s main addition for the year remains to be seen, but 704Games president Colin Smith says that the game, “[incorporates] a number of features and improvements recommended by the NASCAR Heat community.”

Hopefully this includes more in-depth car customization options, improved A.I. and online performance, more career mode depth, and improvements in other areas.

NASCAR Heat 4 is now accepting pre-orders for its standard and gold editions (featuring Jeff Gordon on the cover), and the latter includes three-day early access to the game and other goodies. Everyone who pre-orders can play Martinsville at night early. Find out more about pre-orders as well as both editions of the game here.

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F1 2019 Review – Good Through Every Corner

Publisher: Codemasters
Developer: Codemasters
Release:
Rating: Everyone
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
Also on:
Xbox One, PC

The F1 series has a well-earned reputation for demanding sim-based racing. If you want to feel the full torque and acceleration of your machine and think you can control that beast, then go ahead. That’s just one of the challenges of F1 2019, but it’s not the only metric by which this game should be judged, nor the only one by which it succeeds. Codemasters’ F1 series isn’t only for hardcore racers and F1 diehards; it’s for anyone who wants to race on the edge, who wants to build a top-flight organization, and who wants to test their mettle turn after turn and season after season.

The world of F1 is relentless in its competition, whether that’s on the track, between teams’ R&D departments, or even rival drivers within your own team. F1 2019 has all of these, and importantly, it keeps them in reach of drivers of all abilities. The F1 cars are responsive in acceleration, braking, and control, with the usual variety of helpers, like rewinding and changing difficulty settings. Regardless of your play style, you get tense and triumphant moments, like when a competitor threatens to overtake you as their DRS kicks in along the back straightaway, only for you to dive hard into the corner and hold them off. In specific gameplay terms, the braking feels a touch easier to lock up this year, but it’s not hard to adjust to and I could manage it without losing time or position.

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The addition of F2 racing in certain areas (Codemasters plans to add the full 2019 F2 schedule to season mode after launch) provides additional challenge through cars that are harder to control, whether that’s slowing them down entering corners or controlling them on exit. The feeder series’ is used as a preamble to the career mode, and although the two drivers you meet via cutscenes in F2 follow you into F1, their presence and effectiveness as a storytelling device tapers off once you’re in F1. For instance, I beat a long-standing nemesis from my F2 days, Devin Butler, in a multi-race rivalry faceoff and I didn’t even get to revel in my victory through a cutscene.

Thankfully, F2’s relatively small inclusion in the career mode doesn’t blunt how good the career mode is overall. New this year is the ability to sim practice sessions for a modicum of resource points for your R&D department – a nice way to give more casual players options while still rewarding those who want to put in the time investment. The career mode is filled with such balance. A part fails R&D? You can work harder next practice to get points to try again, as well as buy a durability upgrade for the appropriate department to help you next time. Lose a rivalry matchup? You can still further your reputation by earning team upgrades and perks during the next contract-negotiation session. Even when I wasn’t doing well, it didn’t feel like the beginning of the end – only the start of my next opportunity.

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You can also find versatility in the new user-created leagues multiplayer feature. Creating or participating in a league is easy, and I appreciate options like being able to have a set day to race or leave it up to the discretion of all involved, and the ability to have A.I. cars present on the track but not in the league standings. However, differentiating between ghosted A.I. cars and non-ghosted real players during races is confusing when everyone’s piling up going into a corner.

Customization is also a big part of this year’s multiplayer, but the cosmetic choices for your suit, gloves, and liveries are basic, so far. Most can be unlocked purely through earning and spending the in-game currency, but a few Premium items can only be bought with real money. This monetization isn’t obnoxious, and the customization options are more notable for the fact that there isn’t an in-depth livery editor and there are no face-sculpting options.

You should play F1 2019 not just because you’re an F1 fan or the hottest thing that’s ever gotten in a cockpit. Do it because you want to experience the thrill, the heartbreak, and the satisfaction of competing at ridiculously high speeds. Trust me, you do.

Score: 8.75

Summary: Whether guiding your car, career, or league, F1 2019 has plenty of options to keep you covered and entertained.

Concept: Custom multiplayer leagues add to an already-great career mode. The latter has some minor additions, including a brief stint in the F2 feeder league

Graphics: Objects on the horizon can exhibit some graphical degradation, but it isn’t a serious issue

Sound: The commentary lines are old and often not that interesting. F2 announcers have been added, but they don’t break out of the mold either

Playability: Pushing the F1 cars to their limits is fun, and the F2 cars have their own feel and are actually harder to drive

Entertainment: Whether guiding your car, career, or league, F1 2019 has plenty of options to keep you covered and entertained

Replay: High

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