Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Transitional Period

Hello! If you've found you're way here seeking out our podcast, you'll notice there hasn't been a post in a few weeks. We're planning to build a new site in the near future and thus will not be updating this one. However, the show continues every Monday and you can find each new episode below.




And you can always contact us, about anything, at feedback@2v1podcast.com, and on Twitter/Instagram @2v1Podcast

- Nick

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Ep. #159 - Nintendo Wut-o?

Nintendo announces the Labo, a 'toy-con' that houses the Switch within cardboard in various ways. Metal Gear Survive turns out to be fun. A new Fable game may exist. 2018 is weird.

2v1 also discusses Dragonball FighterZ, Okami, Assassin's Creed: Origins, Fortnite & more.

Outro from Nintendo Labo reveal trailer

As a bonus, please enjoy a special episode with Nick & Alex discussing the newest season of Twin Peaks.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Nick's Favorite Metal Albums of 2017

2017 felt like an eternity. This past year was full of emotional highs and lows that seem to finally be tapering off a few weeks into 2018. During those light and dark times, there was a ton of metal to turn to for solace. Here's 10 of my favorite albums from 2017 in no order except alphabetical. But first:


Attic - Sanctimonious
Attic gives King Diamond a run for his fucking money. I may have missed others over the years but this vocalist is the closest attempt at the King's otherwordly shrieks and chants I've heard. The music rips pretty hard too - the album just feels a bit too long for its own good.

Rest In Power Dave Brockie. I sort of missed the last 3 Gwar albums and then Oderus Urungus left us to conquer other dimensions. The Blood of Gods is just another fun Gwar album that shows they can still hang without their leader.

Impetuous Ritual - Blight Upon Martyred Sentience
Impetuous Ritual is unnerving chaos from an impossible realm.

Lantern - II: Morphosis
I loved Lantern's debut, Below, and had a lot of expectations for their follow up. Morphosis is a solid death metal album with Black Miasma and Cleansing of the Air as standout tracks (and the singles they released prior), but overall the album feels like a bit of a mess with the occasional stellar riff.

Pillorian - Obsidian Arc
Only a year ago, I'd have slapped you if you told me I wouldn't adore anything John Haughm did post-Agalloch. But Pillorian really didn't land for me. Again there's a few tracks here that are excellent (A Stygian Pyre is one) but it's pretty damning when I find myself not listening during parts of this album. It's not bad by any means - just ok, especially compared to past stuff with Agalloch. Here's hoping to the future of this band. 

Sabbath Assembly - Rites of Passage
Sabbath Assembly is occult rock that fucking rocks and walks the line of 'heavy metal'. They're awesome live and recorded and this album is great.

Black Anvil - As Was

I had the pleasure of witnessing Mayhem perform De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas live in its entirety in 2017 and opening for them was a band I'd never heard of: Black Anvil. These New Yorkers came out swinging with a fury that I instantly appreciated. Black Anvil takes black metal riffing and wraps it in catchy, melodic grooves that make their songs more approachable while staying heavy (such as in May Her Wrath Be Just). The album as a whole is varied and engaging and I love how they mix harsh and clean vocals. Some songs feel like they meander a bit longer than they should but it doesn't take away from the experience. Unfortunately, I don't recommend digging into their backlog but the future of this band looks bright. 

Bandcamp. Favorite track: Ultra

Cloak - To Venomous Depths

Heading into 2018, I was nervous about two forthcoming albums from Watain & Tribulation. Watain produced a solid album in Trident Wolf Eclipse, but the verdict is still out on Tribulation. Thus enters Atlanta's Cloak. Cloak takes the best of both worlds: an energy that reminds me of a Watain live show married with the composition of Tribulation's last two albums. But I wouldn't call Cloak a copycat. Instead, they wear their influences on their sleeves proudly and create their own blend of black/thrash/heavy metal, with an album that has a really solid mix and just fucking rocks. To Venomous Depths is an unlikely pairing of sinister and fun and I'm looking forward to what comes next for these guys.

Bandcamp. Favorite track: In the Darkness, the Path

Enslaved - E

Enslaved - EI love Enslaved. It's beginning to look like they can do no wrong for me. E is honestly not too different from their last few albums but I just love it (this is the first one that took a few listens to hook me, though). This time, Enslaved has a new keyboardist/clean vocalist whom I was initially against but grew to appreciate. These Norwegians trick you into thinking they've lost their black metal roots until they transition from a slow, dreamy lilt to an utterly crushing assault. I described In Times as 'airy' and I think that still applies - Enslaved has had this specific sound for awhile now, where it feels like floating through the clouds amidst the growls. 

Favorite track: The River's Mouth

Krallice - Go Be Forgotten

Krallice released two albums in one year again. This time only one really hit for me. Don't get me wrong, Loum is solid with guest vocals from Neurosis's Dave Edwardson. But Go Be Forgotten is yet again another example of how versatile Krallice can be. It's more melodic and atmospheric this time, easing up (a bit) on the dense technicality that I've grown accustomed to. Go Be Forgotten feels more experimental, with more synths and even interludes, breaking up some of the suffocating-but-controlled cacophony. Like their entire discography, this one requires multiple listens before any sort of understanding reveals itself. But it's worth it.

Bandcamp. Favorite track: Go Be Forgotten

Lorn - Arrayed Claws

Arrayed Claws is my favorite surprise of 2017. At first glance, Lorn sounds like a me-too discordant black metal band. But their authority of the chaos quickly reveals itself as something really special. The incessant drums and ringing guitar lull me into a trance where the subtle changes in tempo make me forget what was just happening, basking in the discomfort. Arrayed Claws is tense and enveloping with ambient keyboard interludes as reprieves. This is also a great example of the artwork complimenting the album: squirming beasts vying for a better position like thoughts in the mind clamoring for attention. Lorn captures the experience of sudden impulses of fear and doubt on Arrayed Claws, providing a catharsis I didn't realize I desired. 

Bandcamp. The entire album is excellent.

Suffering Hour - In Passing Ascension

Suffering Hour is another surprise for me this year. Man, did their debut ablum, In Passing Ascension, hit hard for me. Suffering Hour crafts dissonant, blackened death metal, unafraid to let a riff build tension only to have it explode into something completely different within seconds. The guitars have a bounce to them - going one way, then another, seemingly at random. They make me consider what Deathspell Omega would sound like if they lightened up a bit. The vocals are mostly standard death metal guttural affair, the only negative I can muster about In Passing Ascension, because the rest of the album is a trip.

Bandcamp. Favorite track: For the Putridity of Man

Sunless - Uracca

If Suffering Hour wasn't jarring enough for you, might I suggest Sunless? Urraca reminds me of Gorguts's return, Colored Sands, with stutter-y guitar rhythms that captivate and suddenly change. I love that the songs are rather short for music of this ilk, getting in and out before you realize what happened. Within this short period, Sunless creates an eclectic atmosphere that leaves me breathless. 

Bandcamp. Favorite track: Abberant Clime

Venenum - Trance of Death

Trance of Death is a fitting follow-up to Venenum's self-titled EP - a debut that showed signs of forward-thinking amidst standard death metal. Trance of Death expands upon the trippy, contemplative nature established by Venenum's EP, tossing the listener into an even more chaotic dimension. The crushing sections of this album blend exceptionally well with the dreamy and emotional slower passages. Venenum tells a harrowing tale about the act of dying, providing an intense glimpse into the confusion and horror of what may lay beyond.

Bandcamp. Favorite track: There Are Other Worlds

Wintersun - The Forest Seasons

Wintersun is one of the first bands I discovered that led me down the path of extreme metal with their self-titled album - an album that will forever be an all-time favorite. I was very disappointed with their follow up, Time I. I had waited so long for another album, only to be left wanting. As it turns out, I just needed to wait a bit longer for The Forest Seasons. The concept of each song focusing around a season is just cool and the mood is established perfectly for autumn and winter. It may seem lackluster compared to other releases this year, but Wintersun has made a triumphant return for me personally. Symphonic metal bands are very hit or miss, but Wintersun manages to capture the beauty and grandeur of nature on this album with an epic blend of death and black metal. 

Bandcamp. Favorite track: Eternal Darkness (Autumn)

Wolves in the Throne Room - Thrice Woven

Wolves in the Throne Room is another special band that goes back years in my development as a metal fan. I fell in love with their long-form conjurations of nature worship spoken through black metal well before I discovered the depth of the genre.  After Celestial Lineage, Wolves released an ambient companion album, Celestite, before announcing a hiatus. I was surprised to catch them live last year, and Thrice Woven was even more unexpected. Wolves is back with better production and a more aggressive approach while maintaining their signature magic. The songs are punchier while hearkening back to their fuzzy beginnings. While another album that took me a few listens to appreciate, Thrice Woven shows that Wolves is still capable of grand, sweeping epics in a style only they seem fit to produce. 

Bandcamp. Favorite track: The Old Ones Are With Us

Thanks for reading, and let me know your favorites from 2017! Here's my past lists in case you missed them and need even more to check out: 2016, 2015, 2014

- Nick

Monday, January 15, 2018

Ep. #158 - The Legacy of Meat Boy

An old favorite of 2v1's, Super Meat Boy, is released for Nintendo Switch, but something is missing...

Alex looks for abstract solutions in Prey, Josh falls in love with Nioh and Nick shoots a lot of dudes in another Uncharted jungle.

Also discussed: Dark Souls, Kirby, World Ends With You, Getting Over It and the Overwatch League

Outro from original Super Meat Boy OST "Forest Funk":

Monday, January 8, 2018

Ep. #157 - Junk Assassin

It's Fashion Week in Paris. The crowd is dressed to the nines, champagne but a reach away and gorgeous people are strutting their stuff down the runway. Please disregard the corpse the models are stepping over.

The gang's all here with a continued discussion of Assassin's Creed: Origins and Hitman, roguelikes and disagreements over the End is Nigh.

Also discussed: New Year's Resolutions (or lack thereof), Arcade sticks, Paladins: Battlegrounds and free games.

Outro: The Hollow Howl from Enter the Gungeon OST

Monday, January 1, 2018

Ep. #156 - Happy 2018

Happy New Year!

2v1 rings in 2018 with guest-host AJ to discuss Games of the Year, hangover cures, Nier: Automata, Assassin's Creed: Origins and of course, fighting games.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Alex's Gaming Year in Review: What I Played in 2017

December 29, 2017

Alex’s Year in Gaming - 2017

It's that time of the year again. The time when we reflect on the games we've played for the past 365 days and then assign a subjective order of value to each. This year, I'm dividing my thought catalog into the following sections:

  • Releases in 2017
  • Not 2017
  • Unfinished Business
    • I've put in enough time into these to know they belong on this list, but I've plenty to play still. Because I'm adding them now, they won't show up on my 2018 list.

Make sense? No? Perfect. I'm sure that friend & listener Yody would approve when I say, "I'm an adult, and I can structure my dumb list however I like."

Releases in 2017

8) Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy (Steam)

Until the release of Getting Over It, I never had any intention of doing any gaming with Steam. I'm not anti-PC gaming at all; I'm just a console guy. And then came Getting Over It. One of the strangest love-to-hate and hate-to-love games I'd ever heard of, so I took a leap of faith. A few short downloads and $8.00 USD later, I dove into my first "PC" (Mac) gaming experience. To date, Getting Over It is the only game to which I respond with laughter instead of rage when I screw up and lose progress. That's how I knew it was something special.

7) GWENT [Public Beta] (Xbox One)

I don't even remember the last time I played this game, and yet, it felt wrong not to include it because of how much I played it mid-2017. There was a time where if I wasn't playing Rocket League, I was playing Gwent. Fanatically.

Then, they implemented a huge overhaul on the game a month or two into the public beta, and everything changed. My favorite thing about the original Gwent was how simple it was. It wasn't the "whoever has more cards is going to win" version that you can find in-game with Witcher 3, but it wasn't too complicated, either, and I personally thought that was the beauty of the game. It was so easy to sit and burn through an hour of satisfying and relatively strategic card game fare. After the first BIG update, all of that changed. The beautiful simplicity was no longer there, the game was fundamentally changed, and I quickly fell off after that.

RIP, Gwent. I hardly knew ye.

6) Little Nightmares (Xbox One)

It's lazy and possibly unfair to compare this game to INSIDE.

That said, this game is INSIDE, basically. But that doesn't mean it's a ripoff, per se. It definitely has a more interesting aesthetic, and I would argue that it focuses a little more on horror as opposed to a disturbing dystopian feel, though both games are disturbing to be sure. Regardless, I can't say much without spoiling the experience. It's a 90% competent side-scrolling platformer that will have you on the edge of your seat from time to time. 

5) Fortnite [Battle Royale] (Xbox One)

I played Fortnite almost right when it came out, and refused to complete the endless tutorial, so I have nothing to say about the "actual" game. However, Fortnite added its own Battle Royale mode a la PUBG, and it became an instant hit on consoles. Interestingly, it didn't grab me in beginning - nor did it in the following months. But then PUBG was released on consoles on December 12. I was somewhat excited to play "the real thing," but it was such a disaster on consoles at launch (and isn't much better now) that I decided to revisit Fortnite. Suddenly, a lightbulb went off. I can't put it down, and I love playing match after match in Duos and Squads. I admit, I still don't get anything out of Solo play, so part of it is the social experience and sharing of Victory Royale among friends.

4) Cuphead (Xbox One)

Where the hell did this game come from?

I mean, I know it was announced and we had it on our radar and all, but what a fascinating game to basically come out of left field and onto our TV screens.

Obviously, the coolest thing about Cuphead is the art style. And that living, 1930s-style animation somehow goes so well with the run 'n' gun gameplay that it's just impossible to put down. Once you get started on a boss, unless you've got a job interview or a hot date, there's no way you'll be leaving until you see, "KNOCKOUT!" plastered across the screen. The cherry on top of this fresh gaming experience is its price tag of $20. I implore you to roll the dice and take the Cuphead challenge if you haven't already.

3) Mass Effect: Andromeda (Xbox One)

Nick & Josh are not going to be happy about this one.

Mass Effect: Andromeda sucked in a lot of ways. Nothing happened in the story, "lame" could not describe the new cosmic threat, and the word "Pathfinder" is going to be tainted forever because of this game. Still...I put 40+ hours into it. Once I got fully into it, it didn't feel like a chore, though it was at the beginning. It still had the Mass Effect-y feel to it gameplay-wise, and overall, it's as simple as me saying this: I enjoyed the game, and I don't regret playing it. Of course, it doesn't hold a candle to the original trilogy. Honestly, the whole thing just makes me think about Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which you can hear us talk about in Episode 155 - Divisive. My expectations were managed, I was aware of the nasty developer/publisher/"push this to meet the release date" situation, and I played accordingly. I just hope they do it better next time if there ever is a next time.

2) Metroid: Samus Returns (Nintendo 3DS)

Last year, an unofficial Metroid game was essentially tied for my Game of the Year 2016 pick. Never would I have dreamed in a zillion years that the following year I'd have an official entry into the Metroid franchise in the exact same spot.

As excited as I was for Samus to Return, a tiny part of me was almost anxious because of the art design and gameplay tweaks - but I left it to the developers to do right by the Metroid name. And they did. The added melee component along with a full-3D environment turned out to be cool as hell. It's similar enough to the source (Metroid II: Return of Samus) that it's still a wonderful trip down memory lane, but other than the way the game actually progresses, it might as well be a brand new experience. As I would describe it, there's even a bit of a "post game" to play around with to encourage exploration. But to go into further detail would spoil one of the coolest parts of the game.

1) Resident Evil 7 (Xbox One)

If you've been a 2v1 fan since at least February/March, you definitely knew this was coming.

I have a Resident Evil problem, and that's no secret. The collective amount of hours I've put into the franchise across its many installments is truly staggering. And while they hold a special place in my heart, even a diehard fanboy like me wanted to cut my hands off after playing Resident Evil 6's campaign (Mercs, on the other hand, you've heard me swoon over). When Capcom announced 7 and what it would offer in terms of gameplay, I was skeptical, but I thought, "Well, literally nothing can be worse than 6, so I'm ready to give this a chance."

Resident Evil 7 is what the series needed: A fresh approach with brand new gameplay, puzzles, and scares. Not an over-the-top, guns blazing, mega steaming pile of action-shit like RE6. The story is thin, but at the same time, that's never been what drew me into the series to begin with. I played the hell out of the single player and did everything there was to do, including its infamous Madhouse difficulty. Then, the first wave of DLCs came out (Banned Footage Volumes, for which I actually wrote an in-depth review that you can see below), and they not only delivered, but they sort of blew me away. Some of them provided additional insight into the story/characters, some of them are simply mini/side games you can pick up at any time, but one of my favorite things about the first wave of DLCs, and indeed, RE7 in its totality, is the white-knuckle Ethan Must Die game mode. Learning, mastering, and conquering this mode is to this day one of the most satisfying video game feats I've accomplished. Then, this December, Capcom gave us the rest of RE7's DLC - Not a Hero and End of Zoe. Neither was terrible, but neither was great. And really only the former was "pretty good." It wasn't the revisiting I was holding my breath for, but I was happy to have any reason to play the game again.

Bottom line: RE7 breathed new life into Resident Evil, and I no longer believe the series is doomed. There may still be some greatness yet to be explored in the series that we have to thank for the emergence of survival horror as a gaming genre.

Not 2017

7) The Turing Test (Xbox One)

Bulkhead Interactive did it again for me. In 2015, it was Pneuma: Breath of Life. While The Turing Test first came out in 2016, I just got around to playing this as a Games with Gold freebie this year. Similar to both Pneuma and Portal, you're basically trudging through puzzles at the whims of an overseer while being fed some philosophical and intellectual food for thought at the same time. While Portal is more light-hearted in nature, The Turing Test tells its story from more of an ethics consideration angle. Just what is it that constitutes artificial intelligence, consciousness, life, or a combination of these things? It's not a huge time investment, and it brings up some questions that, while humans have been talking about them for decades, we're going to have to come up with some answers to finally - probably sooner rather than later. 

6) Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin (Nintendo DS)

There are three Castlevanias on the DS, and this one falls neatly in the middle for me. It goes a little something like this:

Dawn of Sorrow > Portrait of Ruin > Order of Ecclesia

Ecclesia isn't a bad game, but it definitely comes up short when compared to this and DoS. PoR takes the ability to swap characters and makes it essential to your success in some parts of the game, but not in an annoying way. It simply encourages you to try different tactics, weapons, and spells so you get a flavor of everything the game has to offer. Plus, the general idea of going in and out of individual portrait "worlds" is just sweet as hell. To top it all off, this one has a particularly memorable battle with the prince of darkness at the end of the game.

5) Hitman (Xbox One)

Like Fortnite Battle Royale, this is another late entry to my list this year.

Hitman is a triumph in terms of video gaming entertainment value. It's the perfect blend of realism and...non-realism, to be frank. I think developers are constantly trying to find the right balance between what's realistic and what's fun, and I've never seen a game nail it like Hitman. In fact, as I went through the game, I captured many of my favorite moments and plan to make a "supercut" of sorts - more to come on that.

In any case, in my humble opinion, there's one way to play this game: On the couch with a friend right next to you with no Googling allowed. Hitman is as much a puzzle game as it is a stealth-action game. The eureka moments combined with some of the game's AI quirks lead to lots of laughs and pure enjoyment. Once you beat a mission, pass it on to your pal to tackle the next one. Plus, you can replay missions with different gear, starting locations, disguises, etc. It adds to the replay value in a way I haven't seen in most games. And then there's the Elusive Targets. I could go on and on, but you just should play it instead.

4) Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (PS4)

There are a lot of good things about Uncharted 4. It tells an engaging story - one that the adventurer in all of us wishes to be a part of, minus the element that's tantamount to mass murder. The gameplay and controls are competent and do what they need to do. The characters are interesting and do a good job of making you hate them or love them. But the best part?

I'm sorry, but it's the graphics. Uncharted 4 is still the best looking game I've ever seen in my life. And while I'm sure there are some games I haven't gotten to yet that give it a run for the money, the interactivity among things in the environment is so impressive that I really just can't believe it. Foliage, shadows, mud splatters...it's all perfectly done. All of it. Perfectly.

One day, I may make time to play the first three. I almost wonder, though, if that's a bad idea at this point, considering how high the bar's been set by Uncharted 4.

3) Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (Nintendo DS)

I almost feel guilty even saying this...but if there's a Castlevania out there that I'd put up against Symphony of the Night, it's Dawn of Sorrow. This is about as good as it gets.

It's basically a sequel to Aria of Sorrow with regard to both story and gameplay. But it has its own unique elements that set it apart from and above Aria. Best of all, once you beat the game, you unlock another mode in classic Castlevania fashion, and honestly, it may add the most replay value of any of these post-game modes I've seen. I'm definitely going to come back to it at some point to spend more time with Julius Mode.

2) Axiom Verge (Xbox One)

Speaking of Castlevania...

Axiom Verge perfects the Metroidvania genre in a way such that I'd be okay with them adding a part of it to its genre namesake. It's hard to believe that after all these years, another "pathfinder" as they are now called could come along to redefine what to expect out of a quality Metroidvania (still my favorite way to refer to these games). If you've never played a Metroidvania/pathfinder game, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Axiom Verge as a starting point. The hand-drawn art design is beautiful, the music effectively bottles up nostalgia for future consumption, and the gameplay is gripping.

Axiom Verge reminded why this really may be my favorite gaming genre.

1) Bloodborne (PS4)

If you remove my silly categories and criteria, and we talk strictly about what game I played this year that I enjoyed the most, it's Bloodborne. Hands down.

You know all about two thirds of 2v1's undying love for the Souls series. Well, my love for the Souls games notwithstanding, I can say that Bloodborne is every bit as good, and in some ways, it's even better. The gameplay is perfectly polished, and nothing beats the Victorian horror setting and aesthetic. It's just sublime. Beasts, blood, and blades abound in this spiritual successor to and natural evolution of the Souls family of games. It's also an easier starting point for those looking to dip their toes into this now famous/infamous genre of gaming. I would say that Bloodborne is (marginally) easier overall. Still, the game is an incredible challenge to surmount no matter how you approach it, and the payoff that comes with its completion is every bit is satisfying. It's worth nothing that I played it all the way through twice back to back, which is something I can't say about any of the Souls games.

Unfinished Business

2) Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (Xbox One)

I don't want to talk a lot about Wolfenstein 2 because honestly, it was a slog for me to get through at first, and this game is all about specific "moments." The gunplay is so so. The emotional hangups of protagonist BJ in the beginning are unbearable. The story is sort of whatever. At least up until shortly after what you see in the picture above. Suddenly, I was very happy to be playing this game. I got through this game-changing event shortly before leaving my Atlanta abode for the holidays, so it'll be my first order of gaming business when I return to finish it. I hear the ending only gets better.

1) Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)

I know Zelda is basically the undisputed champ of 2017, and I wouldn't argue with that for a second. It's also a borderline embargoed topic on the podcast because we've spent so much time discussing and praising what an outstanding game it is. Weirdly, I'm still waiting for the full-blown addiction phase, but the second half 2017 was unusually busy for me, and I thought it prudent to get through a wider variety of games than to sink 60-80 hours straight into Zelda, so I think that played a part in my not finishing it. It certainly doesn't have anything to do with how beautiful it looks, the soothing sounds and interior of every shrine I visit, or the unfettered ability to explore whatever mountain, river, or structure you see on the horizon.

It's really been an exciting year for 2v1, and Nick, Josh, and I all have you as our listeners and supporters to thank for that. We promise to keep doing what we do, incorporating your feedback as we go, and to continue working on making the podcast, our video & social content, and swag accessibility better every day.

Cheers and good health to you all in 2018!