Alex @Sworbachev

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'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!


March 7, 2017

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard - Banned Footage Vol. 1 and 2 DLC Review

One thing I've learned when it comes to writing: When you get an idea and feel an urge to write about something, act on it right away, or the moment will pass. I have spent such a ridiculous amount of time with RE7 and its first DLC that I need to do just that. If you want to get the general gist of what it offers by listening to the podcast, check out Episodes 112 & 113. For a more in-depth review (minor spoilers - no major), read on...

Over the past two weekends, I spent a truly obscene amount of time playing Resident Evil 7. To summarize my experience from the beginning, I first thought the game was nearly perfect. Once I reached the Wrecked Ship, I was a little less enthused, and that didn't get any better at the Salt Mines. In fact, I was a little disappointed with the last ~1/3 of the game, and yet it didn't affect my overall impression of/experience with the game. After beating the game for the first time on Normal, I completed a full Madhouse playthrough as well as an Easy/collectible/achievement clean-up playthrough. For the record, I don't remember the last time I cared about achievements in a game. It's been at least 5+ years. But there's something special to me about Resident Evil 7. Just as I completed everything the core game had to offer, the DLCs Banned Footage Vol. 1 & 2 were released on Xbox One and PC on Feb. 21.

This is possibly the coolest DLC I've ever seen a game offer. It's a bit of a hodgepodge, but it offers an incredible amount legitimate content and replay value. Banned Footage Vol. 1 & 2 consist of two new mini-game modes and four separate video tape scenarios. Thankfully, they don't have the grainy film quality of the scenarios in the core game, so they all feel like extensions of core gameplay. In the following, I'll explain each in detail.

New Game Modes

Ethan Must Die
I'm starting here because it's freshest in my mind. As of the time of writing this, I'm still trying to beat it. In this mode, you play as Ethan in an slightly-altered and more linear version of the Baker house. You begin in the yard, and your objective is to obtain the greenhouse key in order to reach and defeat Marguerite. Supply boxes/crates are spawned in random areas with random rarity levels. However, some of them are traps, so you have to listen for ticking and watch for markings on the box that give their malicious nature away. The enemies seem to be stronger, and they definitely do more damage than they would in Normal mode - it feels more like Madhouse difficulty. Each time you die, you drop one item from you inventory at random, which can be retrieved in a Souls-like manner on your next retry. However, if you die before reaching it, the item is gone for good. This really isn't a lifesaver but rather a small perk to keep you from getting completely discouraged. The entire house is rigged with traps and aggressive enemies that want to kill you. This game mode is all about making progress, memorizing where all traps and enemies are, and try-try-trying again until you emerge victorious over Marguerite's crumbling body. While I have a perfectly efficient path through the house and its moldy denizens memorized, enemies will still surprise/outsmart you occasionally.

If you play this mode, you are going to die. If you want to persevere until you beat it, you are going to die a lot. I've gotten to Marguerite once, but I ran out of ammo and literally had no way of beating her. It was a gut-wrenching experience, but beating Ethan Must Die is the last achievement I have to accomplish with RE7. Mark my words - I will beat it.

UPDATE 3/8/17:  I BEAT IT! I had the luxury of taking out Marguerite with the Albert-01R and enhanced handgun ammo. It was one of those runs where the odds just continued to work out in my favor.

Jack's 55th Birthday
Jack's 55th Birthday is a much more arcadey and less tense experience. The game mode consists of six different maps, in all of which you search for food items to feed a hungry Jack on his 55th birthday. It's time trial-based, and you receive a ranking depending on how quickly you can fill Jack's satisfaction meter. As you make progress through the levels, you unlock different items and upgrades to help you complete new levels and achieve better rankings. The final level, the Main House revisited, poses the greatest challenge for obtaining an S rank, but the payoff is worth it: an unlimited blaster gun with infinite ammo that requires no reloading. You can even use it to obtain an S on other levels.

I don't know why I got so addicted to this type of mini game. Honestly, I do not like time-based OR score-based gameplay in many things, so I'm blaming my Resident Evil fanboyism. For longtime listeners of the podcast, you know it didn't start with RE7. I've spent hundreds of hours with the post-game Mercenaries modes spanning across RE4, RE5, and RE6. In fact, I feel strongly that Mercs was the only redeeming quality of the trainwreck that was RE6.


For Nightmare, think Nazi Zombies, except not CoD. You are trapped in the basement of the Baker house and tasked with surviving until dawn. Each hour of the night serves as a "wave" of sorts, with a slight break in between to gather resources and collect yourself before moving onto the next hour. There are a total of four scrap-producing machines that you can gain access to, and as you collect scrap and defeat enemies, you can purchase new weapons and upgrades. While the gunplay in RE7 isn't perfect, it's certainly good enough, and to be honest, I couldn't believe how well this mode worked. I played it multiple times all the way through and had a blast with it. After completing Nightmare, you gain access to Night Terror, which is a more challenging (and possibly more fun for that reason) version of Nightmare. 

In Bedroom, you'll have to rely on your brain to survive. As Clancy, you are strapped to a bed by Marguerite, who really really wants you to eat her awful offal. She leaves the room, and you have to use your problem-solving skills to get yourself out of the situation and room altogether. Pay attention to the loading screen if you die, as you are given a hint courtesy of Benjamin Franklin - "A place for everything, everything in its place." In other words, you have to manipulate different items in the room to unlock contraptions and doors to escape, but at certain points, Marguerite will come back to check on you. If everything isn't exactly as she left it, she'll know you got out of the bed. Mess up more than once or twice, and you may find yourself at a loading screen.

This was the first part of the DLC that I played, and I love the puzzle-solving aspect of it. Super enjoyable fare for any fan of puzzles in games, especially Resident Evil-y ones.

This was probably the most off-the-wall component of the DLC, but it was very welcome nonetheless. You play as Clancy again, a prisoner of Lucas this time, and you sit across a card table from another faceless captive. You are forced to play a high-stakes, macabre version of Blackjack with only 11 total cards in the deck, with both players drawing from the same deck. There are also trump cards that allow you to alter the rules of the game and make strategic moves. In the first round, you play for the right to keep your fingers - literally. In the second round, you play for the right NOT to be electrocuted to death. In the third and final round, there is a spinning wheel of saws/blades/death lowered between the two players, and if you lose enough hands consecutively, it makes friends with your face. The relationship doesn't last long.

If you survive the ordeal, you unlock a Survival (and later, Survival+) mode. These additional modes require you to stay alive longer through a larger number of opponents without resetting your losses at each round. The whole situation is very reminiscent of a Saw movie, and it fits well in this sadistic environment put together by Lucas the nutjob.

I admit, I had a slight problem with this one inasmuch as it honestly should have been included in the main game. Daughters provides a window into the backstory of RE7. It shows the arrival of Eveline at the Baker household and a normal family doing what they can to help a stranger in need. After being so accustomed to the psychopathy of the Bakers, seeing Jack and Marguerite as loving, compassionate people is almost disconcerting.

Lucas is still an asshole.

The Bakers are rapidly corrupted by Eveline's power. Playing as Zoe, you witness the rapid transformation of your family into raging homicidal lunatics. Depending on your level of exploration and a few choices you make, one of two outcomes can occur. In one, you're corrupted with the rest of the family, i.e., the "bad" ending. However, there is one way to keep yourself from becoming one of them, resulting in the "good" ending and presumably the actual events that transpired before the game.


Overall, I couldn't have been more impressed with the admittedly odd but totally satisfying and worthwhile content Capcom put together for this DLC. Not only is all of the content a quality experience on its face, but you are granted rewards and incentives as you progress in each one that entice you to continue playing/replay the different game modes and scenarios.

At this point, I consider myself a master of everything in Banned Footage Vol. 1 & 2, so please find me on Twitter @Sworbachev if you have any questions and could use some help getting through any of it. You can also write in to the 2v1 Podcast at to share your thoughts, and we'll talk about them on the next episode.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for further updates on additional RE7 DLC in the near future!


December 30, 2016

Alex’s Top Ten - 2016

Another year, another list. I typically pour an unreasonable amount of blood, sweat, and tears into my lists due to my mercurial nature while writing, but I’m trying something new this year: Brevity.

As I often change the rules of engagement with my lists, I’ll lay out 2016’s ground rules. First, I’ll include only games that came out this year. After that, I’ll wrap up by mentioning several afterthoughts because of my extensive backlog cleaning earlier this year.

10) Gears of War 4 (Xbox One)

Gears sort of doesn’t deserve to be on here, but I did play a ton of multiplayer, and it came out in 2016. Lean qualifications, but it just made the cut because I was able to recapture the original Gears magic for a month or so by playing with a large group of friends consistently. I didn’t play the campaign, nor do I have any plans to do so in the near future because Who Cares.

9) Let It Die (PS4)

I haven’t put even a full 10 hours into this game, but that’s was enough for me to appreciate what it offers. Let It Die does a wonderful job of including everything that’s missing in a lot of games today, from actually-addicting gameplay to nearly unparalleled quirkiness. It’s Deadly Premonition meets Souls meets every dystopian thing ever across all media. The free-to-play model limits it slightly but not so much that casual gamers can’t get a substantial taste of it. If you’re fascinated by the esoteric minds of the industry’s Japanese avant-gardes like SWERY, Suda51, and Hideo Kojima, this game is for you.

8) DOOM (Xbox One)

The glory days for the original DOOMs died with, well, the original DOOMs. DOOM 3 was one of those games that I remembered fondly through the veneer of nostalgia, but when I revisited it on the BFG Edition in October 2012, I realized it didn’t age well. Looking past 3, the full-blown 2016 DOOM remake did the 23-year old franchise justice. Violent demon slaughtering, heavy hellish music pounding, and no-reload guns blazing action came together to deliver a satisfying, visceral modern-day gaming experience and gorefest. (Note: I played the multiplayer for two seconds. Campaign is where it’s at on this title.)

7) Battlefield 1 (Xbox One)

When I played the beta, Battlefield 1 made a great impression on me. I sat out the first two months of its launch until I was able to pick it up at Black Friday, and I fell in love all over again. This coincided with the purchase of a beautiful new TV, and I can say that BF1 is one of best looking games of 2016 if not the very best (I’m looking at you, Monte Grappa). I love being able to set the record straight in my end-of-year lists because I didn’t give BF1 enough love on the podcast. I admit, I’ve played only the intro sequence of the campaign, but even it alone is poignant. As a gamer, it’s an effective way to put things in perspective when you think about the countless men and women who have sacrificed themselves in service of our great nation.

6) INSIDE (Xbox One)

The spiritual successor to Limbo is one of those games that’s hard to talk about without giving away too much. Suffice to say, it’s wholly deserving of all the awards it’s won. It’s thought-provoking, it’s disturbing, and it’s a dark, surreal ride you won’t soon forget. Be sure to experience this game in 2017 if you missed it this year.

5) Titanfall 2 (Xbox One)

Titanfall 2 is empirically the most pleasant FPS surprise of the year. It’s also the one shooter on my list in which I fully experienced both the multi- and single-player experiences. The campaign is fast-paced, grandiose, and humorous, thanks mostly in part to your trusty Titan, BT-7274. There are mind-bending visuals and firefights that are fun and moderately challenging without being annoying. In fact, one of the most common complaints I hear about this is that the campaign is too short. Personally, this was a plus for me because getting through a game quickly is a treat for me when I play so many intensive RPGs and the like. It was just the right length for me, and I actively enjoyed every second of it. The multiplayer is equally satisfying. When on foot, it’s similar to CoD, except good. When in a Titan, it’s an empowering and exhilarating battle experience time and time again, especially when pitted up against another Titan. Even trying to be as objective as possible, I’d say TF2 is the most underrated/underplayed game of the year.

4) Resident Evil 4 (“Xbox One”)

Sue me.

Yes, I’m using a technicality to make it qualify – this version is “new” to 2016. However, it was a fresh experience for me (60 fps, all versions’ extra content included), so let’s just roll with it. All kidding aside, I’m always amazed by how many people haven’t played RE4. Do you like Gears, Mass Effect, and the over-the-shoulder shooter style in general? Yeah, you have this game to thank for it. This is truly one of the greatest video games of all time, and part of its purpose on this list is to serve as a public service announcement, not unlike the Metal Gears on my 2015 list. If the pre- and post-4 Resident Evil games aren’t your cup of tea, I totally understand that. But if you haven’t played this one, taking care of that is something you owe to gaming. Resident Evil 4 permanently changed the industry, for better or for worse.

3) Dark Souls III (Xbox One)

If you’re a listener of the podcast, this won’t come as any surprise to you. Frankly, this is my least favorite of the Souls franchise, but it’s still better than 90% of games out there. It’s just that I believe this series peaked gameplay-wise with Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin, and Dark Souls III is both a satisfying and appropriate last stop for the series. I tore through it fairly quickly because I couldn’t put it down. It was most definitely influenced by Bloodborne, especially in regard to the game’s speed and style of battle, so I’m glad the Souls games will end with their separate identity still intact. I’m looking forward to playing the remaining DLC as well. While Ashes of Ariandel wasn’t the best DLC the franchise has churned out, it was still well worth the time and money invested, and I was happy to have a reason to pick the game up again.

2) AM2R – Another Metroid 2 Remake (PC/other computer platforms/whatever)

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, either. Metroid is one of 2v1’s cherished franchises and a personal favorite of mine as well. Nintendo, however, misguided assholes that they are, has grossly neglected the Metroid name and fanbase for far too long. Not surprisingly, when Metroid’s savior DoctorM64 came to breathe new life into our receptive hearts, Nintendo wasn’t happy. As far as I’m concerned, they don’t get to be unhappy – they reaped what they sowed for abandoning one of the most wonderful and storied video game franchises, with its last traditional 2D entry being released in February 2004.

Gamers, including myself, throw around the phrase, “I couldn’t put it down” quite frequently (see Dark Souls III above). But I mean it literally here. The exact time escapes me now, but I played through and beat it in a single 5-7 hour sitting. DoctorM64 did Metroid better than Metroid (Nintendo) has ever done Metroid. For the uninitiated, this was a full-scale remake of Metroid II: The Return of Samus with several tasteful and much-needed tweaks and additions. However, the core game and objective remains the same, with elements such as the environments and background tracks being revamped to modern-day standards. Even this music is true to the original in its substance but brilliantly recreated. But don’t simply take my word for it. You might have to do a little digging to find a way to play it because Nintendo sucks, but you owe it to yourself if you fancy yourself a Metroid aficionado like me.

1) Rocket League (Xbox One)

This is another technicality, as Rocket League was released on Xbox One in 2016, but at least it’s not as big of a stretch as Resident Evil 4. I must also disclose an important revelation: When I wrote this piece on December 29, AM2R was #1. Before publishing, I marinated on my choice for an evening, and I decided to give the accolade to Rocket League the day after. Yes, this is my final answer.

I’ve poured weeks (literally) of playtime into it, and among my friends, it’s our go-to social gaming destination, whether it’s before playing Halo 5 for which I still have a soft spot, after playing Titanfall 2 or Battlefield 1, or the main gaming event for the entire evening. The countless laughs, inconceivable goals/saves, and fond memories I’ve made playing this unbelievably fun and horribly addicting soccer-inspired game are literally priceless to me. Even certain tracks, namely the rotating ones that begin playing upon booting up the game, evoke a powerful nostalgia for me, and I haven’t been playing the game for even a full year. In summary, Rocket League played the most significant role in my hobby of gaming for most of the duration of 2016, so it’s my personal Game of the Year.

Backlog Honorable Mentions:

1)      Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin. Dark Souls is The Best Game. That’s a 2v1 inside joke, but seriously…Dark Souls II: SotFS is probably the best game I’ve ever played, in my humble opinion.

2)      The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Witcher 3 isn’t without its warts, especially if you experienced some pretty frustrating glitches playing it at the wrong time. But Witcher 3 is also like cheese and wine – it gets better with age (in your mind). It’s truly a magnificent experience and triumph for video gaming. Witcher 3 is the consummate RPG by which many RPGs will be measured from this point forward.

3)      Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Metal Gear steered away from Metal Gear with this entry, but it’s in the same category of esteemed video games as Souls and Witcher 3. It’s the perfected formula within its own franchise. This was another “couldn’t put it down” experience.

4)      Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number. I loved Hotline Miami 2, but wait for it…I actually liked the first one better. Can’t remember if I’m in the minority here. I’m also more nostalgic for the music in the first one, and that’s a huge bias factor for me.

5)      The Wolf Among Us. This would have been MUCH higher on my list if I included games that came out prior to 2016. My favorite Telltale to date.

6)      Fallout 4. I’m glad I finally came around on Fallout 4. It was a great game, but it really wasn’t anything new, and the aspects that were billed as “new” weren’t particularly exciting or worthy of time investment. Fallout needs an overhaul and a new engine.

A final note to readers, listeners, and supporters of the 2v1 Podcast: Thank you! You've helped make 2016 an exciting year for us, and we're looking forward to what's next in 2017. Enjoy the rest of the holiday season, and have a Happy New Year!


November 22, 2016

My "Open Letter" to Google Fiber and Comcast XFINITY

"I feel so passionately about this topic that I have to write a blog post about it" is one of the most 2016, get-a-life, annoying, shut-up, ludicrous thought processes/things I can think of that could possibly be said today. With that said:

I feel so passionately about this topic that I had to write a blog post about it.

I, like you and countless other Americans, have been fed up with Comcast's intentionally deceptive business practices, fate-worse-than-death billing issues, and customer "service" stonewalling for years. Unfortunately, as I've preached to my cohort for an equally long amount of time, Comcast does, in most cases for most people, offer the best product in the service category I'm writing about, i.e., internet service. Despite what a soul-sucking experience doing business with Comcast is, it's been a necessary price I've had to pay to keep certain hobbies afloat, namely online gaming, Netflix binging, and Wikipedia rabbit holing. Until now, that is.

Enter Google Fiber.

I recently decided to give Comcast one final chance to keep me as a customer for one more year. I was upsold to a new internet tier (3x the speed) and promised it would be only $10 more per month. I explained that I wanted nothing to do with any cable television services and even less to do with any Comcast equipment in my home, as I use my own modem and router and cut the cord completely on traditional television 3+ years ago.

On November 16, 2016, which I will celebrate henceforth as "Fiber Day," I received the life-changing news via email that Google Fiber was officially available in my community. They had actually installed the infrastructure and wiring about six months ago, but they finally flipped the magical internet switch "ON." Mind you, I was awaiting my updated Comcast bill...

Sure enough, I received my bill two days later. And sure enough, it was wrong - as it invariably is during any sort of billing/package transition with Comcast. Instead of going from $29.99 flat per month (as it was for the previous 11 months) to $39.99 per month as promised, the bill was for $54.53.


It's not about the $14.54. It's never been about $14.54, $54.14, or any other sum of money. It's about the principle of a company extorting its consumers who are, quite frankly, largely complicit in the problem. In most areas without any viable alternative to the same quality level of internet service, the average Comcast customer reads his or her bill, questions nothing, and pays the bill without giving it a second thought. And again, this tirade has nothing to do with such paltry sums of money. But the problem is that this collective apathy for Comcast's consistently deceitful behavior as a company is what leads to such a company having the power to do so in the first place.

I spent zero time considering my next move. I went back to the email Google Fiber sent me and immediately began the process of rage-signing up. Starkly contrary to anything Comcast-related, it was the easiest process in the United States. No phone calls, no devil in the details, no BS - just a measly $10 deposit, which they credit to your first bill anyway. Better yet, even though they offered fast 2-day shipping to receive the required hardware (a modem/router combo unit), I also had the option to go to a Google Fiber Space in Atlanta to pick it up myself, which I was able to do the exact same day.

Once I got home, giddy as a toddler on Christmas morning, I spent less than a half hour from the time I opened the equipment box to the time I saw these results from a Wifi speed test:

100 mbps up, 100 mbps down, just like that - for $50 flat. I could have gotten 10x the speed at 1,000 mbps for $70 per month, but because dumb Xbox throttles your download speeds, mine caps out at about an average of 85 mbps, so there'd be no extra value for me there.

No fees, no equipment rental, and for renters, no contract. Even if you are a homeowner and require a 1-year contract, the price to break it is totally fair/reasonable (more on that here). Sometimes, it's not too good to be true. Sometimes, it's a good company providing a good service/product for a good price and in a good manner.

In conclusion, here are my parting thoughts to anyone who stumbled across this post:

To fellow consumers. If and when Google Fiber arrives in your area, don't even think about this; there's no decision to be made. Just do it. Your life will be better without Comcast in it, you can keep more of your hard-earned money instead of having it stolen, and you can perish the thought of ever dealing with them again.

To Google. You keep doing you. And please, for the love of God, keep expanding to new areas in which you're able to offer Fiber. If you continue with your current business and service model, I'll be your customer forever. And by the way, I'm not naive. You could be the bad guy in 3, 5, or 10 years. As discussed on Episode 2 of the 2v1 Podcast (please excuse our horrendous production quality - it was a long time ago), you're definitely the kind of company that could one day provide my self-coined "Allservice." Thankfully, capitalism is supposed to be what keeps you and your competitors in check. In the meantime, keep doing awesome things in awesome ways, and your customers will reward you with their loyalty.

To Comcast. I'm so tired of the way you've abused me and the rest of your customers for so many years. I don't need to swear. I don't need to scream. I'm just done ranting because there's really nothing left to say. I will say that I truly believe you reap what you sow, and I sincerely hope this is the beginning of your chickens coming home to roost. Until we (never) meet again.


November 15, 2016

Dark Souls Primer

As promised in Episode 97, here is 2v1's "Dark Souls Primer." Note that Nick's applies mainly if you're starting with the original Dark Souls (DS1), and Alex takes a more all-encompassing approach to the Souls games in general.

Nick's Dark Souls Tips

- Plan ahead for stats, focusing on physical versus magic or vice versa
- Don't waste souls on resistance
- Endurance determines stamina bar and max equip load which affects dodging speed
- Be aware of "soft caps" refer to
- Don't be afraid to use "souls of hollow, solider, hero, etc"
- Talk to every NPC until they repeat dialogue
- There is an NPC underneath firelink shrine who upgrades estus flask with "soul of firekeeper"
- Speaking of which, if there is a gold knight at firelink either kill him or read up on how he will affect your game
- You must be in human form to summon help for bosses/encounter special black phantom enemies that drop good items
- Consume "humanity" and "reverse hollowing" at fires to become human
- You can also use humanity to kindle bonfires to increase max number of estus flasks held
- The more humanity you're carrying at once increases item drop rate from enemies
- Purchase misc. boxes from vendor in undead burg that allow minor upgrading, repair and item storage at bonfires
- First major goal is mainlining to bells, sens fortress, anor londo and get lordvessel for fast travel
- The dragon outside undead chapel: you can shoot its tail with arrows (have a lot of them with you, there's no limit) to get a really powerful early game weapon, drake sword. the tail can be shot with no danger from below the bridge - Weapons have letter grades that scale with appropriate stat, increasing damage
- Don't be afraid to experiment with weapons
- There are multiple blacksmiths throughout the game, most often used is probably andre of astora who is located between sens fortress and undead chapel
- Give andre "embers" (check wikidot for locations) to allow for highest upgrading of weapons
- Physical focused weapons can be upgraded pretty high relatively early game
- There's a ton of different armors, be sure what you plan to use prior to upgrading
- It's a good idea to have a set of light armor with high resistances to poison/toxin that you can equip at any time (dont upgrade though)
- Bosses require patience and multiple attempts to learn attack patterns
- It's okay to summon help

Alex's Approach to Souls

I often tell people the Dark Souls franchise ruined video games for me because they set an impossible golden standard by which I measure just about all of my other gaming experiences. It's important to note, however, that different people play games different ways. Nick and I are a perfect example. We both revere the series, but we've both taken a completely different approach to them. So, I'll keep my advice narrowed down to three key points that made the games "work" so well for me. Let me know if they work for you!

1) Do your research.
You might as well stop reading past my number one suggestion if you're not willing to put in some time here. All of the Souls games are intricately designed, and all of your character attributes will serve slightly different purposes across all the games, including Demon's Souls. Your success in the games absolutely depends on your understanding of what the different attributes govern, how weapon and armor stats and bonuses work, and in many cases, reading about boss weaknesses. This will help you get an idea as to what sort of character you want to build and what you need to focus on to make that happen. There is no question you won't be able to find an answer to with all the online Wikis and forums at your fingertips. Use them!

2) Use a shield.
I can't emphasize this one enough. To me, the time you gain by holding a sturdy shield up (reduction to physical damage should be your first priority) is essential to studying and mastering your opponents. Overall, you'll die less, and you'll get the rewarding experience I describe in #3 below more often. There are lots of different aspects to shields, so if the entry in the series you're playing doesn't have a one-size-fits-all answer, be sure to keep two or three in your inventory for different combat scenarios. #1 above is important in choosing the right ones.

3) Respect "The Dance."
I know this sounds cheesy, but combat in the Souls games is basically dancing, especially when you use a weapon + shield character build. Patience is always the name of the game, but it applies doubly when it comes to wielding a shield effectively. In most cases, I'm gracefully circling my enemy with my shield raised up, blocking half of what's thrown at me and roll-evading the other half that's not blockable. This is usually done in one continuous direction around the enemy, and often times changing the direction is helpful. Sometimes an enemy seems to be almost "weaker" on one side than the other in terms of attack timing. This "dance" serves two purposes: It gives you the time and opportunity to become familiar with the enemy's moveset, and this subsequently teaches you the perfect time to strike between attacks.

One final thought: Nick and I are here to help! We love and appreciate the fact that multiple people have told us they were hesitant to give Souls a shot, but after hearing us swoon about the games over and over, they've taken the plunge. Well, we won't leave you twisting in the wind if you run into some roadblocks along the way. Always feel free to email or Tweet at us. Tweeting is better for specific questions for one of us, and we can always continue the conversation by DM. Anyway, lots of luck, and Praise the Sun!

-Nick (@_nickhead_) & Alex (@Sworbachev)

January 6, 2016

Alex's Top 10 List and Game of the Year: 2015


I love video games and have been co-hosting a podcast about them for over a year, but I have a confession to make: Josh and Nick play far more video games (and read more news about the industry) than I do. We often play for different reasons, i.e., I often play too much online multiplayer for the social experience when I should be traipsing through more video game universes that I have yet to explore. Moreover, when I do manage to combat my Halo 5 addiction and actually get around to making “progress” with my seemingly endless list of games to play, it’s usually after both of my 2v1 compadres are able to say, “Been there, done that.”

The good news is that is that the 2v1 Podcast has served as a source of motivation and inspiration for me to make more time to play overall and broaden my gaming horizons in ways that I probably wouldn’t have before. As a result, I had many more games to pick from this past year and many more opinions to share than I did at the end of 2014.

So, with all that said, you will see some old titles on my list, as well as ones that Josh and Nick have already played, talked about, and salivated over. But I hope to reach other foot-dragging gamers like myself with my favorite picks to help them decide how best to spend their precious time with this noble pastime when they're free of responsibility.


10) Alien: Isolation

"You are becoming hysterical. Let me help you."

As I was narrowing down the titles that would make my top ten list, this quickly became an evident cutoff point. Alien: Isolation was the first satisfying xenomorph-related gaming experience I’ve enjoyed since Alien vs. Predator on Atari Jaguar. Granted, it falls short in some areas – namely the fact that essentially the entire game is Nick’s favorite gameplay style, run-and-hide-from-deadly-one-hit-kill-enemy (hint: sarcasm). To be honest, it did overstay its welcome a bit. I don’t remember exactly how long it took me, but it was a long time – probably 15-20 hours. Considering the somewhat shallow gameplay offering, that’s too long. Where Isolation shines is in the presentation of its beautifully eerie environment and soundtrack. If ever a video game were aptly named, it’s this one, and the constant sense of dread isn’t in thanks only to an always-lurking xenomorph with an insatiable thirst for blood. While it’s obviously the most threatening foe, and it made me shriek the most, the omnipresent androids with sinister red eyes and falsely benevolent monotone dialogue legitimately disconcerted me, especially as they marched toward me menacingly with nowhere to run.

For more on my experience with Alien: Isolation, check out Episode 29 - Different Persistence.

9) Wolfenstein: New World Order

Nazis on the moon. Spooky.

Yes, I know – this was on Nick’s 2014 list, and Old Blood is on Josh’s 2015. This doesn’t change the fact that it’s still the ninth best game I beat in 2015. Because this is my list, after all, there's more on my personal take of Wolfenstein in Episode 50 - Phantom Companion App.

Wolfenstein has undergone nearly a dozen makeovers, iterations, and installments. 30+ years since the beginning, new life has been breathed into the franchise. Even though it came out mid-2014, it still looks great. It plays smoothly. It has a story that is thought-provoking and disturbing to contemplate. Most importantly, it is FUN, which is something many developers seem to overlook when making games today. Plus, when will killing droves of the most evil and twisted humans who ever walked the face of the earth ever lose its allure? Probably never.

8) Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited

Magneto sweg.

I went into Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited with the right attitude, and I think that made a world of difference when compared to many others’ impression of it. Elder Scrolls is a cherished franchise for me. I only dabbled in Morrowind, but I adored Skyrim (who didn’t?), and even higher on the totem pole is Oblivion, which still remains my favorite game of all time across all platforms and generations. However, I knew this wouldn’t be a traditional Elder Scrolls game. After all, it was designed to serve as a console-accessible alternative to dominant MMORPGs of the space, such as World of Warcraft. What’s great about ESO for me is that it provides exactly what I want: an enormous online fantasy world to explore, plunder, and conquer with my best friends, most of whom are console gamers exclusively. ESO isn’t the handsomest game in the world (comparable to late-gen 360/PS3), but it’s enjoyable, has a characteristically beautiful Elder Scrolls soundtrack, and even has fewer glitches and bugs than I’d expect out of a game of its complexity. I spent most of my playtime in the regular game, though I enjoyed several long sessions in PvP. It seems to have a lot of potential for expansion, and being the Oblivion fiend that I am, I always appreciate a wistful journey through Cyrodiil, which is where PvP takes place. However, I’m not the type of gamer to spend enough time in this arena to really compete with the big dogs, so you can usually find me playing PvE. If a functioning, console-based MMORPG experience skinned with Elder Scrolls looks and lore is what you seek, you will likely be wholly satisfied by ESO: TU. If you’re looking for story depth…well, I’m still not entirely sure what I’m doing or why I should care. I do understand Molag Bal is a troublemaker, and he needs to be stopped.

7) Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Hiding behind frozen people. Macabre, yet sublimely cool.

Brothers was one of my “branching out” experiences of 2015. Normally, I wouldn’t have made time to play it, but after hearing both Josh and Nick rave about it and having Xbox Live sweeten the pot with a free Games with Gold offering, I gave it a whirl. Games that I deem unique (and I mean actually “unique,” not just “cool” or “neat” in the way that the word is often overused) always earn bonus points with me, and Brothers was unique. It’s hard for me to talk too much about it without spoiling anything, so I’ll just share the basics: You control two brothers in a third-person style, each with his own strengths and controlled by a single thumbstick. You overcome obstacles and outsmart enemies in a variety of picturesque environments on a quest to save your father. Brothers employs twists and turns that will have you invested in the two lads’ story for the duration of the journey, and it’s surprisingly violent at times despite its ostensibly tame initial presentation. Brothers is absolutely worth your time if you haven’t played it yet. There's more in Episode 17 - A Tale of Differing Opinions, but be wary of spoilers.

6) Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

Viewer discretion is advised.

Witcher 3 is both Josh’s and Nick’s 2015 GOTY, and here lies unassumingly Witcher 2 at #6 on my list. Perfect representation of how far behind I am. I promise I’ll try to find something I like better than Witcher 3 for my 2016 GOTY.

Anyway, Witcher 2 is sweet. I came to the conclusion that because of the first Witcher’s unremarkable gameplay and level of accessibility effort I’d have to put forth to play it (PC only), the original was skippable. At Nick’s behest, I did want to learn about Geralt’s story before the events of the third game, so I found the second to be a happy compromise. My only real complaint is the map, as it often seems to be misleading and convoluted, especially when multiple levels of elevation are involved. Because of how much back and forth is involved with questing, this is pretty irritating, but it is also totally forgivable because of everything else Witcher 2 brings to the table, including an intriguing story, a relatable protagonist (aside from the fact that I’m not a witcher), and different ways to develop your skills and playstyle. The battle mechanics aren't stellar, but after learning how to buff effectively and stumbling across some mid-level equipment, I had little trouble cutting down my enemies, even in groups. If you haven’t jumped on the Witcher bandwagon yet, this is a good place to start.

5) Halo 5: Guardians (Multiplayer only)
*stresses “multiplayer only” header and apologetically acknowledges TL;DR length of entry*


I haven’t deeply cared about Halo’s campaign for a couple of installments, and from what I’ve heard about the latest’s overhyped non-story, I am definitely not in a hurry to play this one. While I will play it eventually out of obligation, I’ll probably have next to nothing to say about it. For me, Halo is all about the online multiplayer, so that’s all I’m going to talk about.

First, the good things about Halo 5: No matter what seat you're in while driving/riding in a warthog, you can now switch seats on the fly by simply pressing "A." REQ Packs are cool, too, and I don't feel like I'm at a disadvantage not being insane enough to pay real money for extra ones. Okay, all done with my praise. On to the bad...

This game has problems, and they’re sort of not small. I’ll start with Warzone, the newly introduced 12-on-12 gametype that mixes PvE with PvP. Right off the bat, I’ll say it was not executed the way it was billed. Still, it does offer a somewhat fresh experience to the Halo multiplayer portfolio, and I applaud 343 for trying something new; I’ll never withhold credit for any developer on that front. The frustrating part is that it could be really good with only a few tweaks, which are apparently common sense only to the players. Legendary boss kill stealing in Warzone is unequivocally the biggest problem Halo 5’s multiplayer faces. Even when one team is better than the other, whether in regard to raw skill or simply working together or both, Warzone is flawed in that it takes only a single, well-timed killing blow to an ultra-boss to upset the tide of the battle. In other words, one team can do 90% of the damage to it, but the other team can swoop in and do the final 10%, and they receive 100% of the reward. How does that make sense? Again, what’s most maddening to me is how simple of a fix this would be. The easiest way that comes to mind is pretty well known at this point: Why not display two boss health bars, one for Red Team and one for Blue Team? Whichever team knocks their respective health bar out first is the victor. Surely the development team has heard of this complaint and proposed solution (among many others), and almost three months after the game’s release, they still refuse to do anything about it. Stupid. Lazy. Gross.

Warzone Assault is hit or miss. It usually feels like you get run over, or you’re the one doing the bulldozing. I can’t point to any one reason why, including whether you’re on offense or defense, so that’s good on 343. You’re just either going to dominate and love the match or hate every second of it until its conclusion.

Since the first big update in November 2015, Arena and all of its gametypes are finally worth playing because they added Big Team Battle. Classics like Team SWAT are still around, and new to the game is the Breakout mode, which is also a fresh and fun addition and markedly different Halo experience. Still waiting on Team Heavies from Halo 4, though.

Another thing that really rubs me the wrong way about Halo 5 is the periodic distribution of free “new” maps. You can hear the Josh, Nick, and me duke it out on Episode 53 - Batman’s Creed: Arkham Syndicate to hear both sides of the argument. In a nutshell, they do provide new maps to add to playlists monthly, but at the end of the day, they’re just shoddily thrown together super-condensed Forge recreations of old maps. I hardly consider this “new” content, and when you’re raking in God knows how much money from REQ pack microtransactions on arguably the biggest AAA console title in the online multiplayer arena, I have no problem saying I expect more effort than this.

Grievances notwithstanding, one fact still remains: Halo, yet again, withstands the test of time. Some gameplay aspects return closer to original form (no special ability loadouts), others charge onward into uncharted territory, and lo, Halo is still the most addicting, enjoyable, and not-CoD online shooter available, in my opinion. That’s why it’s still #5 on my list. And because my OCD made it conducive of being #5.

4) The Walking Dead: Seasons One and Two

This would be a spoiler if the character's
facial remains were identifiable.

From here until #1, things get murky for me. Really, any of these could have been #1 because of how I cherished them so.

There was a period where I got real tired of hearing Josh sing endless praises of Telltale Games, overhyping them. Well, I’m not stubborn: Josh, you were right, and I was wrong.

The Walking Dead was great. Granted, there are some annoying obligations that artificially extend gameplay length, but Telltale has improved on this with later titles, and they don’t take away too much from the experience overall. These are every bit as enjoyable as watching actual riveting television and then some. If you haven’t played these already, I highly recommend that you pick up both seasons of The Walking Dead, invite a friend or significant other or both over (the more, the merrier!), and experience these with someone else. You’ll still enjoy them solo for sure, but having played them both ways, I can tell you that playing them with someone else is even more enjoyable. However, the proverbial viewer discretion is advised, and with good reason - these games get really gritty...and I love it.

3) Hotline Miami

Average screenshot from this game.

Hotline Miami is another title I wouldn’t have played without Nick’s influence and the motivation to play things outside my normal (at the time) 360-only comfort zone. Holy Shit Is Hotline Miami Amazing. For my money, this is the best top-down, guns blazing, insanely violent, instant gratification game I’ve ever played. Unfortunately, words can’t do it justice. Sure, I was interested, but it was only after playing the game myself that I really understood what makes it so perfect. So, don’t take my word for it - just play it. Bringing the experience all together is a one-of-a-kind, pulse-pounding, synth-pumping, electric soundtrack that you simply must experience at full volume. Despite how incredible the gameplay was, the soundtrack is arguably the best part. I loved this game so much that I began Episode 38 - 1-800-MGS-PAIN with a custom Hotline Miami intro.

1) Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater & Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots


Nick’s 2014 GOTY was two games, so I don’t want to hear it. Plus, mine are related!
Seriously, my reasoning for Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater & Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots together collectively as my favorite gaming experience of 2015 is twofold:

  1. To me, they almost blended into one experience because I played them back to back, and this was so that I would be ready to play Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain with what I consider to be all the main Metal Gear titles under my belt.
  2. This is as much a call to action as it is a means of praise. If you have not played the Metal Gear franchise from start to finish, you’re doing it all wrong (“it” = “life”). Thanks hopefully at least in part to my influence, one of my best friends and longtime 2v1 listener Yaley has recently taken the plunge, beginning with Metal Gear Solid on PSX, and I encourage you to do the same.

I don’t need to talk about what these games bring to the table because they’ve been out forever. Again, I just want gamers of all types everywhere to understand how remiss they are if they haven’t experienced Hideo Kojima’s storytelling. It’s compelling, quirky, scary, and largely realistic (supernatural elements being left to your interpretation) all at the same time. Also, the transition from 3 to 4 led to a different kind of Metal Gear gameplay wise, with the ultimate culmination being that which is offered by Phantom Pain. For all intents and purposes, they’re all completely different games in their own ways, but they’re all a part of something much greater.

You can’t consider yourself a true gamer until you’ve at least given this franchise a fair shot; whether or not it’s your cup of tea, of course, is a different matter entirely.

Also, please note: The James Bond-esque title sequence and theme song for Snake Eater is objectively the best from anything ever, and if you disagree, you’re wrong.


Dark Souls, my actual game of the year.
I couldn’t bring myself to put Dark Souls on my Top 10 list again because it’s already on my 2014 List (see below this post). However, I’ve learned my lesson. I’ll never again use the asterisk to denote a work in progress for Game of the Year lists because there will invariably be games that probably shouldn’t be on there at all (The Evil Within) and games that should be placed higher on the list once completed.

I’ve said this on the podcast before, and I’ll say it until I experience something better: Dark Souls is not my favorite game of all time. It is one of my favorite games of all time. However, it is the best game I have ever played. The two do not have to be one and the same, and I believe Dark Souls is deserving of this honor. There is no personal gaming experience so rewarding as playing, enjoying, and completing Dark Souls.

Fallout 4
I swore an oath on the podcast that I would play this game at launch. From a technical perspective, I fulfilled my duty. That said, putting three hours into a game of this size is hardly “playing” it. But whose fault is that? I willingly entered its world, fully anticipating to be sucked into the black hole that is an open-world Bethesda RPG with no hope of escaping the event horizon until completion. Unfortunately, it just didn't grab me. I’m not sure if it was the underwhelming graphics, absence of a substantive story, mixed feelings about settlements, or a combination of all of the above. All I know is that it’ll be a while still before I give Fallout 4 the time it probably deserves, which is certainly more than three hours. For more on the ups and downs of this long-awaited title in the series, check out Episode 48 - Fallout 4.

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
Just a quick note on this one. Black Flag is the last Creed I played, and until further notice, I am on an indefinite Creed hiatus. I finally had an epiphany and realized there’s no legitimate reason to continue playing the series, as it is the very definition of a video gaming chore I shouldn’t make time for in my life. The good news is that Black Flag is the best Creed since Brotherhood, and it may even be as good. So, I’m leaving the franchise with a good taste in my mouth, and hopefully, when I return, it will be equally as satisfying.

Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes & Phantom Pain
Ground Zeroes isn’t really a game as much as it is a teaser level that you can replay in multiple ways with different objectives. Still, after understanding this, it honestly was a pretty cool experience and bridged the story gap between Peace Walker and Phantom Pain. It's worth your time if you’ve yet to begin Phantom Pain. Speaking of, Phantom Pain is not a Metal Gear game, but it’s still fun to play and expertly crafted; I'm looking forward to finishing this in the early part of 2016 and closing this gaming chapter of my life with a strong finale worthy of its name.

I love Swery and everything he represents in the art of making video games. Deadly Premonition is still one of the best video gaming experiences of my life...looking at the big picture holistically, of course, not gameplay. D4 was another kooky story-driven experience that was a cross between Telltale Games and Shenmue’s QTE mechanic before it seemingly became all but required in just about every modern video game. I look forward to playing future episodes and supporting this great man.

Pneuma: Breath of Life
Last? Yes. Least? Nope.

It didn’t quite make the Top 10 list, but it may well be #11. Depending on whether or not you look up puzzle solutions, how many brainfarts you experience, etc., Pneuma could take you anywhere from a single hour to 2-3 to complete. In even this small amount of time, Pneuma managed to capture and hold my attention and appreciation. Long story short, you play as a self-aware intelligence that believes himself to be God - only to find out that things may not be as they seem. His demeanor goes from cheery, slightly haughty, and philosophical to something completely different by the end of the story. I can honestly say it surprised me, and I adored the way the game was wrapped up, including the way it came to an “end." Not much more I can say without spoiling it. On top of everything else, it was aesthetically pleasing, especially because of the lighting. The only part of my experience that was negative was a puzzle I spent over two hours staring at and trying to figure out, only to learn that it was actually unsolvable at that particular time and that I would have to replay levels in a particular order to solve it. So much for being God.


2015 was a great year for video games, and I’m glad to have been a part of it. It’s not about finding time to do things you love but rather about making time to do things you love. Speaking from experience, the day-to-day grind can be monotonous, but there is always time to do what you enjoy if you make it a priority.

In any case, thanks for reading my post. I’d love to hear from you on any thoughts you have on my picks, video games in general, or anything else for that matter. The best way to get ahold of me is on Twitter @Sworbachev, and if you haven't already, don’t forget to check out the 2v1 Podcast. You can find us and subscribe on iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher, and Player FM. We’d love to hear your feedback and any inquiries regarding the podcast. It’s what we love to do, and we want our listeners to love it, too, and your feedback is the only way to make that happen.

Here’s to you and making time to do what you love most in 2016!


January 7, 2015

Alex's Top 10 List and Game of the Year: 2014

Behold my humble Top 10 list of games I got around to finally playing in 2014. Note that while three of them, denoted by asterisks, are technically works in progress, I've played enough that I'm confident they would have made the cut had I finished them in time for the new year. Plus, it would have been a crime to put overrated titles (*cough cough* Arkham City) on this list solely because I beat them in their entirety. Now, without further ado...

10) Dust: An Elysian Tail 
Airborne sidekick Fidget bears a
striking resemblance to Sonic's Tails.
Nick and Josh had hounded me for a long time about playing this game, and surprise, only once the game was offered for free with Games with Gold on XBL did I finally take the plunge. But I'm sure glad I did. I didn't find the story or the quasi-childish characters particularly captivating, but the gameplay was pure, unadulterated fun. And it looked pretty. Being a long-time fan of side-scrollers, this one hit a home run with me.

9) Braid 
Getting tired of your shit, Barney.
Speaking of, did I appreciate what Braid had to offer. At first, I didn't think much of the story, but as it turned out, once all the pieces of the puzzle came together (pun intended), Braid turned out to be something to remember. Reading about and interpreting the ending myself was half the fun. Furthermore, the unique time mechanics in the game made the game genuinely thought-provoking. If you haven't played it and plan to at some point, do not look up any solutions online. I didn't do this myself, and I can imagine it would have spoiled the experience for me if I had.

8) Dark Souls* 
Josh: "I fell off a bridge and never came back to it."
At the risk of being lambasted by Nick, I must say I've been somewhat underwhelmed with Dark Souls so far. Then why is it on my list? Because I'm only saying that in comparison to Demon's Souls, which you will find further toward the lofty GOTY position on my list. I'm still playing Dark Souls when I can in between other titles, and I'm finally getting to enjoy more of the online aspect of the franchise, but for some reason, I'm just not quite as enthralled yet as I was with Demon's Souls. Admittedly, as I've mentioned in the podcast, this actually may be my fault. I used magic almost exclusively in Demon's, and now that I'm more of a traditional warrior character in Dark, I'm getting more of the brutal Souls treatment, so it's taken a little getting used to. Nevertheless, I would be a fool to not include this noteworthy title on my list.

7) Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon 
The KillStar: Possibly the best video game weapon.
"I'm tucking you into your death bed, and your blanket is six feet of my shit."

I know 2v1 has been spamming this line in write-ups and in our podcast, but that's simply because it warrants repeating several times. This is the kind of insane dialogue that is missing from video games. I knew this game was going to tickle my fancy right from the very beginning during the tutorial while listening to your inane HUD prattle on about gameplay mechanics. Super heavy synth sounds, '80s color schemes, retrofuturistic sci-fi, extreme over-the-top violence, nonstop horrible puns from the ultimate cyborg superhero...what's not to like? Play this game. And remember, if you find yourself rapping on death's door, take a page from T.T. "Spider" Brown and Sgt. Rex "Power" Colt's book:

"Tell my wife... I died fighting for my country!"

"You can tell her that yourself!"

Really take a second to think about how little sense that makes. Genius.

6) Evil Within* 
Be sure to farm plenty of Safeheads on Chapter 7.
Or maybe it should be called, "The Resident Evil 4 Within." But make no mistake, I'm not complaining about the similarities to it. From the classic survival horror style to the camera work to the jump scares to even black-robed zealots, identical attack animations, and silver weapon cases, this game is essentially the same thing, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Speaking of zeal, I've been praising it on the past couple 2v1 podcasts, and my enjoyment hasn't waned. Every time I play, I find myself enjoying something new. Sure, the story is so-so, and the letterbox presentation makes me want to die from time to time, but overall, The Evil Within has been the first truly remarkable single player-only experience for me on the One.

5) Dead Rising 3 
Honestly, this thing never got old.
This one gets bonus points for bias. Friend Mat, mentioned in my Retro GOTY pick description below, and I have been infatuated with the Dead Rising franchise for years. With these games, it's all about the co-op. It's not my favorite in the series - that title belongs to Dead Rising 2: Off the Record. Dead Rising 3 lacks the charm of Frank West's eccentric character (he's covered wars, you know), and it takes itself maybe a hair more seriously than its predecessors. As I often say, though, that's not a bad thing; it's just an observation. The game looks amazing, especially for being a launch title, and the developers truly deserve a round of applause for the game's ability to cram so many zombies on the screen at one time, and seldom do I remember having any frame rate issues. This was a major technological accomplishment as far as I'm concerned, not to mention the endless hours of co-op mayhem to boot.

4) The Last of Us
A perfect example of a game that is extremely polarizing within 2v1. I think Josh may have been on the verge of starting a religion with Last of Us as the godhead, whereas Nick will tell you that he straight up regrets playing it. As for me? I loved it.

I'll leave to your imagination what I decided
to do with these good doctors.
The narrative wasn't Mass Effect-caliber, but it was damn good. I quickly became absorbed in the story and main characters and actually cared about what happened to them. Naturally, being at the end of a console generation's life, it also looked absolutely gorgeous. Gameplay-wise, it was nothing to write home about. Think Uncharted, Tomb Raider, etc. But I definitely didn't play this game because I liked shooting up the baddies or getting my face eaten by clickers. LoU, as we affectionately refer to it, was an emotionally-driven experience, and I reflect upon it fondly to this day.

3) Sleeping Dogs
*inserts pun about being a sleeper pick*

I never had even a remote interest in playing this game when I first heard about it. Like Dust, I decided to download and play it once it was released as a free Games with Gold title. Now, I can say this game is sorely underrated, and I almost regret not having supported it financially from day one.

It starts off as a typical sandbox GTA-style game. Nothing too riveting. But I slowly noticed that I started to care more and more about undercover cop Wei Shen, the hero-turned-anti-hero in a Triad-infested Hong Kong. As the story progresses, the game pushes the limits and makes you think about what's right, what's wrong, and just how much sacrifice is too much for the greater good.

Another thing I'd like to see more of
 in video games: Meat hooks
Before fully diving into the Xbox One while simultaneously finishing Dark Souls, Sleeping Dogs was the last 360 title that I played, so I spoke about it numerous times in our 2v1 podcast. The gameplay mechanics are fun, effective, and in regard to the martial arts, downright brutal. If you're a listener, I apologize for beating a dead horse, but MAN did I love breaking everyone's arms and legs in this game. What a refreshing change from the typical shoot-and-kill-everyone playstyle in every other game. Then, you start shooting and killing everyone. But it also made sense. As Wei Shen becomes mired down deeper and deeper into the dark world of the Triads, he is forced into becoming a more violent person and making more difficult decisions that blur the line between good and evil. Even though it didn't take my GOTY spot, it did earn the crown for "Most Pleasant Surprise of the Year."

2) Demon's Souls 
"Soul of the mind, key to life's ether.
Soul of the lost, withdrawn from its vessel."
Demon's Souls almost took the number one spot for me. This game was NOT near as punishing as I was braced for...but that may be thanks only to spamming Soul Arrow. Despite the repetitive nature of my playthrough, there's no way I could have had more fun with it. My foes slew me enough times to keep me interested and challenged, but I was rewarded for patience and diligence in the long run. Some of the memories that I hold dear include: bell-ringing Cthulhu heads, the music in the Nexus, farming lance-wielding soldiers at the Boletarian Palace, and the Maiden in Black's soothing mantras. I can only hope that Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2 will continue to carry the torch for me.

2014 Game of the Year Pick:

1) Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns
Lightning Returns isn't the best game I've ever played, nor was it even the best installment in the Final Fantasy XIII story. However, I played it in 2014 and probably sank more hours into it than any other game during the year, and the experience was worth every second.

Lightning really nails the role of the heroine protagonist archetype. From start to finish, this series revolves primarily around her story and its massive implications in the world. Not surprisingly, by the time you get to the third and final game, Lightning Returns, you're playing as her and only her. At first, I was wary of the notion, but I quickly learned why it made sense both as a game and for the narrative. The armor/outfit system was an awesome addition, both aesthetically and functionally. Some of the unique costumes and weapons, like Cloud's 1st Class SOLDIER gear, really appealed to die-hard Final Fantasy nuts like myself. And, as always, the music is divine, with both original Lightning Returns tracks and some recycled tracks from the first two games.

How many times have you heard the FF7 victory fanfare
go off as someone's text alert?
Usually, games where you're racing against the clock are not my cup of tea, but thankfully, it's really never an issue in Lightning Returns. There is ample time to accomplish everything possible to begin with, plus there's always the "chronostasis" ability to fall back on, which temporarily freezes time, and you can work continuously to keep up your ability to cast it. If you're smart, you basically won't ever run out of time.

Leveling up solely with quest completions was weird. Not having the option to grind traditionally wasn't my favorite thing ever, but the creators did a good job of balancing where you were in the game and how many quests you completed so that you shouldn't ever be struggling. Thankfully, if you're the typical max-everything-out-and-become-a-beast Final Fantasy player like me, you still have that option, while still being able to test your might against the end-game ultimate bosses.

Lightning Returns's story wasn't breathtaking, but it was enough to keep me interested and invested. After all, I wasn't going to keep my breath held story-wise after the first Final Fantasy XIII's ending. Still, the first one was my favorite overall, and if you haven't played it, the time you'll need to start from there and see it through to the end is well worth investing in the series.

Retro GOTY Pick 2014:

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Master Quest*
Anyone who knows me knows that I spend as much time playing old games as I do new. My fondest endeavor in this arena for 2014 was a long Labor Day weekend (and bender) I spent playing this cherished title with one of my best friends.

I don't need to talk about why OOT is such a masterpiece because everyone's already said everything there is to say. After all, the original has been out for nearly 17 years. However, what makes the Master Quest so special is the ability to revisit the game with enough changes to make it feel like a fresh experience on the GameCube. If you consider yourself a fan of OOT but haven't played Master Quest, I highly recommend it for one reason in particular: It is challenging. Most dungeons are more frustrating, and yet strangely, some felt simplified a bit as far as the puzzles go, namely the Water and Fire Temples. Some of the smaller nuances were interesting as well, such as the altered Gerudo symbols and music in the Fire Temple due to controversy that Nintendo faced. In any case, despite almost beating the entire game from start to finish in a matter of a few days, Mat and I were felled by the brutally relentless and revamped Ganon's Castle.

A comparison between the original (top) and new (bottom) mark of the Gerudo.
We have decided to wait until the next time we are in the same room (and city) together with a GameCube to finish the job properly and set the record straight.

If you've made it this far, thanks for reading! As always, you can find me on Twitter @Sworbachev and please listen/review/subscribe to our 2v1 podcast on iTunes. Happy New Year, and I hope 2015 is a prosperous one for you!

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