Horizon Zero Dawn – Review

xvAnkeI

 

Introduction

After a lot of press, hype and showings around the county, Guerrilla’s new IP is here, Horizon Zero Dawn. This is a big step for Guerrilla Games and their studio. They have broken away from their main bread and butter series and are trying something new. How did they do with their new adventure? Did they succeed the expectations or does Horizon belong in the scrap metal pile?

The main character that you play, Aloy, was raised by a man named, Rost. As you find out early in the game, Rost is not her real father. Aloy was given to him so he could raise her, but not love her. In the beginning you actually control Aloy as she is a little girl. In the early beginning of the game you fall down into a cavern that was once used by the “Old Ones”. In here you find a device that is known as an Echo. This allows Aloy to scan the area around her for clues, machines (robotic animals) and other items.  When Aloy was old enough, Rost would teach her how to hunt the machines that roam the lands. During her training Aloy grows into the young woman that we spend the majority of the game with. Guerilla did an excellent job in this part making it feel like it was part of the story while also making it a tutorial.

 

Gameplay

One of the things I was worried about going into this game was how the combat and over all feel of controlling Aloy was. Since combat is a big part of this game, it had to be precise or it would have felt like the entire experience of it would have been ruined as a whole.

Guerilla did an awesome job on this part.

Not only did Aloy move fluidity but her actions where crisp and very reactive. This was needed as some of the fights with the machines could be right in your face. To avoid being trampled, or mauled to death, you had to make some quick movements. There is no blocking maneuver that you could use to prevent, or limit, the damage you would sustain. Your biggest action for this is to roll out of the way. Sometimes this wasn’t even enough as the machines would lunge at you after their initial attack.

This isn’t a game you could just run into a pack of machines, pull your bow out and take them all out. If you try that, you won’t live very long. Every machine in the game will either get spooked of your presence or turn hostile and start to attack you. It is very rare to a find one machine out in the wild by itself. There are normally a group of the same machines together. When one turns agro on you the rest will follow. Your best bet is to find a safe place, like up on a rock or ledge, in order to take them down.

As you progress further into the game you will run across even more machines. Some of these machines have range attacks on them. Some even have cloaking abilities.  Just standing out in the open far away can prove to be deadly as well. Some of these fights require a decent amount of strategy and some stealthness involved.

The real only issue I had with the controls was sometimes when I tried to pull my bow back I would end up doing a heavy melee attack. This only happened in the frantic up close fights where every second counted. It very well could have just been me but it did happen a hand full of times.

I did have one issue with the camera. When you were trying to look up in the sky, the camera would go behind some of the tall grass, or plants, which would block your view. This could be frustrating at times as some of the machines you face do fly. Trying to track them, while also lining up a shot with your bow, with foliage in your viewing area, made it annoying at times.

Another slight problem that I had was collision detection when firing an arrow. You can have Aloy position behind a rock, railing or something else to block the view of the machines, or bandits, from noticing you. When you have a clear sight over these and fire your arrow it will hit something in thin air and stop. You can plainly see the background all around the arrow. Not a huge problem by any means. Once you wait for a good shot to get perfectly lined up and the arrow just sticks in mid air can be frustrating. The way I found around this is to back up just a little bit to give your arrow some more clearance.

 

Machines

As stated early on in this review, the machines, or robotic animals, are amazingly done. There are some normal animals in the wild, such as Rabbits, Turkeys, Boars, Foxes, Fish and so forth. These can be hunted for materials, such as their bones and hides, to upgrade your equipment.

The main wildlife you will come across are the machines. These are designed after Horses, Raptors, Ostriches, Alligators, Giraffes and even more animals. All of these machines act independently of each other and have their own manners and characteristics.

These machines are very well detailed with their interlacing parts and wires. I caught myself a few times just watching as they roam around the lands and how they interact with different landscapes and even each other. The larger machines are even more detailed with their moving armor and sheer size, especially the Tall Necks and Thunderjaws.

As you progress through the game you will learn a few tricks on how to take these machines down. Each one has some weak points on them that you can highlight with your Focus. Removing these parts will help dwindle the health down on them faster. You can also override them by going through special caverns called, Cauldrons. By completing these you can essentially make the machines friendly to you and they will fight other machines. Also by overriding a select few you can also ride them. This provides much quicker travel across the landscape to your next destination.

 

Graphics

Horizon will be one of the prettiest game that you will encounter. From the color of Aloy herself, her outfits that she can wear, to the machines and their individual parts and especially the environments, Horizon is a gorgeous game to just sit back and enjoy the view.

What makes this even more appealing is the difference in time throughout the day. You will be able to see the sun rise and watch it set. Even at night it has a blue hue about it. This makes it easier to see the bright lights on the machines at night. This is a good time to go hunting for the cloaking machines as their eyes can glow in the dark.

As you embark your way through your journey, you will travel through different terrain. From lush jungles, to snowcapped mountains, the dry rocky desert and even over grown vegetation that used to be metropolitan areas. Everywhere you turn and look you will see vivid colors and amazing landscapes. These give you plenty opportunities to make sure of the Photo Mode portion of the game. In here you can adjust about anything you want to get the perfect image. It is quite robust which can make you spend an hour, or even more, tweaking your picture to get that correct look to it.

This is a little nit-picking here, on some of the human models, parts of their hair and weapons will disappear inside their bodies. On the machines themselves you will see some jaggies and blurriness up close. None of these will take away or lessen the beauty of the entire game.

 

Conclusion

The time I spent in Horizon Zero Dawn was an amazing time. The inclusion of Hunting Trials helped break up the gameplay and tested your skill using different methods. Going through the Cauldrons was surprisingly fun and rewarding at the end. The most rewarding feeling was taking down the machines, especially the furious Thunderjaws. There was nothing better than watching one of them fall at your feet.

No matter how you look at it, Horizon is a must play game. I can see this game being strong enough to sell the PlayStation 4 to new adopters. The production value, writing (Aloy can get rude with some of the NPC characters), the voice acting, plus everything else involved in this game, makes the entire experience worthwhile.

If you have a PlayStation 4, or even thinking about picking one up, you should grab this game. It is well worth the full price. I would give Horizon Zero Dawn a cumulative score of 9/10. Grab your bow and spear and enjoy the hunt!

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Last Guardian – Review

the-last-guardian

 

Intro

The Last Guardian has been in development for nearly a decade now. It has gone through some very tough times in its development cycle. It has gone from being highly hyped, to being one of the most awaited games, from being cancelled, to being pushed back, to console changes and so forth. So how did Japan Studio (or Team Ico if you prefer) do with their latest installment? Does it follow the classic games of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus? Or does The Last Guardian needs its own guardian? Let’s take a look and see how this game turned out.

 

Gameplay

If you have played the previous two games from Japan Studio, then you will have a good indication on how this game feels and controls. Controlling the little boy (no he does not have an actual name in the game) can be a love or hate relationship. He is very responsive and will respond to the input you use on the controller. Having him climb things can be a little more challenging. You will be doing a lot of climbing in this game, especially on Trico. For example, trying to get him to start walking along rock edges can be a challenge. He doesn’t always just lay up against the wall and shimmy across. Most of the time you will have to get him to start walking off the edge and then his feet will grab on and jerk him over. It can be a little frighting at times.

Climbing Trico can be very hit or miss as well. Most of the time you will struggle on trying to climb Trico. It’s not that he is hard to climb, it’s that he is awkward to climb. One of the hardest parts of climbing Trico is the camera angels. The camera will auto spin around at times and will make you lose sight of the little boy. I have come across numerous times when I was climbing Trico and then the camera shifted on me. Once I got the camera back to where I wanted it I was on the other side of Trico climbing up on the exact opposite side of where I was at.

Since we are on the camera subject. I have to go over how dread awful it can really be. This is the worst part of the game by far. There are a few other little niches that I will go over but the camera work can get you very frustrated. Besides the issues with Trico, there are a ton of other issues the camera presents itself with.

The camera will actually cause you to die at times. You’ll be scaling a wall and then the camera will auto change and go behind a wall not allowing you to see what you are trying to jump to. When you pull it out it will zoom in on his feet and cut off the top part of his body. Other times you’ll be in a tight area with Trico and the camera will be totally blocked by either the wall or Trico himself. You literally can’t see where you are going or what is in front of you.  I had a few times during my playthroughs where the camera literally went black. By the time I manually moved the camera and had it refocus on the little boy, one of the armored guys would have picked me up and started to carry me away. For a game this long in development they could have spent a lot more time on the camera angels and work. It’s some of the worst I have seen in a very long time.

Moving boxes in this game can be a frustrating process as well. In some games once you grab onto a box you can slide it and maneuver it around any way you want. In this game you can either go frontwards or backwards. If you try to slide it from side to side the little boy will actually turn the box and start moving it any way he choices.

During parts of the game Trico will lay down and not be able to go any further. This is where you will need to start finding some barrels to feed him with. Luckily finding these barrels is pretty easy. For some you will need a shield that you pick up towards the beginning stages of the game. This shield draws power from Trico in the form of lighting from his tail. In the beginning it’s a continuous stream of lighting. Later on in the game Trico somehow upgrades his tail and shoots out small quick busts of lighting. The game never really goes into saying why this happens, it just does. My theory is Trico is finally back up to strength from the weakened state you originally find him in.

At the very beginning of the game you have no control of Trico. It isn’t until a little further into it that he will “bond” with you and then he will start to listen to the commands you can give him. One you learn how to command him, you will spend a lot of time commanding Trico to do different moves. The most common one is telling him to go to someplace. This can take several attempts as Trico will look around the area first and then act like he never heard you. Standing on his head or neck is one of the worst places to try and command him. I have found out that by standing between his wings, or just behind them, he will act to your commands the most.

 

Graphics

While the game will not blow you away graphically, it does have some of its good moments. For one the scale of the surrounding environments is outstanding. From the tall cliff sides and towers to the detail on Trico, there is a lot of good things to look at.

Trico himself is very well detailed. His feathers move individually in the wind. When he gets upset they actually rise up on his body. When he calms down they lay back down. One of the cool things that I actually found by accident is when Trico gets hurt his feathers will turn red to indicate that he was bleeding. If you rub those red feathers they will go back to their normal color as an indication he was healed.  Feathers will fly off of Trico during certain parts of the game. The bad side is they will just absorb when they hit the ground. As the game starts the horns on Trico are broken and short. When you are progressing through the game his horns will actually start to regrow and become fully grown at the end of the game. Another nice touch that was added is when Trico rolls around in water his feather will turn a darker color to emphasize they are wet. He will then shake and the water will fly off his body and his feathers will turn back to their normal color. You can tell that the developers spend a lot of time on Trico and the small details incorporated in him.

What surprises me the most is the actual little boy in the game. He looks like someone just drew an outline of a body and click “auto fill in” with light brown and called it done. He is very bland and somewhat blurry looking. The tattoos that are all over his body are badly designed and unacceptably out of focus. He looks like something that would come from the PS2 era. His clothes, while they do blow in the breeze, are just as bad. I just don’t understand with how well detailed Trico is the little boy seemed to have gotten no time in development. This game does not push the PS4 architecture at all. So there is no reason at all why he looks this bland and unimpressive. On the redeeming side, like Trico, when he gets in the water, his clothes will turn a dark grey color. Over a minute or so, when he is out of the water, his clothes will dry off and go back to their normal color.

There are a couple of little odds and ends that I have seen as well throughout my playthroughs. Most of them are due to collision detection. For example you are swinging on a broken cable and part of the cable goes through the wall and comes back out. Trico himself, while standing next to a wall, will turn his head and his entire head will disappear inside of a wall. Once he sat down inside a tower and his butt and tail showed up on the outside of that tower. None of these are game breaking by any means. With a game that was in development for so long you think these would be cleaned up, or at least improved.

 

Trophies

Normally I don’t write about the trophies in games. They really don’t add anything and are more of just a “pat on the back” acknowledgement that you did something cool. There are two in the game that I would like to point out. One is hilarious and the other was nerve racking.

The one that was hilarious is titled, The Call of Nature. Basically what you have to do is to catch Trico pooping. I know it sounds weird but is very different and comical. I didn’t catch him until my third playthrough. He does do it just not a lot.

The one that was nerve racking is called, All Talked Out. The object of this is to hear every hint. To do that you have to basically play like you have never play a game before. Just stand around and let the game give you hints on what to do. Sounds easy enough but it really isn’t. Some of these hints can take hours for them to pop up. There was a few that I had to let the game run for over 24 hours before it popped. This really drags the game down to the point you don’t even want to play it anymore. Hopefully Japan Studio will release a patch out to correct this issue.

 

Conclusion

So after nearly a decade of being on and off again in development, how did The Last Guardian do, mediocre. If the major camera angels where fixed and some of the controls tightened up, this game would have been a classic.

There are a lot of instances where this game will wow you. From the environments, the art style and the attachment you can get to Trico, I would easily recommend this game at full price. Unfortunately, due to some of the technical problems, I wouldn’t pay no more than $45 for it. Give this game a few months and it will receive a price drop.

My final score for The Last Guardian, 7.5 out of 10.

Posted in Games | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Last Of Us Part II – Trailer Breakdown

PSX2016 Trailer Breakdown

 

After viewing and analyzing the trailer that was shown at this years PlayStation Experience, I have come up with a theory on which the game will be following. Also Ellie’s song reveals some subtle little things in the game that match my theories.

When the trailer starts out it pans through the woods and we see a tree with a deep “claw” like mark on it. Those marks seem to represent something strong has been through the forest. For the marks to be that deep a fight had to ensure. In the first game we had a very calming and terrific scene of Giraffes that roamed the streets. This could be something a little more aggressive, like more terrifying, like possible a bear. What the extent of these marks means is really anybody’s guess.

last-of-us-part-ii-trees

 

As the camera pans out we see what will be the most predominant image in this trailer, the Firefly symbol spray painted on a stop sign. In the first game this symbolized a camp or the main headquarters for the Firefly clan. With no traces of large buildings in the background, this little rural neighborhood seems to be a Firefly outpost, or camp.

last-of-us-part-ii-firefly-sign

 

The trailer later shows a hand shaking uncontrollably. In the back ground we see a person wearing a blue shirt. A few seconds later this person makes a fist in what seems to be the way they use to “calm their nerves”. After that the hand calms down. This seems to represent that something just major happened a few seconds ago that still has this person on edge. A couple of seconds later this person starts to play on a guitar and sing a simple deep thoughtful song. Maybe this is the way this person deals with pressure from is put on them. As the camera shifts angels we found out that this person is actually an older Ellie who is in her later years as a teenager.

last-of-us-part-ii-ellie-face

 

“I walk, through the valley, of the shadow of death, and I feel, no evil, cause I am blind to it all. And my mind, my gun, they comfort me. Because I know…I’ll kill my enemies, when they come.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me, all the days of my life. And I will dwell, on this earth forever more. Said I walk besides the still waters and they, restore my soul, but I can’t walk on the path of the right, because I am wrong.

No I can’t walk, on the path of the right, because…I’m wrong.”

The opening of the song that Ellie is singing seems to point back to the first game. The first course seems to represent how Ellie felt through the entire game. How she had it in her mind that the Fireflies would help her and try to find a reason why she was immune to the “Clicker Disease” other people got when they were bitten.

The second line seems to reference the point in the game where Ellie was laying on the operating room as the surgeons where getting ready to use her for testing which would have eventually killed her. Before this the Fireflies where on a search to find Ellie. It seems that Ellie actually found out the truth that there was no cure to the disease. The enemies she is referring to are the Fireflies themselves when they come to find her once again.

The second verse has a much darker feel to it. This seems to represent how Ellie is trying to ask for forgiveness of the killings that she is doing. The still waters I think represents a calming factor and to help clear her mind and forget what was happening and what she is doing. When she mentions that she can’t walk on the right because she is wrong seems to represent the fact that she knows what she is doing is indeed wrong but she also believes that it is the right thing to do, to stop the Fireflies from hurting anyone else.

last-of-us-part-ii-ellie-guitar

 

As Ellie is playing this song the trailer switches to a person walking into the house in which Ellie is singing. There are a couple of things that are very interesting about this scene. First one is really obvious as the person walking in is indeed Joel. We get a side view of him which confirms this and we also hear his voice. The other interesting this about this scene is it shows three bodies on the floor. This may not seem all that important but indeed it really is. If you look at the bodies you will see they are not the Clickers from the first game, they are actually real people. This believes to tell me that these people where actually members of the Firefly group. Ellie was the one that killed them since she had a fresh cut on her head with some blood running down her face along with some fresh scratches on her face. Plus her hand shaking from one of the previous scenes points to a fight that killed these three Firefly members.

Last of Us Part II Dead Body.png

 

As Joel enters the room when Ellie is finishing up her song, he says one line that I believe sets the tone for the game.

“What are you doing, kiddo? You really gonna go through with this?”

Ellie’s response seems to confirm this:

“I’m going to find, and I’m going to kill, every…last…one of them.”

This seems to confirm that Ellie is on the path of tracking down the remaining Fireflies and kill them off. My reason for this points back to the first game and the lies that was feed to her about how the Fireflies would help her and in the end they almost killed her while using her as a test subject.

last-of-us-part-ii-ellie-mean-face

 

Conclusion

These are just my thoughts about the trailer and how the game is going to play out. As Sony mentioned during the conference, this is in very early development right now. The story has a good chance of changing and the theme could be way different by the time it releases. I don’t expect to see this game until at least sometime late in 2018 if not by the second quarter of 2019. Either way, it will be a day one purchase for me.

Posted in Games | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

PlayStation Meeting 2016

PlayStation Meeting 2016

I just watched a recording of this year’s PlayStation Meeting. For me I had a rollercoaster of emotions with this show. From extremely excited to finally hitting the bottom of the hill with no tracks left. Let me share with you my thoughts, ideas and where I think Sony and PlayStation really missed the mark on this one.

 

PS4 Slim

Let’s start with the one console that everyone knew was coming back in 2013 when the original PS4 was released, the slim model.

I’m really liking the textured matte black finish to it. The shiny HDD cover on the original PS4 was pretty when you took it out of the box. If you look at it the wrong way you got your first micro scratch on it. The new casing should be a lot more durable and help make the console look like “new” even longer. Plus you’ll be able to dust it without getting scratches all over it.

But I do have some questions with the new PS4 Slim:

How come Sony didn’t compare its size to the original PS4?

How is the length, width, height compared to the original PS4?

If it has the same internals then how is the fan designed?

If it is slim then what is the weight on it?

Those may seem like small minor details to some people but they are indeed very important details that should be given out to the general public. Convince me Sony as to why I should replace my day one console with the new slim version. It was more like a blimp on the radar during this conference. Sony was acting like “Look, here is the new slim model. Now let’s move on.” Very poorly done in my eyes.

Granted, this model will be replacing the current version model. With a new skin, fresh makeup and smaller foot print, I would think that Sony would have promoted it a little more to show off its slimmer, smaller, sleeker size.

 

PS4 Pro

We all know this console was coming for a while too. With the original code name of PS4 Neo, we also know that wasn’t going to be the final name of this “new” console that Sony has been trying to hide from us. Since this was the majority of the conference let’s go over it a little.

Before I get into the Pro, I have to say that Mark Cerny has quite the smooth, relaxing, radio type voice. It literally calms you down. In my eyes that actually worked against Sony here. It seemed to mellow out the crowd. Which wasn’t all that vocal or excited to begin with.

At the start, I was getting hyped up and excited to hear about the updated PS4. One of the first things that was touched on was the GPU, more than double the power. I was like “holy shit I like what I’m hearing here, give me more!!”

Then it started to fall from there.

The next thing was the Pro will have a boosted clock rate CPU. I can understand not going with a new CPU for programming reasons. Game engines have been built around the AMD that is in the original PS4, game basic have been built around the AMD architecture. So it makes sense to me not to change it. If developers have to change the way they create games about mid cycle through a consoles life, that would be a great way to have Indie developers to stop or shy away from your brand.

This announcement really throw me off track. The Pro will include a 1TB HDD inside it. A 1TB. You can already get that in the PS4. My launch console has had a 1TB in it for over a year now. This is mind boggling as to why it isn’t bigger. Especially with 4k content. That 1TB will be eaten up, very quickly. Hopefully Sony sees this and will have the Pro, like the previous PS consoles, come equipped so their customer base will be able to upgrade the internal HDD for even more storage capabilities. An option for external storage would be a great option. Sony, you listening!

The one announcement that I literally laughed at was the term “Forward Compatibility”. If this isn’t a marketing ploy then I have never heard of one. The basis here was that the game titles we already own will be patched to play on the Pro. Again, this goes back to the space issue the Pro will very quickly run into. We are not talking about a few 100MB updates here. These will take gigs of data to download and store on the system. Some updates may even well be a full game download which can run into the 40GB range. Add a few of those and your storage is already maxed out.

I still even have a few questions concerning this “upgraded” system:

If the GPU power has been doubled, is the memory size still the same? Has the bandwidth been upgraded as well? How is the cooling going to work? More power, means more electric, which in turns mean more heat? How is the Pro going to compensate for that?

CPU boosted clock rate. Is the chip being overclocked? Is this just a bump in the native clocking? Same on this as the GPU, cooling, a faster processor means more electric, which again, means more heat. How is the cooling on this chip done? Has the bandwidth on the motherboard been increased to accommodate the higher clock speeds? Will games be bottlenecked from low bandwidth lanes?

 

Conclusion

I’ll admit it, I’m a Sony fanboy. I have been for years. All the way back to my school days when I used to beat the crap out of a cassette player. I had a rubber band holding the door close. No matter how many times, or how hard I threw it into my locker, it would still play a cassette at the end of the day.

Today’s conference has showed me that Sony, and PlayStation, has lost sight of what their customer based needs, not wants, but needs. With November 10th being two months away I don’t see any of this hardware changing at all.

That could be Game Over for the PS4 Pro.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ratchet and Clank – Review

Ratchet and Clank

Ratchet and Clank – Review

Insomniac Games. PlayStation users, as well as other gamers, know the type of quality and excellence this developer is known for. With their latest installment on the PS4, entitled Ratchet and Clank, everyone was expecting nothing but the finest from this company. Not only is this game a reboot for the franchise but it also has a tie in with the movie that is currently out in theaters. Normally a game that is based on a movie leads to very disappointing circumstances. Insomniac’s latest is not just based on a movie. This a game, based on a movie, that is based on the original game. How well did Insomniac pull this off? Is it another masterpiece, or does the game follow the others quickly into the bargain bin? Let’s blast through the universe and find out. Maybe amongst our travels we will even find a R.Y.N.O.

For those that have played previous installments of this game franchise know very well who the main two characters are. Once again you play as Ratchet and his sidekick, a small robot, that Ratchet actually names, as clank. The main objective is to stop Alonzo Drek from taking planets apart, taking certain pieces from those planets, then creating his own “perfect planet”. You will travel across different similar worlds, meet many familiar faces, and fight many similar foes. You will also visit places that you haven’t seen before. Insomniac took portions of the original game, added new parts and even some new dialog. Some of which poke fun at themselves.

Normally I start these reviews off by stating some of the issues I have run across during my playthrough(s). In this case I did a totally of three playthroughs. To be honest. There really isn’t anything major that I had run across that was neither game breaking, chapter restart faults or even worse, game save corruption. Ratchet and Clank is a really great polished game. You can defiantly tell that Insomniac didn’t just take the original game, throw it in the washer, fluff dry it and called it a remaster. This game was built from the ground up and polished very well.

With that said, I did run into a few small issues. Most of these pertained to the rail grinding portions of the game. At one part of the game you have to jump across this fairly large gap between the rails. On the playthroughs that I did, I never made it the first time, or sometimes the second. Ratchet’s boot would make the sparking image as if landing on the rail but he would land just on top of the connector and then fall down to the water below resulting in an instant death. Other times on other rails when not timing my jump correctly and hitting an explosive ring, Ratchet would fall through the rail instead of his feet landing back on the rail. It’s the little things like this that I would come across. None of these are really frustrating or “controller breaking” problems. Just more like a nuisance.

The one thing that really annoyed me the most from the game (this is nick picking here) is that when you get to a new planet, you can’t control the camera right away. The camera will stay panned out until you start to move and then it will slowly zoom back in.  There have been many times that I wanted to look behind me for secret areas or even some hidden crates for bolts. I had to wait until the camera made its way down to Ratchet before I could control it.

The one thing that didn’t make it into this game that the previous ones had, was the ability to earn Skill Points. These could have been earned by doing special non story related actions. Such as shoot down all the birds in a certain area. Complete a Grindrail without dying, blowing up all the boxes under water and so forth. They represented a certain challenge and added self-satisfaction to the game.  It didn’t take anything away from the actual experience of the game. Just was something I noticed that was missing.

The graphics, fluid animation and even the sound are some of the best you will find in any game. Everything was very well done and with the highest detail possible. I kept finding myself looking at the time and thinking that I will just play a little bit more as I have about leveled up this gun. Before I knew what happened it was an hour later and I was still playing the game. The gun leveling, while sometimes feel drawn out, was very addicting. Not only do you get to level your guns, but you also get to modify them with the modifier grid that you can use. Some of these can help drop more bolts, add ammo or even give you more Holocards. You can choose any path that you wanted. If you encircle the ? tiles you also get to unlock a special modifier to that specific gun which makes it even more deadlier.

The Holocards are new to the series. You can collect these from killing enemies or finding them in certain areas of the game. There are two points to these cards. The first one is just there for collectibles. It took me two playthroughs to get the complete collection of all 33 standard sets. Each set has 3 Holocards to it. Then there is of course the special Holocards that you can collect. There are a total of 9 of these available. Once you collect them all you can head back to a specific dealer and trade them in for the R.Y.N.O. (Rip Ya New One). This is the most powerful gun in the game. It makes the bigger fights a breeze to walk through. Even the final boss fight was done in a matter of seconds. Like all the other guns, you can get this gun up to level 10 and modify it any way that you want. It truly is a destructible force.

Playing through this game just brought back the many memories of playing all of these games back on the PlayStation 2 and then again on the remastered version on the PlayStation 3. I still keep hoping that one day the PlayStation Portable and Vita games will make their way to the PlayStation 4.  They can either be individual PlayStation Network games, or my personal choice, a special collection disc based version that includes all of them in one neat package. Insomniac, you listening!

If you enjoyed the previous game then you will no doubt have a blast with this release. This is a game that every PlayStation 4 owner must play through. Even if you don’t have this console, go out and buy one or feed your friend to a Snagglebeast. You will highly enjoy your experience. This come highly recommended with a score of 9.5.

 

Posted in Games | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quantum Break – Review

Quantum Break

 

Ever since Remedy Games, aka Remedy Entertainment, showed their project off to the masses, there has been a huge buzz around this game. With you being able to manipulate time, just about everyone immediately got intrigued and wanted to know more about Quantum Break. So the question is, did Remedy Games create a game that has lived up to the hype and expectations everyone had for it? Or did this game just fall flat and belongs in the bargain bin? Let’s see if we can stop time and keep the hype high.

You play as the character known as Jack Joyce. While helping out Paul, a friend of yours, the time machine he was working on malfunctions and  covers you and Paul in Chronon Radiation and you gain the ability to freeze time, rewind time, fast forward your own time and even more. As you start to learn how to control your own powers, you are learning about the company known as Monarch Corporation. You goal is to stop Monarch from fracturing time and bringing time to an end.

The powers that you gain from being infected with the Chronon Radiation makes this game a joy, may I even say at times, a breeze to play, even on the hard difficulty which I played on. The ones that I used the most were the Time Shield, Time Freeze and Time Rush. Time Shield allows you to place a protect shield, or bubble, around you that will prevent oncoming bullets from hitting you. It only lasts a few seconds but those seconds can save your life. Time Freeze is used to stop time around your enemies. The major advantage to this when you fire into the area that time is stopped, it allows you to stack your bullets. This produces more damage to your enemy once time picks back up. Time Rush was vitally important in my play trough. This allowed me to rush up to an enemy and do a melee attack that eliminated them from the battle. It also allowed me to run behind certain enemies and hit their weak points on their backs. If you combine all three of these powers you make yourself untouchable, not to mention the game becomes very easy at points.

While Quantum Break is a very enjoyable game, it does have some technical difficulties to it that unfortunately brings it down some. One of the most noticeable ones I have seen through the entire game is the graphics jumping. At first I thought it was just the time distortion effects in the game doing it, but I was wrong on that. For example, you might be behind cover and when the enemy is pointing their gun at you it will jump ever so slightly to a different location. It kind of looked like an entire frame was missing at that point.  Another issue was texture pop in. Objects will appear very blurry and once they get closer to the camera, the textures magically pop into place. This happened on several occasions, especially when going from inside a building to outside a building. I had one issue when after loading my game, the screen would be completely white while the sound played in the back ground. The only way out of this was to either aim my gun or rotate the camera around. Bright lights would pulsate the whiteness full on the screen and then only take a small portion away. At first I thought it was just part of the game until it continued to happen in a CG cutscene. This required a full system reboot to fix. Another issue I had was with the sound totally missing from the game. Graphically it loaded just fine but I had no sound at all. A few minutes later the game locked up. It wasn’t the console as I could get back to the dashboard and had the normal sounds there. This was managed by ending the game and reloading it. Another issue had to do with the combat itself. As described above, Time Rush allows you to run up to an enemy. When you do this the B action button would appear above their head to indicate you can do a melee attack on them. This didn’t happen quite a few times. This resulted in either my character dying, or having to quickly find cover to regain my health. While these technical difficulties where not game breaking, it did help break the ambiance and the feel of the game.

The cutscenes in this game are a mixture of CG and live action. While this has been done before in games, it did help make the game feel more realistic. The downside is that Quantum Break has some really long live action cut scenes in it. A time around fifteen to twenty minutes wouldn’t be bad. Instead Remedy added in one that was close to forty minutes long. While it was interesting and help to build the story and feel of the game, it made the whole flow of the game feel broken. Towards the end of the cutscene, I was getting in the mood that I didn’t want to play the game anymore. It took me out of the physical game itself and brought me more into a movie type of mood. This really shouldn’t happen in a game.

While Quantum Break does have its technical glitches, it does has some very good points as well. For one is the character graphics. These are some of the best character model and details I have seen in quite a long time in a game. It almost blends what is CG and what is live action. The facial details and body movement you can tell have been mapped directly from a motion caption device and it works really well.  Everything ran really smooth and fluid feeling. The cover system is nicely done as well. There is no button pressing to hide behind something. You simple just run up to it and your character will automatically take cover behind it. This is nice as it will not distract you from concentrating on the enemies that are surrounding you. The gun fights itself are a blast to play as well. The accuracy is very spot on. If your sights turn red then you will hit that target. I also like the recoil on some of the guns. This just won’t allow you to continuous fire some of the automatic weapons. Doing so will make you miss quite a lot. Bursts of fire is your friend here. There is one gun that I relied on a lot in this game, which is the Pistol. This has infinite ammo and is slightly over powered. If you like doing headshots, then this will be your preferred gun of choice. The dialog is also spot on. One of my nuisances I have with games is when the written dialog is different then what is being spoken. In Quantum Break, both of these are spot on.

During the course of the game, you will run across sections called Junction Powers.  This will allow you to choose which story path you will take throughout that portion of the game. The interesting part is that while you making a decision, you can play a brief synoptics view of what the future will hold if you choice either side. Once you choice the side you want, the story will start to play out in front of you then allow you to continue on that path. Unfortunately while different things may happen along the story, the main ending is unaffected by any of your decisions, which makes the whole point of choosing either story side almost seem pointless.

In my personal opinion, Quantum Break is a great game that will be enjoyed by many people. I hope that Remedy will continue the series and fix some of the issues the game has in the next installment.  I enjoyed the story and the gameplay quite a lot even with the little hiccups that is has. Plus as of right now if you buy Quantum Break you get a code for a free download of Alan Wake plus two additional add on pieces. Basically you are getting two games for the price of one. That is always a plus to any purchase. Overall I would give Quantum Break a 8.5 out of 10. The little technical hiccups hold it back and the long live action cutscenes drag you out of the whole game experience.  This game comes recommended.

Posted in Games | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fallout 4 – Review

Fallout 4

“There is another settlement that needs our help” – Preston Garvey

 

Ever since Fallout: New Vegas was launched back in October 2010, fans have been asking, and sometimes begging, for Bethesda to come out with Fallout 4. Once the announcement was made that indeed Fallout 4 was not only in production, but getting close to completion, the anticipation and hype began to grow very quickly. The question is this, is Fallout 4 the game that everyone wanted, or is it just a game that was slapped together to quiet the fanbase? Let’s drag our way through the Wastelands and see how the game settled in.

Fallout 4 is based on post-apocalyptic happenings in Boston. The entire city is in ruins and has been renamed, The Commonwealth. You will see some familiar landmarks as you go through the game. For example one of the biggest cities that you will spend a lot of time in is called, Diamond City. This is actually a city stationed within Fenway Park. I’m not a big fan of the team that normally plays there but it was still cool to see the stadium from within and on the ground level. You will travel through most of the city and around the surrounding areas as you progress through the game.

If you are one of those people who like to sit down and customize your character, you will love this game. The character customization can literally take you hours to build your perfect character. From skin textures, to eye separation and angels, to even how your nose looks, the customization will allow you to create any kind of character that you want.
The premise of Fallout 4 is pretty simple down to the core. Do a few missions to collect clues and track down the group who is responsible for everything. The bad thing is that this game starts to get very repetitive after the first few hours of playing it. You are constantly fighting the same type of enemies over and over again. There are some very slight differences in the Mutants, but overall it’s the same wash and repeat enemies. Some of the NPC characters that you can interact with will give you typical, go fetch this and bring it back to me, type of missions. There are two specific characters in the Brotherhood of Steel clan that offer these type of missions to you. While they are great for leveling your character, doing them for hours at a time, with no real end in sight, makes it very tedious and boring. All that stuff you collect really had no bearing on the game or the outcome for it. They felt more like time wasters to add length to the game itself.

Before all of that begins you have to survive through your chronic frozen state that you have been subjected to. Before you are frozen, you witness the death of your wife and the kidnapping of your son. You awake 200 years into the future, to the city of Boston that has been torn apart from the war that was happening while you was in your frozen state. You then start on your quest to find who kidnapped your son and who murdered your wife.

If you are a looter and like to collect everything you see in sight, then this is your game. It will reward you for going off the proverbial beaten path. You can find special rare guns, unmarked towns that can be turned into settlements, different Vaults that you can explore and yes even Power Armour. The more you explore the Wastelands the rarer and vast amount of items you can collect. I will warn you though, that since there is so much stuff you can collect, you will be over encumbered quickly and very often. Everything you pick up has a purpose. Even the smallest things, like an empty can, will be broken down and used for crafting add-ons for your weapons, building material, personal amour and etc. Nothing is actual junk. By the end of the game you will collect a vast amount of material. Suiting up in Power Armour will help you carry a few extra pounds, but that also means you will be burning though Fusion Cores a lot more quickly.

One of the neat things that this game does is allow you to have Supply Lines between each of your settlements. Basically what this does is allow other towns to share the resources that you collect from your main settlement. When you get some settlers who live in your main settlement, you can assign them do these Supply Lines. For example, if you are trying to build a small storage area in a settlement on the other side of the map, but realize that you don’t have all the material there to accomplish this, you can create a Supply Line to that settlement. Once you try again, all the materials that you have collected and stored at your main settlement will be available at the other settlement. This is extremely useful and cuts down on the tedious time consuming gameplay of trying to collect the materials that are required.

As I mentioned above, everything you collect has a small purpose in crafting. One of the things that bugged me the most is when crafting walls. Those walls will have tears, holes and just down right look like garbage. To me if you are building something from scrap, it should be complete whole items, not something that you might find laying around in a junk yard. Another thing that bothered is the ability to scrap large items. For example the house I was using to store some of my items, like my bed and bobble heads, was extremely run down and had holes everywhere in the roof. I wanted on many occasions to scrap my roof and build myself a new one. The back entrance to the house had no door on it. Every kind of door I tried to build would not attach to the door frame, even though it would fit perfectly. Little things like that can make the game frustrating. If you have a creative mind and if you have the patience, you can make some really elaborate stuff in the game.

A portion of Fallout 4 turns into a Sim type of game. The good thing about this portion is you can ignore them all together if you don’t feel like messing with them. They have no bearing on the story or the ending. In these you can actually build new housing structures, lights, defense, farming and water purification systems. If you have a knack for these things you can literally spends 10s if not 100s of hours in building and perfecting your settlements. There are numerous ones you can build up. For those that like to unlock achievements/trophies, there is one attached to the complete happiness of a single settlement. This can take some time to build up as for no reason what so ever your settlers will start to get sad and grumpy, even though they have everything they need to be happy. While it does help break up the grinding this game can possess, it does make things frustrating to constantly keep their happiness level rising.

Fallout 4 does have companions, in fact there are thirteen all together. Each one of them has their own personal perks you can use. Some of these perks are very useful while in combat if some stats fall below a certain level. Other perks can be used while communicating with NPCs. For me personally, I always went back and forth between Cait and Piper. I used Strong once in a while to carry some heavy items. Even with a vast amount of companions you could choose from they are suffer from the same problem. They just talk and talk and talk. A lot of the times it would be the same lines over and over again. The first few times it was ok but after hours on end it got really annoying to listen to them say the same things over and over. Some of the companions you can flirt with them and raise their relationship level to a max state. When you do this, you can go to any bed and sleep with them, as long as they are in your party. When this happens, you get a bonus of an extra +15% XP earned for a limited time.

Graphical wise, Fallout 4 is not really going to impress a whole lot. To me it seemed more like a polished up last gen game. There are some graphical pop in and some draw distance flaws. One of the things I noticed the most was the texture overlay. You can really tell this during the cutscenes the game has. Everything will be blurry and mushy looking, then the multiple layers will quickly start to pop on the characters. It doesn’t hurt the game but it is very noticeable. This is one of the main areas that Bethesda could use a lot more time, work and QA to get things right. Another thing that could have used some more time on was the loading of the environments. There was a few times that I had to back out of the game and reload my save file as the game would not load the environment. My character would be on the screen but nothing was around him. That only thing you could see was some outlines of a few things and a grayish background.

If you have played any kind of Bethesda game, you will know how they handle their games. You will constantly run across all kinds of bugs and glitches though your travels. Fallout 4 is really no different. From enemies just vanishing off the screen, guns misfiring, to even portions of the map not loading, Fallout 4 is riddled with little things that should have been cleaned up. Bethesda could have easily stuck another six months to a year to polish this game up, then throw in another six months of nothing but just QA. For me, this is what is keeping Fallout 4 from being a serious game of the year contender. The good thing is that Bethesda is working on patches and have already released some.
Even with the bugs and glitches that Fallout 4 possesses, this is a nice installment into the Fallout franchise. All together I clocked in roughly about 150 hours with my character reaching a level of 63. Since your character does not have a max level, you could literally play this game for however long you want. If you are lucky enough to get one of the collector editions that comes with the Pip-Boy, you can use that along with your phone, to interact with the game, with the app that is free to download. This is a slick way to interact with the game outside of the game. Hopefully they continue this trend with future installments.

In the end, I would rate Fallout 4 with a 8.5 out of 10. Still a solid game but the bugs, glitches and other problems, really hold it back. If you love the Fallout franchise then defiantly pick this game up if you have not already. If this is your first installment in the franchise, you might want to wait until the Game of the Year version comes out. By then some of these problems should be addressed and corrected. If you are planning on buying this for a console, then the mods should be incorporated by then.

Posted in Games | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Halo 5: Guardians – Review

Halo 5 Guardians

“Let’s make a good jump like we mean to, and handle fools like we need to” – Tanaka

 

This newest installment in the Halo franchise is developed by 343 Industries and published by Microsoft Studios. As one would imagine, is it made exclusive for the Xbox One. Does Halo 5 live up to the normal sci-fi shooter that we all know, or do the Covenant over run the Spartans?

We all had seen the commercials leading up to the release of the game. Is Master Chief a traitor or is there something else going on behind the scenes. We all have been told to “Hunt the Truth”. Strangely enough, the game really doesn’t even focus on that point. Or on anything we have seen in the trailers as a matter of fact. You are basically in pursuit of Blue Team, aka Master Chief and his cohorts, while also trying to find Cortana. Out of the entire 15 missions the game covers, you only play as the Master Chief in 3 of those. Just a slight disappointment, but the aura around the tacticality of hunting Master Chief makes up for it. Plus the missions that you do play as the Chief are longer and a lot more fluid feeling then those of Osiris, aka the team lead by the main character, Locke. Out of the remainder missions, unfortunate there are two missions that you do nothing in but talk to a few people and then leave. One of these missions can take you literally less than a minute to complete. I’m not quite sure why 343 designed these missions this way, to me they should have just stuck it at the end of the previos mission or made it at the beginning of the next. The way they did it made those missions just feel like fluff to increase the mission count to the story.

A couple little grips I had about the combat are the guns themselves. While they felt fine, the firing sounds seemed a little wimpy and hollow to me. They weren’t as pronounced and sharp as they could have been. To me they seemed muffled and weak sounding. A more sharper and crisper sound would have made the guns feel like they had more heft to them. They overall design and graphical looks of the guns was spectacular, as well as the rest of the graphics in the game, which we will get into a little later on.

The gameplay was fast, furious, exciting and rewarding feeling. Some of the areas you had to go through will take you a while, even on Easy. On Legendary you will want to set some time a side to complete a few of these levels as it can take you an hour or longer to get through. Like most games like this, you fight the same type of enemies over and over again. For one enemy though, the Guardian, it got very annoying. This is a boss type battle. Not only do you fight him once, but you fight him numerous times throughout the entire campaign. This really brought down the fun factor of the game in general. He doesn’t come back in a different form or have any kind of different attacks. He is just a copy/paste of the previous fights. This guy isn’t a push over either. He really has only one kind of weakness, the orb on his back. Most of the time it is a pain to try and get behind him, he always backs up away while facing you. When you do get behind him and start shooting at his weak point he instantly turns back around quickly and fires at you. You can shoot him in his visor to deal damage but that isn’t the most beneficial way of taking him out, especially when he is far away from you.

Out of the entire game the one thing that really irritated me the most the lousy AI of your teammates. For being a AAA game, the AI in Halo 5 is some of the worst I have seen in a long time. Be prepared to hear the lines “Friendly fire here”, “Watch where you are shooting Spartan” and so forth. You will hear those lines and many others quite a lot. In all there are three other members of your squad that you can control as a group. Controlling the group was almost about worthless. You can put your center screen marker on a vehicle, press up on the D-Pad and tell them to drive it, some of the times they would all run to it then stand there look at it for a few seconds before one decides to jump on, then start to drive away from you. I seen a few times when they would drive right into a wall and try to climb it with the Warthog. You can also tell the group to hang back behind you for whatever reason, then a few seconds later, they are running back up in front of you. There really should be a stay put option, by like hitting up twice on the D-Pad would be ideal. I couldn’t even begin to count the many times I was firing my gun and one of them just walked right in my sights and stood there looking at me. There are also times when an Elite will be shooting them and they just stand there with their backs to them until they are downed. When you yourself get downed, you can call out to them to help pick you up so you can continue fighting. There was numerous times when one of them was standing right next to me and did nothing while another AI member would come running half way across the map to try and revive me. After an enemy is killed they will still keep shooting at it for several seconds afterwards. The one thing that the AI is good for is acting as a bullet sponge. They can distract the enemies while you get your shots in. If one of them do happen to die they will respawn a few minutes later by your location.

The actual story of the game is towards the flat side. While the beginning will pull you in, it starts to fall flat about a third of the way in. The slight twist at the end does indeed setup for another installment in the franchise. If you play through on Legendary, you get an additional ending after the credits roll. As mentioned earlier, you are chasing after Master Chief, but for what reason. The story never really goes in any kind of detail as to why we are hunting down Chief. We get small tidbits of information here and there but that is about it. What we can figure out is that Chief was called back in but never showed up as he was going after Cortana. Other then that, there really isn’t much background story to this game. Who is the new main character, Locke? Where did he come from and why is he leading this new group called the Osiris? There are a lot of holes here that need to be tied. If there is a second installment, hopefully it will answer those questions. What we do know is that during one of the cut scenes, Locke says to another Osiris team member, regarding about Chief, ”You’re not the only one here because of him.” Then the game doesn’t even touch on the subject matter after that. There are a lot of empty holes within the story.

The graphical portion of Halo 5 is where the game really shines through. The environment, character models and vehicles are all spectacular looking. Only in a few spots did I notice a few jagged edges and screen shake, other than that, the game is just gorgeous to look at. I stopped a few times during my multiple playthroughs just to pan the camera around to look at the surrounding environment. The characters move fluidly and the animations where smooth as can be. The only thing that looked bad, so to speak, was the vast amount of water in one of the chapters. It looked like polygon triangles just stacked next to each other and allowed to bend and flex to mimic small waves in the water from rising and lowering. There was a few times when I died that my character fell through the map. It never happened during actual game play though. So that could have just been the death animation and the angle of the camera.

Talking about the camera, not once did it get stuck behind a tree, rock or even a wall. This is much appreciated as the camera can be a huge factor in games like this. You could always see right in the lane of vision where you character was looking at. I did not fight with it once during my multiple playthroughs.

Now a days, Halo is more known for its multiplayer side then for its single player campaign. I played the multiplayer aspect for a few hours, and I can honestly say that I actually enjoyed it. If you are an achievement junkie these are very easy to get online. You can easily get them in a few hours if everything goes just right. While there aren’t a lot of vast game modes, what is available is quite enjoyable. I’m not the best online player but I found myself hanging with some of the people who knew the maps inside and out already. I had my bad rounds but most rounds I was right there. However 343 designed the multiplayer side of Halo 5, I give them kudos for making it fun and evenly matched.

My own personal thought is Halo 5, in all, is a really good game. It has it problems as mentioned above, but in the grand scheme of things it’s a game that should be played. If you own an Xbox one I would recommend this game to you. If you are a super Halo fan and don’t have an Xbox One just yet, you should get the special edition Halo 5 Xbox One. According to Xbox Live’s time tracker, I clicked in 92 hours of playtime between the single player and multiplayer. To be honest, it didn’t even feel I put that much time into it. Overall, I would give Halo 5: Guardians, an 8 out of 10.

Posted in Games | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Until Dawn – Review

Until Dawn

“It’s so cold in here right now my tongue will get stuck to your flag pole” – Jessica

Until Dawn is the newest IP from SCEA (Sony Computer Entertainment of America) and from developer Supermassive Games. The game is classified in the horror genre. You play as all eight friends who decide to go back to the snowy mountaintop resort a year removed from two other friends, which are sisters, who died and have never been found.

The story revolves around Beth and Hannah and their disappearance. You go through the game as each of the eight friends. Each one of the friends has their own unique story and path that you follow. The group originally go up the mountain to mourn the anniversary of their friends death. As things start to heat up between the remaining friends, the group splits up in pairs of people. Each group of friends has their own pathway that you follow throughout the game. As you make your way through the game you will come across a psychiatrist at the end of every chapter, which there are 10 altogether. You may think he will evaluate your decisions from the previous chapter. In appearance he does do that but then he will also ask you questions that will affect the next chapter. He will let you look at pics of objects and the characters. You decision on whether you like, dislike or just afraid of these images plays out what you have to face in the next chapter. For example if you pick needles over a knife then in the next chapter your attacker will be wielding a needle in his hand. It is quite intuitive and seamless as the game collects all of this information and presents it to you. This isn’t like any other game where your decisions really don’t have that much affect later on. In Until Dawn, your decisions really do affect everything around you, including the other characters. This is known as the Butterfly Effect. Which is the main decision making purpose of the game. You will know when you made a major decision as the screen will have butterflies popping up in the top left hand corner. During the game you can go into the menu system and take a look at what your past decisions are and how they affected the story and the characters. This can help you make the right decisions later on. Or if you prefer, you can go back through all of your decisions at the end. It is really a nice behind the scenes feature.

Along the way you will run into decisions that can either affect your character right away, or may affect another character later on into the game. Each of your decisions has a consequence no matter what you choose. Some can save a friends life or have them get killed later on. Along with the decisions, there are QTE (Quick Time Events) you need to press at the right time. Just Like your decisions, these can help you survive or have someone else get killed later on if you fail just one during some certain parts of the game. This helps to increase the tension, stress and your concentration during the game. The QTE events can be tricky at times. You will hear the small dingle sound coming from the controller’s built in speaker which alerts you that a QTE is ongoing. You then have to look around on the screen to find it, spot it and then recognize which button it is asking you to press. With how quickly the timer counts down there are times when only a split second is available to press the appropriate button. Again this caused me to back out of the game a couple of times and restart it back up. It’s not very bothersome but it stays in the back of your mind.

Another part of the game that requires a distinct amount of no movement what so ever, is the gyroscope moments. These require you to be near perfectly still even if you move just a bit you will fail these instantly. For those thinking that you can just sit the controller down and pick it up when that part is over, you are wrong. During this part the controller with actually vibrate which will make you fail instantly. You literally have to hold it in your hands firmly to prevent it from moving. Once you see the glowing face of the Dualshock 4 controller on the screen, you need to immediately freeze what you are doing and not move at all. The slightest movement will trigger you failing. I actually really enjoyed these parts of the game. I can see where it can be frustrating if you don’t have a steady hand or can’t grip something tightly. If you do fail you can quickly hold down the PS button and exit the game before it auto saves. Then go back in and reload the game and it will start you off at the nearest checkpoint. Which in most case is not very far back from where you just was as the auto saves are very aggressive. I had to do this a few times to avoid the post negative action that the sequence provided.

The movement of the characters and animation can be really stiff at times. There are two different speeds of how whichever character you are controlling is walking. There is of course the normal walking speed which can feel really slow and sluggish. Then there is the faster paced speed by holding down R1. This feels more natural and allows the character to move easier. I would have liked the later of these to be the normal walking speed and then have the character slow down as danger is present. To me this would have given the feel of something is getting ready to happen and pull you into the physical tension of the game even more. Ultimately I held down the L1 button throughout the game, as I said before, the pace just felt more natural to me.

The graphics in the game are gorgeous. The environment and the wildlife are truly amazing looking. The deer that you come across are very well detailed. What I was more impressed about was the way the antlers looked. I know it may seemed like a small factor but the quality of them was superb. One of the nice touches I liked was leaving your foot prints in the snow. These aren’t your typical foot prints where you will leave them and in a few seconds they disappear. These would stay there for a decent amount of time. Even when you are walking and the game cut into a different scene, then you walk back to where you was before, your foot prints from before would still be there. The prints wasn’t just a design on top of the snow either. They would actually make a little concave divot where your foot landed. You could see small mounds of snow build up where your foot was located it. Little things like that are what makes a game more immersive.

Normally when I play a game I always turn on the sub-titles. There can be times that the background audio on same games are so low that you can’t hear things in the background. Plus I also like to compare the text on the screen to the actual dialog that is being spoken. If they are using the same script they should be the exact same way. In some games this isn’t the case. In Until Dawn, most of the subtitles match what was being spoken. Every once in a while I will catch something that was spoken but wasn’t in the subtitles. But these are few and far between. If you are not paying attention then you will miss it. There are parts of the game that get a little boring as there is no dialog. You just walk for a little with nothing going on. Then the dialog will start back up again.

Over all Until Dawn is a great game. It does have some hiccups along the way but that should not prevent anyone from playing this game. If you like games that follow different characters plots, which you can controlled with your own decisions, then this game is for you. I will admit that at some points it can get a little slow. I had no problems with the QTE events not registering any of my button presses. The game does have some replayability as you can go back though and make different decisions from your previous playthroughs and how those affect different characters and the outcome in the end. It will take you on an average of about 10 hours to playthrough. If you don’t worry about all the collectibles, you can beat it in roughly 7 hours. With everything together I would recommend this game.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Order 1886 – Review

The-Order-1886

 
When the Order 1886 was first announced and the very first trailer was shown a while back, hype immediately began to build for this new IP. The studios that are involved are Santa Monica Studios and Ready at Dawn. Everyone one knows who Santa Monica Studios (SMS) is from the God of War series, Twisted Metal and some other PSN games. Some may not have heard about Ready at Dawn. Their main focus was on the PSP console and smaller games as well. The Order 1886 was their first big step into the home console genre. They had a lot riding on this game to help them stand out as a big name AAA title developer. So how did Ready at Dawn do and how did The Order 1886 turn out? Let’s take a look and see.

I, myself, was pretty excited about this game. It was being published by one of my favorite developers, SMS, and being created by a company I know from their PSP games, Ready at Dawn. With the design and support that SMS provided, I was expecting a masterful piece of artwork. Anything less and I would be disappointed.

You play as Sir Galahad, a member of the Knights of The Order taking the fight in Victorian-era London against creatures known as Half-Breeds. These are, what look like normal people, who turn into a Werewolf type of creature, known as a Lycan. These are strong and fast creatures that you will have to fight along the way in the story. Not much is said about their past or where they originated from. The game left them as a mystery.

One of the most impressive things about this game is the graphics. They are just phenomenal. The gameplay graphics and cut scenes are blended together very nicely. It was very hard trying to determine which one was which. A few times I was watching my screen waiting for something else to continue in the cut scene when I actually had control of Galahad. During the opening few minutes of the game you witness Galahad in prison. The camera focuses on the ground and you see the bottom of Galahad’s feet. What makes this forth mentioning is the wrinkles that appear on the bottom of his feet. Ready at Dawn could have very easily just made his foot smooth but they took the time to add in the wrinkles. Later on in the game you get to rappel down the side of a blimp. Once again the developers could have just easily show his foot land on the side of the blimp and be done with it. They took the extra time to show foot prints imprinted in the side of the blimp as your character would push off. Another fine example of the amount of detail Ready put into this game is the way your coat moves in the air and how is twists and flaps in heavy wind. It’s the little small things that help make The Order an amazing graphical experience. You can really tell they took their time on the visual aspects of the game.

In normal, typical games, when you pick up an item, you may get the chance to look at it from one angle and then put it away. In this game, you actually have the ability to move it around in your hand and look at it from about every side imaginable. In some instances you can even interact with it. For example, like checking to see if a gun is loaded. This little bit of interaction helps the feeling that you were actually holding the item in your own hands. I believe more developers should incorporate this into their games.

Along the way you will come across some locked doors that you can pick. The mini game that sets off is actually really well thought out and how it is displayed. What happens is you place a pump type of device into the lock and the pump raises up the levers one at a time. The way you see the levers is displayed as an X-Ray of the lock itself. You need to move your joystick around to a certain point until the lever is high enough and then “lock” it in place. Then you move on to the next levers until you are done. Using the X-Ray aspect is very ingenious in my eyes. I was greatly please on how well they created that.

The actual gameplay was very satisfying as well. The combat felt fluid and sharp. Unfortunately, there really isn’t enough of it. Between physical gameplay and cut scenes it felt about a 50-50 balance. You would play for a few minutes then be rewarded with a cut scene. While those are nice and can help move the story along, I felt like there was not enough physical gameplay. You would start to get in a groove and then it would transition into a cut scene. The Order is not an open world type of game. Infact it is has very linear gameplay. The only exploring that can be done is in an adjuring room or to the end of a hallway.

In some of the sections of the game you will be carrying a lantern around to see in the darken path that is ahead of you. When you do run across an enemy you cannot use your melee attack. The only form of attack that you can do is with your guns. This seemed a little strange to me. While I never encountered this problem I kept thinking about what would happen if I was low on ammo. I couldn’t melee my enemy to give me a few seconds head start to reach another room or the next checkpoint. It left an empty feeling in combat. It would have been nice if you hit your enemy with the lantern to stun them or even have the flame inside catch their clothes on fire, then your flame goes out, leaving you to find your way through the darken hallway or room until you reach the next lantern or daylight. To me that would have helped given the game a more exciting nervous/scary feel to it.

One of the biggest problems this game suffers is the QTE (Quick Time Events) events. You will be in fight when out of nowhere a QTE will present itself. What really got me aggravated about this is how is was handled. You would have to move your “cursor” to the correct spot on the screen and then press the correct button that it displayed. This doesn’t sound all that bad on paper. To move your “cursor” you needed to move the right joystick. I kept finding myself trying to move the left joystick while having my thumb hovering over the set of action buttons to strike quickly when needed. Having the “cursor” mapped to the right stick didn’t feel very natural. Thankfully they didn’t design the game as when you moved your thumb off the right stick the “cursor” would snap back with the joystick. That would have really made it frustrating. Thankfully instead they left the “cursor” there and allowed you plenty of time to press the correct action button that was displayed.

On my screen the tutorial would be cut off on the right hand side. I watched others play this game and their tutorials showed completely on their screen. I tried to look under the settings but there was no option to change the screen size. It felt like the actual projection of the image was too big for my 22” monitor that I was playing on. I have never had this problem with any other game being displayed on this screen before. It made me feel throughout the game that I was missing something on the sides. I did some research and came across a few forums that people have been experiencing this same problem.

There has been a lot said about the actual game length. I clocked in about 7 hours all together as I would take my time to scavenge what areas I could and just look around at the scenery that was in front of me. The 5 hours some people have been claiming can be justified if you do a speed run through the game. While this may seem short by today’s standards, it actually felt about perfect to me and how the story was paced. All together there are 16 chapters to play through which includes the prologue. Out of these chapters number 7, 12 and 13 are all strictly cut scenes. So in all there are actually 13 playable chapters. Each chapter is no more than 15 to 20 minutes long. Once you complete it, you are done. There really is no replayability to it, unless you want to try on a higher difficulty.

The game difficulty itself leans towards the easier side of things. I played on the “medium” difficulty and only got stuck at one point. That only lasted a few minutes. A slight change in strategy was all that was needed to get though that part. If you use your special ability called Blacksight, which allows you to slow down time, Galahad will automatically lock on to the nearest enemy to him. While this sounds great it has some drawbacks. For one you cannot control where you are aiming your gun. This would be a perfect time to pull off some quick headshots on a number of enemies. Instead you have to just go with what the game wants you to shoot at. It is very helpful though when you are facing the Lycans. This slows their charge and allows more precise shooting at them so you can knock them down so you can deliver the killing blow.

For those who like to collect the collectables, this game will make you smile. Everything can be found very easily. Since there isn’t a lot of exploration to do, everything is laid out right in front of you. If you get in the vicinity of something, an action icon will pop up by it. There is one collectible that you will miss on your initial playthrough. You can only get that by finishing a certain chapter and then going back to the main menu and choosing chapter select. Other than that everything can be collected on your initial run.

If you are a Trophy hunter, like myself, you can earn the Platinum on your initial playthrough. The only thing you will miss is the one collectable trophy and of course the Platinum to go with it. There are no difficulty level trophies of any kind. You can literally breeze through the game on easy and earn your Platinum in well under 10 hours. With the use of Blacksight, including how fast you can fill it up, The Order 1886, on easy, is laughable.

In the end, the final question remains, is The Order 1886 worth picking up. Yes! With how much I actually like playing the game, I would say wait until it gets a price cut and is in the $40 range. This game does indeed need to be played though. The story is very gripping and the graphics are gorgeous. With how short it is, lack of replayability and short-comings, it is best to wait a few months when this gets its price cut. Hopefully Ready at Dawn will take the criticism they are getting for this and focus on those in the next installment.

Posted in Games | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment