The Evil Within – Review

Evil Within

“There is something wrong with this place” – Detective Sebastian Castellanos

The horror genre on consoles has been a bit, shall we say, lacking, over the past few years. There has been some good attempts, then there also has been some real duds. This newest IP from Tango Gameworks and Bethesda is aimed at changing all of this. How well did The Evil Within do? Did it accomplish what it was set out to do? Will you need new underwear from playing this? I shall answer those questions and much more as we move along here.

You play as Detective Sebastian Castellanos. You are called, with a few other NPC characters, to investigate a mass murder at Beacon Mental Hospital. Upon arriving you witness a mass carnage of bodies lying around on the ground and the smell of blood in the air. After some light exploration you come across a doctor who is alive. He mentions a person named, Ruvik. After you view some security camera feed you see Ruvik quickly kill a few police officers with only a touch. The screen goes out and Ruvik appears behind you. As he is getting ready to touch you, your screen fades out and you wake up hanging upside down in a strange place. This is where the story starts to take place.

One of the first things the game makes you do is use the stealth system. At first I didn’t like it all that much. It felt a little clunky and strange. The camera was just slightly out of place looking over your shoulder. Which didn’t allow you to really look around or over short walls to see if the coast was clear. On the easier difficulty levels there is a symbol at the top center of your screen that resembles an eyeball. If it is slightly closed then no one has noticed you. If it grows and is wide open then something, or someone, has seen you. In the upper difficulty levels this is removed for a more intense gameplay affect. After playing the game multiple times and using it quite often, I have gotten more use to it. It still is not a perfect system but it does what it is meant to do.

Gameplay wise, the game is actually pretty solid. Combat is really good with an array of guns you can use. For example you have the typical pistol, a magnum, two different shot guns (double barrel and single barrel) sniper rifle and a cross bow. The ones I ended up using the most was the magnum and the cross bow. They can do some major damage, if you have the ammo. The crossbow you can actually make your own ammo as well as finding some laying around the different maps. You get supplies for the crossbow by disassembling wire traps, bombs and barb wire traps. The ammo for the other guns are really scarce, even on the lowest difficulty. You will find a lot of ammo boxes laying around but they only have a few rounds in each one. On the harder difficulty levels those ammo boxes get even scarcer with less ammo in them. The game forces you to strategize instead of just going in shooting everything that moves. It can make for quite a challenge in some fights. Especially the boss fights.

Graphical wise the game is really great looking. While we don’t get a large scale viewing area, what we do see on the screen is great looking. Unfortunate the graphics do have one major problem. That is the texture popping it does. It’s not in just an area or two but through most of the entire game. As environments look flat for a split second then the textures will start to just pop on the screen. Some will come layers at a time. You can really tell if you character is looking down at the ground or at something close to the camera. Other than that it is hard to see when it happens off into the distance.

The game is set in a third person perspective. While this is does a decent job it does of course cause some small problems. Every once in a while when you are looking around a corner, you’ll swing the camera to get a better look when a section of wall or a hanging cloth will just appear right in front of you blocking your line of vision. This only happens sporadically throughout the game. One other issue that bothered me a little bit is when you run to an area to hide behind a low wall, a pile of logs or whatever, you can’t have your character spin around to look in the direction the camera is facing. Your character will be directly facing a wall but the camera will be looking in the opposite way. This may not seem like a big deal but if you are sneaking up on something you have to turn your character around to continue forward or have him back out far enough to allow him to go towards the direction you need him to. This can cause you to lose precious seconds and have the enemy you are stalking turn around and spot you.

Like any game now a days, there are collectibles scatted about the maps. One of the unique things you get to collect is keys. You can get these by breaking small statues that are scattered throughout the game. What makes these unique is you can use these keys to open Morgue Lockers back in the hospital. Inside of these are items you can use in your game. They include ammo, Green Gel and even some more keys if you get lucky. The ammo is re really useful as we discussed earlier it is scare throughout your travels. The Green Gel is especially useful as you need this to increase your abilities such as the amount of time you can run before getting tired, accuracy, increase your life bar, amount of damage your guns do, reload speed and so forth. To fully upgrade everything you will need a couple of playthroughs. The good thing is, when you start a New Game+, all of your previous upgrades and collectables carry over.

Actually playing through the game is rewarding. You will run into many different enemies. While some are copy/paste, the variations in them make them feel fresh. The boss fights are very unique and rememberable. There are some maps that will allow you to explore around a small amount. The majority of the game itself is very linear. The maps can feel a little small as it can only take you about 15 minutes to go through some of the chapters. While other chapters can take you an hour or so to finish.

The controls in the game can be a little frustrating. Your view is set as a third person looking over the right shoulder of your character. To me the camera is set a little too close to your character. It would have been better if it was pulled back out just a little bit more to give you a wider range of the environment around you.

If you are squeamish about gore, then The Evil Within is not your type of game. While not all that scary, this game does provide you with plenty of gore to feast your eyes on. There is an option to turn the gory details off but that just makes the game feel weird and not quite right. During my first initial playthrough I only jumped once at something that happened in the game. The rest of the scare tactics you can feel as something is getting ready to happen. The death scenes are done really well. From being chainsawed into your spine out and out your sternum, your head being smashed into little pieces, to even your body blowing up in different directions, these death scenes are done really well. There have been times that I let myself die just to watch the death scene unfold.

So, in the end, is The Evil Within a game that you should play? I would say yes it is. It helps bring the survivor horror genre back into the mainstream of games again. Hopefully Tango Gameworks will see how well they did and create another game that will improve on the flaws this game currently has. I think they have a great new IP on their hands. The question for Tango is, will they extend this into a series or is this a one shot deal?

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Dragon Age : Inquisition – Review

Dragon Age Inquisition

Dragon Age: Inquisition – Review

Dragon Age is one of those games that you either love it or hate it. With a fantasy story that involves Mages, Templars, Seekers and yes even dragons. Dragon Age has a lot going for it. There was a tremendous amount of hype, as well as some concern, on how this game will turn out. Especially after how Dragon Age II was received. Let’s see how well Bioware did in this installment of the Dragon Age series.

If you have played Dragon Age: Origins, or Dragon Age II, then you will recognize some of the characters in this installment. Back are Morrigan, Cassandra, Varric and yes, even Alistair. If you have not played the previous two games, then you might be a little lost in this game. It derives most of the story from Dragon Age II. The good part is that the mechanics feel more towards Dragon Age: Origins.

I am currently on my second play through. My first time I was a Warrior and clocked in 172+ hours of game play. My current play through I am a Mage and have clocked in 110+ hours. This is quite a lengthy game. There are a ton of side missions that you can do, from the normal collect items, save people and so forth. Some of these side missions you can pick up at the War Table in your home base. Other side missions you can pick up from different NPC characters in the lands you will travel. In Inquisition you actually have two home base camps. First one is called Haven, while the second one, Skyhold, doesn’t get unlocked until later after a series of events.

I will tell you right now that Inquisition is not a fully finished product. This game has a ton of little bugs in it. For example some of these are, materials not being able to pick up, Mobs walking through walls, you character can get hit through doors, plants that are underground that you can harvest, miscellaneous collectibles that don’t appear on your scanner but can be picked up by accident and so forth. None of these bugs are game crashing, thankfully. They are just annoying at times. It seems that Bioware made a game so large that they couldn’t test everything out correctly. I don’t blame them for this. I put more of the blame towards EA (publisher) which likes to put deadlines on developers to get games out the door and into the public hands. I believe that if Bioware had it’s say they would have tested the game for a few more months to make sure everything is polished as possible.

Despite the bugs, Inquisition plays very well. The animations are very well polished and the fighting is spot on. With all that goes on during the fighting, you can lose sight of your character at times from the magic, fire, shock and whatever else that happens. The hit detection can be a little confusing at times. Not necessarily while fighting, more towards just running out in open land. There has been a few times where I would get stuck on a small hump in the ground or a crack in a rock while climbing a mountain side. Really no rhyme or reason to it. Even on the slightest little ledge I would have to jump up on it or take a few more steps to go around it. Nothing major but can be annoying if you travel on foot quite a bit.

There have been many instances where the camera does some funky things that takes your eyes off the field in front of you. I noticed this more while playing as a Mage then I was when I was a Warrior. If you are on top of rocks to get an aerial view and try to cast a spell, the camera will shift really quickly off to the side. If you are under a ledge then it will look straight up at the ledge above you. Normally you can just move the analog stick to fix the problem but in most instances this would not work. You can either cast the spell and miss the mark entirely, or just back out and not cast it at all. This lead to many deaths of my team as I could not cast a shield on them, or myself. One of the other problems was horseback riding across the plains. If you come up to a steep slope, or riding up a path of a mountain, the camera would not allow you to look forward enough to see where you are going while the horse was running. If it was just walking like normal then the camera was fine. It would look more directly right in front of the horse. This caused me on several occasions, while I was following a path, to get so far up a mountain and then having to stop because I couldn’t go any further. Having to track back down the mountain and finding another path to go back up wasted a lot of time. For this the camera should have panned out and done a wider angel from behind look. Not only would it have made traversing the area easier but also allow you to see what is coming up in the distance.

Riding the horses is a faster way to get across some of the areas you will visit, especially the open empty lands of the deserts. There are number of different horses you can get. Each one looks different but they all act the same. The major difference between them is the amount of damage they can take before you get knocked off. The cool thing is you can call your horse about anywhere in the game. You can do it in the densely forest but it will actually slow you down as your horse doesn’t like to walk over things very well. You can also have the horse run while you are riding it. Of course this allows for much quicker travels. Whether you are exploring the map or just getting from point a to point b. While the horse is running the sense of speed is really not there. The streaks of air that is added around you is a nice touch to impersonate the sense of speed, but the feeling is just not there. It me it feels more like a fast trot. One of the biggest problems with riding the horse is you cannot attack while on it. I can see if you are a Warrior and are currently using a two handed weapon. That makes sense to me. Wielding a single hand weapon, a staff, or even being an Archer, you should be allowed to perform even the basic commands. Unfortunately you have to get off the horse to fight the mob, or group of mobs, recall your horse and get back on. Again not a huge deal but something that just jumped at me that didn’t make much sense.

Now that we touched on some of the quirks about this game, let’s look at the good things that Dragon Age Inquisition does have.

One of the first things you get to do while starting a game is to customize your character. There is such a deep amount of customization that you can literally spend hours designing your character. From skin color, eye location, ear location, type of scar all the way to even the color of makeup you can apply to your character. This is one of the deepest customization options you will see in any game.

At the heart of this game is of course the combat. I touched a little bit on how you can lose your character during the fights. While that can be disoriented, it also shows how much goes on during combat. The fighting can be a 1v1, 4v1, or even as large as 8v1. It can get hectic and very busy at times. There are certain abilities that you can use to help sway the odds in your favor. For example the Warrior has an ability to smash the ground with his weapon which will either stun everything around him or knock them down for a few seconds. This will allow you to either start your escape or kill off a few mobs that are low on health. The Mage can develop a shield around them that will slow any mobs action down up to 99% of movement. This is very useful to stop attacks and take a few seconds to replenish your health, or revive other characters. This has saved me a lot during battles when I was the only one alive. The controls are fluid and responsive. Not once did I feel a hiccup or rough edge during combat. Bioware did an excellent job at this part. You can feel the amount of time they put into the combat experience.

Playing through the game you will notice one thing right off the bat, this game is huge. Not just in time wise but in the maps and the layout of the land around you. There is some very nice scenery to just sit back and enjoy. I literally just sat back and watched the ocean come rolling in off the coast of Storm Coast for a few minutes as the water splashed up and around the rocky edge I was standing on before continuing on my path. The same can be said for the mountain top views in The Emerald Graves. Overlooking some of the trees and watching the wildlife below you move around and sometimes even fight each other, is very surreal. The way the wind will come blowing off the edge of sand dunes and swirls around in the air for a second or two is outstanding. The graphics and environments are really well done. There was a lot of time and effort that was placed on this portion of the game. It really shows by the scenery. There is some graphical pop in the background as you approach different parts of the game. Hillsides will just pop on screen and the wildlife will just appear out of nowhere. Other than that the graphics are amazing looking. Maybe a few touch ups here and there on textures but that is very nit-picking on my behalf.

Of course the most alluring factor in the game is actually the first name in the title, dragons. All together there are ten different dragons you can face. Each dragon is beautifully detailed and animated. Their movements are fluid and the textures are outstanding. Unfortunately, their movements and attacks are copy and paste. While they can have different elemental attacks (fire, frost and shock) you can start to spot what they are about to do after fighting the first couple dragons. That is not saying that they will do attack A, then do attack B and so forth. Their attacks are not sequential. They can happen at any moment. Just by keeping any eye on their movement you can expect what is coming. They are an imposable force that can take a good strategy to defeat. You can’t just go in all gung-ho and expect to defeat these. If you try that the force of the dragons will take you down in no time.

In the end, is Dragon Age Inquisition a game that should be picked up and played, absolutely it is. You will find a very deep and satisfying RPG that will keep you consumed for hours and hours of play time. There is a great deal of replayability as you can choose between different classes that changes the dialog up some. There are also a hand full of people you can romance as well. With multiple amounts of collectables that open up different dungeons, a deep crafting option, ability to change the way your home base looks and a ton of other options. Dragon Age Inquisition is a game that needs to be played by everyone. This game comes highly recommended.

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Sunset Overdrive – Review

Sunset Overdrive

There has been a lot of marketing for this game by Microsoft. Every time I turn on my TV I see a commercial promoting this game. With all the money they are spending on advertising, they would believe you to think this is one amazing game. Let’s take a look and see how well Insomniac Games did here.

You play as a down on his luck punk kid who’s main job is a trash man. As luck would have it, you are working at a release party for a new drink called, OverCharge Delirium XT. The party is going strong when all of a sudden the attendees start turning in mutants (OD as the game calls them) because of the drink. Before you know it, the entire city of Sunset is turning into mutants.

The presence of the game is fairly simple. Go through the city to find clues and evidence that the Fizzco Corporation is deliberately doing this and to try and stop them.

One of the first things you do in the game is to customize your character. With a wealth of options you can make just about anything you want. You can make a copy of yourself, or just go all out and make a total ridiculous looking character. As you move along in the game you get access to even more options, accessories and outfits. By the end, you could literally spend hours customizing your character.

The game isn’t about customizing your character. That would get old and boring after a while. Instead let’s traverse out way through Sunset City and see how everything fairs.

One of the first things you will notice about Sunset Overdrive is the color. It is bright with a lot of orange in it. I mean a ton of orange. It is done well enough that it doesn’t over take everything and annoys you. It is a soft neon type of orange which works in this game very well. There are other colors like reds, whites, blues and so forth. The entire game isn’t just a palette of orange only. All of the colors work good together to bring forth a very vibrant world.

Character design, while looking a little weird, are actually really well done. The animations felt smoothly and quick. It was nice to see the quick little details of the gun expand in your hand as you switch between them. Exploring through the city was quick, if you used the rails, power lines, roof tops and your boost. You could get from one side of the map to the other in a matter of minutes.

The voice acting in the game is actually really good. You can tell the different accents and how each character puts emphasis on words and their feelings in the dialog. I always have the subtitles turned on in games even though I wear a headset. I like to see if the spoken words match with the actual text that is on the screen. In this case, everything did matched perfectly.

A nice little touch that Insomniac added to the game was the ability to turn the gore and language off. This creates a more appropriate game for the younger crowd. Even for those who don’t like things like that in their game. This isn’t a gory game by any means. It does have a lot of language in it though.

Sunset Overdrive has a lot of good things going for it. But it also has some bad things as well. For example the mechanics are not polished enough. You can be grinding on a power line and see a collectible up ahead on the adjunct line. If you try to jump over and land on it, the game will sometimes pull you back to the same line you jumped from, or land you on a nearby roof top. This will cause you to back travel a few feet. Not a big deal but it happens way more than needed.

You can also do wall runs on buildings. You can use these to make your way up taller buildings for missions or more collectables. You can also jump on awnings and roof top fans to help your way. Some of these buildings don’t have those, so you literally have to do a wall run, hop up a few feet, latch onto the building and rinse and repeat. Sounds easy enough. Latching back on to the wall does not always happen though. You can fall several feet before your character catches the wall again, if that even happens. There has been many times when I was close to the top of the building having only one or two more jumps left to have my character fall all the way back down to the street, causing me to start my climb back over again.

One of most obvious graphical glitches happens quite a lot. There are delivery trucks that you can get cases of Overcharge out of them. To get those cases out safely you have to fight off a swarm of OD coming at you. I ran across many of these trucks that would be sitting on two wheels. Once you open up the backed, the truck would pop off screen quickly, once it appears again, it would be laying on its side. This just isn’t a fluke as it would happen numerous times. I’m not quite sure how that got past QA testing. It isn’t game breaking by any means, but it is very noticeable.

One thing in games that always just blows my mind is the way missions are laid out. You pick up a mission in a certain spot then have to travel all the way across the map to get to your objective. Do what you need to do there and then travel back across the map to end the mission. Sunset is no different. The good thing though, like I said previously, you can make it across the map in a matter of minutes. Or you can always take one of the fast travel points and come walking out of a portable toilet. Those are fine. It’s the missions that have you go to three different parts of the city that get old fairly quick. If you are a collectable collector, like myself, grinding across the city, from point A to point B looking out for collectables so you don’t miss any, gets tedious and boring at times.

As I mentioned above the voice acting is suburb. The dialog in the game does get annoying after a while though. At first it was comical and witty. I did let out a few chuckles and laughs. After hearing the same thing over and over again it gets really mundane. The biggest example is how the game reminds you that you are playing a game. It keeps mentioning about respawns and other activities. First couple times it was alright, after the next few dozen, the joke got old, quickly. Plus some of the dialog is just rehashed over and over again saying things in a different way. It felt like the writing for this game took a back seat to other portions, like customizing your character.

The one thing that really annoyed me the most about this game was the lack of a favorite weapon swap. There is a fast weapon swap, but if you like two sets of guns you have to pull up the weapon wheel and manually choose them. For example, if you are fighting a pack of OD and a group of Fizzco robots show up, you can’t just simple switch between the guns that are the most effective against them. You have to pull up your weapon wheel, while the action is still going on in the background, then select the weapon that you want. You can do the quick select but that only goes around the weapon wheel. You will have to know the exact number of clicks to get the weapon you desire. With the amount of enemies you can face in this game that is a huge oversight.

So how can you describe Sunset Overdrive. To me it is a mixture of a few games rolled into one. Being from Insomniac Games, you can feel the Ratchet and Clank presence in it. One of the guns alone reminds me of an original RYNO from the series. Jet Set Radio also comes to mind in the art style and all the grinding on rails and things. It also has a little bit of Saint’s Row thrown in with how over the top it can be. Insomniac has a great product in the hands here. They just needed about another month or two of development and testing to polish it off and make it special.

I would recommend this game, but not at the full price. Parts of it feel slightly rushed while others are polished. If you can find it for $50, or under, then go ahead and pick it up. With the holidays coming up soon, it shouldn’t be too hard to find this on sale somewhere.

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Alien: Isolation – Review

Alien Isolation

“There’s that. And there’s the fact that you’re a heartless bastard” – Ripley

There has been a lot of buzz around the gaming community about this particular game. We haven’t had a good Alien game in years. With the support of SEGA and the showing at the different conventions, Alien: Isolation was being watched closely by quite a few people. So how did it turn? Is it worth the investment? Are we still looking for that great Alien game we all want? Let’s discuss how this game performs.

 
You play as Amanda Ripley, a technician from the Weyland-Yutan Corporation who is in search of a flight recorder from the ship her mother was on before it disappeared, the Nostromo. During these events you will encounter human patrols, Synthetics also known as Androids and of course the Aliens. This game is labeled as three different aspects, stealth, survival and horror.
The first hour of the game, or so, will actually make you think twice about playing. It is boring and there are a lot of noticeable glitches that goes on. It gives you the feeling of a not very polished game. After that hour or so is past the game opens up and everything starts to smooth out to what is expected of it.

 
The glitches, as I mentioned just above, are during the cut scenes. The game seems to run in a mixture of frame rate issues and lag. The characters, while moving, will jerk around. Not by a large amount though. If you are not paying that much attention you won’t even notice it at all. If you are the type of person who studies every scene and keeps a close eye on things then it will definitely jump at you. It made my console feel like it was struggling to keep up with the graphical output of the game.

 
There are a few other glitches along the way. I played through the campaign four times. Each of those times I encountered this one glitch at the exact same spot. This is towards the end of the game when you get off one of the elevators. After making your way through the nest and back to the same elevator you got off of. My gun that I was carrying at the time would be floating in the air. I would switch to it by the weapon wheel and it would still be there. If I pulled it up to aim, it would snap out of its suspended state and jump in my hands. A few other things I would notice didn’t make much sense too. When I was crawling through the air ducts, while using the light off the Flamethrower to see, everything was fine. Once in a while when I got out of the air duct I would end up with the pistol in my hand instead. There are a few other little things but nothing major to go into. Those two where the top things that I noticed the most during my play through.
The sound quality was very well done. Not a single time did I notice any hiccups or “static” during the dialog. Everything was very clean and sharp. Even with the subtitles on I don’t remember their being a difference between what was spoken and what was showing on the screen. The sound from the explosions and the voice reaction was spot on. You could feel the emotions, haste and shocked from your character and the supporting characters around the area.

 
The detail of the Alien is what stood out the most in this game. She was amazing looking. Even up close you could tell the differences in her skin texture and color moving around low and high lighted areas. When you couldn’t physically see her you defiantly could hear her. From the breathing, the growling, the hissing and the heavy foot steeps. When she was close by it created a tension that made you quickly look around. If you heard her screaming and then running it was already too late for you. At any given moment she could drop down from the ceiling and pick you up. This is part of the game that you really had to take special care with. If you heard her up in the air vents, then she was really close to you. There are some scripted spots while trying to escape a few areas. If you watched the vents you could see some “black breath” and goo dripping out. If you see that stay clear as much as you can. The Alien is right there waiting for you to walk underneath. The only downside to the Alien was the way she would walk. If you were hiding under a desk and she walked right in front of you, she would slide on the ground instead of taking steps. This only happened really up close. Any other time she would walk like normal.

 
The different aspects of this game, stealth, survivor and horror, all go hand in hand. This is not a game that you can just run and gun your way through, even on the easiest setting. If you try that, the Alien will get you every single time. There are a few sections of the game that you have to play stealth to make it through if you want to survive. You could craft and throw a noise maker to distract the human guards and then let the Alien take care of them all. You could also throw a Molotov at them once they are all gathered around. Either way you will attract the Alien and have to avoid her. The Survivor aspect of the game is pretty simple. You have to survive, period. You start with hardly nothing and with scavenging and some story plots you amass parts to craft items, but only if you find the blue prints for that item first. The ones I used the most were the ones I have already mentioned, the Noise Maker, Molotov and of course the health syringes. While this game can be classified as a horror game it is pretty light on that subject. I would consider it more of a jump scare game. There are some pretty intense moments and edge of your seat type scenarios. As far as an actual horror game, this is not.

 
Everything might be perfect in a game but if the actual gameplay feels wonky or just not very sharp, it can ruin the entire experience of that game. As far as Alien goes, the gameplay experience is pretty good. Not perfect mind you, but it is really good. Maybe it was just me but there something that felt off about actually firing a gun. It might be that I was so tense I couldn’t aim correctly but something did fell off. Luckily I didn’t have to fire my guns all that much. I relied on the Flamethrower once I required it. That makes the game a lot easier to manage. Besides the slight weird gun mechanics, everything else felt just fine. The pace of which Ripley moved felt fluid and controllable. The camera movement was very acceptable. The way she crouched to hide under things felt like you were actually doing that. Every once in a while Ripley would get caught on something walking through narrow doorways. All I had to do was take a couple of steps back and proceed forward again with no issues. The one thing that I really did like about the game was the ability to look around and over objects. By holding down the L1 button you could move the left joystick around and peer around corners and objects. This really helped a lot and needs to be implement into more games.

 
There are times when the objective you are supposed to be heading towards did not feel very well explained out for you. Even when pulling up the map, your story objective could be off to the side with no mapped area around it. There are lighted up areas throughout the game that you can interact with to update your in-game map. Sometimes even these wasn’t enough to see how you are supposed to get from point A to point B. Good thing for us is fairly early on in the game you come across a hand held tracker. This will show you if any enemies are nearby within a certain range and will also let you know which direction the main objective is in. Without this you could be wandering around for hours trying to find your way.

 
So in all, is Alien Isolation a game that needs to be picked up and played? Absolutely it is. Even with some of the flaws as mentioned above, it does not take away from the experience at all. Not once did I run into a game crashing or glitch stopping moment. It was a suspenseful time, after you got past the first hour of game play, all the way up to the last second. I personally enjoyed the game so much that it made me want to go back and watch the movies once again.

 

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Murdered: Soul Suspect – Review

Murdered Soul Suspect

 

I have had my eye on this game for quite some time. The whole premise behind it as playing as a ghost seems very interesting to me. Some of the artwork I seen made it look even better. The story seemed intriguing as well. After spending some time with the game, these are my thoughts on it.

You play as Ronan O’connor who is a detective for the Salem, Massachusetts police department. You are pursuing a serial-killer by the name of the Bell Killer. In the opening scene you confront the killer and you are tossed out of a window into the street below. A little while later the killer is next to you and uses your own gun to shoot seven rounds into your body, effectively killing you. This is where the story starts and the start of the clue hunting takes center stage.

One of the first things you get to do is control a few of you own limbs. This really had me worried as to how the game play was going to play out. One of the things it does is asked you to move your arm to reach for a doorknob. Later, while you are laying in the street and playing as your soul, you have to lay down and try to get back into your body. You have to move your hand, leg and face a certain way in order to match up to how your actual body is laying on the ground. Thankfully this is the only time you are asked to do this. If the whole entire game would have been like that I’m not sure if I would have finished it.

I ran across quite a few bugs and glitches in this game. Some were so bad I had to close the game and restart it back up, losing some of my progress from the last auto save. Nothing locked the console up. Just some game stopping moments.

One of the things that was totally inexcusable was the lack of quality control between what the characters spoke and the dialog that was on the screen. There was a few times what was spoken did not match what the subtitles stated. To me this should never happen. Everything goes off the same script. How this can happen is astonishing. I even ran across one lady that should have had dialog. The prompt was there to interact with her but nothing was spoken or no words appeared on the screen. It did prompt me to reply with an answer though. Even going as far as restarting the console didn’t fix the problem. That showed to me that Square Enix and Airtight Games didn’t have a lot of quality control testing during the development.

There was two instances where I had to shut down the game and boot it back up in order to continue. The first one came on a side mission with Brad. After collecting all of the necessary clues to solve his small problem. I went back to him to turn it in. It gave me the prompt to do so but it would not activate. The prompt just kept coming back. My character would then just be frozen in his tracks. I couldn’t move anywhere. I could move the camera around but that was it. Another instance was collecting one of the graffiti ghost images on a wall. Once I activated the collect button nothing happened. No short cut scene or anything. The prompt was no longer there and I couldn’t move once again.

There was some other smaller problems that stuck out to me as well. Not like the ones above did but they are noticeable. In a few scenes the shadows on a couple of characters would pop on and off. One second it would be there and the next it was completely gone. Like a switch was being turned on and off. While you are possessing a cat and it ran into a wall/corner it would cause the cat to shake tremendously until you backed away from it. A few times while walking through a wall I would get stuck about half way through it. I would have to take a couple steps backwards and try it again which then allowed me to go through it. While tracking a demon the prompt to execute them would not appear sometimes causing me to get caught, or have to run away and hide. Those are more annoyances then anything. With a little more testing they could be cleared up without much trouble. They didn’t break the game at any point but they certainly made it a little more frustrating.

Another big thing that turned me off from the game was the pacing of it. There really is no combat what so ever. The only thing that resembles combat is when you try to execute a demon. You have to come up behind it and press the R2 button to start the execution. Then you just simple press the left joystick in the direction it tells you and press one of the single action buttons as well. That is it. No quick QTEs, no shooting, no physically combat what so ever. It only takes a few seconds to execute a demon. Normally there are two, sometimes up to 4, demons at a time around each other. Picking them off one at a time can take some strategy but it’s really not all that hard. When executing a demon it will not alert another one. The only way you will get caught if one turns around and sees you. The demons themselves felt like an add-on at the last minute to make things a little more exciting. They really have no place in the story or in the world. There is no detail about them or any kind of backstory. They are just there. They are more of a nuisance then anything. Once those are dealt with, you are back to the normal walking around trying to find clues. If you are good at that, then the story progress can speed up some. If you have trouble then it becomes quite boring walking around looking for things. I literally fell asleep a few times searching for clues. The game can sometimes literally come to a crawl.

Without there being any combat, the game is quite easy. There is no difficulty level to select. There are no timed missions. Nothing that you can fail on either. Did I die, yeah I did a few times but that was just trying to get away from the demons. If you are a Harry Potter fan then you will instantly connect the demons to Dementors from that series. They try to suck the soul out of you. Other than that the game is actually really easy. To the point that it gets boring after a while. For me, I would have to classify it as Heavy Rain type of boring. Same concept here. Instead of trying to save your son’s life, you are trying to solve your own murder.

While the game did have problems the story is what kept me going in it. Even the ending, with the few added twists and turns, was remarkable. I thought I had the ending figured out the chapter before, but I was wrong. The overall story is compelling and very well told. Unfortunately it is a bit short. If you go through the game and ignore all the unnecessary collectibles (242 in all), the story could be beaten in about 6 hours or so. If you want to collect everything, you are looking about a 10 hour game, or so. The supporting character, Joy, is well played and seamlessly goes along with your character through the story. Those two play off each other really well. You can sense a father/daughter type of relationship even though they are not related. You will also come across another supporting character named, Abigail, or as I called her during the game, Wednesday Addams. She was almost spot on that character. She helps leads you through the story all the way up until the end.

In conclusion should you get this game? That depends on the type of game that you like. If you like to solve mysteries and good stories, then absolutely you should. You would really enjoy this game. If you like a lot of action and intense moments, then no, this game is not for you. To me, as it sits right now, it is not worth the full sixty dollars that it is currently going for. I would pay no more than forty for this game. With how short it is and all the bugs and glitches that I ran across I really can’t recommend this game with a lot of enthusiasm. If you have nothing else to play and catch it on sale later, or when the price drops, to again, forty or below, I say go for it. It’s not a total disappointment, it’s just mediocre.

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Wolfenstein: The New Order – Review

Wolfenstein The New Order

It has been years since we have had a new Wolfenstein game. The question was, how well did the game age, and of course, was it any good. Rest assure, MachineGames developed an amazing game. Unfortunately there are some things that I was not very impressed with or found annoying. Let’s take a look at what Wolfenstein: The New Order has to offer us.

The premise of the story is that it set in 1960 and the Nazi have won World War II. Everything has been turned upside down. You play as B.J. Blazkowicz, a burly American who is set to go against the Nazi army and deliver a counter attack. The fight takes you through the land, water, air and even on the moon.

The game starts you off in frantic pace and never really lets you go from there on out. Yes, there are some slower spots but it quickly speeds back up and throws you in the action. There isn’t much time for a breather in here. A few quick breaths to calm your nerves and you are right back into the fight. The pace of the game as you can imagine is quick. It starts out really easy, even on Uber difficulty, but at about half way through, the difficulty starts to ramp up and gets much tougher towards the end of the game.

The game play, as quickly noted above, is fantastic. It’s fluid and precise. Not once on my two playthroughs did I feel like I was fighting the controls or constantly trying to get my character to do something. Everything was well polished and with pin point control. The graphics where very well done. The character models where polished and look great even up close. The environments where done excellent with no popins or draw distance. There was a few things I didn’t like about the graphics and the game play. Those will be gone over a little later on.

There are a few things this game does extremely well. The FPS mechanics are some of the best I have played in quite some time. The pure accuracy of when your sights turn red and actually hitting that target is satisfying. I have many times used this to my advantage while in combat. You will miss that mark once in a while but the majority of the time your bullet will find its mark. Another thing that it did well was ammo supply. There are no “stores” or “vending machines” that you can buy ammo from. In fact, there is no money system at all in this game. Your ammo comes from the enemies that you killed. Even on Uber difficulty I didn’t feel pressured to save my ammo as the fear of running out. There are so many Nazis to kill you can just fire at will, just don’t go guns a blazing and you’ll be fine. Another thing the game does really well is how you take cover. You can squat down behind a chunk of concrete and learn out from the side to get a clear view of the area in front of you. Not only can you lean out but you can do it from about any angle. With some slight movement of the joystick you can peek up and over the wall, around the side or even lay on the ground and shoot under a door. There is also a form of stealth built in the gameplay. In some instances you can sneak up behind an unassuming enemy and take them out by throwing a knife or by slitting their throat.

Each gun in the game has the normal abilities as well as an add-on ability. For an example, the Pistol add-on ability is a silencer for stealth kills, the Machine Gun has a rocket launcher and the Sniper Rifle uses an energy ability that has to be charged after so many uses. There are other types of guns in the game that you can use as well. One of the main ones I used in close combat is the Shotgun. Later on in the story you get the ability to have it turn into an automatic Shotgun which can take out multiple enemies in rapid secession. One of the unique guns in the game is called the Laserkraftwerk. This serves two purposes in the game. One you absolutely need and the other is a great addition to your arsenal. What this gun does is fire energy blasts at your enemy to help quickly get through their armour and when even used enough will disintegrate them. The one feature that you will need is the laser cutting ability. This allows you to cut through fencing and thin metal walls. This is essential to open some boxes for ammo, armour and health. Plus it is used to help to find your way through some levels.

While the game does a lot of great things, there are a few things that I didn’t like about it. The one that annoyed me the most was the weapon wheel. When you pulled it up you had to use the joystick to move the marker around to select which weapon you want. For example, on many times I would have it on the Sniper Rifle only to let go and the marker would jump to the Shotgun. This became quite annoying especially when you are in the middle of combat. When you pull up the weapon wheel the action doesn’t pause like it does in a lot of other games. You are still being shot at and can die at the same time. So selecting the weapon that you want quickly got very frustrating. Another one was some of the graphical images laid out in the map. This is a little nitpicking on my part. There was a few items on the ground, such as pens, cans and some small rocks there were flat in design. Maybe the purpose of this was so your character wouldn’t get caught on them from the very accurate hit detection as you sneak around corners and so forth. It just seemed like a lazy way to do things. One other thing that I found was some of the muddy looking textures in the environments. It seemed that if MachineGames was given a little bit more time to polish things up everything would have been great. This game was on many different platforms and generation of consoles. I’m just going to chalk it up to them porting it over so many times they didn’t have time to look at every little bit of detail.

There was one section of the game that just didn’t seem to fit in the entire atmosphere around you. That was the Moon level. It felt like it was thrown in there to add some game play length to the experience. This isn’t saying it was a bad level, not at all. It just didn’t feel right going there, especially since there is so much that could have happened back in your world. Every other level blended together just fine. This section just stuck out at me and could have been used for some DLC to expand the story. Not being a part of it.

Over all, Wolfenstein: The New Order, is an amazing experience to be had. The gun mechanics alone are worth the time to invest in this game. The story, especially for being an FPS, is quite good. The dialog is great as each character plays off the other, or the surrounding supporting characters. There are some great memorable scenes in here as well. If given the chance to pick this game up I would highly suggest it. Even at the full price it is well worth the trip. This game comes highly recommended.

 

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E3 2014 Microsoft Press Conference

E3 2014 Microsoft

 

With the terrible E3 showing last year, Microsoft needed to step up to the plate this year and wow the audience. Question is how are they going to do this? Will they ramble on about how great the system is, again? Will they talk about games at all? What about the Kinect-less integration now? There was a lot of questions heading into this event. Let’s see what they accomplished.

Phil Spencer (Head of Xbox) was on stage when the event went live. After some short dialog welcoming everyone to the show we jumped right into it. First thing that was shown is the highly popular Call of Duty series. This focused not on current games, or DLC coming out, but an entirely new game titled, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. The trailer they showed for it was intense and actually looked really decent. With the soldiers having Jump Packs it could leave a lot of room for maybe some platforming elements or puzzles. I know those are not typically found in a shooter but there are a lot of possibilities that may arise. At the end was a bit of a shock as your body was pulled away leaving your severed left arm behind. Quite a shocking moment for the first official showing during the event. Leaving the arm behind makes me wonder if there is going to be an exoskeleton type of body armor in the game. They also revealed the drop date for the game is set for November 4th 2014

Forza series was next on the plate with a slight announcement that the famous Nürburgring course will be available to players. Not only available but starting now, for free. What struck me odd was that this has never been in a Forza game before. It’s a world famous course that tests the driving ability of not only the driver but the mechanical ability of the car as well. Gran Turismo has had this course in their games for many years now. Then they moved right into to Forza Horizon 2. This game will support over 200 cars. A full day and night cycle. Plus dynamic weather will play a part in the handling of each car. The game is supposed to be running in 1080p resolution. If you currently have a Drivatar in Forza 5 that will also be available in Forza Horizon 2. This racer is set to be launched on September 30th.

The next showing was the highly anticipated game, Evolve. They announced the classes that you can be in the game. Those include Assault, Trapper, Medic and Support. Each one of these will have different abilities and strategies to go with them. They showed off the newest monster that you can actually play as, a Kraken. While not overly big it did look fierce and angry. The opening segment of its two blue eyes looking at you then two more opening up right below it gave the monster a surreal presence that he was there staring at you. There was a lot of CGI in this trailer that made the game look exciting and explosive. From what I hear the gameplay is actually quit good and satisfying. It just would have been nice to see actual gameplay on stage. Time will only tell with this title.

What would another year be without another Assassin’s Creed announcement? This year we get Assassin’s Creed Unity. This game is set in 18th Century Paris and you play as Arno Dorian. For the first time in an Assassin’s Creed game there will be a four player co-op mode. It seemed to be a drop in co-op as well. First it was the main player then throughout the section 3 additional players appeared one at a time. They showed a small portion of this being played and it looked interesting but a little off balance. The sense of direction on where you need to go wasn’t very noticeable. It might have been the camera work though. For an open world game traversing your way to your goal could get frustrating. One of the great scenes was right at the end when the four guys threw their target out of the balcony window, the peasants below beat him mercifully and the camera panned out to show his severed head twitching on the end of a stake. Great scene that captivated the demo we saw.

One of the most anticipated games that I have been looking forward was up next, Dragon Age: Inquisition. Unfortunately we didn’t really get so see or hear much about this game. They showed a CGI trailer that looked really good, of course. They didn’t talk about the game play, or the story, or even any of the characters. They announced the street date of October 7th. If you have been following this game at all the date has been announced for some time now. I was hoping for a little more information about the core aspects of the game itself. We really didn’t get much but a teaser. I was left with wanting more out of this segment.

Another game that I have been interested in and will be a day one purchase for me, is Sunset Overdrive. Ted Price from Insomniac came out on stage and showed us a quick demo of what the game performs like. You can tell he has played this part of the game many times as he was just playing right through everything and knew the exact path to take. The pace of the game was extremely faced paced and vivid looking. All the colors seem to jump off the screen. There is a lot of orange in this game but it didn’t distract from the overall visual looks of it. You can tell that the Ratchet and Clank series has a slight hand in here from the crazy guns you can use. Even the box cover gun could easily be a R.Y.N.O. in one of the games. The game will also include an 8 player co-op mode called Chaos Squad which will run on dedicated servers. The launch date for this game is scheduled for October 28th.

One of the weirdest, no the weirdest announcement of the whole conference is a DLC pack called Super Ultra Dead Rising 3 Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX Plus Alpha Prime. What a long name for some DLC for Dead Rising 3. This incorporates some of your favorite characters from the Capcom universe and puts them in the Dead Rising world. What they showed was a lot of characters from the Street Fighter series. The DLC is available right now. I honestly really don’t see this taking off all that much. Yes, there will be people who get it who love the Dead Rising and the Street Fighter series. Besides that, I don’t seeing this being a big hit.

There was also an announcement of two musical/ dancing games that really didn’t get a lot of applause from the audience. Those are Dance Central, which is a digital download only item, and Disney Fantasia Music Evolved. Both of there are Kinect titles. This was the only time the Kinect was mention during the whole presentation. The Disney game sounds a little promising as big time Disney fans will get it, other than that I don’t see these going over. If you are interested in them, both will be available this Fall.

Back to the main stable of games from a somewhat break in the action so to speak. Next was Fable Legends. Maybe it was just the trailer but the game actually look boring. I loved the first Fable and have been looking forward to seeing this in person. The trailer wasn’t all that inspiring. Part of it showed a top down “tower defender” type of game. Not what I had in mind for a supposedly action RPG. The hack-n-slash style reminded me of Baldur’s Gate. Also announced there is a beta coming out this holiday. You can actually sign up for it already at fablelegends.com.

The most creative game that got announced, really wasn’t that big of an announcement. That was Project Spark. If you haven’t heard Project Spark is a user created environment. Each person can build their own worlds and have others go through it. This game does support multiplayer and even has a co-op campaign. They didn’t go into much about the campaign at all. I was hoping they would explain how user created worlds can factor into a campaign mode. This is also coming out this holiday season. What threw me off at the end was Conker. I was hoping we were finally going to get another Conker game or the much wanted Bad Fur Day HD remake. Nope, it was just a small announcement that he will be available in the game. Such a letdown.

One of the most pleasant surprises was from a developer called Moon Studios and their game Ori and The Blind Forest. This is a side scroller adventure with some very beautiful artwork and what seemed to be an emotional story. Not much was really said about this game but it definitely caught my eye. Especially being stuck between some rather big announcements. Like the following one.

What would an Xbox major press event be without a little bit of Halo news? There was the announcement that everyone pretty much knew already, Halo 5: Guardians is coming out. Not a big shocker there. What got the loudest applause of the conference was the announcement of Halo: The Master Chief Collection. This includes every major Halo game in the series, the original Halo Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo3 and even Halo 4. You can play with the upgraded graphics or you can switch back to the original graphics at the touch of a button. The series will also include the widely popular Halo 2 multiplayer which includes the original maps that was shipped with the game 10 years ago. In total, there are over one hundred multiplayer maps all of which are the original maps. These will run on dedicated servers and 1080p resolution at an amazing 60fps. They also made it a point to say that in total there will be 4000 Gamerscore available. Also included in this collection is the digital collection of Halo Nightfall that is a weekly series which will focus on the life of Master Chief as it ties together the first four Halo games and laying the path that leads up to the story of Halo 5. There will also be a beta test for Halo 5 that will include all new game modes and features. A big announcement for a big package. This package will be available this November 11th.

The rest of the conference focused on games coming out in 2015 or later. There are some pretty big titles coming next year. Let’s go over those really quickly.

They did a nice quick little presentation of the Indie Developers and their games coming to the console next year. A few looked like rehashes of previous games while some looked really interesting. There wasn’t a lot of detail to each game. Just a quick few words here and there and then they moved on to the next segment. Unfortunately it felt more like a time filler then to actually showcase those games. For Indie Developers that is great to get their name out there but it just seemed that Xbox wasn’t that excited to have them aboard.

One of the big games coming out next year had an amazing trailer behind it. That was Rise of the Tomb Raider. Again another CGI trailer but it looked intense. The reboot of the franchise was an amazing experience. I am really looking forward to this game as well. I just hope the developer drops the terrible multiplayer experience and they just focus on the single player this time. This very well could be a good candidate for game of the year in 2015.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was next on the agenda. While my interest is peaked for this game, the gameplay they showed was interesting but the battle mechanics seemed really slow. If that is the case then playing through the areas will turn out to be a chore as you face enemies and drag the overall flow of the game down.

Another shooter that shows a lot of promise is the anticipated Tom Clancy’s The Division. This showed off some very innovative gameplay. From your ability to change your skills on the fly, even while in battle, which in itself is very intriguing. The mapping system is very unique as when pulled up you are actually standing on the map and it shows the surrounding area around you including the streets and buildings. If done correctly it could be a giant aid in your travels instead of trying to figure out which way your marker on a mini map is pointing.

A game coming out next year that caught my attention also is called Scalebound. Once again not much was said about this game or the actual game play showed. It was just, what I am guessing, your character running through the forest with a giant monster chasing you. You come out to the clearing to a dragon standing right in front of you. From there a little bit of fighting happens and then you are on top of the dragon flying through the air. One of the things I caught during the trailer was the ability to “spawn” armor on yourself while riding the dragon. Again another CGI trailer. I’m not sure if the dragon aids you in your quest or you have to capture and train it to be your ally. Either way it was very interesting.

The last big game that was announced, that I don’t think anyone seem coming, was a new Crackdown. Once again another CGI trailer was shown and not much was talked about the game, unfortunately. It definitely has me interested as I loved the first game. Hopefully the Orbs will not be as hard to find this time around. Those last few drove me nuts. It did have a slight Tron vibe feel to it as the vehicles had neon lights running about them as well as the city.

That was pretty much the entire conference. There was a few surprises but most of the stuff we already knew about. The one thing I took away form this year was the lack of Kinect this and Kinect that. As mentioned it was only spoke about once for two titles, then that was it. With the Xbox One now available without the Kinect is Microsoft finally starting to go away from the device? I know mine at home doesn’t pick up my voice even though I’m only about 3 feet away from it. I have a friend whos Kinect will pick up her dog walking by and sign in as her. Strange device that doesn’t seem to work correctly.

As the ending video was being shown there was a few logos that popped up. The one that caught my eye the most was the Gears of War logo. Is this an indication that a new Gears game will come coming out for the Xbox One in the future? Or was it a simple nod to the previous games on the 360? Only time will tell on this.

Over all this was a much bigger and better experience then last years conference. Last year was more about how great the Xbox One is going to be. The power of using the cloud and the three different operating systems. This year was more about the games and then the games some more. It was great seeing Microsoft getting back to the people that made their consoles worthwhile to play on. Us, the players.

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inFAMOUS: Second Son – Review

inFAMOUS: Second Son – Review

inFAMOUS Second Son

“No,no. Just don’t be a dick” – Reggie

Sucker Punch’s first game on the PS4 comes to us in the form of inFAMOUS: Second Son. This is not a continuation of the previous games or a reboot of the franchise. It is a game that stands on its own. Is the game any good? Does it live up the inFAMOUS name? Let’s take a look at Second Son and see what it holds for us.

You play as Delsin Rowe, a graffiti artist from his local tribe called the Akomish. Your brother, Reggie, is the local Sheriff for the town. The story starts out as Delsin just being an average person. No special powers or anything. Your brother ends up arresting you once again for a crime. While those two are arguing outside a Military truck driving by goes out of control and wrecks not too far from where you are standing at. Your brother, being the good guy, starts to look for survivors and helps any way he can. This leaves you to start surveying the wreckage and the surrounding area. You come across one of the detainees, Hank, in the back of the Military truck. After a short struggle and intense scene Delsin grabs Hank’s hand and learns his first power, Smoke.

Throughout the game you will learn more powers as you meet new characters and encounter more enemies. All together you will learn four powers. Those are Smoke, Neon, Digital and eventually Concrete. On my first playthrough, as being the hero, I mainly used Smoke as my go to power. On my second playthrough, as being evil, I used Neon as my primary weapon. I hardly ever used Digital. It just never seemed powerful enough to dispatch a group of enemies. I will say that being able to fly up walls was pretty cool. Then again, I could just run up them using Neon. To me Digital was like a third weapon of choice when I couldn’t use or refill Smoke or Neon. Concrete you will learn much later in the game for really a single sole purpose.

The gameplay is good for what it is but I won’t say impressive. You won’t find anything mind blowing or earth shattering here. There are your typical go across town and do this task. Then go here and do that sort of thing. Along the way you can explore Seattle and some of its scenery. Some of the land marks around town are in there. If you live in Seattle, or know about the city, you will see some familiar things in the game. This adds a nice touch to the atmosphere, especially if you live there. The city is blocked off into separate sections. Each one of these is being controlled by the DUP (Department of Unified Protection). When you pull up your mini map it shows how much of the current section you are in is being controlled by the DUP in percentage figures. The more activities you do such as story missions, side missions, mini games and so forth brings that percentage down. Once you get below 30% you can do what the game calls a District Showdown. This is basically you against a group of the DUP agents as one last stand to secure the area. The problem with this is you do the same thing over and over again throughout the entire game in each section. There isn’t’ much variance or difficulty. Rinse and repeat type of game play.

The graphics in the game are impressive. Especially all of the particle effects. The explosions can be massive and the lighting is fantastic. You can see the power of the PS4 coming through with especially the particle effects. From leaves blowing around, sparks coming from metal hitting metal to the powers that Delsin uses and the destruction he does. The most particle enhanced thing is the Digital power you learn. The PS4 handles this perfectly. When Delsin shoots it out of his hands it’s like a thousand little LCD screens that come flying out at a very rapid pace and hits the thing he was firing at. This isn’t a smooth line either. It very erratic and sways back and forth. They are small in size but very bright. Not once did I notice a frame rate drop or freeze while using it. The Smoke power has some good particle effects on it as well. From the trail of lightly colored greyish black smoke to the reddish fire color that creates the smoke is done very well. Then there is the Neon power. As you can guess this has to do with the bright neon colors you see in signs. This really shows off the lighting aspect of the game. Each time when you use this a stream of brightly colors lines come from Delsin’s hands. Even while running he changes to a neon color and leaves a trail of neon lights behind him that gradually fade away. It’s the most colorful and brightest power he uses. Concrete doesn’t really do all that much to tax the PS4. There are some particle aspects but you use the power in such a limited amount of time not much development went into the looks of it.

There is of course a skill tree that you can manipulate and upgrade your powers. To do that you need to collect enough Blast Shards. These can be found around the city after destroying the DUP’s Mobile Command units and Scanning Stations. Once those are destroyed, all the collectibles and side missions are displayed on your screen. Finding the Blast Shards can be a time consuming experience as a majority of them are used in Tracker Drones. These are basically mini flying planes that go around the city. Some are hidden pretty well and others are so high in the air you need to scale buildings to reach them. Each area of the city can take about 30 minutes to clear out to bring the DUP percentage down to zero.

The game also utilizes the PS4’s DualShock capabilities. To open doors you have to swipe the touch pad in the center of the controller. To use your spray can to tag walls you have to tilt the controller on its side and shake it like an actual can of spray paint. Using a hand scanner requires you to place a finger in a certain spot on the touch pad and so forth. These are some of the little things that makes the game seem original. I can only assume as more games start using this feature the more common it will become.

There are two different sides you can play in this game, the good side, also known as the hero, and the bad side, known as infamous. There are story changes depending on which side you choose early on in the game. Those story changes are very limited and don’t affect the direction the game is designed to go. You will ultimately end up at the same spot. There is a nice touch in the game that might bet overlooked. Depending on which side you choose and the higher notoriety you get, your jacket’s design on the back will change to match that.

Over all Second Son doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. There are some cool factors in the game and some great visuals. The game play is limited due to the same rinse and repeat missions. The story is fairly flat and predictable in the direction it is heading in. You can figure out the main boss in the game very early on. It starts out great and intriguing but then quickly loses it appeal the more you play it. If there is a sequel hopefully Sucker Punch will take more time in the gameplay aspects then just praising on how good it looks.

 

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South Park: The Stick of Truth – Review

South Park: The Stick of Truth

South Park The Stick of Truth

“Whatever you do, never fart on someone’s balls” – Cartman

Many fans of the series have been waiting for a game that will fully engross the show, slap you in the face, laugh at you, throw feces at you and then slap you again. Thankfully, The Stick of Truth is that game. If you are a fan of the show then you will get some of the references and jokes that the game makes. If you are not a fan then you might scratch your head trying to figure out some things.

The main story behind this game is the battle between the Elves and the Humans. For whoever holds the Stick of Truth, has unlimited power. On the Elves side we have the Elf King himself, Kyle. The rest of the Elves team consist of Stan the warrior and Jimmy the Bard. The Humans are led by none other than The Grand Wizard, Cartman. The rest of his group contains Butters the Paladin, Craig the Thief, Token the Cleric, Clyde, Tweek and of course the fairest maiden in the land, Princess Kenny.

The character you play is not one from the series. Instead you are the “new kid” that just moved into town. After your parents force you out of the house to make new friends, you come across Butters. After helping Butters in the fight he is in, he takes you to see the Grand Wizard. This is where the story starts to unfold and gets presented to you. The game asks what your name is. No matter what you select, or put in, you ultimately end up the name, Douchebag. You are referred to this throughout the game. You also get to select what class you want play as. There are four altogether. Those are Warrior, Mage, Thief and Jew. I played through as Douchebag the Warrior.

There are many scenes in this game that may not sit well with some of the audience. For example, when you open up the front door to some of the houses in town you come across some obscene findings, a guy masturbating, another one having sex with a horse, a nude woman and so forth. While I thought all of the things you saw was hilarious, I can see where they might turn some people off. Those where the tame ones. There are many more that are more graphic but still hilarious at the same time. Those include, battling the Gnomes under your parents while they are having sex (avoiding your dad’s balls at the same time) and fighting through Mister Slaves Rectum (just imagine what is up there).

The graphic design of the game is exactly like the show. It would be very hard to notice the differences between a weekly episode and the game, if someone walked by. It was designed to be that way. The characters do their little bouncing when they walk and the Canadians have their floppy heads. Even the animals act the same way. The voice acting is exactly as you would hear on the show. Each character sounds just like they normally would. This is thanks to both Matt Stone and Trey Parker for doing all the work. Everything is true to form in the South Park way.

I wasn’t actually looking at this game in having a deep and robust battle system. I figured it would be very weak and problematic. I also figured it wouldn’t have a deep armor and weapon selection either. Boy was I wrong about this. The Stick of Truth is far from either of my predictions. The battle system is a typical turn based RPG game. When you are running through town, the outlaying forest, or Canada, you will come across enemies. Depending on who hits who first decides on who goes first. For example, when I ran across any of the group of Elves in town I always tried to hit them first. That gave me the first turn when the battle started. If they hit me first then the enemy would get the first turn. Once the battle started there are multiple things that you can do. You can use magic, items, physical attacks, range attacks or your special ability. Once your turn is done you can then control your sidekick and how they would attack. When it comes to the enemy’s turn, there isn’t that much to do. You can try and block their attacks at the right time. There will be a signal on the screen that flashes to let you know when to block. If done correctly, the game alerts you by a distinct sound. You will still how ever take damage, just not as much as a full attack. One of the deepest parts of the game is the massive amount of armor and weapons you can use. You can mix and match these as you please. On top of that, some of the items even have special bonuses you can add to them. These can range from increase health, additional damage (physical and magical) and armor.

During the course of the game you will unlock new abilities. These come in very useful. Not just during the battle segments but also during the main exploration as well. Some of these are required to knock down walls, chase away large groups of rats and catch things on fire. The in battle abilities can make some quick work out of your enemies. On my Warrior, I had one called Horn of Irritation. While the name is spot on when used (it sounded like an air horn going off) the effects it did made the battles so easy. What this did was debuffed the enemies while at the same time buffing your own group. A lot of times I would use that first, then do a physical attack taking out a single enemy or a group. On my sidekick’s turn I would use one of their abilities that attack everyone and that was it. Everyone once in a while I had to take a second turn. Most of the battles ended in one turn though. This was my one-two punch throughout most of the game. It even helped with some of the bosses.

During the progress of the game you will also acquire the ability to summon some special characters. These include Jesus, Mr. Kim, Mr. Hankey and Mr. Slave. Out of all these Mr. Slave was the most jaw dropping out of them. Not only as it powerful but that he did was astonishing.

While the game is a blast to play. There are some downsides to the game as well. The version that I played on was the PS3. Some of these may not reflect the other platforms the game was created for.

The first thing that I noticed during my game play was some audio problems. This didn’t directly affect the way the game played but it cause some of the cut scenes to not have any sound during the conversations. If I paused the game during a conversation and then unpaused it, the game would take a few seconds to catch up with the audio dialog before playing it. This caused some parts of the conversations not to be heard. With the subtitles on you can read what they were saying but not hear anything.

Another one of the problems that made me wonder a few times if the game froze was the loading of different sections of the town. If you left a certain part of the game and it had to load the next part, the game would slow down to a crawl and literally freeze up for a split second. If it was saving at the same time as loading it felt like the game froze. Once it was done everything worked just fine. The game never did freeze my console but it scared me quite a bit, numerous times.

One of the small problems the game has was the lack of party members. At any time during a battle you could switch out your side kick and replace them with another one in your party. Especially if your current member was low on health or PP (Power Points). You could bring in a fresh member that had full health and PP. This was a nice touch and helped to deepen the battle and strategy side. At times it would have been nice to have a third person available. Especially during those boss battles and the normal fights that included up to five enemies. Some of the battles felt a little overwhelming while others I could just power my way through.

Another small, I will say annoyance, was when you used one of your special summon characters. Once used you had to wait an entire day before they would become available again. The days in this game are long. It would have been better if they wasn’t available for like a hand full of battles then become available to you again as they rest up. This is just minor but I wanted to use my summons at a more frequent pace just for the comic value of it.

Over all The Stick of Truth is a fantastic game. Even after all of the delays the game had suffered it was well worth the wait. In total you will spend about 10 – 15 hours playing through it. During that time you will be laughing your ass off at the jokes and be shocked by some of the scenes. This game is a must own even if you are the slightest of fan from the series.

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Ryse: Son of Rome – Review

Ryse Son of Rome

There has been a lot of negative press about this game. With how much hype it has received on the TV and in printed ads, Microsoft seemed to be basing their launch around this game. How exactly does Ryse stack up?

You play as Marius, the son of the Roman Emperor. After fighting alongside with your father and finding your mother and sister dead, you fight on to see the death of your father. From there you go about seeking revenge for those who killed them. The story is well played out and can be a little predicable as it goes along. There are very little amount of flashbacks here and there to fill in some of the holes that the main story doesn’t quite get to. These help you piece everything together.

The most impressive thing about Ryse is the graphics themselves. It literally looks like you are watching a very well done CG movie. The difference between cut scenes and in game footage is blurred. They can roll right into one another with you hardly ever noticing the difference. There are a few problems here and there but the majority of the game is beautiful looking.

The most common problem that I ran across during the two play throughs that I did was character popping. By that I mean this. One of the scenes it is very evident that the enemy I needed to face wasn’t quite in the starting spot where he was supposed to be. You can see him shortly off in the distance standing by a fire pit with his rock hammer relaxed in his hand. Take a few steps forward and his melee weapon would pop up on his shoulder and the character himself would pop about 2 steps away from where he originally was. It didn’t affect the game at all. Just something that really stood out. There was other little things here and there but nothing stood out like that.

Combat itself was fun at first but as you got further into the story it got really repetitive. On the entire controller, you mainly only use the A, X and Y buttons. A is for blocking an attack, X is for the typical swinging of your sword, while Y is used for breaking down an enemy’s shield and stunning them. This is a timing thing. Once you see the enemies animation and get the timing down it becomes really easy to do. If you hold down either the X or Y button you can produce a strong attack. This does a little bit more damage and takes longer to perform. When you are surrounded by up to 10 enemies at a time it can be hard to pull that off. You can also use the LB and RB buttons as well. Those are only used for special purposes. The LB is used to command your army to do special commands, such as asking the Archery to cover you with arrows. This only happens when the game allows it though. You can’t do it whenever you feel the need. The RB button can be used to activate your special power, called Focus. This will allow time to slow down and increase your attacking speed, or run away in case you feel overly surrounded. Using this on the easiest difficulty is over kill. You can spam it really often making the game a breeze to get through. Once you get an enemy’s health down far enough, a small skull will appear over their head giving you an indication that you can perform an execution. This is done by pressing the RT button and following the QT events. On these you have to pay attention as a picture of a button does not come up. Instead the enemies will have a glow about them on which button to select. If you fail this, nothing really important happens. It just means you won’t receive a lot of the perks. To gain those perks you have to press one of the actions on the D-Pad, those include, down on the D-Pad Health Regen, left on D-Pad Focus points, up on D-Pad Damage Boost and right on D-Pad XP boost. If you complete it successfully you do get more of these points for that specific perk at the end.

Fighting bosses was a little more difficult only because they take more health off when a hit is landed. So you have to go about these with a little bit more strategy. The down side is that their attacks are repetitive. When they start to glow red just simply roll out of the way and then perform a two to three hit combo from behind. When they do a regular attack just block it and you can get some more hits in. Ryse will also break the boss fights down into multiple segments. Each time the boss regains some or all of their health back. Making you do another rinse and repeat fight. The bosses may add in an additional move on the second sequence, but once you see it once or twice you can visually see it coming from the animation. Most of the time it is just a strong attack. Like before, just roll out of the way and continue on.

While playing the game I thought I would try out the Smartglass App. This allowed you to track your progress and helps you find any missing collectibles you didn’t pick up in your first run through. It does lag a little behind in showing your progress through the story. It is best to use the app on a table device. Not all of the options will work on your smart phone. While using my tablet was indeed interesting to help me through the game, it really isn’t necessary. It’s just a nice little gimmick to have in a pinch.

There is also a multiplayer function as well. Unfortunately this only allows 2 people to play online. You fight in a coliseum setting with changing environments. In these there are traps that you can lure your enemies into making things a little easier. Different objectives will come up for you to complete. One might be sitting a pit on fire and then finish killing off the remaining enemies. Another could be taking out some Archers and so forth. It is fairly flat feeling. The combat is exactly the same as the story mode.

The entire game can be completed in less than 8 hours on easy. If you don’t go around searching for the collectibles you might even be able to do it in just over 6 hours. It is a fairly short game. It seems Crytek was more worried about how the game looks then putting length into the game play. Honestly, I wouldn’t pay the full retail price for this game. Wait a few months and the price should start to drop down.

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