Posts by GordonFroman117:
Release Date: January 20th, 2015
Platform [Reviewed: Xbox One], Xbox 360, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4
Genre: Survival Horror
Rated: M for Mature
The original Resident Evil is a genre defining juggernaut that brought the survival horror genre in the eyes of mainstream gaming and was a hit with critics and gamers alike. In 2002, Resident Evil made its way to the Nintendo GameCube under the same name as a fully remade title featuring vastly improved graphics, reworked audio and voice acting, and implemented new areas, enemies, and gameplay mechanics. Now almost 13 years since the Remake’s release, a new generation will experience the game that set the bar for modern-day horror games while veterans will relive the terror in high definition.
S.T.A.R.S (Special Tactics and Rescue Service), a special force division of the Raccoon City Police Department split into teams “Alpha” and “Bravo”, are deployed to investigate a series of unusual cannibalistic homicides. However, while on their investigation, contact with Bravo team was lost. Sent to a seemingly unending ocean of forest in search of Bravo team, Alpha encounters ravenous dogs and run towards a mansion beyond the veil of trees. With your only way out blocked, you must brave the claustrophobic corridors of the Spencer Mansion and discover the origins of the horrors that stalk your every step.
Being a mix of puzzle-solving along with the constant moments of “fight or flight” is what Resident Evil was known for. Players will have to observe their current surrounding for points of interests in order to pick up certain objects like emblems or keys. These items don’t always have an obvious use, either not being useful until later on or must be combined with another item. When in the item menu you can “Use”, “Examine”, or “Combine” objects. Items like healing items can be used as is, but as aforementioned, you can combine certain items like magazines into its appropriate weapon or combining herbs to create more effective medicine. Examining items may yield secrets that you have overlook at first; if you’re stuck on a particular part, and you don’t know what to do next, try examining the items you have collected, you may just find what you were looking for.
Your character’s inventory space is limited to only six slots at any given time and managing your items is a big part of surviving. Once you come across the first storage box you have a near endless space to keep all of you items, but you will still be plagued by filled pockets when wandering the mansion and seeing another item that you’d much rather have. Having you to go all the way to drop off items and come back may seem like a waste of time, and at times it does, but you will need to stock up on essentials no matter what.
Players will be equipped with a 9mm handgun and a survival knife as they begin their journey. When confronted with zombies aiming your weapon will lock on to the nearest threat in the vicinity. When taking aim you get into a stance to shoot and can’t move until you stop aiming. You can’t shoot at a specific point of an enemy’s body so it takes a varying amount of shots to take a single foe down. Not all combat will happen on your level and there will be creatures that will climb on the wall or hug the ground; you can aim your weapon upward or down to pick them off.
In the original Resident Evil, players had to be cautious when dealing with zombies – just because they went down that doesn’t mean that they’re dead. Even when you made sure that they’re dead, the zombies will pull an Obi Wan Kenobi and become more power if not properly taken care of once and for all. If a zombie is not taken out with a headshot or burned soon after with kerosene and a lighter, they will resurrect as Crimson Heads that are much faster and more powerful than your standard zombie. Handguns have a slim chance for pulling off a headshot, but once you get your hands on a shotgun, aiming up and pulling the trigger once a zombie is just about to attack will have a higher chance of decapitating them.
If you popped in a copy of the first Resident Evil remake you will see that it is still a stunning looking game, so much so that it was one of the reasons why I got a GameCube (the main reason being Wind Waker). Now in 1080p, 16:9 aspect ratio, Resident Evil shines with a new layer of polish. I was terrified the first time I played the 2002 version – I never made it past the dining room – but when I started up Remaster I had that same terror wash over me. The fixed camera that restricts your field of view and the moments of utter silence when you just expect something terrible to happen, but never does, is one of my most unnerving gaming experiences in recent memory; you don’t really get that in modern games today.
Anyone new to Resident Evil will find its new control scheme of directly moving their character in the direction of the thumb stick natural and is much more intuitive than the infamous tank controls of the past. This gives players a slight speed advantage over enemies and you could even get out of a scuffle unscathed if you’re quick enough. Some downsides of these new controls are when transitioning camera views and how easy you can avoid enemies.
The change in perspective will confuse players the first time around and can become frustrating when trying to escape danger and you end up running in circles because you’re constantly trying to hastily adjust your direction with the view. Resident Evil purists will have the chance to try these new changes, but if you’re feeling nostalgic you can always change the ratio to 4:3 in the menus and use the d-pad to instantly use the tank controls (which I used to remedy the camera dilemma). When using the new controls you can outrun most foes without being caught, but the narrow passages will ensure that you will have a hard time taking advantage of the fact. The game is still very challenging, more so when dealing with multiple foes at once, but some bosses like Yawn become trivial when it can’t even catch up with you.
I never got a chance to play the original release, and I may have wussed out the first time I played the 2002 version and never went back, but playing this time around was an absolute treat. The masterful gameplay is only enhanced with the new controls and the inclusion of 5.1 surround sound will have you scared stiff and too afraid to advance forward as you hear moans and other unsettling sounds off screen. And for players intimidated by the difficulty, a Very Ease mode will introduce the gameplay and challenges while making the enemies weaker and providing plentiful amounts of ammo. You can even choose to play as the original S.T.A.R.S. or the new BSAA versions of Chris and Jill, which is strangely awesome all on its own.
Resident Evil requires intuition and a sharp mind to progress instead of just senselessly picking off zombies. It is the standard that horror games should try to meet, yet sadly many do not. Now today’s players will know why Resident Evil is one of the quintessential games that no horror fan should pass up, whether you’ve played the game before or if this if your first visit to the mansion. Now let’s hope for a Resident Evil 2 HD.
Overall Rating: 4.75/5
Release Date: February 10th, 2015
Developer: Turtle Rock Studios
Publisher: 2K Games
Platform: [Reviewed: PC], PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: First-Person Shooter, Action
Rated: M for Mature
What has been the standard since the late 90’s, competitive multiplayer has been a couple of decades of free-for-alls, and team death matches. In an attempt to provide some variety, new modes like capture the flag and domination put a twist to the killing by having an actual objective to achieve besides killing. Turtle Rock Studios put their own spin on competitive/cooperative multiplayer with their first title, Left 4 Dead, where you can play as survivors against droves of zombies or go against another team of four that played as special infected. Evolve’s unique take on a 4 versus 1 gameplay looks to change the game with an open, asymmetrical map where no two matches will be the same.
As humanity looks to expand its reach on new worlds, we land on the far-off planet Shear to establish colonies and claim its rich, untapped resources. What the colonists didn’t foresee was what lurked within the alien forest s – Monsters. Towering giants of immense power and destructive capabilities are wreaking havoc upon the settlements, letting them know that they are not welcome on their home. In response to the threat, a team of hunters consisting of psychopaths, professionals, war vets, and expendable are sent to Shear to evacuate the remaining colonist and eliminate the alien monstrosities.
Evolve contains 4 game modes: Hunt, Nest, Rescue, and Defend. Hunt tasks the hunters with killing the monster before it destroys a power relay somewhere on the map or kills the hunters. Nest is where the Monster must protect 6 eggs scattered throughout the area for 10 minutes and can spawn a minion monster to help out against the hunters. Rescue is a first-to-five match where the hunters must locate, revive and escort colonists to safety while the Monsters will attempt to kill as many as possible. Defend will start with a fully evolved Monster with a horde of minions attack a refueling station; it is the hunter’s job to stop them and allow the starship enough time to recharge to make it out.
There is actually one more game mode call Evacuation. In Evacuation all the previous game modes are incorporated in a 5 match story mode where the victor of each round will determine who receives a bonus in the next. If a Monster was to destroy a power plant in a Hunt match and won, the next game will have toxic gas released that is harmful to the hunters while the Monster is immune to. If the hunters are to emerged victorious, instead of toxic gas, auto turrets will power on and fire at the Monster. The game will end with a Defend match.
Each player at the start of each match will be assigned a team and a class. There are four Hunter classes that you will possibly be assigned to: Assault is your heavy damage dealer that can dish out and take the pain during a rumble, Trappers lead the Hunters to the monster and when closing in can trap it within a force-field, Medic makes sure that the team is in pique condition and can administer a blast of healing energy, and the Support buffers their allies with different abilities, including invisibility.
The Hunters start the match after the Monster has a head start. Using each of the Hunters’ strengths you can easily track down careless Monsters and keep hot on its trail. Monsters can grow to become ridiculously powerful, but as long as the Hunter know their roles and take advantage of some bonuses found in the wild, The Hunters will earn their titles.
Player will have three Monsters to choose from: The brutish Goliath, the long ranged Kraken, and the stealthy Wraith. As a Monster you will start the match first as you begin in your base form and scavenge for food. Eating the local wildlife will fill your gauge that allows you to reach the next stage in your evolution. Even in your base form you are a force of nature; as you consume your will gain armor that will protect your heath bar from taking damage until it is depleted, but can always be replenished by consuming more prey. Each evolution makes you more powerful as you can assign 3 points to any one of your four abilities, each point increasing the lethality of your attacks.
In your attempt to stay one step ahead of the hunters you can use a couple of tactics to throw them off your trail. The smell ability will show your any nearby wildlife, including the Hunter’s whereabouts. The Monster can sneak, and leave the Hunters with not trail while you continue to grow in power. In your final form, not only will you feel stronger, but look stronger as well and the Hunters will see that as you barrel towards them. Seeing a fully evolved monster coming at you can make people lose their cool and seeing the damage they deal can scare the daylights out of you. Although you’re not invincible, in your last form, you become the game’s boss, wrecking anything or anyone dumb enough to get in your way.
What sets Evolve apart from other multiplayer titles is how it combines class-based abilities for each player, a well-balanced 4 vs. 1 cooperative/competitive play, and a dynamic ecosystem where the wildlife can provide advantages or disadvantages. You can play by yourself in Solo mode to practice using your preferred class and when you’re feeling confident, take your skills online. Each match played out differently every time I played and with so many variants involved each hunt felt fresh and exciting. Just like Left 4 Dead took countless sleepless nights away from gamers, Evolve is the next step in the time consuming evolution.
Overall Score: 4.75/5
Release Date: January 27th, 2015
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Platform: [Reviewed: PC], PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: First-Person, Action/Adventure, Horror
Rated: M for Mature
Out of all the videogame enemies the living dead seems to stand the test of time: there are countless hordes to smash and slash your way through and you don’t have to feel guilty about killing them. But when all is said and done, what more could we do with them? Whatever it is it has already been done, or so I thought. Dying Light takes notes from Techland’s Dead Island titles: visually stunning and great RPG elements while improving upon the melee mechanics to become more dynamic, parkour for fast-paced action and verticality, and perhaps more shockingly, a compelling story.
As all zombie stories go, a virus outbreak occurs in the city of Harran and is walled off from the rest of the world in order to contain it. Players control undercover operative Kyle Crane as he is sent inside the city walls to retrieve important documents that will either save lives or cause an unprecedented catastrophe. Things don’t go according to plan and Crane is rescued by survivors. Owing them a great debt, you will learn the skill necessary to keep one step ahead of anyone, living or dead. As the narrative unfolds you grow a bond with the survivors and care for their safety and of those lost and stuck out in the city, but as time runs out, you will need to choose between completing the mission and possibly cure the disease, or take the time to help those who are an inch away from becoming a zombie’s next meal.
To start off, you will get a crash course on how to use the environment to you advantage. If it looks climbable, it is. Staying in motion and staying above ground is the best way from being suddenly surrounded by the undead. Killing gets you experience which naturally translates to improving your character. You gain skill points to place on attributes to become more proficient and deadlier if you’re ever backed into a corner.
Fighting isn’t always ideal. You can’t be left defenseless either; fortunately there are over 100 different melee weapons to use and some fire arms too. With the new redefined yet still uncompromisingly brutal combat system, depending on where you hit a zombie, you can strategically land blows to incapacitate, knock down, or finish them of quickly with a blow to the head. But when the going gets tough, crafting items make a return which bestows horrifyingly devastating weapons of destruction or first aid when you bit off a bit more than you could chew, or got bit, you get it. Finding the blueprints for each weapon won’t frustrate you with a lengthy treasure hunt and crafting is as intuitive as simply having the necessary parts and selecting the weapon you want to make.
The missions you undertake will take you across an expansive urban environment, scavenging for supplies, setting up traps, or getting to a supply drop first. When you are out running you may come across some unexpected situations. People trapped by the undead will call out for help, sometimes when you’re already on a mission. Choosing whether or not to ignore the cry for help usually left a sickening feeling in my gut and I felt like someone’s life was actually in my hands. But you can choose what takes precedence and at what cost.
Dying Light features a dynamic day/night and weather cycle that gives the world a more ominous and tragically beautiful at the same time. But you’ll be panicking more than likely than staring off into the sunset. The title “Dying Light” isn’t just some artsy name, but a message of what’s to come. When night falls, something happens to the infected denizens of Harran. Their kill switch suddenly flips on and now you’re dealing with zombies that are not only more aggressive, but they now possess the ability to run just as fast and climb just as well as you can. Outrunning these zombies at night will either take considerable skill or a miracle.
Noise is established early on as something that is highly discouraged. So instead of running and causing such a ruckus that you’ll have a legion nipping at your heels, stealth is your best bet in this situation. Using what is known as “Survivor Sense” to pin point zombie locations within a limited radius, you can avoid them by sneaking and distracting them someplace else. But in case you are spotted you can use different means to escape your pursuers such as traps that you may have previously set up. Be careful though, even with their heightened senses and abilities, zombies are not the most dangerous foe that you should be concerned with. Ghastly beings that only come out at night will hunt down those who are foolish enough to stay out at night and only in the safety of your safe house in the rays of the sun can you escape them. When night begins to fall, run back to safety as fast as you can.
Techland impressed me with how the Chrome Engine 5 made Banoi Island into a lush, tropical zombie getaway destination. Now using the new Chrome Engine 6, the difference between the two is like day and night (heh he). Even with a city overrun by disgusting corpses, Harran provides grand sights and detailed environments (with the exception of a few low-res textures from time to time) to really show the visual prowess that the Chrome Engine 6 can bring. The mood, atmosphere and setting aren’t complete without some blood-curdling screams in the background to chill your bones and with a fantastic score to accompany to layer on the dread of the whole situation.
I thoroughly enjoyed Techland’s previous titles, despite some short comings that plagued them, but Dying Light is a new game that was built from the ground up and it shows. Improving everything that made Dead Island so good, add the exhilarating rush of freerunning, and wrap that around a dramatic and impactful story that will have you by the edge of your seat and your have an excellent title to begin you 2015 line-up.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Game Reviewed: Citizens of Earth
Date Released: January 20th, 2015
Developer: Eden Industries
Platform [Reviewed: PC], 3DS, Wii U, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
Rated: E10+ for Everyone Ages 10 and Up
The RPG genre has been around for a long time and has gone through a steady evolution. The turn-based RPGs of yesteryear have been replaced with today’s Elder Scrolls, Fallout, or Dragon Age, but perhaps none would come to be without the foundation that is the retro turn-based RPG. With that said, Citizens of Earth is a good homage to early predecessors like EarthBound while giving it a nice modern style.
You are the Vice President of the World! Back in your hometown to relax from a successful campaign, you notice that something is strangely afoot. Angry protesters outside your door isn’t too out of the ordinary, but once you stumble upon traffic cone crabs, tele-deers, bubble bees, and other strange anomalies running amok, it’s up to you to get to the bottom of things (with a legion of followers to do the dirty work for you of course, you are the Vice President after all)!
Even as the Vice President, you really don’t seem to have any influence in politics, or in any form whatsoever, but with your charismatic ways you can sway people into fighting your battles for you. Recruiting your new followers is easy enough – see what needs doing and complete the side mission – and once you complete said side mission you’ll have an eager follower, each with skills useful inside and out of battle. You can recruit up to 40 citizens, and honestly, mixing and matching their abilities is probably the most fun you’ll have in-game.
This chapter-based tale takes you across different locations where you can explore and discover items, new potential recruits, and a vicious honey jar bear (one of those honey jars that is shaped like a bear, but wonders around causing havoc). Completing each chapter not only progresses the plot, but allows you to go to new places. The only problem is that to explore all of the nooks and crannies you’ll need to go through a lot of baddies along the way. This becomes such a hindrance that you’ll be less likely to take the time to deviate from the beaten path.
Unlike the titles that Citizens of Earth draws its influence, enemies are visible and can be engaged whether you feel like battling or not. You can engage enemies by simply running into them or having your team of three rush your enemy. You can get a preemptive strike when your target is facing away from you, and if successful, you can take your target out and get instant experience points. However, if your enemy gets the drop on you instead, each of your party members will lose one energy bar that is used to activate abilities in a fight.
When tussling with some rabid protester or bald eagles with toupees, you enter a battle mode with pretty trippy background visuals and from there you can select one move for each party member. The right hand side of the screen will show you the order in which your party will make their moves, so plan accordingly to make the most of your party’s strengths. The previously mentioned energy bar is represented by blue circles are necessary to unleash your strongest attacks and can be replenished by using basic attacks to gain one on the next turn or using items.
The traditional gameplay mechanics, mixed with the various enemy types and team customization, help keep things interesting, but where those traditional mechanics fall short is when you enter a part in the game where the area is so over-populated with enemies – you’ll tire quickly and try to avoid a fight at all costs. I don’t know how fondly you are with grinding in a game, and if it was intentional or not, it just becomes a bit tedious when you go into a battle for the 20th time in the last 10 minutes.
From its colorful hand-drawn style to its bouncy, and in some cases, incredibly catchy tunes (especially the “Boss Battle” track), Citizens of Earth’s presentation is a charming and cleverly written game. Loads of quirky characters to interact with brings on the laughs with some witty dialog with a few gaming references for good measure. The voice actors do a remarkable job in bringing these citizens come to life with diverse and very distinct personalities that it’s no wonder why I thoroughly enjoyed talking with and recruiting these outstanding citizens!
Combat is what is holding Citizens of Earth from being a great game – still good, but not great. The pros and cons of combat kind of even out, but add all of the other fantastic features and you’ve got yourself an amusing 20 hr. trek to set to world back to normal.
Overall Rating: 3.75/5
I’ve made a statement about developers remastering games before – about the more recent games to be exact. Games like Tomb Raider or The Last of Us really didn’t need remastered editions; as good as the games are there isn’t any significant difference between the two besides a small boost in fidelity. But where I think other remastered titles are lazy and mostly unwarranted, Halo: The Master Chief Collection destroys what is to be expected and is a prime example of remastered games done right.
500 years from now, humanity will make contact with a hostile alliance of alien species known as The Covenant. In their eyes humanity is an abhorrent, blasphemous presence that mocks their holy “Great Journey”, and so they wage an all-out war to annihilate all of human-kind. Luckily for us, a group of super soldier known as Spartans, fight alongside our marines to hold back the Covenant onslaught. But one after another, setback after setback, our worlds fall. As the Master Chief, the last surviving Spartan-II, you will fight back against the Covenant and stumble across an ancient ring-like world that houses a terrible threat.
Halo always had great gameplay with smart enemy A.I., but let’s go over all the new stuff that The Master Chief Collection adds. First is the user interface when you fire up the game; Ever Halo game, every level, and every multiplayer map can be accessed at any moment you want. Want to jump straight to Halo 3? Done. Want to play a specific level on Halo: CE Anniversary? Go ahead. Want to play all of the levels that contain warthogs in them? Santa read your wishlist! You can relive all of the Master Chief’s adventures, or experience it for the first time, in any which way you want and for folks like me, playing every Halo back-to-back is absolute joy.
Multiplayer is absolutely bananas. The Master Chief Collection has over 100 multiplayer maps; every multiplayer map from every numerical Halo title is here, including all the downloadable maps. For long-time fans, we can experience Halo: CE and Halo 2 multiplayer exactly as we remember them; all but six of the maps included are running their original engines and the other six have are select Halo 2 maps that have been remastered for Halo 2’s 10th year anniversary.
Instead of doing a ranking system where you gain rank by experience points, The Master Chief Collection uses the skill-based Halo 2 ranking system where the better you do the higher your rank is. But as of this review some game modes have been removed to help some players experiencing matchmaking problems. I’ve run across some issues, but the update did help improve matchmaking and I have been able to play several matches. Getting back into the arena-style multiplayer of Halo: CE and Halo 2 is a blast to play again. Maps like Battle Creek and Ascension is the standard at which I hold other multiplayer maps to – they are just that good. Plus, co-op can be local or online, so you can your friends can tackle Legendary difficulty while going through every mission if you’re crazy enough and have the time.
The biggest and most impressive change in this package is Halo 2’s completely revamped campaign. Where Halo: CE Anniversary, Halo 3, and Halo 4’s campaign have been touched up to boast higher resolution, small tweaks, 60 frames per second, and new lighting effects, Halo 2 in its entirety has been reworked with a powerful new engine that makes the game seem like a whole new experience. Following Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori’s beautiful score, the re-vamped composition adds to the power that the score wields, making it more predominant than the remastered visuals at times. And instead of just settling on remaking the cinematics using the already great looking in-game engine, 343 brought onboard Blur Studio to recreate every cinematic, and they are simply the best looking cinematics I’ve ever seen in a game – it’s like watching a live action short, but all of it is animated in 3D.
Never before have we seen a collection like this. Four complete titles, dozens of playlists, over 100 multiplayer maps, smart and intuitive U.I. that links everything together, Forge mode for Halo 2, 3, and 4, the Halo: Nightfall live-action digital series, and access to the Halo 5: Guardians Multiplayer Beta in December – all of this in one disk. As monumental as the changes are, the core gameplay goes untouched, and that’s for the better; Halo’s gameplay is phenomenal as it stands and still hosts some of the most epic moments and threatening enemies in gaming.
With that being said, it suffers from some of the series’ past problems like inept companion AIs, and the current problems involving connectivity issues with online matchmaking. Ultimately, this is a must have title for any Xbox One owner. You will not find a better collection that is as filled to the brim with literally years worth of content than The Master Chief Collection and you can experience it however you want. Halo: The Master Chief Collection puts all other “remastered” or “definitive” editions to shame.
Overall Score: 4.75/5
Insomniac Games is the team responsible for some of Sony’s most iconic flagship series like Spyro the Dragon (may he rest in peace), Ratchet & Clank, and Resistance. In an unexpected turn of events however, Insomniac has set its sights on Microsoft’s next-gen console to release their new IP, Sunset Overdrive. True to form, it contains all of Insomniac’s wacky humor and fun factor while letting players jump, grind, and swing across a city overrun with bright orange mutants who drank too energy drinks.
Sunset City is the launch site for Fizzco’s newest overhyped energy drink, OverCharge Delirium XT, and to celebrate they host a huge party for all to try their not-at-all flawed drink. But unfortunately for our partygoers the drink is contaminated and sends them into convulsing fits and mutates them in to grotesque mutants called ODs (OverCharge Drinkers). But an unlikely hero with an uncanny ability to parkour like nobody’s business makes it out and bands together with groups of survivors to stand against the OD and uncover if Fizzco plans to order a massive recall of OverCharge.
Now that normal life is for the birds in Sunset City, players can choose who they want to be in the awesomepocalypse. Mix, match, and customize your own personal hero who will save the day and dress them in whatever attire suits you. Once that’s done, get ready to jump right into the action. The tutorial will lay down the rudimentary skills necessary to survive, which is to keep grinding and jumping; not only are you faster off the ground, you are more agile and harder to hit. ,You’ll be doing this a lot in the game, and Insomniac made sure that this will be the most fun you will ever have.
Everything around you is traversable and going from a grind to bouncing off cars into a wall run is the kind crazy action that puts quick time events to shame since it is you that’s doing all of this instead of just button prompts. Pulling off these feats is actually easy to learn; once you get enough practice in, you’ll go place to place without touching the ground once. And even when I unlocked the fast travel option, I still wanted to grind my way to my next mission, and that is a true testament of gameplay done right.
But using the city as your own personal playground isn’t the only fun thing to do; blasting baddies is just as amusing, and it’s simply not an Insomniac Games without using some imaginative weaponry. Choose up to eight weapons to maximize destruction as each one have varying stats and is more or less effective depending on which enemies you use them on. The more you use a weapon the stronger it becomes, so choose your favorites and max out your arsenal to dominate the killing field.
If that’s not enough customization for you, then wait until you’re awarded some medals. Medals are awarded once you have reached a certain milestone with a particular skill, whether it’d be killing with a class of weapon, grinding, bouncing, or putting down some enemies. Once you have enough medals for any category, you can use them as a kind of currency to unlock passive abilities called Overdrives that can increase damage on a certain class of weapons or decreased the damage you take. Speaking of currency, there are three types to look out for in your journey to save the city: normal cash, OverCharge cans, and the collectibles around the city. Cash can buy you new clothes to wear, OverCharge can be exchanged for weapons and ammo, and the stinky shoes and toilet paper you pick up are used to create something called Amps.
The absent-minded scientist named Floyd may not be entirely there most of the time, but he’s a genius when it comes to making Amps. Amps are offensive passive abilities that are activated when players have enough Style. I’ll get to that in a bit, but to get amps, one must collect enough supplies to create them. Once you do, you will need to protect a couple of vats in a nighttime defense mode. Lay some traps strategically and stop the OD from getting to your precious vats to be rewarded with new Amps when time runs out.
You can get Amps for your weapons that grant greater offensive capabilities like summoning Death that kills more enemies for you, and then you can get Amps to equip to your character. The difference with these is that you can only use them when you have enough Style. Chain together kills and skills to build up Style (indicated by a lightning bolt on the top right of the screen) to unleash your Amps and the more style you have the more Amp abilities you can use at once.
It took me a good 15 hours to finish this chaotic romp, and that doesn’t include all of the collectibles and side-missions that are also available. There are tons of missions to take, challenges to test your skill, a colorful cast of characters to meet, and gaming clichés to make fun of, despite our hero being aware of indulging in a few his/herself. And while most mission are nothing more than either killing, collecting, or night-time tower defense segments, they toss in a bit of variety into each mission, stacked with the stellar gameplay mechanics, every single moment from beginning to end is pure unadulterated fun.
Wish you had friends to play with, yet you don’t have any? Chaos Squad is Sunset Overdrive’s version of cooperative multiplayer that sets you up with up to 7 people to take on various tasks across the city. Every session ends with the nighttime defense segment where even more OD than usual will overwhelm you and you posse. You must rack up the kills and points to unlock 1 to 5 rewards; the better you do, the more rewards you unlock at the end of your session, and any rewards you earn in Chaos Squad can be used in the single player portion of the game!
Sunset Overdrive is punk-centric in both its presentation and in its tunes of choice. The city is large and feels alive with bright, electrifying colors that really pop out. The punk soundtrack has you banging your head to catchy tunes that complements the fast pace of the game perfectly. There are instances of the music cutting off for no reason and some sounds were not audible when they should’ve been. It wasn’t too prevalent, but I noticed that the music sometimes remains quiet when mayhem is flooding the screen.
I don’t think people were expecting such an excellent Xbox One exclusive from a developer who has worked with Sony for a large portion of its existence. But now Xbox One owners get to play one of the finest games that they have made to date. Sunset Overdrive is full of high-flying action, crazy weapons, and self-aware jokes that takes the idea that next-gen is all about power and Old Yellers it. Even if there isn’t that much in terms of mission variety, the gameplay, fun, and stylized visuals make Sunset Overdrive one of the better, if not the best overall exclusive of 2014.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Date Released: October 14th, 2014
Developer: Tango Gameworks
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platform: [Reviewed: Xbox One], PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Genre: Survival Horror
Rated: M for Mature
Survival horror games have been making a comeback, and in its ranks is The Evil Within. For those of you who don’t know, Shinji Mikami is a very prominent figure in the industry; known for creating Resident Evil, Mikami spearheaded horror into the mainstream and now returns with his recently formed development team, Tango Gameworks to make his mark once again. With Mikami in his element, The Evil Within is a nice twist to the zombie-filled horror scene and does much to stand out amongst the crowd while paying homage to the game that started it all.
Detective Sebastian Castellanos and his colleagues are just returning from a case when they receive a call; multiple homicides at Beacon Mental Hospital. As they arrive at the scene, the entryway is littered with unmanned squad cars and ambulances. When they open the doors to the hospital, they are met with a terrible sight, but find a lone survivor uttering the name “Ruvic”. As Sebastian checks the nearby security monitors he witnesses the murders of three cops by a hooded figure with supernatural powers, and without warning, comes up behind our unsuspecting hero and knocks him out. From then on Sebastian must fight for his life as he braves a world suddenly turned mad and fights men and women turned into grotesque monstrosities.
Veterans of the recent Resident Evil games will feel right at home in The Evil Within: third-person, over-the-shoulder camera, an array of weapons to choose from, multiple foes to deal with at any given time, and plenty of bosses. But what Tango Gameworks did away with is the item management, and depending on whom you were to ask, that decision was either a good or bad one. I believe how they handled it to compensate was smart. Instead of having to stop what you’re doing to decide on whether you want that extra bit of ammo or not, everything is as simple as having a maximum amount for each weapon class. Of course I love item management in classic Resi games, but it does have a few flaws when in a tight squeeze. Now instead of dealing with management, your main concern is conservation of items.
The Haunted, which are the altered and mutilated “human” mobs that you will be mainly contending with, are numerous and a single Haunted can ruin your day, so just shooting your way out isn’t always the best idea. Ammunition is in limited supply, and when managed poorly, you will be left defenseless. This choke-hold on provisions will force you to alternate between weapons so no weapon goes left unused.
If you do play it smart, you will always have just enough when you find yourself surrounded. To help save up each precious bullet there are plenty of means to dispatch foes. Sneaking up on most enemies will prompt to silently take them out with a knife kill and most areas are rigged with booby-traps just waiting to be used in your favor. Take care not to fall in these traps yourself, as a subtle visual cue of red spots will indicate that one is near. Once you take the time to think things through, you will use everything at your disposal to its fullest potential; using your rifle to snipe a sniper, a shotgun for crowd control, a pistol to take out stragglers, and the Agony Crossbow to set up traps of your own. The developer made sure to give you just enough of what you need to make it out of any situation without being a bullet charity, and encourages strategy instead of running and gunning.
Another added feature is an upgrade system where you can increase any of Sebastian’s attributes: Abilities, Weapons, Stock, and Agony Bolts. Throughout the game you can find a substance known as green gel by killing enemies or finding them along the way; this is the main currency in which you can buy your upgrades. Anything from health, to weapon damage, to how much ammunition you can carry is upgradeable. At first I thought that a fully maxed out character would make the game too easy, but to my delight I found the game just as challenging and no weapons were absurdly overpowered. You’re never powerful enough to breeze through the game nor do you ever have more than one fully stocked weapon, and the hordes of creatures are strong enough to take a few bullets to the head without being too frustrating to handle. It’s a great balance of game difficulty and avatar strength that somehow works really well.
Plenty of extra collectables are scattered in each chapter of the game and can shed some light on Sebastian’s past, and of the strange events surrounding some particular characters. What players will want to keep an eye out for are small Goddess statues and Map Fragments. The statues, when destroyed, will reveal a key that can be used on safes that grant ammo, a large jar of green gel, or a pair of keys if lucky. The Map Fragments may not give you an immediate reward, but if you collect all 26 of them you will be greatly rewarded.
There are only two difficulty settings to choose from when playing for the first time: Casual and Survival. As daunting as “Survival” may sound, that’s only the medium difficulty setting. When you beat the game, you unlock a bunch of stuff like a figure gallery, a New Game+ mode, new weapons, and two more difficulty modes. Nightmare is your hard mode, but then there is the dreaded 悪夢(AKUMU) mode; a mode so insane that a single hit from anything will kill you. There are plenty of things to do and collect, so The Evil Within is has plenty of things to do that will have players looking forward to a next playthrough, or wanting to put themselves through hell.
This psychological thriller gone horror will whisk players all over the place, leaving some to wonder what is real and what is just a delusion of a mentally unstable mind. Even our main character will occasionally ask this very question. The one thing that is pretty silly about the whole thing is how our protagonists react to these ever-changing events and occurrences. Not the slightest bit of panic or amazement can be heard in their tone and it leaves the people we are supposed to care about as nothing more than emotionless robots that we can’t empathize with. The voice actors do a great job and everything, but if they were instructed to be as uninterested as humanly possible in what they are doing, then they hit the nail on the head. Or perhaps it’s just a homage to the campy voice acting of the first Resident Evil – the world may never know.
While not the scariest game out there, that doesn’t take away all the great things The Evil Within does. It takes classic staples that horror games have been clinging onto and does away with them in risky move that works out in their favor. And what they did keep is as refined as you would expect from a development studio headed by the grandfather of the survival horror genre. The atmosphere is haunting and suspenseful, the gameplay is refined to a t, and the locales, at times, are as twisted and gnarly as the bosses and enemies you fight. The Evil Within puts “survival” back into survival horror.
Overall Rating: 4.25/5
Date Released: October 7th, 2014
Developer: Creative Assembly
Platform: [Reviewed: Xbox One], Xbox 360, PlayStation 4 PlayStation 3, PC
Genre: Survival Horror
Rated: M for Mature
Decent Alien games are too few and far between, and most games that do take a crack at the series usually take inspiration from the action-oriented sequel, Aliens. After the abysmal sales and reviews of Alien: Colonial Marines, Sega needed to take the Alien franchise in a whole other direction if they were to do the sci-fi classic any justice. With Creative Assembly taking every necessary step to ensure an authentic Alien experience, players will finally delve deep into nightmarish situation that pits you against the perfect organism in a desperate attempt to survive.
15 years after Ellen Ripley and the crew of the Nostromo go missing, Amanda Ripley has been working for the Weyland-Yutani Corporation in hopes of one day some bit of information as to the whereabouts of her missing mother will turn up. It is until she is informed that a flight recorder from the Nostromo has been picked up and is being held aboard Sevastapol Station that her and a small crew journey across the stars to retrieve the recorder. In attempt to board Sevastapol, Amanda and two other crewmates are cut off from one another. Once inside, Amanda walks alone through the aftermath of panic and discord as the station is in complete disarray. It’s not long after that she comes face-to-face with the cause of everything – a Xenomorph. With nothing but her wit and a will to live, Amanda will uncover the truth behind the events leading up to the chaos and of the fate of her long-lost mother.
Unlike previous titles, Alien: Isolation’s focus is horror through a first-person perspective much like Amnesia and Outlast. Amanda is not a fighter, nor is she a soldier; she is an engineer who’s been swept up in a series of highly unfavorable situations, leaving her very vulnerable. Her first and last line of defense is remaining hidden and hiding in the overabundance of vents and lockers is crucial to survival. This reliance on stealth does not mean that she is completely defenseless; with a station ransacked of essentials, Amanda uses the overlooked electronics, components, and blueprints left behind to craft life-saving gadgets to help avoid unwanted confrontation or heal herself when in need.
What I love about Isolation is how true it is to the source material. Creative Assembly has meticulously captured the very essence of Alien and imprinted its 70’s future look onto the game. Everything screams Alien – from the design of Sevastapol, to the sound effects, it’s like you’re stepping in the set of the movie. Even familiar tunes from the film and some of the original cast members of the original film reprise their roles, mostly for the bonus “Crew Expendable” content, but fans will get a good chill up their spine when they hear the cast take up their roles again.
What impresses me the most is the game’s ability to capture the pacing and build-up of the film. The suspense leading up to the reveal of the Xenomorph is expertly executed and excellently sets up the fact that the Xenomorph isn’t the only threat you’ll be facing. First comes the terrified survivors of who have gone through hell, and will be damned if they’ll let anyone catch them off guard. Usually in groups, these anxious fellows are, ironically, more of a monster than what they’re running from, killing others for security’s sake. Androids that roam the halls of Sevastapol are the creepiest of the three main enemies. Speaking in low monotone voices, Working-Joe androids will disturbingly talk about safety protocols while strangling you to death. Androids are not susceptible to normal attacks like humans are and call for special means to dispatch them.
If you know anything about the Xenomorph, you know that it’s nigh impossible to kill this perfect organism, and when confronted by one, your only hope is to run and hide when you so much as sense one nearby. Players will not need to rely on their sense, thanks to the motion tracker, you can keep a close eye on your immediate surrounding for any hostiles. You can easily keep tabs on humans and androids, however, the Xenomorph will use air ducts to move around and get the drop on you if you’re being careless. Even when you think you’re well hidden, using tools that give your position away like the flashlight, or the motion tracker when too close to an enemy, will alert them to your presence, and if it so happens to be a Xenomorph hunting you down, instant death. But incase it’s too risky to use the motion tracker, audio cues will alert you to any danger. The alien itself has a range of growls and scream to tell players whether their being hunted or if they should make like Usain Bolt and run for safety.
How the Xenomorph hunts you down is downright methodical, it learns from each encounter with you and uses your own patterns against you. The alien will check inside lockers and other hideaways if he suspects you to be close by; if you don’t want your cover blown, you must lean as far back as you can and hold your breath, lest you want your face eaten off. The downside of this is that holding your breath will deplete you heath and potentially kill you. As necessary as hiding is, it is only meant as a temporary solution. A neat feature with the Kinect sensor allows players to use their bodies to lean in and out of cover and inside lockers, plus, if you turn on the noise detection, any loud noise made in the real world will be picked up in-game, alerting all nearby enemies to check out where it came from. This makes the game much more intense as I found myself holding my own breath, hearing my heart beat against my ears as the Xenomorph peeks inside my locker.
While not a flawless title, this is hands down the best Alien title to date. An intense opening, solid middle, and an explosive, heart-stopping ending are reminiscent of the film it’s based on while feeling fresh and new. Alien: Isolation is a hefty title that took me a good 15 hours to complete, and during that time there were segments where it seemed drawn-out and repetitive. I was worried that by the time it got to the final stretch of the game that I would be too powerful, but the last third of the game threw me a curve ball that I was not expecting and made my fight for survival that much more than horrifying, it was terrifying. As for Amanda Ripley, her journey for the truth will turn her into a battle hardened survivor – like mother, like daughter.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Date Released: September 30th, 2014
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Platform: [Reviewed: Xbox One], PlayStation 4, PC (Nov. 18th on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3)
Rated: M for Mature
J.R.R. Tolkein’s fictional world of Middle-Earth has spawned many retellings of its spectacular conflicts in other forms of medium like the recent Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. There are video game adaptations based off of the movies that were actually good, and others that build upon the lore. What Shadow of Mordor brings to the universe is a gripping tale of loss and vengeance that follows a linear progression, yet is tailored by the player’s own actions.
Shadow of Mordor takes place between the events of Tolkein’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings where a garrison of soldiers from the Kingdom of Gondor, led by the ranger captain Talion, keeps watch on top of the Black Gate that leads into the land of Mordor. It is until one night that uruk-hai invade and overtake the gate in the dead of night. Before they could escape, Talion and his family are captured by the Black Hand and slain as sacrifices to summon forth a powerful wraith spirit. Unbeknownst to the Black Hand, the wraith’s consciousness was infused into Talion’s, and unto him, the curse of never reuniting with his family in death. This unlikely alliance grants Talion the power to avenge the death of his family and remove the curse that binds them.
Here’s how my first five minutes of playing started: I get acquainted with the controls, I take out a couple of uruks, I think I’m cool for doing so, then I ran into two captains and a towering Graug, which led to me being annihilated. This little disaster led to the introduction of the impressively complex star of this entire game: the Nemesis System. Every time you face against an uruk captain you build up a relation of sorts; whether you defeat him, he escapes, or you die by his hands, that particular captain will remember what transpired. Captains that were defeated and survive will seek you out for a rematch, bearing the scars of your last encounter, however, if one were to successfully kill you, they will becoming more powerful and harder to kill.
Shadow of Mordor doesn’t mess around; you will be killed if you act haphazardly and contemplating fights beforehand is instrumental in successfully taking out your target. Each uruk captain has a list of strengths and weaknesses that you can exploit. Learning their weaknesses and identities require you to interrogate fellow captains or “worms” that will spill the beans when pressured. Even with the knowledge of an uruks weakness, they make up for it by having a larger list of strength can lessen or negate an attack’s effectiveness or send them into a frenzied state when a certain requisite is met, like seeing specific monsters or being close to death. Killing is pretty much the central activity here, no matter what mission you do, but the Nemesis system brings unique encounters into the mix that will dramatically change the flow of a fight whenever a captain makes an appearance.
Being highly influenced by the combat of the Batman: Arkham series and the parkour exploration of Assassin’s creed, these two elements lend themselves to provide a basis that functions and controls extremely well. It the extensive upgrade system that will open a plethora of possible abilities and powers used to meet any challenge you may face. On top of that, you can increase your own stats to take more damage or carry more arrows at one time, or place runes on your weapon that provides passive ability that could help turn the tide of battle if you’re in a tight spot. Learning how to time your attacks and counters is easy enough to grasp, but as the enemy numbers increase and use different tactics against Talion, so too will players have to adapt and learn more movesets – in short, Shadow of Mordor is not for casual players that don’t take the time to master what is actually necessary to stay alive.
The Land of Middle-Earth is a stretch of lush plains and tall distant mountain that beautifully captures Tolkein’s fantasy world. More impressive is the uruks themselves; there is such a variety to the character models that I can’t recall if I even came across two that looked the same. Even the weather effects look good, ridiculously more so for the fact that this is the first time that I can say that I’ve ever seen hail in a game! Talented voice actor Troy Baker lends his talents as Talion, bringing in a wide range of emotions that actually comes across as genuine. The opening scenes highlight this and made me honestly upset and saddened at how Talion lost his family with equally great performances by Laura Bailey as Ioreth, Talion’s wife, and Jack Quid as Dirhael, his son.
Shadow of Mordor is a satisfying experience from its kinetic and brutal combat to its challenging gameplay. Monolith even went so far as to work with Middle-earth Enterprises, Peter Jackson, and the artists at Weta Workshop to make sure that every aspect of the game aligned within the canon. Regardless of the considerably darker and singular tone of revenge (not saying that’s a bad thing, it’s quite fitting to the overall lore) the story takes a steep dive and almost ruined the game for me, almost. Shadow of Moror in the end is a triumph as a Lord of the Rings game that must be experienced and I hope to see more installments in the series implement the revolutionary Nemesis system.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Game Reviewed: Persona 4 Arena Ultimax
Date Released: September 30th, 2014
Developer: Arc System Works
Platform: [Reviewed: PlayStation 3], Xbox 360
Rated: M for Mature
Persona, which derives from Megami Tensei, is a very popular RPG series that’s been praised for its story arcs, and battle systems. But when you take Persona and turn it into a fighting game, the result is a surprisingly great fighter that received critical and fan praise. Persona 4 Arena Ultimax isn’t just an expansion to Arena, but a proper sequel which improves upon the original and offers plenty for diehard Persona fans and fighting enthusiasts.
Ultimax is a direct sequel taking place just a week after the events of Persona 4 Arena. Now for those who didn’t play the original, the game recaps the events of the previous game. The story is definitely the most content-rich, featuring two stories from the perspectives of the Persona 3 and 4 cast, a new antagonist, 8 new characters to fight as, and even the good old “true” ending unlock. For fans that love Persona to death, you get to catch up with old favorites and see what they’ve been up to. The flip-side is that there tends to be a lot of dialog (in a game based of an RPG granted), so there will be a lot of reading for a game that is supposed to get you into the action.
Just like any decent fighting game there has to be a balance of everything in addition to having it accessible to newcomers. Ultimax has found that balance. Players who just want to jump into the fray can easily do so; one button combos and a basic understanding of the controls guarantees a grand time, but if you need to get in some practice, a tutorial mode can be accessed at any time.
For you hardcore fighters out there, there are various special moves and combos to master. A couple of new features add a level of risk and reward; the new S-Hold system allows players to power up their attacks at the risk of leaving themselves vulnerable. Perhaps the biggest game-changer is the Shadow Types ability; with a weakened normal attack, lacking defense, and a different moveset, the Shadow ability is not to be used casually. However, implemented correctly and you can end a round in seconds; SP is kept throughout multiple rounds and players are granted the Shadow Rampage ability which gives your character infinite SP for a short duration.
The hand-drawn animations in both the cutscenes and in gameplay keep true to the essence of Persona. Each stage’s backdrop is lively and vibrant, yet plays second fiddle to the clashing of contestants that light up the screen with combos and finishers.
Ultimax does everything a fighter should strive to accomplish: engaging and engrossing gameplay that is fun for first-timers and satisfying for seasoned fighters, great personality that makes each character feel unique, and improves upon what made the original Arena a stellar game. If you’re looking for a good fight, you found one.