My GOTY 2018

There was simultaneously too much to play this year, and not really enough.
Whilst I didn’t play a lot of the new games this year, for the most part I just didn’t want to, outside of a few (RDR2, Donut County, Tetris Effect)
Thanks to my brother I did at least manage to play a lot of the large PS4 releases, however on PC i spent most of the year just playing older games and wrestling with my backlog, whilst trying to play all of the humble monthly games.

 

So, here are my personal top 5 picks of the year – You can see a list of games I would have liked to try, but didn’t get to below, as well as games which I did play but didn’t make the list.

 

 

5. God of War 2018 (PS4)

God of War was just an all around good game, I don’t really think it did anything too special but what was there was all well refined and good.
I think it won a soundtrack award, but i’ll be honest I don’t remember anything about that, however I do remember smashing a lot of undead face, and the incredible first boss fight. GoW was also much more of a story driven game than previous titles (from what I remember anyway), which some people will find offputting but I kind of enjoyed the downtime between fights.

 

 

4. Yakuza 6 (PS4)

The Yakuza series in general will unfortunately go unrecognized again this year, but Yakuza 6 was a surprisingly good game. The story is one of the better ones in my opinion, and the new characters introduced are all interesting and quirky in their own ways. The switch to the new engine breathes new life into the series, helping to reduce downtime and allow you to explore with more freedom without worrying about being bogged down with load screens, as well as speed up fighting random thugs on the street as you can transition from exploring to face smashing seemlessly, with only a brief pause to transition out. The minigames are good fun this time round also, with an RTS squad battle one, a fishing minigame which plays like a sega lightgun game, a baseball simulator, and others which i haven’t the space to talk about (the camgirl chatroom minigame is fantastic though).

 

3. Return of the Obra Dinn (PC)

Obra Dinn is unlike anything you’ve ever played or seen before – The art style is obviously the most common thing you’ll see or read about this game, but the gameplay is the real treat here. For those unaware (I wasn’t), Obra dinn is a puzzle detective game, where you basically travel through time and see 3d pictures of each person’s final moments, over the course of the game you then have to piece together what happened to them, and who everyone in the scene is – this may be by something obvious, a crewmate saying “Jack, watch out!” for example may easily slap a name on them, but for the most part, the game really makes you work for it.
Obra dinn runs at about 8-10 hours and is truly a unique ride, you need to check this out.

 

 

2. Celeste (Multi)

I bought Celeste on a whim after being bored one day and seeing the game on sale, and i’m so glad that I did.
The main story is a decent length for this sort of game, and is a brilliant blend of challenge and new mechanics, without messing with the core mechanics of your character – the game will pass you through chapters, introduce a mechanic and then pull and replace it with a different one to keep things fresh. I enjoyed the story and thought there was a surprising amount of character development considering the amount of text in the game could probably fit on a single A4 paper.
The soundtrack is also really memorable, and does that thing where the music subtly changes over time based on your progress, I love that shit.
If you go into the game blind, you will be shocked at the additional content, the game and challenge just keeps going for hours after you’ve completed the main campaign, after the 175 strawberries to the B-Side Challenge levels you’re looking at maybe 20-30 hours of solid platforming satisfaction.
Be warned that the game is brutally hard (i’m at 6000 deaths and counting), but the achievement of clearing a hard room is on par with reaching a bonfire in Dark Souls or winning a fight with magic pixel health.

 

1. Monster Hunter World (PC)

It would be hard to not give first place to Monster Hunter World, which I personally spent around 200 hours with during the month of it’s PC release.
I’ve never really understood or gotten into the previous monster hunter games, but the latest entry with it’s lush graphics and quality of life improvements really sucked me in. I spent a good amount of time playing the game on my own but by far the standout experience was playing as a full group of 4 and experiencing the content fresh for the first time without using guides, without worrying about builds or tier lists, just pure “how do we kill it, and how do we not get killed by it”. MHW was genuinely the most multiplayer fun I’ve had in a long time – the horror of seeing Diablos explode out of the desert, making fun of the commander’s voice, and trying not to get carpet bombed by blazblue, are all moments i’ll remember for a long time.

 

 

Didn’t play list:

AC Odyssey, Gris, Obra Dinn,into the breach, Hitman 2, A way out, Red Dead 2, The messenger, Forza horizon 4, Tetris Effect, Guacamelee 2, Octopath Traveler, Frost punk, CrossCode, Wandersong, Iconoclasts, COD blops4, Overcooked 2, Far Cry 5, La-Mulana 2, Pokemon Lets go, Battletech, Shadow of the tomb raider, Detroit Become Human, Battlefield 5, Fallout 76, Donut County,

 

Didn’t make list:

Smash Ultimate, Deltarune, DJmax Respect, Florence, Spiderman, Dead Cells, Subnautica, Lethal League Blaze

 

Undertale (PC) Review

posted in: Games, Games Review | 0

Just a quickie, because it deserves it.

I played through undertale a few days ago, and was pleasantly surprised to find that it’s metacritic score of 94 was completely warranted, this plain and dull looking game that I kept seeing screenshots of.

A short 5 hour playthrough later, and I was sold, it’s incredible. Probably the best game this year, probably one of the best games of all time…
Lovingly crafted and likable characters, hilarious dialogue, unexpected comical twists and turns,  a battle system which is 50% puzzle and 50% shmup, and topped off by a soundtrack which is easily on par with your favourite chiptunes.

3 days on, i’m sitting in my van listening to the soundtrack and getting goosebumps, and thinking of the characters and smiling to myself.

I dont know who the hell Toby Fox is, but the man is a true wizard. I expect people in 20 years will still pick this game up and enjoy it just as much as we are today, because unlike some other games which rely on jokes, undertales humour doesn’t need to rely on pop culture references or similar external factors.

 

Go play it. It’s £7, that’s a ridiculous price for this gem. You’ll thank me later.

5/5

 

ps. papyrus and sans are the fucking best.

The Beginners Guide (PC)

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PREFACE IS SPOILER FREE.

To speak too much of ‘The Beginners Guide’ would be a horrible sin, personally I knew absolutely nothing of this game, I saw maybe one or two screenshots, I knew it was by the guy that made Stanley Parable, and that it was about ‘Learning about what you do not understand’

And honestly, I think that’s all you should know, similar in the way that watching trailers for films can often ruin the entire thing, knowing too much about this game is probably the same.

I will however say that the game is approximately film length (90mins), is appropriate to play in front of non gamers (I played it in front of my gf) and that the game is truly a unique work of art.

At £7 it’s maybe a little bit on the more expensive side, there is no replay value, and is best played in one sitting.

It is, however, 100% worth playing, and I very much recommend it to gamers and non gamers alike. If I was to make a list of top X games experiences, this would be on there for sure.

 

Go and play it before highlighting the below, which probably contains spoilers

 

 

 

 

—- SPOILERS —-

Finished?

Wow, right?

What a crazy ride, it’s rare that a video game can really make you stop and think, it’s definitely not an exaggeration to say that this game gave me the full spectrum of emotions, from happy to sad to worried, confused and everything in between. How many video games manage that? Like seriously there are a shitload of ‘fun’ games out there but there are only a very small handful of games that really evoke emotion and make you stop and think.

Like that scene where you are confronted with the machine, or where you back away from the stage, so many really memorable, fantastic moments.

I actually had to look up some theories on what happens at the end, my girlfriend was actually just kind of laying down for most of the game, but as the game started to reach it’s climax i turned around and she was fully upright and leaning in to read, probably a good indicator that the game is doing it’s job.

— SPOILERS END —

A rant about Metal Gear Solid V

posted in: Games, Games Review, rant | 0

So thanks to the wonders of internet companionship I’ve spent essentially the last week or so playing through the wondrous metal Gear solid 5, and thought I’d do a little rant about it.

The gameplay itself is so very solid (ahem),  going into outposts and abducting entire squads of guards and any vehicles they have is a incredibly addictive, and the core sneaking stuff is really good as well, however the game starts to rapidly fall apart once you have completed the main story and become left with just the side missions.

Speaking of the story,  the game barely even feels like a metal Gear solid game,  the core story is light at best and a complete joke once you hit the end of chapter one.  It is probably the only game to pleasantly delight and then brutally disappoint me with its game length, in the space of only a few hours.

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For those who haven’t played it, after maybe 30 hours/missions of gameplay and a major boss fight, the game rolls its credits, practically nothing in the story has been explained and you are left feeling confused and upset…  But then you get a ‘trailer’  for chapter 2! And the game swiftly transitions into chapter 2! Fantastic! And then in an almost taunting fashion the game takes that joy away over the next few hours. Where the previous 30 missions were interesting and somewhat advance the plot, the next 20 missions consist of 14 hard mode missions you have already played,  and 6 proper story missions, of which manage to introduce more questions rather than answers – and then the game ends.

Apparently people have dug into game files and found art for chapter 3, suggesting that the game was due a significant amount more content, and behind the scenes footage which show an episode 51 would have at least provided some closure to one of the games many plotlines.

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Playing the postgame content becomes almost upsetting afterwards, a selection of maybe 6 different objectives which all play out more or less the same way, sneak in, neutralise everyone and then escape with prisoner /Intel.

The open world offers nothing but a collection of barren land and a collection of outposts and structures you have been to during the story.

I also have grown to despise the mother base expansion system, with the game requiring you to have X amount of materials before you can upgrade to increase your population cap, these materials are only generated while you play, and you will only recieve a relative trickle compared to how much is required for the later upgrades.

There is almost no doubt that the latter is formulated in such a way to make way for their shitty microtransaction crap, the same stuff they claim is not required –  a new base requires 1000+ mb coins, yet you will recieve maybe 20 or so per day for a login (this tiny amount of coin isn’t even guaranteed, as the login bonus is often a bunch of plants or irrelevant material).

The game has a dispaych system which lets you send out your recruited soldiers to do stuff for reward, but the majority of them run on ingame time, there is another selection of missions which run on real time but these take 1-2 whole days to complete, and will contribute towards your teams limit (which is, again, linked to bases you can only really build with real money). The ridiculous amount of time it takes for these real time missions to complete is so ridiculous that is you are playing the game even vaguely regularly its more efficient just to pick the ingame time missions, so why even put the real time ones in the game?  =/

The FOB / PVP stuff seems pretty silly as well, you can invade each others bases and steal their resources and men, fair enough, a tried and tested formula which worked well in Dark Souls… except the part where you get invaded while you’re offline and there isn’t much you can do to stop it because the AI guards are useless as fuck. Seriously mindblowing, I log in every day to see that my resources and men have been stolen and theres fuck all I can do about it. 10/10 PVP.

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Spoilers below this point :

Did i mention how unfinished the story is yet? What happens to psycho mantis and the man on fire, what happens to huey? What about quiet who carrying the English strain of the virus (you know, the virus that the whole game is basically based on).

I also really REALLY hate that quiet leaves and essentially locks you out of using her for the postgame, you can supposedly hack her back in on PC but god it’s so ridiculous that you even have to consider it.

Spoilers end here

MGS5 is one of the best games this year, even in it’s half finished state with it’s bad design choices – however the fact that this is the last game in the series by Kojima makes me sad that it just wasn’t as good as it could have been. Small tweaks here and there could have easily taken this game to legendary status, but instead we are left with a collection of ‘extract X’ missions tied together by the weakest metal gear storyline in the series.

This has been an awful rant typed up on my phone while waiting for a package to be delivered at work, it’s probably painful to read, you have my sympathies.

mgsvtpp 2015-09-11 19-18-23-46

Invisible, Inc (PC) Review

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Invisible Inc is turn based stealth game by Klei Entertainment, who are on quite the streak of good games latety (Shank, Mark of the Ninja, Don’t Starve)

The game can rather quickly be summarised as a cross between metal gear ac!d and the Xcom series, featuring a roguelike blend of randomly generated levels, permadeath and grid style turn based movement. A full game takes place over an in-game 72 hours, where you have to prepare for the final mission. Your goal then is to survive until then, and acquire as much money and equipment as possible to give yourself the best chance of success for the finale, you do this by travelling to locations (which costs ingame time) and then playing a level and hopefully absconding with whatever it was you came for. Some examples of sites you can target are weapons facilities (weapons), prisons (characters), augment labs (character perks) and some others.

invisibleinc

So you reach a site, you then have to slowly work your way through the level, find the objective, then get all of your agents to an exit point in the level to escape – sites are of course littered with patrolling guards, cameras, locked doors, lazer walls, drones… but thankfully, you have a little help from above – access to hacking tools which can be triggered at the expense of power, which you’ll siphon from hacking terminals in a level (or generated through items or other hacking tools). Using Incognita (the hacking system) is pretty core to the game, and deciding which programs to bring, and when to use them, is likely what will save your agents from a horrible death out on the field – gaining access to cameras can let you bypass them and simultaneously scout areas you have no vision of for example. Later on, the enemy start deploying countermeasures to hacking known as daemons – which basically act like malware that triggers upon successful hack, this could mean guards are dispatched, or you are drained of power or money.

invisibleinc

The game is fantastically tense, and very well paced. Individual missions rarely seem to drag on, and the difficulty level ranges from ‘still anxious’ to ‘holy shit i’m so fucked’, with easier levels allowing turn rewinds and easier guard AI, and harder levels bringing in the big guns faster (and raising the alarm consequences and firewalls). The 72 hours aspect also works well, allowing for multiple playthroughs at higher difficulty levels, this is coupled with an overarching exp system which will unlock new agents and programs for use on start of your next playthrough. (i’m a big fan of agent Internationale myself). The game also likes you to play fast, there is an ongoing alarm system which never decreases, it increases rapidly upon being seen or caught or detectors, but will still increase slightly at the end of every turn, and each level is bad news, bringing reinforcements, or stepping up firewalls to prevent you from hacking. Passive play isn’t really an option, you need to get in and get out.

Plz no.
Plz no.

Graphics are nicely stylized 3d from an isometric viewpoint (you can actually spin the camera if you want), and the music is minimal yet impactful – progressively getting more intense as the alarm raises, or if being chased by an enemy.

There wasn’t really anything I disliked about Invisible Inc, which is a nice change, everything seemed well thought out, though there could maybe be a little more variety in how to play. However I still look forward to my next few playthroughs, though I don’t think i’m looking forward to expert mode, the final mission in easy was already pretty hard :X

invis4

 

 

Verdict:

Invisible Inc is a fantastic stealth roguelike, if you love Xcom, check this out for sure, for everyone else, you should probably still check this out because the stealth genre is seriously lacking these days.

Approximate Game Length : Around 5 hours for a full playthrough
Actual Worth / Steam Price: £12 / £15 = 0.8
Should you play it :Yes

Rating: 5 / 5

Apparently 'Experienced' difficulty is nothing to fuck with.
Apparently ‘Experienced’ difficulty is nothing to fuck with. RIP agent banks.

Action Henk (PC) Review

posted in: Games Review | 1

Quickie Review time.

Action Henk is a speedrunner / time trial style game by RageSquid (who have yet to make anything of much note). The gameplay is about as simple as it gets – get to the end of the level as fast as possible.

To my surprise, the game doesn’t tend to play out like Meat Boy or even the Trials series, but more like a 16bit era Sonic the Hedgehog game. Levels are pretty short and sweet, but are filled with ramps, jumps and loops to throw yourself round. Key mechanics other than the basic jump is the ability to slide which will let you accelerate downhill or slide off slopes (including those above you), wall jumping, and on some levels a Hookshot which is very similar to the rope weapon found in Worms.

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So you run from left to right, cool. Anything else of note? Well… not really? you slide and jump around, and it’s sort of fun I guess, but that’s pretty much it. Unless you are really shooting for best times or competing against other people, there’s very little to hold your attention. To it’s credit the game does support steam workshop for custom levels (thank god) but i’m still not convinced the game does enough to warrant it’s price tag.

Graphics are clean and pretty easy to read, though there could definitely be more detail in the environment. The music wasn’t really my cup of tea either, especially as you’ll typically listen to the same track over and over for the entirety of a ‘world’ which consists of around 6 stages. I ended up listening to the Sonic Colours soundtrack after world 4 or so.

As mentioned previously, there are leaderboards and online races, as well as custom level support – so if you do get into the game (probably more likely if you are competitive and have a few friends) there is some fun to be had there.

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Verdict:

Action Henk is probably the best Sonic game i’ve played in years, however it’s lack of depth makes me reluctant to really recommend it to anyone but genre fans. It’s also surprisingly expensive for it’s content.

Approximate Game Length : Few hours
Actual Worth / Steam Price: £4 / £11 =
Should you play it :No

Rating: 3 / 5

Life Is Strange (PC) Early Review

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Life is Strange is an episodic adventure game by Dontnod entertainment – most easily compared to recent Telltale games, or those by Quantic dream. The only other game that Dontnod have put out is 2013’s Remember Me, so I have to say I wasn’t expecting a massive amount while going into Life is Strange, only doing so because it seemed to be getting some fair praise from friends.

Bare in mind that this is only an opinion after playing Episodes 1 and 2, but honestly Life is Strange has handled those 3 or 4 hours well enough to make me believe that they won’t fuck the rest of the game up.

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Life is Strange is broadly about a teenage highschool girl with the power to rewind time.. It plays out otherwise like any other narrative driven story/adventure game, with the exception of less “I wonder what would happen if I picked…” moments – That said, as soon as you leave an area, those choices are locked in for good. These choices seem much bigger and more powerful than some other similar games which give the illusion of choice, compared to other games which may briefly kind of mention it later on down the line, Life is Strange is filled with characters that seriously know how to hold a grudge. Anything you say can and likely will be used against you later on, so you’d better pick wisely and choose your friends and enemies well.

The story so far has been fantastic, a tale with hints of heroism and mystery, nothing is quite as it seems at face value, and being able to uncover the story yourself, both through the actual scenes and through just scanning the environment for clues and information, is really rewarding.
The game really manages to capture school life well for most gamers, Max (the main heroine) is a slightly outcast and unpopular student who has to deal with everything from teen love to bullying, as well as picking friend groups and all other sorts along the way (Still not sure whether I should have gone to that party or not, it’ll be filled with all the ‘cool’ kids though…). There are lots of side activities and segments you can engage in, but the game won’t really mind if you skip these – but in the event that you don’t even notice them, the game can occasionally refer back to them and act as if you took a particular stance on it, even if you don’t have a clue what’s going on. I was also surprised during certain bits in the story which flowed without my intervention, and actually made me believe that my choice didn’t matter – only to be surprised later in the post chapter screen when all of the available options get laid out to you, it’s through this screen also that will make you realise just how much you missed on your first play.

Photography is sort of important, especially if its a guy who just smacked his balls.
Photography is sort of important, especially if its a guy who just smacked his balls.

I’m not sure i’d encourage repeat plays in a game like this, when I tried it with TWD it made me realise just how little my choices really mattered, but I feel like in LiS there are enough clear branches that it might genuinely be really interesting to give it a second whirl, just to see how things pan out – Though this will of course lead to much repeat dialogue and events, some of which aren’t that fun;
Some examples include a lengthy bottle gathering segment in Chapter 2, with max having to scavenge 5 bottles for a friend, and they are of course hidden about the place (the campfire is by the rail tracks for anyone else who gets stuck there, I know I did.).

Life is Strange is fairly minimal with its music, yet the soundtrack kicks in at just the right time for key moments, and in a fairly organic way, such as when max puts her headphones in, or for the chapter ending.
I’m somewhat torn on the graphical front, the environment, special effects (mostly depth of field / bokeh) and lighting are pretty good, however majority of the characters can occasionally look goofy and undermodelled (in terms of poly count), it’s not that the characters look bad persay, but rather that the environment and special effects seem so well done that they feel sub-par by comparison.

I can’t attest for the rest of the game at this point (i’ll update when It’s finished), but for now, Life is Strange is looking like a strong candidate for game of the year.

Verdict:

Life is strange genuinely manages to feel more like a playable movie than a video game, and for a game in this particular genre, that’s some high praise. Choices have an impact, the characters seem to have genuine life to them (and bitchiness, mostly bitchiness) and the camerawork and art is fantastic.
The worst bit about it is that it isn’t all out yet.

Approximate Game Length :~2 Hours per chapter for first playthrough
Actual Worth / Steam Price: £16 / £16 = 1.0
Should you play it :Definitely.

Rating: 5 / 5

Interested? (You should be.)

Check the trailer for a pretty good feel of what the game is like

[kad_youtube url=”https://youtu.be/AURVxvIZrmU” ]

Ori and the blind forest (PC) Review

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Ori and the blind forest is a metroidvania style adventure platformer by Moon studios, it’s the company’s first game and it’s a hell of a good start.

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Ori plays incredibly similar to drinkbox’s 2013 game Guacamelee, but swapping wrestlers for a more fantasy setting, and skeletons for weird piles of alien goop and worms. You’ll play through the game with the aim of awakening 3 monuments, and travel through many different locations to do so, each of them fairly self contained yet joining up with other areas organically and without load screens. You’ll get new powers at regular intervals which will let you bypass old obstacles and introduce new mechanics to deal with – it’s all pretty standard fare, with no big twists or innovations along the way.

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The game features a skill tree (of course) and the ability to save/checkpoint anywhere provided you have the necessary energy to do so (and you usually will). Perhaps because of this checkpoint anywhere system, Moon studios have decided to ramp the difficulty up to an almost meatboy level – enemies hit hard and shotgun projectiles rather than simply ‘get in the way’, and environmental hazards deal ridiculous damage if not kill you outright. As you progress you’ll quickly have access to wall jumps, slow fall, double jump and all the other mechanics which lead to some pretty ridiculous level scenarios. One of the abilities in particular, let you catapult yourself off a projectile – so naturally there are entire segments that could be confused for a bullet hell game. The checkpoints do alleviate things somewhat, but particularly in the lategame and certain crescendo segments at the end of each monument, there are plenty of moments which will have you frustrated.

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As you can probably see from the screenshots, Ori is stunningly pretty, with a distinct colour palette for each area, layered 2d graphics and lots of small effects which quickly add up. What you probably can’t see from the screenshots, is the soundtrack, which is also impressive and plays more like a movie soundtrack than one from a video game.
There is some story, though don’t expect a movie interpretation any time soon, majority of the storytelling is done in game through a narrator, which means you generally won’t have to slow down for the game to tell it’s story too, which I approve of.

The game lasts around 5 hours, maybe more if you die a lot or go full completionist (I finished at 4hrs 47, and apparently achieved 92% completion, with 222 deaths) This can be seen as both a plus and minus I suppose, the game definitely doesn’t outstay it’s welcome, and the directors clearly had a good idea of exactly what they wanted their story to tell, and all of the areas they wanted in the game. However some may feel the game is a tad too short (I kind of like my metroidvanias short and sweet anyway). There is little replay value however, aside from speedrunning, the game doesn’t even seem to let you continue a completed save, let alone have any form of new game plus mode or higher difficulty setting.

Pretty few complaints to be found, controls were tight, no bugs during my playthrough, monster variety could have been better, and the combat starts off rather slow and enemies have a little too much health, no difficulty settings mean its likely not everyone will complete the game (as it genuinely is pretty hard).

Verdict:

Ori and the blind forest is a great example of a platformer that puts gameplay first, it’s an incredibly solid game, and while not particularly innovative, the overall quality of the game and experience mean you’ll just be happy to be along for the ride. Ps. It’s really hard.

Approximate Game Length : 5 Hours
Actual Worth / Steam Price: £12 / £15 = 0.8
Should you play it : Yes

Rating: 5 / 5

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number (PC) Review

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Hotline Miami 2 is essentially a twitch shooter from a birds eye viewpoint, it’s made once again by Dennaton games and is a sequel to the highly praised Hotline Miami released in 2012.

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The game plays almost identical to its younger brother, though with a few gameplay tweaks, most of which are unfortunately for the worse. The objective of Hotline Miami is simple, kill everyone on the map without dying, Easier said than done of course, as everyone dies in one bullet or weapon swing, yourself included. The main challenge of the game starts in just finishing the level, but experts or gluttons for punishment can go for high scores thanks to a scoring system that awards recklessness and speed.

Hotline Miami 2 has a few new mechanics, though both of them are unfortunately tied to a few levels – The playable characters with the bear and duck masks. Bear mask guy gets the dual SMG’s you probably saw in a trailer a long time ago, and you can right click to make him spread his arms and turn into Jesus Christ, which is super cool and awesome, but unfortunately not very practically useful as you’ll run out of ammo so hilariously fast this way that you may as well just restart already. The other character, or should I say characters are the pair i’ve lovingly dubbed the duck brothers – you control these two at the same time, and they have a chainsaw and firearm between them, though the latter brother’s positioning means you won’t be shooting straight like you’re used to, I think the duck brother segments were the most fun in the game for me.

This is usually the part where I would talk more about things I liked, things the game did well… etc etc. But unfortunately, short of the soundtrack (which is has some really standout tracks) and the duck brothers mentioned in the paragraph above, Hotline Miami 2 is the sort of game i’m struggling to praise. So instead, we will now transition into…

Things that are bad about Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number:

(wuh oh)

The level design is shit
This is the biggest issue, by far. Hotline Miami had some fantastic flow and was hype for the player because of it’s good level design, a labyrinth of death with plenty of places to catch your enemy off guard. Wrong number has decided to ramp up the difficulty by instead having almost all of it’s levels include wide open spaces, and enough glass windows to make the empire state building jealous. The result is that instead of constant small skirmishes with melee enemies, they have opted to just give everyone machine guns and have them sprint at you from full screens away. This really upsets the flow of the game and turns the optimal playstyle into a peak-a-boo style shooter not unsimilar from games that feature chest high walls. Combine open maps with the points below and you’ll start to understand why the game falls apart.

The change in mechanics are shit
I briefly mentioned this above, but basically in most areas you are going to be forced into playing coy, peaking out and luring enemies over to you rather than straight up killing them. There are multiple reasons for this, but the main one is that enemies now seem to have the ability to see you from outside of your view distance – and these are the same guys that have machineguns and shotguns. There have been many occasions where i’ve been shot from offscreen and died, so once again, you are forced to play slow, peak out and come back in and wait to see if anyone sprints at you.
I think the timing battles with knives in HM1 were more enjoyable than the twitch shooting you’ll be doing for the majority of HM2.

The new enemies are shit
Wrong Number attempts to introduce more enemy types, but they will only serve to annoy you rather than make the game more interesting. Heavy enemies are annoying and numerous (and don’t react to being shot if you are a certain distance away, which is weird.) and impossible to kill without a firearm, guard dogs are meh and have bizarre AI, even the commando guy that shows up one level isn’t much fun to fight. Oh, and there are now soldiers who can duck behind cover, meaning.. yep! you get to play whack a mole with them, only they get much more ammo than you.

The story is shit
Perhaps shit isn’t the right word, but it’s vastly expanded from the original Hotline Miami, now maybe i’m nitpicking, but I honestly couldn’t care less about the story in a game like this, especially when it’s as intricate and confusing as HM2’s fruit salad of random scenes across it’s spattering of characters.

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Open area, glass window, and a heavy which can only be killed with gunfire… which will alert the other machinegun armed soldiers in the area..

 

Verdict:

At it’s peak, when on one of the games tighter nit apartment levels, and the soundtrack is thumping away, Hotline Miami 2 can be a blast to play, It’s just a massive shame that these moments are fleeting and the majority of the game is spent being murdered by enemies you can barely see, in levels that devolve into a rather binary ‘I sprayed in that direction and killed everyone’ or ‘I sprayed in that direction, missed one guy and got shot’. Disappointing.

Approximate Game Length : 2-5 Hours depending on skill
Actual Worth / Steam Price: £7 / £12 = 0.58
Should you play it : Probably better off just replaying the original.

Rating: 2 / 5

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*sigh* so much open space.

 

Cities: Skylines (PC) Review

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Cities Skylines is city building sim for the PC by developer Colossal order who have previously put out the Cities in motion series (and NOT the cities XL series as I initially thought)

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This is ingame zoom by the way.

 

I would imagine (or hope) that most people who would bother to click into this review have played Maxis’s Sim City at some point in the past, well in the interest of saving time, Cities: Skylines is how you probably remember Sim City 4 while looking through your rose tinted glasses – I am struggling to think of any feature which was in that SimCity4 that isn’t in Skylines, and of course Skylines happily adds its own improvements on top of the winning formula that Maxis spent 4 games refining. Worth noting also that Skylines feels like the result of someone who trawled and gathered information from the Simcity 2013 backlash, the game features no online capability at all (aside from Steam Cloud saving), and absolutely gigantic maps for the player to build upon, ensuring that it covered the core points that annoyed gamers in the past.

So yeah, you start up your game, you lay out your roads (badly), you zone for your 3 types of area (Residential, Commercial, industrial – not sure why theres no Agricultural zone…) and then you add your services, your transport links, your special buildings and parks… and you keep going for 5 hours until you realise your city is shit, and then start again. Skylines also adds other problems to think about like Water sources, water and soil pollution, and the absolute nightmare that is road congestion. It’s obvious that the devs have used their prior knowledge from Cities in Motion to put forward some rather impressive road and citizen simulation, this means that unlike other city builders where you can slap everything down and make things look nice, in Skylines you’ll spend more of your time making sure your city is fully functioning rather than dressing it cosmetically. For better or worse, this ‘design for function’ style manages to make the game much more compelling to play than similar games, and you’ll quickly find yourself losing hours of time while putting together a new district because you were so sure that your newfound knowledge would make everything work perfectly.

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Mengville, currently approx 9 hours old and spanning 4.5 Tiles out of a possible 25

 

A deep zoom down to ground level in Skylines will quickly tell you that the traffic and citizen simulation aren’t the only things with attention to detail – buildings have parking areas outside them, takeaway shops have animated TV’s in the window trying to entice people in, trucks leave the cargo trainyard after the train rolls in, and you can constantly see and even follow emergency services around as they go about their day saving lives (or in my case, heading to a fire but getting stuck in traffic). As Mayor you also get to analyze your city down to the smallest details, with easy access buttons to check on all aspects of how things are going (eg. pollution, crime levels, ambient wind?!, education levels…). You can even draw out individual districts and then tailor specific rulesets for them, perhaps you want to forbid heavy goods vehicles in a certain area, or legalize drug use in only one town – these all have gameplay effects of course.

A special paragraph definitely needs to go out to the steam workshop support, consider that the game has been out maybe a week or so, there are about 5000+ buildings available for download, and over a hundred mods which can augment the game – these are effects like making the game mechanics harder, allowing you to expand further, or even letting you view reddit posts ingame. These modders are adding features before the devs themselves can even get to them, i’m yet to find any proper flaws with the game, but some were upset to find no day/night cycle, so naturally people have already modded it into the game.

As mentioned briefly before, the graphics are impressive in their detail, the game looks nice in general and manages to stay fully functional regardless due to a really intuitive UI and easy to understand visual representation when building. There is also a cool tilt shift effect when you zoom in on your city, i liked this.
There isn’t a whole lot in terms of audio if i’m honest, there is some forgettable music that plays in the background along with the ambient city noises but i’ve got most of them turned down in favour of my own music (which says a lot unfortunately). That said, these sort of games often have minimal or crappy music anyway, so it’s not too much of a dealbreaker.

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Problems with the game are fairly minimal, with most of my frustrations coming from the unforgiving road management and citizen AI hellbent on taking the shortest possible route to get to their destination. It’s a shame that theres no multiplayer interaction at all present, even the ability to sneak a peak at a friend’s city would have been nice; collaborative building would also have been awesome, but i’ll forgive them for the omission of this as I imagine it’s no easy feat.
Err… what else annoyed me…hm. theres gotta be more than that…
– Half the building types are locked until you raise your population a certain amount, which can prevent you from optimal building, but this can of course be removed via a mod.
– The criteria for building a harbour is vague and i’m not sure what im doing wrong, the ingame help for this specific building could be better.. Again I imagine theres a mod that can let me build the harbour in the middle of the city but…
– Certain endgame buildings have silly requirements which are counterintuitive to unlock, things like having a high crime rate.. I shouldn’t have to botch my city just to be able to build the final buildings.
– Underground rail networks are messy and unintuitive, I wasn’t aware that underground trains could turn at right angles.

I guess that’s it for annoyances? Wow.

Verdict:

Cities: Skylines is the best city building game in a long long time, I’ve already lost a fair amount of time to it, and my city is only 4 tiles large – meaning there are 21 tiles left to go.
It really isn’t an exaggeration to say that Skylines nails the genre, and their refreshing openness to player modding and asset creation mean that this is a game which will only get better with time. Skylines is also surprisingly cheap for a modern new game, currently at only £23 on steam, and apparently cheaper elsewhere.

Approximate Game Length : Very Long
Actual Worth / Steam Price: £27 / £23 = 1.17
Should you play it : Yes, especially if genre fan

Rating: 5 / 5

Dragonball Xenoverse (PC) Review

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It’s been a hell of a long time since i’ve played a Dragonball game, probably the last one I remember was one of the Budokai’s or Tenkaichi on the PS2, with some 15 games and 10 years since my last foray into the series, I was intrigued and excited.

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Dragonball Xenoverse is for new gen consoles and PC, and starts the game with a hype as fuck metal version of the anime’s original japanese song, Cha-La Head cha-la, which really gets you into the mood for punching dudes. From there on, it’s a collection of new story, ingame and anime cutscenes and a slew of campaign and free missions to play.
Xenoverse is a 3rd person fighter, and plays similarly to the zone of the enders series (lock on, and mash buttons dynasty warriors style, or use some of the many Ki attacks).

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So what do you need to know about Xenoverse…
The story is an interesting ‘history is being rewritten’ one, and has you travelling back in time to all of the famous battles you watched as a child, only something plays out differently – the end result is almost always the same of course, kill the enemy, but the way in which these scenarios are presented (well animated cutscenes) is a nice touch and helps explain why you are fighting with X, and why you are fighting against Y.
The core of the game is set out almost like an MMO – after creating your character, you progress through the story which unlocks the free missions, you get exp for playing anything, and can use this to buff your core stats in whatever way you choose (I like.). Your cosmetic choices are generally governed by your money (also gained from missions) or can be random drops in free missions, similarly all of the skills in the game can be equipped, but are dropped randomly by their respective user in free missions, or they can be provided by ‘trainers’ which are basically the named characters which appear in the hub world.

It’s a pretty cool choice, and a nice change from ‘oh ok, i’m Krillin, i guess i have destructo disk, solar flare, etc’, as now you can dress vaguely how you want (tied down to lore based dresswear of course) and pick whatever skills you desire – You’re free to go for a heavy melee fighter with physical combo skills and breakout moves, or you can put 4 variations of the kamehameha as your spells (why.).

There is online multiplayer as well, with co-op free missions, as well as online 3v3 battles and a tournament mode, which I assume is either 8 player rumble or perhaps a structured 1v1 tourney, i’m honestly not sure. I get the feeling this game will be great fun to play with friends, and either really fun or really frustrating to play against people online depending on the level of your character and how good you are at comboing/evading.

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The main part of the game then, if not already implied, is combat – everything else is kind of this facade for the actual game which is just a 3d fighting game. Is it any fun? Ehhh… It’s OK. And that’s where Dragonball Xenoverse sort of starts to come apart. I love almost everything else about the game, the characters, the skill selection, the grindy nature of it… but the main dish, the actual thing you’ll be doing 90% of the time, feels lacking. There are only so many combos available to your character, and then you can select 4 special moves, and 3 ultimate moves, everything after that just turns into rushing down your opponent, mashing 2 buttons and finishing with a skill – occasionally holding block or tapping A to evade out of an enemies combo. It’s pretty binary and doesn’t really lack the strategy that traditional fighting games has, and where everyone has such large health pools, you’ll find yourself having to do the same thing over and over before they go down. As a side criticism, there is this gigantic hub world, but it’s filled with pretty much nothing, theres no way to teleport or dash around, and so you end up wasting a lot of time running between counters for shops/missions.

As a final note, the artstyle is awesome – a nice cel shaded look which is clear to read and fitting for the series. The game also runs really well, at a straight 60 for me even with AA – it also supports 4k resolutions and 120/144 fps, so theres that too. Oh yeah, theres a shit load of characters (I was shocked when I found out the character select menu could scroll horizontally), there are around 40+ I believe – Personally, i’ve never wanted to play as any of the smaller members of the Ginyu Force, but y’know, that’s an option here.

Verdict:

If you can get over the somewhat mediocre combat, Dragonball Xenoverse has a ton of stuff to do, as well as online battles for you to show off your character and skills once you’ve geared up. The art style is spot on and the game is fun in short bursts – though you’ll often find those short bursts turning into hours of play due to the length of battles and grindy nature of the game.
If Xenoverse were a cheaper price (like £20, £25 max), i’d totally buy it, and I’m only the bare minimum of a Dragonball fan.

Approximate Game Length :  Long
Actual Worth / Steam Price: £20 / £40 = 0.5
Should you play it : For series fans only

Rating: 4 / 5

The Talos Principle (PC) Review

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I feel like Talos Principle went kind of under the radar late last year, and I suppose why wouldn’t it, the game had practically zero marketing and is a puzzle made by Croteam – yeah, THAT Croteam, the one with the long history of making deep puzzle games, OH WAIT. all they have made are serious sam games which involve headless men trying to jihad you.

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It was a surprise then, when Talos Principle actually turned out to be an incredibly competent 3d puzzle game; even more surprising is the massive amount of lore and storytelling they have managed to throw into the game. The core of the game involves small individual puzzles inside hubs which are inside other hubs, you’ll use lasers, jammers, fans, timed clones and more to make your way around doors, enemies, turrets and so on. There are a ton of puzzles, probably somewhere in the region of 100+ normal puzzles, then there are super hard puzzles which are unlocked by collecting star pieces, and these star pieces basically augment the normal puzzles and make them harder or require thinking outside of the box.

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Wall in the way? Put a laser transmitter on top of a box, and then float the box using a fan. Duh.

 

The hub worlds and the route of progression is pretty unique – each puzzle awards a tetromino which is used in the main hub to unlock new items or doors (to other hubs), it’s a strange world within world within worlds concept that ultimately really works in both a difficulty limiting fashion as well as a gated progression fashion, ensuring just enough of the world is left tucked away to keep you wanting to push forward. As expected, the further you get into the game, the harder and longer the puzzles become, however I felt the game did a fairly good job of introducing concepts gradually and letting the player figure out the rest – that is of course assuming you play the levels in order, which you don’t really have to. There are definitely some challenging levels in Talos Principle though, I personally found myself looking up hints/solutions about 5 times through my 9 hour playthrough, which isn’t too bad really, and shows that most of the puzzles can be fairly logically solved.

The story/narrative are also very impressively well done, and are not forced upon the player in any way – which is my favorite type of story. All of the lore and story are tucked away in obvious audio logs, or stored on computer terminals which are not required for progression – however the more you put in, the more you will get out, as the lore and world in Talos Principle is actually really interesting and mysterious (though I won’t say much more than that for spoiler reasons). I really did love the start of the game where nothing is explained, and everything is a mystery.

While there isn’t a massive amount of replay value, the game does it’s best at extending the game through natural means instead, as already mentioned there are a ton of crazy hard puzzles available, hidden behind extra hard puzzles. There is also just in general a lot of ground to cover and an expansive world to explore. Then finally there is a massive amount of easter eggs hidden away in the game, along with 3 endings.

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While Talos Principle might not have the strong storytelling of the portal series, or the more interesting mechanics of Quantum Conundrum, i’d argue that it has one of the more interesting worlds to wander through and has this mysterious tone throughout – and on the more obvious side, it’s really fucking long compared to everything else in it’s genre that i’ve seen, while being good enough that you’ll want to see it through. The game ran me approximately 9 hours for a normal clear, and probably much longer if you want to go for the stars and star levels.

Oh, as an ‘and finally’ note for the PC version, there are options in the graphical settings to change contrast, brightness etc, but also saturation, which I thought was really neat. More games should let me make them more colourful.

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Verdict:

Talos Principle is a shockingly good 3d Puzzler from Croteam, and easily puts up a good fight against it’s genre rivals like Portal. It’s filled with some great level design and game mechanics, beautiful environments, relaxing music and intriguing story.

Approximate Game Length :  9 Hours for basic clear with minimal extras
Actual Worth / Steam Price: £16 / £30 = 0.533
Should you play it : Yes, especially if you enjoy the genre.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

ps. At £30 normal price, the game is maybe a little on the steep side, but is probably a good buy at £20 or below.

Resi Revelations 2 Ep1 (PC) Review

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Mmmm.. So Resident Evil Revelations 2, admittedly I feel like i’m a tad out of the loop nowadays when it comes to Resi games, I didn’t get very far in Revelations 1, and I barely touched Resi 6 (for reasons we won’t get into right now). I did recently finish REmake HD again, but that’s a resi game from another time so i’m not entirely sure if it counts.

And so, here we have Revelations 2, a new episodic title in the franchise – As I understand it, there are 4 episodes to this game, each available for £5, or the whole lot for £20. These episodes, rather surprisingly, are also coming out on a weekly basis rather than the telltale style of waiting until everyone has forgotten what happened on the last episode before releasing the new one.

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I guess I’d better start talking about the game itself. It’s very similar to all of the recent Resi games, you run in a mostly linear fashion, you shoot zombies in the head, there is a second character with you (though done in a less clever way than Resi 0), you mostly don’t have ammo problems, there are grenades, you find items to progress and then there’s probably a climax event where you have to survive because everyone talks about that opening sequence of resi4 and so they just can’t let that shit go.

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The differences in Revelations 2 (at least in the PC version) is that there is a mysterious lack of co-op – despite there being 2 characters throughout the game, the second character also does not have a firearm but will instead possess a unique ability. There’s also a weapon parts/upgrade system, which is actually kind of cool and works by letting you add parts to your weapon to upgrade it. For some reason also, they have decided to put in a skill tree, I vaguely remember something like this being in one of the other recent games, so maybe this isn’t new at all, but you can spend your bp (exp) to unlock some small buffs – it’s worth mentioning that these aren’t your conventional skills, in that none of them actually straight up increase your health or damage, but rather work by changing the way your abilities work, or add bonus damage in special circumstances. Other new features include the ability to combine items to make new ones, alcohol can be combined with a bottle for the obvious firebomb, or combined with some cloth for a dressing – which is practically a necessity due to the new bleed system. The new bleed system occurs at a fairly low frequency, but will fill your screen with annoying blood splats and make your character drain health (seemingly rapidly) over time, I only got inflicted with bleed once by a large enemy, but it was highly annoying.

An unfortunate consequence of being part of the revelations series, seems to be that the game has kept in the item scouter from Revelations 1 – a laborious way of introducing extra items into the area, provided you scout them out, Revelations 2 does this by forcing you to use your second, defenceless character to point at items so that blind claire/barry can pick them up. Failure to play this shitty minigame of theirs will result in you having less ammo to fire, less herbs to use, etc.

Episode 1 takes place in a prison kind of area, and then a forest, with gameplay divided fairly equally between the Claire / Moira team, and Barry / Little Girl team (yeah, I forgot her name. always a good sign that you’ve made a memorable character and tried your hardest to integrate her into the story OH WAIT.). There is some overlap between the two, which I actually thought was kind of cool – seeing the consequences of one journey affect the next. Unfortunately the game kind of ends just as you start to get into it – the problem with episodic games I suppose. The title runs at exactly 90 minutes for me, though I imagine if you wanted to zerg it you could manage it in 30-45min on your first attempt.

Raid mode is unlocked on completion, which appears to be this title’s taken on the Mercenaries concept – However I remember mercenaries being more… intense, the raid mode in this feels more akin to running a low level dungeon in a PVE mmo on your own. The missions provide you with a linear path and then puts randomly spawning enemies in your area for you to kill, and these zombies (at the start of the mode at least) are the lowest of the low – providing absolutely no challenge whatsoever. So you run around, kill zombies, and then there are chests around the place which provide you with unidentified weapons/parts which you can use on your character, I imagine you can see where this is going. So what we have then, is a character who needs to level up to equip skills/items, we have a gold system, and then we have random item drops, and zombies with levels and life bars above their heads. Welcome what can only be described as a free to play Resident Evil game! …. Except its single player only… and you have to pay for it…

As a final note, many people on steam are complaining about bad frame rate issues and crashes, I didn’t experience any of these, but then again I was using a.. uhh.. ‘offline review copy’ we’ll say. If you do want to purchase this, it might be worth looking into patchnotes and stuff to make sure your experience isn’t marred. Personally, I had no issues running this on high settings @ 1080/60 stable.

Verdict:

Ehhh. The campaign mode of this episode can only be described as ‘adequate’, it’s not particularly scary, the new character doesn’t add a whole lot to the gameplay, and it’s terribly short. Raid mode has some interesting ideas, and would genuinely be a game I would play if it were online and free, but sadly it is neither of these.
It’s a solid modern Resi game, but that sadly doesn’t count for a whole lot nowadays.

Approximate Game Length : 1.5 Hours for this episodes campaign. Putting the estimate for the full game at 6-8 Hours
Actual Worth / Steam Price: £2 / £5 = 0.4
Should you play it : Nothing special. Fans of the series should wait for the inevitable steam sale when all the episodes are out.

Rating: 3/5

ps. Moira’s dialogue isn’t as bad as I anticipated from the early footage, majority of her lines are badly written to the point where it’s comical though, perhaps they are trying to establish shit dialogue as a Resident Evil feature?

Shadows of Mordor (PC) Review

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Shadows of mordor! Came out a while ago but I couldn’t be bothered to play it because, honestly, it didn’t look particularly interesting to me. Finished the game today after a few days of playing, and I guess it was better than expected – it’s probably the best Assassins Creed game in a long time, wait. what?

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I was kind of shocked to find out that the game is Monolith (FEAR, Condemned) and NOT ubisoft montreal (AC) or even Rocksteady (batman). The game is very easily described as a mix between Batman Arkham’s fighting and Assassins Creed’s murdering of key characters and world – and actually kind of does both of these better than the game’s it has stolen ideas from, nothing wrong with that though imo. An easy example is that because the main character is supernatural, he can climb almost comically fast, and jump off from viewing towers straight onto the floor without giving a shit.

Missions are relatively short and are triggered in the universe and are usually just killing people with a narrative to it, the main mean of the game however comes from the multiple generals and warchiefs placed throughout the world – this is tied into the main storyline by having you need to take out the top 5 generals in the world, effectively turning the game into a free form version of Assassins Creed. The top generals have bodyguards which bring extra options, charge in and take all 3 generals at once? Or kill off the bodyguards first before even starting the mission? Being allowed to murder generals as you wish is probably the best part of the game (each of them drop runes as well, which give extra perks to your character), it was awesome then to find out after I killed the top 5 warchiefs in the area that the game would introduce a second area with even harder warchiefs to kill, awesome.

On the other side of the coin however, that’s more or less all the game has going for it, the main missions are kind of plain, and the rest are a bunch of kill-em-all or stealth side missions, and then of course there are collectibles…
The upgrades system is kind of neat and introduces some cool attacks which feel impactful (eg. execute commands similar to those in Batman).

Graphically the game is fairly nice, even on low settings, though the world is a little plain in places, the sound is nothing special (though there is some sweet chanting when the warchiefs come out, which is badass).

Verdict:

Best Assassins creed game in a while, it felt great to sneak into fortresses and kill generals just for the fun of it, but overall you’ll only likely finish the game because the combat is fun – not because you cared about the story or rewards for side missions. It’s also perhaps on the short side, my playthrough only taking about 13 hours.

Approximate Game Length : ~13 Hours for main story and some side quests
Actual Worth / Steam Price:
 £15 / £21 = 0.71
Should you play it : No? It’s a clone game, but it’s a well done one – it’s fun to play, but i don’t think there’s much need to go out of your way to play this one.

Rating: 4/5

This war of mine (PC) Review

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Gave this war of mine a try, it seems like a decent game, with some fair depth if you get into it, but it’s extreme nature mean’s it’s hard to enjoy it as a video game.

For those who haven’t heard of the game, it’s basically a chronicling of war survivors, you have some survivors, you live in a bombed out house, you need to scavenge during the night to find resources or you’ll rapidly find yourself starving to death. And therein lie all of it’s issues as a fun game, TWOM is more of a challenge or similar than anything you would actually play for fun, the intentional slow pacing of the game, coupled with the high difficulty level will only leave the most hardcore to be able to see the later stages of the game, and as the game is a roguelike, one wrong move and you could find yourself murdered while scavenging, or mortally wounded while guarding your safehouse at night.

My reaction after a few hours with this game.
My reaction after a few hours with this game.

A brief overview of the gameplay entails the following: Wander around safehouse for a while, manually get each person to eat food so they don’t die, manually get someone to sleep during the day, possibly deal with someone at the door, then go out at night and scavenge a nearby level – stealthily walk around and collect supplies before realising you have no food and basically need to steal from other people to survive, steal from people because there is no way around it, people then start to attack you – forcing you to either attack back or flee/die.
And that’s basically the entire game from what I saw, you come back to your safehouse, which has probably been raided while you were away, maybe upgrade some of your equipment, and do the whole thing again, with stacking stress levels as each time you leave and don’t come back with food, water and medical supplies, your camp are one step closer to death.

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The game tries to do the ethical / moral thing, and succeeds on some fronts, an example being one of the earlier levels where you can burgle an elderly couples home. Problems begin though when you are forced into actions you would rather not take. A similar issue is that it’s impossible to talk with most of the characters you come across, making it hard to resolve situations peacefully – your character just silently walking around, pilfering through their stockpilings (of which is all useless shit like sugar cubes anyway)

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TWOM on the whole reminds me of a more fleshed out version of some newgrounds flash games where you have to do essentially the same thing but without the pretty graphics, these flash games were at least fast however, and didn’t require me to click on each individual character and tell them to eat (and then watch them slowly plod over to the fridge and spend 5 whole seconds consuming food, blocking everyone else from using it)

Verdict:

It’s a good challenge, and has some interesting ideas, but it’s simply not a fun video game on any level. Some gameplay tweaks could help it be less frustrating and speed things up, but ultimately TWOM’s core gameplay is that of a hardcore survival sim – something which will only appeal to a small subset of the roguelike fanbase. I personally couldn’t play this for very long before getting bored of the routine.

Actual Worth / Steam Price: £3 / £15 = 0.2
Should you play it : No, It’s a novel game, but i wouldn’t recommend buying it. It’s like the sims except nothing happens during the day, and you get burgled every night.

Rating: 2/5

This War of Mine 2014-12-02 19-26-20-61
Guess what happens next?

The Evil Within (PC) Review

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The Evil Within is supposedly the next big horror game from Shinji Mikami, famed for directing the original Resident Evil’s (Particularly 1 and 4). The latest hyped up survival horror which goes back to pure horror… or so they say. The game is currently hanging around the 70’s and 80’s on metacritic, which is maybe a fair score, however I’m not sold on the reasonings why other review sites are marking it down.

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But let’s start from the beginning, The Evil Within for all intents and purposes plays out as a sequel to Resident Evil 4 and occasionally like the new Resident Evil revelations. The game begins throwing you in to a true horror game, minimal weapons, very sparse ammo supply and some truly horrific enemies out to hunt you, it gradually transitions into a stealth horror as you find yourself devoid of ammunition – relying on stealth kills, avoiding enemies completely or luring them into environmental traps to dispose of them. The third and probably most common style of gameplay in The Evil Within is action horror, slowly guiding Sebastian through environments clearing the way via a succession of headshots before being thrown into a climax with a boss or horde scenario. It’s almost as if TEW forgets it’s way mid way through and then tries to correct itself for the next chapter, i’m unsure if the chapters were developed by different teams or what but they have some real contrasts inbetween them – this surprisingly actually works in TEW’s favour, as slower scarier chapters can often be found before/after intense action chapters and they work to enhance and contrast each other. There is a story here, though it’s more of a driving force to pull sebastian through the game’s twisting environments and to introduce it’s nightmarish creatures in a way which vaguely makes sense.

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So, similar to other games in this genre as of late, you will be given a selection of weapons as the game goes on (though relatively few, due to no proper inventory system – you’ll acquire weapons and use them for the rest of the game), these weapons along with your character can be upgraded by spending points you’ll collect in the game world – unlike most other games you’ll find that playing without upgrading at all is a very very bad time. The weapons by default are fairly weak, as is the main character (who I believe can only sprint for 2 seconds by default – nowhere near enough to outrun a crazy guy swinging around a chainsaw). Perhaps because the defaults are so weak, finally scraping up enough points for an upgrade often feels substantial and ‘a big deal’ – a nice change compared to games which play the ‘increases damage by 2%’ bullshit.

Following on, with all the weapon upgrade systems, it is unsurprising that towards the end of the game, TEW shifts from a horror to a flat out action game, later chapters include being attacked by men with rifles and full body armor, as well as taking out a humvee with a machinegun mounted on top (and then using said machinegun to fight off hordes of enemies). This is a bit of a shame, as the first half of the game does so well in terms of atmosphere and horror elements only to have the end turn into call of duty.

Enemies and environments play a big part in TEW, and the game provides both in abundance. After playing the demo at EGX, I kind of expected the entirety of the game to take place in mansions or psychiatric hospitals but the game provides those and everything inbetween including an unexpected trip to a castle town in broad daylight – somewhere which wouldn’t feel out of place in a dark souls game. Areas match their suited purpose, with extra atmosphere added for quieter sections.

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Enemies are arguably the best part of the game, standard enemies are appreciably creepy but the bosses are truly nightmarish – I’ll refrain from spoiling too much, but every boss is memorable and features their own set of mechanics to dispatch, most importantly all of them will make you fear for your characters life, there were multiple times I was so focused on trying to flee that I didn’t even realise they were able to be attacked. Safe head in particular (used in the promotional footage) is more terrifying than pyramid head in my opinion. A special mention also to a segment in the game with invisible enemies which hardly be seen at all, these enemies typically appear in areas with physics enabled props and complete silence – this segment was in my opinion one of the best parts of the game, as even minor noises coming from behind you will cause your eyes to widen, did that wheelchair just move? or am I imagining things?

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Onto the graphics, they are more than adequate even on the lowest settings on PC, with only low shadow quality causing any noticeable ugliness (low resolution shadow maps) however this is arguably a fault of your own PC rather than the game’s – You could always turn them up at the expense of framerate of course. On that note, many were frustrated that TEW would not support 60fps on PC, but the option is there and can be enabled fairly painlessly, only requiring a console command once per load, I would definitely recommend the PC version over the console version, having played both, even if you are on an aging PC like myself and can only pull 40FPS, the additional 10FPS buffer to prevent it from dipping into the low 20’s (as it does on console) is a real game changer. Though I wouldn’t advise it, you can also change the aspect ratio on PC to get rid of the cinematic letterboxing, or even increase it if you so choose. I found myself paying little attention to it after a few minutes of play though, once you get into the game you’ll likely not realise  the letterboxing is even present. Sound design could be better, ambient noises and music aren’t really powerful enough to set the mood on their own (unlike for example, Silent Hill), there is nothing wrong with the sound, but if they had put more emphasis onto the ambient music the tension could have been even higher.

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As a final note, is the game scary? Well.. Yes and No – there are definitely a ton of points in the game where you will be scared for Sebastian, times where you will audibly say out loud ‘oh god, please no’, yet your weapons are almost always on hand to remind you it’s a game. While I was creeped out at times, or scared of a particular enemy chasing me, there werent any moments during gameplay where I felt like I had to take a break because the game was too stressful or scary – similarly there were no points during play which I felt excessively uncomfortable (unlike a certain Silent Hill’s endless staircase into darkness). As mentioned I feel this is maybe in part due to weak atmospheric audio but also perhaps because despite the low ammo counts and so on, you always feel well equipped enough for the job.

Verdict:

Shinji Mikami pulls through again, a solid action survival horror which really puts into perspective how bad the recent Resident Evil games have become. The Evil Within is well put together and flows well, it’s a shame the game isn’t scarier, but it certainly does enough to unnerve you throughout with it’s great enemy and level design.

Approximate Game Length : 10-15 Hours
Actual Worth / Steam Price: £16 / £25 = 0.64
Should you play it : Yes, especially if you are a fan of the old survival horror games

Rating: 4/5

This is a pretty solid 4/5, the game mostly let down by some occasional FOV issues and identity issues including a lackluster third quarter.

Ps. Console commands you may need: ‘R_swapinterval -1’ sets 60fps cap, ‘R_forceaspectratio 2.0’ forces aspect ratio to 2.0, default is 2.5

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter (PC) Review

posted in: Games, Games Review | 0

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Went in completely blind to this one, had no idea what the game was about, and even after finishing the majority of it, i’m still not entirely sure I know.

However, after my time with the game, im fairly certain it’s the type of game that is better the less you know about it, so if you have any intention of playing it (it’s a first person adventure game similar to Dream or Dear Esther), I would recommend closing the page now and going in blind.

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Vanishing of Ethan is, at it’s heart, an exploration adventure game, from the start you are dropped into a breathtaking natural world and completely left to your own devices. The world kind of opens itself up to you as you explore it, and the ‘puzzles’ will reveal itself as you do.

The majority of the puzzles involve uncovering the details of murders which have taken place across the environment – done by finding and interacting with objects scattered around. Once you have interacted with all the items needed you are transported to the past, and have the opportunity to piece together the murder and discover what happened.

AstronautsGame-Win64-Shipping 2014-09-26 18-53-54-40 AstronautsGame-Win64-Shipping 2014-09-26 20-04-32-37AstronautsGame-Win64-Shipping 2014-09-26 19-57-41-85It’s an interesting formula, but the real meat of the game is in the world itself, just walking around taking in the scenery and discovering the buildings and murders as you go.

As previously mentioned, the graphics are lovely, lots of light rays, water reflections and greenery. Similar to other games of this type, the music is also great – I wouldn’t say it’s as memorable as… say… ‘dear esther’s soundtrack, but the piano melodies and ambient noises certainly work well and help give even more atmosphere.

Verdict:

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is an interesting but short adventure in a foreign world – almost like ‘European countryside simulator 2014’. The puzzle elements work, but aren’t the highlight of the game at all. Simply walking around and taking in the sights is worth your time, but possibly not your money.

Approximate Game Length : ~3 Hours
Actual Worth / Steam Price: £6 / £15 = 0.26
Should you play it : Could easily be skipped due to the genre of the game, but worth playing.

Rating: 4/5

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