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Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition Review (Wii U)

Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition Review (Wii U)

The influence of both Metroid and Castlevania is still felt to this day, especially during the last five or so years. One of the best examples of this influence can be found in last year’s Guacamelee, from developer Drinkbox games. With its 2D platforming, brawler combat system, and a lot of humor, Guacamelee became a hit across a number of platforms. Now it’s back in the shape of Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition, marking the game’s début on the Nintendo system. Guacamelee follows Juan, an average man slain by the kidnappers of El Presidente’s daughter. Juan reawakens to find himself in possession of a Lucha mask, granting him the power of the Luchador. From here, Juan must save El Presidente’s daughter while avenging his own death. Juan’s journey is a humorous romp across various environments beautifully presented in a cartoonish manner. While the story is never compelling or engaging, it does progress the game efficiently enough that it never becomes an issue that detracts from the overall experience.   The aforementioned Metroid influence is made clear pretty early on. Each environment hosts various sections that are only accessible after the player has unlocked certain skills. The risk of adopting this approach is putting far too many inaccessible areas in one zone early on, making the player feel trapped in a box. Thankfully Guacamelee does a fairly decent job of keeping the balance between keeping the player curious while allowing them to progress at a manageable level. The nifty parts of the environments hide secrets; this is what captures a genuine feeling of rewarding curiosity and exploration. The core gameplay of Guacamelee is accomplished. The jumping mechanics feel tight, responsive, and only the player can make errors. The combat is built around the idea of building combos and adjusting to the enemy in question. The early stages of the game feel rather repetitive due to the lack of abilities and a small range of enemy types. As the game chugs along, things become far more enjoyable with the player being granted more freedom in how they wish to build combos. With this focus on combos comes an unfortunate fascination with repeatedly putting the player into kill rooms. While it’s fun to string combos together in brainless kill rooms once or twice, it devolves into a repetitive chore after the sixth or seventh room within an hour or so of play.   One of the surprising highlights of Guacamelee is the platforming component. There’s a neatly entwined relationship between platforming and a number of the attacks featured within the game. There’s a number of cases in which the player is required to combine movements, jumps, and attacks in order to reach a certain point. The combination between challenge and skill is wonderfully delicate, making each tricky jump satisfying to pull off. It’s a neat touch that gives the core gameplay an extra dimension. The presentation of Guacamelee is a wonderful meld of bright colours and quirky character designs. The sheer boldness of the colours allows the game to almost jump out of the screen, which technically you can do given the Wii U’s capabilities. The game looks great on both a TV and a Wii U pad. The pad’s other features aren’t really used all that well, however, it’s only purpose is to host a mini-map. Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition is a wonderfully crafted experience. There’s little to truly complain about beyond some repetitive enemy patterns and some areas that feel a little less interesting than others. There’s enough content there to keep everybody happy given the price point–even more so given the local co-op that the game offers. With tight, responsive controls, wonderfully crafted platforming sections, and more than an odd giggle along the way, Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition is a great example of Metroid-inspired concepts put into practice.          ...

ONE PIECE: Unlimited World Red Review (3DS)

ONE PIECE: Unlimited World Red Review (3DS)

- Review by Ben Leslie ( @LegendHeroBen ) One Piece has been around for more than seventeen years, and is one of the best-selling Manga series in history. From the mastermind of Eiichiro Oda, its Anime is still going today with over 650 episodes that run weekly in Japan. The games themselves have had an impact over the years. One Piece: Unlimited World Red shows a good example of how colourful and well done an Anime game can be for the 3DS. It can ensnare anyone with an eye for crazy pirate adventures. If you’ve been following the series, World Red follows the adventures of Luffy and his misfit crew, The Straw Hat pirates. This feels more like a spin-off episode or even a movie where Luffy and his crew encounter and befriend a cheerful yet mysterious raccoon named Pato who possesses a shadowy power to create anything drawn onto a leaf. Helping their new friend, the Straw Hat Pirates agree to assist Pato on an ambiguous mission to meet someone. Pato then leads the crew to the Forgotten Island where all the Straw Hat Pirates except Luffy are successively kidnapped by a wicked pirate named The Red Count, who has escaped the lower depths of Impel Down. With Pato’s help, Luffy must fight to recover his crew from the enemy’s grasp and find out exactly what The Red Count’s evil plots are. But they also encounter some of The Straw Hat’s dangerous foes from Caesar Clown, Crocodile and Lucci. If you’ve played previous games like One Piece: Pirate Warriors, this might feel familiar to you in terms of gameplay. As you come across each of the levels you travel to, you’ll end up at one part of the map with countless enemies or at another area with the same thing. Each of the Straw Hat members you play as has their own battle commands and special attacks that become available for use once their gauge unit is full from fighting enemies. This can feel a little repetitive at times. You can also capture bugs and catch fish, leading to a mini-game for each of them that typically involve pressing various buttons and directions on the screen in order to capture them and get better at your skills for bug-catching and fishing. You can also expand the town of Trans Town, giving you more options and choices on gaining more new items and extra features from various shops and facilities. You can send and receive wanted posters to your friends if they also own the game when two systems are in close range. You will automatically pick up your friend’s wanted posters and send your own poster in return, including a scratch card game that only needs at least one coin to play. Its co-operative play can be fun when you can choose a quest level; as you collect more and more pirate points you will be able to choose more higher levels of quests. The visuals and animations are very impressive to see on a handheld system, but what really lacks about One Piece: Unlimited World Red is that the 3D effect isn’t well implemented at all, meaning you will not be able to see any fighting scenes in 3D-even with the 3D effect turned on. The camera system, which utilises the touch pad to pan across the screen, is also yet another big problem. This can be a little fiddly to do while fighting through enemies or bosses at the same time, but if you own a Circle Pad Pro this really make the game more comfortable to play. If you have a Wii U you can Data Link with Unlimited World Red. Also, if you own the game on the Wii U, you can transfer your save and data back and forth, meaning that you could play the game at home on the Wii U or on your 3DS if you are out and about. Getting through the main campaign can take you at least seven hours or more depending on how much you want to get out of the game. This would appeal more to the fans themselves, including a battle colosseum, where you’ll be in an arena fighting waves and waves of enemies and battling various friends and foes from the series. With rough textures and not a hint of good lighting to be found, it at least looks bright and vibrant, while character models are detailed and nicely made. W ith a well-rounded variety of missions and DLC on the eShop, this should keep anime fans and gamers happy for quite a while....

Blue Estate Review (PS4)

Blue Estate Review (PS4)

The light gun is nothing more than a fond memory, at least in today’s market. After enjoying a brief resurgence during the hayday of motion video games, the light gun crept back into the shadows once more. It comes with some surprise that Blue Estate, a comic-inspired on-rails shooter, has stepped forward to replicate the light gun experience using only the accelerometers in the PS4′s controller. The PS4′s motion control capabilities have hardly been pushed or even used all that much, and especially not to their limits. The concept of basing the entirety of a £16.99 video game on an untested feature creates an instant notion of caution. Things aren’t helped by past failings by other light gun games that have tried to adopt motion controls from the likes of Kinect or the Wii. Unsurprisingly the controls of Blue Estate are the primary issue, but not as big of an issue as might have been expected. The control scheme is simple, yet uses two of the most curious features of the PS4 pad: the touch screen and motion controls. Aiming, as expected, is done by using the pad to shift the crosshair around the screen. The crosshairs can be reset to the centre via a quick tap of the L1 button. R2 acts as the trigger and L2 is utilized for the cover and reload mechanics. The touch screen is used for interactive sections of the game, such as picking up health, melee, and enemies. The touch screen is also used in quick-time events that happen during certain levels, as well as various other bits and bobs that see the player interact with the environment. For the most part, the general shooting experience is solid. The PS4 pad takes a while to get used to when used in the capacity required, but after a while it feels natural, and most importantly, it works. There are a few elements that feel slightly frustrating. For example, when switching weapons the crosshair tends to fly off the screen. While the L1 button resets crosshairs, it’s frustrating to have to constantly realign the aim on a regular basis, detracting from the core experience. Behind the shooting there’s a score system keeping the action flowing. Points are earned by chaining combos together as well as pulling off special shots. Scattered across each level are short shooting galleries where the player is tasked with popping headshots. They break up the fast-paced action but feel somewhat forced at times. The points system only truly lends itself to a visual representation of how well the player did. Leaderboards are supported, but with no unlocks, only board-climbers will have an interest in racking up points. Blue Estate‘s campaign isn’t especially long, either. Clocking in at around 3-4 hours, it is enjoyable but limited. The whole deal is filled with pop culture references poking fun at various video games and shows, with the Game of Thrones reference being the most obvious. The campaign follows Tony Luciano, the son of one of LA’s most notorious crime lords. Tony is a greasy, disaster-prone slime ball who enjoys hair styling, hookers, and shooting. Tony finds himself stuck in the middle of a gang war centered around his favourite hooker, Cherry. Tony, being the gentleman he is, sets out to defend Cherry while his father drafts in help from gun-for-hire Clarence. Blue Estate requires its player not to take themselves too seriously. The plot has a huge undertone of exploitative cinema running throughout it, mixed with the snark you’d expect from a jaded pop culture expert. There’s a decent amount of environments on offer, each with their own enemy types and mini-bosses. The campaign is fun but never something that makes an impression. Not that the campaign was trying to do anything more than that, however. While the campaign is fun, it’s made even better via local two player co-op, a rare feature in modern video games. The overall Blue Estate experience is solid and well produced. The visuals aren’t exactly stunning, but they do lend themselves well to the tone and art style of the game. The action is fast, perhaps too fast for the controls, but remains enjoyable throughout. Given its length and lack of content, the price point of £16.99 seems a little high. Ultimately, Blue Estate is a decent on-rails shooter with plenty of cheap laughs. The only problem holding it back from being widely recommended is the price. Fun, funny, enjoyable, but overpriced.      ...

EA Sports UFC Review (PS4/Xbox One)

EA Sports UFC Review (PS4/Xbox One)

EA’s UFC has been one of the company’s most hyped titles, mainly due to its visuals. After months of press releases, trailers and screenshots, does the game deliver the realistic experience promised? In short, no. Not entirely, at least. At its core, MMA is arguably the purest form of competition. The sheer amounts of disciplines that factor into the sport give it such a sense of depth that not many other sports can match. This alone makes MMA a tricky sport to translate into a video game. Every fight starts on the feet, and this is possibly the strongest elements of EA UFC’s gameplay. The range in strikes gives the players more than enough options to create combos and put a bit a flare into their fight style. Each strike carries a genuine sense of impact; faces wobble, cut and bruise, and it’s noticeably realistic. This allows the striking to become an instantly rewarding mechanic that engages players, as well as spectators, straight away. There’s a sense of ease to stringing together basic combos. Knees and fists can be strung together in effective methods without requiring too much thought. There’s a number of advanced stand up techniques, mostly built upon the blocking and evasion mechanics, which require some time to learn. The basic stand up is well rounded, but that quickly becomes a problem given how simple it is compared to other key elements of the fight, such as clinching, grappling, and wrestling. Stand up only makes up part of the sport; any fighter who doesn’t learn the ground game wont last very long. This is where EA UFC runs into some major issues. The clinch is solid, with controls that are easy to learn and a viable part of the game. The same can also be said of the takedowns, which carry a sense of weight to them. The ground game, however, is an utter mess of confusion, frustration and bemusement. Transitioning from position to position, be it from the top or bottom, feels like a horrid dance of jerking analogue sticks around in hope more than expectation. Even after taking time to learn the controls, the ground game never feels accomplished and becomes something the player fears rather than utilizes.   It’s frustrating that such a key part of the sport is so undercooked and so rough around the edges. What should be a smooth experience, with plenty of depth, is instead a flurry of stick wiggles and button presses while the on-screen fighter wiggles in a strange limp motion. It’s rare the ground game feels smooth or useful. It instead feels like a hindrance that is unfairly thrown upon the player as the AI imposes its willful mount with ease. While it may seem like a small issue to those not familiar with MMA, these ground game issues are in fact a big deal given how large of a part the ground game plays in any given fight. It’s unfortunate that the effort put into the stand up is deflected by shoddy mechanics used for the ground game, mainly the transitions. There’s also an issue that pops up with how submissions are handled. Attempting a submission prompts an odd mini game in which the victim presses in a direction while the submitter tries to match his victim’s stick wiggles. The mini-game feels out of place, even more so given the pace and presentation of each fight. The mechanic simply doesn’t match what is going on, almost cheapening the experience.   The visuals of EA UFC are what have been the main focus, at least in terms of marketing. To EA’s credit, the character models are mostly stunning. The attention to detail is staggering, from the scars on Jon Jon’s face, to the readable text on Rousey’s ankle tattoo.The finer details have all been taken care of. There are one or two character models that feel a little less well crafted, mainly Chael Sonnen and Alexander Gustaffason, both of which carry a distinct video game look. The general set dressing isn’t quite up to the standards on the character models. Arenas feel oddly vacant, lacking the soul and buzz of a real UFC event. It seems odd that EA would go to so much effort to create fantastic character models only to put them into rather vapid arenas. Thankfully the soul of the fights is injected with how much damage is shown on the respective fighters. When a punch is thrown, the impact is visible. Bodies will ripple, cuts and bruises will appear, and it gives each each fight a much needed sense of life, as well as adding weight to each punch, knee, kick and takedown.   One of the main criticisms of EA UFC is the lack of content on offer. While ninety-seven fighters may sound impressive, there aren’t many modes to use them in. While past UFC titles by other developers made full use of the UFC’s purchases of the PRIDE (the premier MMA promotion pre-UFC days) and history, EA has focused mainly on the current times. Aside from the standard fight mode and online modes, there’s a career mode built around The Ultimate Fighter TV show. Players create a fighter and fight their way through the UFC in pursuit of capturing gold. In between fights, players complete various drills in order to obtain evolution points. These points can be spent on new moves or by boosting the player’s attributes. As players enter the bigger fights in their career, more sponsors and gyms will become available. The career mode has a rather curious mechanic which dictates how long the player’s career lasts. After each fight, the player will be presented with an overview of how much damage they took and what impact it has on their career. Much like real life, taking numerous heavy hits in each fight will cut short the fighter’s career. Players wishing to have a long and illustrious careers are forced to take note of how much damage they are taking. This mechanic forces players into changing their approach to fights in order to maintain their fighter’s career. It gives the mode a genuine sense of depth as it pushes the player to learn the game and formulate genuine game plans rather than relying on throwing bombs each fight.   The online multiplayer is adequate enough but lacks anything to truly write home about. There are often times when players will come into contact with players from across the pond, creating a laggy connection. The lag doesn’t make the game unplayable, but it does make it frustrating. It’s hard to string combos together when a 2-3 second delay keeps occurring. As stated, this only seems to happen with overseas connections and is not an issue that runs throughout. If there’s one hugely annoying issue with the multiplayer, it’s the inclusion of Bruce Lee as DLC. Boasting insane speed and power, Bruce Lee is possibly the best fighter in the game, and he’s locked as paid DLC or as a pre-order bonus. Having the option to play as Bruce Lee is a huge advantage over those without him. His sheer speed makes him near impossible to out-strike, creating a feeling of pay-to-win. It feels like a low blow by EA as they try to make a quick buck. EA’s first attempt at a UFC game is admirable, but flawed. While the stand up is satisfying and the visuals impressive, the ground game is a huge detractor. Given how vital the ground game is, the core gameplay is effected by the rough nature of the ground game mechanics. It’s a hugely frustrating part of the game that truly sucks the pace, fluidity and enjoyment out of each bout .A lack of feinting strikes, option to touch gloves, no leg kick KOs and everyone being able to pull of flashy (physical impossible moves for some) moves also makes for some annoyances. The lack of modes and content is also an issue, one that feels like the product of a rushed release more than anything. Given the calibre of past UFC titles, EA’s attempt may look the part, but it doesn’t feel like the complete package. While the game is enjoyable for the most part, the issues truly hinder the overall game from reaching the heights it could have reached.  ...

Wolfenstein: The New Order Review (PS4/ Xbox One/ PC)

Wolfenstein: The New Order Review (PS4/ Xbox One/ PC)

There aren’t many first-person shooters that can raise a smile via gunning down waves of enemies, only to stop you in your tracks and make you question some pretty heavy topics. Dual wielding machine guns while unleashing hell one bullet at a time in one moment, mulling over racism and oppression the next. Wolfenstein: The New Order is far from what was expected. Franchise protagonist B.J. Blazkowicz is back, complete with a voice and high-definition chin, and once again he’s battling the Third Reich. The New Order opens with a brief mission set during, what should be, the end of World War 2, as B.J. and his team assault a Nazi compound. Right from the start, the tones and themes of New Order are laid out: robotic Nazi Dogs; Frankenstein-like super-soldiers; and giant mechanical units dominating the field. The opening mission acts as a tutorial as well as an introduction to the game’s antagonist, General Deathead, climaxing in a choice that impacts the rest of the game. The story then picks up some years later, in a world where the Nazis have gone on to global domination. The alternative timeline is the perfect place for traditional Wolfenstein enemy designs to make an appearance. There’s a number of times in which the enemy design is genuinely impressive due to their sheer twisted creativity. Their over-the-top nature feeds into the desired tone of the game. At least for the most part. The New Order doesn’t seem to want to take itself too seriously, but at times its nature comes into conflict with the more somber moments of the game. For example, a number of times a cutscene will focus on the horrors of war, while there’s also a short scene in which the topic of racism is touched upon. While these sections are well done and give the game a sense of soul , they come off a little out of place given how over-the-top the game is.     The action is relentless and outlandish, removing any sense of realism in favor for sheer balls-to-the-wall fun. There’s a sense of unbridled power when B.J. dual-wields assault rifles and creates a tidal wave of bullets and Nazi corpses. The core enjoyment of New Order is down to how well Machine Games has nailed the gameplay. There’s a strong sense of understanding and appreciation for classic first-person shooters. Running and gunning has never felt so good, each movement furled with a tight control scheme that lends well to the fast-paced action at hand. Wolfenstein: The New Order freshens up the gameplay by including a perk system that feeds into how the player plays the game. Perks will unlock once the player has met the criteria. For example, the stealth tree requires stealth kills and keeping a low profile to progress. The other trees mostly cover making things die at the hands of various weapons. It’s a simple system that gives the player short-term goals to improve their efficiency in the way they play, and it’s welcome and well rounded addition to the franchise.   Shockingly, there’s quite a lot of freedom when it comes to how a player can approach most situations. Each level often plays host to a number of paths for the player to take. Want to go in all guns blazing? There’s a path for that. Want to take it slow, steady, and adopt a stealthy approach? Heck, there’s often two paths for that. The choices aren’t simply there for show–the stealth is genuinely well done for a game that’s mostly about shooting literally everything in front of the player. In terms of production value, The New Order ranges from fantastic to questionable. Cutscenes are beautiful, with some characters coming to life thanks to fantastic detail and smooth animation. The visuals during gameplay tend to dip in and out of being decent to rough, however. Some textures can look slightly last-gen, especially on the weapons. It’s not that the game looks bad, it’s just that it struggles to truly make the impression that the game fully belongs on the new hardware from Sony and Microsoft. The game’s audio is adequate but has little to get excited or complain about.     The New Order does a lot well, but there are a number of issues littered around throughout that stop it from truly excelling. The 18 certificate given to the game seems like the result of some awkwardly forced-in scenes. Sex scenes and some random gore moments feel out of place and forced, even more so when they are sandwiched in between some heavy ethical topics. Also, the weapons on offer feel a little tame, which is disappointing given how creative the game is elsewhere. The main issues are mostly buried in the technical side of things. Enemy AI can go a bit off the wall and unresponsive to the actions around them. Enemies can find themselves trapped on scenery, as well the player. Boss battles are also thrown into The New Order, none of which feel engaging or even challenging, allowing some sections to feel a little underwhelming. Wolfenstein: The New Order is a solid experience. The action is solid, the experience is enjoyable, and by the end of the decent-length campaign, the player feels truly well traveled thanks to a fantastic range of environments. It’s a shame, then, that The New Order struggles to keep a balance between being over-the-top and serious. Fun, conflicted, sometimes even sad, The New Order is enjoyable but not essential, but is nevertheless a return to form for a somewhat forgotten franchise.      ...

Full Bore – Review (PC)

Full Bore – Review (PC)

Full Bore is in an interesting game in that sense that it takes the whole block puzzle game to a new formula and you play as a Boar, hence the title sort of being a play on words. You explore crumbling ruins, and various other locales while digging for treasure? I don’t really know considering I couldn’t exactly find much reason as to why I’m digging around in these ruins. Treasure seems to be the logical thing and from what I can tell there wasn’t much risk of failure either. From my time spent with the game I didn’t encounter any enemies, or any risk of death what-so-ever. You’ll encounter various puzzles while playing, but there’s no incentive of actually completing said puzzles which is kind of a letdown. Other than unlocking a path for some collectible gems, and some bits of lore/backstory for the game. Nothing really rewarding unless you’re one of those people who needs every collectible collected at the end of the day. That being said, the core aspect of the game involves you digging around in these environments to progress to different areas of the map but the downside of this as mentioned above is just the lack of incentive for progress. There’s really no sense of accomplishment, and there’s a sort of weird timing involved with the controls which makes the feel of the game feel really odd to grasp and took me a good half an hour to really grasp how the controls work, and make my movements a little more fluid. Visually, the game is very appealing and the particle effects and system present in the game is pretty nice to behold. However, that’s not much of a reason alone to drop almost $15 on something like this that in the end is lacking what I tend to look for in a game most and that is that it needs to be fun and make me feel like I’ve accomplished something while playing. The whole draw and appeal for the game seems to be for the collectors, and people who love exploring vast caverns, and dungeons. I like to think of myself as one of those people but there needs to be more of a draw than just that for me to fully enjoy what is displayed out in front of me. Is Full Bore a terrible game? Not by any means, no. There’s some moments of enjoyment in the game, but I could only find myself enjoying it in very small bursts. I can see what the developers over at Whole Hog Games tried to do with the title but frankly there’s similar games out there that offer more bang for your buck. That being said, if you’re one of those people who love collecting items and exploring dungeons and that’s a major appeal for you then you’ll no doubt have a blast with Full Bore, but for someone like me the game just sadly couldn’t capture my attention.  ...

Outlast: Whistleblower – Review (PC)

Outlast: Whistleblower – Review (PC)

If you didn’t read our review for Outlast on the PS4 then go take a peek over here at Sean’s article. This review is all about the DLC add-on/prequel for the game called Outlast: Whistleblower which was released on May 6th, 2014. It takes place before the original game where player’s take on the role of Waylon Park whom is the character who sends Miles Upshur (the protagonist of Outlast) an email about some odd things going on with Mount Massive Asylum which causes Miles to come investigate. Thus the title of Whistleblower as you’ve effectively just leaked a ton of secrets protected under the numerous NDAs. The game pretty much plays exactly like the original game but uncovers just how the Mount Massive outbreak happens that we see in extreme detail during Outlast. But a point I need to drop before we dig into this review is that Whistleblower may just be scarier than the original and some more…disturbing elements. Like the original game, you’re pretty much thrust straight away into the horrors going on behind closed doors in Mount Massive. Yet, this time you’re committed as a patient after being caught emailing secrets to Miles Upshur but eventually break out of your constraints when shit hits the fan. You soon encounter various other inmates going on killing sprees and finding out that most of the staff at the Asylum are fleeing for their lives from various figures. The most noticeable for me was what appeared to be a Doctor being drowned in a toilet from one of the inmates. What a way to go, eh? Drowning in a toilet full of poo. Aside from poo-drowning and other various disturbing things in this DLC we also see probably the most terrifying character in both games as well as most modern horror games I’ve played and that’s the lovely cannibal, Frank Manera. He’s just really fucking spooky and every time I encountered him it just made me feel tense and put me on edge. I didn’t enjoy his encounters, and that’s just because of how eerily and uncomfortably creepy he was. He really hits you hard with the whole uneasy feeling that the original Outlast and this DLC are so good at doing. This might also stem from the fact that his weapon of choice is an electric saw and the sound of it turning on, and revving up really make you tense up and on numerous accounts made me feel a sense of dread. But what about the minor complaints of jump-scares and sort of tedious nature of the original game? This feels a little more refined and polished in that sense. The jump-scares are few, and far between and when they do pop up they’re pretty memorable and that’s how I like it. They don’t riddle the DLC with them and the ones we do get stick with you for the entire experience. Of course it’s pretty much like the core game when you’re running from one end of the asylum to the next while baddies hunt you down and some even more insane baddies have sinister desires for your…body. The first game had a creepy doctor, and a giant, hulking monstrosity hunting you down and I’m glad we don’t see them again and are instead graced with two more villainous characters to keep us entertained. The Cannibal, and the Groom who’s intention is all about doing stuff with your naughty bits. It’s spooky, and it sort of sticks in your head and becomes memorable. Hell, the main antagonists of the DLC are the thing that I’ll be taking away from this experience the most. They’re downright horrifying. Outlast: Whistleblower is what the core-game should of been and felt like the first time around. Even though Outlast was a wonderful horror game, Whistleblower comes along and just blows it out of the water in terms of scares, environments, and just in general as a horror experience. If you loved the original game then you owe it yourself to check out the DLC. It’s cheap and is well worth the entry point. I’ll sit here patiently and await for the announcement of Outlast 2. It’s got to happen right? For those of you who like number scores with their game reviews I’ll have to give Whistleblower a solid… 8/10  ...

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls Review

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls Review

Diablo 3, or at least the PC version of the game, was almost universally considered a disappointment when it initially released back in 2012. The final version of the game felt undercooked and rather rushed, mainly due to the sheer lack of direction the game suffered from once the titular Diablo had been slain. It’s taken nearly two years since then, but Diablo 3 is no longer what it was, and Reaper of Souls is the mark of Diablo‘s full rebirth. Reaper of Souls instantly feels more canon-related to Diablo stories of old, which is something the third entry didn’t do all that well. The Archangel Malthael has cast aside his old ways and adopted the mantel of the Angel of Death, with the aim to burn through the mortal world. Enter franchise-familiar Tyrael (now in his human form) and the player-controlled Nephalem; only they stand between Death and the destruction of new location Westmarch. As expected, the Angel of Death brings forth a horde of various undead creatures to suck the souls out of the Gothic Westmarch. This is where things feel distinctly Diablo–a dark tale set upon a highly Gothic-infused location littered with grim imagery and hints of the occult. The whole Westmarch act feels almost alien to the rather bright locations of Diablo 3‘s core campaign. Westmarch, and the Reaper of Souls story, has a much more darker tone, fitting the game’s art style perfectly.     The core of Diablo 3 has also been reworked as part of the pre-expansion patch known as Loot 2.0. The majority of character skills have been tweaked, as well as the loot tables from level 1 through 70. The skill tweaks have a profound effect on the gameplay, as veterans will find themselves testing new builds and tweaking their previous. The loot table fixes one of the biggest issues of Diablo 3‘s original release, with players are no longer being stuck using the same items (most of which never changed in terms of aesthetic until level 50+) for long stretches of the game. The new loot system now means players will receive loot more relevant to their class far more regularly than they did pre-patch. Gone are the days where you could grind for hours in the hopes of discovering a legendary item only for a Wizard item to drop instead. Well, mostly, anyway. Top-geared players from Diablo 3 will find their items quickly replaced with rare items, while legendaries simply blow most pre-patch items out of the water, still. The sense of satisfaction and enticement when a legendary item drops brings with it a sense of joy to Diablo that was missing in the original release. Legendary items become so alluring that they will often entice a player to rethink their build. The most decent legendary items often play host to effects that are tied to a certain skill; creating a build to cater for one of these effects can truly optimize a player’s ability in-game in a noticeable way.   The previously mentioned patch gives Reaper of Souls a sense of progression that was often missing during the original Diablo 3. Most of the previous builds that were universally accepted as the best have been tweaked, giving each skill a sense of legitimate worth resulting in more options and room to play when it comes to creating a successful build. The one gripe with having so many options, however, is the lack of a ‘save build’ feature which would compliment the experimental nature of the new skill system were it present. Further changes extend to the Paragon system, known as Paragon 2.0. Once a character has hit max level (now level 70 in Reaper of Souls), they can begin to earn Paragon levels which, with the new system, give one stat point to put into a predetermined area. These points can be spent on increased damage, defence, or quality of life stats which carry over to all characters on the account. Paragon 2.0 gives players a long-term goal and an incentive to continue playing after the core level cap has been hit and the top-end gear has been acquired. It’s perhaps a feature that may appeal only to the hardcore player (it is, after all, a mammoth grind to reach the 800 cap), but it’s nevertheless a welcome addition to the core game.   Reaper of Souls may only offer one act, which is rather short, but the addition of Nephalem Rifts and bounties more than makes up for it. Players can choose to either play the campaign or venture out into Adventure Mode. This new mode allows players to go out on bounties which grand rewards consisting of experience, gold, rift keys, and blood shards. Bounties are simply objectives marked out within an area across all the acts of Diablo 3–including Westmarch. While these bounties are simply doing an already existing event/boss, they give Diablo a true sense of an endgame that strays away from the dull farming that the pre-Reaper experience offered. Nephalem Rifts are opened via rift key fragments and act as the game’s main endgame challenge. Players enter the rift and slay everything in their path; the monsters are buffed and the bosses are plentiful, creating a true challenge. Each rift climaxes with a boss being summoned, who, upon death, drops a generous amount of loot, including a blood shard. These shards are used to buy random items from a vendor that have random stats–similar to gambling system in Diablo 2. Both the Rifts and Bounties are enjoyable to embark upon, acting as a way to truly test your character’s power or simply level-up. At the end of the day, it’s repeating the same thing over and over, but oddly it rarely becomes repetitive as both options just feel so engaging, rewarding, and ultimately fun to play.   The biggest addition, or at least the most obvious, is the new playable Crusader class. At it’s core, the Crusader is a versatile wrecking machine equipped with some truly awesome skills and passives. Their skillset feels fresh and unique from the other classes’ this is not a simple re-skin that some had feared. The Crusader’s attacks range from various close-range single/multiple target attacks, to more heavy area-of-effect skills, as well as the curious ability to summon a spiritual steed. The ability to hold a two-handed weapon, as well as a shield, is an empowering skill that gives players a legitimate choice to make. The problem with just how fun, effective, and well-crafted the Crusader is, however, is that the already existing classes feel rather flat in comparison.   Reaper of Souls feels like the complete Diablo experience that was lacking in the original release. While it’s frustrating that Blizzard took such a long time to make Diablo 3 what it should have always been, it’s nevertheless appreciated. Every update, tweak, and addition to the game has allowed Reaper of Souls to truly feel like the end result of Blizzard’s hard work. The new environments are distinctly in line with the Diablo of the past, the loot system is far superior to what it once was, and the Crusader is the poster child of the change and improvement of Diablo 3. Even the minor addition of the ability to change items stats and cosmetic look feels like a nod towards Blizzard’s attempts to make peace with their disgruntled fans. The results of months of patches, fierce criticism, and growing competition in the market, Reaper of Souls is what Blizzard originally promised us in Diablo 3–and it more than hits the mark. Extra praise is warranted for boss battles actually feeling like boss battles now. Tight gameplay and mechanics, along with a huge amount of replay value, makes Reaper of Souls worth checking out–even if Diablo 3 left a sour taste in your mouth.    ...

DARK SOULS II – Review (Xbox 360)

DARK SOULS II – Review (Xbox 360)

I’ve probably redone this review numerous times already, and for some reason I keep feeling like my reviews for this game aren’t doing it justice. So, without further ado I’m throwing everything I can at this review and gonna pump it out quicker than my bowels do after an all you can eat Mexican dinner. Dark Souls II is the sequel to From Software’s Dark Souls which released in 2011. This new iteration in the franchise takes everything we loved about that amazingly, difficult game and did some tweaks to improve the overall performance and experience of the game, but also making it more accessible to gamers wanting to dip their toes into this series. In the game you control a cursed Undead trying to find a way to cure this curse that has been afflicted upon them. It isn’t linked to its predecessor other than taking place in the same world. The story takes place in the land of Drangleic, full of souls to help undead maintain their humanity while fighting the curse of the undead. The general story follows the cursed Undead, who is drawn to Drangleic by some sort of compelling force only to meet other Undead who have traveled to Drangleic for the same reasons. To not fall victim to the curse, which slowly erases the afflicted memories and soon they become the mindless undead. That’s pretty much the basis of the plot revolving around the game, and explains the quest that players will set out on without divulging too much into spoiler territory. For the people unfamiliar with the Souls series, it’s an action RPG that is known for the mass amounts of difficulty that gets shoved down your throat. Dark Souls is quite possibly the hardest games I’ve ever played, yet sadly I never got around to playing Demon’s Souls when I owned my PS3. That being said, it feels like Dark Souls II would be the game I’d recommend to someone eager to dip their toes into the franchise. DS2 feels a hell of a lot easier than the first game, and feels way more accessible for someone to pick up & play and get themselves prepared for the journey ahead. Does this mean Dark Souls II isn’t a good game? Hell no. By all means it’s a fantastic game and could quite honestly be better than most of the current-gen games we’re getting on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. There’s also a ton of content to see in the game, and you really wouldn’t have to worry about not getting your $60 worth. It’s quite a lengthy game, depending on how good you are at these games. I’m quite rubbish and I defeated the end boss nearing about the 65 hour mark. Yup, you read correctly. It took me 65 hours to finish the game and that’s without doing much side-content so there’s a lot of meat to the experience of Dark Souls II. I’ll get flak though because I enjoyed my experience with this game then I did with the original. I actually finished this game, where as I gave up on Dark Souls around Blighttown. Not only does this game feel more refined, but it plays better than the original and adds some new features that make the experience that more enjoyable. The main aspect being a better multiplayer system. I never could get it to work well in the original Dark Souls, and was surprised at how fluid it was and well it seemed to work in DS2. You can summon other players to help you take on World Bosses which is hell of a good time, and can make taking on bosses easier and helping you progress past areas that you’re stuck at. Which was a feature I used a couple of times to get past some of the more trickier bosses. You can also invade other player’s worlds and hunt them down and kill them with a sort of PvP aspect. It’s a cool aspect, and there’s even certain Covenants (guilds if you think about it) that are more geared towards PvP, and ones that are more geared towards co-operative play. So, let’s say you joined the Heirs Of The Sun covenant in the game. If you successfully protect the World Host for a set amount of time, or kill the World Boss with them (without the host dying of course) you’ll be awarded a Sunlight Medal that will allow you to progress in levels in the covenant and unlock spells, and weapons. Or maybe you’re more of a PvP kind of person and you joined the Brotherhood Of Blood covenant. For every certain amount of player kills you’ll rank up in the covenant and get the chance to snag some unique items that can only be obtained from ranking up in the Covenant. The cool thing about being invaded is that if you’re playing online it can pretty much happen at anytime, and there’s moments where it can be an absolute blast. Other times, it can be a great big pain in the arse. That’s what I like about Dark Souls. Even though you clear an area of enemies, there’s still that chance of someone invading you and stabbing you in the back. Even with all the awesome stuff surrounding Dark Souls II there’s still some things that are rubbing me the wrong way about the sequel. The main thing being the world is sort of bland and disconnected. With the original game you got a feeling that the world was connected, and a living, breathing thing (minus the Undead, hur hur) that was just an awesome place to explore. However, the world of Drangleic in Dark Souls II feels bland, boring, and ultimately disconnected. Coming from Dark Souls into Dark Souls II is a little disappointing on that end, but for someone who’s only played this game you really won’t notice that flaw. Luckily, it doesn’t take much away from the game and still makes it enjoyable. The only other gripe I have with the game is the variety in the enemies and bosses. In the first game we had a variety of creatures, and interesting, unique bosses (Gaping Dragon I’m looking at you). But with DS2 it feels like they took a step back in turns of creature design and instead gave us a dick-ton of humanoid enemies, and bosses. There are a lot of humanoid things to fight in Dark Souls II and it’s sort of a let-down. Most of the enemies are humanoid in some way with the occasional Attack Dog, Mushroom, etc. Then we have a huge chunk of the bosses being humanoids with a few exceptions such as the Song Demon, Gargoyles, Rat Vanguard, and a few others. Just like the world issue it’s a little disheartening but doesn’t stop the game from being a complete blast. If you’re curious about getting into the Souls series I would definitely recommend you use Dark Souls II as that gateway game. It’s easier than its predecessor and way more accessible. While it has a few hiccups in terms of level, and creature design it still soars above the first game in other areas. The multiplayer component of the game is one of my favorites in recent memory and this is really the only game that I’ve gone back to do a New Game+ play-through. So, what is the final verdict? Dark Souls II may be easier than the first game, but it’s still a complete blast and one of the best experiences I’ve had with my Xbox 360. It may have a few hiccups, but it never takes away from the enjoyment of the game. This game is most definitely worth the $60 price-tag, and may just be my Game Of The Year…so far.  ...

Titanfall Review (Xbox One)

Titanfall Review (Xbox One)

There’s a tremendous amount of hype and pressure resting upon the shoulders of Respawn’s multiplayer-only first-person shooter. Not only is this their début game, but it’s also Microsoft’s killer app for the Xbox One. The fact Titanfall is seen as the savior of online first-person shooters by most is a testament to the level of excitement surrounding the game. The titan has finally landed, but have the expectations been met? Titanfall isn’t exactly anything truly new; instead it’s the combination of various elements–and not just from video games either. Mechs, jet packs, parkour, twitch shooting, leveling systems–none of it hasn’t already been seen before in countless other video games. The success and selling point of Titanfall is how it’s all tied together in one neat package. There’s a sense of finesse and fine craftsmanship with how each element of Titanfall neatly entwines with the other. The parkour and wall-running supplies a silky smooth backbone to player movement that oozes confidence and rewards the player with sheer satisfaction with every movement. The run-and-gun gameplay feeds perfectly into the player movement, allowing Titanfall to play host to some of the most intense and interesting firefights between players. This is all attached to a devilishly simple control setup that supports player movement perfectly.   The tired mechanics of running around shooting everything in sight have been truly refreshed in every way. The slick movement and control scheme have a profound impact on every fiber of Titanfall‘s being. While it may not add anything entirely new, the marriage between the gun play and the movement is truly a work of art. Titanfall hosts its own leveling-up system that restrains itself to barriers of already-existing systems seen in other games. Players earn experience for carrying out various acts, none of which feel forced into the game and come naturally as the matches are played out. The levelling system lends itself well to the core values of most of Titanfall’s multiplayer action. The biggest selling point of Titanfall is, undoubtedly, the Titans themselves. The first time anyone witnesses one of the hulking beasts drop into the battlefield is simply an awesome video game moment. It’s curiously wonderful when viewing the hulking creations stomp around the battlefield laying waste to those around them. Titanfall makes sure that every player, regardless of skill level, gets to jump into the heart of a Titan.   Titans are called onto the battlefield by taking objectives, killing the AI-controlled troops littered across the map, and of course by killing the enemy. With each point comes a reduced ‘build’ time, allowing the Titan to be called sooner rather than later. The method in which Titans are earned rewards good play while catering for those of a lower skill level so that nobody is alienated from the thrills of controlling a Titan. Some may take issue that bad players are given the same rewards as those carrying the team, but this is not a real issue at all, thankfully. Those who enjoy a good performance will be rewarded with multiple Titan drops, for example. Titanfall simply does not discriminate towards skill level, nor does it hinder its better players. Instead there’s a sense of balance and an equal playing field. The Titan may be powerful, but the level playing field extends beyond player skill and into the realms of combat between Titan and pilot. The Titan is not merely a means to earn some kills; it’s a huge strategic asset that can turn the tides of a game. Titan vs. Titan battles make for some truly intense experiences, but the humble pilot poses just as much of threat on foot as they do in control of a Titan. Each player has anti-Titan weaponry, as well as the ability to mount enemy Titans and engage in a rodeo in which the player shoots the Titan’s power core, destroying it. The Titan may be large, but it’s just as vulnerable as anything else, and that’s the beauty of Titanfall‘s action, the balance in the chaos.   The true joy of Titanfall is the feeling that everything the player does is effecting the outcome of the game. There’s never a moment in which a player is left wandering around in a desperate attempt to find where the action is. Given each map is packed with AI-controlled troops as well as players, there is always something to get involved with, whether it’s taking down AI troops, hacking turrets, support allies, or taking on enemy Titans. There’s so much to do in every single battle. Each battle contains so many individual battles, as well as team engagements, that it often feels like a game within a game. Titanfall‘s core multiplayer experience has so many layers to it that combine perfectly to create a brew of sheer enjoyment. With all these positives, the negatives may become lost on some. The customization options of both pilots and Titans feel rather thin on the ground. The lack of abilities, weapons, and gadgets feels slightly restrictive compared to other multiplayer experiences on the market. This issue, thankfully, does not impact on the game too heavily but becomes noticeable during prolonged sessions. There are also a few niggling issues that become apparent after repeat plays. The previously mentioned AI troops, for example, are utterly useless. They may offer a means to keep players engaged in the action and service lower-skilled players but their AI is so laughably bad it becomes more jarring to witness them in action than anything else. A few of the weapons feel rather pointless and out of place, slowing down the player’s movement in order to use. On top of that, the most annoying issues revolve around Titanfall‘s ‘Burn Card’ system, which acts as temporary boosts earned via in-game actions. A number of the cards are utterly useless compared to others, and given how often the average player earns cards, the useless ones feel like spam requiring the player to clear out their collection frequently.   One of Titanfall‘s greatest accomplishments is its map design. Given the multi-layered nature of the game, the ability to create maps that cater for every element of Titanfall is a significant achievement. Each map contains a number of paths, giving them all a heavy sense of depth. Each nook and cranny allows players to make the most of the smooth movement and climbing mechanics. There’s a strange sense of arrogance in how each map is designed; they almost taunt the player in trying new and inventive ways of traversing to certain points, though pulling these methods off is immensely satisfying. There’s some nice set dressing to be witnessed, also, such as alien creatures doing their business in the background, but disappointingly that’s all it ever is. Titanfall‘s focus on multiplayer is all fair and good, but its attempt to shoehorn a campaign into the mix comes off as simply odd. The storyline–or what passes for one, anyway–is given during the pre-game lobby. Once the game has begun,  there’s a short briefing with a quick cutscene which flows into the start of the match. While it’s always a slick introduction to the missions, the fact that they are simply just a normal game but with an intro is disappointing. The unnecessary inclusion of a story feels unnecessary and out of place, even if the plot does suggest that there is potential in there somewhere. The campaign consists of two of the five modes on offer. Attrition is a simple Team Deathmatch-type, while Hardpoint is Domination with a fancy name. Last Titan Standing is the most interesting and intense mode as players are each given one Titan, with victory going to the team with the last Titan standing (hence the name). It’s an utterly intense, and curiously tactical, game mode that delivers some of the best experiences in Titanfall. Pilot Hunt, however, is a strange and unsatisfying mixture of Attrition with a blend of confusion, as points are only gained by killing players. It’s a mode that feels weak and out-of-place compared to its much more well-rounded counterparts. The presentation of Respawn’s baby had a number of people a little worried due to the lack of 1080p. The fact is Titanfall doesn’t look all that impressive, nor is it ugly. Instead it’s simply adequate. The general look of the game is interesting, with clear influences being taken from modern sci-fi classic District 9 and the visually intriguing but flawed Elysium. The lack of next-gen power in the visuals may bother some, but the truth is the game’s pace and sheer fun keep the player from noticing the lack of sharpness in the graphics. It comes as a surprise that Titanfall can often suffer from framerate issues, mostly when a number of Titans are battling it out on-screen at the same time. The framerate will drop to rather low levels, leaving the player in a state of confusion and disarray. Screen-tearing is also prominent, though hard to spot given how fast the game plays out. Titanfall is not revolutionary. Rather, it’s more of an evolution. The slick combination of various elements results in an engaging and rewarding experience. The smooth manner in which players move, the sense of power behind a Titan–it’s all truly satisfying. The sense of balance remains strong throughout the game, even with a few iffy weapons and abilities present. Maps are designed with a sense of genius, as is most of the game. But it’s not perfect. The superfluos plot, a pointless campaign mode, a generic levelling system, along with the framerate and screen-tearing issues leave the game falling under the expectations set. Titanfall is a tight, intense, thrilling video game that is only a few steps from achieving true greatness. Respawn’s début feels like the building block for something truly spectacular. But for now, Titanfall is a good game waiting to be a great one.  ...

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