"What is this?" I asked my coworker.
Just wanted to apologize for the lack of posts lately. School has been killing my free time lately (only 2 more classes to go until I graduate, though! Whoo hoo!)
There are several reviews that I've written, but haven't gotten around to posting yet. They'll be up soon.
In the meantime, here's what you can look forward to:
Bravely Default (3DS) - Review
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (PS4) - Review
Skyborn (PC) - Review
Titanfall (Xbox One) - Review
2. Start writing the graphics, sound, and gameplay/control sections, as the game doesn’t have to be completely finished in order to get a handle on these.
3. Finish the game.
4. Write the story section and final thoughts.
5. Publish the review.
In order to review Assassin’s Creed IV fairly, I have to come at it from two different angles. On the one hand, I have to review it as someone who reviews videogames on this website. On the other hand, I have to review it as someone who is a massive fan of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. For the most part, I’m pretty torn about what I think of the series’ latest entry. From a game standpoint, well… it’s got a lot of problems. From a fan’s perspective… I’ll just save it for the breakdown.
|Like every AC game, historical figures make appearances.|
Anne Bonny is pictured here with main character, Edward Kenway.
Like most games, the story and mythology behind Assassin’s Creed have always been the main things I enjoyed the most about the series. I love how Ubisoft has been able to dig themselves out of seemingly impossible situations when they run into the brick walls that they create during nearly every game. I’m not being sarcastic here. I honestly think they’ve handled the series well in terms of story.
At first, I thought that the pirate themed story was going to be hugely epic, and for a while it was. After the first 10 hours or so, however, things started to become extremely boring and just plain ol’ uninteresting. I enjoyed the character of Edward Kenway (a lot more so than Connor of AC3) and hope a few more games are released to flesh his character out, but the other characters (mainly the villains) were sort of flat. None of them really grabbed my attention.
Questions that were raised in AC3 were very quietly answered, but never really talked about all that much – particularly the cliffhanger we were all left on for a year. Do we find out what happened to Desmond Miles? Yes, but it’s a pretty brief explanation. Do we find out what’s going on with Juno? Kind of, but it’s more like we find out what’s NOT going on with Juno, due to a very not-so-cleverly-devised way of continuing the series and setting up future sequels.
My biggest complaint with AC4’s story was the fact that it’s only “kind of” an Assassin’s Creed story. The main character isn’t even an assassin for about 95% of the game. Maybe I missed something while playing, but I don’t think that Edward Kenway actually EVER became an assassin during the story. One could tell that he was on his way to doing so. For about half of the game, I thought this was an interesting angle, but (again, unless I missed something) his joining of the order is never actually shown. And from the epilogue in the middle of the game’s ending credits, we’re still given no clear indication that he “took the oath.” We know from Oliver Bowden’s novel, “Assassin’s Creed: Forsaken,” that Edward was an assassin and adhered to the creed, but are the novels considered canon? In this case, and for the sake of AC4’s story, I certainly hope so.
In summation, I felt that the story of Assassin’s Creed IV was just really lazy and was only somewhat of an afterthought when Ubisoft decided to make a game with a primary focus of ship-based combat (more on that in a bit). It really didn’t have the “umph” that previous games have had, and seemed more like a side game that was only somewhat related to the series.
I have to pretty much score this one in the same way I did for Assassin’s Creed III, since it looks as though it uses the same engine. The thing that perhaps stands out a bit more for ACIV as opposed to III (and what gives it an extra ‘.5’ edge) is the beautifully rendered Caribbean setting. It’s much better looking and immersive than the colonial setting of the previous game. Though the scenery is prettier to look at, the character models in-game are a bit stiff looking – at least for the NPCs. At times, the NPCs look as though they were pulled straight from a PS2 or original Xbox game. I’m really interested to see what an Assassin’s Creed title will look like next year, when Ubisoft develops one (hopefully) specifically for next-gen hardware.
The sound design is great, effects-wise. Gulls and other birds, ocean waves, and cannon fire all sound extremely authentic. The voice acting is pretty good, too. Unfortunately, the area in which ACIV’s sound lacks is the music. Personally, I thought that Lorne Balfe’s score for ACIII was excellent, as was Winifred Phillips’ score for AC: Liberation. It’s a shame that Brian Tyler couldn’t capture the same magic. The score is not bad by any stretch; I just thought the themes in ACIII and Liberation were much better and more memorable. I’m really surprised that, with as much critical acclaim as she received for her soundtrack to Liberation, Ubisoft didn’t give the scoring duties to Phillips. I’d really like to see what she would do with a main, numbered title.
|Way too much of this....|
Black Flag goes back to the exploratory greatness of ACII-Revelations and brings back an almost overwhelming sense of things to do in the Caribbean world they created. From assassination contracts to finding buried treasure, almost everything you could think of to do in a pirate game is here.
That being said, I don’t like ship combat. To me, it feels extremely clunky and I found myself absolutely hating anytime a ship-related sequence would start. The ship combat was something that was praised (for some reason) in ACIII, so naturally, Ubisoft had to implement it into the newest iteration (plus, the fact that this is a pirate game, ship combat and travel makes since). I didn’t like it
|...not nearly enough of this for my tastes.|
I already mentioned the ship combat, but what about control of Edward himself? Remember in my ACIII review when I talked about Connor running up walls or jumping off things I didn’t want him to? Yeah, that hasn’t been changed. In fact, it seems like it’s worse. There is a chase scene about midway through the game that frustrated me to no end with how many times I had to do it just to get it right. The scene wouldn’t have been all that difficult if the controls were better, but the game forces you to do everything perfectly in order to succeed. I really hope the developers go back to the original “puppet-style” controls from pre-ACIII for the next game, or that they at least try and tighten up some of the controls.
Screenshots taken from Google Images.
It might be a bit off-putting to include a game from the next-gen consoles on a list of greatest games from last year, but I think this one is well deserved. In my opinion, this is the best fighting game released since 2011’s Mortal Kombat. True, KI released with several missing features, but the game is tight and does its job extremely well with its fighting mechanics. It’s still the only Xbox One game that I own, and for the time being, I’m ok with that.
Square-Enix must be crazy. They didn’t consider the Tomb Raider reboot a financial success when it sold something like 2 or 3 million copies. I guess they were expecting Final Fantasy numbers, which even they have dwindled a bit in the past few years. Personally, I loved the reboot. I thought that adding a survivalist element, along with a much more personal and epic story, really lent itself well to a series in desperate need of revitalization.
I have yet to post my review for this 3DS game, but I’ll go ahead and tell you: it got a perfect 10. I absolutely loved this throwback to my all-time favorite Zelda title (of which I consider one of the best games of all time). It just goes to show that the 3DS is the place to go if you really want to get a bang for your buck when it comes to gaming. I hope Nintendo continues to release this kind of quality throughout the 3DS’ life, but come on – can’t we get titles of this magnitude on the Wii U?
This is the game that most websites cited as their top game of 2013. It’s definitely deserving of that spot, as it did new things with storytelling in a videogame and, in my opinion, solidified the fact that videogames are true literature. As I noted in my review, the game mechanics are all things that everyone has played before, but the execution was excellent, weaving in with the great story like no other game has before.
Should this even really be here? I mean, it’s not really a game is it? No, it’s not. It’s an interactive movie that you play on a game console. That being said, I can’t get past the phenomenal story that just happens to be the most original thing I’ve heard, seen, or read since… Well… It’s been so long, I can’t remember.
I know I’ve said it before, but Hollywood should really start employing writers and directors from the videogame industry. Titles like The Last of Us, Bioshock: Infinite, Mass Effect, and of course, Beyond: Two Souls, show a quality and originality that the film industry seems almost incapable of producing these days. It’s because of this originality in story that I have no choice but to give it the “Josh’s Personal Inner Dorkdom Game of The Year Award.” I’m just holding out that Quantic Dream will create a sequel at some point in the future, no matter how unlikely that is.
For most fans, the series has been on a sharp decline since RE4. Personally, RE4 is one of my favorites, just behind 2 and 3. I liked the change in gameplay (the over-the-shoulder style), even if it did seem more like a side-game or “gaiden,” but I had a gut-wrenching feeling that the franchise would be forever changed after that game.
And changed, it was.
I’ll straight-up say that I HATED RE5. Like the RE movie franchise, 5 was waaaaaay too overblown, overcomplicated and action-heavy, leaving the sub-genre which Resident Evil had been known for, survival-horror, lying dead in the dust like a freshly head-shotted zombie.
Last weekend on Steam, I downloaded Resident Evil 6 and Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, of which I played RE: ORC to completion and the Ada campaign in RE6. My thoughts? Capcom just really doesn’t know how to make a 3D action game. Forget about the series not being “survival-horror enough”; the games just aren’t good anymore. Frustrating controls, poorly implemented quick time events and a story so convoluted that it makes the Highlander film franchise blush, have effectively killed Resident Evil.
A game should be fun to control, right? You should be able to “feel” as though you’re playing through the game, not “making the game work properly.” While Resident Evil has never been critically acclaimed because of its control scheme, the series post-Code Veronica has been an utter mess. Originally, the series had what has been referred to as “tank controls.” Basically, the directional pad on the controller always corresponded to the direction your character was facing on the screen. In other words, “up” was ALWAYS forward, no matter where your character was. Combined with the games’ pre-rendered backgrounds (polygonal character models on a drawn background), this took players some time to get used to, though once they did, it started to feel like second nature.
Starting with RE4, Capcom felt that they could improve on the series’ most loathed feature, and switched to an over-the-shoulder perspective. Some fans who liked the original scheme complained, but the general consensus was that the new style was a welcomed change. I liked it. The franchise was trying something different and they succeeded. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the control scheme that Capcom thought everybody liked – it was the “action.”
After RE4, the fifth entry amped up the action elements considerably and put more enemies on the screen, making the new control scheme virtually useless. Suddenly, controlling your character felt like a chore and making them try to get away from a large horde of enemies (which had shifted back in RE4 from shambling zombies and manageable monsters to running, half-humans) just didn’t work very well.
For RE6, the action has been pumped even more, making the game even more frustrating to play. Several, respawning enemies get cramped up into tiny rooms with you and knock you down, only to have you get up and knocked down immediately thereafter with no chance of escape. In my opinion, the game is just an absolute nightmare to control... and not in a good, survival horror-y way.
Ah, the quick time event. I hate QTEs. I don’t mind them in a game that’s designed around them (as you’ll see from my upcoming Beyond: Two Souls review), but during an action game, they make me mad… real quick-like.
QTEs are essentially button presses during a cutscene which are intended to make you feel a part of the game at all times. When they were introduced in RE4, I’ll readily admit that I liked them. They didn’t seem forced, they were easy to perform and they gave you a bit of an adrenaline rush at times. In RE5 and 6, however, they’re cumbersome, forced and add absolutely nothing to the gameplay experience except frustration.
My main gripe with RE5 and especially 6’s QTEs, is their poor implementation. I cannot stand how the game designers give you literally 3 seconds to figure out what you’re supposed to do during a QTE. This usually results in cheap death, after death, after death, until you finally figure out that you’re supposed to press a certain combination of buttons or move the analog sticks in such a way as to not be immediately killed.
The Resident Evil story started so simple: A demented pharmaceutical company, Umbrella, who secretly creates biological weapons has had an accident in their facility under a mansion out in the woods. A military specialist team, S.T.A.R.S., comes in to check the place out, only to find that it’s overrun with zombies, monsters, and at one point, undead sharks. That was it. It was just a simple, easy to understand concept that has been expounded upon for nearly twenty titles to date.
With every game, Capcom leads its players to believe that the one they’re playing will be the last one. They don’t do it in the same way the Eagles do when they go on a farewell tour every two years, but every game wraps itself up nicely… or at least, it used to. After RE3: Nemesis, though, it was apparent that Capcom had another franchise, the likes of which had not been seen since Megaman, which could carry on for years. I commend Capcom for at least trying to keep the series moving forward canonically, but it’s just getting stale, needlessly complicated and soap opera-ish. I mean seriously, how many more times can Umbrella cause some country-wide disaster and get away with it? How many more times can Albert Wesker come back? What’s this crap about Wesker’s son? Oh, so there are about 9 million viruses that Umbrella created?
It’s just getting ridiculous.
Fortunately, Capcom has seen the error of their ways, due mainly to the poor sales of RE6. After playing 5, I was pretty much done with the series, but I eventually did it to myself once again and bought RE6 on sale for $10. In my opinion, the game is worth about that much… maybe less. Don’t get me wrong, I hate to hate on something, but this series really has declined, is in need of going back to its roots in survival horror, and nothing shows it more than RE6. If you like Resident Evil or videogames in general, don't play it.
It’s cases like these that I become a proponent for rebooting a franchise. When it starts getting way out of hand or stale, you need to hit the reset button and it seems that’s at least one of the options Capcom is considering when going forward with Resident Evil.
I’m not going to go into the details of FFXIV’s story, as it’s not the greatest in the world. Basically, a cataclysmic event hits the land of Eorzea, causing things to change throughout the world. This is pretty much SquareEnix using an in-game excuse to change problems that players initially had with the game. It’s pretty clever, but it’s also kind of funny when you read into it. I’m sure that to players who played the original version, it’s even funnier. There are some pretty standard RPG tropes like an evil empire and such, but I think that sometimes the story seems to get in the way of the player just going out and building their character up, as I find even myself skipping through lines of dialogue while trying to get the next quest going. This is something that I never had to do with all the previous FFs.
For an online game, FFXIV is pretty to look at. In fact, it’s the best looking one I’ve seen yet. The fact that the game was designed to be played from multiple platforms (PS3 & PC) on the same servers means that some of the graphics have been toned down to accommodate the aging PS3 hardware. That being said, it’s still an online game, so the graphics for FFXIV aren’t going to look as good as XIII or the upcoming XV, anyway. A good deal of graphics processing goes into putting tons of fully animated avatars on the screen at once, thus contributing to the lower quality of the graphics.
Uematsu is back! A lot of old Final Fantasy musical flourishes are back that have been missing post-XII, so from an auditory standpoint, fans should be rather pleased. At one point, even the battle music from the first FF game makes an appearance! Pretty much all the music and themes you would expect from a Final Fantasy game are all here, which is something I can’t say about FFXIII (which had a good score, regardless) and probably won’t be able to say about XV once it's released.
|My main character, based off the protagonist in a story I'm writing.|
FFXIV is your standard MMORPG. You basically run around doing “fetch quests” for NPCs and grind for experience points while moving through the lackluster story. Even the main HUD for FFXIV is nearly identical to other MMORPGs. To some, this may seem as though FFXIV is a retread of something they’ve already played. Indeed, the concepts and design aspects of FFXIV are exactly the same as something like Star Trek Online, as I had absolutely no problems while figuring out the various controls. Honestly though, I don’t know how developers would go about designing MMORPGs any differently at this point; this seems to be the standard simply because it works, though it does add a lot of monotony to the genre as a whole.
From what I've seen so far, the game looks promising... when you can actually log into it. Supposedly the login and server issues are being resolved sometime today, so hopefully I won't have any problems when I get the game on Wednesday.
So be on the lookout for a review for a game that I initially had no intention to buy - later this week!
Saw it. It was ok. I wasn’t blown away, but I really don’t think that was the intention of the film makers. It was supposed to be a “bridging of the gap” for the new X-Men: Days of Future Past film, and I think it does that pretty well. One thing I thought was interesting about the movie was the fact that almost any character could have been in Wolverine/Logan’s place. This was very much a side-story featuring an extremely popular character. It works, I just don’t really think it was necessary in the grand scheme of the X-Men film franchise. But who am I to say what a “necessary” film is?
Overall, I’m probably in the extreme minority that likes the original Wolverine Origins movie better than this one.
Yeah, I said it: I like that movie better!
Lots of people hate on it, but I thought it was great. I think they could’ve handled Deadpool much better, but other than that, it was a great movie.
Things have been relatively quiet in the gaming world lately, which is odd considering the fact that two brand new consoles are going to be released at the end of this year. One thing that I find odd is just how many “AAA” titles are still being released for THIS generation after the release of the PS4 and Xbox One. It makes one wonder if just how much faith Sony and Microsoft have in their new product. Or maybe it’s that they’re being overly confident in thinking that the new systems will sell by the bucket-load, so they’re not pushing it as hard?
Whatever the case may be, I just figured information would be coming a lot more frequently than it has been. How ‘bout some more press conferences or something?
Doom 3 Mods:
Steam recently had a sale of all id Software games after the latest Quake-con. For something like $90, you could get nearly every major game the company has released since, and including, the Commander Keen games.
(I realize some of you may be thinking, “What the crap is Commander Keen?” Yeah, I’m old.)
The pack included the likes of Quake(s) 1-4, Doom(s) 1-3 (and BFG Edition), the two Wolf 3D games and even newer titles like Rage. For the old-school PC gamer, $90 is an extremely good deal, considering the quality of content. However, I didn’t buy the entire pack - just some selected titles that I used to have back in the day like the Quakes and Heretic/Hexen.
In my rekindled love for all things id, I stumbled upon the Doom 3 mod community and found a total conversion mod for Doom 3 which converted the entire game into an all-new Hexen game called, “Edge of Chaos.” It looked amazing from the couple of demo videos and screenshots, so I decided to continue browsing the total conversion mods. The one that immediately caught my attention was “Doom 3: Classic.” This was a mod that basically re-created the entire first episode (Knee-Deep In The Dead) of the original Doom in the Doom 3 engine.
I downloaded and played.
It was amazing.
The level design, enemy placement, secret areas, weaponry and even the music (which is AWESOME, by the way) were completely and faithfully redone with graphics that hold up well with current-gen titles. As soon as you load the mod and start E1M1 (Episode 1, Map 1, for all you non-Doom Heads) and that awesome, metal guitar riff starts up (based off of Metallica’s song, “No Remorse,” in case you didn’t know), you have to wonder if this was the way John Carmack and John Romero originally envisioned the game back in the early 90’s.
I highly recommend purchasing Doom 3 on Steam (it’s only $10), if for nothing else but to experience a 100% faithful remake of the original shareware Doom. Just make sure you buy the original version of Doom 3. The mod (and most others) won’t work on the BFG Edition.
To convince you, here’s a video of the classic first level:
And here’s the Doom 3: Classic mod of the same level:
Pretty cool, right? Go get it… if you’re man (or woman) enough!
That’s about all I’ve got at the moment. I still need to post my review of The Last of Us which is now almost two months old (sorry)! I’ll try to get on that soon. Maybe even immediately after this post!
Being a fighting game fan and having put a considerable amount of time into learning MK9, Injustice has some similarities, so I’ll be comparing it mostly to that game. However, it’s a completely new game with mostly new mechanics, so there are a lot of things which work differently. Also, the demo (from what I understand) is based off of a several months-old build, so most of what is present in the demo may be very different in the final game.
With all that out of the way, let’s break everything down:
In MK9, you controlled the character with 2 buttons mapped to punches and 2 buttons mapped to kicks (similar to Tekken). There was a dedicated block button (which was also used to enhance special moves), a throw button, and supers/X-Rays were done by pressing block and the 2 kick buttons (or just both triggers on a gamepad). Injustice uses a very different setup which is more akin to Street Fighter’s, but slightly simpler. There are 3 attack buttons: Light, Medium, and Hard. A fourth attack button, called “Trait,” is used as a character-specific move which can do things such as change fighting styles, or in Batman’s case, summon floating mechanical bats which can extend combos.
Blocking is now done by holding back (or down, while crouching) and is one of the hardest things to get used to when coming from MK9. The button that used to block still enhances, but is now pressed during the special’s animation, as opposed to simultaneously. Another button (right bumper on a controller) is dedicated to interactable objects in the various stages which can be used to inflict damage on the opponent. One example in the demo is a garbage dumpster that can be picked up and thrown. Each character interacts with these objects differently, so character-specific strategies on different stages will probably come into play heavily in a tournament setting. Supers are executed the same way as X-Rays were in MK9.
This is perhaps the most initially noticeable difference when compared to MK9. Injustice feels a little bit stiffer. I’ve heard that in the final version, this has been slightly tweaked to be more fluid, but that’s pure conjecture and may not be the case. Personally, I don’t really have a problem with it, but it will affect spacing and zoning options over the life of the game. Previously, to get through a zoning attempt, the player could dash-block in order to close space, but now, since dashing forward is highly unsafe, severely punishable, un-cancelable, and you have to hold back to block, new methods will have to be figured out. One method is simply to walk. Walking in MK9 was viable for some characters, but dash-blocking was the quickest way to close distance between you and the opponent. The problem that I see with Injustice is that there is so much distance to be covered and the walking speed is rather slow for the 3 characters available in the demo (Batman, Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor). But again, I feel that once people get used to the new mechanics, this will become much easier to deal with.
Combos work pretty much the same as in MK9: Each character has a set of chain combos (usually 3 button presses that lead into popups) which are “buffered” before the attacks actually land and can be chained together to extend damage. Something new to Injustice is the concept of “wall bouncing.” By holding back and one of the attack buttons (depending on which character you’re using), the character will charge the attack and when released, hit the opponent, bounce them off the corner of the screen, and leave them airborne for more combo potential. I found these moves extremely hard to time during combos, but highly effective once you get the hang of it and very necessary to get a higher damage percentage. These wall bounces, when in a corner, can also send the opponent through the wall, which transitions into a different part of the stage, all the while causing damage.
Along with stage transitioning and interactable stage objects, come a couple of new features. I’m not exactly sure on how the new Clash System actually works, so I won’t comment on it too much. All I know is that you bet your super meter against the opponent’s and are rewarded with either health boosts or physical damage if you win. That’s my extent of knowledge on the subject. I’m not entirely sure as to the purpose of the whole thing, but it is what it is. Push-block, however, is something that I do understand. For 1 bar of meter, you can push away an opponent if you’re blocking their attacks. This can kind of relieve some of the block pressure and stop your opponent from constantly being all over you. One particularly interesting change from traditional fighting games is the lack of “rounds.” There are now 2 life-bars present which, after the first one is depleted, pauses the match briefly and puts the characters back to neutral ground. One thing that makes this a little odd is the fact that there is an extremely low “comeback factor.” If your opponent still has 1.5 life-bars and you only have .5, your chances of winning have gone down to about 15%. This is manageable, sure, but it’s going to take a huge amount of skill to do so.
My personal opinion of the game so far:
I like it, but it’s going to take a lot of getting used to. Not to toot my own horn, but my skill level in MK9 was to a point where I could probably take a few games off of any top player in a casual setting (and have taken in a tournament), but Injustice is another story completely. I’ll have to practice just as hard as I did for Mortal Kombat to get that good at another fighter, but that’s part of the fun in playing these kinds of games. As of right now, the only way I can practice is by setting the game up for 2 players to get the hang of combos, which is severely frustrating since I can only do so much before the opponent is knocked out and I have to go back to the character select screen to try again. Once I get my hands on the final game and training mode is available, I’m sure my enthusiasm will increase greatly.
Overall, this game was developed with the entire fighting game community in mind, as opposed to just MK players. The more you play, the more this becomes apparent, but there is definitely enough familiarity that MK players shouldn’t have a whole lot of problems getting used to it. Once the final game is released, it’s going to be interesting to see how the top players in the MK tournament scene measure up to the ones who will be crossing over from the various Capcom fighters such as Street Fighter IV and Marvel Vs. Capcom 3.
Hopefully, I’ll have an actual review of the final game shortly after its April 16 th release. For now, the demo is available on both PSN and Xbox Live!
Bioshock was a beautiful, fast-paced, action-packed first-person survival-horror game (that’s a lot of hyphens!) with a story that could rival Hollywood’s finest. That being said, I never played the second game in the series, Bioshock 2. During my playthrough of the first Bioshock, Bioshock: Infinite was announced. I had seen screenshots of the second game, but it looked near-identical to the first. Infinite, however, was on a completely different plane of existence (quite literally, as it would turn out). I decided to skip Bioshock 2 since Infinite supposedly had no, or very little, connections to the upcoming Infinite.
The game was announced nearly 3 years before it was actually released, with multiple delays plaguing its development. Finally, in March of 2013, we finally got our hands on it. So how is it? Bioshock: Infinite is a great game, but there are some things that knock it down several notches from what I was expecting.
Before I go into this, and just to let it be known what I’m using to do these PC reviews, these are my system’s basic specs –
Intel – i7 2600 3.4ghz Quad-core
Nvidia Geforce GTX 680 w/4gig of dedicated VRAM.
For the most part, Bioshock: Infinite is the same on all platforms: gorgeous. The only notable differences are better resolution overall and on textures for the PC. All the great lighting effects are present across all systems and everything runs at a smooth and consistent 60fps. There was some slight stuttering whenever the game would load something new, but Nvidia released new drivers shortly after release which eliminates this problem.
Just like the original Bioshock, Infinite’s story is what makes the game truly shine. Taking place in an alternate version of 1912, you play the role of Booker Dewitt, a man tasked with finding a girl (Elizabeth) who is being held captive in a city above the clouds called Columbia. It becomes immediately apparent that something is slightly “off” about the city. The patrons appear to be religious fanatics and not to mention, racists. As Booker eventually meets up with Elizabeth, he finds that she has been held captive for most of her life and contains some kind of strange power which the leader of Columbia, a man named Comstock, wants to harness.
The story gets stranger and stranger as you progress and more and more is revealed about what Elizabeth’s true role actually is and how Booker connects to it. Since the story is such a mystery and one that absolutely must be experienced, it’s really hard for me to talk about without spoiling it. Just trust me, the story is why you should own the game.
I will comment on the ending, however. I’ve been seeing a lot of people complaining about it online and how it wasn’t very well thought out, or that it didn’t make any sense. These people are, quite simply, stupid. The ending makes total sense, but you have to pay attention to every detail of the story leading up to it. Personally, I think the ending was brilliant.
|"You truly belong with us here among the clouds."|
The graphics are good, don’t get me wrong, but they were only “jaw-dropping” 3 years ago when Infinite was originally announced. Now, the graphics are just standard compared to everything else, which is not a bad thing at all. What sets this game apart from others is its art style. With the setting of the early 20th century, the developers took extreme love and care when it came to replicating the feel of the era. Based on the architecture of the 1893 World’s Fair, the game has a pretty distinct steam punk vibe in its presentation, something that was also present in the original Bioshock. Columbia absolutely bustles with life. All of its citizens go about their business independently and seem as though they’re actually alive. No detail was spared in the visuals while making Columbia look and feel like a living, breathing world.
Excellent. As far as sound effects and immersion go, Infinite excels. All of Columbia’s citizens converse with one another in a natural way, enemies’ location can be determined from the echoes of their voices, and weapons sound authentic.
It’s the music that really lends itself well to the overall game design. Infinite uses its music to tell story and offer clues as to what is actually going on within the screwed up world Booker finds himself in. Several classic songs are redone in a way that makes you think, “How is this song from the 1970s being played in 1912?!” Word of advice: Pay attention to things like that, as they’re vitally important to figuring out the mystery.
|...but gameplay-wise, this is all she's really good for.|
|You actually grow to care for Elizabeth...|
Here’s where the game loses several points. As you’ll see from the final score at the bottom of this review, I’m probably going to get scoffed at and flamed pretty harshly, but just like any other review, these are just opinions. Everybody’s got one. Everybody else just happened to review it with scores of 9 or 10.
The gameplay of Bioshock: Infinite is pretty bland. There’s really no difference between this one and the original, with the exception of skylines and Elizabeth. Skylines allow Booker to hook onto them and ride a virtual rollercoaster from place to place more quickly. While this idea is neat, and pretty necessary to the game’s plot, it’s really just a form of quick movement. In all fairness though, it’s pretty cool to watch. Elizabeth is your A.I. partner through about 90% of the game. She replenishes you with weapons and money and, fortunately, takes care of herself during combat, leaving you free of worrying about her getting killed. While from a gameplay perspective, she’s kind of unnecessary (except for lock-picking, which could have easily been adapted into Booker’s abilities), but her being with you makes you truly care about her wellbeing in a way not seen since Telltale Game’s The Walking Dead adventure game last year.
Everything else is just standard, first-person gameplay. You have gunplay, a special power, ammo to pick up or buy… you know, pretty standard nowadays. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I just expected more from a game that had been in development for so long. But, as the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and the original Bioshock accomplished these things extremely well.
|It's pretty, but it's literature. Not a game.|
Bioshock: infinite is a great game, I just hoped for a slightly more innovative experience versus the original Bioshock. But if you’re looking to experience a highly detailed world that immerses you into its story with solid (though standard) gameplay mechanics, then Bioshock: Infinite is definitely worth your $60. Personally, I would suggest waiting until the price comes down to around $40 or so. I highly recommend a playthrough of Infinite, but only if you’re craving an extremely well done story and don’t care so much about the next “fun game.”
Final Score: 7.5/10
For some reason, the first game was the only one really worth its salt. In my opinion, this is because the other games were just a bit ahead of their time and couldn’t - due to the technology of late 90s-era gaming - properly advance the gameplay mechanics which the developers wanted to implement. That being said, once Crystal Dynamics took over developing duties, the adventures of Lara Croft really began to come into their own.
In 2011, it was announced that after 3 highly successful entries (TR: Legend; TR: Anniversary; TR: Underworld), Crystal Dynamics would be rebooting the franchise. Like I’ve said many times before, I’m not exactly gung-ho when it comes to reboots/remakes, but this one looked like it could be a good thing for the franchise. By telling a sort of origin story for Lara and making her a character that you actually care for, Crystal Dynamics has created what is, in my opinion, the best Tomb Raider game ever made.
|Vistas like this and even more impressive are what you can expect.|
Unfortunately, the PC version was released with some problems due to the graphics tech wars that are going on right now between AMD and NVIDIA. A new realistic hair physics technology called TressFX which the PC version of TR uses was built for AMD video cards. Therefore, NVIDIA cards have trouble anytime the effect is on screen, taking about a 15-20 fps dip. I have an NVIDIA card, so I was a victim of this shot to the PC community. Luckily, NVIDIA is currently working on new drivers that should fix the issue.
*EDIT - The drivers have been released and these problems have been completely remedied.*
From what I’ve seen, the standard PC advantages exist in this port. You have better frame rates, better resolution, etc. However, the console versions do not have the TressFX feature. Apparently, this is PC exclusive. Is it going to hinder your gaming experience one way or another? Absolutely not. Tomb Raider still looks great regardless of the system you choose to play it on, with the obvious, yet slight, PC advantages.
|"This old guy won't stop hitting on me..."|
Since this is a reboot and an origin story, the Lara that we’re presented with in this iteration is very different from the Lara of the previous games. In fact, the only real similarities are the facts that she’s British and has a love for archeology. Lara is less a female Indiana Jones-style treasure hunter, and more just a girl who wants to check out ancient ruins for the simple wonder involved.
Part of a crew which is taking a ship-ride to find the lost island of Yamatai, Lara finds herself shipwrecked and alone once a large storm overtakes the ship. After being captured by some unknown locals and eventually escaping, she meets up with a few of her crewmates which begins to lead Lara into a dark world of not only survival, but cult-inspired mystery.
The thing that is perhaps the most impressive about the plot is its use of naturalism. In a game, this is something that isn’t the norm. At every turn, Lara is halted by something that doesn’t want her and her crew to leave the island. There are a lot of moments where she will be so near to her goal that it - even from the player’s point-of-view - can be tasted, only to be snatched away by yet another huge problem. It’s almost as though for every 3 steps Lara takes, she is always pushed 2 steps back. While this may sound like a frustrating narrative tactic, the game’s writers really pulled it off beautifully.
|Check out the detail!|
I couldn’t praise the visuals of this game anymore than they already have been. Other than something like Crysis 2 and 3, Tomb Raider has the best graphics I’ve ever seen. One thing that you don’t see every day in games is a well done, outdoor, open-world, jungle setting. Sure, there were games like Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and Assassin’s Creed III (though that was more forest, less jungle), but Tomb Raider actually looks and feels like a real jungle. Light shafts flow naturally through trees, animals scurry about, and the game’s water looks like water.
The character models and animations are truly astounding as well. Just like I wrote in my Assassin’s Creed III review, developers continuously get better with model design. I’m just glad that characters in games now look less like creepy dolls and more like actual human beings. Plus, creepy dolls freak me out.
|The sounds in caves even bounce off the bones on the ground! Not really, though.|
The sound design works very well for the immersion of the game. The ambient sounds of the jungle are present in full force. Bugs, animals, etc. are all there. Another thing that impressed me was the reverb used. Sounds and voices - particularly of enemies - seemingly echo off of trees, rock walls, and caves just as they actually would in the real world.
There isn’t that much music in Tomb Raider, and what little it does have is mostly forgettable, but it’s not exactly needed either. The ambiance carries the game and gives a constant feeling of isolation, which is what I believe Crystal Dynamics intended.
|Sure, Lara... Use your pickaxe instead of the shotgun on your back.|
Everything about the gameplay is perfect. Tomb Raider, like most games nowadays, utilizes RPG elements to allow the player to level up Lara throughout the course of the game. You have the option, upon earning points, of leveling Lara’s various abilities which help her become a better treasure hunter, and a more skilled combatant.
The combat is some of the most well done I’ve ever seen in a 3rd person action game. It melds the best elements of games like the contemporary Resident Evils and Gears of Wars into something unique. You have to use cover, stealth, and your various weapons to get through the crazy cult members that block every objective. While a lot of games get boring with these mechanics, Tomb Raider never does and combat remains enjoyable all the way to the end.
|Archery with Lara Croft. Sounds like a good time to me.|
I’m a xenomorph fan and like most xenomorph fans, I was excited for Aliens: Colonial Marines. When the game broke its street date and was released a few days early, reviews and opinions started pouring in. Most of what I read was negative. Of course, I was pretty shocked. From everything I had seen on the game, it looked like it would be really good and close to the feel of the Alien films, but all these opinions were saying the opposite along with other negative criticisms about various aspects. Ignoring these early impressions, I decided to take the plunge and proceed with purchasing the game for PC.
I have to disagree with almost every bit of that.
Apparently IGN didn’t play the mission where you have no weapons, are being chased by some sort of giant xenomorph (not a queen), and have to move slowly throughout the underbelly of Hadley’s Hope in fear of waking up the sleeping “acid-filled exploding” new aliens. I was genuinely creeped out by this section. I felt like I was in plenty of danger as I didn’t want to die by waking one of those jokers up; when one did wake up, I had to remain perfectly still since these new xenomorphs operate completely off of sound. When it came right up to me, slowly circled, and eventually trotted off, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Plenty of danger, indeed.
There are a ton of xenomorphs that show up all the time which you have to fend off, sometimes having to protect a squadmate as they complete some kind of task. How do you not feel overwhelmed?
Excuse me? Did you guys even watch Aliens? If we were talking about “simmering fear and dread” in the original Alien film, I could get behind your point, but we’re talking about Aliens. Aliens was a high-octane, action/sci-fi flick. Ninety percent of the movie was spent blasting xenomorphs and another five percent was Ripley fighting the queen with a loader. There were some “fear simmering” moments (which accounts for the remaining 5%), like the infamous turret scene, but the majority of the film was action oriented.
While I don’t completely agree, I can see where they’re coming from. The xenomorph AI isn’t as complex as it was in the most recent Alien’s Vs. Predator title, but it’s not terrible by any stretch. I wouldn’t go so far as to call them “mindless,” though. Less advanced than AvP, sure.
Again, the xenomorph AI isn’t the greatest in the world, but really, when has AI in a game ever been smart enough to “hunt” the player? The only thing I can think of is in AvP when the xenomorphs will sometimes try to get behind you rather than attack you head-on, but I wouldn’t call that “hunting.” Like I said before: That’s something that shows the AI in this game isn’t as advanced as it was in AvP. But in all fairness, AvP and A:CM are two different types of games. They’re both first person titles, but AvP had varied game types by being able to choose between the 3 species… Two of which you had to play as hunters. Here, you’re stuck with the marine and only the marine in a story that needs to be a little faster paced like the film it claims to be a sequel to.
I never really got into the original Devil May Cry series. I played a majority of the first game and a little bit of the 3rd and 4th ones, but it always seemed as though the series was a fairly good one; I was just involved with other games at the time. Apparently, Capcom felt the need to reboot the franchise, so they contracted UK developer Ninja Theory to handle the reset. Previously an action/puzzle solving hybrid, DmC (No, that doesn’t stand for DeLorean Motor Company) strips away most of the puzzle elements and relies on straight-up, over the top, demon-slaying action.
I played the PS3 demo and downloaded the PC version on Steam a few hours later. The demo may not be indicative of the finished PS3 game, but what I played was pretty close to the PC version for the most part. The game runs at around 60 fps even on the console, but the PC version benefits from higher resolution, better lighting effects, and other various optimized features. No matter what platform (Xbox 360, PS3, PC) you choose for DmC, it’s going to look fantastic; although the PC version does contain advantages.
|Dante speaks with "Kat," the mysterious guy's personal witch.|
DmC tells the story of Dante, a half angel, half-demon hybrid who must travel back and forth between the real world and what the game calls “limbo.” Dante is enlisted by a mysterious stranger and his assistant/witch to help fight back demons that are trying to force themselves into our world. Dante also wishes to exact revenge upon the demon king Mundus who killed his demon father and angel mother. The story may sound extremely simple, but that’s because it is. DmC, with its highly-steeped Christian mythology, never tries to take a religious standpoint of any kind and keeps things unquestionably fictional and easy to follow.
|The things that can happen in Limbo.|
Every bit of this game is gorgeous. The real world and Limbo have distinct visual styles apart from Limbo just looking “really messed up.” The real world looks a bit grittier, while Limbo has very saturated colors and truly looks otherworldly. One thing in particular that stands out is the character models and their facial motion capturing. Developers are really getting good at this technique and DmC is no exception. Facial expressions are very well captured and the character models look more like actual actors and less like CG dolls whose mouths kind of match their words.
Animations are extremely fluid, lighting is great and the overall look of the game is pure eye-candy.
|Beatin' down some demons at the beginning of the game.|
All of the slashing, shooting, and bone crunching is all accompanied by some mostly great music. I’m not too fond of dubstep, but its use here fits the game’s situations rather well. I much more prefer the metal-style tracks during combat. Every time Dante engages in combat, the metal starts and you can’t help but feel pumped up as you play. The reason I have to dock it a point here, and this may be more of a writing thing, is because of the excessive cursing used throughout the game. Cursing isn’t something that bothers me, but its use here is, a lot of the time, unnecessary and downright corny. That being said, the voice acting is fantastic and some of the best I’ve ever heard in a game. Coupled with the facial capturing, the characters feel more alive than in most titles.
|Bosses are usually on the 'large' side.|
There is no way that you could play this game and not have fun. Whether you want to “button-mash,” or actually learn the combos and various moves, there’s mass fun to be had here. You can’t help but feel awesome as the game informs you that you’ve taken out a crowd of enemies and achieved an “SSS” ranking. These rankings reward you with points which you can spend on upgrades for your arsenal, or more moves and powers. I did, however, feel that some of the moves were a bit unnecessary. Usually, you’ll only need a few key moves in order to progress throughout the game, but these extra abilities do add to the visual appeal and overall awesomeness of combat.
The boss battles are excellent. They’re not terribly difficult, but unlike most bosses in games which are strictly difficult, these are actually a joy to play. Most involve not only hacking at whatever huge demon you’re up against, but using platforming elements to avoid their various attacks.
The only real complaint I have with the gameplay is that it can be a little repetitive during the game’s final levels… and I’m talking like, maybe the last 2 or 3.
Like the overall gameplay, the controls are fluid, yet relatively simple. Combos are easy and you’ll be demon slaying like a pro in no time. As you progress, you gain more and more abilities, but the game eases you into them gradually rather than unloading all at once. By the end of the game, you’ll be taking out swarms of enemies as if it were second nature.
|Dante says, "Don't buy this game for children. I curse alot."|
Basically, it all comes down to graphics. The Xbox360 and PS3 versions are identical. Both contain some pop-in and the framerate tends to chug when there are too many citizens or enemies on the screen at once. The Wii U version, while otherwise identical to its console brethren, has an odd problem with the depth-of-field effect present through most of the game. It tends to make the background elements look weirdly stretched, rather than just “blurry” when the camera is focused on characters during cut-scenes. That’s not a slight towards the Wii U, it’s just a minor hiccup in that particular port.
The resolution is the largest and most noticeable difference between the console and PC versions. The consoles are locked at 720p (even the Wii U port), while the PC port is capable of displaying in 1080p and runs at a smooth 60 frames-per-second, as opposed to the console’s 30 (approx). I don’t mean to sound like a PC elitist, but if you have a PC capable of running the game as the developers intended, the PC is the definitive version of the game. And hey, at this point within the first few months of the game’s release, it’s $10 cheaper (on Steam).
The story was definitely the best part of the game, but it came with a price: The main character, Connor, is kind of bland. I remember playing ACII for the first time and thinking the same thing about Ezio, but by the end of the game, the character had gone from a spoiled rich kid to a noble, honorable warrior and an overall likeable guy. Connor has no such story arch. The character stays completely one dimensional throughout the entire game. Connor is always focused on one particular goal (which I won’t detail for fear of spoilers) and absolutely nothing else. He’s also a jerk and comes off as really stupid and ignorant at times. Part of his character is that he IS, indeed, ignorant of his surroundings because of being thrust into an unfamiliar world, but some of his personal decisions made him seem… well… dumb. Harsh criticism towards a videogame character, I know. Hopefully Ubisoft will take the same route as ACII and release more games with Connor as the protagonist. Maybe then we’ll see him grow more as a character.
Aside from the mediocre main character, the story is really good. The Colonial setting provides a lot of intersections with history in which the player crosses paths with real-life figures such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Paul Revere. Finding out how they all play in to the huge “end-of-the-world” plot of the present is definitely interesting to see. And again, aside from the main character, ACIII has some of the most interesting characters I’ve ever seen in a videogame, particularly the villains.
The overarching story set in the present day and featuring Desmond Miles is wrapped up very cryptically, but I believe that it falls in line with the series’ previous entries. What the next game’s plot will be is only briefly hinted at during the epilogue, but it seems as though the series could be going in a pretty interesting new direction.
The graphics are like the rest of the games: gorgeous. The team behind the AC games has an unmatched ability in creating an open-world environment which feels as though it was plucked directly out of the past. From the Crusade-Era “Holy land” of the original game to the recent game’s Colonial American battlefields, the series always has striking visuals.
With that being said, the art direction is a little bland. That’s no fault of the developers to a certain extent, it’s just the time period in which the game is set. For the past 3 games in the series (ACII, Brotherhood and Revelations), the setting has been in and around Italy and Istanbul. While it could be that I’m simply partial to the beautifully elegant Italian/Roman architecture of those games, ACIII falls a bit short. Story-wise, the mid/late 1700s setting works great, but for a game, I feel it perhaps should have had a different setting.
The “frontier” areas which connect all the various cities and towns are all beautiful, albeit a bit void of any purpose save for small side-quests.
Hands down, this is the best sounding game you’ll ever hear. I’ve never really taken notice of the sound design within a videogame, but in ACIII, sound is constantly driving the atmosphere. Whether it’s the bustling streets of New York and Boston, the wilderness of the frontier and homestead areas, or the ocean waves during Naval combat, the sounds of the game immerse you, I guarantee, as no other game has before.
Along with the sound is ACIII’s music. In my opinion, and no disrespect to original series composer, Jesper Kyd, Lorne Balfe has created the best score of the entire series. Like many of Hans Zimmer’s apprentices (Klaus Badelt), Balfe manages to have the same disease: He’s better than Hans Zimmer. I strongly recommend picking this score up on www.amazon.com where it’s available as a digital download. You won’t regret it.
I found the gameplay to be quite unfocused at times. The game constantly changes up your control scheme and play-style throughout its entirety. One minute you’re doing your normal assassin routine, the next you’re riding on horseback while yelling at 3 groups of soldiers to fire their cannons at redcoats in a “tower defense” mini-game.
And that’s essentially what most of the game felt like to me: A series of mini-games with normal Assassin’s Creed gameplay sprinkled in. You spend more of your time with these diversions in gameplay than you do being sneaky and “assassin-ing.”
Most gamers probably welcome these types of constant gameplay changes since it has been stated that the series tends to be “boring and repetitive.” This is a claim that I can agree with if talking about the first game, but I believe Ubisoft rectified the problem with the sequels from ACII through Revelations. In all fairness, it’s probably a good thing that Ubisoft did, in fact, change things up a bit to keep the series fresh, I just felt like the change ups seemed rather forced at times.
Control is kind of wonky every now and then. Connor will sometimes get locked into position and unable to move. This becomes extremely frustrating when having to jump from rooftop to rooftop, or tree branch to tree branch in order to escape guards, or take out a target within a time limit. Although it could have been because I was playing on PC with an Xbox360 controller, it seemed like my ‘B’ button would occasionally stop working. This usually happened when I was engaged in combat and had to use the button to counter an enemy’s attack. I would hit the button to counter, but absolutely nothing would happen and Connor would just stand there like an idiot, resulting in a musket being driven into his face. Again, this could have just been a PC related issue or a problem with my controller, though I haven’t had this problem with any other games using the same one (including other AC games).
I always like to give an “is it worth $60,” or “full price verdict” and here it is:
Is it worth retail price? Maybe.
If you’re a fan of the series, full price is definitely worth it, but if not, wait till the price comes down around $30. Frustrating (at times) controls/gameplay and a main character that has about as much personality as a rock, might turn potential fans off if they haven’t spent time in the AC universe before. Only spend the full price of admission if you absolutely cannot wait to see how the Desmond Miles portion of the Assassin’s Creed series comes to an end.
By the way, I take credit for these screenshots. All were done by me from my PC except the boxart and video/music. I'm slowly inching my way to fancier things!
So after very little convincing, I caved and bought a Wii-U. Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!!!!
To answer one simple question, "Is it good," the answer is no... It's amazing! Not since the days of the Super Nintendo have I fallen instantly in love with a console. Sure, you have to do ALOT of waiting around upon first booting up the system due to a massive update, but it's well worth your time. As soon as I took the gamepad out of the box, I knew there was about to be some major magic goin' on. The thing was weighty. It felt as though it were well-built, something that can't, in my opinion, be said about the last few Nintendo consoles. When I picked it up, I felt more like I had just bought the most monstrous hand-held ever built... and this was just the controller!
I bought New Super Mario Bros. U as my first game and man is it nice to finally see Mario in glorious HD quality! Not only does the system display HD visuals, but it displays TRUE 1080p resolution, something of which the other two consoles cannot say. Even though both consoles claim to support 1080 resolutions, they, in fact, don't. 720p is the standard when it comes to gaming on consoles. The consoles only really "support" 1080, for movies (Blu-Ray / high-def cutscenes) and things like that.
As I mentioned in the last episode, I've been buying lots of games off of Steam for my PC, alot of which are games that I already own on either Xbox360 or PS3. The differences between The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim running at 720p on the Xbox and 1080i on a pretty high end PC are astonishing. People who have never experienced a videogame in 1080 are truely missing out. Colors are more vibrant, black levels are... well... "blacker" and the overall image is just alot smoother than what console gamers are used to. This alone puts the Wii-U at the head of the pack when it comes to being THE console to own this generation.
Only problem is... this generation is almost over. It's been rumored (rumors that are highly likely) that the next systems from Sony and Microsoft will be revealed sometime in 2013 and release in 2014. If Nintendo would have released the Wii-U back in 2006, there would be no question that they would be back on top of the the console market, which is where they should have been all along. I seriously hope that the Wii-U does well, but how well it will perform when the next two powerhouses are released remains to be seen.
That's about all I've got for now, folks. I'm gonna leave it to Nic to write up a full-fledged review on the console itself. Just remember, kids: If you buy a Wii-U, you'll be playing with power! Wii-Power!
Wow, that really doesn't work. It was alot better back in the 90s when you could say, "SUPER power!"