Last night, I played AC: Unity on PS4 for about 2 hours or so. To sum it up quickly, I'll just say that Ubisoft consistently screws up Assassin's Creed year after year. I don't know why; I just know that that seems to be the case. Since Assassin's Creed III, there seems to be at least one aspect of the game that gets pooped on with every subsequent release. This time, a couple of things got pooped on.
Man, the graphics are gorgeous... when you're standing still. The frame rate is atrocious 85% of the time. I had heard that the game would run at 30fps, but consider yourself lucky if you get that. In other words, it's not "locked" at 30 fps, and often dips below that target number, meaning the game chugs a lot . I even encountered a bug that dipped the frame rate to what seemed like 2fps as I was climbing a steeple and trying to jump off to the side! This literally happened every time I held the R2 and X buttons while trying to move off the steeple. If I climbed either up or down, everything was fine.
About a month ago, Ubisoft released the system requirements for the PC version of the game. I rolled my eyes when I saw that the minimum requirements involved having an Nvidia GTX680 graphics card. That's the same one I have, and it's still considered high-end/top-of-the-line! That particular card is also 4-5x more powerful than the two consoles the game was designed for. There is no reason whatsoever that Ubisoft couldn't have optimized the game to have minimum requirements of low-end GPUs. Given these horrible frame rate issues,it seems that they didn't optimize the game for consoles, either.
Even more so than ACIII and ACIV: Black Flag, the parkour controls are terrible. Let me clarify by saying that it's not necessarily the controls, but the detection on climbable surfaces. The game tries to make the decision of what you want to climb on, pulling you like a magnet towards a surface if you're just a little too close to it. The first two games, as well as Brotherhood and Revelations, didn't have these problems. I don't understand why this aspect of the game gets progressively worse.
Another issue in gameplay is the combat. While I felt the timing for countering enemy attacks was buggy in ACIII, IV, and Liberation, that has been fixed in Unity. Timing works fine, but combat is extremely slow and sluggish. Rather than feeling like I'm controlling a nimble, well-trained assassin, I feel like I'm controlling a mentally-challenged tank.
A lot of the reviews out there have knocked pretty hard on the story. I think it's ok, even though it shares a lot of similarities with ACII's story. Even the main character, Arno, seems like a carbon copy of Ezio. However, the story is - so far - shaping up to be better than ACIV's, which I didn't care for much at all.
And again, the graphics are pretty when you're standing still.
I don't want to throw out an all-encompassing opinion until after I finish the game, so I don't want to say something like, "This is the worst Assassin's Creed game ever!" I don't think that would be fair, since I've only played roughly two hours of the game. Maybe I just have to get used to the gameplay issues. Maybe Ubisoft will release a patch that will clear up the frame rate problems before I write my review. These are possibilities I'm going to keep open, and I'll provide you with a more in-depth (or at least, as "in-depth" as I usually am) look at the game in the coming weeks.
(To see the Penny Arcade comic, click here!)
In my opinion, a better approach would have been to design the game in such a way that the Alien doesn’t always show up and hamper your objectives. Instead, have him show up when you least expect it. The way it is, you can always tell he’s going to pop out when your objective is to get somewhere in a hurry, or when the objective is seemingly simple.
The Silent Hills (P.T.) demo on PS4 was frightening – this is not.
That being said, the game makes me extremely nervous, but only because I don’t want the Alien to kill me in one shot and make me start waaaaaaaaay back at the last save point I found.
And it’s for that reason that I probably won’t finish the game – I’m “on the edge of my seat,” but not for the reasons I’m probably supposed to be.
Through I don’t like reviewing games until after I’ve finished them, I’d probably give it a 7.5/10. The graphics are great (even though the PS4 version suffers from frame-rate problems during cutscenes), the controls work well for the type of game it is, and the game makes you feel as though you actually are living a part of the Alien universe. So in the sense of being a game which accurately represents the feeling of Ridley Scott’s original film, Alien: Isolation delivers. Unfortunately, it’s like watching Alien on DVD or BluRay 10 times in a row; it’s a great movie, but after the second or third time watching it, you’d probably want to watch something else.
It’s been a while, but I’m back with a new game review! This time, I’ll be giving my thoughts on one of Nintendo’s latest big releases, Hyrule Warriors.
|The game's antagonist, Cia|
As I said in my A Link Between Worlds review, trying to explain a Zelda game’s story is extremely hard to do and, on paper, doesn’t really sound all that engaging. Most of the time, you’re dealing with two objectives: Save the princess and recover the Triforce. Occasionally (most often in recent years), it gets a little more nuanced than that, but that’s the basic gist. Combine those objectives with the fact that you have to figure out where whatever game you’re playing fits in the series’ timeline, and you’ve got yourself a right mess at times!
Hyrule Warriors expands on the traditional Zelda story (though the Triforce is still the main focus), in favor of one that incorporates some of our familiar games’ timelines and, like the titles’ very nature, mashes them up to tell what is (to me, at least) one of the most “interesting” Zelda stories to date.
My only complaint with the story is that, given the frantic nature of the Warriors series, a lot of it is told during gameplay.
“What? Isn’t that when you want the story to play out?”
True, most games’ stories are told during gameplay, but the Warriors series (this entry included) is all about constant combat and completing objectives on the battlefield while doing so. With that in mind, some of the story can occasionally get lost as dialogue pops up on the screen while you’re trying to take out hordes of enemies. This becomes very frustrating when you miss a key bit of dialogue that might help you with an objective, all because you’re trying to keep your troops safe or fighting some of the tougher enemies.
|The game's pretty, and you'll be doing stuff like this... a lot!|
As you all know, I’m a stickler for resolution. I have no idea what resolution Hyrule Warriors is running at, but it’s gorgeous! I have to attribute some of that (if not all of it) to the game’s art style. The only thing I could possibly say on the negative side of things is that the framerate chugs occasionally as the Wii U’s hardware struggles to keep up when there are a lot of enemies on screen at once. This isn’t something that happens all the time and is, in fact, pretty rare. But when it does, it’s fairly noticeable.
The music in this game, quite literally, rocks! Quite a few familiar Zelda tunes are present and reworked with a metal flavor. Since the game is pretty fast-paced and all about action, a metal-influenced score is perfect. The only piece of music that I really wish was included is the Dark World theme from A Link to the Past. Sadly, I never heard it if it’s in there, and it would have been a great one for a game like this.
While the music may be great, I’ve got to dock it several points for one reason: the lack of voice acting. It’s been a staple of Zelda games since Ocarina of Time to not have spoken dialogue. Instead, all games have featured a “Sims-like” approach by having the characters start their dialogue with some kind of unintelligible gibberish. This was fine for the 64-bit era, but it really is time to start having voice acting in Zelda titles. Want to have Link remain the “silent protagonist?” That’s fine. In fact, I prefer it that way. But when it comes to the other characters, Nintendo should really start making an effort to give them a voice.
I mentioned earlier how you might miss some of the dialogue in the game, or miss an important cue related to an objective. This could have been easily remedied by including voice acting.
The other thing I docked points for: “Hey! LISTEN!” Ugh. That should have never been included, and should never be again, as it was one of the most annoying things about Ocarina of Time. It seems like you’re interrupted by it nearly every five minutes towards the beginning of the game.
|All the characters play and handle differently. Lana is a prime example.|
Being outnumbered, swiping your sword through 100 enemies in one blow, and mild RPG and RTS elements have all been staples of the Warriors series. This entry is no different. It can be a little repetitive, but I would be hard-pressed to find anyone who didn’t get a thrill from wiping out an entire regiment of enemy troops by charging up Link’s sword and unleashing his spin attack!
To increase the replay value, as has been done in previous Warriors games, Hyrule Warriors allows you to select several characters throughout the game besides just Link. These characters all play differently and have different abilities and move sets that will keep you playing. Also, a friend can join in for some good, ol’ fashioned local co-op throughout all of the game’s various modes. Nic and I played co-op for several hours, and it was a blast!
Opting to dock the controls a few points was kind of difficult. It’s not really the controls of the game itself that I had problems with, but the design of the Wii U gamepad and pro controller. Basically, it all boils down to the fact that I don’t like the right analog stick being placed above the face buttons. Not only does it take getting used to, since it’s been below the face buttons on every controller since there were dual analog sticks on controllers, but I think it would serve this style of game more if it were placed where I’m used to (for camera controls sake). Just my personal take on it.
All in all, I loved Hyrule Warriors. Again, I never knew that I wanted a Zelda/Warriors hybrid, but I’m glad it happened. Sure, it’s going to be one of those games that people either love or get bored with quickly, but it’s definitely worth trying out. It’s action-packed, has great visuals and music, and it will definitely feed your need for a Zelda fix until the next full-fledged game in the series is released.
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
So much game music is released these days that, to me, sound like afterthoughts which ride the wave of a large scale production. Winifred’s work, however, shows a love for keeping the player engaged in gameplay, as well as for keeping those aforementioned melodies stuck in your head.
It may be a clichéd question, but what are some of your major influences when composing music for games?
My musical influences shift from one game project to another, depending on the style of music required for the project. The biggest influences on me during music composition are those composers who have innovated in the musical genre I’ll be exploring in my upcoming work. I like to research music history and genres. I like to learn something new with each game I score.
Early in your book, you cite a quote from Entertainment Weekly which speaks of games overtaking Hollywood and how they are often more interesting than recent films. Do you think that the same can be said of videogame music being more interesting than that of recent film scores?
I wouldn’t say that videogame music is inherently more interesting, but I do think that videogame composers have more opportunities to experiment and innovate, because games tend to be longer and more varied experiences than films. The amount of music in a game usually exceeds the amount of music in any typical film, and there are also more circumstances in which the audience can appreciate and enjoy the music, because the music has longer opportunities to be expressive without also competing with dialogue and/or noisy on-screen action. Most games have periods in which the player explores the game world in a sonic landscape that’s relatively uncluttered. That’s a great opportunity for a composer to create interesting music.
You’ve already tackled several franchises such as Assassin’s Creed, God of War, and LittleBigPlanet. Was video game music in general something that you were a fan of, or paid much attention to before deciding to compose for games yourself?
I’ve been a gamer for a very long time, but that didn’t directly lead me to the decision to compose music for games myself. It was actually after a protracted gameplay session with the original Tomb Raider that the idea finally struck me. My attention was caught by some music playing in the tutorial area – in Lara Croft’s mansion. That was the first time I thought about the idea of writing game music myself. Once the idea entered my brain, it never left.
It seems to us that, due to hardware limitations, older videogame music tended to be melody-driven, with 'songs' that would last anywhere from 15 seconds to a minute or two, whereas today videogame music often is just as atmospheric as film scores. What do you think of this trajectory in the industry?
The predominance of melody made sense in older videogame music – there were limitations in the number of simultaneous note events that could be playing, and the available sound palette was pretty narrow, so composers couldn’t create lots of lush textures or complex multitimbral arrangements. A melody can create musical interest, and it doesn’t need a lot of adornment to be successful. As the capabilities of game systems expanded, it just made sense for the aural sophistication of game music to advance at the same rate. I think that there is room for both melody-driven music and atmospheric compositions, and I think that the best game scores incorporate both techniques.
Lucky for us, one of the greatest games of all time - The Legend of Zelda: A Link to The Past - has just gotten a sequel in A Link Between Worlds for the Nintendo 3DS. I’ve got to say, I didn’t see this one coming. The question is, “does it live up to the original?”
Find out in my review… which just happens to be after the jump!
The basic story in The Legend of Zelda has always been pretty simplistic, but never “great.” Go ahead and flame me. I’ll wait.
While it’s never been an involving story, it HAS been an extremely interesting concept with multiple games helping to produce a VERY involved mythology. With the recent publishing of the Hyrule Historia hardcover book from Dark Horse Publishing, LOZ fans have finally gotten a handle on how all the games connect and feed off one another (though it’s still somewhat convoluted in a few areas).
The basic concept is a princess named Zelda (always a descendant of the original Zelda) is captured by the evil Ganon and a young kid named Link (always a descendant of the original Link) has to save her by traversing the land of Hyrule and gathering pieces of a thing called “the Triforce.” There have been a few games in the series which mixed this formula up (The Adventure of Link and Wind Waker being notable entries), but this is usually the standard. In all fairness, A Link to The Past was no different, only it was, in my opinion, the best executed Zelda title even today.
While I won’t go into details out of fear of spoiling the game, the story takes the same exact steps to get to its conclusion as the game it’s based off of. From a nostalgic point-of-view, this is great, but from a person wanting a true sequel to the original story it may not be entirely satisfying. At times, the game feels more like a modernized remake than the next chapter in a larger tale. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but it is noticeable and, in my opinion, worth mentioning.
|That's what I'm talkin' about! Classic Zelda action!|
So far, this is the best looking game I’ve seen on the 3DS. More than that, my biggest praise comes from the fact that Nintendo perfectly captured the atmosphere of ALTTP in a 3D environment. The designers even mostly kept the layout of the original overworld map from ALTTP, but changed some things around here and there to make it feel fresh.
(Speaking of 3D, turning the 3D slider all the way up doesn’t really add, nor take away from the overall effect. For most of my time playing, I left the 3D turned completely off.)
A Link to The Past had some of the best videogame music from the 16-bit era. ALBW remixes all those familiar tunes, some with new arrangements, in beautiful sounding, orchestral quality. Some of the themes even got me a little misty-eyed from pure nostalgia. I was taken right back to those times when I would spend hours and hours trudging through Hyrule and its Dark World. The new music introduced like the new villain’s theme is extremely well done, as well.
|Pop yo' self into the wall and you have the game's|
very well-designed "gimmick!"
|See that crack in the wall?|
If you’ve ever played a game in the Legend of Zelda series, you pretty much know what to expect in the next entry. The only thing that has really changed is how you receive items and weapons. Instead of getting a new item upon completion of a dungeon, ALBW introduces Ravio, a merchant who rents items for Link to use throughout his adventure. Ravio informs Link that there is a catch for renting his items, however: if Link falls in battle, Ravio will take all of his rented items back, forcing Link to re-rent, or buy them for a pretty expensive price. While this may sound like a troublesome gameplay element, it actually works quite well and introduces a fun sort of survival element to the game - you won’t want to die because you won’t want to lose your items. For 800 rupees each, you can purchase the items permanently, but you’ll find yourself scavenging for money in order to do so. It’s a neat addition to the series which I hope we see more of in future entries of the series.
The gameplay “hook” for this game is the whole “being able to merge into walls” thing. Link can now transform himself (because of a bracelet he receives from Ravio) into a 2D painting which he can use to both navigate dungeons and phase in and out between Hyrule and Lorule (though let’s be serious here – it’s the Dark World). I found this to be an extremely interesting gameplay mechanic because it forces you to think 2, 3, and 4th dimensionally in order to get around the world.
Also, there’s no ridiculous, hand-holding helper creature this time around. You play as Link with a sword, shield and items. Nothing else. That’s the way I like it.
Is it worth $40? Look at the final score and you’ll see what I think!
Screenshots taken from Google Images.
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.
Originally published by Nintendo (developed by Rare, makers of the Donkey Kong Country franchise) in 1994, the rights to the Killer Instinct brand were acquired by Microsoft Studios when the company bought Rare back in 2002. For years, many KI fans hoped for a new sequel in the franchise and were hyped beyond belief when one was finally announced in 2013 as an Xbox One exclusive developed by Double Helix Games.
How have the 17 years between KI2 and the new game treated the franchise? Find out after the jump!
This is a fighting game, so story has only rarely ever been the most important aspect of the genre. However, with recent blockbuster-quality story modes in games like Mortal Kombat (2011) and Injustice: Gods Among Us, a great story to back up the brutality is starting to become the norm. KI, however, has no story at the time of this writing because... well… it hasn’t been released yet. Instead of including a story mode, Double Helix instead chose to focus on the core fighting mechanics of the game. I think they made the right call, but I also think that this could be related to the rushed development of a game for a rushed console, which I alluded to in my Xbox One review. Just like many of the Xbox One’s features, KI is missing a lot of features at launch. Story mode and an arcade ladder are two of them… not to mention only 6 playable characters.
Killer Instinct is the first fighter developed on next-gen hardware and it shows. The characters, while looking as though they take a bit of influence from Street Fighter IV’s designs, are beautifully rendered, particle effects from a well-placed fireball are amazing, and the game outputs at 1080p (one of the only Xbox One titles to do so). Characters move smoothly and backgrounds are simple, but look great. There’s no shortage of great visuals here. Everything looks stunning.
Everybody who plays fighting games (and some who haven’t) has heard someone yell, “C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER!!!!!” at some point in his or her lifetime. This classic phrase, and every other notable shout of the KI announcer, has been expertly recreated in the new Killer Instinct. The sounds of combat punch you in the gut like no other fighting game to date. And getting punched in the gut by sound is always fun, right?
Speaking of getting punched in the gut by sound, the original KI was always known for its exceptional music. The new game doesn’t disappoint. The classic Killer Instinct theme is perfectly remixed and modernized for 2013. In fact, music plays a significant part in the game. When you go for that devastating Ultra combo to finish off your opponent, the music goes along with, and is perfectly scored to every single hit. In the pause menus, some ominous, swelling chords are accompanied by a note from the KI theme’s melody for each option you highlight. This is almost like a mini-game in and of itself, as you try and match the melody to the chords.
As I pointed out to my friend, it’s like the developers knew how much the original music meant to the franchise and tried to make it an integral part of the new KI experience.
From what I’ve played so far, KI’s gameplay is pretty top-notch. The combo system is fluid, the moves are easy to pull off (well… they’re supposed to be. I’ll get to that), and you can pretty much mash buttons to make your character do some really flashy stuff. But that’s not a good idea to do against someone who knows what they’re doing.
Double Helix made KI a game for everyone. For casual players who just want to sit around and beat up their buddies, KI is a decent game and there is a lot of fun to be had in doing so. For people who really want to get into the game and learn its intricacies, it’s almost overwhelmingly deep. Learning how to break combos alone takes a good amount of practice and patience. Luckily, the game includes a “Dojo” mode which teaches you every single aspect of the game and it’s one of the most intensive and thorough tutorials I’ve ever seen in a fighting game. In dojo mode, you’ll learn everything from how your regular attacks work, to countering combo breakers, and even how frame data works. It’s a lot to take in, but with some practice, you’ll be on your way to fighting like a KI pro.
Since the controller isn’t that good, your best option is going to be to pick up the MadCatz TE2 fightstick, which is currently and unfortunately the only next-gen fighting game controller. All your old arcade sticks won’t work on the new hardware (which is stupid and makes no sense whatsoever, in my opinion). I wasn’t too crazy about dropping $200 on ANOTHER fightstick, but I’m glad I have it preordered. I think my overall experience will improve once I’m able to play the game on something it was designed for.
Images taken from Google Images.
(I say “nearly” because, hey, I was a kid. I didn’t have my own money back then. I didn’t start buying my own consoles until the PS1)
I’m not intending to fuel the console wars, or anything of the sort. I just want to give you guys an unbiased look at these consoles from a technical standpoint.
Like the Playstation 4, I wasn’t impressed with the Xbox One’s launch lineup either. In fact, the only two reasons I bought the system were 1) multiplayer games (since I already pay for an Xbox Live subscription) and 2) Killer Instinct. So does that mean that Killer Instinct makes this the better of the two latest consoles’ libraries because of one game? Unfortunately, yes. That doesn’t mean Killer Instinct is a bad game, in fact it’s great, but only one exclusive available at launch that I’m interested in is still disappointing. But in all fairness, that’s one more than the PS4 had.
In my PS4 review, I mentioned that Sony’s console looked like “a crooked 1980s VCR.” I also mentioned that the Xbox One was better looking. After actually seeing the console in person, however, that opinion changed slightly. It does, indeed, look better than the PS4, but man that thing is huge and looks even MORE like a 1980s VCR (only not “crooked”)! The console is even about the size of one of the first VCRs I remember having as a kid (a top loader).
That being said, it’s still pretty slick. The quality is rather pristine and the build is sturdy, making you feel as though you just purchased something worth every penny of your $500. The Kinect (which I WILL NOT use. More on that in a bit) looks ridiculous sitting on top of the system, though. It looks like someone ripped off Rob the Robot’s head, stretched it, and stuck it on top of a huge VCR. For those of you who don’t know who Rob the Robot is, go look him up.
The Xbox One controller had the potential to be perfect. I really loved the Xbox 360 controller, but to myself and most fans, there was one glaring flaw: the d-pad. With its small, circular design, games such as those in the fighting genre were virtually unplayable on the 360 controller. With the Xbox One, Microsoft redesigned the d-pad with a more traditional take. However, it still doesn’t operate as well as I would like it to. Each direction “clicks,” rather than feeling smooth like most d-pads, including the PS4’s. Other than that, Microsoft kept the design pretty much the same from their previous console. Oddly enough, a 3rd party controller for Xbox 360, the Razer Sabertooth, is a much better design than either the Xbox 360 or Xbox One. If the controller would have been an identical copy of Razer’s, I would have given it a perfect 10.
Here is where things start to go a bit south. First, I’ll say that I absolutely hate Windows 8. It’s designed for the “tablet generation” and complicates things greatly in its attempts to simplify them. This is also true of the Xbox One’s Windows 8-based operating system. Like the Wii U, everything you try to do loads an app (which takes too long to load. More on that in a bit), which is pretty unnecessary.
My friend and I were attempting to play a few matches online in Killer Instinct when I found out just how overcomplicated things had actually gotten. On the Xbox 360 when you wanted to invite someone to whatever game you were playing, all you had to do was click the Xbox home button on the controller, go to your friend’s list, and push X on the friend you wanted to invite. In a matter of seconds, your friend was connected to your lobby and you were ready to play some multiplayer. Simple, huh? With the Xbox One, I’m not really sure how it works! My friend and I were looking for some way to invite someone specifically to a game, but all we found was that the Xbox will automatically connect you after you’ve chosen to host a game. It works, but it really makes no sense to me. Like, what if I have multiple friends who are playing Killer Instinct and I just want to invite one of them? Does it show me a list and I pick who I want to play with? Is this just a bug with Killer Instinct? I’m sure there’s somebody reading this that thinks, “Man, he’s an idiot. The process is [insert ridiculously stupid Windows 8 process here].” But to me, this is an example of Microsoft changing something that was ridiculously simple and effective to begin with, yet overcomplicating it with their next product/update.
It’s not the first time the company has done this kind of thing. I’ve been using Microsoft products since the late 80s and this has pretty much always been their philosophy.
The operating system doesn’t cater to those who would rather navigate the OS with a controller, either. Instead, the entire thing was designed to use Kinect motion tracking and voice commands. Also, some of the apps which don’t require Kinect to use certain features, do require you to at least have it plugged in. What’s the point of that? All this would probably be fine if my Kinect actually worked in the first place (more on that in a bit, as well)!
I can’t really speak from first-hand experience, as I only have one game and it’s a fighter, but the insides are supposed to be almost exactly the same as the PS4’s. This means that yes, games will look better than they did on the previous console. But there’s one glaring flaw in the Xbox One’s architecture: most games don’t display in native 1080p and are instead upscaled from 720p. To some, resolution may not be that important, but come on; it’s 2013. High-def televisions are pretty much the standard and tech should support their highest resolutions. Also, if you’re going to make me lay out $500 for a console, shouldn’t the thing be capable of more than, or at least be on par with, its lower priced competition?
The PS4 had its share of launch-day woes, but in my opinion, they don’t compare to the amount and severity of problems reported (and experienced firsthand) of the Xbox One. Bad disc drives, “green screens of death,” inoperable and barely functioning Kinect sensor (supposedly you have to yell at it to make it work most of the time), etc.
I wasn’t as fortunate this time around, as I was with the PS4. My Xbox, as well as two of my friends’, experienced a few problems, some to greater degrees than others (mine seemed to be hit the worst). Here are the problems I personally encountered over the weekend:
1. My Kinect doesn’t work.
I don’t want to use the thing anyway, but in order to use the Upload Studio app to edit a Killer Instinct video clip (a feature which, as my friend informed me, DOESN’T require Kinect while editing), I have to have the Kinect sensor plugged into the console. Why is that? All I want to do is edit the length of a freaking game clip with the DVR feature! Why does the Kinect have to be plugged in to do that?
When I plugged the Kinect into the system just to unlock the editing feature, the Xbox One wouldn’t recognize it, saying that it was unplugged. Apparently this is a known problem, and could possibly be fixed in a firmware patch in the future. Right now, Microsoft is having people send back their consoles for replacements, claiming “hardware failure,” but I think I’ll wait for an update to see if that does the trick.
[UPDATE: Since the Xbox One's first firmware update after release, my Kinect works as it should. Not that I have any reason at all to use it, but at least it works.]
I’ve had a few apps close on me for no apparent reason, including Killer Instinct. (One of my friends has also experienced this a few times.) Not only that, but I had the system completely power itself down randomly while I was downloading the game. Luckily, when I turned it back on, the download resumed where it left off.
I’ve had this happen a few times. So far, Killer Instinct has locked up on me twice, and my friends list and other apps have taken too long to load. This is a problem (load times) that my friends who have an Xbox One have all experienced. What’s really strange, however, is the fact that for us, apps all take a different amount of time to load. This is the first time that I’ve ever heard of a console taking different amounts of time to load the same thing on different consoles. Is it a deal breaker? No, but it’s really weird. I hope that this is something that can be corrected in a firmware update.
Again, this is a known problem, but I have no real way to test it, as of yet. Hopefully it does, but I’ll have to borrow a game or something from one of my friends to find out. With Kinect already not functioning, I’m a little worried that I might have the disc drive errors as well. I’m not sure if this only affects Xbox One games, or any type of disc you try and feed it. I’ll try it out soon and update the review accordingly.
*UPDATE 12/8/13* My disc drive DOES work. :)
All in all, it’s a decent console, but I was hoping it would be better. Like the PS4, I’m sure it will have a great library of games and cool features in the future, but neither console is absolutely stellar at the moment.
Before I continue, I just want to note that there will probably be a few comparisons to the PC and the existing consoles – not from a fan-boy perspective, but from a technology perspective. Since the Xbox One will be released this Friday, I’ll be doing a sort of “head-to-head” article on what I think is the best deal in terms of quality – PS4, Xbox One, or Wii U.
Also, keep in mind: As with all of my reviews, these are just MY OPINIONS and the scores are assigned accordingly, given MY tastes. Ultimately, what box you choose to play your games on is your decision. And as long as you’re having fun playing the games, that’s all that matters, right?
Earlier during the launch week, the winner(s) of the Taco Bell “Play The Future” promotional event were sent their PS4s, but complained of various problems with the unit - the story being picked up by a multitude of gaming websites and media. Problems reported by the media ranged from a lack of video from the system’s HDMI output port, to the system “bricking” during the installation of certain apps and firmware, and even to the rubber feet on the bottom of the console being misplaced, therefore making the system wobble when placed on the floor or a desk and pushed down.
Let’s face it, console launch libraries aren’t really a good indicator of what a system will be capable of in the future. Like with the Wii U, most of the games on PS4 are ports of previous-gen games, with only a few brand new, built-for-the-new-console titles. With that said, for a gamer with options (like myself), I found it hard to justify buying certain games knowing that I could get the “better looking” version on PC if I just waited a few weeks. I ended up buying the games I did just so I would have something to actually play on the PS4 and the system wouldn’t sit around collecting dust until something truly interesting was released.
I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of the design. It’s sleek, small, and will easily blend in with all your Blu-Ray players and cable boxes, but I just think it looks too much like a crooked, 1980s VCR. In all fairness, and like people, it’s what’s inside that really counts. But with such a unique design (for a console), I think it’s worth giving the box a score. I mean, you do have to look at the thing. In comparison to the other consoles, I think the 2nd PS3 design, both versions of the Xbox 360, the Xbox One and the Wii U all look better on the outside than the PS4.
Here’s the physical design aspect that really shines. For the first time since they introduced the Dual Analog controller with the PS1, Sony has completely redesigned the thing you use to play its consoles. We’re not talking simple additions like analog sticks or the Six-Axis feature; they physically redesigned the entire thing.
The button layout is mostly the same, but the pad’s handles, directional buttons, triggers and analog sticks have all been configured in a way to make the controller more comfortable and easy to use. New features such as the “share,” “options,” and “touch pad” have replaced the normal “start” and “select” buttons, however.
Those three new buttons are also why the controller didn’t get a perfect 10 for me. Since the days of playing the original NES, gamers have been used to having “start” and “select” (or “back” in the Xbox’s case) buttons in the middle of their gamepads. With the Dual Shock 4, Sony placed the “options” and “share” buttons on the top/middle, with the large, pushable touchpad dead center. While playing, I found myself going for the options button to pause the game, only accidentally pressing the touchpad instead. It’s not a terrible design decision by any means; it’s just something that will take a lot of getting used to. Also, I can’t help but wonder how much that will hinder fighting games (and tournaments) in the future since the face buttons and directional pad are so close to the button that pauses the game.
The interface is good and works well, but there’s nothing really that special about it. There are some conveniences such as being able to switch seamlessly between the operating interface and whatever game you’re playing, but it’s not the best (first updated Xbox 360 XMB), nor the worst (Wii U) GUI I’ve encountered on a console. Really, it just feels like a slightly updated version of the PS3’s GUI.
[Unfortunately, I can’t really comment on some of the sharing features, as I haven’t been able to try those out yet.]
The thing that I did like the most about the interface, however, was the connectivity with the Vita. Much like the Wii U’s gamepad, the PS4 can connect wirelessly with the Sony handheld, allowing you to play almost any PS4 game without the need of a television. Unlike the Wii U though, every PS4 doesn’t come with a PS Vita and you have to lay out a couple hundred bucks to get that experience.
I have touted the power of the PC ever since I started reviewing games on this site. That being said, for a console with a GPU that costs around $150, this thing packs a significant punch. I bought 3 games at launch: Assassin’s Creed IV, Battlefield 4 and Madden 25. All three games look and run great with a slight exception for ACIV. While it looks gorgeous in 1080p (after an update which 'unlocks' the resolution from 900p), the PS4 version is locked at 30fps. To some, this won’t be a big deal, but to me, having played every Assassin’s Creed game on PC at 60fps and above, there’s a noticeable difference in smooth animations. Battlefield 4, however, looks fantastic and in my opinion, looks nearly as good as Battlefield 3 did on PC.
Is the jump in graphics power that large from the previous generation or on par with the PC? Not exactly, but the fact that the games are outputting at a sharp 1080p, makes things look much more crisp and vibrant. Though, just like with the Xbox 360 and PS3, developers will learn certain tricks to make graphics look even better as they get more comfortable developing for more powerful hardware.
It’s not trying to sell itself as a do-all this time around (like the PS3), it’s not trying to innovate the way you control games (Wii & Wii U) and it’s not trying to be the centerpiece of your living room (Xbox One). It’s just a gaming box with better technology for folks to enjoy. The last time I remember a company doing that with a console was Nintendo with the SNES… And we all know how awesome that system was!
I'll be getting the PS4 this Friday, along with Assassin's Creed IV, Battlefield 4, and Madden 25 (BF4 and Madden, thanks to a great promo deal through Amazon). So along with these 3 games (though there probably won't be a full-blown Madden review), there will be a review of the console itself, just like there was for the Wii U.
Next Friday, I'll be getting my Xbox One with Killer Instinct and the MadCatz KI Fightstick. I'll be doing a review of all three.
Get ready. There's gonna be a lotta readin' soon!
Designing adventures for D&D is probably the closest most of us will ever get to creating huge, sprawling epics like Skyrim, or any other video game on the market. Using myself as an example, I don’t need a vast knowledge of gaming engines or any computer experience at all really, to make an interesting world for people who will play my game. All I need are some paper, a pencil, and 3 core rule books to have my players fight a dragon, save the princess, and get a whole crap-load of treasure… all while securing trade agreements with countries in other parts of the world.
Several years ago, some of my friends (one of which was Nic) and I decided to try our hand at Dungeons & Dragons. Even though its known as the dorkiest game on the planet, I couldn’t help but notice the game’s emphasis on, and encouragement towards, creativity. Unfortunately, we had a hard time jumping into its 3rd edition, and after around 2 or 3 games, our game sessions quickly came to a close. I think the main problem we had was that we just didn’t know if we were doing it right or not.
One night a few months ago, I randomly searched “people playing D&D” on YouTube. The first results were the live Penny Arcade “Acquisitions Inc.” games from PAX (if you haven’t seen those games, go look ‘em up. They’re hilarious). I soon found that when we originally tried D&D, we WERE doing it wrong, and we were over-complicating things all those years ago. D&D is as free-form as you want it to be. The rules are just there to give you some guidelines and advice on how to handle things.
I decided to give the current version (4e) a try. I bought the “Red Box” starter set and ran the included adventure with me as the DM, and my friend Danny and his wife, Lori, playing as a wizard and thief, respectively. We had a blast! Not too far into the adventure, I began to deviate from the pre-written guidelines quite heavily, something which the developers encourage, and set small things in motion which would come up in later adventures as we went along.
So far, I’ve DMed something like 5 games with no sign of stopping. Our biggest game so far had 4 players going through an adventure that I created. The plot was rather thin and I had very little time to prepare for the additional 2 players, but it was great fun having that many folks!
The best game, however, was this past weekend when Danny, Lori and I played a pre-made adventure, “Keep on The Shadow Fell,” written by Mike Mearls and Bruce R. Cordell, as a playtest for the unreleased D&D Next (5e) version of the game. Someone had, very awesomely, converted the game to the D&D Next rules, and since our 4th edition adventures really need our 2 additional players in order to continue, I decided to run this larger pre-made adventure for my 2 main players.
I wonder if Mearls and Cordell had any idea that the adventure would take the turn it did when my players ended up banished from Winterhaven?
Confused? Well, what I’m about to do is give you a rundown of the game session’s first half of events and hopefully give an idea of how much fun and freeform D&D can be.
Danny (a human cleric) and Lori (a dwarf fighter) met on the way to a town called Winterhaven, realized their goals aligned, and decided to combine their efforts. Danny, being a cleric, had heard rumors of necromancy around the town and because of his obligation to banish evil wherever he may find it, thought he’d check it out. Lori, a fighter that likes to smash stuff, heard rumors of a kobold (small, humanoid dragon-like creatures) threat around Winterhaven and figured there would be coin involved. On the way to the town, they were ambushed by kobolds, lending some validity to the rumors Lori had heard.
Once they reached the town, 2 guards pointed them to Wrafton’s Inn as a starting point for gathering information. At the Inn, and after a ridiculous display that involved Danny slamming his mace on the ground and announcing his arrival in the Inn (which, rightly so, freaked everybody out), they were informed that the kobolds had brought the town’s businesses to an all-time low. Everyone was afraid to go outside for fear of being raided and ambushed, and traders who tried to come near the town were literally stopped in their tracks. This had forced Winterhaven’s food supply to run dangerously low, as well as their normal goods trade to cease completely. Basically, the town was in terrible shape.
The first person they noticed was a female hunter named Ninarin. She gave them a small side quest to find a dragon’s skull from a dragon graveyard in the southern forest. She warned that it was somewhere near the kobold’s lair, and urged them to be careful. When they asked about the necromancer rumors, she said she knew nothing about such things and that the townspeople were probably just being superstitious. Unbeknownst to the two adventurers, Ninarin was actually in league with the necromancer, Kalarel (the main villain of the adventure).
Danny and Lori decided to split up and cover more ground in their investigation. Lori left to talk to the town’s leader, Lord Ernest Paldraig, and Danny’s goal was to talk to the town priest, Valthrun. After Lori left, Danny was approached by a drunken farmer in the Inn, known around the town as “Old Eilian.” Eilian didn’t have much to say about the kobolds, but he said that he had seen what he believed to be evidence of a necromancer: zombies!
He proceeded to tell a very alcohol-induced tale involving a farm he had stumbled across one night in the northern forest and the zombies that now inhabited it. After hearing all of the drunken tale he could stand, Danny left to speak with Valthrun.
When Lori was granted permission to talk with Lord Paldraig, he was overjoyed that someone had come along who could hopefully take care of the kobold menace. However, Lori didn’t trust him. Here was Paldraig living in a quasi-fancy estate and his town was suffering. Paldraig assured her, however, that he wasn’t screwing the town or being selfish, but that he was from a long line of Winterhaven rulers and that he was trying to hang on to his things just as much as his townsfolk. He then offered Lori payment to eradicate the kobolds and she went on her way.
Danny spoke with Valthrun the priest, predominantly about the necromancer rumors. Valthrun said that he hadn’t seen anything himself, but believed that the large number of citizens who said they had been witness to such events, couldn’t be simply making stuff up. The interesting bit here was when Danny asked Valthrun about the “zombie farm” which Eilian had mentioned earlier. Danny mentioned the northern location, but Valthrun said that he had heard a similar rumor, only it was to the SOUTH. He then asked, “Was he drunk?”
After meeting back up with Lori, the two went to confront Eilian about the directional conflict in his story. Danny decided to cast a truth spell on him, but due to his drunken state, the spell only made the directional conflict worse. When Danny and Lori went back to Valthrun to tell him of Eilian’s confusing information, he told them, “Never cast a truth spell on a drunk.”
The great thing about this is the fact that none of this was in the premade adventure. The non-player characters (NPCs) were all there, but this little bit of dialogue and characterization all came from developments between Danny, Lori and I.
Eventually, the two learned (from Valthrun) that there was, indeed, a Kobold lair in the southern woods, so they set out to find it. After traveling for several hours, Danny and Lori stumbled upon the zombie farm (proving Eilian’s story to be somewhat true), the dragon graveyard, and tracks which led them to the kobold’s lair.
This is where things got REALLY interesting.
While exploring the kobold’s lair, a series of winding caves and tunnels, Danny and Lori fought off kobolds and several other monsters. However, they didn’t kill ALL of them as Padraig and the rest of the town expected them to. Once they defeated the “boss” of the lair, a green dragon who slyly revealed the kobold’s connection to the necromancer, the adventurers found the exit and left the caves only half explored.
Lori’s initial reaction was to go back inside and explore the rest of the lair. Danny, on the other hand, thought that they should figure out a way to seal off the cave’s entrances, trapping the kobolds inside. After a debate on what to do, they decided to go with Danny’s plan which would involve going back to Winterhaven, getting some dynamite and sealing the lair.
As a DM, I’m not really supposed to come right out and tell the players what to do next - that’s for them to decide. I just remember thinking, “Oh, this is gonna be great! The people aren’t going to be happy when they hear about this!”
And happy, they weren’t! When Lord Paldraig excitedly asked the players if they had accomplished the task of taking out the kobolds, Danny replied, “We got MOST of them.”
Paldraig was furious! He had put his hopes in these two adventurers’ zeal and ability to carry out the mission, but they had failed to deliver. When Danny and Lori told him they had a plan to seal up the tunnels, Paldraig said, “You don’t know very much about kobolds, do you? Sure, that might slow them down, but it won’t stop them. They’re tunnelers! They’ll just dig their way out and start terrorizing us again!”
There was quite a heated debate, but it all ended with Paldraig letting his anger and frustration get the better of him and banishing them from the town. There were a few other events which ultimately led the players to the main villain’s lair, Shadowfell Keep, but for all intents and purposes, Danny and Lori aren’t allowed into Winterhaven ever again.
This drastic turn of events pretty much forces me to change the entire second half of the premade adventure. Sure, the players will enter Shadowfell Keep, but they won’t be able to have any more interactions in Winterhaven unless they do something to restore the town’s faith in them. And that’s the greater part of the fun!
This goes to show that D&D is one of the best games known to man. It’s a huge, open world in mostly the same style as The Elder Scrolls video game series, but it’s actually much larger than that. In fact, it’s infinitely larger. Theoretically, Danny and Lori could continue on throughout this course of events until either their characters die, or the real world ends. The best thing about it, though: if there’s ever a zombie apocalypse and there’s no electricity with which to play video games, there’ll always be D&D!
|"...you're a member of the coast guard youth auxiliary?!"|
Yeah, that was a very subtle Back to The Future reference...
There’s really no other word to describe Beyond’s story than phenomenal. Jodie Holmes, played excellently by actress Ellen Page, is attached to a ghostly entity she calls “Aiden” that has “haunted” her for her entire life. Aiden allows Jodie to see things and interact with people in a way that no normal human can. This has forced her into certain situations which find her in the care of Dr. Nathan Dawkins (Willem Dafoe), a paranormal researcher and the story brokenly chronicles Jodie’s life from a child to adulthood, and her struggle to find her place in the world with such a strange gift.
While the narrative has been criticized for “needlessly” jumping around several points within Jodie’s life, there is a reason for this, and I didn’t find it frustrating, distracting, or anything of the sort. Beyond: Two Souls has one of the most original stories I’ve experienced in a long time.
|Ellen Page after being mo-capped.|
|Ellen Page as she's getting her face mo-capped.|
I know I sound like a broken record at this point, but current-gen consoles are showing their age compared to the capabilities of the PC. However, Beyond features some of the best graphics I’ve ever seen on them. As I’ve said before, I’m really impressed with how good developers are getting at facial motion capture technology. Games like The Last of Us, Assassin’s Creed III and Tomb Raider have all had great facial capturing, but they pale in comparison to Beyond. Ellen Page LOOKS like Ellen Page. Willem Dafoe LOOKS like Willem Dafoe.
In addition, this game has some of the best lighting effects I’ve seen in ANY game – console or otherwise. Great lighting can mean the world to games nowadays and Beyond has it in spades. There’s a section of the game that takes place out in a desert area, and in my opinion, it looks 100% real. There’s really no time while looking at this game that it doesn’t look as though you’re watching a movie. It looks that good.
The voice acting is spectacular. Again, as I’ve said many times in my reviews, voice acting in games just continues to get better and better. Here, you’re dealing with two Academy Award nominees and at no point can you imagine them recording dialogue in a sound booth. Like with the visuals, you feel as though you’re watching a fully acted performance rather than a videogame.
Speaking of which, Ellen Page delivers what is, in my opinion, the performance of her career. I’ve seen her in things before, and while she is a good actress, she’s always been a foul-mouthed cute girl, taking on roles that showcase just that (Inception and X-Men III being notable exceptions). I find it funny (in an awesome way) that a videogame is what she should win an Academy Award for, and I remember thinking, “If this was a film, she’d be smothered with critical acclaim. Since it’s a game, though, her performance will probably go mostly and unfortunately unnoticed.” It’s a shame, too. I’d like to see her take on more roles like this.
The overall sound design is pretty good too, but I honestly can’t remember any musical cues. The score was composed by Norman Corbeil, who composed Quantic Dream’s previous two titles, but due to his death in January 2013, was completed by Assassin’s Creed III composer, Lorne Balfe. I can’t necessarily knock this score for not being memorable, as the story was so engaging that I just honestly didn’t pay attention to the score. Maybe on a second playthrough, I’ll give it a more intent listen.
|In this game, the Green Goblin plays a ghost-doctor!|
In my recent Resident Evil article, I mentioned my hate for quick time events. True, I hate them in Resident Evil games and the way Capcom implements them, but here, where the game is built around the QTE, I’m fine with them. Do they add anything to the experience of Beyond? Not really, but they make you feel like you’re interacting with the story, so I guess they’re ok. Personally, I’d rather just have a playthrough of Beyond on Blu-Ray so I could watch the story at my leisure.
My only real problem with the game play is that Jodie and Aiden can be difficult to actually move at times. This isn’t terrible, and I’ve seen much worse in other games, but I have to dock it a point because it became slightly frustrating during some of the more intense, action-oriented sections.
And one more thing: Don’t believe the other reviews out there. Most of them are just mad because they didn’t get sent review copies of a triple-A title. This game is definitely worth your time and I highly recommend it to those looking for an awesome story.
Screenshots taken from Google Images.
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.
Naughty Dog, developers of the Uncharted franchise, have created a game which is an odd mix of horror, humanity, post-apocalyptic fiction, and thought provoking themes, all while relying heavily on several tropes that permeate a lot of current, popular fiction. This is both a good and bad thing. From a story standpoint, you can see most things coming from a mile away. From a gameplay standpoint, you’ve probably played this game a million times before. The difference here is that Naughty Dog executes these fiction and gaming tropes in a way that’s never really been done in a videogame before. Probably the only thing that comes close is Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead.
The Last of Us, at first glance, falls into the zombie-fiction genre. The thing is, it’s not really a zombie game. Like the premise for most stories in this genre, an unknown virus is unleashed on the world’s population, turning people into flesh-hungry monsters that feed on other humans. The bitten are then transformed into zombie-like creatures which continue the cycle for every person that they bite. This eventually spreads to the point that the entire world turns into a creature-filled wasteland with a few people left doing whatever is necessary to survive. Yes, that sounds like a zombie game, but it’s really more about a man and a girl who form an extremely strong father/daughter bond and the choices they make to survive.
The story centers on Joel, a man who loses his daughter (Sarah) during the initial outbreak. In the beginning, Joel is presented as a good man and father to Sarah, but by the time the actual story begins (20 years after Sarah’s death), he has become like the rest of the world: A man who will do what he must to stay alive.
Now a somewhat cold mercenary, Joel is tasked with escorting a 14 year-old girl named Ellie across the country since it is said that she may contain within her a cure for the infected.
What may seem like a simple premise actually turns into a harrowing adventure much like Stephen King’s The Stand. That story also dealt with people trying to make their way through the country and the new dangers a post-virus world might present. Joel and Ellie must traverse abandoned cities and towns to make it to their various destinations, all the while battling other survivors, cannibals, and the infected.
The things I like most about any story, whether it is a novel, comic, movie, TV show, or game, are well-developed characters that you can identify with and care about. Joel, Ellie, and the relationship they develop, are extremely well thought out here, surpassing the clichés that rear their ugly heads at every turn. But even then, the trope of the “father / daughter” relationship is thrown at them and it still works. This is due in part to the game’s fantastic writing. The story flows naturally (though it’s a bit slow in the beginning) and by the time it’s over, you feel as though you’ve been on just as much of an adventure as Ellie and Joel.
For a console game, The Last of Us is gorgeous, though I’ll admit that I’ve been quite spoiled with the capabilities of the PC. Some “jaggies” are present due to the limits of 720p and occasionally the framerate stutters, though that’s virtually non-existent.
The character models in-game can be a little hit-or-miss at times, but the environments are what makes the visuals shine. Even dilapidated, moss-covered buildings look beautiful in combination with excellent lighting effects. Everything looks as though it actually exists in the real world, giving an authentic look to a game which is trying to look as realistic as possible.
Since this is an action/survival-horror title, music is not really that prominent. During character moments and cutscenes, the music fits quite well, but is nothing to write home about. One thing that I found interesting is that the closer Joel and Ellie get to an enemy, the music ramps up and intensifies. For gameplay purposes, this adds a lot of tension as you sneak around while being down to your last few bullets.
The voice acting is perfection. There have been a lot of games recently that have had superb voice acting, but The Last of Us hits it out of the park. Honestly, the voice work in this game (coupled with the writing) puts most Hollywood actors and writers to shame.
As far as the environmental and overall sound design, it’s ok. I’ve heard better from games like Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed III. I just felt as though the sound could have been a lot better for the sake of immersion, especially since the game does this so well in other areas, but it’s just really generic.
The gameplay is nothing necessarily innovative, but at the same time, it’s solid. If you’ve ever played Rockstar Games’ Manhunt (PS2/Xbox/PC), you’ve played this game. The stealth aspects and gunplay are nearly identical to that title. The only difference here is that you’re up against zombie-like creatures and other survivors, rather than demented gang members. Limited ammo and resources always leave you feeling like you may not make it through the next section of the game, making you resort to other paths (like stealth) to get through. You’ll have to be smart if you run out of ammo, and because of that, the game really does have a feeling of true survival-horror. It’s actually possible to avoid combat altogether 90% of the time if you want, but doing so is much harder and more time consuming.
Speaking of time consuming, this game is loooooooooooong. Or at least, it feels that way. I kind of took my time with it, searching everything and taking part in any nuances I found, but my final play time was around 16 hours. That’s pretty long for a 3rd person action/survival-horror game and it makes you feel as though you’ve been across the entire country on foot, just as a game of this magnitude should.
One minor complaint I had was, by the time I finished the game, I felt as though using “zombies” as enemies was not really needed since you spend most of your time fighting survivors. I guess the developers felt like they needed something a little creepier to fill up the empty space between obstacles that a virus-ridden world would present.
But that’s what makes this game extremely hard to review: For every one bad or questionable aspect I found in the game, I found 2 awesome aspects. The story, writing, acting, solid gameplay, and realistic environments, more than make up for any shortcoming that The Last of Us might have.
The big question: Is it worth $60? Yes. If you’re a fan of the post-apocalyptic genre, this is definitely one of the best games out there.
Image taken from Google Images.
Go on and do yourself a favor and download a Playstation 2 emulator. I've recently been replaying Final Fantasy XII and I can honestly say that one of the low points of the series (in my opinion) is now a more pleasurable experience because of PCXE2. The once (again, in my opinion) horrid graphics of one of the last major PS2 titles are much more palatable at a higher resolution, due mainly to the various plugins available for the emulator.
I'm not condoning the use of a pirated copy of FFXII, as PCXE2 will play titles directly off of the original game DVD. So if you have some old PS2 games (and a powerful enough PC rig) and you want to see what those games look like in HD quality, download the emulator and give it a look. You won't be disappointed.
2. Selling your soul to the devil... all for a videogame.
In my last post, I talked about the fact that I would probably be reviewing Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. To someone like Nic, this may come as something of a shock since I've been staunchly against paying a monthly fee for a game.
My opinions on charging players to play a game is a whole other story for a whole other article.
But I figured... what the heck? (censored Back To The Future quote)
The pricing schemes for FFXIV are kind of ridiculous, but I won't be playing the game forever. I'm planning on paying the minimal fee so I can see if I like it or not. Plus, you get a month free when you start the game, so that should be plenty of time to check the game out and give it a trial run.
When The Elder Scrolls Online releases, however, I may just have to suck it up and pay for it full-tilt. Those are games I can get into for a long period of time, so I'll probably be just a tiny bit more justified in the month-to-month fee... right?
3. People need to leave Ben Affleck alone.
Seriously, what did this guy do to garner all this hate over him playing Batman? I think it's a great choice and he's a great actor. I've never seen a movie with him in it that I didn't like. Or at least, I've never seen a movie of his that I thought was terrible.
Yes, I saw Gigli, Phantoms and Daredevil. I personally like Daredevil, and Phantoms (in which he was da bomb, yo) and Gigli certainly weren't the best movies I've ever seen, but they weren't nearly as bad as jerks on the internet make them out to be. And even if one thinks that those movies are bad, exactly how much do they really believe that Affleck was the cause? He didn't write those films, or direct them, he just starred.
So I guess because Ben Affleck, a good actor, decides to take a few acting gigs in movies that people deem terrible means that we should crucify him for playing Batman? Really? The internet really needs to take a minute and think about the logic they use to come to a conclusion sometimes.
Just as a side note: I also think Ben Affleck should play Eddie Dean in The Dark Tower films if they ever get made.That's the guy I've always pictured since I read the character in The Drawing of the Three. Hate me, internet.
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!