Author Archives: Mad Matt

About Mad Matt

Hi! I enjoy writing game reviews, as well as my thoughts and opinions on the gaming industry. If you'd like to hear more about my dumb opinions, please check out my Twitter profile! It should be among my profile links on my WordPress page.

Spotlight – The Leviathan Axe, God of War

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The Blades of Chaos from the original God of War are a legendary set of weapons. Their design is sleek, stylish, and provides a satisfying array of combo attacks to unleash on enemies. They’re so good, in fact, that up until 2018’s latest release in the series, the Blades of Chaos were Kratos’ main method of defense across six different games since the first God of War in 2005. Other weapons were introduced in later entries, but none of them stole the show quite like the Blades of Chaos did.

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In 2018’s God of War, this is no longer the case. The latest God of War introduces the Leviathan Axe, a weapon inspired by Thor’s hammer Mjolnir and other elements of Norse mythology. The special moves offered by this axe all center around one core idea: being able to recall the weapon at a moment’s notice.

 

At first glance, the Leviathan Axe is rather straightforward, delivering an expected array of attacks. R1 is the light swing, and R2 is the heavy swing. These can be chained together in different combinations to deliver unique moves, similar to other action titles. The real fun begins when messing around recalling the axe back into Kratos’ possession.

 

The triangle button on the PlayStation 4 controller is the dedicated axe recall prompt, and it works wonderfully. Kratos can throw the axe in a light or heavy throw, and call it back to him at any point. This gives opportunities to take down enemies using ranged moves, but it also provides some really fun methods of closing in the distance to an enemy during a fight. Throw the axe at an enemy, watch the weapon’s frost-abilities freeze that enemy still, and run up to finish them off with a series of punches and kicks. Or, run head-first into a battle, and recall the axe while in mid-air to deliver an earth-shattering strike as Kratos swings his weapon downward.

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There are more opportunities like this available in God of War, and most of them work quite well. It took me a while to get a hang of this new style of combat that differs greatly from previous games in the series, but it has quickly become a favorite of mine. The satisfying rumble of the controller as the Leviathan Axe returns to Kratos never gets old, and it’s just one reason why I decided to play through the game a second time.

 

I decided not to write a full review for the game because, well, I don’t really feel like it. I just wanted to shine a quick spotlight on the Leviathan Axe, one of the coolest new weapons in recent memory. The game is superb, with only a few minor quibbles I had during the experience. As a whole, though, it delivers a tale that I won’t forget any time soon. 

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Short Review: A Quiet Place

Hey guys, here’s a short review I wrote for my college newspaper. Enjoy! Thank you for reading.

Review: A Quiet Place

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In today’s bloated landscape of horror movie flicks, an effective gimmick goes a long way in helping a film stand out from the crowd. It’s good news, then, that the silent tension found in “A Quiet Place” is justified by the film’s setup.

 

The premise of “A Quiet Place” is simple. A small family of five are among the few remaining survivors after an unknown attack on humanity wipes out modern civilization. The father of the family, Lee (John Krasinski) and his wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt) survive each day making as little noise as possible, teaching their children to follow in their footsteps. Any significant noise brings trouble not long after, and the film revolves around how the family takes measures to stay quiet, and thus, be safe.

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In some ways, “A Quiet Place” echoes “Don’t Breathe” a 2016 horror movie that emphasized the characters making as little noise as possible. It’s a smart technique for building tension; after all, the best time to scare the audience is when the movie is silent, and in both of these films, surprises can lurk around every corner.

 

Unsurprisingly, there are jump scares to be found in “A Quiet Place”. Coming from someone that finds most horror movie jump scares to be poorly handled, I never found any of the ones in this movie that obnoxious. They felt appropriately timed, for the most part. In their absence, though, was left a feeling of anxiousness that lasted nearly the entire watch. This feeling of dread persisted the whole movie, and I loved it. It helps that there is barely any spoken dialogue in the film, with each of the characters relying on sign language and whispers to communicate. When sounds do show up, they’re made all the more frightening by this lack of conversation.

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Each of the actors perform well on-screen. Any fear of annoying child actors are quickly put to rest, as each of the kids also provide a solid performance. Only one family member has a full character arc, but it’s focused and well written. Every actor behaves as you’d expect, with no “Why would you do that?” moments of frustration that can sometimes pop up in horror movies, when the audience questions the protagonist’s motivations.

 

There isn’t much of a backstory to be found here, which for some viewers may be disappointing, but I think the audience was provided enough information to come up with an interesting precursor of events ourselves.

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My only big criticism shows up in the final ten minutes. The ending felt abrupt, with a finale that feels a little forced and out-of-place from the rest of the film. I also wish we saw more interaction with other survivors, as the story relies almost entirely on the family’s survival. Still, it provided a complete package, avoiding any silly cliffhangers or indication that a sequel MUST be created. I’d say “A Quiet Place” is among the more memorable horror films I’ve seen lately. With a cast that plays their part very well, interesting set design, and some set pieces that keep the movie tense all throughout, I’d recommend this one to anyone that is even slightly interested by the movie’s premise.

Review: Burnout Paradise: Remastered

Review: Burnout Paradise: Remastered

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC (arriving later)

Hours Played: 10+

Developer: Criterion Games

Burnout Paradise

In the world of video game racers in the mid 2000’s, the “Burnout” series was king. The arcade racing genre had heavy competition in the form of “Need for Speed”, “Midnight Club”, and “Ridge Racer”, but 2008’s “Burnout Paradise” marked a peak for the genre.

 

“Burnout Paradise” abandons linear race tracks, opting for an open-world environment where players can explore a large city of their own free will and take on multiple types of unique challenges. It allows players to drive around the game world, discovering shortcuts and other hidden areas while unlocking new cars that offer better performance, where they can then compete in online multiplayer against other players in a number of different races. All of this is possible while still offering satisfying high-speed gameplay that gives an incredible sense of movement. Even with all of the additional game modes included, driving around the game world of your own volition is exciting; with a number of collectibles to gather in the form of breaking billboards, discovering shortcuts, and performing large jumps, the additional game modes are just icing on the cake.

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The game was met with critical acclaim, garnering an average of 88 out of 100 on the aggregate review website Metacritic. As expected, the remaster offers mostly the same experience as the original game’s release. Running at a higher resolution and on modern hardware means the game looks better than ever, all while running at a smooth 60 frames per second.

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The “Burnout” series is known for its high-fidelity crash systems, where the sheer level of detail put into car crashes is staggering. Every crash plays out in slow-motion, zooming in on cars that literally break at the seams when they collide with each other or obstacles. It gives failure its own minor reward in the form of well-choreographed car crashes, with a respawn timer that feels fair.

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Returning to the experience years later, it hit me just how well “Burnout Paradise” has aged since its original release a decade ago. The game world’s city and forest areas flow well, feeling like a cohesive environment with meticulously placed shortcuts and well-designed streets. It’s obvious that the team at Criterion Games worked hard to create a fun world to explore, with no single area noticeably worse than the other. As mentioned earlier, the remaster includes all of the add-on content that arrived after the original game’s release, the most hefty of this additional content being the ‘Big Surf Island’ add-on. This add-on inserts an additional island area to the game’s open-world, offering even more streets to explore and high-flying jumps to pull off. It doesn’t feel quite as well-crafted as the original game’s areas, with some weirdly-designed shortcuts, but it is a nice addition to the overall package.

 

Perhaps the most relieving news that “Burnout Paradise: Remastered” received leading up to its release was the announcement that the entirety of the original game’s soundtrack would be returning. The game offers a large number of songs across a variety of genres; from rock artists like Guns n’ Roses, Seether and Alice in Chains, to fan favorites in the form of Avril Lavigne and songs from previous “Burnout” games, there’s something to make everyone happy while cruising around paradise.

 

Rating: 5/5

Despite Low Expectations, Metal Gear Survive Disappoints

Normally I don’t like sharing my opinion of a game before I’ve given it a try myself, but now that the full release of Metal Gear Survive has hit store shelves, I have to share my thoughts. Amidst the controversy the game has received surrounding it, I’d like to comment on the actual game itself.

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I’ve been a Metal Gear fan for a long time. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed each of the mainline games (although I still have to get around to Metal Gear 1 and 2), and absolutely loved the fantastic side entry Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. The first Metal Gear Solid remains my favorite in the series, but each game brings something new to the table, expanding on the previous game in a way that has impressed me each time.

Metal Gear Solid

Metal Gear Solid (1998) was an early look at quality voice-acting in video games, and offered a complex and thrilling story. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001) introduced a new protagonist, to everyone’s surprise, and included a staggering attention to detail (melting ice cubes, anyone?) to compliment the main story. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2004) put players in control of the long-dormant character Big Boss, and expanded on the stealth options of its predecessor in a drastically different environment. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (2008) offered beautifully choreographed cutscenes and a wacky storyline that aimed to offer closure on the series’ biggest questions. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (2015) put players in the shoes of Big Boss once again, giving them unprecedented freedom in an open world environment to tackle missions in any way they wanted. It is a game series that has embraced change, unafraid to tackle new ideas while keeping certain positive features from previous entries that worked well. Even if the overall story is a bit of a mess, Metal Gear is one of my favorite game series of all time.

 

Metal Gear Survive is not a Metal Gear game. It offers similar movement and combat mechanics to The Phantom Pain, but places enough twists on them that don’t work in its favor. Melee combat is clunky and unsatisfying. The survival angle is emphasized to the nth degree, forcing a food and thirst meter (features that I personally dislike in most games). It also foregoes any interesting plot points that may have given long-time fans any interest in the game’s narrative.

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Like I mentioned earlier, I dislike giving my full thoughts on a game if I haven’t played through it; but I’ve played enough from the open multiplayer beta and heard plenty of hands-on impressions that I think I’m good to give my thoughts on the game. Metal Gear Survive is the result of a publisher hoping to turn a quick buck on a successful franchise, while putting in as many uninteresting ideas as possible into the final product. Unfortunately for that company, it doesn’t appear the game is doing too well. From all of the material I have seen and heard about Survive, only a single thing has made me curious about the game, that thing being the Lovecraftian monster that appears in the late game. From what I’ve heard, however, that aspect goes largely ignored, and the plot doesn’t move anywhere interesting with it.

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I think it’s safe to say that Metal Gear is dead. It had a great run, with some absolutely amazing games that I will never forget. It’s too bad series creator Hideo Kojima didn’t get the chance to finish the entire story of The Phantom Pain, but that’s an entirely different story.

Review: Celeste

Review: Celeste

Platforms: PS4, Switch, X1, PC

Hours Played: 14

Developer: Matt Makes Games

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There are a lot of people that deal with anxiety on a daily basis, and not a lot of video games that discuss the topic. In fact, not a whole lot of games tackle mental health, although some notable releases like last year’s “Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice” do make it a central plot piece.

 

“Celeste” handles anxiety a little differently, with a central character inhabiting the player’s anxious thoughts and struggle with panic attacks. The game is a side-scrolling platformer where you’ll run, dash, and jump your way through levels room-by-room, with story segments that provide context to each situation. The game controls like a dream, not unlike developer Matt Thorson’s previous work, “Towerfall Ascension” which featured similar mechanics of movement. The control options in “Celeste” are simple, with only four commands: run, jump, dash, and grab. Through the advancement of the story, the game will teach how each one works with each other, never feeling like a chore or rushing through how each mechanic works.

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The player controls Madeline, a young woman that journeys to Celeste mountain, hoping to reach its summit and find answers about herself. Cutscenes play out during and in-between chapters, with each one serving an important part of the narrative. One of my favorite features is the ability to choose whether Madeline continues to converse with the rest of the cast; not unlike a story-driven RPG, sometimes there are multiple dialogue options that appear, with the option to pursue them or ignore the plot entirely. Learning about Madeline’s past through bits and pieces of her dialogue is rewarding, and I was genuinely invested in each of the characters and their struggle on the mountain.

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The clean character portraits that appear on screen when a character speaks juxtapose the pixel-art visuals, which at first feels at odds with one another, but I grew to appreciate the way they intertwine. Each character has a unique personality and voice (spoken in cutesy bleep-bloops during narrative sections) that I dig, and none of them felt out of place. The cast is compact and likeable, each serving an important part of the story.

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The score is also a delight, offering upbeat and adventurous tunes in the beginning, delivering more somber tracks at the appropriate story moments.

 

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with “Celeste”. The game is charming, has great platforming elements that expand on themselves in fun and surprising ways, and includes some of my favorite end-of-chapter jingles that I’ve heard in quite some time. I never found the main story levels too difficult, but unlockable hard levels called ‘B-side’ levels provide a hefty challenge for those that seek it. If you’re a fan of platformers, this one is worth a look.

Short Review: The Cloverfield Paradox

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In a move that surprised millions, including myself, Netflix debuted a trailer for the next film in the Cloverfield anthology during last week’s Super Bowl LII. Titled The Cloverfield Paradox, the movie is a Netflix exclusive that released following the end of the big game. Each movie in the Cloverfield universe follows a new protagonist, in an entirely different setting and scenario from the one before it. Their only similarity is one thing – An alien, or aliens, have invaded Earth, and nobody knows how or why they have arrived. The first movie took place on the streets of New York City, the second almost entirely within an underground bunker, and the latest one is set mostly in outer space.

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The Cloverfield Paradox follows Ava Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), an engineer aboard the Cloverfield Station, a massive space vessel housing a crew of several other engineers and researchers. Their goal is to solve the Earth’s energy crisis by using a particle accelerator aboard the ship, providing our planet with unlimited energy. In a move that spells out most of the movie’s plot at the beginning, an author back on Earth warns humanity that using the particle accelerator could rip open a portal to alternate dimensions, causing horrible creatures from other dimensions to enter ours. While I like the idea of alternate dimensions being the cause of the Cloverfield monster’s appearance in the first film, Paradox tells most of its story in a sloppy and uninteresting manner, while refusing to answer any questions that longtime fans have had.

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The first half of Cloverfield Paradox is the strongest part of its watch, giving light Event Horizon vibes (but in a good way!) Although it doesn’t dip its toe quite as far in the ‘body horror’ subgenre, it kept me especially curious to see where the plot will go. Unfortunately, the movie shies away from this setup about halfway through and relies on tired tropes to fill the rest of its runtime. Betrayals, bad jokes, and 3D-printed handguns (seriously, a handgun somehow found its way into this movie) make up the worst parts. The world building and possibilities that the Cloverfield universe allows are the most interesting part of these movies, and it’s a shame that Paradox fails to expand on the premise in a satisfying way. As loosely connected to the first film as 10 Cloverfield Lane was, it at least provided a tight narrative to compliment a fascinating backdrop, giving fans a renewed level of excitement for what was to come. Here, Paradox mostly feels like a tired, run-of-the-mill science fiction tale with the Cloverfield name stuck on the front to bolster views. And I hate to sound so negative, but don’t even get me started on the ending stinger. Hopefully the next movie in the Cloverfield franchise can satisfy long-time fans and newcomers alike.

 

Rating: 2/5

Review: MONSTER HUNTER WORLD

MONSTER HUNTER WORLD

Platform Played: PS4 Pro

# Hours Played (so far): 66

Monster Hunter World is a massive game. It doesn’t have quite as much content as some of the previous entries, such as Generations, but there is still a lot to discover. I’ve played over 60 hours of this game, and can’t see myself stopping anytime soon. The addicting gameplay loop found in previous Monster Hunter games is fully intact, but in an exciting new entry (finally) on home consoles.

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Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate on the 3DS was my entry point to the long-running hunting series. Playing the demo when I got my ‘New’ 3DS XL was a great moment because I instantly knew that I’d be hooked. The game had satisfying combat, a great variety of weapons to suit any playstyle, and the visuals were great for what the 3DS has to offer. I poured over 200 hours into the game, raising my hunter rank and having a blast the entire time. Monster Hunter Generations released a few years later and, while I did end up playing a lot of it, I didn’t find the game quite as addicting as 4U.

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When Capcom announced Monster Hunter World last year, I almost couldn’t believe what I was seeing. A brand new, console-focused Monster Hunter game that had the best bits from the handheld games but with shiny new graphics? Sign me up! The initial trailer may have worried some veterans of the series, but I thought it looked phenomenal from the start. Finally getting my hands on the game, my expectations were blown out of the water. Monster Hunter World has, so far, turned out to be even better than I anticipated. Each of the weapons work similarly to previous games, offering a wide degree of control. Melee attackers, ranged fighters, and support players are all welcome, and each play an important part of any hunt. Every critical strike on a monster feels satisfying, offering a solid crunch noise and brand-new damage numbers to add to the feeling of dishing out major damage. I was initially wary of the damage numbers, thinking they looked too game-y, but they provide great feedback for each of your hits on a monster, as well as give you an idea on where the right place to hit a monster is located.

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Despite there being only a handful of maps to explore, each area is massive. They feature no loading screens in between areas, which is a very welcome change from previous titles. This opens up a new layer of strategy to monster hunting – no longer can you run out of the arena at any point to catch your breath during a fight. You have to carefully choose when to retreat, otherwise a monster can simply chase you down into different areas. This change gives each map a better flow, removing any abrupt loading screens in favor of large new zones to explore. More importantly, each map feels interesting enough to explore, with plenty of hidden items to gather to improve your hunter’s arsenal.

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The game is downright gorgeous, offering plenty of unique forests, deserts, and varied locations to discover. I usually hesitate to call a game world ‘alive’ because most of the time in video games, it can be easy to spot subtle nuances that break the immersion. But here, using the word alive may be the best way to describe most of the maps in Monster Hunter World. Each map really feels like a full ecosystem with its own unique inhabitants that wander the game world as you track down your prey. There are often multiple monsters that wander during a hunt, and if they come into contact with each other, they may initiate a turf war where they’ll inflict damage on each other. These conflicts have been among my favorite parts of the new game – watching giant beasts go one-on-one against each other, even for just a few seconds, is an exciting shake-up to the fight. When hunts for a target monster can take upwards of 30 minutes, it’s a nice change of pace to see your target fighting another monster. All of the environmental interactions to help take down your foes are also a great addition, such as offering vantage points to climb atop a monster’s back, or heavy rocks that can be broken from the ceiling to deal heavy damage to a target.

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Veterans of the series will immediately pick up on most of Monster Hunter World’s familiar mechanics, and there are plenty of tutorials to help new players find their way through. I have heard a number of people complain about the obtuse nature of certain parts of the game’s design, and while these complaints are certainly understandable, this Monster Hunter is more accessible than ever to newcomers of the franchise. Most of the old systems from the past are intact and better than ever, thanks to numerous quality-of-life changes that have made hunting even easier. No longer are there breakable pickaxes, bug nets, or whetstones – all of these items can be accessed without spending any resources. These items are ones that every player will utilize a lot during their playtime, and their shift to infinite usage is very welcome. Even better are the numerous customizable options at every player’s disposal; everything from your shout-outs during a battle, location of items on your toolbar, and even a new radial menu that gives you access to even more items is here. These all culminate to give players the options that best suit their playstyle.

 

It’s really tough for me to imagine many ways that I’d improve Monster Hunter World. Additional monsters to hunt would be appreciated, but those are coming through free downloadable content in future updates. The frame rate can get a bit choppy during certain enemy encounters, but I found it stable for most of my playtime. The voice acting is also a bit hit or miss, and a few of the main story missions are downright unenjoyable, but the latter only accounts for a minor portion of the game. Overall, this is exactly what I’ve wanted from a Monster Hunter game for years, and it’s fantastic to see the game selling well. Monster Hunter may have finally broken out of its niche and found itself a bigger western crowd.