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REVIEW: Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (Spoilers)

Uncharted Lost Legacy Chloe and Nadine

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is the first title in the Uncharted series to have players control a character other than Nathan Drake, a star that has formed the mold for protagonists in many modern video games. I have enjoyed seeing Nathan’s character grow over the years since Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, but after last year’s release of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and the conclusive finale he received in that game, I think Nate deserves a break from the treasure-hunting gig. This time around, Chloe Frazer of Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 3 fame takes the spotlight in an adventure that stands entirely on its own from previous entries. As the sixth full-length title in a series that spans nearly ten years, does Uncharted: The Lost Legacy feel worth picking up the grappling hook once again?

Uncharted Lost Legacy Standing Vista

The answer is yes, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is worth the price of entry. Fans of the series know exactly what to expect, and newcomers should feel perfectly fine jumping in, as this is a story separate from every other game in the series. There are a few returning cast from Uncharted 4, but you won’t find any story threads incomprehensible by not playing the previous games.

Uncharted Lost Legacy Chloe

The story contained in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is a well-constructed tale that offers a glimpse into Chloe’s past without relying too much on her background. Learning more about this character who, until now, was a sidekick to Nathan Drake is enjoyable, as Chloe tells her partner Nadine about the troubled childhood she had while growing up. Chloe’s monologues about her father’s past exploits in searching for the legendary tusk of Ganesh offer a look into why she began treasure hunting in the first place; a minor detail that I have been wondering since her reveal in Uncharted 2. It’s great to see Naughty Dog fleshing out the character in a way that isn’t overbearing; providing enough hints of Chloe’s past to keep players interested, but not leveraging the story entirely on her upbringing. Not as much is learned about Nadine, but seeing her reaction to the loss of her former militia ‘Shoreline’ and the emotions associated with it is a nice addition. As always, the performances given in The Lost Legacy are very well-executed, no piece of dialogue feeling awkward or out of place. Naughty Dog have become professionals in the realm of video game motion capture and voice acting, and I hope the rest of the industry continues to take notes.

Uncharted Lost Legacy Asav

Speaking of the story, an Uncharted adventure isn’t complete without a villain to push the treasure hunters forward. The Lost Legacy introduces Asav, a militia leader that also seeks the tusk of Ganesh, but for more nefarious reasons. His motivation was established well enough, and the multiple battles between Chloe, Nadine, and himself provide even more thrilling melee combat that I praised earlier, even if it is just a glorified set of quick time events. In a grim twist of fate, Asav is left behind on the train that is plummeting to its doom near the end of the game, with Chloe and Nadine paying no mind that the warlord is about to meet his doom – this is a twist of sorts that I welcomed with open arms. Chloe and Nadine don’t seem the traditional type of protagonists who attempt a rescue of their greatest enemy when the enemy is outmatched, so as grim as the depiction may be, I found the end of Asav’s storyline to be wrapped up nicely.

Uncharted Lost Legacy Map

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy started its development as a shorter slice of additional content for last year’s Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Shortly afterward, it grew into a project larger than the developer Naughty Dog initially expected, eventually created as a stand-alone adventure, with its own physical release. The expanded development has also brought with it a longer game than I initially expected – The Lost Legacy took me about 7 ½ hours to complete. Compared to the 11-13 hours that Uncharted 4 takes to finish, this game feels a bit breezy; but when it is looked at as an Uncharted game, I think it is a great length for the adventure. The action knows when to ramp up when excitement is needed, and when to slow down when the player needs a breather from combat. This is in stark contrast to certain sections from Uncharted 4 that contained long lulls of zero action to spice up the very long stretches of time spent exploring and solving puzzles.

Uncharted Lost Legacy Combat Still

Combat in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is nearly identical to the previous game. Chloe has her own unique melee takedowns different from Drake, but gunplay remains the same as before. I wasn’t the biggest fan of shooting in Uncharted 4, even though it works fine enough. I always felt like aiming in Uncharted 2 was more precise and satisfying. However, the melee combat in this game is as great as ever. The way the camera zooms in on Chloe when she lands punches or kicks on enemies is fantastic, giving a real weightiness to the action and emphasizing the “it’s just like a movie!” tag that Uncharted has become famous for. I still lament the loss of a proper dodge/parry prompt like in Uncharted 3, but doing environmental takedowns on enemies feels so good, its loss is acceptable.

Uncharted Lost Legacy Artifact

In fact, the melee combat is so good in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, that I recommend playing the game on light difficulty. I played through the game on normal difficulty, and found myself taking damage at a faster rate than I was used to. This is coming from someone who has completed the previous four Uncharted games on crushing difficulty, the hardest difficulty selection in the series. Maybe it is a sign of my aging, but I’ve grown weary of the hitscan attacks that enemies employ. Playing 2016’s Doom was a wonderful time for many reasons, one of those being the player’s ability to dodge enemy projectile attacks. I wish more shooter games could employ this method of staying alive. Yes, it would be pretty silly to be able to dodge bullets in games that mimic realistic combat; but I guess what I’m trying to say is, the enemies in nearly every Uncharted game have incredible aim, and are able to shoot down the player from extreme range. I’ve gotten a bit weary of this fact, and I wish these games didn’t rely so much on waiting behind cover as the screen washes away its red and grey shading, allowing the player a return to the fight.

Uncharted Lost Legacy Horse Puzzle

As always, the set-piece moments in The Lost Legacy remain as awe-inspiring as they are in previous games. In a callback to Uncharted 2, a new train sequence finds Chloe on a runaway train toward the end of the game that I found to be one of my favorite sections. This chapter on the train evoked memories of playing a similar train level in Uncharted 2 back in 2009, and it is performed wonderfully in this new game. On a technical level, this chapter is amazing, and the combat potential is larger than ever. Players can run along the train, climb along the sides, jump off of the train itself to hijack enemy vehicles, and rope swing their way back onto the track. It is a great demonstration of all the advancements that the combat in Uncharted games has seen, and I loved every second of this chapter. The rest of the set-pieces may not be quite as memorable, but there are a good number of exciting sections that keep players on the edge of their seat.

Uncharted Lost Legacy Banner

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy doesn’t do anything that will shake up the action video game formula, but instead refines many of the concepts put forth from previous Uncharted titles. I find that perfectly fine, and overall I’m satisfied with the latest title from developer Naughty Dog. It offers a compelling experience from beginning to end, and it kept me engaged the entire time. As an added bonus, the multiplayer and cooperative modes from Uncharted 4 are also included within The Lost Legacy, and are still  populated; in my time spent playing online, I always found other players to connect with very quickly. This game is a complete package that feels like a full retail release, and yet is offered at a discounted price, making it all the more sweet.

 

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. I just began another semester at University, but I’ll definitely find some time to write my Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle review this week. I just finished the game yesterday, and as a big fan of Xcom 2, I’ve got a few things to say about Mario’s latest wacky adventure! Hope you all have a great week.

  • Matt
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REVIEW: Rise of the Tomb Raider (No Spoilers)

Rise of the tomb raider bear

Rise of the Tomb Raider made its PS4 debut in October of 2016, a little under a year since its initial debut on Xbox One and Xbox 360 in November of 2015. I enjoyed the 2013 reboot of the franchise a few years back, but not enough to justify the purchase of a new console, so I waited until the PlayStation 4 release of the game a year later. With all of the downloadable content included, what did I think of the game? Read on and find out.

Rise of the tomb raider jonah

In 2013’s Tomb Raider, I found the supporting cast lackluster, aside from Lara Croft’s mentor Roth. The two characters held engaging dialogue, and their relationship was believable. Thankfully, the supporting cast in Rise of the Tomb Raider is a bit better than in 2013’s Tomb Raider, but not by a whole lot. Jonah is a friend of Lara’s who appeared during the previous title, and he accompanies her during her latest excursion – to discover the lost city of Kitezh, and acquire an artifact known as the Divine Source. A man named Jacob is also met along the journey, who proved to be a more interesting and likeable character than I initially expected. Lara and Jacob’s story offers a satisfying conclusion, but I can’t say the same for Jonah and Lara’s. The storyline never explores exactly why they are friends beyond their shared desire to acquire the Divine Source; I never felt too worried when Jonah was in trouble, because the game didn’t exactly provide me with a reason why I should care. Lara is proven to be a fierce warrior more than capable of looking after herself, and I wish Jonah provided some vital ability or quirk that Lara required to complete her journey. Instead, I felt disappointed by their relationship, as it feels like it didn’t go anywhere.

rise of the tomb raider stealth

 

The main villains, on the hand, are better fleshed-out than the relationship between Lara and Jonah. The actions they take during their race for the Divine Source are harsh and unforgiving, but I found their reasons for taking those actions to make sense toward their reasoning for them; in other words, I found them believable villains. I believe that in most dramatic works of fiction such as Rise of the Tomb Raider, a compelling villain is one that should be more than just a cackling, evil warlord; they should be someone who has a reason for their terrible acts, one that can be understood by the viewer as a person who does terrible things for an understandable cause. Take Magneto from the X-Men, for example. He is a ruthless, cunning super villain that wants the best for mutants, his own race, even if that means bringing an end to the non-mutant human race. His means of bringing peace for his people are flawed, yet understood. The X-Men films which explore Magneto’s past expose the audience to the reasons why Magneto has become the man he is, and they are shown why they should feel sympathy in his plight. Despite Magneto’s evil intentions, his end goal is understandable, given the hardships that he has endured. A villain that is human and possesses good intentions accomplished in an evil way is not fitting for every work of fiction, but for the ones where it does work, it provides an extremely compelling villain that is not easily forgotten. This method of explaining a villain’s intentions probably wouldn’t work too well in a Mario Brothers game, but the way it is handled in Rise of the Tomb Raider is adequate. That being said, the main story itself was fine. It didn’t have many surprises, no shocking twists or strong character development, but it was a fine backdrop to keep me moving forward.

Rise of the tomb raider snow

Rise of the Tomb Raider controls near identically to the previous game; so for players that went through the first one, they should expect more of the same. There are a few new traversal options that spice things up, such as the broadhead arrows which allow Lara to scale walls by shooting arrows into specific spots she can climb upon. Aside from a few exceptions, expect to use similar climbing gear from 2013’s Tomb Raider to scale tall cliffs and ancient debris. I was not a big fan of the combat in 2013’s Tomb Raider, feeling that it was a bit too clumsy and frenetic for my liking, and that aspect remains mostly the same in this sequel. It remains serviceable, and shooting targets from a decent range feels fine; but once enemies get up close, hitting them becomes an awkward process, even when using firearms. The melee attack that Lara possesses is weak and unsatisfying, although it does open up possibilities for violent finishers that are appealing to watch. Some of the executions on human enemies seem rather brutal and uncharacteristic of Lara to perform, but I excused their brutality simply for the fact that Lara has been through Hell and back during her previous journey. Upgrading Lara’s gear during the journey is accomplished using the many collectibles scattered across each terrain, and it was satisfying to put these resources toward improving weaponry and learning new abilities. The frankly extensive list of costumes that Lara can don is also a neat feature, most of them offering perks to combat or exploration. I enjoyed the combat encounters the least during my playtime, moreso enjoying the game’s massive, explorable environments, but the gunplay was definitely serviceable and didn’t often frustrate me. Lara continues to rock the bow and arrow, and I hope that trend continues in future installments.

Rise of the tomb raider title card

Many comparisons can be made between the last two Tomb Raider games and the Uncharted series. 2013’s Tomb Raider adopted some of the big set-piece moments that the Uncharted series became known for in the late 2000’s; this is ironic, considering the Tomb Raider series is one that has persisted since the PlayStation One era, and Uncharted was the one being accused of ripping off the Tomb Raider games. With that being said, I’ve always found the set-piece moments in the last two Tomb Raider titles to be rather bland, aside from a couple of exceptions. There’s a few in Rise of the Tomb Raider that stand out, but I can only remember a single bombastic moment from 2013’s Tomb Raider, whereas I’m easily able to recall most of the set-pieces that take place in the Uncharted series. I think future Tomb Raider titles should attempt to incorporate even more big set-piece moments, because if there’s one thing that I think Tomb Raider does better than Uncharted, it is giving the player control over more of the experience. There are a few too many times in the Uncharted games when character control is wrestled away from the player only for a cutscene to play out, but I haven’t found that Rise of the Tomb Raider suffered this problem, which is great to see. I don’t necessarily have a problem with cutscenes used in games, but it can be frustrating when there are long stretches of time spent not playing the game, instead watching a short film in place of it.

Rise of the tomb raider sweatshirt

All of that being said, Rise of the Tomb Raider is a solid game. The set-piece moments aren’t as bombastic as I’d like them to be, the gameplay flows decently enough, and the story isn’t much interesting; yet despite these issues, I enjoyed my time in Lara Croft’s world. I found Lara’s backstory to be interesting, where they focus on the relationship she had with her father, and I hope to see more of her past explored in future Tomb Raider titles. The stinger after the end credits sure guarantees we’ll see another Tomb Raider, but really, was there any doubt?

 

 

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. If you’d like, let me know how my writing can improve, as I’m always looking to do better each day. Have a wonderful week.

 

  • Matt

REVIEW: Sonic Mania

Sonic Mania Wallpaper

Hey everyone, I’m back from vacation! I spent a week away from home by the shore, which gave me ample time to relax on the beach; and of course, dive into Sonic Mania, thanks to the portability of the Nintendo Switch. I’m not shilling for Nintendo, I swear! I just love this system. Being away from home right after the release of Sonic Mania was also a great opportunity to play it on the go. Anyway, let’s get on with the review. As someone that has only played a handful of Sonic games, what do I think of the blue blur’s latest adventure? Important note: I’ve never played the original Sonic games from the Genesis. I’ve only played bits of Sonic Advance for the Gameboy Advance, the entirety of Sonic Rush for the Nintendo DS, and a few of the home console 3D adventures. However, I’ve watched an entire run of Sonic 2, and seen parts of Sonic 3.

Sonic Mania Circle

To put it simply, Sonic Mania is awesome. The game is a celebration of the best parts of Sonic the Hedgehog 1, 2, and 3 (& Knuckles) remaining true to the original trilogy while providing fun new levels and boss fights. The controls for all three characters (Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles) is tight and exactly as expected; not nearly on the level of responsiveness as classic Mario platforming, but precise enough as not to feel annoying.

 

A cool new addition for Sonic is his ability to spin dash while in mid-air, allowing for a speed boost upon hitting the ground. This gives better opportunities for gaining faster speed, which is especially useful in the game’s time trials for each of the game’s thirteen zones. Each of these zones is separated into two acts, excluding the final zone. A few of my favorites include the classic Green Hill Zone, Oil Ocean Zone, Lava Reef Zone, and Studiopolis Zone, but each one brings fun diversity to the fast-focused gameplay. For example, Hydrocity Zone has players navigating levels both above water and submerged in it. Finding shortcuts and avoiding large falls rewards players with the higher ground, allowing them to bypass some underwater sections. I never found the underwater sections to be particularly frustrating, mostly because of how short they are. There are a couple of forced underwater sections in certain levels, but the frequent air bubble pockets made these parts less stressful than I remember them being in previous Sonic games.

Sonic Mania Knuckles

The level design in Sonic Mania is great, offering many speed opportunities as well as precise platforming challenges within each act. It is very difficult to explore every nook and cranny of a level during a single playthrough, and once this fact is accepted, it’s fun discovering the many secrets and power-ups that lie in wait throughout each level. I’m a bit of a completionist, often feeling compelled to 100% finish a game if I especially enjoy it, but I have accepted that there is no way to do this in Sonic Mania unless you play through the game multiple times as each character. Thankfully, each character offers unique abilities that enrich the levels they occupy, but that also means Sonic won’t be able to reach a certain high ledge that only Tails can fly toward, or one which Knuckles can reach using his wall-climb. Even after finishing the game as all three heroes, I still mostly enjoy playing as Sonic, but Knuckles isn’t far behind, his wall-climbing ability and glide offering surprising maneuverability across each act’s sprawling landscape.

Sonic Mania UFO

The two bonus games offered in Sonic Mania range from decent to fantastic. To access the first bonus game, players will have to collect at least 25 rings and pass a checkpoint marker, from which they can enter an isometric, top-down view of Sonic as he runs along blue orbs attempting to hit them all, avoiding red orbs in the process. I think this bonus game is a fun diversion, but I did not feel inclined to play it at every chance I got. However, the second bonus game, hidden in certain secret spots within each zone, is a ton of fun. This bonus game finds players controlling Sonic behind his back, akin to modern 3D titles, chasing after a UFO carrying a chaos emerald. Sonic’s movement in this bonus game is a bit slippery, especially as he gains speed, but I always felt in control of his movements despite this. As you pick up speed by collecting blue orbs, the bonus stage music ramps up, driving you to try your hardest to avoid falling off course before catching the UFO. Finding the entrances to this bonus game encourages exploration, as they are often well hidden in each level away from the main path. Collecting all of the chaos emeralds grants an extra zone to tackle, but I won’t spoil the results of that encounter here. It’s a challenge collecting all of the emeralds, but boy is it worth it!

Sonic Mania Boss

As expected from a Sonic game, there are boss fights aplenty. Presented at the end of each act, most of these battles are executed well, some sticking with the tried-and-true design of jumping into Eggman’s robotic ship at least eight times. The most interesting of these battles offer a unique spin on the formula. I found a few in particular to be especially interesting, but I won’t spoil them here; I’ll simply mention which zone they take place in. First off, Chemical Plant Zone, Act 2 is stellar because of its unexpected nature, which felt right at home in the game (especially considering there is already a Sonic game with which they ripped this boss fight straight out of). Flying Battery Zone, Act 2 is great, offering a familiar method of attack with different means of hurting the boss. And finally, the boss fight in Act 2 of Metallic Madness Zone is a lot of fun, especially because it incorporates a mechanic from the entirety of the level itself into the fight. Overall, I’d say the boss battles in Sonic Mania are a success. A few of them harken back to the original trilogy for inspiration, while others offer a different look at the formula. In my eyes, the only stinker of a boss fight would be the final confrontation in Act 2 of Oil Ocean. Trudging through slimy goop during a high-stakes battle isn’t fun, especially when certain sections of the fight force away all of the solid ground of which to stand on. I found myself dying to this particular boss more times than I could count, but they were eventually defeated by exercising a lot of patience. To me, it felt a bit cold in an otherwise great zone.

Sonic Mania Logo

Sonic Mania feels like a love letter to fans of Sonic’s side-scrolling roots. Even though recent 3D Sonic titles have incorporated side-scrolling and precision platforming elements into the mix, none of them brought nearly as many interesting ideas to the table as Sonic Mania does. The entirety of this game oozes with personality and care; I encountered zero bugs in my extensive time with the game, save for one graphical error at the end of Green Hill Zone, Act 2. This game has made me understand the gaming community’s love for the original Sonic titles, and has me more excited than ever to see the future of Sonic the Hedgehog.

 

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading! Next, I’ll be writing my review of either Rise of the Tomb Raider or Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. I finished Tomb Raider a week ago, and I’m going through Uncharted right now, so I’ll soon see which one I’m more interested in writing about.

 

Have a great week, everyone.

 

  • Matt

Shady Business Practices in Video Games

Hi folks, I wanted to write something a little bit different today. Usually I write here about my thoughts on a game I’ve played, be it a new release or an old one, but something caught my eye recently that disgusted me enough to want to write about it.

fortnite title

I haven’t been keeping up with news about the recently-released Fortnite from Epic Games because, well, I don’t really care about the game. The premise simply doesn’t interest me. However, in a recent article from Gamespot, I read that the game has sold over 500,000 copies across three different platforms as of July 26th. That’s a big problem, considering the game will be a free-to-play title in 2018. That’s right, Epic Games is selling an early access title for upwards of $40 that is going to be completely free to start playing by next year.

 

This is a gross business practice that effectively has early buyers acting as bug testers for when the free-to-play release of Fortnite hits digital storefronts. Unlike bug testers, these people are not being paid for what they are doing, but are instead paying the publisher for accessing the unfinished game early. I say unfinished because the FAQ (frequently asked questions) on the official Fortnite web page describes the game as an early access release. I’ll include a link to that page right here.

pac-man cash

It doesn’t matter how finished or complete the game is right now. As it stands, Fortnite is an early access title that will be completely free-to-play starting next year, and players are ponying up cash to access it early. When the free-to-play version releases, the purchase that consumers made to get that early copy will have been for naught, except bragging rights that they played the game ahead of its official release. I’m not one to say how people should be spending their money, but this business practice feels exploitative, especially when you consider people who have a tight budget for new games. Purchasing Fortnite is an effective way to waste money on a release that will soon be available for free.

loot boxes

On top of this, Fortnite offers microtransactions which are available in both the early access release, and will assuredly be available in the free-to-play release as well. As many other people online have correctly stated before, microtransactions have no place in any video game that isn’t free-to-play. It is a shady business practice that breaks the in-game economy by incentivising players to spend extra money to unlock items that may otherwise take many hours to unlock by normal means of playing. Just look at Overwatch, for example. It’s a game that has millions of fans, including myself, but the loot box system in that game is also exploitative and assures that nobody will ever unlock every item unless they pay extra for loot boxes. Even if these items are all cosmetic, they still affect perception of the game and encourage additional purchases on top of the entry level fee for the game itself. Cosmetic items or otherwise, it is gross to have these additional purchases for loot boxes available on top of an up-front fee for the game.

 

Let’s not even get into the whole Middle Earth: Shadow of War news that has been popping up recently about that game’s microtransactions. If you’d like a good breakdown of that game’s price gouging, look no further than this wonderful informative video that was released today by Jim Sterling; I’ll link it right here.

shadow of war microtransactions yeah

The previous game in this Lord of the Rings series, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, is a great game that deserved the praise it received back in 2014. The business practices behind its sequel ensure I won’t be playing Shadow of War on day one, if at all in the near future, despite being a fan of both Lord of the Rings and Shadow of Mordor. I refuse to support a single-player, triple-A game release that offers microtransactions on day one. It’s one thing to have these additional payments available in multiplayer-only video games, but it is especially egregious to find them in an exclusively single-player release.

 

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. I’m close to finishing up Rise of the Tomb Raider, a game I’ve wanted to play for a little while now, and I’ll share my thoughts on it soon. Have a great week, all.

 

  • Matt

Review: Wipeout: Omega Collection – Futuristic Fury Road

wipeout omega collection cover

Since the closing of Studio Liverpool back in 2012, fans of the former developer’s long-running racing series known as Wipeout have expressed doubt on the future of the franchise. Despite at least one Wipeout title appearing on every PlayStation console to date, Sony appeared to care little about the Wipeout games after Wipeout: 2048 on the PlayStation Vita was released. After 2048’s release, there was no sign of a new entry coming anytime soon, to the dismay of fans including myself. To my knowledge, the series was never really known as one of the more popular PlayStation brands, and so a future for the franchise was unknown. After several years of waiting, a new entry in the historic racing series has arrived on Sony’s latest and most powerful hardware in the form of Wipeout: Omega Collection, brought to us by the fine folks at Sony XDev. It’s not exactly the sort of package that fans were asking for, but the game is everything that was promised to us. In this collection, players get access to remastered versions of Wipeout HD, Wipeout HD Fury, and Wipeout 2048. To kick off this review, let’s take a dive into what makes Wipeout special.

 

I’m not a big fan of racing games. I dislike driving in my day to day life, and have felt little joy in driving in the digital space, besides participating in the occasional round of Mario Kart. There are only two games, one of them being a recent addition to the list, that are the exception to this mindset – games in the Wipeout series, and Fast RMX, on the Nintendo Switch. I won’t describe here in detail why I enjoy Fast RMX, but the similarities it shares to Wipeout made my time with the game an enjoyable one. With this in mind, I view Wipeout as the undisputed king of high-speed, futuristic racing action.

wipeout assegai

I have not played every Wipeout game in the long-running PlayStation series. In fact, I’ve only played a total of three of them (four, if we’re counting the Omega Collection). Despite this, I’ve felt a love for the franchise ever since I started playing Wipeout HD on the PS3 some several years ago. I was enamored by the fast ships, tight turns, heart-pounding music, and dazzling visuals that sparked across the screen when I played. My time spent with Wipeout was more exciting to me than any other racing game I had yet played, and that was due in part to the high speed thrills that Wipeout HD provided. I spent many hours in my high school years attempting to earn gold medals on each and every course offered in the game’s single-player mode, which include challenges such as time trials, speed laps, and traditional races. Offering multiple levels of AI difficulty, the game presented players with a fair level of challenge that asked for racing course knowledge and a deep understanding of the game’s core mechanics.

 

Some of the core mechanics that distinguish Wipeout from other racing games include the barrel roll, health system, and unique power-ups that can be used against opponents. Every racer’s ship has a level of health attached to it, totaling at 100 hit points. When a barrel roll is performed, the racer’s ship will spin in mid-air, consuming around 15 points of health, and grants them a speed boost upon landing on the ground. It’s a risk versus reward system that favors players who keep a close eye on their ship’s health, and when combined with the risk of being hit from other players and the ability to regenerate their own health by absorbing collected weapons, is a system that I find works very well. Certain weapons do more damage than others, and knowing when to attack or defend is key to your survival on the race course. Lose all of your 100 health points? You’re eliminated from the race, and you earn zero points in any tournament standings. Wipeout can be a brutal game, especially with pilot assist off, and players have to be mindful of the weapon pickups as well as their health pools if they hope to achieve victory.

wipeout harimau

The game is aware of its steep difficulty curve, and starts the player off with slower races and weaker opponents. Pilot assist, an in-game feature that aids racers in avoiding walls, is also recommended for newcomers. For veterans of the series such as myself, the difficulty level can be tweaked to my satisfaction to provide a satisfying challenge, while still feeling fair. This degree of control is flexed across all three games in the Omega Collection, providing a complete package of gameplay across a variety of stunning courses.

 

One of the best parts about Wipeout: Omega Collection actually isn’t the included Wipeout HD and Fury games, but instead Wipeout 2048 is the most exciting part of this package. 2048 was originally released on the PlayStation Vita, and while it is a visually stunning title on the handheld, those visuals would not translate well onto the living room screen. With this in mind, the folks over at XDev completely remastered the original game’s visuals into a native 4K resolution running at 60FPS, and the result is simply spectacular. The frame rate of all three games in the Omega Collection has suffered no noticeable dips, even with the high-speed action in full force. Pulling off sharp turns on corners has never felt so good. Despite these games being a retread in the franchise, it’s a technical marvel on PS4, and a great addition to any owner of a 4K display. This level of eye-candy can only be found on the PlayStation 4 Pro, of course, but the game also looks stunning on the base PS4 at 1080p resolution. The work that has been put into a full remaster of 2048 is greatly appreciated, as well as the solid ports of Wipeout HD and Fury.

Wipeout EGX

Featuring a solid career mode across three separate games, there is a ton of content to choose from in this collection. When you are finished with the game’s offline content, how does the online portion stack up? Unfortunately, I think it could do with some tweaks under the hood. I’ve played at least a couple dozen online races in Wipeout: Omega Collection, and I have experienced very little lag in any of the races I participated in. So what’s the problem, you ask? Well, the answer is unfortunately the lack of players available to race against. I mentioned earlier that the Wipeout series is not one that I ever knew to be very popular among the PlayStation crowd, and this appears evident the moment you navigate the online multiplayer menu. To find an online race, players scroll through a list of lobbies that are created by other players. There is a high level of customization offered, allowing up to eight people to engage in every sort of multiplayer content on any in-game track, at whichever speed class they desire. The problem arises when you notice the lack of available rooms to play in; the last time I logged in to play Wipeout online multiplayer, about a day ago of this writing, I found only two available rooms to join. I could create my own room for other players to join, of course, but who knows how long it would take to have other racers notice and connect before quitting? Simply put, I think racing games are among the few multiplayer genres that benefit from matchmaking, as opposed to player-created lobbies. I know this is usually disagreed upon in the gaming community, but in the case of Wipeout, there simply aren’t enough players to encourage the effort needed to play online. I love the game enough that I am willing to wait a minute or two for other players to join an online race, but not everyone is that patient. If a matchmaking system were in place, it would be even more simple for players to find each other quickly and effortlessly engage in online races. Perhaps this isn’t an issue that can be fixed by the developers, but is instead a fault of the small player base. This is a shame, because I have found the online experience to be fun and, in regard to online connectivity, reliable.

 

Playing this game again on PS4 has reminded me of the fun that I had all those years ago on PS3, and the Omega Collection continues to provide new thrills each time I sit down and play. If you are someone who enjoys slick, futuristic vehicles that fly at incredible speed on higher difficulties, don’t let this one pass by. Also, the community needs more people playing online, so please help out, if you pick up the game. Just like Titanfall 2, this game is a gem that deserves a large player base, but has instead suffered from a general lack of interest/poor release date.

wipeout zone

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading my review. Feel free to follow my work here on Word Press, or check out my Twitter page. I talk there about anything, usually gaming, but also retweet pictures of adorable animals. Have a great week!

 

  • Matt

Spider-Man PS4 – Hopes and Concerns

Spidey PS4 face

Hey all, Matt here! Just a minute ago, I finished watching the PlayStation E3 2017 live press conference. I’ve got a couple of thoughts on the show I’d like to share in a future post, where I’ll be writing about my thoughts on E3 2017 in its entirety. However, right now I’d like to focus on PlayStation’s final game that was shown at their E3 showcase, Spider-Man on PS4.

 

Ever since a new Spidey game was teased during last year’s E3, I’ve been patiently waiting for new information on the web-slinger’s PS4 debut. I have not felt excited about a new Spider-Man game since I played Spider-Man 2 on the Gamecube back in the mid-2000’s. That isn’t to say all of the Spider-Man games since then have been bad, but the ones that I played have certainly fallen short of expectation.

 

Since the announcement that Insomniac Games would be heading development on a new Spider-Man game, I’ve felt a stronger hope for a strong new entry in Spidey’s long list of video game releases. As the creators of Ratchet & Clank, Sunset Overdrive, and Resistance, I had faith that Insomniac Games would deliver an amazing new title in Spider-Man.

 

Today’s short demonstration at the end of PlayStation’s E3 event for Spider-Man has left me excited to see more of the game, and also worried about a few of the chosen mechanical decisions.

Spidey goop

Let’s cut to the chase – What am I most worried about? Well, I think anyone who saw the latest gameplay was quick to notice the frequent reliance on QTE’s throughout the demo, otherwise known as quick time events. This event is when a game wrestles control from the player and asks them to press a certain button, usually displayed on-screen, in time with the game’s action. Most of the time I don’t mind QTE’s as long as they aren’t entirely relied upon, but I wasn’t expecting quite the large number of them to show up in the gameplay demo as they did. Although Spidey’s basic combat looked solid, and the stealth sections interesting, the QTE’s that appeared in between encounters made me a bit disappointed. I think an over-reliance of QTE’s causes a lower level of excitement to continue playing a game, because it feels like the player is allowing the game to play itself, as opposed to the player being in total control of the experience.

 

Regardless, it was an exciting demo to show off, teasing at the involvement of Wilson Fisk (A.K.A. Kingpin) being involved with Spider-Man in one way or another, and I’m curious to see where the team at Insomniac Games takes the story.

 

Now that my initial worries are out of the way, what am I excited about in Spider-Man for PS4? Well, my answer probably won’t surprise anyone.

 

The swinging looks good. Straight up, it looks smooth, precise, and appears to offer a good level of control over Spidey’s mid-air movements. Obviously I have not played the game for myself, so I cannot attest to if the swinging really is any of these things, but that is how I felt from watching the gameplay stream.

Spidey PS4 logo.png

More than anything else from this E3, I was looking forward to Spider-Man on PS4. While the game is still at the top of my radar, I felt a little underwhelmed by the game’s first live demonstration. The entire sequence felt a little too linear and quick-time focused for my taste, with only a glimpse at the open-world swinging to be offered. However, I am still eagerly awaiting more news about the game, and will be there on day one to play Spider-Man on PS4. I still have hope that Insomniac will give Spider-Man fans a game that they enjoy, and frankly, deserve.

 

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. Feel free to follow me for any future posts I create.

 

  • Matt

Review: Enter the Gungeon

gungeon title card

I’ve spent a countless number of hours playing Enter the Gungeon. It’s up there among my favorite rogue-lite games, right next to the Binding of Isaac games and Spelunky. For this reason, I thought it’d be fitting to write my thoughts on one of my favorite games for the PS4. There are still some faults found in the game, but let’s get on with the review!

 

Enter the Gungeon is a downloadable game packed with charm, intelligent design, and satisfying gameplay wrapped up in one (mostly) tight package. As the title implies, players enter a randomly generated dungeon (or as it is known here, a gungeon) utilizing a vast array of guns to overcome enemies and obstacles. Assuming the role of an adventurer with a past they regret, you enter the gungeon hoping to attain a legendary gun that can kill the past. Yes, you read that right, your goal is to kill the past. Specifically, your character’s past. The game’s trailer emphasizes this point, if you’d like to hear it for yourself. I’ll link the gameplay trailer right here.

gungeon entrance

Based on this trailer alone, I was sold on Gungeon’s premise. All that remained to win me over was a solid gameplay loop, and I’m happy to report that the game succeeds on that front. There is a massive variety of guns that can be collected across many hours of gameplay, with a solid number of passive and active items available to spice up each run. The number of weaponry available to players is staggering, and with the game’s free supply drop update that went live a few months ago, there are even more choices available. Collecting these different guns is a joy of its own, thanks to their creative utility and fun design choices. Chests filled with loot are peppered on each floor of the gungeon, ensuring you access to a wide variety of fun weaponry.

 

The game features the expected ensemble of base weaponry, including handguns, shotguns, rifles, machine guns, and other traditional guns that we have come to expect. However, the game’s wacky and inventive munitions is where it truly shines. For example, one of my favorite guns in the game is called the Shell. This is a gun that resembles a shotgun shell, and when fired, it pops out three shotguns, which proceed to fire two bullets from those shotguns. The in-game description of this weapon reads: “This strange gun, shaped like a shotgun shell, fires bullets that are shaped like shotguns. Those shotgun-shaped bullets will fire a spray of rounds upon impact, much like a shotgun would.” Another example of the unique weaponry involves the Witch Pistol, which fires bullets that have a 10% chance of turning the hit enemy into a chicken. Or how about the Magic Lamp, a gun that is a literal lamp which causes a genie to emerge and sucker-punch any enemies that are unfortunate enough to cross his path. This is just a few examples from the list of over 130 guns that are available to collect and use against enemies. The creative ideas at play here are a riot, and I loved discovering new weaponry and items every time I played the game.

gungeon supply drop update card

Similar in fashion to other rogue-lites, killing all of the enemies in a room will unlock the doors stopping the player’s progression, and award them currency that can be used at the in-game shop. Every character and enemy you run across during the journey through the Gungeon has a unique personality that gives a sense of depth to the game’s world, even if the randomly-generated levels have layouts that are recognizable after a dozen or so runs through.

 

Unlocking certain features outside of the Gungeon is accomplished by helping NPC’s during a run, similarly accomplished like in Crypt of the Necrodancer, and gives the game a path of upgradability to the player’s hub world that is satisfying and rewarding. However, I still felt like I was given enough utility to overcome most obstacles, even in the early game or if my gun loadout was lacking compared to previous runs. This is another thing that I think Enter the Gungeon does very well; it balances a level of progression with player skill, avoiding the ever-popular “RNG issue” (RNG stands for random number generator) that affects other rogue-lite games such as The Binding of Isaac. In Isaac, if you play a run of the game that gives you crappy upgrades at the beginning, you feel at a severe disadvantage against the game’s obstacles, and are thus tempted to restart that run from the beginning. In Gungeon, this feeling is nearly absent, because the starting weaponry given to you is quite good, at least for the game’s first two floors. During your time after those two floors, you are pretty much guaranteed to find even better weaponry than your starting guns, helping balance the game’s difficulty without feeling too easy or difficult.

gungeon gatling gull

On the subject of comparisons to other rogue-lite games, I think the boss fights in Gungeon and Isaac should be compared. In Isaac, most of the boss fights can be beaten relatively quickly, even without any damage upgrades. In Enter the Gungeon, this is simply not the case. Even with a better arsenal at your disposal, boss fights are still the most lengthy and difficult challenge you will come across. This should be expected. However, I think the boss fights could stand to be a bit shorter, especially in the early game when your weapons are usually not as strong as during the late game. When fighting bosses with your default guns, which can be normal during the first or second floors, the fights feel like they can take ages to beat. This makes the battle feel like a drag instead of the exciting conclusion to a floor that it should be. Despite this, I found most of the boss fights to feel fair and fun, especially when you learn the boss patterns and effectively dodge their attacks. There’s a couple of bosses that I think are unfairly difficult, namely the Ammoconda (oh yeah, all of the bosses have fun gun-centric names to accompany their unique designs!), but most of the boss fights feel fair, if on the long side.

gungeon bullet king battle

With a cast of memorable characters, a bevy of awesome weaponry to collect, and an engaging gameplay loop that makes you want to play just one more round, Enter the Gungeon is one of my favorite rogue-lite games. The art style is pleasing and the enemy designs all fit within the game’s world. Although the boss fights could stand to be a bit shorter, the entire package provides a wonderful experience that I think is among publisher Devolver Digital’s best games yet. Once Enter the Gungeon releases on Nintendo Switch, I’ll be there day one to play through all of it again!

gungeon switch

Thank you for reading, and have a great weekend.

  • Matt