Tag Archives: PS4

REVIEW: Resident Evil 7: Biohazard: Gold Edition

REVIEW: Resident Evil 7: Biohazard: Gold Edition

Version Played: PS4 Pro

Hours Played: 16+

Developer: Capcom

No Spoilers

RE7 6

Being a long-time fan of the Resident Evil series, I was skeptical of Resident Evil 7 when it was initially unveiled. Coming off of the disappointing Resident Evil 6, Capcom had a lot to make up for with fans, and the bets they placed on the next game sounded ambitious for the series. They claimed that the game would return to its survival-horror roots, with a focus on preserving ammunition and navigating tight corridors. Not to mention a new camera perspective, a forced first-person view, that seemed to riff on the success of then-recent horror games like Outlast or Amnesia: The Dark Descent. I’m happy to say that now having played through the entirety of Resident Evil 7 twice, the changes made to the series formula have paid off. RE7 feels like a game that appeals to long-running fans of the series, while welcoming newcomers into the fold.

RE7 3

The premise of Resident Evil 7 is simple and much smaller in scope than the previous two RE entries. There are no villains being blasted in the face with rocket launchers, for better or worse (in this case, probably for the better). While I had a blast playing Resident Evil 5 in co-operative mode with a friend, RE7 has a completely single-player-focused narrative. It requires zero knowledge of the prior games’ events, but includes small nods to the series past that Resident Evil veterans will appreciate.

RE7 1

You play as Ethan, a newcomer to the RE series, who enters a seemingly-abandoned home in search of his missing wife, Mia. Your goal is to survive the wrath of the Baker family, who try to kill Ethan every step of the way. These are among the most memorable cast of villains I’ve seen in a horror game, with Jack Baker being the star of the show. He poses an immense threat in every encounter, and provides some funny dialogue during battles, making him a likable villain and a force to be reckoned with. The slow mobility speed made me cautious of how boss battles would be balanced, but the addition of a block ability helps remove some of this worry. In fact, I think the addition of the block button is a vital component to the game’s success. Because the entire game takes place in first-person, navigating past enemies is more difficult than in previous entries, so blocking attacks is crucial to survival. Blocking slows movement speed, but the amount of damage taken from attacks is severely reduced. Knowing when to attack, block, reload, heal, and run is paramount to your survival. Resident Evil 7 hides ammunition and consumables in clever spots, effectively rationing the amount of offensive power the player has at their disposal. I was especially pleased to see enemy encounters and item locations change across the normal and hard difficulty levels, giving the second playthrough some new life.

RE7 7

I’ve never thought of the Resident Evil games as focused on horror and scares, but rather as survival games that take place in a creepy setting. There are some parts of RE7 that had me genuinely nervous to turn the next corner, especially in the beginning of the game when Ethan’s defensive options are extremely limited. The game is less scary as it progresses, but the beginning is truly terrifying, especially if you enter the experience with no prior knowledge of the game’s early events.

RE7 5

I think the only section of Resident Evil 7 that disappoints is a later chapter spent entirely on a boat. It’s a plodding, unexciting section that serves little story progression. While it does introduce a novel concept to the series in its later section, I think it could have been cut down and have still served its function. The final boss battle is a bit of a letdown, as it feels a bit rushed. The previous boss battles are solid enough that this doesn’t drag down the experience, but I was hoping to see more from the final confrontation.

RESIDENT EVIL 7 biohazard_20170128142228

Overall, Resident Evil 7 is the game that series fans, like myself, have been waiting for since RE4. It’s a tight, mostly focused survival-horror game that provides a compelling narrative and satisfying shooting elements. To top off the package, in the gold edition, all of the downloadable content is included. I’ve only played some of the bonus content so far, but the one that stood out to me most was “End of Zoe” in which you play as a different character from Ethan. I won’t be writing a review for that bonus game here, but let’s just say that it’s a drastic shift in tone from the main Resident Evil 7 experience, and surprisingly enough, it works well for what it does.

RE7 2

The main story of Resident Evil 7 has me excited for the future of this series. Where Resident Evil 6 disappointed me on many levels, RE7 has given me renewed interest in where Capcom will take the survival-horror games in the future. I hope they stick with the fixed first-person perspective, because it works surprisingly well with the game’s focus, but we’ll just have to wait and see where they take it from here.

 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

 

Man, this one took me a long time to write. It’s not even that long of a review, I just kept starting over from scratch across multiple days. It’s easy to lose focus of work when you’re off from school! I’ll be back in the full swing of things by January 16th, when the next semester starts. Anyway, I’m currently playing a bunch of Yakuza Kiwami and enjoying the game, even if it doesn’t quite match up to my love for Yakuza Zero. I’d love to write about Zero, so maybe I’ll do just that one of these days. Hope you’re all having a great start to the new year.

  • Matt
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REVIEW: Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (No Spoilers)

REVIEW: Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (no spoilers)

Platform: PS4, X1, PC

Hours Played: 22+

Developer: Machine Games

Wolf 2 cover.jpg

Back in 2014, Machine Games surprised many people, including myself, with the clever writing and memorable characters that showed up in Wolfenstein: The New Order. Set Roth, Bombate, Caroline, Anya, and Max Hass made for great side characters to accompany our hero William J. Blazkowicz through his Nazi-killing adventure. Machine Games built a fascinating universe in the New Order, one where Nazi Germany won World War II and conquered the allied forces. I’ve always been a sucker for alternate history stories in media (for example: the Resistance games on PS3) and the intriguing premise hooked me immediately.

Wolf 2 bullshot

Gunplay and level traversal work similarly in Wolfenstein II to the previous game. You run forward, dual-wielding machine guns, blasting away Nazi’s and enjoying a cutscene at the end of each level. There are plenty of opportunities for stealth, but I only used it sparingly, instead opting to charge head-first into a firefight. Those are the parts where Wolfenstein II shines; when you can dual-wield your preferred weaponry and successfully take down enemies, the game feels great to play. Unfortunately, these instances aren’t quite as common as I’d hoped. Especially when compared to last year’s Bethesda shooter Doom, BJ Blazkowicz feels like a wet sponge when he takes hits from enemies, with little hit indication showing where the player is being shot from. For comparison’s sake, let’s look at any Call of Duty or Battlefield title. When the player is damaged, their screen violently shakes and red splatters appear on all edges of the screen, indicating that they’ve been hurt. It’s a clear indicator that, hey, you need to get to cover! Wolfenstein II doesn’t shake the screen violently to let you know you’ve been hurt, which is a good thing because I always disliked how violently Call of Duty handles it, but the feedback letting the player know they’ve taken damage isn’t strong enough. There were a few points in my playthrough of Wolfenstein II when I abruptly died upon entering a new combat zone, not realizing that enemies quickly chipped away at my health. This occurred even when I had full health and armor. The game didn’t describe what killed me or how, which made each area when it happened a bit frustrating. Even worse is when BJ can be hit-stunned by particular enemies, ensuring the player has no way out of an untimely death. This is why I’ve heard many others echo a similar statement: during your first playthrough of Wolfenstein II, play on a lower difficulty setting. The gameplay is at its most enjoyable when you’re successfully throwing hatches at enemies, dual-wielding machine guns and running through a level feeling like a goddamn badass. The lower difficulty ensures these instances of what often felt like unfair deaths are an outlier in an otherwise very satisfying shooter game.

Wolf 2 cast

Now, we reach my favorite part of the new Wolfenstein games, specifically the story and characters. Especially that second part, the characters; I can’t stress enough how great I think the cast of Wolfenstein II is, featuring plenty of memorable faces, each with an interesting personality that makes them unique. The cast’s performance is top-notch, rivaling the industry greats like Naughty Dog’s acting talent, making every cutscene an engaging watch. The game doesn’t explore the past of each character greatly, instead including optional conversations and events to occur when you’re exploring the new game’s hub area. Speaking of the hub area, I can’t say I like it as much as the resistance hideout from the New Order. The new hub is rather complex and easy to get lost in, and I only got a handle on its layout upon finishing the game. Even though it’s more interesting than the last hub area, I think the developers could have taken extra steps to differentiate each area, perhaps by colored walls or some such. BJ Blazkowicz himself is fleshed out further, providing a look at his childhood, and some horrific events that shaped the man he has become. Despite some initial worry about the tone of these flashbacks, I think they fit into the narrative nicely, giving the player even more reason to appreciate the monologues that BJ gives throughout the action-packed (but also appropriately quiet) story.

Wolf 2 cast 2

As it’s been widely reported, there are some absolutely crazy scenes that play out in Wolfenstein II. So crazy, in fact, that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about a few of them since completing the game. The first that pops into mind is about halfway through the story, in an extended cutscene that *literally* caused my jaw to drop. It is so over-the-top, so absurd, that I think it’s one of my favorite moments of 2017. There’s even a tease to this scene earlier in the game, lightly foreshadowing the future event. It’s handled incredibly well, and I absolutely adore this insane moment’s inclusion. It’s tough to say anything else about the halfway point without spoiling anything, but I will say this: Machine Games have done an incredible job at differentiating their first person shooter from other shooters on the market, and this specific sequence reinforces that fact. There are some grisly moments throughout the story that hammer home the brutality of life, but there are enough scenes peppered with glimpses of hope and humor that even out the experience. 

Wolf 2 tree

In a surprising omission, there aren’t any boss fights in Wolfenstein II, which is a shame because there are a few battles from previous games that were very enjoyable. After all, this is a game series that is famous for one of the craziest boss battles from 90’s video games in the form of Mecha-Hitler. As you could probably guess by now, at no point in Wolfenstein II does BJ Blazkowicz fight Mecha-Hitler. However, the story moves in what we’ll call a satisfying direction, making me all the more excited for the eventual Wolfenstein III. I think the ending of this game ended abruptly, yet I’m still yearning to play more in the form of the game’s challenge modes. I will be waiting patiently for Machine Game’s next dive into the Wolfenstein universe, and you can bet I’ll be there day one to jump on their next thrill ride.

 

Score: 4 out of 5

 

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. I’m finishing up Stardew Valley for Switch at the moment, and I’d like to write a review for that game soon. It’s an extremely charming game that has helped stave off my hunger for more Animal Crossing (c’mon Nintendo, bring on that Switch AC!). Anyway, thank you for reading, and have a great week.

 

– Matt

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

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