Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus—Review

When it comes to introductions Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus will often be remembered for its sheer brilliant opening. It’s so good that honestly I refuse to spoil it only to say that it manages to capture the beauty the game offers: violence is the only real solution to conflict.

That is not to say that I’m a violent person, I mean the mere idea of holding a gun freaks me out. But FPS games such as DOOM and now The New Colossus has shown me that violence through games can be an enthralling experience especially if that world is pretty much filled with violent people including yourself. Shoot first, ask questions never.

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Like The New Order, The New Colossus puts us in a world where the Nazis rule the United States and it’s up to a group of rebels spear headed by you to stop them. There’s no sympathy for the enemy here, I mean its Nazis. Just kill them all. But even then the characters themselves including the Nazis have personality. BJ carries the same Max Payne—esque attitude of saying bleak lines of poetry for example which honestly never gets old. This time knowing he’s going to become a father does give him an extra emotional layer.

The shooting here feels more refined, TNO had this janky recoil especially with the machine guns but here it doesn’t seem to be a problem. Most notably the game introduces more impressive set pieces, one of the first sections involving shooting from a wheelchair seen often in the trailers is one of many crazy scenarios the game will throw at you. Another major upgrade are the visuals. The graphics in TNC are downright gorgeous with city streets filled with people to enemies that die in the most grotesque ways possible.

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The violence is probably the biggest highlight here. The ways to kill your enemies depending on the weapons you choose are wide and varied—my favorite being the axe which you’ve probably guessed includes its own flashy death animations. The dual wielding guns including shotguns turns every room red. The game wants you to be comfortable with its violence and manages to do so perfectly well.

In-between you get moments to reflect with your characters and some of these moments, mostly told through cutscenes, are heavy and tough to swallow. This game is gritty as gritty can get, but it does so with personality.

9.5/10

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Assassin’s Creed Origins—Review

I still remember playing the first Assassin’s Creed in my dorm room. It was 2007, I had no idea where my life was headed, but killing NPC’s in style in ancient Arabia made sense. Assassin’s Creed didn’t introduce anything new, it’s essentially a stealth game with a combat system that misses the mark. But what made it stand out was its emphasis on culture. The series takes place over various time periods of time and each one, including Unity, managed to engage me in ways other stealth games failed. I felt like I was in that period of time and the added conspiracy themes of Templars vs Assassin’s helped further bridge this franchise.

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However past attempts have made the series feel bloated. Ubisoft decided to follow the COD routine of releasing their AC titles annually and that’s not even counting the in-between episodic games. With Origins, Ubi made the wise choice of stepping back and giving the series a year break. No doubt this helped a lot as entering Origins felt refreshing. The interface, physics, and massive world of Ancient Egypt helped really set it apart from recent entries and truly feels like the first big step the series took since it began.

For starters the setting is absolutely breathtaking. The idea of ancient Egypt didn’t really click until I finally started playing. The world is massive spanning different types of towns, cities, and desserts. I spent a good portion of my journey just getting lost and trying to adapt and even then it wasn’t enough. However know that you can’t explore everything in one go. The story and your character level more or less dictates your freedom. Like most open world games Origins adapted RPG elements so fighting foes are determined how well you’re equipped and how strong your character is. Personally I don’t mind this a lot as having every corner opened from the get go will just spoil the fun.

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Origins is what the title implies: the beginning of the lineage that would span generations. While at first there is no indication this is a prequel (in fact you could play the entire game without having experienced the previous entries) it does manage to setup the series foundation in terms of lore. The game’s main protagonist called Bayek, is a local enforcers who eventually gets involved in political issues. Things go sideways and Bayek suddenly begins plotting a personal vendetta on those who abused their power on him. The setup may sound generic but there is a real drive behind Bayek’s action. The whole time I couldn’t help but sympathize with him and the struggle he faces. Ubisoft have really upped the drama here but it pays off and as a result makes Origins is the best in the series in terms of plot.

The combat has been changed as well. Previously entries would rely on parrying and button mashing but now there’s a clear emphasis on blocking, attacking, dogging—and yes, that does sound a lot like Dark Souls combat but it does enough to stand out. It’s a more complicated approach and at times makes me wish things were dialed back to Black Flag. There’s also a deeper emphasis on gear and looting, the usual fluff we see these days. Not that it’s a bad on the contrary swapping my Bayek’s gear adds a whole new layer that rewards exploration.

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The changes may seem harsh but at its core Assassin’s Creed Origins is still an Assassin’s Creed game. From the iconic hood to the parkour to the massive populated world—there’s a distinct flow that has defined the series for the past decade. Origins just feels like a natural evolution to that formula.

9/10

The Evil Within 2 – Review

2017 has not only been a good year for platformers but a good year for the survival horror genre. At one point I thought it would fade into obscurity as many of today’s titles attempt to fall trap to jump scares and walking simulators to serve as fodder to the YouTube lets players. Thankfully Resident Evil 7 and now The Evil Within 2 have come back to remind us what makes the genre so great.

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The Evil Within 2 takes place a few years after the first one, our detective Sebastian is haunted by the sudden death of his family and the events at Beacon Hospital have only helped to further his decent into depression. Enter Kidman, his ex-partner who turned out to be working for a company called Mobius who helped develop the STEM machine capable of entering one’s mind. This was the very same machine that gave our main antagonist in the first game a means of bringing his nightmares to life. Of course this is all happening virtually within a dream so think of it as the machine from Inception.

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Sebastian has been told that his daughter Lilly is still live and is being used as host for a new and improved STEM machine due to her compatibility. As expected things went wrong and a team sent in to investigate has not reported back. You being the father decide to go in and find a way to bring your daughter back to reality.

The plot sounds all well and good with some pretty interesting twists but I can’t help but feel the writing could have used a bit more work. It is border line campy and while I’m used to this in the PS2 era survival horror scene, in today’s gaming world it doesn’t cut it. Even Resident Evil 7 (a franchise known for its silly writing) had better dialogue.

Since the game take’s place in someone’s nightmares, the developers have been given the chance to be creative. Even though most of it feels grounded and real a lot of moments come out of left field making each tense experience unexpected and frightning. One moment you could be walking around a street, the next thing you know you enter a house that turns into a hallway of nightmares. This shift is more or less the core of what makes The Evil Within 2 standout amongst other survival horrors. It’s like they took the action horror elements of Resident Evil and blended it with the psychological horror of the Silent Hill series.

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The Evil Within 2 does a lot to break itself apart from its predecessor. For one areas can be explored. The opening section allows Sebastian to traverse a neighborhood with side missions and rewards. It’s by no means an open world horror game but this freedom helps make the game feel less linear. This also adds some unexpected events, for instance I accidentally walked into a garage to find scrap and loot only to have the door close behind me and fight a monster up close and personal.

The monsters themselves are also quite menacing this time around. Rather than being your typical bullet sponges that run right towards you, here the enemies react to your shots and surround you. I died a lot in the early sections of the game which never happened as often in the first one.

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From a presentation point of view The Evil Within looks amazing. Running on the STEM engine (which is derived from the ID tech engine) it ran smoothly on my 980ti. In contrast, The Evil Within 1 launched with annoying black borders and a 30 FPS cap which was thankfully later patched out but still had some stuttering issues. I will have to say that some textures look a bit low res even on high settings. The sound design is excellent as well so I definitely recommend checking this out in surround sound for the best horror experience.

As far as survival horror games go, The Evil Within 2 is a must. This and Resident Evil 7 have truly reminded me what makes the genre so great and I can only hope the trend continues. By not falling trap to so many survival horror walking simulators, we instead see a game that manages to put us in tense moments with the option to fight and understand your enemies rather than simply running away and hiding. I only hope that it manages to do well in what is already a bloated month of heavy hitter games.

8.5/10

Hand Drawn Sonic Fan Game Looks Neat

SAGE — the annual Sonic fan game event — has showcased a lot of brilliant ideas. While plenty of them are pixelated and game hacks, Sonic Ages takes it a step further by being probably the first hand drawn Sonic game.

The inspiration behind it is taken from the Sonic OVA and Sonic CD intro. As a fan of that art style I’m all over this. It’s still rough around the edges (the collusion is broken in some areas, and plenty of place holders) but as a work in a progress it seems promising.

And One can’t help but feel that Sonic Mania has ignited a passion amongst fans. Good on you SEGA. Bring on the good stuff.

Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite – Review

There are very few fighting games that capture the look and feel of the Marvel vs Capcom series. What started off as a simple all-in-one collection of sprites from Capcom’s Marvel and Street Fighter fighting games soon evolved into its own hyper fighting game genre. After the mixed response of Ultimate, Capcom returns to give fans a proper sequel with a story mode and continued mod support. Does it fail? Not really. In fact Infinite manages to be a solid entry into the franchise

Aside from your typical online and arcade modes, Capcom finally followed suit with a story mode involving Mega Man X’s villain, Sigma, to fuse with Marvel’s Ultron. I have to admit it’s a neat idea and helps explain why Capcom and Marvel characters are fighting each other (not that it needed an explanation in the first place). While it tries its best to creat a “captivating narrative” the story mode falls short thanks to some pretty awful writing. I mean, okay, some jokes were kind of decent in a very campy way but the majority are just lazy one-liners that don’t add substance. The stuff I did like were the odd universes clash to form something like A.I.M.U.M.B.R.E.L.L.A.
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Adding insult to injury is the awful presentation. For a series known for its colorful and eye-popping visuals, Infinite falls well below expectations. Most notably are the character’s faces which appear too small in proposition to their giant bodies. Captain America and Spider-Man are the biggest offenders which just appear plain blocky and ridiculous. To their credit, Capcom did fix some things such as Chun-li’s face. But others like Dante still look laughably bad. And it doesn’t stop at the character models either. The menu, music, and overall feel is just drab and uninspiring. For a series known for its upbeat soundtrack and dynamic presentation, Infinite sticks out like a sore thumb.
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Thankfully the actual gameplay is pretty solid and somewhat makes up for the lack of presentation. Infinite is probably the most accessibly fighting game I played in years and people who generally suck at combos and landing supers will be delighted with Infinite’s intuitive layout. A simple button press of square or x (depending on your controller) will initiate an auto combo which helps a lot. Air combos in particular were known to take a lot of effort to pull off but here it’s just as easy as mashing a button. Now some might cry foul and say this gimps the game but I honestly think it helps in removing the distraction. MvC are fast paced fighters and remembering combos aren’t as important as connecting them with supers or dodging. You constantly have to be on your toes thinking of when to attack and when to dodge or jump is the core of MvC. That being said the option can be disabled and I would still vouch that veteran players can take out button mashers.

But even if you decide to kick it old school and remove the auto combo, the Inifinity stones help add an extra layer of strategy not found in other MvC games. Each stone possess a certain attribute and ability that builds up during the match. Some cause the opponent to be trapped in their place while others increase your attributes and damage. It’s a wild card ability and knowing when to use it will make the difference between winning and losing.

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The roster is a hit or miss. I mean we do get Mega Man (finally), Zero, Dr. Strange, and Captain America but then we have Spencer from the poorly received and forgotten Bionic Commando reboot. I mean really no one wanted Spencer and he just feels like he was added as filler. Meanwhile we have upcoming characters like the Hunter from Monster Hunter and Black Panther (which can be seen in the single player mode) being setup for DLC. I guess that’s just to be expected in this day and age. Not that I agree with it. At all.

And yes we must talk about the elephant in the room, the lack of X-Men characters. These were the most iconic characters in the franchise and it’s sad they’ve been relegated out due to licensing issues. I just hope they eventually get added-in.

Marvel vs Capcom Infinite is decent entry but one can’t help but look at it and feel that it could have been so much more. Thanks to Nether Realm studios, the fighting game genre has taken a huge leap forward and Capcom still feels like they’re playing catch-up. With its poor presentation but fun gameplay it certainly manages to hit close to the mark at least.

7/10

Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition – Review

I LOVE Rayman Legends. I’ve played it on three different platforms: the PS3, the Wii U, and now the “Definitive Edition” on the Switch which claims to be the all-in one experience. After spending some time with the updated port I have some reservations calling it definitive but it nevertheless manages to be a must have Switch title thanks to its portability.

Now it’s worth noting that Rayman Legends was ported to the PSVITA which looked beautiful on the OLED screen but didn’t manage to hit an HD resolution. With the Switch’s bigger screen and 720P display, Rayman Legends never looked this good on a handheld. But of course it wouldn’t be Rayman without some CO-OP and the Switch is just perfect for that. Taking it with you and being able to play CO-OP thanks to the Joy-Cons means that you take that sweet Rayman Legends experience to pretty much anywhere. Making things even more fun is the fact you link up and play up to 8 players with the game’s new Kung-Foot mode, which takes inspiration from Smash bros. The minigames serve as a fun distraction but it’s the core experience of being able to play CO-OP on one Switch is what really sells this version.

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As a “Definitive Edition” port it does serve up all the DLC including the Nintendo exclusive Mario and Luigi costumes. But I can’t really say this is the BEST version of the game as there are clear setbacks. For one the game isn’t 4K. This is of course not the game’s fault as the Switch can only output 1080p. Another missing feature is the ability to play Murphy with your friend. Since the game was originally announced as a Wii U exclusive, the idea was anyone using the Gamepad would be able to use the touch screen to manipulate the level while your partner(s) traverses. Since the Switch is only one screen that has to be docked it’s impossible to experience this with friend. Instead you’re opted to rather control Murphy and have an AI move through the level (similar to the PSVITA) or control the character while pushing A to give Murphy orders. Finally the game’s loading is definitely longer than past ports. Digital Foundry made the assessment that it was due to compression as Rayman Legends is only around 2 GB. Meanwhile current-gen versions such as the PS4 port have zero loading.

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So the word “Definitive” is clearly misplaced here but does that make Rayman Legends on Switch a bad port? Absolutely not. Because of the larger screen, the ability to play on the TV, and having a 2 player CO-OP experience on the go I would vouch that this is indeed the best version of Rayman Legends out there even though it lacks certain elements. If you’re a fan or haven’t played Rayman Legends before now is the time.

8/10

 

ZoE Second Runner HD is Coming to PC as Well

Among the barrage of interesting announcements we got in today’s Sony’s TGS press conference one of them has to be Zoe Second Runner returning in VR.

Now at first glance this seems to be a PS exclusive. After all both ZoE games were on the PlayStation 2 and were sadly botched the in the HD collection released on PS3 and Xbox 360. Thankfully that’s not the case as PC players will be able to get on board as well. AS noted in the game’s product description, Konami will be bringing this to Steam.

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The updated mode will bring native 4K and VR support. Expected launch date is 2018. I just hope we get a proper MGS HD collection next on PC.