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

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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.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm (Episode 1) – Review

Life is Strange was 2015’s biggest surprise. At first I thought it was going to be a cash-in on the Telltale Games hype machine but instead offered more than just decision making. By manipulating time, our hero Max would stumble upon a series of events that were unpredictable and at times shocking. Before the Storm ends up stripping away that mystery and leaves us with an odd ball. A story that doesn’t involve super natural only the struggles of a teenage girl named Chloe.

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As the name implies, Before the Storm is a prequel, focusing on the supporting cast from the first game with the main character this time being Chloe. Unlike Max, she does not get random time manipulating powers and instead deals with her day-to-day issues. Sneaking out night, substance abuse, and hating her step dad are among the many challenges you will face. Since there is no powers, this time the game relies on Chloe’s mouth or more specifically her angst. Occasionally you will run into arguments or situations in which you would need to convince the other person you’re right. This is done through a meter, by adding more points you eventually end up winning the conversation. In order to win you will need to analyse and pick apart specific words the other uses and throw it against them. It’s an interesting mechanic but doesn’t feel anywhere near as genuine as playing with time.

The narrative itself feels a bit shallow. Before the Storm’s first chapter took me about 3 to 4 hours which felt like an eternity thanks to the constant teen drama schlock the game throws at me. I have no quarrels with teen dramas, heck one of my favorite TV shows recently was 13 Reasons Why. But unlike that show, the drama here is played out in a very predicative manner. For instance, one scene Rachel, Chloe’s new friend, begins to feel anxious after witnessing a particular incident. It’s pretty clear why Rachel is annoyed but it took Chloe 2 hours to figure it out.

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Speaking of predictable Before the Storm really does nothing to make me look forward to the next chapter. Rachel was a big character often mentioned in the first game and knowing what happens to her kind of eliminates the suspense. Choices also carry very little weight this time around. In one section I tried to settle a argument with Rachel and replayed it with different choices. The end result was always the same.

In terms of presentation, Before the Storm still carries the same tone the original had. The music is stellar, the atmosphere is there, and the visuals are colorful. It is worth noting that I did encounter stuttering during my playthrough on the PC version. Turns out there was no proper V-Sync and had to enable it manually through the Nvidia control panel. It’s not a big deal but those who aren’t tech savvy may feel frustrated.

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Episode 1 left me with mixed feelings. It has potential to add more depth to Chloe but honestly this felt like it could have been told in one episode. I mean sure there were some interesting distractions like having a D&D session with one of my friends but the majority of it was just filled with unnecessary padding that I honestly got bored and forced myself to the finish line. I do hope Episode 2 kicks the story up a notch because so far Before the Storm is hella meh.

5/10

60 FPS Breath of The Wild Patch Released (CEMU)

Developer Xalphenos has been hard at work getting Breath of The Wild to run at 60 FPS on the popular Wii U emulator, CEMU. After weeks of teasing today players will finally be able to experience it for themselves.

The Dynamic Speed patch is a graphical plugin that works as a sort of cheat that speeds up the game while making it playable. Considering the Wii U version sits somewhere between 20-30 FPS, this is a BIG improvement.

A similar technique was also used to make Mario Sunshine play 60 FPS on Dolphin.

Furthermore, the patch includes several experimental features that players can try out and report back. Of course this patch is still in infancy so you will run into issues here and there but it will no doubt receive multiple updates due to fan demand.

If you’re interested in giving this go, you can download the patch here.