Review: State of Mind (Xbox One)

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  • Developer: Daedalic Entertainment
  • Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
  • Reviewed On: Xbox One, releases August 15th, 2018
  • Also playable on: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 & PC

Note: The review embargo for State of Mind is today, Monday August 13th 2018 however the developer, due to State of Mind’s focus on narrative and storytelling, has asked that we hold any video footage after the game’s introduction until the game releases on the 15th. This post will be updated with more video content on Wednesday.

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Out this Wednesday is the latest point-and-click adventure game State of Mind from German developer & publisher Daedalic Entertainment. Daedalic, since it’s creation in 2007, has been making a name for itself as a standout in the narrative adventure & point and click genre with highlights such as the Edna & Harvey series, The Pillars of the Earth and the tactical turn-based RPG series Blackguards. Read More

Flipping Death: The PSVG Review

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Welcome to Flatwood Peaks, a small whimsical town with a problem – Death is on vacation. Play as Penny and help trapped ghosts with your trusted scythe. Flip the entire world around to solve puzzles on both the living and the dead side and slowly uncover the mystery surrounding your own demise.
Key Gameplay Features
● Unique mix of adventure and platforming set in a twisted, rich and colorful world
● Flip the entire world with the press of a single button!
● Possess the living and use them to solve puzzles
● Innovative physics combined with an immersive story told over several different chapters
● Spiritual successor to our previous well-received game Stick it To The Man!

Check out our Review Done Quick Here:

Release date: ​August 7, 2018. Price: ​$19.99 / €19.99
Platforms: ​Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Steam (PC)
Languages: ​English, French, Italian, German and Spanish
Developer and publisher: ​Zoink Games

You can also watch Donnie’s stream of the first hour if you want further details:

Review: The Long Reach

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The Long Reach Review Discussion from last week’s Nintendo Shack Podcast.

 

Monster Hunter World: Review in Transit

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It has been awhile since I dusted my keyboard off for something that wasn’t the OT or my special piece (listen to the podcast for more info). However, after a lot of conversation it just felt like it was time to pull up to the desk, grab a cup of coffee, and talk to you the amazing people who come to PSVG. Thank you so much for your time and I hope you find this fun and informative.

I had already pre-ordered the collectors edition of Monster Hunter World a few months ago. I was more or less excited for it I mean you know me, collectibles are kind of my thing! I was also lucky enough to get a two-fer! Dragon Ball Z Fighters also came out same day and I had pre-ordered the collectors of that.

The collectors edition was not up to my standards and was kind of upsetting just from the stand point of what I got but that is a topic for another story. So on launch day I opened up the box, put the game in, and began downloading. A few minutes later (thank you Spectrum and Xbox) I was in game running around searching for meaning.

25 hours later I am comfortable giving my initial impressions and a score that will change as I get farther in game. Lets dive into the Good, Bad, and the Ugly.

THE GOOD:

The things this game do well are numerous. Character customization is top tier and something I am still blown away. Being able to design your character but also your Palico is just fantastic but it goes even further. You can also design your player card in game and share it with people you come across in game. The level of detail this game goes into is just incredible and I find myself spending time at the hubs just looking at the menus and seeing what all I can do.

The story was a weakness for me in some areas, but what I do like is that it doesn’t try to be something its not. So far no crazy love story or journey of redemption. You are a hunter who is sent to hunt. Easy right. You meet some good characters, no great ones yet, but they are good and I find the whole story arc to be intriguing so far.

The game play is fluid which is huge for a game like this. Being able to attack the target you choice with the push of button, scroll between enemies quickly, and craft/scavenge to get new stronger gear is an excellent added incentive for these maps.

The Monsters are numerous and diverse. You can’t go into every fight the same or you will find them harder and harder to conquer. Paying attention to what gear you have and what its strengths and weaknesses are vs your current prey is huge.

No Map feels the same. They are diverse, unique, and numerous. I have had more fun getting lost on these levels trying to find certain craft able materials then I had in exploring the last three open world games I played.

 

THE BAD:

I feel like I may be in the small portion of gamers who feels this, but having a silent protagonist just drives me nuts. Give me dialogue options in game. The story is good, I just want to be able to take part in it by saying, “Hey, maybe we shouldn’t do that?” or “I love you!” By giving my character who does almost all of the work the ability to say something, is huge to me.

The SOS system needs a way to track player skill. Not level mind you, skill. I have sent SOS in game where I am calling for help vs certain Monsters. Some of these people help me and we enjoy the gear. More often than not though, I have had people join me who die repeatedly and cost me the 30 min or more I have been fighting this monster and I have to restart the quest.

The Lore is hard to find. A kin to Destiny one, there is a huge back story to these games. I just need to be able to find it better instead of getting pieces here in cut scenes. I am a story fanatic and I just want more of it.

 

THE UGLY: (The raw feeling I have at the end)

This game changed once I was willing to put in the work. Learning different attacks, finding the best set of armor for my play style, and using my Palico to help me in battle. Using my attack lock became a must and I am so grateful that I had some great people to play with. This game is a community driven experience. I am sure you can play alone and find some joy in but there is nothing like tackling a huge monster together and the absolute euphoria after you capture or defeat them.

 

If you need some one to play with you can hit me up on Xbox at The CoachHulk and I would love to help you through the game. This is end of my initial impressions. More to come as I get farther into the game. I hope you enjoyed it and I hope even more to see you on the battlefield together. Thank you and have fun gamer.

Codemasters game reviews: F1 2017 and DiRT 4 (PS4)

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I’m not breaking any ground by saying that 2017 has been an awesome year in gaming across the board. Whether you like shooters, “adventure” games, third-person action games, platformers, retro games, sports games or VR game, you are in luck with 2017. That brings me to racing games.

While racing or games have been around since basically the beginning of video games — 1974’s Gran Track 10 from Atari — my own experience with them has been far more limited. I’ve played my share of arcade “kart” racers, some of the futuristic racing games, and loved Mario Andretti Racing on Sega Genesis, but I’ve largely avoided the genre. I’m not a “car guy” and haven’t really followed the sport until now.

My desire for a good, proper racing game started to build after seeing the fun Xbox owners had with Forza Horizon 3 last year. As a PS4 owner, I’ve had my eye on Gran Turismo Sport since then. It’s the first racing game I jumped on this year, and while I really enjoy the driving and think the online is pristine, the overall game is missing a career mode focus I was yearning for (at least until the upcoming free DLC is added this month).

This leads me to Codemasters and their masterpieces in F1 2017 and DiRT 4 that released earlier this year. They have been a revelation both in my personal gaming habits and in my sport fandom.

F1 2017

The F1 cars handle like a dream. The act of driving them, even with just my DualShock 4, is plainly a lot of fun. The game features each of the 2017 Formula 1 cars, drivers and tracks, with an additional 12 classic cars from 1988 through 2010 for you to race with.

While the game has a variety of modes — time trials, single Grands Prix and Championship Mode — the meat of the game is in its career mode. This is where I fell in love with the game and the sport as a whole.

As a basic noob to the series, I appreciate the breadth of difficulty and length options available. The game has a sliding scale of 0-110 for computer driving difficulty, on top of a variety of driving assists that include traction control, a visible driving line, brake assist and more. This has been invaluable to me as I familiarize myself with the game. You can also race as few as 3 laps, or up to 100 percent of the actual Grand Prix’s lap time. Within the career, you can also decide how many practice sessions to include, and what kind of qualifying to include.

For my part, I started racing at just a 25 difficulty and 25% race length. That length is the shortest race that allows for pit stops, which is integral to the strategy of an actual Formula 1 race. I’m doing the full practice and qualifying weekend, as well, which gives me a chance to really get to know the track and try to improve my time.

The career mode is packed with strategy and an RPG-like progression system. For my part, I’ve signed on with the Haas racing team. As one of the lower end cars, the Haas has a lot of room to improve. Throughout the career, you decide how to develop your car and what areas to focus on. Haas has decent engine power, but a weak chassis and low downforce, so I’m focusing on those areas. From week to week, you also need to swap out engine parts and your gearbox, though you have a limited number of parts you can use before incurring a penalty.

During a race, your tire choice and pit stop timing plays a huge role in where you finish the race. Now heading into Mexico in my first career season, I’ve grown to really love all of the different moving parts in the game. I have increased the difficulty to 50, and seem to be getting results pretty much on-par with the real-life Haas drivers this season, which slightly more success — after all, fun is more important than strict realism. I love the way the game handles this sliding difficulty.

F1 2017 has my favorite single-player career mode in any sports game, ever. I’ve won two separate Grands Prix now, and am looking forward to, in a future season, becoming the first American F1 champion since Mario Andretti in 1978.

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DiRT 4

The first thing that hit me when I finally clicked on DiRT 4 is the killer soundtrack. The music is just bumping and puts me in the mood to drive fast cars through the countryside.

A recurring theme, I’ve never before played a Rally racing game, or watched Rally Racing of any kind. I bought in solely because I loved F1 and this one went on sale recently.

Driving a Rally race is a thrilling experience, and possibly even moreso than driving an F1 car at 200 miles per hour. The handling of the rally cars feels great, and the career mode is appropriately in-depth. I love buying my cars, tuning them and getting used to them as I go.

Aside from Rally mode, there are also Land Rush events, Rallycross and Historic Rally. The Land Rush and Rallycross events are much more traditional racing events, as you run in heats of 4, 6 or 8 cars to make it to the final championship event. The races are jam-packed, high speed and just plain fun.

The other big part of the game is the ability to “create” your own rally courses, run them and share them online. While the scenery doesn’t change a ton, this provides a ton of replayability to the game.

However, the further I get into DiRT 4, the more that procedural generation starts to gnaw at me. The scenery becomes a little too familiar — I feel like I’ve driven past the same log cabin dozens of times — and the roads just don’t feel like real roads. The cars are still a blast to drive, and I like getting to know each separate make and model.

I just wonder if the game would be better served by having actual rally courses — like WRC 7 — combined with the procedural generation model.

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Madden 17: A Review, Reflection, and look to the future.

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13 days. What could you do in 13 days, friends? As a teacher who is wrapping up a summer of yard work, house projects, movies, and more I feel that in 13 days I could accomplish almost anything. But the 13 is not just an obscure number thrown out to get you thinking; instead, it is the amount of time I have put into Madden 17 on the Xbox One alone. I tend not to play online, except for the multiplayer achievements in the game, as I prefer the franchise mode. Here I get to build up a dynasty in the image I would want–a tough defense, a good running back, a team that limits turnovers, plays fast in all their phases (offense, defense, and special teams), and has the best defensive and offensive lines in the league. In my opinion, teams like this can’t lose.

This year was unlike any other year in Madden for me. My friend Dan and I have played ten seasons so far in this league. The Bears have won 9 Super Bowls, and the Jets have won 1. Our league started with four people–Dan, Brian, our very own Nathan Thomas, and myself. After a season, it expanded to 5 with the great Alex D. replacing Brian (who left under mysterious circumstances) and another friend, Cory. Cory and Alex stayed two seasons, and Alex through some great drafting handed my Bears one of the two losses I have had in 10 seasons in the NFC championship where he fell to Dan’s Jets in the Superbowl.

Below you will see a quick video of some of my favorite moments.

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For those of you who watched the video above, man that last second touchdown was one of my favorite games ever. For those of you who didn’t, you missed out and its only 2 minutes long.

I will go more into this franchise after the review portion, so if the franchise stuff is interesting to you, go ahead and skip to the heading labeled reflection.

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Review:

What makes a football game great? To this gamer, gameplay, customization, control, and modes all mix to create a great experience. Madden has grown from the early days of box-like players to looking completely real. (My father-in-law saw the TV screen when I was playing and asked what game I was watching.)  Players look different–thinner, taller, smaller, bigger. Speed is a premium, and the guys who have it can change the outcome of a game quickly. The game play has changed from my early days and here is what I LOVE and don’t love about Madden 17.

The Good:

  1. A mix of game modes for all players: want to have a 10-year franchise with some great friends? Check. Want to play by yourself in a franchise you control? Check. Want to play with a fantasy draft format? Want to play solo, online, or with friends with that fantasy team? Check! Every mode from online franchise to Draft champions and Madden Ultimate Team (MUT) are all improved on and offer new features to keep them fresh and fun.
  2. Gameplay is King. This is the best playing Madden game so far. The hit stick button, or stick, works well and is determined based on your player’s skills. For example, if you have a great tackler, he will bring the heat. If he’s not so good, you may miss… bad. Passing is the best I have seen, and the control you have as a quarterback is exceptional. Being able to read the coverage, adjust the route, and throw to the proper shoulder have made passing vastly improved from years past.
  3. O-line does their job! The most important part of an offense is the line. If they can get off their blocks, working together, to chip and climb to the backers, you should never get tackled for a loss if you are reading the defense properly.
  4. Defense swarms to the ball! I am so thankful for this. I love building a defense that plays fast and everyone pursues (my favorite skill to add XP too). This game is the best defensive improvement in Madden history (again so far) because I will see 5 Bears jerseys swarm to the ball. Ask Dan, it’s annoying to be on the receiving end.

The Bad:

  1. The fullback still chooses wrong on run plays. The TE’s and O-line being so improved I thought for sure that the fullback would be better. However, often on outside runs, he will not go to the nearest threat and instead climb to the second level leaving you one on with a defensive end or linebacker. This drives me nuts as the mechanic still seems like he should easily be able to take on that threat instead of leaving me out to dry.
  2. Madden Ultimate Team needs to have some form of carry over. I would be much more interested in this game mode if my two favorite players carried over from year to year. I don’t know how hard that mechanic would be, but I would be so down to keep my 99 Jay Cutler from 2015 and carry him with me till the end of time.

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The Reflection:

Ten seasons. I can honestly say this has been my favorite thing I have done in gaming and I got to compete in it with some great folks whom I hold in the utmost esteem. We have played countless games, set records, and had some fun trash talking each other here and there. My Bears became revered, and an almost Yankee-like hatred came towards them from the rest of the league.

Below are some screen shots of the awesome things we have done. Go ahead and look through them. I will have more at the end and will be diving into more of what made this so much fun for me overall a little later.

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Those are just a few of the records we have broken since we started this league. Now on year 10, as we wrap up week 17 with the Bears and Jets 16-0 respectively, I felt the need to write about how much fun this has been for me. Finding a group of gamers that love games the way I do is rare. Finding a group of gamers that enjoy playing Madden as much as I do is even rarer. Before I met Nathan, Dan, Ray, Brian, and Josh thanks to MTTG two years ago, I played games solo. I could have never imagined the added bonus this game has when played with friends. Being able to trade players between teams (thanks Dan for Leonard!), working on draft day deals, scouting out the best players, and occasionally swiping players off of each other’ practice squads has led to an experience I won’t soon forget.

There are three moments that are my favorites, and I wanted to share them with all of you great folks at PSVG.

  1. The turnover bowl. Around year six or seven of our league, Dan and I were playing in the Super Bowl, and for some reason, our offenses refused to score points. By halftime, it was a 7-0 Bears lead, but we had both thrown at least 6 INT’s combined. The game did not get better as we were close to 10+ TO for the game, and it was a narrow margin of victory for the Bears.
  2. Dan and my team met in the regular season, and I played awfully. I was making bad decisions, couldn’t get a read on his play calling, and I was losing by 10 with 3 minutes to go in the game. I was forced to kick a FG and then hope my defense could get me the ball back. It did, but with less than a minute on the clock. I got down the field and scored with seconds left on the clock. I then went for the win, 5 WR,s and I hit Zeke on a slant to score the two-point conversion going up 1. I kicked off and made a tackle for the win as time expired.
  3. Battling Gronk. As you can see in the pictures, Gronk and Nathan are doing work together. He might be the only player who touches the ball; in fact, on the Patriots as Lord Vader (Nate’s created coach), he gave the ball to the big man so much that he was setting record after record. Not to be out done, I decided one season to change my philosophy and went after the record myself. I was able to get the single game marks but fell short some of the season ones set by Gronk and Nash (a drafted QB for the Pats). The rivalry was fun and one that added an extra element to the game for me. Not just to win, but to win and chase these records I had never thought of chasing before.

These were great memories for me as a gamer, and I am so excited to see what Madden 18 brings. I am hoping for some cool features that they haven’t announced to pop up when I pick it up early and dive in (thanks, GOAT edition). With a story mode, draft champions, MUT, and of course Online Franchises to look forward to, I can’t wait to spend 13 more days of the year playing this game with friends. Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you on the field this fall.

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Demon’s Crystals Review

Demon’s Crystal by StarCruiser Studio is described on xbox one as, “a frenetic twin stick shooter where you guide the Urican demons through countless hazards in order to restore peace to the world.” Now I don’t know about you but that is one of those cringe worthy moments for me as a gamer. Save the world? Urican? That’s a whole lot of build up for a game I have never hear of. But if there is one thing the past has taught me, its to not judge a book till you’ve read it, or at least tried to read it, or its been covered or something like that. So I dove in ready to have a character of demonic origin and to save the world.

You have your choice of 4 playable characters. 2 female and 2 male Demons each wearing a different colored outfit, but other than that they are just cover art and they don’t actually look very different in game except for the color. I jumped in and went to work with the first character available. World after world I conquered evil skeletons, ghouls, and the undead. I watched as cheeves popped and was getting into it. After my first boss fight I stopped to take a break. My wife who was sitting in the same room asked me if there was multiplayer and I responded, “I’m not sure.”

There is as we found out and we went through and played every game mode type in around 20 minutes. A few hits and some misses but all in all a pleasant experience.

As we dive into the bits and pieces of Demon’s Crystal I wanted to share my first experience with it because this game is an overall fun experience and though I didn’t love the game, I did enjoy my time with it. With that, lets break down Demon’s Crystal.

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Single Player:

The single player campaign is not so much story based. Each level has a set of goals that you navigate. Kill this many bad guys, collect this many things, etc. Once you beat the objective, the game either stops and starts over for the next objective, or your demon springs to life and jumps off the level to the next one ending the round.

As you play, your character levels up allowing you to dispose of enemies faster and adds more power ups for use the farther you go in the game. On levell/world eight, my level 30 character made quick work, where as my level 5 had a bit of struggle. Also the amount of XP given per level is also changed by the level of your character, allowing your lower levels to play up and level up faster.

After completing the game I can say that the campaign on the lowest level was fairly easy and I was able to beat it quickly (less than 2 hours)

However, on the next difficulty I struggled mightily against it and it took me much longer to beat it (a lot of dying and 5 hours later it was conquered)

This game didn’t have the polish of a Resogun, but added  the multiple tiered goals for each world that actually made the game a lot more fun for me as I went on. When you pick up new power ups, different weapons types, and learn how to use them effectively, the strategy of the game jumps out at you and gives another layer of enjoyment for gamers.

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Multiplayer:

The multiplayer has the following modes, I also added how many players are needed to play each mode.

Survival (2P-4P)
Crystal Quest (2P-4P)
Deathmatch (2P-4P)
Seize The Large Crystal (2P-4P)
Versus (3P – 4P) you can do Player 1+2 versus Player 3. Only 3 controllers required!
Kill The Enemies (2P-4P)

 

Best Mode: The Versus mode. Wife, friend vs your beloved Coach Mo. Did I win, no. Did I have fun, Yes. This mode allows for a little strategy, some fun level set ups, and had we had a 4th player more wins for myself.

Least Favorite moede: Crystal Quest. Yea it is what it sounds like and it was just not as much fun for me. Would have loved to see some added flair to this mode to make it more fun for groups.

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This game gave me some really fun highs in the harder mode of single player and some couch co-op multiplayer fun. If you have the controllers, the friends to use the controllers, and are looking for a fun co-op experience I would highly recommend this game. As a game to be played solo, if you enjoyed Resogun, We are Doomed, and Game Corp; then again I would highly recommend it to you. With a variety of weapons/power ups to use, massive waves of demonic bad guys, this combination of twin stick shooter and survival horde mode is a blast. If you are a fan of games like 8 days, How to Survive, and Tokyo 42 I would tell you to maybe steer clear of this particular title on less you can get a steal of a deal.

I hope you enjoyed what you read and that this review helped you to decide to shoot some badies in Demon’s Crystals.

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Perception – Xbox One

See the source image

Perception is an adventure/horror game in which you play as a blind woman… If that doesn’t grab your attention, I don’t know what the heck will!

Let’s go through a quick checklist before we begin the review:

Large creepy vacant house? – Check
Doors opening and closing by themselves? – Check
Creepy Ghost children? – Check
Wait, what’s this, an engaging and well written story? – Check

Before I continue, I want to let you know I’m going to leave out a lot of details regarding the story. I truly think that covering gameplay will get you interested enough to give this game a shot, so I don’t want to spoil anything for you.

Right off the bat, this game gets me with two things. 1: It says it’s based on a true story (whether that’s true or not I will let you decide) and 2: you start in Logan Airport, which is in my home state, so extra brownie points for them!

The setup of the story is that you play Cassie, a blind girl, who has been having dreams of this strange house that she has set out to find. You make your way through Logan airport, very briefly, you then find yourself on the walkway leading up to “the house” which is located in Gloucester.

So, you are probably reading this and saying to yourself, “Ok, you play as a blind girl and this guy hasn’t mentioned how that is possible!” or maybe you are not thinking that and I’m just projecting.

Cassie uses her walking cane to assist in echolocation. By tapping your cane, Cassie is able to “see” her surroundings based on said echolocation. Be warned though, using your cane too much in the house can attract unwanted attention…  THE HOUSE IS ALIVE!!!! Or is it?

I’m a big fan of this mechanic. Playing a horror game in which your experience is mostly a dark or a pitch black screen is incredibly tense. Knowing that every time you need to “see” your environment could also attract something terrifying is an element I don’t think I have experienced in game in quite some time.

Perception does a great job in sound design as well. Your environment will often provide you with vision, whether it be a heater running, a scary record player that suddenly turns on, or even the wind will give you a cool pathway while outside of the house. You will also see how much, or how little, attention you can attract by interacting with many household objects by means of your cane. Be sure to locate rugs so you can “see” without creating too much noise. Your cane can also echolocate off of hardwood floors, steel objects (like heaters, fireplaces, doors, etc.), and even just the air itself. Each one of those creates a unique sound and vision.

At one point I was playing the game and thought, “This isn’t too scary,” just to have a jump scare right around the corner. It’s very subtle and would often catch me off guard, which is great! Once I came across my first object I could “hide” in, I knew I was in for more scares in the future.

The game is pretty linear, but I never felt that I was “on rails” while playing the game. You can pretty much explore to your heart’s content, but there is always an option to hold on a button to see where you should be headed. One of the cool things the game has to offer is right at the very beginning when you start your game, it gives you two options (pictured). You can have your main character, Cassie, be more or less “chatty”. Basically talking to herself to give you clues or to just hear her inner dialogue. I obviously chose the chattier version so I could enjoy the story, but I imagine the less chatty version is basically “hard mode” (I could be wrong).

The game plays out in acts, with each one ending at the conclusion of a story, so to speak. Like I said earlier, I don’t want to spoil anything. The character development is fantastic, and you really start to get into the character as you play. I felt very connected to Cassie, and often felt empathy toward how she must have to live her life. She is supported by a small cast of friends via her cell phone. I should mention this as well because her phone has a program called “Delphi.” This is what you use to “read” notes and documents you find while exploring the house. I will say this game really reminded me of Resident Evil (the good ones) in its exploration and puzzle solving.

Overall, Perception is a must play! Fantastic gameplay, a unique story and play style, engaging character and story development, and not to mention it’s pretty gosh darn terrifying!

Let me know in the comments what you thought of this game.

 

What is Bioware’s ANTHEM?

“Follow us into the unknown.”- Anthem Official Twitter

            A blurry scene, powered by Frostbite. A worn-down wall, but was it once a fortress? A marketplace in a city or town. Is this a last refuge or a beachhead for future offensives and exploration?  An alien beast walks in the wild. A brutal storm ravages the surface with mysterious “T” shaped structures in the background. A metallic mask. Golden glowing eyes. An exo-suit opens. It’s empty. A shot of the full suit takes over the screen as the camera slowly retreats, its menacing glowing eyes capturing our attention. This is Anthem. This is Bioware’s new IP.

“Allies unite to explore what’s beyond…”

            For several months, we’ve known that the Bioware studio that worked on Mass Effect 3 was also working on a huge, massive project. However, not until the EA “EAplay” presentation this past weekend, did anyone have a clue to what this new IP entailed. Anthem was first teased at EAplay, followed on Sunday by a full gameplay demo at the Xbox 2017 E3 brief: wow, what a demo that was! Considering that this has been Bioware’s best kept secret for multiple years, the demo looked respectfully polished and complete. Sure, I am certain that between now and release date quite a few things may change; however, the gameplay felt solid. Staged, yes, but solid.

            The demo begins in a human marketplace, set in a town or city—we aren’t told where or if this is even Earth. A human, from a first-person angle, makes his/her way across the marketplace and is engaged by a man looking worried. A conversation ensues. Moments later, our protagonist enters her (she looks female) exo-suit, teams up with her ally in a “Titan” exo-suit, and launch into the Wilds, the unknowns beyond the City (I know—keep your cool Bungie fans). The following two minutes are a combination of exo-suits flying through a rainforest-looking landscape and engaging in several combat sequences. Anthem, more than any other game this past weekend, was meant to show the true power of the Xbox One X. Our protagonists team up with two other players that seamlessly “drop” into their game sequence and “party up” for the rest of the demo. We are teased with that looks like the entrance to a raid or other coop content. The demo concludes with our protagonist and her team or exo-pilots looking over a cliff and staring at what seems like a storm from beyond this world.  

“Enter the Wilds”

            Bioware, at this early stage, describes Anthem as a “shared-world action-RPG” in which you are your friends are “Freelancers,” those bold enough to leave behind civilization and enter the wild—the unknown. The game promises, and the demo depicts, loot—yes, loot. Content allows parties of up to four players to band together in cooperative (competitive?) content to enjoy with your friends. Your exo-suit is called a “Javelin,” and you can customize this bad-ass ride with the gear you earn and craft throughout the game. What is your mission? To delve into the forgotten and the unknown, battling beasts and marauders along the way, and to defeat the forces plotting to conquer humanity. I guess our protagonists are humans after all.

“Rise to Any Challenge”

            As a Halo and Destiny fan, the opportunity to jump into a super-suit, become a super-soldier, and kick butt is absolutely delicious to me. I can’t explain thoroughly how excited I am for Anthem, even though we have no clue what the final project or gameplay will look like.  Anthem looks sexy, in a way that Destiny 2 didn’t look sexy, or simply hasn’t yet. Anthem looks mature in a way that few games can embrace or truly depict. As I watched the gameplay, I couldn’t help but betray the Halo fan within me and ask myself: “what if Halo looked more like this?”

            Anthem promises to be an interesting ride for the gaming community, regardless of what the final product looks like. It captured our attention early this E3, and we are hungry for more. Is this Bioware’s new Mass Effect? Is this the new path forward? Is this EA’s answer to Activision? I surely don’t know. I am asking too many questions here. I am certain of this: sign me up for all the alphas, betas, and demos, because I am ready to enter the wild. Suit up Freelancers!

For more hype on everything video games, ANTHEM, and Xbox, following me, Q Herrera, at www.twitter.com/UnratedPodcast

XBOX 2017 E3 Brief: 5 Things I Loved

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The Xbox E3 2017 Brief ended only moments ago, and we got a lot of stuff to talk about. However, here I will present and expand on the 5 things I loved from the presentation.

1. Xbox One X: $499

People like Ryan McCaffrey may hate all day at the $499 price tag on the Xbox One X; however, I am fan. This console is going to sell because of the power that it brings and the way that it will empower gamers and developers to have and deploy the best gaming experience available on console. I will personally be purchasing the One X at $499 because it is the price tag that makes sense. Sure, you can but an inferior console such as the PlayStation Pro, but why would you do that if you already own a PS4? So you can play the same games at a hardly better experience? The One X will bring all the best games at an increased quality, deliver the best gaming network on the best machine, expand your library with exclusive and ID@Xbox, and deliver your multi-platform games well…better.

2. ANTHEM (Bioware)

EA’s Anthem is everything I was praying it would be. This isn’t the Bioware that made ME Andromeda. This is the Bioware studio that brought the high-quality gaming experience of Mass Effect 3 (not talking about story, but about gaming mechanics and dynamics). Anthem not only looks beautiful (and it will look even better on the One X), but it promises to deliver that Co-Op, open-world, immersive experience that made Bungie’s Destiny great. Is this a Destiny-killer? No, and I don’t think that’s the point. For those of us that enjoy cooperative and competitive open worlds, it is another great option that we will have access to in 2018. That has been the best game demo I’ve seen at an E3 in years. This is the game I am most excited about this E3 and it will take a lot to take my mind off it.

3. ID@Xbox

Complimenting your Triple-A releases, ID@Xbox brings us a wave of independently developed games coming to the Xbox One family. I couldn’t keep up with all the titles shown during the brief, but the lineup for Xbox includes games like Osiris, Raiders, Unruly Heroes, Path of Exile, Battlerite, Surviving Mars, Fable Fortune, Observer, RoboCraft, Dunk Lords, Minion Masters, BrawlOut, Ooblets, Dark Light, Strange Brigade, Riverbond, Hello Neighbor, Shift, and Conan Exile. Whew. I’m smoked.

In between rounds of Destiny, Halo 5, Rainbow Six Siege, and Overwatch, ID@Xbox games make my heart sing, and I saw plenty in this lineup (and the ones I missed) to lead me into hundreds (if not thousands) of hours of entertainment. Xbox’s support for independent developers has been highlighted before, and Phil Spencer made sure to highlight it today.

4. Sea of Thieves (Rare)

Even though I haven’t participated in the Sea of Thieves alphas, the footage we saw during the today’s extended demo was absolutely amazing. Hunting for treasure, fighting off skeleton soldiers, piloting our ship, swimming under water, battling other players’ ships, and BOARDING enemy ships (launching from a cannon!) and killing their crew…wow! More than ever, I am on board with Sea of Thieves and I am excited because, alongside Destiny and Anthem, I will dump hundreds and thousands of hours in 2018 playing this game. It is 2017 going to 2018, and at this E3, co-op gameplay is the name of the game.

5. Original Xbox Backward Compatibility

Fan service. Fan service. Fan service. Fan service. More than any other console in the market, Xbox understands that gamers love their games, including old games. PlayStation executives may not understand why people want to play old games, but Phil Spencer, the gamers’ executive, gets us. Xbox has publicly committed to bringing original Xbox titles to the Xbox One family, and even if that isn’t your thing, it is a tribute and a fan service to the millions of gamers that have called Xbox home for the last sixteen years.

For more hype on everything video games and Xbox, following me, Q Herrera, at http://www.twitter.com/UnratedPodcast

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Human: Fall Flat (PS4) Review

Physics-based puzzle games are a tough nut to crack. Make the game too hard and the player leaves the game frustrated, never to return to the thumb contorting nightmare they just experienced. Make the game too easy and the player leaves disappointed, thinking about the untapped potential of the game they just played. Human: Fall Flat attempts to balance this difficulty teeter-totter by keeping the mechanics simple (all you can do is grab things and jump) but increasing the complexity of the situation you need to apply the mechanics in. While there is the occasional stumble, Human: Fall Flat manages to stay on its feet to the end.

Jumping in, you take control of Bob, he is a builder, but I do not believe there is any relation to the other one. The first few levels are increasingly complex tutorials, but even as the difficulty grows, the answers are straight forward. Eventually, you get to the first “real” level and you are immediately challenged to put together everything you have learned to solve a more complex, and far less straightforward, combination of puzzles. These levels are where the game really shines. Though there seems to be an intended way to solve each stage, you do have significant freedom in how you approach each situation. There are areas to explore that have nothing to do with solving the puzzles to escape. On the other hand, if you are skillful in your approach and have mastered locomotion, you can skip entire parts of puzzles on your way to the exit.

When controlling Bob, you have only a few options of what you can do: grab things and jump. On the most basic level that is it. However, the possibilities are quite vast. Each arm is independently controlled with the right and left trigger. You will grab at wherever you are looking with the trigger you pull. So, you can look right and grab a lever, then look left and grab a separate lever, and then twist your body to move them each a different direction. Or, commonly, look up and jump to grab a ledge with both hands. Then use the sticks to pull yourself up and let go of the triggers once half of your body is up to stand-up. In trying to write this it is confusing, but I have included a video of it in action as it is quite intuitive once you learn it. Now, intuitive does not mean easy, or that it works the first time, but if you think something will work, it almost always will.

If you miss a jump, or drown, or do something else you are not supposed to, your body will fall back down onto the level crumpled in a heap back at the beginning of the puzzle. Though death happens often (at least to me) it was rarely frustrating, and thankfully the checkpoints are frequent enough that I never felt like I lost significant progress on my quest. Only one time was I repeatedly failing at a task when I was trying to do the “right” thing. Often what you need to attempt to do is easily teased out. Occasionally you have to try a couple of different techniques to make something work, but more often than not, if you fail numerous times at a task, you are likely approaching it wrong. Knowing this helped keep the game from getting frustrating and helped ensure I was regularly making progression toward the end of the level.

While puzzle games have been lookers in the past (The Witness and more recently Rime) the presentation here is not something to write home about. That is not to say the game looks bad, not even close, but there is a minimalism to the presentation that will not appeal to everyone. Additionally, the sparse soundtrack led me to do something I almost never do…listen to podcasts while playing. I felt a bit guilty about this the first time I did it, so when going back to the game, I tried to listen to the audio again. I just could not do it and went back to listening to podcasts.

One advantage Human: Fall Flat has over many puzzle games is a co-op mode that is likely more fun than playing alone. While I spent the majority of my time in single-player, I was able to partake in a bit of local co-op, and the emotions ranged from slightly irritated to uncontrollable delight. While the wonky physics can be humorous individually, they are significantly amplified when you have another person trying their darndest to help, but they make things considerably more complicated. If you are short on patience, this may not be a great mode, but I found myself having the most fun when I had a partner.

As a complete package, Human: Fall Flat delivers a simple concept in a way that was able to balance the frustration with the fun. It is not going to win awards for presentation, but if you can navigate an occasional control struggle, and you enjoy solving puzzles, there is enjoyment to be found. To amplify your fun, find a fellow builder to join in your adventure.

Human: Fall Flat was reviewed using a PS4 code provided by the publisher. You can read additional information about PSVG’s  review policy on our disclaimer page here.

A  fine entry into the physics-based puzzle genre, Human: Fall Flat will give you occasional control quirks but typically provides a fun experience.

 

Walking Dead A New Frontier Review: (with a spoiler free crust)

When I first heard I would not be playing as Clementine in the Walking Dead season 3, I found myself upset. I played as Lee begrudgingly. He was fine as a character but if he really had that little girls future at heart the whole issue in the city would have never happened and he and she would have been fine!

But after his sacrifice at the end of the season and then playing as Clem in what was a roller coaster of a season and experiences, I just fell in love with her as a character. She had grown before our eyes into a strong lead character who made you want to keep playing. She became my Link, a character who I had no idea what she was thinking despite our choices, and I had no idea if we were going to survive this horrible world.

That however, is why this installment wasn’t called Walking Dead season 3. Instead we really are traveling down a “New Frontier” in this game. New characters, new stories, but that same scary, fear filled world surrounding us.

So for me to say my disappoint was palpable, would be as big of an understatement as saying I only kinda like Madden. So I sadly pressed on and started to play the game. Enter our now character Javier.

As you begin the game you get the feeling Javier is spoiled. Dad’s favorite, running around trying to find himself after being kicked out of major league baseball, never home to help with his family. Why was this so important to me? Because it shows that this is not your normal person who is about to get his world flipped upside down.

Unlike the older games, where your “group” was made up of strangers  you choose to join up and work with, this game starts us with an actual family unit. You play the game as Javier who is traveling with his sister in law and his nephew and niece. You can see that surviving has been hard on them and they are tired. Living out of a van they end up stopping at a junk yard to scavenge for supplies and unknowingly leads them into a set of crazy situations as they are ambushed by raiders, split up, make new friends, and you are forced to save the lives of your family and new friends in the hardest of times.

Trying to stay as spoiler free as I can, I will tell you that this is one of my favorite Telltale games ever. What I like the most is that they got ride of the walking simulator and made the game more choice/action scene centered. I found myself making choices that mattered, choosing who to side with, who to trust, and responding at the particular moment in fun quick time events. There is some walking but not like the first two walking dead games where you can spend hours lost trying to solve those almost puzzles. Why this is a huge plus in my book, is that it lets you dive into this awesome story. Story is the thing that makes Telltale and few companies in my book do it as well as they do.

Another thing that I love about this game and the steps forward it has taken is in the replay-ability. In all the games I have played from telltale, I have never replayed the game on the same console the way I have this one. I have replayed all 5 episodes between 2 and 5 times. Not because I missed something, but because I wanted to see how the outcome would change. I will tell you, loved ones are saved and lost from choices made through out the game. Choose wisely.

The last thing that makes this game so great is timing. The timing and quick button play is smoother than its ever been. No forced moments, no arduous scenes were you are searching and searching for the right combination of things to look at. Just a great over all flow for the gameplay that made it easy to play over and over again. I haven’t rain into any delays or bugs and to reference I have been playing it on Xbox One (the Elite and S models). Some of you might think this is a restatement of my praise from earlier but this is a reference to game play. The controllers are better, timing, etc.

With a great overall story  and the ability to have replay ability and better mechanics, I really think this game is on its way to being one of the best telltale has made so far. Lets hope for more to come from Javier and family and our girl Clem. This gamer was left with all the feels and wanting more from this story line in the future. Here’s hoping E3 and Telltale hear my cry.

Thanks for reading and I hope this helped you want to play some video games.

Injustice 2 Review – PS4/Xbox One

Every now and then, a piece of entertainment sneaks up on you and surprises you in a good way. While it’s hard to argue that Injustice 2 has snuck up on anyone, I personally wasn’t expecting to jump into the game until the crew here at PSVG kept talking about their excitement for it. I’m typically terrible at fighting games, and my knowledge of superheroes basically starts and stops with movies and games — I’d never heard of Blue Beetle or Firestorm, or Gorilla Grodd, prior to this game.

Thanks to others here at PSVG, and my enjoyment of the first game’s story mode, I decided to give Injustice 2 a try. I was smitten from the beginning.

Story Mode

The first thing you will notice is just how good this game looks. The cutscenes are amazing, and the fighting animations are fluid and fun to watch.

The story jumps right in with the destruction of Krypton from Super Girl’s point of view. The timeline jumps forward to a post Injustice: Gods Among Us world as Bruce Wayne and other DC superheroes are still dealing with the fallout of Superman’s evil ways. The story told in Injustice 2 is filled with twists and fun reveals and is a fun romp, if a bit dark.

Throughout the campaign, you fight as your favorite DC heroes, as well as some lesser known ones I loved (Blue Beetle) or hated (Firestorm). The central conflict of Batman’s philosophy versus Superman’s in dealing with criminals plays out amidst an alien invasion from Braniac and his followers.

The pacing as the story builds up to its final climactic battles is tremendous, and I grew far more attached to Harley Quinn, Black Canary and The Flash than I’ve ever been. The main story also has some inherent replayability, as many fights can be fought with one of two characters, and there are two vastly different conclusions to the game depending on a decision you make in the last chapter.

Welcome to the Multiverse

As much as I enjoyed the story, the Multiverse is what has pushed Injustice 2 over the top for me. Through the multiverse mode, you are given various ladders of enemies to fight while upping your characters’ experience and unlocking new gear and shaders.

As part of the PSVG Guild on PS4 — find us by searching this ID: XQN38 — I am working toward something as a larger part of a group. While I am still terrible playing online against other real people who know what they are doing, I can contribute and work toward various goals thanks to the Multiverse and Guilds.

Injustice 2 has a similar loop that has also hooked me in games like Diablo 3, Destiny and Overwatch. Play game, unlock loot boxes (here called Mother Boxes), open them, equip items and repeat. I love how my version of the Flash can look different from someone else’s, and have slightly different stats. I currently have a purple Flash, a white Batman, a Red Black Adam and more.

Final Thoughts

Although it wasn’t on my radar even a few weeks ago, I’ve absolutely loved my time with Injustice 2. The game does feel overwhelming to a fighting-game noob, as I still find it tough to string combos together. And as good as the story is, I could see the ending coming from a mile away — though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The currency system is also somewhat confusing, and there is a definite feeling of being pushed for microtransactions.

But the game is just plain fun to play, and I look forward to continuing to play it in the coming months.

What the rest of the PSVG Team Thinks:

Nathan:

I would not consider myself a fighting game fan, but when I saw the first Injustice I decided I wanted to try it. I really enjoyed it, just because of the story and the smooth gameplay. When Injustice 2 was announced, I already had a bit of built in hype from the first.

I purchased the Ultimate Edition, which comes with instant character skin unlocks for Power Girl, John Stewart Green Lantern, and Reverse Flash, as well as 2 sets of exclusive “shaders”, and the upcoming slate of nine downloadable characters. Safe to say, I went all in on this game! My purchase feels justified, as I write this, I have played over 20 hours on the Xbox One version of the game.

The combat feels right, the moves are not too complicated, and it just looks spectacular! I would say that it serves novice and experienced fighting genre gamer fans, as it is easy to learn, but harder to master. The story is fantastic, paired with absolutely stunning visuals in the cut scenes make you want to progress past each fight to find out what happens next, and find out which character you know from the comics will make an appearance! In my opinion, the story in this game is better than the recent DC movies, and superior to the story of Captain America: Civil War.

In all, this game is a must play. I’d recommend at least seeking out the stitched together cut scenes of the first game so you can understand the story going in. Past the story mode, the multiverse mode offers great arcade-type challenges, as well as character endings for each fighter in the Battle Simulator. As you play, you also unlock “Mother Boxes” which give you random gear for your fighters that adds to the unique experience you have. This customization lets you fight unique versions of characters in the Multiverse, as they are randomly given appearances. It really keeps things fresh and interesting! PLAY THIS GAME!

 

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Kyle H.:

Fighting games are the genre I wish I could wreck house in, but I usually just get wrecked. Despite that, I like jumping into fighting games as the thrill of the one versus one combat is something difficult to replicate in other games. Injustice 2 capitalizes on this sensation and throws in just about everything and the kitchen sink to keep you engaged.

The campaign is surprisingly robust, you can join in evolving multiverse events, participate in a guild to take on challenges as a group, unlock unique gear to customize your favorite combatants, oh, and you can also do traditional online competitive battles against other (almost always better) players.

Tight controls, slick visuals, and unique additions to traditional fighting games make Injustice 2 an easy game to recommend, even if you are not deeply knowledgeable about the DC comic universe.

There are a few drawbacks: the multiple types of in-game currency, expensive DLC characters, and a plethora of different loot crates you can earn (or purchase) all point to a game that is looking to squeeze every cent it can get out of you. If you are patient, there will likely be a “Game of the Year” addition in a year or so with everything in it at a far more reasonable price. However, if you can handle the cost, or are free from the compulsion to have every piece of content for a game, Injustice 2 is a fighting game that will punch its way into your heart.

Kevin:

With a storyline so good that the DCEU should pay attention and get these guys to write their movies, this is the most fun I’ve had with a fighting game since Smash Bros. Great roster with more coming down the pipeline, no character seems to be overpowered, it’s all about balance and knowing your opponent. Very deep online and gear mechanics, lots to do and keeping you coming back for a long time.  Good for strategists and button-mashers alike, a must have for any fighting game fan or super hero fan for that matter. Now if we can just get them to use some of the CW stuff. 

Injustice 2 was purchased and reviewed by the authors on the PS4 and Xbox One consoles. You can read additional information about PSVG’s  review policy..

 

Tango Fiesta: The Greatest Action Story Never Told

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Tango Fiesta is a sly top down twin stick shooter that places you in every single 80’s action flick all rolled into one. It’s greatest strength lies it’s absolutely absurd and hilarious story. If you are familiar with any of the action flicks of the 80’s then you will be right at home and chuckling away at the silly dialog and main character John Strong who looks Bruce Willis as John McClain in die Hard. John Strong is the greatest action hero you’ve never hear of. Has he defeated the Russians? Yup. Did he squash the Middle East? Been there done that. Save the planet from Aliens? You bet’cha. Tango Fiesta is his untold story.

Every level in Tango Fiesta is randomly generated, and is based off of some action movie. This greatly lends to its replay value. There are also multiple characters you can play as each with their own stats and attributes. Sadly no matter who you play with the game is still narrated by John Strong. It would have been nice to have multiple retelling of the same story from diff points of view.

Your load out consists of a main and secondary weapon as well as an explosive. The guns run the gamut of what you would expect from AK’s to Uzis to shotguns and you can purchase new ones over time with the loot you collect from the levels. You have the same options with the explosives which range form simple grenades to . As far as the twin stick mechanics go you don’t quite have a full 360 range of motion when shooting just up down left right and diagonals. So you do have to do some navigation work and line you shots up to be effective. Outside of that you do have your typical ammo packs health packs and you do have to reload which depending on the weapon determines how long the animation is. So combine all of that and you do get a bit more strategy than a standard twin stick space shooter for example. Lastly there are bosses each with their own ridiculous action movie villain name. The boss battles are nice in that you have the entirety of the level to play in complete with additional enemies, health packs and ammo to try and be the last man standing.

 

 

 

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Tango Fiesta is great addition to the twin stick shooter genre. It has a colorful story, fun characters, and is downright hilarious. Add to it the fact that you have multiple characters, you can play it in a single or 4 player setting, there are a ton of weapons to buy and every level is different every time. It’s fun its frantic and it’s hilarious. If you’ve got a weekend and are looking for something to just pick up and play this is a great entry for that.

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Coach Mo’s Thoughts

Tango Fiesta made me laugh out loud almost the entire time. The dialogue in game and  during the cut scenes is one of the best things Merge Games was able to do. It is a nod to all those 80’s action movies we loved to mock and imitate in our youth. It made me want to watch some old movies in the middle of playing to satisfy that nostalgia.

When you jump into the game and we move past the humor, the game play was good. Please don’t read that as me not liking it. It was good for being a twin stick shooter. However, in playing solo my first run through I was able to beat the first levels and boss fight in less than 10 minutes rescuing John’s girlfriend who was kidnapped by his old partner. I found that if you run through the level to the objective, dodging enemy fire, and then shoot the objective from a far then you are able to destroy the objectives with out alerting the near by enemies.

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Mass Effect: Andromeda Review

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Many times during the game, your character asks, “Why did you come to Andromeda?” That same question can be asked of the player of any game, “Why are you playing this game?”

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Mass Effect Andromeda is the fourth installment of the Mass Effect lineage, technically taking place a few hundred years after the events of Mass Effect 3, but the characters are unaware of anything past the beginning of Mass Effect 2, since that is about the time that they began their journey to Andromeda.

In the course of the game, you get to see the new galaxy through the eyes of Pathfinder Ryder, the human responsible for finding and taming a new home for the human race. You have a set of “Golden Worlds” that were selected from the hundreds of possible planets in Andromeda, which could support human life. Your mission starts out as you try to identify the best option of these “Golden Worlds” for the human race to begin anew, but you quickly discover that it is not going to be an easy task to do so.

As you discover new planets, you also discover new threats, possible friends or foes, species and others that wish to join you on your mission. To enable you to effectively explore these new, vast worlds, you receive command of your spaceship, the Tempest, and a planetary rover called the Nomad. For me, planetary exploration is a hallmark of the Mass Effect series, and this entry has some of the best exploration, whether it is going to clusters and exploring the planets on the Tempest, or driving the Nomad across various environments. Driving the Nomad is fantastic, and harkens back to the Mako (in a good way) from Mass Effect 1. The Nomad does not have any weaponry, but features an all-terrain mode that enables you to climb the highest mountains, a booster to move you quickly around, and thrusters that let you hover for a short time. All of this combines to make one of the best vehicles I have used in gaming!

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As with any Mass Effect game, there are branching decisions to be made that will shape and tailor your personal journey. At least twice, I encountered a choice that made me set the controller down and think about the possible outcomes, and how I wanted Andromeda to be shaped. You could make a choice that one of your crew absolutely do not like, but you know it would be better for Andromeda. Those kind of decisions can make it difficult to choose, and really, there sometimes are not “correct” choices, just the lesser of two evils. This made me really invest more in Ryder, my crew, and Andromeda as a whole.

As mentioned above, the crew of the Tempest is a motivating force behind some of your decisions. As you progress through the narrative, hear their back-stories, and go on missions with them, your crew feels like a family. I genuinely began to care about their stories, and as the crew grew together, I wanted to make sure I was a good leader for them. After a shaky start, my progression as their leader felt earned, not given. Most of your crew could accompany you on missions, as you can take two companions with you. Obviously, you would want to consider which companions would augment your selected abilities, and create a formidable team. On the other hand, if you do not really care about those tactics, grab your two favorites and listen to their conversations as you explore Andromeda, hear their reactions to your decisions, and even get their thoughts before you make those decisions.

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When you put all of these things together, you get the sum of what a Mass Effect game is, and it has been done well in Mass Effect Andromeda… for the most part. Quite a few flaws mar this otherwise gem of a game. Most noticeably, I encountered quite a few issues with graphics, textures, and lighting. During a conversation, I spoke to invisible characters (that were not making use of cloaking devices), characters with obstructed faces due to improper placement of light sources that would cast an unfortunate shadow, and I had to exit out of the game completely a few times because I was not able to select dialogue options to progress the game. I also have a number of missions or tasks that I cannot complete because of some bug in the mission. Achievements are also not popping for feats that I know I accomplished. It is quite frustrating to see these types of issues in this otherwise great game, but I am hoping that with patches, most of these issues could be fixed.

When you tire of exploring Andromeda with the crew of your Tempest, you can switch over to multiplayer and run Horde-type missions with up to three other players. Its wave based, and cycles through hacking, survival, and VIP type waves, leading up to the final extraction wave. The missions can prove to be intense, especially when trying to get a full team extraction!

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In all, this is a fun and engaging game. As of this writing, I have spent over 90 hours with the game, and have really enjoyed it! It is unfortunate that this game has the technical issues, because I would definitely score it higher if I experienced them with less frequency. The story is worthy of entry into the Mass Effect canon, while I personally don’t think it’s as good as the Shephard storyline, it’s still compelling in its own right.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments below, or hit me up over on Twitter @VoicedByNathan!

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Telltale Guardians of the Galaxy episode One: Tangled Up in Blue: Quick Impression

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I am a huge Telltale fan. I feel that is something you should know from the start of this. I have played every game they’ve made on the Microsoft console side and have played almost all of them multiple times. I love the stories, the easy cheeves, the awesome characters and decisions, and the cheeves.

The only thing that seems to be the norm for me in the Telltale games is that I buy the physical copy almost exclusively unless there is some really great deal. I don’t replay these games on the same console. I beat the game, trade it back in, and just enjoy the memory of what happened.

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So on May 2nd I picked up Guardians of the Galaxy for my Xbox one and proceeded to play Episode one Tangled Up in Blue. Now this wasn’t the best episode one from Telltale (Minecraft Story Mode and Borderlands) but this was a strong start.

With as little to no spoilers as I can, you start the episode chasing after a huge marvel villain who is laying waste to the Nova corps. You and your team have to infiltrate and old Cree structure, find a way to stop him, and then deal with the aftermath.

What I enjoyed the most about this first episode was the fact that I played as every character in the main fight scene, giving it just this  awesome feeling of a blockbuster movie and the story doing a great job for fans of the franchise and newbies alike. If you had never seen the movie, read the comics, or been exposed to Star Lord and his crew, before the end of this episode you have a great idea of what makes each character tick and I found that to be done in a way that doesn’t drown you (i.e Telltale Batman, did you know his parents were dead?)

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Now I know what some of you are thinking, man this guy loves Telltale so he is probably just has blinders on to all the bugs. To that I will tell you what I tell my friends at PSVG, I have never once had an issue or bug in a Telltale game on my xbox one or 360. Not one. No frame drop, weird voice over issues, nothing. I have had issues playing them on my surface but this thing is old and not meant for gaming I don’t think. So my experience with Guardians episode one, was bug free.

 

Well that’s all for me fam, I hope you enjoyed this quick impressions and if you end up playing it, let me know. Would love to chat openly about this game and my very fun experience playing it.

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Toby: The Secret Mine Review

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Do you like the dark? Not the scary darkness in creepy movies. I would say more of that 2 am, walking around on the outskirts of a city type darkness. If you are picking up what I am saying then Toby: The Secret Mine might be the game for you. Toby TSM is a LImbo/Inside esk style of game with a dark art style and no vocal narrative. As I started to play the game I even tried to go left (first achievement you can get in Limbo) just out of curiosity on how similar these games may be. No cheeve sorry folks.

 

 

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As I dove into the game, I found it easier than I thought it would be at first. The “puzzles” in this platformer hybrid game were easy to solve and where I died and failed in games like Limbo and Inside once or twice in the opening scenes, I got through the first 6 levels quickly and without dying or really having to do much work. I did however miss some hidden friends (collectibles) due to not realizing how the game hides things inside the dark landscapes.

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Unlike the games I listed above (LImbo and Inside in case you forgot or were skimming and stopped here to read cause you like parentheses) Toby doesn’t tell a story through the landscape. Instead it is used against you, hiding collectables, danger, and shortcuts to your destination. At first I found this to be an annoyance but after more time in game, I found it to be an exciting piece of level design. LIke games before it, the game is hiding its true self from me to make it more menacing and difficult. Once you learn what to look for like moveable structures, hidden doors in weirdly placed buildings, and crackling noises that tell you the ground beneath you can be broken to reveal a hidden tunnel the game became easier to traffic on the higher levels.

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Top 5 on the Plus Side:

 

  1. Level design is very creative and makes you really search the levels even though they aren’t very big.
  2. Art style makes the game and its collectibles very enjoyable
  3. Short and fun experience
  4. Creative puzzles that are accessible to those who play few puzzle games and can still be fun for those who play a lot
  5. Doesn’t punish you for mistakes like some games do (Inside I am looking at you)

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Some things that need Improvement:

  1. Though my interpretation of the story was good, I’m not sure everyone out there has a creative, make your own side story as they go type of imagination. If you tend to be more literal in your experiences of games, maybe thing twice on this one.
  2. Sound design has some good moments, but in my opinion was lacking. There are some good moments, just would of loved to hear more from the levels based of the character and where he/she/it was standing.
  3. Collectible level tracking would have made the 1000 on this game so much more enjoyable. Though it isn’t a huge problem as the game does track the collectables in the top right corner in game, you don’t know which one you

 

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All in all this is a really fun experience to be had. I found myself thinking about playing when I was at school and would come home, jump into a level and get 10-15 minutes in before I would work on lesson plans or spend time with the family. Though the game is short, took maybe 1-2 hours to complete and on my second play through to cheeve hunt took me less than an hour.

 

This game has a unique art style, good level design, and innovative puzzles. If that sounds like something you would enjoy then I hope this review helps you decide to play Toby: The Secret Mine.

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Ghost Recon Wildlands – The Ultimate Review

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Q Herrera (LoboRican)

By the time that December, 2017, and the holidays roll around, we will look back and think of Ghost Recon Wildlands (from now on just “Wildlands”) as one of the most underrated, and possibly overlooked, video games of the year. 104 hours of gaming time logged in, I confidently state that amid other blockbuster releases, such as Horizon Zero Dawn, Zelda, Mass Effect Andromeda, Star Wars Battlefront II, and even a new Red Dead Redemption, Wildlands holds its own as one of the best-built MilSims (military simulators) ever developed. Its rocky vehicle controls, relatively limited customization options, and, at times, boring storyline are redeemed by some of the best combat mechanics and feedback found across all games. Additionally, while at unfortunate times buggy, Wildlands invites the gamer into a beautifully imitation of modern Bolivia’s mountains, jungles, valleys, and deserts, an experience expanded by excellent voice acting and “culture-telling” that is great alone, but best with friends.

COMBAT:     95 out of 100

Wildlands excels the most is in its beautifully crafted MilSim combat, honoring the legacy of past Ghost Recons and other Tom Clancy releases. Where moving with your squad of friends or AIs across vast Bolivia, Wildlands forces you, the player, to take a step back, do your proper reconnaissance, and decide how best to proceed. Even though some may interpret this process as “slow” or “disengaging,” it is one of the best depiction of MilSim gaming I’ve ever seen. As a former soldier, I’ve talked to other soldiers and veterans who have had the chance to play Wildlands…and they love it. Some military members who play the game love to turn off the HUD system and make the experience as realistic and unforgiving as possible. Even though I do love my HUD, forcing yourself to raise the difficulty level and plan an attack can be one of the most rewarding experiences Wildlands offers.

Beyond the “big picture” of combat, Wildlands absolutely nails down excellent weapon/shooting feedback. Unlike other games in which the shooting and movement combat falls flat, the MilSim set up of Wildlands forces you to stay on your toes. Whether you choose to blast through a gate with guns blazing, or decide to hold back and snipe your way to victory, Wildlands gives you the freedom to choose how you fight, knowing you will pay the price for your mistakes, and be rewarded for success.

The combat, squad, and movement experience is exponentially more fun and powerful with friends, and the highly active community I have encountered on Xbox Clubs offers a nonstop supply of gamers waiting to team up. Your AIs do I decent job, but are you willing to trust fellow human players to cover your six? We’ll see! Whether play with friends or strangers, Wildlands proved to be an exciting platform in which everyone needed to rely on everyone—no lone rangers here. However, having played most of the game solo, the game continues to be a great treat for those who choose to play on their own.

Beyond the basic shoot and move of your typical shooter, Wildlands offers the player with a menu of accessible Squad orders and directors for your AI or human companions. Additionally, as squad leader, you have access to a variety of useful “skills” that expand you tactical and strategic options: mortar fire, diversionary rebel forces, vehicle drop-off/pick-up, allied rebel forces fighting by your side, and auto-spotting of enemies, all upgradeable throughout the game.

VEHICLES:  75 out of 100

One of the game’s lowest points is vehicle control. It is truly a steep learning curve that is at times quite punishing. Time and time again, I have flown off a mountain after losing control of my truck or any other car. Was this a developer’s choice? Did they choose to make vehicles hard to control at times? Possibly, but even so it can be a frustrating experience in key and decisive points of your gameplay. Less than desirable vehicle controls are not a reason to forsake the Wildlands, but it can be an unfortunate reminder of what keeps the game from truly being great.

However, we can’t ignore that the developers created a sandbox in which every single vehicle you lay your eyes on is drivable. Wanna steal that helicopter? Do it. Want to drive that farm tractor into combat? Knock yourself out. Wanna crash that helicopter into a Cartel enemy convoy? I dare you to (did that 5 times last night). Where the game falls short in controls, it makes up in the highly rewarding access to vehicles and transportation throughout the map, honoring the success Ubisoft had with a similar system in Watchdogs 2.

CUSTOMIZATION:            85 out of 100

Wildlands offers the player two key areas of customizations: appearance and weapons. On the appearance side, Wildlands excels past many games, but I never quite got my Ghost (whom I named Rico), to fully look like me. At the end of the day, Wildlands comes with a few pre-set faces that can be edited to a controlled extent. This is due, in part, to the fact that you character shows up in most, if not all, of the cut scenes. Also, appearance customization comes with an impressive array of realistic and not-so-realistic combat apparel, which earned my respect as a former soldier. Let’s just say that Ubisoft’s military advisors knew what they were recommending.

Weapon modification, through the Gunsmith system is excellent. I could modify fifteen different parts of each weapon system, from scope to barrel, to magazine, to paint, to trigger, to underbarrel system, to butt stock, etc. Even though the difference between one scope and the next may not be dramatic, the ability to make your weapon your own is an element to applaud.

SETTING/ VOICE-ACTING/ ENVIRONMENT:           90 out of 100

The setting, voice-acting, and environment all go together because they collectively set a tone and mood for the game. Being Latino, I could fully appreciate the environment in a way that other players may not be able to. Listening to villagers and bad guys talk in perfect Spanish (yes, perfect Spanish) was incredibly cool. Finding documents and “legends” items throughout each province that expanded on the history and context of the land and people was fantastic, and a journey of discovery on its own.

I have already mentioned the beautiful environment which one gets to play on. Wildlands offers the play 21 (yes, twenty-one) different provinces in which to fight, explore, and liberate the land from the grips of the Santa Blanca cartel. Even though some regions do look alike (specially neighboring regions), I sincerely felt as if I was exploring a whole continent that transformed itself as I drove, walked, or flew around it. If there is one area where, as a gamer, I could see the passion of the game developers is in the beauty and detail that went into the recreating this chunk of our world.

Voice-acting is another area which I could fully appreciate. Bear with me: voice-acting into another language has been done in terrible ways. I have seen developers release games with horrible Spanish voice-acting. However, where Ubisoft truly deserves a ton of credit is in choosing to pay attention to this small but critical area of detail. The voice-acting in Wildlands is excellent. The Spanish is excellent. The military lingo/slang between the Ghosts is excellent. Even the real-world tension between the CIA and the US military operatives comes alive through the dialogue between characters. This is an area where this games deserves praise, in part, because so many studies take it for granted and fail to deliver on minimum expectations.

STORY:         80 out of 100

Sadly, one of the low points of the game is its story. I don’t think this is an area that should be spoiled for the reader who hasn’t played Wildlands, because the story is worth playing. It can be easy to criticize the game for the lack of cut scenes or super-concrete story-telling, but I’d argue that the true storytelling happens through your actions as you explore and fight through the Wildlands. Yes, story and plot can be delivered through structured scene-building, but Wildlands offers that storytelling in a different way. The game encourages you to analyze the terrain and come up with a plan for attack, climb up and mountain and then hike down, discover and explore new chunks of the world by smoothly transitioning from one part of the map to the other.

Is this one of the greatest stories told in games? No, but it is a realistic story. The writers of Wildlands researched Narco-Cartel culture, military culture, CIA culture, and Bolivian culture to give us a world that is ours to explore and have fun in. As a graduate student who researches these sort of topics, I believe there is much to learn from and appreciate from the story that Wildlands gives us the chance to be part of.

EMPOWERMENT:             95 out of 100

What is empowerment? To me, empowerment is one of the greatest elements in any game. Empowerment is the extent to which a video games allows us to experience elements which most of us can’t experience in life. Empowerment is the extent to which a game truly approximates being a true simulator. Ghost Recon Wildlands gets a 10/10 in empowerment because, as a Ghost, I truly feel like I have the power, capacity, and freedom to fight as a like. This game continues to be exciting because I continue to find new ways to fight enemies, new ways to win, and new ways to make mistakes. Empowerment is a gamechanger is delivering great gaming experiences, and few games have made me feel as empowered as Ghost Recon Wildlands.

Ghost Recon Wildlands        89 out of 10

Ghost Recon Wildlands is a rewarding experience for all gamers of all backgrounds and genres. Whether you are an explorer or a shooter, a lone ranger or one who prefers to play with friends, the Wildlands deserves to be played. If you have picked up this game and have played it, I hope you agree with my verdict. If you picked it up and haven’t gotten to it, it’s worth the investment! If you are still deciding between this game and many of the other blockbusters out, I’d encourage you to maybe wait for a discount and pick it up later. Welcome to the Wildlands: now choose how to fight!

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Ghost Recon Wildlands was purchased and reviewed by the author on a Xbox One S console. You can read additional information about PSVG’s  review policy on our disclaimer page here.

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Review: Sublevel Zero Redux

Greetings Koopalings! Donnie here from Play Some Video Games to review a new addition to consoles – Sublevel Zero Redux. I used this review opportunity to dust off the Xbox One in the office, but you can play Sublevel Zero Redux on your PlayStation 4 or a PC using the Steam client. I streamed the game three times using Beam on Xbox One, but so far have had difficulty downloading them to add to our YouTube page. When I get this ironed out, I’ll add the Let’s Plays to this review but thanks for those that tuned in to watch.

Sublevel Zero Redux is a new first person shooter / procedurally generated roguelike from independent studio Sigtrap Games (@SIGTRAPgames).  The big sell with Sublevel Zero Redux is its six-degrees of freedom (6DoF) in which you’re piloting a gunship both left, right, up, down, forward and back in three dimensional space. As with many roguelikes of recent memory (Don’t Starve / Binding of Issac), Sublevel Zero Redux also features permadeath which means no lives & no saves. It’s not a style of game I would recommend to all gamers, even I can’t claim to be a fan of the genre, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the experience.

Presentation

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The game features a tron-like art style of neon glowing retro-bit blocks and warm colored environments. The use of color and contrast is very attractive. Its a modern take on classic game art and it is quite enjoyable even if simple.  Aiding the presentation are some sweet, sweet tunes. The music and sound effects definitely help to sell the the sci-fi setting. Weapons also fire with great visual and audio effects which continues to build an immersive experience. I definitely recommend pulling out some headphones so you never miss a beat.

Equally good as the audio & visual direction are the mechanics. Guiding a ship with six-degrees of freedom in 3D space isn’t something often implemented in video games. The sheer amount of negative combinations that could result in a player trying to harness such movement has to be a nightmare for any developer. I’m happy to report that Sigtrap Games has largely pulled it off. Controlling your ship through the winding hallways and connected rooms is pleasant from the start. It wasn’t until my 4th or 5th run with the game that I began to really settle into the groove, but once it clicked, it was very rewarding to zip in and out of doorways blasting away with mini-guns and rockets before switching to grenades while dodging on-coming attacks with a barrel roll. There were a few occassions where my ship turned it’s axis when I didn’t specifically want it to, but it never impeded my progress or adversely affected my playtime.

That’s all to say, the game really impresses “for an indie game.” I don’t mean to sound derogatory at all, we all know independent studios have largely taken up the non-AAA video game scene. However, even with that said, there are very few indie games I’ve played that have this level of polish regarding performance. I didn’t experience a single frame rate stutter, a crash, or any other technical issue worth reporting. Considering how ambitious the goal to deliver six-degrees of freedom is, Sigtrap Games deserves some major kudos for a job very well done.

Gameplay

The game begins with a small cinematic explaining that the universe is literally falling apart. Wormholes open randomly, swallowing galaxies, planets, ships, people…. you get the idea. You enter an ancient facility that is behind all of this chaos in an attempt to save the galaxy. Ultimately the story is a forgettable one and is probably the easiest stone to throw at Sublevel Zero Redux. The world is so well constructed, it feels like a missed opportunity not to have some dialog between characters or more cut-scenes in between levels. I could imagine some Firewatch like dialog from your gunship back to homebase or an operator really adding some depth to the adventure.

Death is permanent with this game and you’re going to die at least a handful ,if not a couple dozen of times (at least I did). The maps are procedurally generated after each death which keeps the game feeling new every time. As you progress through each labyrinth, you encounter several floating robot combatants that move as you do and also fire projectiles for you to doge. It’s pretty standard shooter stuff but it makes for an enjoyable loop due to the superb control you have over your ship. The hook here is Sublevel Zero is one of those ‘Just One More’ type of games. You’ll never feel as if you were robbed from glory or that you weren’t good enough. There’s always a hint of… “I can do this, just one more go” with Sublevel Zero Redux that will bring you back beyond your first successful run.

To add just a little more flavor to the dish, you can upgrade and outfit your ship, as well as unlock new ones. As you progress though each sublevel, you’ll acquire materials and weapons that you can use to equip and upgrade new weapons and hulls. You can equip two sets of primary and secondary weapons which you can quick swap in combat with the right and left bumpers. Honestly I found crafting mostly a random affair as I never truly knew if I was actually upgrading over my previous tools. I was largely just clicking menu options periodically as they became available as there’s little in the way of guidance and instruction for this portion of the game. Additionally, the loot drops found in chests throughout campaign never seemed to really upgrade my ship in a tangible way.

Value

Sublevel Zero is unlike anything out there and there isn’t a strong direct comparative for Sublevel Zero Redux on consoles. At best, this game compares to Forsaken on Nintendo 64 or the niche-popular PC game Decent from the 90s. I imagine many other reviews for Sublevel Zero Redux might mention that the game is short as some negative statement. While it is true that this game can be beaten fairly quickly (3.5 hours for me on my first day) it is a rogue-like and meant to be played through multiple times. This is where my biggest flaw with the game comes into focus. The loop began to grow stale on my third run through the game, which isn’t the best criticism for a Roguelike. The game is fun to play but has very little motivation or purpose for completing the quest let alone completing it for a second, third, or multiple runs. There’s little diversity in the environments making everything feel the same no matter how many different times you die and hit the reset button.

I’d offer that the amount of gameplay available coupled with the better than average music, style, and control justifies the Andrew Jackson ($20) out of your wallet.

Conclusion

Sublevel Zero Redux is the type of game that coined the phrase “for fans of the genre/series.” I wish there was a lot more here from a plot perspective, even an occassional boss battle would have been a welcome addition to the formula. It’s just unique enough that I’d recommend this game the next time you’re in-between big releases and want to get into something new. It’s a wonderful option available that won’t require a 60 hour (or dollar) investment to enjoy.

Sublevel Zero Redux is a great example of why we have come to love independent studios. With Sublevel Zero Redux the Sigtrap team attempt to bring something fresh and new to the often “too-similar” first person shooter market and the experience is worth taking a flier on.

 

Sublevel Zero Redux was reviewed using an Xbox One code provided by the publisher. You can read additional information about PSVG’s  review policy on our disclaimer page here.

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Specter of Torment Review – Switch

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A simple, touching and effective story surprising strength of the original Shovel Knight campaign’s story. The Specter of Torment addition continues that tradition and builds on the lore of the universe by telling the ultimately tragic story of Specter Knight’s ascension (or descension?) to his status in the Order of No Quarter.

The new campaign comes with the overall package, now rechristened as the Treasure Trove, or you can purchase it separately. It comes with the base game if you already own it, or you can purchase it ala carte. The entire package is worth purchasing — even on Switch if you own it elsewhere — and Specter of Torment also stands on its own.

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If you’ve played Shovel Knight, you know what to expect graphically. Specter of Torment is a gorgeous 8-bit game. The levels follow the same themes as the original game, but are adjusted to take advantage of Specter Knight’s move set.

Specter’s move set is a little faster than the Blue Burrower, which takes some getting used to. While in the air, you can slash through certain obstacles to reach higher areas, or into enemies to cause damage.

Many boss fights go down to the wire, with Specter Knight’s slashing move being the difference between success and failure.

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The structure of the game is more akin to a Mega Man game, where you can choose to go to any level in any order. The reward for each level is different based on difficulty.

The story is relatively straightforward, as you are attempting to recruit each of the other knights to serve The Enchantress. After every couple levels, there will be a separate flashback level that tells the story of how Specter Knight came to be in the service of the Enchantress.

The story is touching and sad, and may just be the highlight of the game. That’s saying something as the gameplay is solid and matches up well with the original campaign.

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Shovel Knight is a must play game, and is one of my favorite games of this generation. With Specter of Torment, I have had a wonderful excuse to revisit a game that I love. The series’ earlier expansion, Plague of Shadows, left me feeling indifferent. Specter of Torment is a thrilling return to form that leaves me more excited for the next chapter in the Shovel Knight saga.

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Specter Knight was purchased by the reviewer on the Nintendo Switch. View this page to learn more about our review policies and scoring descriptions.

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Pixel Heroes: Byte and Magic

I like to start my reviews with an intro that ties into the game and the feelings it gives me. Normally this is done with an analogy or merging the game with feelings/memories I have had. So when you read this next sentence, please understand that this took me hours of thought, careful deliberation, and rewrite after rewrite after rewrite.

 

This game is Chris Rock.

Take a second. Reread it, prep yourself.

This game, this hilarious game, is Chris Rock.

What do I mean by this? Well folks, when I dove into this game it was one of those moments when I was just salty. I cant remember what was wrong with me, but something was just bugging me like crazy and I was not in a great state of mind. I dove in to this game and in moments, found myself laughing and thinking. From one liners involving pop culture to jokes about you dying in game, this game deleivers a great sense of humor in an old school styled game. This is an RPG game with some Roguelike loving sprinkled on top. Why I say its Chris Rock, is because even though there is a fun little story in here, its best moments in my open are when it is making fun of pop culture through the dialogue and actions in the game (Chris Rock at his funniest as well).

The main game:

In the game you will pick three of the six available characters to start your quest (my favorite part due to the interactions that proceed from picking someone and not picking others). You then will begin one of the main quests, travel to dungeons with some random encounters, and fight your way through. What makes this game brilliant is that if you are successful you will return back to the town to resupply and pick your hero’s to begin a new quest. But if you die, that’s it. Game over. See you later, thanks for playing, have a nice day buddy buddy. This game is a one and done so you need to keep someone alive in your party at the end of the quests to keep the good times rolling.

I really dug the old school feel of the game, though I am not often into the Pixel-lated style of game art (guys do you see what I did there, do you?). But the style and humor tied in with a great soundtrack that doesn’t get annoying during game play thankfully. I could share more but with the story being a fairly repetitive game style (not in a bad way folks, most RPG’s follow the same ark) with similar quests and boss fights, I don’t want to ruin to much for the gamer.

After several hours, many deaths, and some awesome successes I left this game happier for having played it. Its one I would have missed had I not gotten the chance to play it for our wonderful Play Some Video Games family. So if you are looking for an old school art style RPG with a cute sound track, then this is your game. If those things make you go, what? Then I would dive deeper and watch some videos before you pull the trigger. I hope this review helped you out with out spoiling so much and sparked your interest in Pixel Heros: Byte and Magic.

Review: Steamworld Heist (3DS)

I know, I know – I’m late to this party. Sue me!

As Jason and Seth can both attest to, Steamworld Heist and I have needed some time to really explore our relationship. Having only just beaten a game that launched back in December of 2015, I realize that this game may be old news for many. I’ll admit, Heist isn’t what I had in mind when developer Image & Form announced the follow up to one of my favorite 3DS games of all-time, Steamworld Dig. Steamworld Dig brought an action based style of gameplay that was addictive & perfect for portable platforms. Many will argue that the Metroid-like formula for upgrading is the hook, but for me the hook was always the relaxing pursuit to travel further and further into the depths of the world. The ability to pull of expert jumps or build a path so perfect that you could escape without the need of fancy upgrades always provided some risk vs. reward. Heist really is a drastic departure from what I had grown so accustomed to with Dig and required some time on my behalf to accept. I’m glad I didn’t allow my dumb connections to the past make me give up on Heist.

Gameplay

As alluded to in my intro – For anyone that has played Steamworld Dig and not Heist, this is a very different game. Dig was an action based game with some platforming set around mining your way deeper and deeper into what lies beneath the surface. If you read any reviews for Steamworld Dig, you’ll undoubtedly see the word(s) – Metroid, Metroidvania, or Metroidvanian listed as a nod that there’s an upgrade progression needed to accomplish throughout the excavation to reach the bottom.

When you boot up Steamworld Heist – Throw those assumptions out the window. Steamworld HEIST is in fact a turn-based tactical/strategy game. As the player you control a party of team-members (as well as their load-outs) in and out of a series of missions connected by an over-world map. Inside of each turn, you have the option to move your respective party members, attack, guard, or use an ability. These tactics can be combined or altered by using objects to take cover or find an advantage – such as the use of a barrel that explodes upon being attacked. This formula is pretty much set in stone but some variety does come in the form of multiple enemy types. Some heavy opponents will need to be flanked, some have projectiles affecting your ability to find cover or move, and you will need to watch out for turrets popping up as well.

Overall the gameplay and mechanics remind me of the Worms series. Both basically use a characters weapon by aiming a target line or estimating it’s arc, that may or not be altered by the terrain in the environment, in multiple rounds attack and defense.

This gameplay loop of beating the mission in front of you is enhanced by acquiring new party-members as well as load-outs and some inventory management. The addition of new characters to the party is most enjoyable as each has their own personality and you can enjoy some friendly small-talk on your ship in between missions. Each character can also be leveled up by gaining experience earned on missions to increase their particular skill sets. Those that really fall in love with this game, will benefit from mixing and matching their party members to get the most out of abilities on the harder difficulty levels of which there are five (casual, regular, experienced, veteran, and elite). As for inventory management, you’ll begin the game with very little space and as you increase your party you’ll need to turn the loot you find into more space by purchasing item slots. During my 11 hours with Steamworld Heist, I had to sell off weapons and upgrades several times as I didn’t have space to carry all of my wares.

While these features do add some decisions to make along your journey, I honestly don’t think the journey would be so interrupted without them. Characters bring new abilities to explore, but I found them more to be a matter of preference than necessity and I would have preferred if each character had a skill tree where some more customization to special abilities were available.

Before I leave gameplay, I will admit that once I got into the groove with Heist I really enjoyed the formula. It’s probably best played on a handheld or mobile device in my opinion, as the ability to jump in and out, play one level here and there is really magnified. I can honestly say it maybe the primary reason I never just moved on to something else and kept playing Heist, it was always a breeze to invest another five minutes.

Presentation

For me, the presentation is where Steamworld Heist truly shines. The game features a Western/Gritty appearance with clashing accents of neon colors that pop and draw your attention. Having played the game on the New 3DS and I can confirm that the 3D slider added depth to the game that also enhanced the overall presentation (esp that over-world map!). While I’m sure the higher resolution and sharper images on the console versions of Heist are gorgeous, Steamworld Heist on 3DS should not be dismissed due to visual quality.

The charm and style of the characters, environments, and the dialog that can be found within, are the cherry on top of a visual showcase. Captain Piper Faraday and his merry crew provide a pirate-like camaraderie out on the open seas of space. As your party grows, each new character provides a small compliment that makes them unique visually instead of looking like another random robot. This attention to detail provided a small piece of attachment to my party members and definitely influenced how I built out my rag-tag bunch.

I’d be an idiot to not mention the bars that will be encountered along your space-adventuring. Without question, these were the highlights of the game for me. Bars represent a hub to gain access to new missions, new party members, or increase your inventory by purchasing new item slots or the items themselves. But all of that pale in comparison to the classic-western movie feel and wonderful music each bar presents. Every time I opened up a new watering hole on the map I was immediately smiling as I raced to see what the next one had in store. These moments, while may not be instrumental to the gameplay itself, set Steamworld Heist apart from many similar games and always brought a smile.

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Value

People usually read reviews because they want to know if a product is worthy of investment. So I’ll save you some reading, Steamworld Heist is worth the purchase, period. You can grab Heist almost anywhere you can think of these days (PC, PS4, Vita, Xbox One, 3DS, Wii U, and iOS) between $10-$15 with it going on sale somewhat regularly. For those that want even more than that 10 or so hours the game provides, there’s also DLC available for the game, but I haven’t play them.

With regards to comparative value, I’d say Steamworld Heist lends itself most to portable play and is probably better on 3DS, Vita, or iOS devices. Immediate games that come to mind for comparison are Worms WMD and XCOM, both of which are more available on consoles than portables and charge twice as much. But even so, those games really aren’t similar once you get away from the core gameplay design.

Judging solely as a 3DS game, this one feels like a must-have due to the high amount of polish and game available for the price. There’s really nothing like it on the 3DS eShop and you’d be hard-pressed to find something as good.

Conclusion

I really wanted this review to just be a short, couple of paragraphs, summary as I know the review appeal for a Steamworld Heist review dried up long ago. Once I began to put each thought down, I kept finding the next one, and the next one, and ultimately felt like I’d be doing the game a disservice to summarize the game in just 2-3 paragraphs. Steamworld Heist simply has a lot more to offer than the first-pitch trailer will let on.

Steamworld Heist is just different. There’s nothing quite like it (especially on 3DS) and for that reason it was easy to keep coming back instead of moving on to the next release. In my time with the game, the affinity for Steamworld Heist grew larger with each mission passed. Whereas I originally felt the game wasn’t living up to Dig and wasn’t hitting that ‘gotta keep playing’ bell in my mind, I ended Steamworld Heist with a fond appreciation of the journey. My only real fault with the game is that I think it is too slow during movement and combat, even when I skipped animations and the game loop grew lightly-repetitive by the end. But even so, I finished the game and remain overly positive on the experience.

Super Mega Baseball

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Given the chance, many of us would be able to sum up our lives in a few words. Mine is easy. Ball. it was my first word, my first love, my first job, got me into college, and is what my professional career is based upon. Sports have been my whole life for as long as I can remember. As sports are all around me in both my day job, hobbies, and gaming I have a lot of great sports memories. . However, my favorite memories of sports aren’t the championships as a player and coach in real life and videogames, they aren’t playing football professionally over seas and in the arena league, and not the amazing feeling of seeing my students achieve their goals. Those are all great memories but the ones  I charish the most of all, are those of practice. Squaring up against teammates, the extra hours in the gym by myself, working on skills and failing repeatedly to only succeed later on, having my dog play left field in the world series, and making that game winning shot or sack for crucial loss… Those are the things I will remember for ever. They pop in my head when I am in the gym before and after practice. They sit with me in the car and remind me of a time when life was simpler, easier.

Super Mega Baseball ties into this emotion in a way no other game has. This isn’t professional baseball, it is those moments before practice where pitchers are actually first baseman, centerfielders are coaching, and every batter thinks they are Babe Ruth. After 30 hours with this game, I have found that it does something no baseball game has ever done for me. It reminds me that baseball isn’t just a sport, but is a game as well.

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From getting stuck in a pickle in my first game, to throwing a no no throw 8 innings only to give it up on a routine ground ball you just didn’t react fast enough too in the stretch of the season, this game has some of the biggest highs I have ever had in a baseball game.

 

Customization:

For my team I choose to edit every player to be a member of the PSVG team and their affiliates. A rag tag group of people who just love to play the game! I changed face structure, hair, name, number, etc.

Playing the game:

I jumped into a single season mode. The first few games I had a hard time hitting, Donnie Reece, our captain and Ace pitcher was doing great but I was always early on pitches. The timing in this one because of the over exaggerated junk pitches is unlike games like MLB the show. Once I got into it, Mo Mahoney our power hitting first baseman and Nate-er-tot Thomas our range-y outfielder became forces to be reckoned with.

Quick notes on in game mechanics-

Hitting- with practice becomes much easier but can be frustrating in the begging. But like real life, you just have to practice seeing the pitches move. The game will give you assistance if you need it so I recommend starting low and moving up.

Fielding- Nothing out of the ordinary however, timing throws does take some practice or else you can give up so bases and lose outs your pitching staff will star you down for.

Pitching- The best part of the game for me! I love how many pitch types they added, allowing me to use the curve to bend in and out of the strike zone helping me strike out a batters with ease.

The good:

Playing this game is a living embodiment of every kid who watched the movie The Sandlot and then went out and played for their own personal championships. The mechanics are good across the board and have had no issues with saves, weird A.I, or anything else like I have seen in other baseball games on the PS4 and Xbox.

The Bad;

Though customization of players is really good except for lack of control on height and weight but having little to no ownership of the team, the stadium, etc. That lack of control made it tougher for me in the big scheme of things as well as some of the pre-set created player options. Had I been able to rename my team the PSVG Gamers, and have a stadium of my choice, man this game would have been a 10 all the way for me.

Overall:

This is a great baseball game and the normal knock people give these types of games is that you don’t know the characters, but if you take 10 min, you can create that backyard team from your child hood. Seeing my wife play second base and working to get her the batting championship, seeing Donnie work on becoming the strikeout leader, and my quest for homerun supremacy made awesome story lines for people I care about. The gameplay is quick to pick up and the more you play, the better the game gets. I can say with no doubt in my mind that this is the best baseball game on the Xbox one right now and is a must pick up for baseball fans.

 

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Sniper Elite 4 (PS4) Review

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I have been creeping around trying to gather the intel on a Nazi shipment, but I keep getting pulled into side tasks. First I took out a traitorous Harbor Master who had betrayed his own people. My mission is taking place at night, which is helpful for a sniper, but I keep running into giant spotlights strewn around the area, so I figure I should take those out too. That brings me to where I am now. On top of a building, looking down upon heavy artillery which is causing our folks problems. All that stands between me and taking it out is, ya know, Nazis.

This usually would not be an issue. I have the cover of night, some decent space between myself and my enemies, and of course my trusty sniper rifle. What I do not have, unfortunately, is any silenced ammunition or anything booming in the background to cover my shots. I use my binoculars to scan the environment and I come up with a plan of action. Will it work? No clue, but I am going to give it a shot.

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I pull up my rifle and peer through the scope focusing on a large truck and I wait patiently as a Nazi Officer slowly makes his way towards the vehicle. I empty my lungs: show time! I pull the trigger and the camera follows the bullet as it ruptures the gas tank causing a massive explosion and sending shrapnel through the unsuspecting Officer and another Nazi grunt. With flames reaching towards the sky and my need for oxygen increasing, I pan to the right and pull the trigger when my crosshair settles on a soldier attempting to hide behind an ammo crate. Again the camera focuses on my bullet as it travels the distance to my target, enters his eye, and blows out the back of his skull. My lungs are on fire, but I pan one more time and find a final target cowering behind sandbags. My vision is partially obscured, but I am able to settle my rifle on his chest, pull the trigger, and soon his ribs are breaking, his lung is being punctured, and my bullet is exploding out of is back.

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I bring my rifle down and things are going bananas. I am being shot at from behind, and decide it is time to find a new position. I climb down a ladder and sneak my way through brush and around rocks as I make it to the area of all the enemies I have just taken out, their bodies littering the landscape. The rest of the enemy is still focused on my previous location and my new position allows me to attack them from a flank. I am close enough I pull out my silenced pistol and shoot a hanging pallet of cargo which drops on my unsuspecting opponents. I switch back to my rifle and use my scope to scan the landscape and isolate the last three Nazis who are now very confused after the falling cargo. I am able to pull off two head shots in a row leaving me just one adversary who is beginning to run and my first shot puts him on the ground and my second host ensures he would never have children had he survived. I pull the rifle away from my face and begin to relax. I saunter over to the artillery, plant a bomb, and walk away as it blows up action movie style behind me. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I notice a small glint of light and hit the ground. Another sniper. I may never get to the main objective, but let this game of cat and mouse begin!

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That synopsis actually happened, and is the best way I can characterize Sniper Elite 4. It is a thinking person’s shooter. You could, technically, go in guns blazing and muscle your way through each area in hopes of completing your tasks. You will find, however, you are much more successful by doing some reconnaissance, planning your approach, laying traps, and putting your plan into action with well placed shots from a distance. Sometimes these plans play out like you expect and you feel an immense sense of relief and accomplishment. Other times these plans run afoul the moment you place them into action and you scramble to think on your feet and make the best of a hectic situation.

In Sniper Elite 4 has you play as Karl Fairburne who skills are now being utilized to assist the Italian resistance during World War II. If you have ever played a first-person shooter before the controls will feel right at home. Most of the gameplay tropes are things you have seen before, but they are done really well. The shooting feels good and though the non-sniping weapons can sometimes feel a bit inaccurate, they do not feel unfair and that helps to encourage you to snipe whenever you can. Why would you want to snipe? Because it feels amazing. Tracking targets, adjusting your aim for bullet drop, knowing when to empty your lungs, and pegging your target from 200 meters feels extremely satisfying. The ability to use loud noises (airplanes, explosions, etc.) to hide your gunfire is well implemented and rewards you for planning and picking your shots. I liked this mechanic so much that I definitely missed it when it was not available.

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The one gameplay aspect that helps stand Sniper Elite apart is the X-Ray Kill and they are brutal. Whether it be watching someone’s eye socket blown out, intestines shredded, jaw broken, testicles ruptured (yup), or any other of the numerous shots that exist, it is pretty savage to see and you know the enemy is not coming back from it. In a fast paced game, this mechanic would be a welcome respite, but honestly, Sniper Elite 4 is a slow shooter. There is very little run and gun and you are far more successful being methodical and tactical. As result, these X-Ray Kills slow the game down even more. You can turn them off, but they are pretty epic to watch, so I found myself in this back and forth of do I speed my playthrough up, or do keep watching these awesome kills. I ended up leaving them on.

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These kills are part of a straightforward but serviceable story that I enjoyed. The voice acting is quite strong and while I did not fall in love with any of the characters, I always looked forward to my next conversation with them. You will not have had to play Sniper Elite III to pick up on what is going on, and the story is told through structured missions. The main missions are what you would expect (collect this intel, eliminate this person, etc.) but they are all accompanied with multiple side-missions and your relationships with other characters develop through these optional adventures. This is not an open world game, as each chapter of the story takes place on a new map, but these maps are rather large and beautifully detailed. If you blow through only the main missions, you could probably complete them quickly. However, it was not uncommon for me to methodically complete the main missions and side objectives on each map and be there for a couple hours. Keep in mind, I was not purposely going for any of the multiple collectibles, which would add even more time to your map exploration.

Spending times on the maps makes you appreciate all the detail Rebellion put into this game. The graphics look great and every environment tells a story from the bombed out countrysides, to thick forests, to Nazi occupied towns, you have multiple paths to every objective and interesting surroundings and tasks to do along the way. The sound incorporates perfectly with the environment, occasionally providing cover noise for your shots, having unique dialogue between enemies you can listen to, and actual music being out of the way most of the time. When the music is present (typically when you are no longer being stealthy and have a rain of Nazi bullets coming down on you) it always feels appropriate to the situation and increases the intensity and stress of the situation you are in.

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I have been heaping praise on Sniper Elite 4, but I did have a few issues while playing. The enemy AI, while typically solid, has moments that can be befuddling. Granted, these almost always go in your favor, and maybe it was just the difficulty level I was playing on, but there were occasional quirks on when an enemy could or could not see me. While Karl is typically able to mantle and climb up many objects, he will occasionally get caught up on small rocks or rises and not be able to get over them or even jump over them. This never caused an issue in a firefight, but I ran into it occasionally when backtracking, etc. Additionally, I had one instance where an enemy got caught (for lack of a better word) in gas tank that had exploded. They could shoot me and could only run in place, but no matter the angle, I could not hit them, so I ended up leaving them there and moving on my merry way. Finally, they game gives you virtually everything at the start, and while there is a limited skill tree to upgrade, how you play the first mission is not drastically different than the last. So if you are not completely enamored by the sniping mechanics, the gameplay can be a bit repetitive by the end.

In the current landscape of AAA titles, it might be easy to overlook Sniper Elite 4. That would be a mistake. Last year was a banner year for shooters, and this one is different enough to slide in among that group. If you are looking for a stealth based, tactical shooter that gives you a chance if things go wrong, Sniper Elite 4 fits the bill. It is not going to be fast paced enough for everyone, but if you have a bit of patience and enjoy your shooters with a bit of finesse, give this one a shot.

Sniper Elite 4 was reviewed using a PS4 code provided by the publisher. You can read additional information about PSVG’s  review policy on our disclaimer page here.

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Ghost Recon Wildlands: Beta Impressions

The gaming community, and Tom Clancy franchise fans in particular, have much to celebrate in the upcoming release of Ghost Recon: Wildlands, if the final game expands on the experience that the beta has shown us. After twelve hours of raiding cartel compounds, hijacking helicopters, airplanes, trucks, and farming tractors, taking control of military bases while being rocketed by enemy gunships, parachuting from helicopters, and upgrading my avatar’s skills and abilities, I have exhausted the beta, but I am very excited for the future.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands (GRW) is a game that I and many others have been waiting for with anxious anticipation. This anticipation, and hope, were stressed by what many consider to be disappointments in recent Tom Clancy games: The Division as a whole and Rainbow 6 Siege’s lack of a campaign. The Division showed much promise, but its bullet-sponge bosses and its prolonged unrealistic combat with meaningless tactics was abstract to the Tom Clancy formula many of us grew up with. Prior Ghost Recons, Splinter Cells, and Rainbow 6s attempted to remain faithful to the promise of delivering a tactically-rich and strategically-rewarding experience where gamers could taste a virtual version of real military combat. The Division wasn’t that. Additionally, even though I love Rainbow 6 Siege (I play it multiple times each week with friends), it didn’t deliver the campaign that we have come to cherish in past renditions. It was a studio choice that, even though justified, we much lamented.

 However, in the Wildlands of Bolivia, the setting to GRW, we may just find redemption. Twelve hours later and having completed 99% of the beta content, I have put down my controller and taken off my headset feeling extremely satisfied. If the full GRW expands on its beta, then the gaming community can look forward to a rich and engaging open-world tactical shooter that will deliver exponential amounts of high-quality entertainment—playing with friends is recommended.

GRW Beta 2 Screenshot 2017-02-03 12-20-32

“High Ground”

 

THE GOOD

From its opening cut scenes and character (avatar) building system, the GRW beta gives the player a strong sense of empowerment. The Wildlands are your battlefield, and here is a great character customization system to build your Ghost. Is it the best system ever? Definitely not, but satisfying nevertheless. Moving on, the game launches you into your first mission without much in tutorials, as those pop up non-invasively as you progress through the early story. Classic fans of Ghost Recon and Splinter Cell will feel right at home—I promise.

The natural intuition is to tackle the objective in a linear manner, but please don’t! There is little to no linearity in this game! You want to attack the objective from the hill nearby? Sure. You want to sneak in and melee everyone? Go for it. Snipe? Knock yourself out. Wanna try to “Master Chief” your way through the mission? You can do it, but good luck! “Empowered” is a word I strongly associate with my time in the beta, and I hope the final GRW continues to deliver that sensation.  

THE BAD

There weren’t a lot of negative points in the notes that I took while playing the beta. One of the first things I noticed is that developers need to recalibrate the vehicle cameras and Right Joystick sensitivity. The vehicles operate well, but at times the bad calibration delivers an awkward experience.

The campaign story is there, for sure, but it could end up diluted by the many side missions and the sheer size of the world you are playing in. Early on, my friends and I knocked out two story missions, but then decided to focus on side missions and playing with the “sandbox” experience available to all. Not until later did we go back and finish the story missions available. For narrative-loving gamers, of which I am one, this may be a disappointing experience. Have you played Dragon Age Inquisition? Remember those big region maps in which you spent hours and hours knocking out quests apart from the main story? Well, it isn’t quite like that, because all the side missions are pretty self-contained, but it can feel like a distraction for those who want an epic narrative.

Friends are not included. Sure, you have your three AI teammates, but the level of fun grew exponentially the more human players that I added to my squad. GRW is a game that I will enjoy regardless of whether I play by myself or with friends, but cooperative gameplay is recommended. Taking on an enemy fortress with AIs is fun, but nothing beats the tactical planning of four human beings adding their own personality and take to the mixture. A final version of GRW may draw some similar criticism to Destiny’s and The Division’s heavy emphasis on coop play, but I believe that the sense of “player empowerment” I found in the beta will compensate for it all.

"Spontaneous Landing Zone"

“Spontaneous Landing Zone”

THE GREAT

Parachute from an aircraft into a cartel fortress on top of a mountain, land on top of a building, take out all the snipers, watch you buddy crash into the side of the mountain and die, watch your other buddy parachute into the middle of a dozen enemy AIs and get obliterated. Just another day in the Wildlands. The “great” about the GRW beta is that the open-world is yours. Hijack and drive any vehicle you lay your eyes on, customize your weapons in the Gunsmith System any way you want, level up your skills and abilities through in-game experience and achievements, ignore the rules and become a twisted sadistic murderer, or be the spear that strikes at the heart of the Santa Clara cartel.

I only played a beta, but Ghost Recon Wildlands could be remembered as one of the biggest, most polished, and most entertaining open-world shooter developed. It borrows from previous Tom Clancy successes and brings over positive elements that you will recognize from Borderlands and Grand Theft Auto. For some, GRW may not seem like a truly original product, but its potential greatness may lie in the ability of developers to include much of what has made other games great. On March 7th, the Wildlands may lead you to an open-world in which you, the player, have the power to beat the bad guys in almost any way you want. Heads up Ghost!

"Did I also do that?"

“Did I also do that?”