Category Archives: 8.5

Nier: Automata Review


Totally dependent upon how you view it, I’ve either spent an impressive amount of time with this game- which released roughly a month ago, or I’ve dedicated far too much to an oddly compelling yet confusing adventure. Nier: Automata is stylized as a successor/sequel to 2010’s Nier, which was just as oddly compelling and yet quite confusing from a convoluted plot standpoint- something which did not impact the cult following it has obviously procured. Without spoiling too much in terms of either games’ story and pacing- whereas the first title takes a humanistic approach to things, Automata drives things the other way and focuses not only on non-human playable characters but the failure of humanity and threat of extinction as a whole.

Or at least that’s somewhat the simple gist of it, if it’s even remotely possible to boil down the extensive and surprisingly in-depth lore of the series thus far and of the expansion this game represents as well. I’ll admit, a lot of the coverage and footage I saw for and of the game didn’t exactly blow me away- I was never really impressed by the expansive yet empty world that I saw or the often repetitive encounters with too-similar enemies. While some of these issues remain to a degree, Automata also provides enough base content that it never made me feel that any one element was too overdone or too much of the focus. To a certain degree this means Automata is quite the jack of all trades and genres, however it also fails ultimately to master any one segment because of this.

There is certainly a predilection towards combat- as Nier is at its base a hack and slash adventure game with role-playing elements and other unique gimmicks littered somewhere in between. However I was actually blown away by the fact that certain parts of the game which I would not have immediately expected to be as important or to have such an impact drew me in more so than the solid combat mechanics and exciting locomotion maneuvers themselves. Whereas I thought the environments looked lifeless and bare upon first glance, I completely understand how this ties into the plot and lore and why that’s actually the exact direction the game should’ve and could’ve gone. Couple this desolation and loneliness with an equally melancholy musical score and you have a truly moving work of art.

A lot of this expansiveness adds to the ability for players to take time to think alongside their android character, reflecting on the calamities leading to the ultimate destruction of the human race and life on earth. Although every character you will encounter is in some way machine-related, not all of them will be killer robots or robot clowns and quite a few emulate historical context and interesting caricatures in ways that would put even Fallout’s founding father bots to shame. Such pensive moments as I experienced within many of the quests and plot lines of Automata were a complete contrast to my expectations and honestly raised the bar that much higher for me when it came to the bleak story being told. Somehow, against all odds I became that much more invested in the characters and the universe that I’d previously seen as two-dimensional on paper.

To delve into other aspects of the game and push off from the story and some of the periphery of the game and its moments, as this is a Platinum Games title it boasts an impressive array of combat features and upgrades. There are definite ties to the first Nier title to be found if you know where to look, yet this game serves as an easy stepping on point for newcomers looking for a thrilling and contemplative adventure as well. Combat is kept simple and precise and yet still offers the complexity of some other flashy Platinum Games titles as well- affording players the opportunity to utilize several classes of weaponry suited best to their style of play, while also keeping upgrades and additional unlocks to a minimum so as to keep things comprehensible. There are light role-playing elements here and there, but I’d say they’re few and far between.

One of the most intriguing aspects of gameplay at least stylistically stems from the change in perspective that litters some portions of the game. Typically you play in an over-the-shoulder third-person format, yet on occasion the game shifts to on the rails and top down perspectives for intense firefights utilizing your full android arsenal and party. While ultimately even the bullet-hell segments of the game boil down to eliminating your enemies and clearing the area in search of any interesting lore or story progression, I still found combat and the nice pace of breaking things up a suitable way to keep the monotony of most hack and slash titles to a minimum. The combat is solid enough that there honestly doesn’t need to be too much done with it that is flashy or gaudy and the enemy encounters and boss fights are memorable enough and frenetic and entertaining as is.

The few complaints that I would have do touch a bit on what repetition there is actually present within the game and that comes largely as a narrative and strategic thing. Your character will be afforded the opportunity to deck themselves out in the occasional rare bonus here and there, plugging in a special upgrade chip that boosts stats in certain areas and are hard to come by. Ultimately this adds some strategy to the game, however there isn’t much diversity outside of a health or damage boost and so it isn’t as interesting as it could be in terms of use. Another case I would like to make is that Automata falls heavily into the Dragon Age II camp of adventure titles- meaning there is plenty of lore and content there and it isn’t a bad game at all, however you’re likely to retread many of the same or all-too similar areas for the duration of the campaign and throughout your quests. Although encounters will be varied and narrative progression unhindered, it’s a sort of lazy game design flaw that bugs any and everyone.

The world and lore is entirely too intriguing for it to be limited in some of the ways it is- perhaps not literally as it is quite expansive, but in terms of scope and use as a character in and of itself. All things considered, if you played the previous installment then you’ll probably agree that Automata is certainly a leg up on the original in nearly every single way possible. The combat encounters are fun if not always diverse, the lore is handled quite well and manages to promote some intriguing plot lines, and the gameplay mechanics are quite solid and rarely offer any hiccups to halt the fluidity of the game. If you’re looking for an experience that has the ability to be a comprehensive one but doesn’t force you to explore it as deeply as you could, then Nier: Automata is for you.

Concept: Guide your android comrades in the eternal war against the machines. Quite literally, rage against the machine.

Graphics: While you will see ultimately a lot of the same, what is there is rendered quite well and there aren’t too many muddy textures involved.

Sound: The melancholy mood that permeates the soundtrack and the narrative itself lends to the experience overall and is a strong selling point.

Playability: While it has some quirky features and abrupt changes in perspective at times, the gameplay handles excellently and fluidly throughout your adventure.

Entertainment: There are often hidden depths to be found but the main draw lies in the fact that the experience is totally what you make of it and there are many interesting facets to the characters and the world and conflict themselves.

Replay Value: Moderate.

Overall Score: 8.5

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Battlefield 1 Review

[As Originally Read on GIO.]

I’ll admit, I’ve been a great fan of the direction shooters have been going in lately even if it means ALL shooters have been racing for space and science fiction narratives it seems. That having been said, it is a refreshing change of pace to see something take a step back in terms of setting but not in terms of quality or gameplay. Call of Duty heads into both the future and space this year with Infinite which we will soon see whether or not that gambit pays off. Titanfall 2 heads back to the frontier and space and wild worlds galore. And pretty much every major shooter franchise still kicking has in some way embraced the future. But thanks to DICE we’ve got something more along the lines of Battlefield 1942 and 1943 again and the experience couldn’t be more enjoyable.

Welcome to the Great War. Or rather, DICE’s thoroughly realistic take on trench warfare and all-out beachhead assaults, romps through chemically and biologically decimated wastelands, and gritty, gory setpiece moments. Rid yourself of any modern perspectives or ideas you may have because going from Battlefield 3, 4, and even Hardline to Battlefield 1 is going to be a traumatizing experience otherwise. Tanks are just as deadly as before but this time for the sole reason that they are the most incredible and terrible weapon on the battlefield. Planes should still only be piloted by the most skilled of pilots, not necessarily because they are difficult to grasp conceptually but instead because they can be cut through like butter with a hot knife by even the smallest of arms. Horses are quick and surprisingly powerful and sometimes turn the tide of battle with swift and deadly cavalry charges. And let us not forget the power of biological warfare- gone from today’s world in most cases but still a devastating factor even now in some areas of the globe.

Like, I suspect the Great War itself was, combat is often up-close and very, very personal (and bloody) in Battlefield 1. Combat has evolved and been refined by Battlefield 4’s globe-spanning conflicts but it was nowhere near in World War I. I’d always been surprised how much more gore most Call of Duty games typically had when compared with the much more destructive Battlefield series, however Battlefield 1 balances the scales with its gory melee finishers and thrilling (albeit horrible and terrifying) death animations thanks to flamethrowers, mortar shells, and more. If you ever needed more of a reminder that millions died during a conflict that largely amounted to merely resetting the status quo of the world, look no further. In keeping with the concept of destruction being rained down around the world, Battlefield 1 features what is quite possibly the highest caliber of destructibility to date in a Battlefield game, if not in ANY game.

Tanks can truly change the tide of battle as well as the landscape of the battlefield itself- their shells will virtually annihilate anything that stands in their way, guaranteeing nothing is left standing by the end of battle. Even grenades alone have devastatingly destructive potential against vehicles, enemy cover and emplacements, and enemy soldiers. Think Call of Duty: World at War when you think of the gore and death here. To keep you on your toes, DICE has also injected Battlefield 1 with realistic weather patterns and changes across matches and missions as well. You just gassed an enemy outpost? Better watch out if the wind shifts and carries that deadly poison back to your own fortified position. Such things happened all the time during the Great War and they may happen here as well. The fog and lighting and weather effects are all magnificent and a welcome addition I’d love to see from here on out.

Perhaps one of the coolest additions yet is the added destructibility granted by monstrous weapons and machines such as the zeppelin, battleship, and armored train. Typically a team is granted such beasts when they’re falling behind in a match, and while they can be a gamechanger they aren’t so overpowered that they blot out the other team’s existence entirely thanks to fair balancing. However, that’s not to discount or discredit the immense impact that intense mortar barrages and sheer strength can have on matches. Nothing beats taking down a zeppelin or riding your horse alongside a speeding iron giant during a sandstorm. Such things truly are “only in Battlefield.”

I know one of the most important things people are eager to hear about is the multiplayer offering and how it stands when compared to previous entries. Well, you should take heart if you’ve been a longtime fan because many modes return and there are even some new ones to be found as well as the promise of additional post-launch updates. Conquest returns, a new Operations mode melds the best elements of Conquest and Rush as well as injecting Capture the Flag elements and all-out frontline assaults. Other typical longterm Battlefield modes return and there are also that seem like they are going to be added with either future multiplayer packs or perhaps through free multiplayer updates as well. Currently there are about ten multiplayer maps if  recall correctly and while they mimic moments from the singleplayer campaign as usual, each is diverse and different and entertaining enough that it feels fresh.

The second-tier gameplay modes such as Domination, Rush, and Deathmatch are virtually unchanged and still there, ready to cater towards the fans who enjoy smaller scale warfare as opposed to the total warfare of Conquest and now Operations. My recommendation is, whether or not you like one particular mode, try them all but bear in mind that Conquest is pretty much the epitome of what Battlefield should be as it is the truest to the integrated squad dynamics and always has been. Operations is a new, close second, but Conquest is still king. If you want the truest Battlefield experience then you’ve got to go down that road and not rely so much upon the smaller scale modes that are often done better or so similarly in other shooters such as Halo or Call of Duty.

Let’s switch gears a little bit here and talk about multiplayer in terms of glitchiness and bugs, as well as lack of options or other issues. Customizing loadouts is a little bit different than it has been on the past and slows down gameplay dramatically for whatever reason, whether intentionally or not. The game at least as of right now will often lag if thirty of sixty-four players are all swarming one specific objective, which isn’t surprising but is still a letdown. As with previous entries expect some random crashes for no real reason here and there as well. Spawns in gamemodes without dedicated spawnpoints are finicky as always, which has been an issue since who even remembers how long. There are some random bugs with clipping and bodies and weapons flying through the air in both multiplayer and singleplayer at times which is a new one.

Speaking of singleplayer, let’s briefly discuss that while we’re here. First things first, it’s not the worst to grace a Battlefield game. I’d also say it’s not the best when you take into account that the Bad Company duology is also a part of the series. But it definitely trumps Battlefield 3 and 4 as well as Hardline’s hit or miss cops and robbers tale. I was somewhat of a fan of Hardline’s episodic sort of feel and so crafting singleplayer as multiple vignettes in Battlefield 1 also appealed to me. The story is largely narrative but also features plenty of action-packed moments in a diverse array of settings. The one drawback to me was that is essentially is only there to serve as a tutorial mode for multiplayer, but even that isn’t a terrible idea since it guarantees players will know the controls of vehicles and the ins and outs of gameplay before entering multiplayer should they choose to try the story mode first.

The most annoying and glaring flaw to me about the singleplayer is that, unlike the crowded multiplayer matches that are full of mayhem, the singleplayer is a little dull and empty even in its most challenging and grueling moments. For example, if you stealthily enter a desert village with roaming Nazi forces hunting you, there’s a grand total of maybe ten enemies in one large map (before they call for reinforcements) and virtually none of them will ever be inside of the sprawling buildings which, oh by the way, are all open to entry. So on one hand I like the ability to enter every fully detailed and realized environment, however on the other I wish the story felt as lifelike as the multiplayer does.

Concept: Enter the Great War and the world of total warfare within the confines of World War I including Battlefield’s classic destructibility and over the top arsenal.

Graphics: There are moments when it falters, however the lighting, environments, and weather effects are some of the best in gaming and certainly the best I’ve yet to see in any shooter save for possibly Uncharted 4.

Sound: The soundtrack is a perfect mix of battlefield sounds, the cries of your wounded compatriots and enemies alike, whistling of mortar shells overhead, hiss of mustard gas, and orchestral takes on the classic Battlefield themes.

Playability: The controls are much the same as they’re likely to ever be and that’s not a bad thing considering they are very intuitive and react accordingly.

Entertainment: I’ll admit, I thought it might slow things down a bit to be behind the wheel of a dusty old war machine, however this iron giant moves at virtually the same pace as any modern shooter and is doubly entertaining it seems.

Replay Value: Very High.

Overall Score: 8.5

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Wolfenstein: The New Order Review

[As Read on GIO.]

A Fresh Breath

I was one of the few people it seems who didn’t absolutely abhor 2009’s sidestep of a Wolfenstein game, more supernatural focus and all. Now, that’s not to say I loved the game either, but it deserved what love it did get here and there for some of the neat tricks it had. Unlike that game however, The New Order seems to be receiving its due applause and I am equally impressed as others are with its deeper storyline and classic mixed with neo gameplay. Your enemies are mostly the same- facing down numerous Nazis and their corrupt regime vying for world domination, but many things have changed along the way as well- from the actual setting, time period, and mechanics at the very least to the entire world at most.

Machine Games- the newly minted studio composed of a mixture of new blood, former Starbreeze (think Chronicles of Riddick and the Syndicate reboot) Studios designers, and other talented developers heads the charge thanks to Bethsoft’s apparently well-made decision to hand development over to them. The best elements of classic Wolfenstein meld with Starbreeze’s own recognizably unique flavor of gameplay to craft memorable moments and some epic scenarios that in typical Wolfenstein fashion border on insanity yet still feel fresh, exciting, and plausible for the given world. BJ is back and kicking butt as never before, and it all looks graphically great on the now current generation hardware appropriated from the Xbox One.

As the 2009 title was a reinvention of the franchise, so too is The New Order’s more alternate history. The difference is however, I’d much rather see sequels to The New Order’s story than to that of 2009’s. It just strikes a more lovely chord with my enjoyment of the current tile than the past one, and I think the ship has sailed for 2009’s opportunity anyway by now. Familiar faces from previous titles return alongside new, well-written characters and the central focus really puts things in perspective from the first second of the game. Just as Killzone Shadowfall prepared for a ‘new world order,’ so too does Nazi Germany of The New Order, with arguably more success and much more evil machination involved.

BJ Blahbidiblah (Blazkowicz) and some of his heroic and badass cohorts attempt to infiltrate General Dethshead’s base in order to assassinate the villain circa 1946, but things go downhill from there. Needless to say without ruining everything completely, BJ suffers tremendous head injuries and goes into a coma, the assassination attempt failing and his friends’ fates unknown for the next nearly fifteen years… And thus begins the dawn of The New Order (in name and in literal fashion). Conveniently enough for our resistance fighting friends, BJ snaps out of his long-term daze just in time to wreak havoc upon his Nazi captors and rejoin the ongoing fight. Thankfully, BJ the Vegetable is no more, and BJ the Badass takes back over the reins.

The campaign itself is littered with easter eggs for players to find- most of which refer to other Bethesda/ID titles such as Fallout 3’s Vault 101 and the original Wolfenstein’s very first level (like the Doom level in Rage). The campaign is also lengthy and enjoyable, actually having a decent story for the first time in a long while as well, and being able to enjoy both the destructive badassery of BJ’s exploits as well as the more sedated and enjoyable nostalgic callings as well. Also, as the original Wolfenstein level goes- the secret areas are thoroughly intact as well, so it is an entirely faithful recreation and very cool gimmick moment.

Throughout the sixteen or so chapters of gameplay and nearly twenty-four hours of campaign carnage, players can find plenty of reasons to replay the game- such as secrets, upgrades, and even changes in the story alterable through certain decisions. None of these are so integral as to force a second playthrough, but it is advised if you want to see everything you possibly can. For the better part of the story you’ll be fighting with your resistance buddies, infiltrating secret bases, blowing up mechanized Nazi war machines, and flying to the moon- yes you heard correctly. Only in a Wolfenstein game can all of these things come together and still be better than Duke Nukem Forever. Teehee, bad game jokes.

It also probably helps that the environments are all so different and the story so colorful that the game stays fresh the entire way through and isn’t just a rehashing of every other title (like Call of Duty’s five hours of hell is now reduced to pretty much every time). It’s good to see a fresh yet familiar face or two. Machine Games does a great job of inserting homages when and where they are appropriate but also of maintaining that The New Order is its own new game, not bogging players down in the past’s details if they don’t want to be reminded. Some of the Strabreeze genes have worked their way into the formula as well and keep things as varied and fresh as you’d expect too.

BJ’s very character has more depth than ever before as well, which is great even if in the face of all the mayhem he’s causing it comes off as a bit too little too late and shallow here and there. That’s hardly a major issue in my book however, so it’s mostly to be ignored at worst. Some other additions include the vast variety of finishing and silent takedown moves that BJ can employ when he isn’t mowing through hundreds of enemies and for some reason wants to employ stealth- actually a viable factor for the first time pretty much in the Wolfenstein series, and a fun one to attempt as well.

Combat is also yours to make of it what you will. The combat is excellently controlled and paced when it needs to be and breakneck rampaging destruction when you want it to be. The game itself is most enjoyable on higher difficulties as it presents a challenge and makes the AI reactions more aware and realistic, however it also feels great to be a god among men and mow through the Nazi hordes with ease on easier settings. You still have the option to dual wield chainguns with horrendously enjoyable results or to take a simple shotgun and riddle your foes with buckshot in a more measurable rampage, holding back from your true potential a tad bit.

However, don’t assume that there is no viable strategy other than always rushing in guns blazing simply because this is a Wolfenstein title. That particular strategy can easily get you through the game, but you can also employ equal portions of stealth and procede much faster throughout the story if you know where to look for the conniving Nazi leaders who summon more enemies to the playing field, or for secret entrances and exits. Taking down certain enemies first ensures that you only have to fight a few more, and not the nigh endless horde- unless of course you’re into that sort of thing, in which case you can help yourself to as much destruction and gore as you wish.

If you want to mix things up between stealth and rampaging about the map, there is also a simple cover and fire mechanic to employ, however it isn’t anything particularly unique so it’s hardly going to stand out. Experimentation is encouraged further however by the previously mentioned upgrades accessible via perks collected after completing specific tasks. These upgrades aren’t really necessary for the bulk of the game as your foes aren’t ever overly difficult to defeat except on the hardest setting, however they do make things noticeably easier and are helpful to earn on your first playthrough before completing the second.

There are plenty of differing enemy types from mechs to ground troops and anything in between, making the equally diverse environments sport incredibly diverse enemies to mow through. Since everything is rendered in gorgeous detail, these varied enemies look pleasing to the eye even if they die just the same as others. The AI isn’t the greatest, but that’s not because they are stupid and run into your fire or anything- they simply run away sometimes or hide at the weirdest times as well. They aren’t incredibly hard to defeat in most common instances, but bosses can prove difficult to master when tackling head-on.

For once, I’m actually glad Bethesda and crew didn’t seek to employ a multiplayer component within this title as they have with several other games with decent but not renowned multiplayer modes. While I have no doubt it could’ve been unique and pretty fun to play on such varied maps and with interesting weapons, I still think it would have detracted from the overall enjoyability and replayability of the single player campaign itself, which would really be a shame. Plus, gaming could use some purely single player titles again, seeing as every series tries to incorporate decent but not excellent multiplayer nowadays (Assassin’s Creed, I’m looking at you).

The New Order is definitely a step up from 2009’s Wolfenstein title, and is one of my most favorite games yet released this year, boding well not only for the franchise’s future but that of games on this console and other next generation/current generation platforms. Also, now I’m looking forward to what comes next from the talent pool over at Machine Games…

Concept: The Nazis take the world by force, as if they’d have done it any other way. So naturally BJ and co take them down with the help of some very big guns, guts, and a nuke…or three.

Graphics: Everything looks gorgeous, from enemy designs to the way the sun glints off of any metallic surface. It’s only done right one way, and that’s apparently on the Xbox One in this case. Move aside other shooters, this one looks almost as good as graphical beasts like Shadowfall on the PS4 even.

Sound: Easily the weakest part of the game, the soundtrack isn’t what it used to be and doesn’t have any of the electric synth tracks that made the original game so classy and enjoyable, opting instead for metal inspired guitar riffs clanging alongside your sowing of chaos and destruction. Not that you’ll be paying much attention to the music anyway.

Playability: As idiotic as the AI can be and easy to dispatch, the gunplay and most mechanics are fairly solid, enjoyable, and contribute greatly to the experience as a whole. It truly is a gun game in every aspect, and that’s alright.

Entertainment: It has its incredibly unique moments, its tried and proven to work moments, and a few where you just don’t know exactly what the hell is going on. Namely, it’s a Wolfenstein game through and through.

Replay Value: Moderately High.

Overall Score: 8.5

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Killzone: Shadow Fall Review

[As Read on GIO.]

Killzone: Shadow Fall is a different game than its console series predecessors, but that is in no way a bad thing at all. It is set in the same universe and story arc as the previous three games, though it picks up nearly thirty years after the events of the earth-shattering third game. The series now looks better than ever, which is a real testament to the hardware involved from the Play Station 4, and the gameplay is as good or better than ever- stepping up even from Killzone 3’s magnificent mechanics. It doesn’t outright come out and say it is Killzone 4, but we all know it is, and the telltale sign is that it is bigger, bolder, and better than ever before. It may not have the same massive level of outright warfare on each front as its previous three titles, but there’s certainly the same explosive and dangerous force to be had in this cold war campaign as well…and I was more scared because of that.

New characters, new locales, and new enemies comprise the new campaign, and while it has as many or more tense shootouts as before, it is more difficult than ever due to the often solo missions and stealth oriented campaign as well, under the cloak of a Shadow Marshal. The Helghast return as secondary antagonists, though they do have some big bads in the fight as well. The main antagonist is actually the palpable conflict between the Vektans and Helghast themselves, as it sometimes seems to be an enemy itself. By the end of the game, as with many cold wars, you aren’t quite sure is is friendly and who is your enemy- which is quite possibly the scariest thing I’ve encountered in a game to date. After all, normally it’s pretty clear who’s a friend and who is your foe in most games, but here…I’m still not quite one hundred percent sure after the ending just where people stand for the next game coming up…

Both the Helghast- the previous major antagonistic force in the series, and the Vektans- the species under siege, now share the same planet and city in Vekta City. The vast majority of your missions will take place in this sprawling area, though not all will be on your side of The Wall- a giant precipice in the middle of the city, separating the New Helghan portion from the Vektan portion like a futuristic Berlin Wall. For one major area being the backdrop for activities in the campaign, Vekta City has some varied environments, and the attention to detail in each area is impressive as well- whether you are engaging Helghast forces in a crowded central station or stealthily sneaking through New Helghan slums in the dead of night unarmed. You won’t be limited to Vektan locales though, as you will find yourself in space and on a foreign world as well for at least part of the campaign, which clocks in around ten to twelve hours total.

The Killzone series is one that, while for the most part it has always chosen to engage in up front and direct firefights than involve stealth or vehicle sections, has had a plethora of well thought out and controlled sections for these other types of combat and locomotion as well. Shadow Fall proves to be at the same time no different and very different, as it does have its fair share of open firefights, but for the most part relies on stealthy advances through enemy territory, and cautious approaches. Shadow Fall however, also does have a few vehicle segments, which- like the sixth mission in Halo Reach (Long Night of Solace), provide an excellent break from the otherwise soon to be monotonous shooting of the campaign. Another key element of the campaign that not only will save your life quite a few times, but keeps things interesting, is the personal OWL drone that will follow you around throughout combat in most sections of the game. Think of it as a better version of Halo 4’s turret ability.

The OWL hovers nearby and does everything from providing covering fire to flanking enemies for you in order to give you some breathing space before retaliating yourself. The OWL has several different functions in the form of four standard modes: offensive, shielding, hacking, and navigation. You can deploy a lifesaving shield when you are low on health and near death, also like Halo 4’s light shield ability; you can go on the offensive and order the drone to lay down some covering fire; you can have the drone hack into computer systems and gain valuable intelligence for you; and it can also be deployed to set up strategically located ziplines around the environment as well. All in all, this little guy is a handy, trusty tool to be utilized to proceed to the next objective with relative ease.

Killzone: Shadow Fall’s overall experience looks beautiful, plays nicely, and also, for an added and rare bonus- especially these days with shooters, comes bundled with a very well put together story, and an overall quite enjoyable experience. As I mentioned previously, the campaign is around the ten to twelve hour mark, especially if you approach most situations in a stealthy manner. The lore is further expanded and replayability amped up by the fact that the game also sports dead drops and other rare collectibles to expand upon series lore. Each objective is pretty unique, and you won’t often see them being recycled throughout the game aside from a few instances, which is really quite nice as well. As with most games, there are the occasional few scenarios or portions that can be quite difficult to run through and prove frustrating for players, but thankfully these are few and far between, and I only really found about three on my playthroughs with the game. You’re most often to find yourself in trouble when you are going in solo without any companions or the OWL for support, so it only makes sense that the series’ already slightly higher level of difficulty would only increase.

On a multiplayer note- something that was finally included in Killzone 3 and very enjoyable, if underplayed as a successful multiplayer goes, Shadow Fall evolves the series’ formula even more and is quite successful as well. The OWL of course does not appear in this mode, as that would be pretty unfair to other players and make things more difficult and less bearable for players not using the drone to their advantage. However, classes are available which allow players to utilize drones for a short period of time between cooldown timers. The game may not have as many levels, stages, and various other management systems in place, but it does change things to revolve more around using certain weapons and combinations in order to level up aside from grinding for experience points each time. There are thousands of available challenges, and I actually liked this more “fair” method of advancement better than most other methods that involve unfair balancing and killstreaks employed.

There are plenty of enjoyable gameplay modes packaged within the game already, and I am sure they could add more in an update if they wanted as well, but the most different of all of the modes from generic deathmatch and team modes is the Warzone one. Warzone- true to its name, involves a hefty amount of objectives, explosions, and general insanity as things often change and the dynamic landscape is ever moving on its own or with player assistance. As in a real warzone, anything can change at the drop of a hat, and the same can be said here- the mode shifts from focusing on deathmatches to capturing rally points within the same match, and offers a great hybrid combination of most classic game types as well. However, if you would like to play classic match types as well, there are the usual team deathmatch, capture the flag, and straight up deathmatch modes as well. One such deathmatch mode even offers players a similar experience to Halo’s SWAT mode- with less health, one rifle, and limited ammo. It is this and other frantic running and gunning experiences that characterizes the frenetic multiplayer mayhem present within the game, though it isn’t as good as the story itself.

While there have been excellent titles from the getgo within this console series, and even within the handheld accompaniments of recent times, Killzone: Shadow Fall is second only to Killzone 3 in my mind, and rises above Killzone 2 and the original Killzone in so many ways. It beats each game in terms of visuals and competent gameplay, as well as evolving the still fresh multiplayer experience past anything I could’ve hoped for. This game is definitely the highlight of my Play Station 4 coverage and playing, and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything else this year. It may not be receiving the best score of all from me, but I have enjoyed it a lot and the story alone provides so much of a replay value and time commitment as well. Shadow Fall makes me wish that the next game in the series would come sooner, and it is that excitement and anxiety that makes me love it all the more.

Concept: A great start to the next generation of shooters and games in general.

Graphics: Some of the best visuals and animations that I have seen in a long while, and something to set the standard for next generation games as well.

Sound: The voice acting isn’t always the strongest, but the musical scores hit all the right vibes for a futuristic city perfectly.

Playability: The controls are well balanced and laid out, and the extraneous commands for the OWL and allies also fit in the mix without confusing players at all. In a series noted for its excellent controls, these are some of the best.

Entertainment: From the story to the gameplay, this is an exciting and entertaining adventure.

Replay Value: High.

Overall Score: 8.5

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Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus Review

[As Read on GIO.]

In my mind, the last “true” Ratchet and Clank game was the 2009 or so release of Crack in Time, which was a really well thought out and intriguing story and game as a whole. Sure, there have been numerous release with the series’ trademark name on them, such as All 4 One, and Full Frontal Assault, however- these struck me as side stories more so than a true continuation of the saga. Thankfully, series creator Insomniac goes back to the original formula of blasting through vast alien hordes for this most recent installment in the generation spanning series, and while it is a little weaker than its brothers, it proves that some formulas just can’t be broken- I’m looking at you though Call of Duty, because you’ve way overdone that thought! As lighthearted as it is, and as the series has pretty much always been, Into the Nexus is yet another shining example of an action tale done right, and true to form. Who says it needs to include blood and guts to appeal to a broader audience?

Level and world design, and controls feel and look mostly the same as they have since the series’ inception, with a few minor tweaks and adjustments to be had here and there. Thankfully though, it is far from the same-old same-old, as there are many new gadgets and a broader inventory of alien weaponry to discover as well. If you thought you’d seen some insane weapons already, you’re going to be pleasantly surprised at what Insomniac throws in the mix with this newest title. In fact, one particular weapon is so powerful that it tears a mighty rift in the space between dimensions and unleashes hordes of your own enemies upon those you are currently battling. If that wasn’t enough, you can also combine several weapons and gadgets for truly devastating attacks that simultaneously horrify and cripple your robotic and alien opponents.

Clank makes his presence known in almost as classy a way as he did in his tuxedo-wearing form known as Secret Agent Clank, or whatever his name was…by detaching from Ratchet’s back for his own two dimensional platforming segments that are strikingly similar in concept to Terry Cavanagh’s VVVVVV. Clank can switch gravity so that he latches onto the ceiling, floor, and other objects in order to navigate areas and successfully finish puzzles and dodge traps. These platforming segments are pretty well spread out across the game, and serve as a little reprieve from constant action, though they provide their own type of nail-biting action and require different skills as well. They are also slightly more challenging than the rest of the game’s elements, adding a nice puzzle and difficulty factor to the package.

Some people have complained about Into the Nexus’ length- citing that it is “too short” of a game. However, I think this is not entirely true, though they are of course well within their bounds by formulating their own personal opinions. While it is not nearly as lengthy as some of the other games in the series, Into the Nexus contains its own brand of storytelling and diverse settings and items to be found and explored. For this, I think there is plenty of replay value, and that more than makes up for the roughly twelve hour story or so, which has been called “too short” and “brief” on its own. Combine this with the fact that there is also a little side content in the form of The Arena and its battles, and you’ve gotten yourself a neat little adventure bundle to play around with.

There are four major planets to explore, each with new modes of exploration opened up, and a plethora of collectible items to discover as you progress. New gadgets and weaponry available to you will make weapons gurus and completionists alike salivate profusely, and while half or more of the worlds seem pretty straight forward and linear at times, there are also side missions to be found and perused as well. As I mentioned earlier, there is also the Arena mode, although it is truly on the short side- as a leveled up Ratchet and Clank can easily take on the best that the Arena has to throw at players. The whole experience takes roughly ten to twelve hours, depending upon your play style and the speed or ease with which you best the story- first in the normal mode, then in the more challenging Challenge mode, which unlocks more powerful tools and weapons. The story is witty as ever, even if it doesn’t have many unpredictable twists in it. Thankfully, it is all but assured that Ratchet and Clank will have a great future on the next generation of play Station consoles and handhelds, as the ending all but assures us that there will be sequels upon sequels, and some of the bigger events of the game ensure that the battlefield may be a little different as well.

Into the Nexus doesn’t change the formula up too much, but manages to stay fresh and fun, even without the changes in pace and with a slightly shorter, less challenging experience as a whole. There’s one thing for certain, and that’s that you are definitely going to enjoy your experience, and be impatient until the inevitable next-generation sequel drops sometime in the future as well…

Concept: Use the series’ strong points to craft another adventure, this time returning to the classic formula that made it all possible to begin with. Not the strongest in the series, but far from the worst it has to offer in terms of gameplay and story features. There are plenty of side missions and extras to find as well, increasing replay value across the board.

Graphics: The same graphical designs show up, and they look as great as ever. Some textures may seem a little muddy as the explosions increase, but the level of physical damage shown on screen balances this out and is quite impressive as ever.

Sound: From the humming of your arsenal of weapons and gadgets to the musical soundtrack, the game sounds fun and exciting throughout.

Playability: The controls are unchanged for the most part, largely because they have always been one of the strongest points of the game, and that remains the case in this instance as well. The exploration is fun and interesting, especially in Clank’s segments, and the combat is fast-paced and exciting as usual.

Entertainment: They could’ve maybe done a little bit more with the game in terms of story, but you can’t get much better than the action-heavy and puzzle-solving content that they’ve got to offer you this time around. It’s a well-rounded sequel all in all.

Replay Value: High.

Overall Score: 8.5

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