Category Archives: gio

Daymare 1998

[As Read on GIO.]

I’m always down to be introduced to newer projects in the gaming industry and whenever I stumble across something that sounds interesting or seems like it has promise, I typically do my best to share it with people. My latest interest has been a game that initially started out as essentially a Resident Evil 2 fan remake and has since turned into its own project, albeit with similar roots and origins. Daymare 1998 seeks to add the current generation of visuals to the gameplay and atmosphere of some of the greatest nineties games and films. While in many ways this seems like the perfect combination of catering to nostalgia, it also looks to hold up by today’s higher standards as well.

This particular game was brought to my attention through the first alpha trailer that debuted not too long ago, although the project itself has been talked about since roughly September or October. I’ll admit there aren’t too many details out to discuss as of yet, however I do like the tense atmosphere and the haunting scenery that I’ve seen so far firsthand thanks to YouTube videos and discussion on other forums. Actually, one of the first things I noticed and thought when I glimpsed the footage was how much the third person perspective and outfit of the protagonist seemed to surprisingly remind me of Sam Fisher, best known for his role in the Splinter Cell games. While this is a far cry from that series and also bears striking similarities of course to the Resident Evil titles of old, it was an interesting connection for my brain to make.

As best as I can compare it right now without degrading the hard work of Invader Studios or the project as a whole, it sort of reminds me of a Resident Evil: Umbrella Corps look albeit with the horror and atmosphere of a traditional Resident Evil game. I like that the pacing seems to be on par with the older more tense and suspenseful horror titles, although the mechanics looked well-oiled an pretty good even for alpha footage. They’re certainly on the right track and seem to have an interesting horror game conceptually as well as physically on their hands. So if that alone interests you, I’d suggest you keep up with the project through their website and through Google, which offers plenty of juicy sites to view other people’s opinions and comments on.

I know there’s not too much to be said for the game yet despite it’s self-sufficiency as a third-person survival horror right now, but I do like what I’m seeing so far. It reminds me a little bit of Metro with the gritty visuals despite supposedly planning on utilizing Unreal Engine. I feel like drawing in some elements of other cult horror series might do it some more good, so perhaps we may even get to see familiar elements from FEAR or STALKER in there as well. You never know, and a guy can hope am I right?

I do hope you all enjoy these short blurbs and sort of previews I’ve done here and there lately, as well as the continual stream of content I’ve been trying to provide across all mediums- gaming, films, television, and more. I’ll do my best to stick to a semi-schedule and get posts out every few days or so at the least. After all, I do what I do not just because I enjoy it, but because I like being able to help others to see a wide variety of games that are released each year and to maybe discover a new project they hadn’t heard of previously as well.

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Things Dontnod’s ‘Vampyr’ Should Address

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Dontnod Entertainment is a very interesting game development studio. They have been the creators of some mesmerizing projects that have become in many ways cults classics, as they have been flawed yet intriguing concepts. They’ve crafted the third-person action/adventure title Remember Me, which if memory serves correctly I reviewed and gave an 8.0 despite its flawed premise. They’ve also created the episodic tale behind Life Is Strange which has received critical acclaim for the most part. While they seem to have an affinity for time-based gimmicks and mechanics, their next title seeks to venture to a completely different genre- that of an action role-playing adventure set in early 20th century England.

I’ve been a fan of both of their previous projects despite their limitations and some polarization due to their inherent flaws. However, Vampyr strikes me as a truly intriguing new idea and I hope it can deliver. There are undoubtedly some pitfalls to avoid along the way and I could very easily see this particular game being either their worst yet or falling into some of the same issues they’ve engaged before, however I’d also like to remain optimistic about its chances. As a history buff of sorts, the premise for the narrative alone is intriguing because it is set during the early 20th century in a world ravaged by influenza and strife. The fact that your character is a doctor and vampire truly should make for some memorable morality checks along the way.

Based on the gameplay that I’ve been able to witness thus far, I can already see some of the same elements that plagued Remember Me’s gameplay. Despite Vampyr being less action-oriented than Remember Me’s brawling combat was, the combat itself still looks stiff and even boring at times. Admittedly, it has a way to go until completion, however I hope they can iron these kinks out. Another area of concern is the basic animation of characters. While the voice work that I’ve heard thus far has seemed okay and passable, I’ve noticed time and time again that speech does not line up whatsoever with characters’ mouths and that their movements often come off as jerky and lurching. These two issues alone account for a huge amount of ground in games as animation and fluidity of control are key.

It would be rude of me not to offer some praise as well however, and that is exactly what I’m about to do now. So far I am liking the overall graphical and environmental design of the game. These were also strengths I witnessed in their initial project (Remember Me), as they know how to create both a unique and beautiful look. In this case, it’s a dark and dreary European landscape marred by sickness and chaos. While many areas don’t feature much of a color palette save for shades of brown, grey, black, and darker elements, it works for what the game seeks to convey- a vampire adventure story. While I’ve been able to glean small bits of backstory and information concerning the overarching narrative from a variety of sources, there isn’t much to be known about the story itself quite yet. Therefore, I truly hope Dontnod can deliver both an interesting and meaningful plot and move more towards a better crafted story than their initial game debuted.

As long as they can somehow find ways to not get bogged down in the technical details and to keep the adventure and story fresh and interesting, I could see Vampyr being not only a success but an enjoyable experience. Few can say that about the Spanish flu, in my experience. It has its obvious issues already and the studio has had hit or miss success before with how their games have been received, however I think they’ve had some time to build upon their strengths and I believe this game could be a good one if they continue to work hard and build upon what they’ve already got nailed down. As it stands right now, Vampyr should at least be a middling experience and has no excuse to fail completely unless it does so due to the sheer boredom of combat, tedious storytelling, or bad animation.

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The Best Deals With Gold, Week of 05DEC

[As Originally Read on GIO.]

After taking a brief break last week to write about some other topics as opposed to my traditional weekly deals, I’ve returned to give you the lowdown on some Xbox 360 and Xbox One steals. For the most part, if you missed my weekly blog post last week and think you may have missed a few deals, the majority of them are also up for grabs this week and in the future for the month.

Sleeping Dogs:Definitive Edition- FREE (Until 12/31/16)

I’m not sure what the words ‘definitive’ and ‘edition’ may mean to gamers anymore as we see so many special editions, limited editions, and deluxe editions of games nowadays. But let me tell you that this last gen remaster for current generation hardware is quite the steal. Not only is Sleeping Dogs somewhat of a cult classic open-world crime drama, but it is a wholeheartedly fun and enjoyable experience as well. It has its kinks but the overall gameplay and narrative is well worth the hassle. Plus, it’s free.

Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour- 30% OFF

Not to be confused with the woefully received Duke Nukem reboot/sequel of sorts from a few years back, this title features Duke at his…Dukiest? It’s a classic game with a semi-remastered style and taste but still holds up for the most part regardless. If you’re into that kind of thing, then the 30% tag may grab your attention as well as your wallet.

Atari Flashback Classics Volumes 1 & 2- $10 (With Gold)

Alright, so maybe you’re not a fan of a bunch of arcadey old games, but for some reason a lot of people who never ever played the good old Atari gems enjoy the aesthetic. There are some familiar names and some more obscure titles in these collections, however each goes for a decent $10 when considered the original asking price for each respectively is $20. If you don’t have gold membership, it’ll cost you about two dollars more. Retro isn’t always the rage but these collections are a decent glimpse at gaming’s past.

Gears of War 4 Standard/Ultimate Edition- 33% OFF (Until 12/31/16)

Gears of Wars 4’s standard edition alone ships with every Gears game from Judgment through 3 in addition to Gears of War 4. This is a steal even if you own some of the titles because you can simply download the ones you don’t have or not download any of them if you already own them all. It doesn’t add anything to the initial price and the bonus for newcomers to the series is you can buy five games for less than the price of one until the end of this month. I can’t emphasize what a quality purchase that would be. And if you want the Ultimate Edition, it’s 33% off the asking price as well which makes it about as much as the Standard is originally.

Upcoming Gems to be Aware of:

Burnout Paradise- FREE (12/16-12/31)

One of the best racing games ever created and one of the best games in the infamous Burnout series is coming to you free and backwards compatible for those of you who have gold membership. This is quite a steal as well. If you enjoy racing games or would like a taste of the series, I’d recommend it for sure.

Outlast- FREE (12/16-1/15)

In the next few weeks, the first Outlast game will be coming to gold members free of charge as well. You’ll have nearly a month to decide whether or not it’s worth your time but if you like horror games and aesthetic adventures, you should definitely give it a whirl. Free is free after all in this case.

I hope these little tidbits will continue to be helpful and I hope that my fellow console players will enjoy the shoutouts and heads up as well. Keep playing games and enjoying yourselves and don’t be afraid to voice opinions and comments below as well.

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Gods and Monsters

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Today’s very early blog comes not so long after my last one, but concerns two games- one already released and recently updated and one that has yet to release, that are of great interest to me. One of those games, as you can see above, is the God of War sequel meets series reboot (in some selective ways anyway). The other title is none other than No Man’s Sky, the game with so much potential that received mixed reviews upon release and still puzzles players in many perplexing ways and also recently released the marginally better received ‘Foundation’ update.

First of all, I would like to talk about God of War (2017) which is among one of my most anticipated titles for the near future and already looking truly spectacular. If you would like to avoid spoilers, I recommend moving on from here to something unrelated. From what we’ve seen thus far, the game has a setting rooted in Norse mythology which is a lot different than the Greek pantheon we saw throughout the original series. While it has so far been confirmed not to be a reboot, there are many elements that are in some ways rebooting and evolving with the series and its new direction.

Kratos’ signature chained blades have been removed (narratively due to God of War III) and replaced with a magical axe which is also more fitting for a Norse-themed character. Plenty more has been changed besides simple aesthetics though, as Kratos has a son and the story itself is more deeply rooted in humanity rather than hatred for the moment. Kratos knows he has done wrong and is doing his best to atone for it in many ways, even if that ultimately will probably lead him to slaughter yet another pantheon of gods and monsters along the way. Combat has evolved realistically but also seems to retain some of the same elements from previous games. Everything we’ve seen up through Ascension seems to return with added capabilities such as Kratos’ son’s ability to aid him from afar with arrows and other light attacks.

The reason I stated earlier that the game isn’t a reboot in the traditional sense despite rebooting both the setting and a lot of the narrative in terms of what direction to go is due to the fact that it takes place after the conclusion of God of War’s Olympus and Greek narrative. This all takes place within the same universe albeit one where Kratos has now deigned to reside in a Nordic setting as opposed to a Greek one. It seems to be more focused on the bond between father and son as well as atonement for past crimes and the regaining of his own humanity, more for his son than for himself. Another note of interest is that it also seems to offer more of a surviving day to day dynamic as he and his son are hunters and gatherers, very much living off of the unforgiving land and battling creatures they encounter along the way.

I’m particularly excited, not just from a story or gameplay standpoint but from a talent standpoint with the game, as the newest voice actor for Kratos is none other than Star Gate SG-1 alum Teal’c (Christopher Judge, mind you). The soundtrack also shows immense promise as it has been worked on and composed by the talent behind The Walking Dead and Battlestar Galactica. In terms of other miscellaneous details and news about the gamer thus far, it is looking incredibly detailed graphically and the world seems to be a lot wider in expanse even though it has already been established that it will be a linear and not entirely open experience as with the previous titles.

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And now for my second and final act. No Man’s Sky has received mixed criticism to say the least. Hello Games should be lauded and commended for their incredible efforts with a small cast of developers, however the finished product is arguably also not everything they promised which shouldn’t come as too much of a shock but is still a little bit of a disappointment. It was definitely one of the most hyped up games of the year and of all-time in some respects and while it hits the majority of the mark sometimes it still feels like a directionless and purposeless romp through a boring galaxy mostly devoid of life.

I would like to say that for what it initially offers and what it offers now, I have been mostly a fan and less of a critic of the game. I enjoy exploration and deep thought at times more so than combat and action in games. It is the thrill of adventure that calls to me most and No Man’s Sky definitely does give a taste of that. I think procedurally generated worlds are a thing of the future and something that I’ve enjoyed immensely already through a few past experiences. In fact, games with the premise set to release in the future such as Capy’s Below and Double Fine’s Massive Chalice which has already released, have been my favorites.

No Man’s Sky recently released an update that essentially rearranges some of the game’s core elements and in my opinion is a better utilization of them then in the previous build. This is almost certainly in direct response to the criticism they have been receiving and I am wholeheartedly glad that they went out and did something about it rather than lashing out against the fanbase instead. The aptly named ‘Foundation’ update essentially offers three starting gameplay modes- a survival, creative, and normal mode each with their own difficulties and modded gameplay elements. As one should expect, survival takes the core premise and ramps up the overall difficulty whereas normal retains much the same experience we had so far experienced to date. The creative mode lies somewhere between the two and has the added benefit of being a sandbox test chamber of sorts, gifting players with nigh infinite resources in their romp across the galaxy and in base crafting paloozas.

The original and still main premise of the game is simply to explore and interact with the created environments and wildlife along the way. However with the added benefit of the free update, players can also gather resources in order to craft more items than before and to found their own base on a home planet. If this sounds pretty cool, know that it is even though crafting these locations can be somewhat of a bore in modes besides creative, where these resources take time and money to locate and peruse. No Man’s Sky is still very large and still mostly uninhabited as our own cosmos may be, and being one lone soul in it can often be excruciatingly boring and longwinded at times as well sadly. There’s no narrative pull besides your own fascination with what the randomly generated landscape may throw at you next honestly.

To spoil it for those of you who weren’t already aware- so steer clear if spoilers terrify you and you don’t want one of the major secrets of this game ruined, the breadcrumb trail to the center of the galaxy really only results in what is essentially a revelation culminating in a New Game Plus of sorts. Needless to say there is literally and virtually no end to the game or its random content, which is pretty fascinating as a matter of fact but besides being impressive is more of the same. I’m glad to see the developers have answered some of our criticisms and hope there is still more they can address in attempts to make the game both more exciting and lively. I’m interested to see where they go next in a literal galaxy of possibilities.

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5 Games I’m Incredibly Excited For

mass-effect-andromeda-game-hd-sdToday’s blog post is going to be about just a few of the games I’m getting pretty excited about seeing in the future. I’m not going to include some of the others (such as Mass Effect Andromeda which is pictured above), but that does not in any way diminish my feelings of excitement or anticipation for them. These five games are ones that I either am looking forward to as continuations of their respective series, because of the promises for new and refined ideas they offer, or simply because I’m intrigued to see how they pan out. So let’s go ahead and dive right in and see what is on our plate.

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Sniper Elite 4 promises to take players to the beautiful land of Italy, circa 1940s WWII chaos and action (if I recall correctly, it’s roughly 1943 in fact). We’ve already been to many other locales such as Russia and Africa and the colorful palette of Italia truly interests me as well. The main reason I am excited for another shot at the Axis of Evil through the scope of a sniper rifle is because the core of the series has always been strong and even though in some ways Sniper Elite III was a step back from the redux/sequel V2, it also opened the world up and introduced a lot of new gameplay options and ideas.

This has been one of my most anticipated games for a long while, essentially since it was announced. I’ve enjoyed the series since its beginning and even more so in the past few years. I’m eager to see what this iteration can do with the power of current generation consoles behind it, as well as the improvements it can make upon the steady if semi-flawed formula presented by Sniper Elite III. One aspect I do hope can manage to be slightly more intriguing is the storyline and overall narrative, which took a hit in III as the pacing left a lot to be desired. So long as the core gameplay holds up and Rebellion offers a few new modes as well, I’ll gladly dish out the cash necessary to play. And seeing some of the fun elements from the Nazi Zombie Army Trilogy or even another addition in that saga wouldn’t be such a bad idea either…

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The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s art direction and overall design thus far has done more than enough to please me. I really do like the melded sort of art style that brings to mind both Twilight Princess/Skyward Sword and Wind Waker in many aspects of it all. It’s something new and yet also something altogether familiar and intriguing and that is definitely a good thing. When I first heard they were crafting the almost customary new tale for the next Nintendo console, I was hoping it would not be some egregious mistake or fall flat and thankfully I’ve yet to be disappointed. It seems like Breath of the Wild will combine many intriguing new elements as well as some of the same old ones we’ve seen and grown fond of over the years.

I hope it can author its own storyline and prove to be as interesting as past entries while also standing on its own legs in that universe. I’m much more curious than I care to admit about where exactly it will fall in the Zelda timeline, however I am also equally pleased if it is yet another entry that stands virtually alone in this respect. Some things will never change and so I know there will be some truly memorable boss fights, puzzles, and exploration for the duration of Link’s adventures. Here’s to a melding of new and old as well as hoping that I find some new tools at Link’s disposal with which to become completely enamored.

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Interesting naming conventions aside, the upcoming Resident Evil 7 (or Biohazard depending upon your localization) release promises to be entertaining and eventful. I admire the developers for wanting to change things up enough after Resident Evil 6 which was by no means the strongest or the worst entry in the series, in order to keep things fresh and reinvigorate the series for yet another few titles. I’m curious about some of the design ideas they have made thus far but not terribly turned off by that same token. In many ways, this game looks to me similar to what Outlast II seeks to accomplish albeit with that still unmistakably Resident Evil vibe about it and taste all around it.

First person combat could amp things up a bit as well as the fact that there’s minimal to no HUD to be seen. I’m definitely one for ambiance and aesthetics and to me that could shake things up quite a bit whether or not you’re a fan of the look. The story seems thus far like it could be more in the vein of the less zombie-filled entries in the series and that also doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. Resident Evil has never been so much about the zombies as it has been about what lengths humanity will go to and whether or not we at times can be the real monsters in terrible situations such as the outbreaks the protagonists have often experienced. Needless to say, the air of mystery surrounding most of the game’s development and details has only strengthened my interest in what could ultimately be make or break for the main series entries.

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Sundered is more than likely the most intriguing and indie-developed game on this list of games. However, that does not in any ways diminish the expanse of what it seeks to accomplish nor does it do anything to diminish my hopes for the finished product. In many ways it reminds me of what Journey sought to show us and what it accomplished as both art and a game. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this particular project is after all the fact that it is an entirely hand-drawn experience, thereby quite literally melding video gaming and art in a way few have rendered it before.

I’ll leave the majority of the plot spoilers out of focus, at least as far as this particular post is concerned, however what I have heard thus far intrigues me on many levels. As with Journey’s experience, you are a wanderer of sorts and more than likely seeking to make your own special sojourn, albeit in most instances to escape the hellish surroundings that will otherwise engulf you. This project, like Resident Evil 7, interests me largely due to the fact it is in many ways mysterious and tight-lipped about what exactly it seeks to offer. I have a sneaking suspicion that it will want to show rather than tell what its deepest secrets and greatest mysteries are, and that pleases me greatly.

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I’ve saved the best for last and if you’re surprised then you shouldn’t be. Routine is an entirely too intriguing project to be left off of any lists of upcoming games that are very interesting and that I am personally excited for. Besides the obvious allusions and callbacks to other survival horror adventures in both gaming and film, it is the core of what the game seeks to offer that captivates me the most. I immensely enjoyed what Alien: Isolation sought to offer, what the talented folks at Frictional Games has done throughout the Amnesia series and with Soma, and what Red Barrel offered us through the demented Outlast series thus far. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I’d be totally stoked for what Routine seems to mysteriously beckon to us with.

We’ve seen more and more little by little with each new announcement and each new trailer or tidbit of information and it has done little to dampen the rising flames licking at my consciousness. I wonder what mysteries this desolate but not quite abandoned facility may yet have to offer us. What horrors of both the synthetic and organic kind we may encounter. And truly what the entire scope of the narrative and game may be. As with a few other games on this list, I’m intrigued not only because it is a new idea blossoming thanks to the culmination of several existing ones, but also due to the fact that it looks entirely too promising to fall that flat.Who knows, we may even get some Turing Test level of humanity checks thrown in as well.

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I do hope you’ve enjoyed my thoughts and won’t hesitate to share your own. There are so many projects that I am eager to see as they release in the future, and so understandably it was hard to narrow that list down to only five that are both mainstream big-time games and more lowkey independently developed titles. Art is art and games are games and games are art, so it’ll be exciting regardless of their size or scope to see how each turns out. I’m excited for more than the singular reason that I optimistically hope they will all be well-received and entertaining. I revel in the thought that my morality and judgment may be challenged in 2017 and in the future and that these titles may offer more than just a nostalgic or campy experience.

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Hitman: Season One Review

[As Read on GIO.]

Many of us were somewhat skeptical when IO Interactive announced that the next iteration of the Hitman saga would be an episodic release and span almost a year’s worth of time per season. I do have to say, all things taken into account, it went a lot better than it truly could’ve gone. On their own each episode is relatively weak as they offer scant content and measly gameplay. However, as a complete package the deal is sweetened a little bit even if it still has yet to approach even Absolution’s level of narrative or length. Hitman: Season One offers players six episodes and two “summer bonus” missions. One upfront bonus to the episodic release format is that it allows tweaks to be made along the way that can substantially change the experience for the better by the time the season finale rolls around and the entire package gets pushed out.

Now, I reviewed Hitman: Episode One way back in March of 2016 and that specific review can be easily accessed here. As a review, the majority of the gripes I had with the game at the time focused less on the overall quality and more on the available content which was scarce as was to probably be expected. The launch itself was pretty messy, the content was barely enough to sate players’ appetites for an entire month and a half or so that each episode was supposed to tide us over for prior to the next episode’s release, and the plot was at times incomprehensible. I’ve only sense been able to understand more of the threadbare plot through reading up on it thanks to the Hitman Wiki. A lot of the “Intro Pack” offering was bland and had the feel of a tutorial or demo for the most part. The highlight of the entire deal is probably just the graphics and the quality of controls as the game handles excellently and also looks gorgeous to boot. The replayability takes a substantial hit until you factor in more episodes but the expanded sandbox also adds some more flavor and maneuvering to the mix.

Before I dive into my “Complete Package” review, let’s just cover the basics of what it actually offers you as well. So far, Hitman: Season One has been comprised of six episodes and two bonus missions offered in the so-called “Summer Bonus Episode.” We’ve been to Paris, Sapienza, Marrakesh, Bangkok, Colorado, and Hokkaido. Most of these plays have been colorful and bustling with life, which is always key in such a sandbox experience as Hitman. The Summer Bonus Mission also takes place respectively in Sapienza and Marrakesh and is an alternate timeline of sorts to the season’s initial narrative adventure. I definitely suggest that you read both the wiki page and the summer missions blurb on the Hitman website for more information, but be aware of potential spoilers as well. Overall, in short I will save you from reading the entirety of this lengthy review by saying that this is not Agent 47’s greatest adventure and far from the best story, but it is a solid experience and fundamentally improved when viewed as an entire package and not one episode.

On paper the narrative sounds very engaging and cinematic and should please all conspiracy buffs and franchise fans. In execution however it is a different beast entirely. It is not bad, merely sparse and lacking. There is somewhat of a lack of replayability at times in the sandboxes but rest easy if you missed the narrative the first time around because you won’t discover any enlightening details on the second or third trips either- it simply isn’t there to be found. I will say, fans of the series will get more out of the story than newcomers but only marginally so. This lies more in the semi-revelation of who and what has been masterminding your assassination bids for the majority of the game, as well as some of the hints dropped throughout as to where your next adventures may take place. Do take note also, that if you are a PS4 player there is an entire alternate mission timeline available to you from the getgo entitled the “Sarajevo Six” missions. Essentially, this takes you through each of the locations detailed in the normal timeline with the added benefit of offering a secondary story. While the majority of the quality remains the same, this story is in many ways more straightforward and more entertaining.

Speaking of locations and locales, each sandbox is extraordinarily large in comparison to Agent 47’s previous adventures. Whereas Absolution offered a few large areas such as Chinatown, every single mission that this particular game offers is large and expansive. While this is entertaining at times, it also leads to some frustration as one minuscule detail can undermine an entire operation and lead you to simply run and gun your way through an assassination instead of taking the eight hour route through an infested area. Instead of memorizing entirely too complicated guard patterns in even larger areas, finding that one special item in a sea of similar items, or switching disguises an obscene amount of times, many people will more than likely settle for the easy kill rather than the obscure “accident.” It saves time and sanity. The series has taken upon itself to add and interesting feature that tracks “opportunities” for special kills, however this severely hurts the discovery factor that Hitman is known for while at the same time leveling the playing field and taking away some of the frustration.

One of the most unforgiving aspects of the game is the unbelievable sight-lines that certain enemies have as well as responses and lack of truly required skill when compared to trial and error guesswork required to progress meaningfully in levels. When you expand the size of each sandbox, there comes with that a certain expectation that enemies won’t be able to see you coming before you’ve even seen them. Instead, many of the guards and enemies operate like snipers in Battlefield and can apparently sense you from miles away before you’ve even come remotely close to contact with them. This is a cheap way to add built-in difficulty and feels forced particularly in the second half of the season when the environments and locations become more hazardous to Agent 47’s health anyways. The game often does a poor job of making it clear what disguises will and won’t work in certain situations, meaning sometimes the same disguise will work one time and won’t another. With these added frustrations, replaying levels becomes a necessity and also a curse.

Besides the initial missions or the PS4 exclusive content, there are also added online contracts and “escalation” missions. While these mostly focus on assassinating NPCs in a variety of ways or using increasingly more obscure methods of assassination, they don’t maintain some of the freshness that even the mundane normal missions do. The replayability takes a hit particularly with “Escalation” missions as you must repeatedly take out the same characters in a multitude of ways. Contracts have been updated as the season has progressed and have become not only easier to navigate but more fun to play through as a result, however that does not diminish the fact that you are virtually required to have a firm online connection in order to even consider playing Hitman. If you do not have a stable connection you can and will lose everything from progress and secondary objectives to unlocks and stats.

In summary, Hitman: Season One is an interesting side note in the series’ saga but is not the next stop on anyone’s list of destinations for where the series should go. Season Two will hopefully bring with it a host of needed changes and tweaks while maintaining the fundamentals of what makes this one still marginally a success for the standards of the series. Expand the voice acting so that it goes beyond the small-minded trash that the majority of this adventure’s work was. Alleviate some of the more frustrating aspects of the game while maintaining the sense of urgency and cautious trial and error that Blood Money and Absolution elicited so well in players. And if you’re going to continue with the episodic approach then definitely add more content between releases to alleviate boredom and to usher in more reasons for replaying singular missions.

Concept: Play as Agent 47, a hitman with a penchant for the elaborate and over the top, obscure kills that we’ve come to love and appreciate over the years.

Graphics: The game looks beautiful but sometimes the frames drop due to so many characters jammed into each mission’s expansive environments.

Sound: NPC dialogue is a real waste and the team behind the dialogue is mostly comprised of apparently the same core people because you can easily differentiate persons one through six from each other in each setting. Get more voice actors in there.

Playability: Despite frustrating segments throughout, the controls never falter and for the most part are the saving grace of the experience.

Entertainment: Each mission offers a plethora of exploration but at the same time each brings with it different frustrations and can make replaying them more of a chore and bore than truly entertaining.

Replay Value: Moderately High.

Overall Score: 7.5

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200 Blogs Under the Sea

[As Originally Written on GIO.]

It’s been a long haul to get here and I could very well be on my way to something like 500 blog posts if I’d kept up and been regular with my writing, however the topic of discussion today is quality over quantity and nothing describes these 200 blogs, 85 reviews, and nearly 9000 comments that I’ve made over the years.

Sometimes I feel like last year was 2011 and I’m about to go enjoy titles like Portal 2 and Gears of War 3 again. It really does amaze me that it’s already almost 2017, that I’ve already seen the birth of a “new” console generation, that The Witcher 3 happened, that Portal 3 hasn’t happened, and any number of gaming and life-related things. But it is 2016 nonetheless and time doesn’t slow down for anybody or anything- a note which I’ve blogged about in the past when things have gotten out of hand.

So let’s talk a little bit about some of the stellar titles that have released this year and some of the more redemptive stories of ones that weren’t so hot. We’re waiting on anticipated titles like Final Fantasy XV, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Dishonored 2, The Last Guardian, Watch Dogs 2, Dead Rising 4, and Shadow Warrior 2 to come out but that’s not to say some of the greatest games of the year haven’t already been experienced as well.

Titanfall 2 is one such example. Respawn took the criticisms players had with the first game to heart and they’ve crafted an even more encompassing and engrossing adventure tale to span the galaxy. Not only is there more freedom and customization and more of what worked in the first game, but it retains enough of the original formula while injecting bold new frontiers as well. Truthfully, I was skeptical as to how the singleplayer would play out as we’d already established that multiplayer was pretty darn good in the first game. However, I’d like to draw the comparison to another former project- Modern Warfare 2. Just when things seemed they were at a peak, Infinity Ward took it up to eleven and gave us a better story, better multiplayer, and greater experience. If there is a Titanfall 3 (and I’m sure there will be), then this game will be pretty hard to top.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is another such example of stellar storytelling and aesthetic, although also a bit of a backtrack for the series. Deus Ex has been known for its highs and lows and Deus Ex: Human Revolution had its flaws but it was a truly polarizing look at that world. It had some fundamental frustrations but on the whole it is just as good as the sequel which nails some notes the first game missed while falling short in other categories. The biggest thing about the Deus Ex universe for me has always been the backstory and the cinematic value. It has always struck me as a Blade Runner x Ex Machina vibe (go figure) and this new title is no different. Gorgeous visuals and a well-crafted story are things that we’ve seen before but until the creators of The Witcher 3 release Cyberpunk 2077, we won’t see many games in a similar vein to this one.

Gears of War 4 was somewhat of a skeptical play for some and somewhat of a long-anticipated return for others. If you thought you were done after Gears 3 and were let down by the Baird-driven prequel in Judgment, then look no further. Gears 4 takes what made the first one of the best Xbox lineup titles and injects a little bit of old, a little bit of new, and a little bit of awesome in a this n’ that formula. The finished product is a familiar yet new experience which should appeal to longtime fans and newcomers alike. I enjoy the melding of and passing along of the original story into what is probably going to become a new saga. The ending is one of those akin to Halo 2 that leaves some things to be desired, but that is not to say it is a bad game by any means. The work ethic that went into creating a faithful sequel to the Gears series shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Dark Souls 3 manages to reside somewhere between Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2 both in terms of finesse required to play and situational story telling. It is definitely an evolutionary tale and one that has learned from the Dark Souls, Demons Souls, and Bloodbourne series. While Dark Souls 2 may in fact be one of the most lauded games From Software has created, Dark Souls 3 does a great job of quite literally returning to what DS1 offered without giving up the advancements of the second or being a fresh experience. It may not be as difficult at times and it may thus far have some disappointingly short DLC, however it is a testament to the team’s creativity and the resolve and longevity of the now-hit series.

Uncharted 4 was most definitely another blockbuster experience for Nathan Drake even if it seems to be the last one for a very long time. I’ve always been a fan of the small moments in the chronicles of Nate Drake and although his token setpiece moments are spectacular, it was A Thief’s End that finally gave me the realistic look at one of my favorite character’s backstory and life outside of dangerous raids and treasure hunts. For that I am going to be ever-grateful. Whether it’s sitting down to play some classic Crash Bandicoot or setting sail on a choppy sea with only murky waters and a dangerous band of goons between you and your goal, Uncharted 4 is excellent in both storytelling and pacing and truly is representative of a series with some of the highest quality work of all-time, specifically for Playstation exclusives.

Now that I’ve talked about five of the quality games, flawed or not, that have stood head and shoulders above some of the other titles I’ve played this year, I’d like to discuss a few more points. It heartens me to still be able to come here for news and to blog and see a mix of familiar and fresh faces day to day, both in terms of the community and online presence, as well as the GI staff themselves. This has very much been my “place” for years and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I know life often gets in the way for many of us and some have departed for other opportunities or other aspects of life along the way, but I’m proud to have gotten to know many of you through your writing and through our conversations as well.

I just want to encourage you all to write your thoughts. Write that blog post. give us your thoughts on the latest and greatest titles, talk about movies, comic books, or whatever other passions you may have. Any and everything is welcome and very much appreciated. If you’re ever stumped or feel like you’ve hit the creative wall, message someone else or boot up a game to play and maybe you’ll get some creative ideas from the craziness that happens in Borderlands 2 or Gears of War 3. Hell, I wrote a blog about a naked speedrun through Sen’s Fortress in Dark Souls so very long ago so if I can do it, you can too. Just maybe find a little bit less dangerous and more fully clothed line of work.

My parting message to you all is this: be who you want to be, write what you want to write, think what you want to think, and do what you find worthwhile to do. Don’t let anybody ever tell you otherwise and even on your down days be your own greatest fan as well as your own greatest inspiration. Sometimes all it takes to spark the fire is the will to make something happen, the flick of a power switch, and maybe even a little bit of light level 350 gear- you never know. Gaming references aside, I wish you all a fine and dandy day as this month begins and we step one day closer to 2017 and what it may bring. Adieu.

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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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My GIO Manifesto

[As Originally Written on GIO]

No of course this isn’t my manifesto because I’m completely joking about that. Well, maybe for now anyway. Come hit me up for that when I establish the Great Republic of John in order to escape the political spectacle ongoing. No, this is something altogether different. This is my breath of fresh air so to speak for the moment. For the four hundred of you or so who follow my writing blog Suspect No 2 or the numerous followers I have on Twitter or anywhere else, this is something beyond my usual gaming exploits or occasional football updates and miscellaneous other crap.

It’s been far too long since I’ve had any sort of regular review or blog schedule and I don’t see that changing much in the foreseeable future. So here’s just a life review of sorts I guess for the past two and half almost three years or so I suppose. I’ve been a subscriber to GIO for a looong time (think issue 83). I’ve been an online GI member since say 2009 or so, but in reality only actively since about 2011. Still, years are years are they not? I’ve been overworked and out of touch since roughly 2014 at some point and that still doesn’t quite sit right with me. A lot in my life has shifted around and as a result the majority of social media and my overall online presence has often taken a hit. I’m not as active as I once was and most likely won’t be.

I’m still suffering/working my way through the graduate program I’m a part of, still slowly but surely helping out on personal gaming projects here and there, and still writing at times. None of what I’ve personally wanted to get published project-wise has really amounted to anything, however I have been published twice now under a pseudonym which is progress I do suppose. I’m resolved in my attempt to maintain my presence here for as long as I can, whether or not time often allows. So for that at least I can remain happy in doing, even if the majority of staff and users I once recognized seem to be long gone. Such is life, even online.

Things have been going well for my longtime girlfriend and I (we’re engaged, so yay to that). I suppose it’s crazy to think that another year has passed nearly as we are almost eleven months into this one and the gaming landscape has changed so much even over the course of 2016. We’ve now seen virtual reality and virtual concepts come, the announcement of another Nintendo console, and the establishment of several new IP ideas as well. It’s a year in which we can look forward to much and still so much more to come in the next as well as far as sequels and reboots and new sagas go.

I’ve never been one to write for an audience more so than I’ve been one who wants to share my thoughts and ideas with the world. So I do hope for what it’s worth you few who continue to put up with me will read my works and my thoughts and my blogs and reviews. I enjoy the effort it takes to write them and dole them out and slowly but surely will continue to do so. I guess this is more of a thank you to all those who have stood out over the years and who have appreciated my efforts and critiqued them along the way as well. Your comments and concerns and challenges and responses have always been my pleasure to answer. I’ve loved this community and will continue to do so as it revolves and evolves. Some things will never change (like Andy Mac being our constant GI godfather).

So cheers to the holiday season about to come, cheers to the little things, and cheers to each and every one of you writing and reading and commenting. GIO is what it is because of you all.

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Opinion: Resident Evil 7 Could Go Either Way

[As Read on GIO.]

resident-evil-7-biohazard-trailer-demo-01

This isn’t the first time that the Resident Evil series has sought out a new direction or sought to go in a completely different one. We first experienced that with the surprise success of Resident Evil 4 which buoyed the series for several more years even off of the return to semi-stagnation in terms of creativity that came subsequently with main series entries such as RE5 and RE6. However, I will admit that I’ve been somewhat worried by what I’ve seen thus far. Not because it seems such a far cry from classic Resident Evil at times, but because it just doesn’t seem like the first-person survival horror vibe is going to hold up at the moment.

The main reason for my title is that I’m equally torn between thinking this game could be something new and great (or new and terrifying, yet still in a good way) or it could fall flat like I think most people thought Resident Evil 6 did for all it accomplished as well. One thing is certain- it will not just be “more of the same” as it seems to ditch a lot of what fans have grown accustomed to and not just in terms of HUD and point of view. If done properly I really think it could channel somewhat of an Outlast vibe and that’s what I’ve seen thus far in terms of potential from gameplay and trailers and creepy demos.

Now, with Outlast 2 on the horizon that is truly an interesting possibility to entertain as well. So far this title reminds me of the creepy madness that plagued players across Resident Evil 4, and to some extent with the increasingly manic majini in Resident Evil 5. While RE6 took us back to the zombie apocalypse in earnest (sort of I guess), things have largely gotten stale with the golden exception of a few handheld and console spinoffs (Revelations 1 and 2). I don’t think you need traditional zombies in order to make the Resident Evil formula work and I applaud the developers for the titles they’ve attempted to create without the series staple. That being said, I really want to see how this game works- from a gameplay perspective as well as a story perspective.

The weaker elements of the previous two titles have been story by far, as the gameplay has often been acceptable to good even if it is borderline ludicrous or repetitive at times. I want a “less is more” approach right now but I also want to see it done properly. Spend less time focusing on multiplayer modes and extra outfits and ultimately useless downloadable content packs and craft an interesting, creepy, and horrific story for players to enjoy the atmosphere and illusion of. Those are what got our heads wrapped around the franchise in the first place and I think those elements are what we keep hoping to see again and again as well.

Ultimately, I think Resident Evil 7 DOES have the potential to be a memorable experience and even a good one, however my main concern is that the simple changes to gameplay will have an adverse effect rather than a beneficial one. So many times in franchises, change can be a breath of fresh air and a good thing however by the same token in other instances it can ruin the overall experience. I sincerely hope that is not the case for this game but as is I’m not setting my standards too high lest my expectations go up in flames.

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millie schmidt writes... with cats

millie schmidt writes...

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