Tag Archives: pc

Why Get Even Reminds Me of Perfect Dark Zero

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I’m not really one to shy away from making particularly strange comparisons that people wouldn’t often immediately pick up on so that’s part of the reason for this blog. The other reason is pure and simple nostalgia more than likely. I’ve been doing some experimentation with other new and recent games out there and finally stepping out of my well-worn niche of role-playing and shooter games (as of late anyway). So of course my first step was to boot up titles such as Nex Machina and Get Even among others, seeing as they’re two recent games that have had interesting reviews and concepts in equal measure.

Which brings me to my exact purpose in regard to why I’m writing this particular post: Get Even and its striking thematic similarities to Perfect Dark (particularly Perfect Dark Zero). Beyond the easy to sense similarities- both are action oriented first person shooters or from a first person perspective and both feature a heavy load of futuristic technology, there are some other interesting connections of sorts as well.

First things first, let’s just go ahead and discuss what Get Even is (relatively spoiler free mind you) and how it isn’t exactly related to Perfect Dark’s prelude. As best as I can possibly describe it, Get Even is an intriguing mix of thriller meets psychological horror and first person shooter or action. It’s an eclectic mixture at best and yet somehow that works? Honestly I’m just as surprised as anyone considering the amount of narrative twisting and turning along the way and the relatively low influence of the gameplay itself on how things play out. It’s certainly quite the experiment and we’re not the only ones intrigued by it surely.

In my mind, Perfect Dark Zero is one of those games that doesn’t exactly live up to what nostalgia would otherwise lead us to believe- it’s awesome as far as multiplayer might be concerned but the campaign itself is horrendous by today’s standards and lacks checkpoints in favor of “difficulty.” All of my personal thoughts aside, what the game certainly is would be a first person shooter and action hybrid with some interesting narrative ties and influences beyond the control of the player characters (Joanna Dark) themselves. So where’s that leave us as far as simple common ground can be ascertained?

The interesting dynamic between the characters and the twists of the plot and uncovered revelations and mutations of that story over time are what makes me draw the biggest connections with Get Even and Perfect Dark. As the name would suggest, there’s somewhat a sense of seeking vengeance or at the very least reprieve in the first of those titles while the latter is more of an enigmatic name unless you’ve previously played the series. Names won’t explain any connection for certain however in this case. However it is important to note that- without going into exact details on the narrative of either title, the ever changing nature of the plot and more importantly the player’s perception of that plot and its integral events and pieces is the most unique comparison that can be made.

Get Even deals heavily with context and also with literal memories and experiences. Likewise, Perfect Dark Zero deals heavily in plot progression through experiences with and around other supporting characters. Both titles also heavily rely upon things that happen to these characters in order to push the boundaries of the story and to tug at the fabric or concept of reality and stability in those respective games. Simply put, the reason why I thought of Perfect Dark Zero first when I tried to wrack my brain for a game that Get Even reminded me of comes down to the fundamental information slowly leaked to me throughout my playtime: something is amiss, something is subject to change thanks to what happens to these characters surrounding me (and of course my actions could prevent or cause this calamitous action and consequence).

Furthermore, despite the time gap between the settings of each game as well as the representation of each world, I can’t help but shake the feeling in other instances they could even potentially exist side by side. The technology and potentiality and possibilities on the whole convince me of that fact at times. A guy can dream that everything is in some way connected or related right? Regardless, these are just some very late night or perhaps entirely too early morning musings. Cheers.

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Games I Didn’t Review In 2016: Infinite Warfare

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My history with the Call of Duty series is an interesting one: I’m one of the few people who actually plays the series for its story as well as the frenetic multiplayer mayhem. I do enjoy a good if cliched tale from time to time and the Call of Duty series provides that as well as over the top thrills about one in every three titles or so. Although the series trend of pushing into the future is coming to at least a temporary halt with Sledgehammer Games’ turning back of the clock to World War II, I for one enjoyed the campaigns of both Advanced Warfare and Infinite Warfare immensely as well as the multiplayer of Black Ops III.

While the series has been largely hit or miss in terms of quality since 2011’s Modern Warfare 3- a game I immensely enjoyed yet recognized its handy amount of faults, it’s still a series I enjoy even if it has largely done the majority of things all shooters nowadays do. Black Ops II had a thrilling story and admittedly good multiplayer. Ghosts was a mess through and through and likely the lowest we’ve seen the series come thus far. Advanced Warfare was a brave and bold and satisfying push into the future. Black Ops III was a mess in terms of story but brought the fun factor back. And here we are, set to talk about Infinite Warfare- a game that received near standing ovations when the initial trailer was shown, only to be dissed and booed unceremoniously once it was revealed to be the next Call of Duty.

The fanbase constantly ceases to amaze or to let down whenever news is shown about upcoming games- often deriding the game all the way until release and then purchasing the title anyway. Despite my confusion over the antics of a fanbase largely comprised of prepubescent teens and then of shooter fans everywhere of every age, I can understand the mixed feeling over the most recent Call of Duty release. Infinite Warfare is the furthest from the series initial start that we’ve come and that we’re likely to see anytime soon but that’s not a bad thing at all. In fact, I’d say that the game is best when it tries the least to be like any Call of Duty title we’ve yet experienced. The single player campaign is challenging and fantastic in its authorial intent- at its best when showcasing the horrors even of a future war, at its most sluggish when attempting to needlessly tie in old concepts or series staple gimmicks. The free-form-ish exploration and level design is in the vein of Black Ops III and some of the broadest and most open we’ve yet to see.

I cannot express my satisfaction for the single player campaign any more than I already have but the downsides to the game come in the other modes. While I will say that it is a fair assessment of Infinite Warfare to call it perhaps one of the most complete Call of Duty titles to date- offering Zombies, classic multiplayer, and a unique story mode, that does not say anything about the quality of each game mode. The multiplayer is largely what you would expect from the series with the added aspects largely present to some degree in this particular universe and story. It frustratingly places an emphasis on speed and mobility while restraining your movement and mobility at the same time, settling somewhere between Ghosts/Advanced Warfare and Black Ops III on the spectrum of such abilities. Infinity Ward obviously took notes from previous games in the aftermath of Ghosts and yet they still failed to hit the mark and honestly for one reason or another this has been the least satisfying multiplayer component outside of Ghosts to date.

On the subject of Zombies it’s much of the same story but things work a tad bit better than in the rest of the online component. The age old formula remains largely unchanged and the graphics and gimmicks are all well and good however the gameplay just falls a little flat at times and I never felt quite as into it as I have in the first two Black Ops titles. Over the past few titles (essentially since Advanced Warfare) I’ve found myself increasingly dissatisfied with the Zombies offering for one reason or another and I think I’ve finally pinned down as to why that is: I simply don’t enjoy future zombies or overused ideas anymore than I particularly enjoyed facing the Flood or The Library in Halo.

If I had to justify my commentary with a score of some sort and apply that to the game then I may sound harsher than the actual numerical value I’m likely to assign the title. In my mind even despite its flaws, Infinite Warfare should be no less than an eighty percent or 8/10 and no more than a ninety percent or 9/10. Anywhere in between there could be arguably applicable depending largely on what aspects you’re likely to focus on. The campaign, while replayable for sure is still possible to complete on higher difficulties at one hundred percent and then never be returned to. It’s more rewarding and more challenging than in the past which in turn makes it much more worthwhile and engaging however in its messages and character building. As for the rest of the package, there are some solid foundations and ideas but it’s been done much better before in the series and as such isn’t the most compelling example of Call of Duty heritage.

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The Unique Aesthetic of Wilson’s Heart and Monument Valley 2

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Monument Valley was a very interesting and aesthetically pleasing project when it released so it stands to reason that the sequel should and would be as well. Although there are several new gimmicks and ideas in play for all intents and purposes you’re looking at a continuation of the same game and same vein of design. This isn’t a bad thing at all.

What you may not be expecting is for me to compare the beautifully crafted visuals and puzzling gameplay of Monument Valley and its sequel to that of the monochromatic, dark and occult filled visuals of Wilson’s Heart. A virtual reality adventure and a downloadable game don’t always have much in common but starting today I’m making a connection between these two in particular.

It’s not so much that they have anything in common rather it’s the fact that both push the boundary of visual presentation in one way or another, or perhaps even in several ways in some instances. Functionality notwithstanding, each of these games is a thorough experience that relies heavily upon visual input and context. The ways in which you’re able to perceive specific stages directly impacts how you’re able to accomplish or complete them in Monument Valley 2 whereas the ways you’re able to react to and interact with the Lovecraftian occult setting and situations within Wilson’s Heart directly influences your experience as well.

Perception and reception are very much an integral part in the game making and game playing processes. Look no further than these two titles for confirmation of that one simple truth. Puzzle games are notorious for requiring players to adhere to a strict and often steep learning curve however this is all down based upon the expectation that if you show somebody how to do something and slowly walk them through whilst holding their hand, eventually they’ll be able to fly through the task on their own later. Continuing along that train of thought, if you see somebody place a blue and orange portal and then go through one and emerge from the other then naturally you’ll pick up how the specific mechanics perform in context as well.

How we perceive the world around us often differs with regard to specific stimuli in the environment and a whole metric plethora of other factors that may be involved from the womb until the tomb. There is no “one way” to perceive a situation or pick up on a particular aesthetic value or visualization as fate (and apparently science) would have it. And that’s why both Wilson’s Heart and Monument Valley 2 are two of the most recent and most intriguing views into both perception and reception in terms of visual effect and resonance for me personally. Sure, I could’ve taken the easy way out and chosen a game such as the aptly named Perception or perhaps even What Remains of Edith Finch but then that would be cheating don’t you think? We knew all along that those two games would purposely distort reality and offer a surreal and uncharacteristically and aesthetically challenging adventure.

In many ways the visuals of Monument Valley and Monument Valley 2 on the whole just have this air of surrealism yet it’s presented in such a uniquely tangible way as well. You see beautifully rendered and colored backdrops and the simplistic yet ultimately complex and multifaceted levels of the castles and stages and they just make you stop and think and appreciate the art style for a moment or two. Wilson’s Heart on a more cerebral level forces you to think in much the same way but it has more to do with the monochromatic visuals and old, campy horror vibe than it does with the surreal Cthulhu vibes the game gives off for the duration of its screentime. Sometimes it’s simple ambiance and principle that give quality to a project or perhaps that render it admirable or even redeemable when it would otherwise be a loss in terms of gameplay and presentation.

On one hand we have Monument Valley 2 which is most definitely a game that I would consider to be both pretty and unique but on the other you have Wilson’s Heart which is something rougher around the edges and yet no less enjoyable that some other dark and unique tales such as Outlast or Amnesia. Wilson’s Heart may derive some success from the level of camp it attributes to old B-movies and old school monster flicks and yet it is also ultimately a visual and presented success due to the vibes it can tap into akin to independently developed horror projects of recent fame and fortune.

Sometimes it’s impressive what you can compare yourself to and not just what you can showcase in your own unique way. It’s about connections and perception just as much as quality and reception. Cheers.

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Discussing TWD: A New Frontier

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It’s only been five years since gamers everywhere were first introduced to Lee Everett and Clementine. Since then we’ve been rocked by revelation after revelation and brutal death after brutal death in first Lee’s and since Clementine’s journey through the world of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead. Of course by now you’ve no doubt heard of Telltale Games’ episodic properties as they’ve exploded in popularity since The Walking Dead in particular. You might’ve even played a few episodes or perhaps entire series such as Tales from the Borderlands or The Wolf Among Us or Game of Thrones. While some of the more popular properties have already garnered sequel seasons others have yet to see the light of day despite their popularity and success.

I was initially going to do a group review of the newest season of The Walking Dead and the next semi-segment of Clementine’s adventure, as I’ve done in the past with both the first season and bits and pieces of the second season. However I think it would be best to instead simply discuss the merits of the entire season as a whole and hopefully not spoil too much for those of you who have yet to play it for yourself or perhaps even to play through and experience the adventure series at all yet. So this is your last warning- once you go past this there’s no going back in terms of potential spoilers and discussion about all things The Walking Dead (in terms of the shared universe as well as Telltale’s slice of the pie).

To date we have seen several episodic incarnations of The Walking Dead universe- Season One, 400 Days, Season Two, Michonne, and A New Frontier. A New Frontier is something a little different than we’ve come to expect as it fully features two interactive characters- even more so than Season One did with the interesting parent/child dynamic between Lee and Clementine. Now we actually play the majority of the time as Javier (Javi) instead of our young femme fatale herself, who is an integral part in the story but who only influences events and helps build a larger picture as opposed to outright commandeering the story. Once more, Telltale has proven that at any given time they can shift the point of view from even the most beloved of their characters and still keep the plot exciting and fresh and worthwhile. That’s some potent stuff. It also scares me because that means Clementine might not be the Rick Grimes we are looking for- meaning her stay in the universe may not last forever.

Daunting notions and fears aside, A New Frontier is a thrilling adventure and although at times it falls into many of the same pitfalls as previous episodes and seasons, it is the first time since Season One that I’ve truly enjoyed myself completely and been satisfied if a bit horrified by both my actions and their consequences. Although it wouldn’t be The Walking Dead without meaningful and meaningless deaths and destruction at times, I actually found myself quite satisfied by the ending I received upon completion of the season’s story- even though it cost Javi a brother and nearly an adopted son. I must really be a piece of work if I’m okay with being family first one moment but then screw over my admittedly unlikable brother and take his wife and surviving family members. But hey, it’s Telltale and we can’t always be as roguish and likable as Tales from the Borderlands or Batman.

Telltale’s biggest critique in terms of this whole episodic content delivery thing has always been the degree to which your choices matter in each episode and particularly season to season. I’ve enjoyed the little ways in which they bridge the gaps season to season and the ways in which they retrospectively go back to things that happened in the first season as opposed to simply the last episode, however I still see the glaring problem on hand. Admittedly, A New Frontier has some fan service available for those of you who still remember each and every gritty choice you made in the last two seasons of The Walking Dead as well as in some of the other downloaded segments and bonuses. However that’s not to say that there aren’t still plot points that I’d love to see addressed or be more visibly memorable to Clem and her companions than seem to be at least on the surface. A New Frontier does a wonderful job of mixing in meaningful flashbacks so what if in future seasons we could even go so far a to flash back to previously made and saved decisions at integral plot moments? Instead of a little cog and a ‘[blank] will remember that’ actually show us that moment when Clem shoots Lee or Kenny or Jane or something like that as she battles herself internally over what to do.

A New Frontier is very much the story of Javi and Javi’s family, however once you go beyond the themes of companionship and blood being thicker than water you’ll also find that it’s very much an important part of Clementine’s tale as well. A New Frontier shouldn’t so much be considered a full fledged season three as it should be essentially season two point five. It makes strides in terms of believable conversation and emotion and narrative pacing, but it also falls prey to some of the same mistakes that the first two seasons did in retrospect despite being a much smoother and more aesthetically pleasing experience. What I’m perhaps most excited about is the way in which the ending itself showcases Clementine’s development and how that is going to play into what will more than likely be her own adventure and own outing again in the next offering or next expansion or season or whatever. Through her shared experiences with Javier you get to see Clem grow into an even more adult and sure-footed version of herself and strengthen her beliefs as well as double down on her values. In a world about survival that’s something pleasant to see.

Season One holds a lot of nostalgic memories of characters and moments for me but Season Two didn’t always click and I rightfully never became too attached to characters outside of perhaps Kenny (again) and Luke. Everyone had even more visible and glaring flaws in that season than they even did in the first one but it seemed more forced and by the end of it I didn’t particularly care who lost as every decision felt like a bad one or a forced situation. Thankfully even in its darkest moments A New Frontier lightens up a little bit and provides the tensest situations with some redeemable learning points or even the no-win situations with a potentially less harsh and even less fatal factor. Yes, some of your favorite characters will develop ugly flaws or mean untimely ends but then such is the way of Kirkman’s world as is the way of many fictional worlds (I see you George R.R. Martin).

Whereas Season Two left me out in the cold quite literally, A New Frontier genuinely pleased me and I enjoyed the experience even if Javi’s family found it a hard one throughout and Clementine left with an uncertain road ahead. Despite losing David to the horde of walkers he foolishly drove into, I managed to save Gabe and Kate. I managed to rescue the majority of Richmond’s population despite angrily putting a bullet into Joan’s conniving head and ushering in a huge herd of walkers unwittingly. I managed to forge a lasting relationship with people when I needed to most, earning the respect of Jesus and the trust of Clementine and my fellow comrades in arms. Above all else, I paid for the sins of the father, mother, and brother throughout my adventure. A New Frontier pushes past the first few weeks and year of the zombie outbreak and into territory familiar to those up to date and current with the comic series. I really like the way we’ve seen little cameos from characters such as Glenn before he discovered Rick Grimes in Atlanta and Jesus as he’s out and about checking the status of his people away from the Saviors and Whisperers and other dangers.

It’ll be most intriguing to me now to see if we ever get an appearance from Clementine or other beloved and popular characters in the comics or show or vice versa. I know it’s a foolhardy dream perhaps to have and yet it’s one that would wow me anyway so long as it be faithfully done. Those are just some of my thoughts on The Walking Dead and A New Frontier in general but seeing as I am a huge fan of the property (comics in particular), I’ll always be willing to discuss details and other crazy theories and spoilers with anybody interested. Cheers.

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Understanding Horror

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Today’s blog post is about two separate yet semi-related things. The first is an independently developed horror title released in February of 2017 (via Steam) known as Husk (courtesy of Undead Scout). The second is the 2016-17 horror-thriller film release known as “A Cure for Wellness.” Although these two have very little in common save for sharing a semi-similar genre and horror trope (as well as a February release), it is what they bring to the forefront of the mind that interests me most in retrospect.

Neither of these projects should be considered as anything remarkable in terms of a commercial success. In fact, due to their mostly mixed reviews and the relatively poor sales and return on investment, it would be hard to call them much of a success at all. However, there’s a reason that I bring two otherwise semi-obscure projects to bear when confronted with thoughts of horror or intrigue and plausible insanity (of the thrilling sort). I could be discussing something infinitely more credible such as ‘Camera Obscura’ or other horrifying concepts, yet I find myself drawn again and again to both literature and film/game content that offers an experience rather than a prodigious service in earnest.

At first glance Husk is a cliche, a tribute to the nineties, perhaps even a blatant attempt to steal the thunder and luster of titles such as Silent Hill, Alan Wake, or Twin Peaks. For all of that, Husk does succeed atmospherically if only to fail in terms of generic gameplay and repetitive plot and progression. Husk is greatest when presenting the promising factors that could come into play but ultimately it fails to impress myself or apparently the others who have played it critically, instead only offering repetition and mundane survival horror elements where many others have trodden before.

Instead of being here to critique a piece of flawed art however I would like to instead recognize the aspects which we have yet to see done fairly well in gaming history. Violence and abuse and alcoholism and addictive personalities are rarely personified in gaming despite being attempted plenty in literature and on the screen. They aren’t the easiest of the core vices to handle and more often than not get a bad rap when they are portrayed at all. It’s rare to see such believable elements attempted or portrayed in thrillers or horror but rarer still to see psychological and intrinsically flawed character feats billed into games- although we are beginning to see more and more of this. Look no further than games such as Condemned or Silent Hill: Shattered Memories if you want to see flawed appeal done right.

This brings me to “A Cure for Wellness” and its reason for existing in the same context as Husk within the confines of this particular post.

The film is at its finest when it’s portraying the twisted narrative setup or the intrinsic flaws of a particular society such as the one that Verbinski ushers into the context of the film. It’s utterly believable that Gore Verbinski was on tap to helm a Bioshock film and the shocking elements of “A Cure for Wellness” lead me to believe that it would’ve had all the makings of the 2007 Irrational Games classic except in film form. Incest has been covered in both horror and film before- look no further than “The Hills Have Eyes” for something truly horrifying and cinematic in its appalling nature. Kudos to you if you can sit through both the originals and the next generation versions. If you want shocking revelations or horrid discoveries then plenty of films exist for that but few cover it so well as “Soylent Green” or perhaps the political intrigue of “Three Days of the Condor.”

What I’m trying to imply here is simply that “A Cure for Wellness,” without ruining the enticing merit of its plot, offers plenty of shock value and gruesome appeal as well as all of the hitherto expected insanity of a Verbinski or perhaps a Bioshock-like project. Everything always comes back to either literature, film, or games with me. And perhaps sometimes it’s an eclectic mix of those. Neither Dane DeHaan nor Jason Isaacs characters are immune from their struggles with insanity and calamity and once the film has run its bloody course that ugly fact makes itself well known to audiences.

Pushing beyond the horror state of mind and into furthermore uncharacteristically bleak territory, the whole concept of happy endings and at the least optimistic endings in video gaming and film and literature has always bugged me. Shouldn’t we be realistic in our expectations and note that statistically it is improbable that so many endings just…well end? That so many aren’t left potentially unresolved or don’t end with characters much worse for their antics and wear? Perhaps the most poignant and fresh attempts at this will always be the classic Chinatown, Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” and the 1999 Schwarzenegger film ‘End of Days’ in my mind. Particularly when it comes to gritty, realistic and gruesome ends for key contributors to the plot.

I’ve been jumping all over the place with my jumbled thoughts here but let’s boil them down to a few simple points at the end.

I look forward to darker tales in the future such as The Last of Us Part Two- it must, after all, be something much angrier and darker and grittier than the first which all things considered ended as best as it could at the time. I hunger for such tales sometimes and that sick feeling inside isn’t sated by gruesome images such as those visceral attempts in psychological horror or thrillers such as Twin Peaks and A Cure for Wellness. I don’t enjoy what I often see or read but instead have some unique sense or taste for it at times, even to the point where I can appreciate the otherwise unnerving and undervalued merits of independent projects.

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Outlast II Review

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I was a fan of the first Outlast game because it was an indie developed gem that gave players some genuinely frightening thrills and showcased gruesome brutality and a defenseless protagonist thrown into a thoroughly haunting narrative. The sequel lives up to the original’s premise in many of the same ways and boasts incredible graphics as far as technical advancements go, but alas it doesn’t do much else differently. I’m not saying I’m tired of the agenda that the first game pushed however going through virtually the same gruesome experience with the only differences being a slightly less obviously linear setting and better visuals obscured by the prevalent darkness that envelops the Arizona countryside isn’t going to garner much more kudos from me.

The previous Outlast title pushed the boundaries of what is allowed by the mature rating beyond a doubt, featuring genuine anguish and suffering on screen as well as more gruesome fatalities than Mortal Kombat has in its entire roster. The experience was haunting and memorable and for that reason alone many people have undoubtedly tried Outlast II in the last few weeks. If you’ve already played the first game or if you’re starting with this sequel it makes virtually no difference as the stories bear little connection (save for some obscure references) and you’re essentially playing the same game anyway as all the mechanics are there.

What Outlast II does get right is horror- visceral gripping horror like the bogeyman stalking you through the night and psychological intravenous horror like the blood rushing through a dreamy corridor. You’ll ultimately meet your maker more than a few dozen times by the end of Outlast II because you were either jumped by the seemingly endless horde of bogeymen waiting in the shadows or gutted like a fish by a witch-like woman or you simply tried to take in the beautiful scenery through the film grain of your night vision camera and didn’t see the horribly scarred monstrosity before it was too late. The story is very much rooted in horror both physical and mental or spiritual and yet for all intents and purpose the environment and the encounters themselves tell a more intriguing story than the convoluted cultist conspiracy that Outlast II is at times.

That’s not to say I wasn’t thoroughly interested enough or invested enough to forego searching for notes and clues along the way or to read plenty of theories online with regard to the calamitous ending that wasn’t nearly as clear as Outlast’s Wahlrider ripping things apart. And while things are truly interesting because you’ll be questioning your sanity and surroundings as much as you did in Eternal Darkness or The Evil Within, they’re still inevitably confusing and ambiguous as can be which will prove frustrating for many gamers (or anybody who played Alan Wake). What is easy to grasp however is the vicious cycle of murder, rape, incest, greed, gluttony, suicide, and general sinfulness that the story follows and touches upon- whether through cultists in the present or the backstory of your camera-wielding protagonist.

While the first Outlast game offered many of the same opportunities for hiding and discovery as the sequel does, one of the most annoying aspects of the game is the fact that despite being in a much larger environment you’re somehow always running into enemies. And when you encounter an enemy this virtually means death unless you can run around in circles or luck out and manage to hide underwater without being found. Outlast II is both at its most annoying and most harrowing when you’re evading death by the skin of your teeth and that’s a real shame because it felt so much better in the original when you were confined to a lunatic asylum. Ironic that players had more freedom there than they seem to in this sequel.

One of the most intriguing advances in Red Barrels’ gameplay formula this time around is the ability to actually record footage with your camera which is not just a gimmick but doubles as your checkpoint feature and a way to commemorate portions of your deadly adventure. Of course you’re not likely to take part in some Blair Witch activities such as readily videoing a man being vivisected by cultists but then you never know what may be required when the time comes. The microphone on your camera will also tell you when enemies are nearby but considering the fact they almost always are and it’s pretty much never guaranteed whether or not they’ll sense your presence, don’t leave your hidey hole as soon as it says the coast is clear.

Some people accused The Walking Dead’s most recent television season of being veritable torture porn whenever Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan came on screen but if there’s anything that’s legitimately torture to watch it’s the sequences when you’re caught by cultists or other foes. I’ve witnessed many gruesome deaths in games such as Mortal Kombat and Dead Space before but the death animations and sometimes even the gruesome encounters that you actually survive are virtually scarring. Impaled, pick-axe to the scrotum, fingers chewed off, face mauled, head caved in- the list goes on. While the chases get your heart pumping and the consequences make it all the more important for you to escape your heartless and frenzied enemies it’s quite literally hard to stomach watching the same gruesome scene over and over again because some dumb AI can sniff you out no matter how long you run for.

The game has a lot to offer and expands the potential of the previous title and yet it never fully cashes in on any of what it has to offer- ultimately it falls down in the third act in terms of story and repetitive gameplay. What was once fresh and exciting becomes overdone and less tense or terrifying and more annoying and anticlimactic. It is one of the most visceral and intriguing glances into the mind and mental issues in gaming as well as the effects of torture and trauma on human beings yet the overall experience ends up being shallower despite the oozing ambition and potential. Outlast 1 was great because it was developed on a small budget and we weren’t exactly sure what to expect. Outlast II could’ve been great but it delivered too much of the same experience and doesn’t push the envelope enough to make the deep dive into uncharted horror territory. Instead you’re just a timid man with questionable mental issues and a puny camcorder, facing off against the dark.

Concept: You’re a journalist (again) making his way through a cultist infested Arizona landscape and trying to escape the nightmarish hallucinations and equally horrible reality.

Graphics: A step up from the original but it’s a real shame that you won’t be able to appreciate the majority of it due to the fact that the game is cloaked in shadow.

Sound: The sound quality and design make the experience a horrifying one as everything from the light tread of lurking footsteps to the shouting of cultists approaching rapidly adds to the tension.

Playability: The controls are minimal and handle smoothly enough but all you’ll have to worry about is handling your camera, reading notes, flipping switches, and running for your life.

Entertainment: Whereas horror was the reality in the first game, horror is more the mentality in this sequel. The game offers what seems to be a promising story only to yank it away at the end and leave you dumbfounded but not in a remotely good way. The gameplay is as tense and horrifying as before but it grows stale after awhile.

Replay Value: Moderate.

Overall Score: 7.0

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Pre-Review: The Surge and Injustice 2

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I’m going to do something I’m not normally wont to do today because I’m feeling overly tired but also overly excited about sharing my experience with both The Surge and Injustice 2 with other people. I’m going to talk about some of the non-spoiler yet intriguing elements of both recently released titles with you all and give you a taste of what I’ve experienced thus far, having had the games for thirty-six hours and played each for roughly twelve. Yes, I’ve had a rough and time consuming time of it and yet somehow I’ve survived to tell the tale.

I’ll start with The Surge, which has strangely enough been one of my most anticipated titles of 2017 ever since I heard about Deck13’s newest project. I was a fan of Lords of the Fallen in all of its Dark Souls glory and although Deck13 has been around for sometime that was probably their most successful and most quality-driven title to date. I mean, if you’ve played it then you can agree Venetica hardly takes the cake so prior to The Surge there weren’t really any real contenders anyway.

The Surge is everything you’ve heard it to be including a science fiction, exo-suit wearing, machine fighting Souls-style role-playing game. It sports some truly gorgeous visuals that fit right in with the rest of the realistic visuals depicting a dystopian industrial setting in a video game in the year 2017. But where it stands heads and shoulders above the competition in the Souls-game lookalike market is the combat system which is intuitive and fresh although still bears a resemblance to Lords of the Fallen.

In fact, for Deck13’s next project they could very well do something akin to Lords of the Fallen 2 if they wished and I’m sure it would be incredibly well received and also well done now that they have two triple-A caliber titles under their belt.

The combat system is dynamic and fluid in its ability to shift focus from each individual enemy limb and even different targets on the fly. It focuses on many of the same elements that Lords of the Fallen did but it also introduces a new and already critically appreciated dismemberment system like some role-playing version of Dead Space come alive again. Not only can you strategically maim foes and slice and dice your way through their exo-suits but you can also keep choice equipment and gear that you hack off if you time your strikes right.

It’s far more than a gimmick as this is pretty much the main way to grind and progress your way through the game and also it keeps the combat perpetually entertaining as you perform finisher after finisher like nothing we’ve seen since Darksiders II. Things can get a little repetitive at times but the combat keeps the otherwise same encounters fresh and constantly interesting throughout the experience when you aren’t exploring the deadly industrial setting. In some ways The Surge’s world reminds me of a smaller version of the expansive canvas that is Nier Automata. Both certainly have a lot of the same decaying urban vibe going as well as the whole mechanized foes shindig down.

So far my biggest takeaways for The Surge are that it looks and handles smoothly and beautifully, the combat is brutal and effective and entertaining, and the sheer amount of loot and cosmetic upgrades is astonishing. If any of that sounds intriguing to you and you don’t mind a little grind as you play through what will probably be at least a 40 hour experience that is already highly replayable, then I think The Surge may be a game for you to consider.

injustice-2

As much as I miss some of the cast of the original Injustice: Gods Among Us who don’t return in the sequel for reasons ranging from death (in the story mode) to irrelevance in this particular universe, the updated roster is better than ever. We may have traded Ares and additions like Lobo and Scorpion but now we have Ragey Rage Monster (Atrocitus) and Swamp Thing for example.

If you couldn’t tell, I’ve moved on from The Surge to Injustice 2 and I do hope you’ll stick around if you’re only reading this particular post for one of the two games mentioned. I’ve taken the liberty of playing through and also watching (courtesy of YouTube) every ending and cutscene in the story mode in order to be sure that I’ve missed absolutely nothing in terms of narrative prior to playing multiverse and multiplayer modes. As such, I can now officially call myself an even bigger DC nerd and Injustice fan- Injustice 2 not only builds upon the structure of the previous game but it adds in more depth than really seen outside of the Mortal Kombat series (also currently held by Ed Boon and NetherRealm).

Side note: Both Deck13 and NetherRealm Studios have some of the classiest and coolest studio logos among developers, I mean let’s just take a look here. Obviously NetherRealm wins but hey points for simplicity as well.

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“Classics never die…”

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“Alert Captain Kenway immediately!”

Returning to the matter at hand and continuing my already hazy stream of consciousness (or ramble or whatever) here… Injustice 2 does everything correctly in terms of following in the footsteps of its predecessor and it also adds carefully to the cultivated mix of gameplay and story in decisive fashion. Some of the new character models look a bit strange but that’s easily remedied by unlocking new skins and animations. The setting for each stage and the rich roster more than make up for any minuscule beef I may have over character designs such as the Joker or Superman.

Injustice 1 offered a high level of replayability and it’s easy to see that Injustice 2 also offers that in the newly minted multiverse gameplay mode as well as the variety of online offerings and challenges. The mobile app seems to even be better integrated this time around and although quality wise it is a lot lesser than its peers it is still an interesting use of a mobile app for once in gaming history aside from shameless marketing plugs and Smart Glass actions.

I won’t spill the beans on the best moments although you’re welcome to watch the nearly three hours of story cutscenes and endings. However, I will say that you should definitely play the narrative if only to serve as a good tutorial for what’s to come in other modes and an introduction to the world of Injustice if you’re unused to it. You may think you know DC characters but this is an entirely different ballgame and it’s a lot more difficult to discern friends from foes. Things are significantly less confusing concerning alternate universes this time around but that’s still a thing too.

Oh and in case you wanted to know, there are some sweet cameos and moments where characters that aren’t currently on the available roster make appearances within the story mode or otherwise are referenced. So be on the lookout for the slew of interesting DLC content to surely follow as well. And thanks you NetherRealm for making me not absolutely abhor Barry Allen anymore (as much).

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Milly Schmidt

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