Tag Archives: ps4

Opinion: Battlefield 1 Will Not Be “Number 1”

[As Written on GIO.]

battlefield_1_faceoff1

There’s no denying that DICE’s latest foray into war is looking much better than the hellish world it is portraying. We’ve been to World War II, we’ve seen Vietnam, we’ve experienced modern combat- now it’s time for the first war that changed it all. I’ll admit, I’ve been pumped to see the moving trailers and the interesting storylines being presented for EA’s next series shooter, however I still haven’t let that change the one thought ever-present in the back of my mind: Battlefield 1 will not be the best Battlefield game yet.

No, instead I expect it to appeal its case somewhere between Battlefield 3 and 4, even potentially moving into Hardline territory. Basically, it seems to be a beast of its own and hard to pin into any other category short of tossing it in with like-minded 1942 and 1943 based on general time period alone. I have no doubt that it will sell well and be rated accordingly, however some things still worry me a bit. And I have no doubt that Infinite Warfare and by token Modern Warfare Remastered will easily outpace it.

Battlefield 3 was at one point in time the pinnacle of Battlefield game besides the spinoff Bad Company 2. They’ve all had their share of glitches and bugs and sadly that’s come to be expected, but 3 rose above all else. Then came Battlefield 4 which was a continuation of the same old same old but injected some new things and brought a whole host of new glitches. Bigger wasn’t necessarily better, but it wasn’t worse. And then came Hardline which was a different breed entirely and not great but not terrible.

Battlefield has struggled with its narrative component for the last however many entries, but ironically that’s something Hardline didn’t do too poorly with. It toyed with some new ideas and opened things up more significantly than the largely linear exploits of 3 and 4. So that is why I say Battlefield 1 look to draw some inspiring elements from the much faster paced Hardline. I’m not sure whether or not this new approach to a solo campaign will pay off or not, as it sounds Call of Duty-esque in its attempt to jump from character point of view to character POV.

However, the multiplayer is looking as solid as ever even with its own host of sure to be there bugs. Many modes are returning and feel fresher than ever thanks to the new timeframe and new global perspective. But Battlefield 1 looks to be more than just a fresh coat of paint- it looks to be an entirely new and vivid experience in its own right. Whereas 4 was virtually an extended update on 3, Hardline was a breath of fresh air even if it changed the formula to the point that it was nearly unrecognizable. Battlefield 1 looks to not only return the series to its warzone roots but to catapult it higher as well.

I do not think Battlefield 1 will be as polarized as Hardline was with the fanbase, nor do I think it’ll be the best Battlefield game yet, but I do think it will bring the series’ name back where it belongs and I do think it’ll fare well enough in reviews. Unsurprisingly Infinite Warfare will outcompete, but that may be as much for its solid ideas as for the Remastered MW1. So without comparing the two juggernaut series, I think Battlefield 1 has a chance at quickly becoming one of the most popular games of 2016 regardless.

Battlefield 1 releases 10.21.16 for PC, Xbox One, and PS4.

Tagged , , , , ,

Hitman: Episode One Review

hitman-1

It has always been my belief, both in fundamentals and through what I’ve witnessed, that hitmen should be clean and not make a mess. I am of course referencing other Hitman titles, as I have not in fact been up close and personal with real-life hitmen. 2012’s Hitman: Absolution was a well-received game and sequel, even if it did change some of the established formula around. 2016’s Hitman is attempting to do so again, melding some sort of combination of Blood Money and the original title to Absolution’s gameplay, in addition to some other elements. Needless to say, this Hitman did not entirely stick his landing. I’m not so concerned with the quality of the game itself, rather the presentation here.

First you have the fundamental problem of cleanliness- we searched far and wide for details to be found on the title prior to its delayed release and were often in the dark. What a mess of a launch it initially had. Delays only add to already skeptical thoughts regarding episodic projects, particularly one promising a constant stream of content for players so that the experience does not grow stale. How do you take an open world and cram it into an episodic format? Hitman looks to answer that question, and we shall see how it fares each month with the dawn of a new episode, as well as week to week content availability. Scratch what you think you already know about Hitman’s Agent 47, this title is a prequel and not a continuation from Absolution’s hit storyline. In fact, 2016’s Hitman could almost be set in its own narrative entirely as it all but scraps the story in favor of returning to the roots of what Agent 47 does best: dealing death in creative ways.

The real question remaining is, how does this first episode fare? How much content is it able to provide players who have to make do for a month before new content becomes available in April? Honestly, Hitman was not created to be episodic whatsoever, so the narrative is already in the hole here. In fact, besides a few cutscenes you can bypass the story altogether- that is, if you haven’t already been doing that for the past decade in these sort of games. To say the content is enough is a stretch but I do think that the talented folks over at IO Interactive have crafted enough detail and content worthy of one episode, even if just barely so. As it is, in some ways this tutorial episode feels more like an evasion of the need to produce fully realized content, or perhaps a demo of a larger game. If they needed to have one more delay in order to release a larger product with a better story-oriented sandbox experience, I wouldn’t have been terribly disappointed. As it is, some things are too bland right now.

The feeling that this is in fact some elaborate demo or tutorial bundle is ever present in Hitman, most likely for the simple reason that the majority of the gameplay currently available to us is tutorial-based. Assuming we’re lucky and get a year’s worth of content from the developers, that means Hitman will have taken about four times longer than Absolution to develop roughly the same number of chapters (episodes in this case). Granted, the levels here are much larger in scale than many of Absolution’s more intricate and detailed ones, but still. That’s insane. You start off playing through (surprise!) tutorial segments in order to acclimate yourself to the control scheme, which is very tight as should be expected for fans. I’d go so far as to say this and the level of detail in the environment coupled with kill opportunities are the three greatest, stand-out selling points to be found in the game so far.

After a couple of tutorial missions that make sure you grasp the basics, Agent 47 is unleashed upon the rest of the unsuspecting world. It’s a bit disappointing that the tutorials take place in a pretty confined training ground rather than serving as an introductory mission perhaps in a varied locale. Thankfully however, besides the major Paris map available to players, there is also a map on par with the majority of past Hitman titles including Absolution in terms of size. The military base mission is just as interesting as the Paris fashion show one, allowing for a plethora of kill opportunities as well as candid exploration for potential player contracts to craft and dole out as you deem fit. So while in the grand scheme of things the game may be a bit barebones at the moment, I have hope for the future and that IO can come through with their promises to constantly add content and update and tweak things.

Here I was thinking Absolution looked gorgeous, but Hitman actually steps things up a tad thanks to the visual performance of the current generation of consoles. Paris is beautifully rendered and seems a lot more lifelike than some of Absolution’s locales which seemed desolate at worst and faked or forced at best at times. Take Absolution’s Chinatown and magnify that by about seven and you’ve maybe got a sense of how crowded and expansive this particular Parisian venue is. Surprisingly, even the size of the map adds to the challenge of formulating a plan to assassinate high value targets, as it makes simple memorization of patrol patterns and routes all the more difficult as well. Figuring out where special opportunities reside is exhilarating as usual, and utilizing disguises and weapons in order to make your assassination look accidental among a crowded venue is nerve wracking at times too.

With this expanded space comes understandable complications in the already trial and error methodology of assassination prevalent in the Hitman series. Thankfully this is also managed by the inclusion of “opportunities” which highlight specific details in the environment that may benefit players- such as costumes, weapons, and convoluted kills. Maneuvering plays a much bigger role than simply tracking your target’s repetitive movement pattern in this installment, however the gameplay is largely unaffected and basically the same as previous entries, which doesn’t have to be a bad thing at all. Don’t expect to achieve the best possible outcome in your assassinations without some prior planning and a little extra legwork in accomplishing some secondary tasks throughout the missions. Getting the signature kill is still a feat only the worthy can successfully pull off.

Hitman has always been about replayability, but now with only a select amount of content available to play, you have no choice but to keep playing the same things over and over. The first dozen times this will probably be perfectly acceptable, however even larger maps can only offer so much of a challenge before they become boring and players get burnt out. There is the potential promise of a so-called ‘Escalation’ mode however it basically features the same mission parameters with slight deviations and still expects you to carry out repetitive assassinations in order to progress. Meaning even more replay time, in case you somehow missed something the other forty times you played through. Thankfully user creation and contracts factor into the mix, adding somewhat of a less quality-driven but higher replay value mission generator. I must say however, even the contract options here were a step down from those offered in Absolution, which is a disappointment.

Needless to say, the few highlights of this title so far mostly revolve around playability- considering the fact that the controls are thankfully one of the few things that seem perfectly balanced and can be relied upon. The story is mundane and bound to be forgotten by the time the next episode releases, meaning you’ll just have to play the damn thing another time! The environments look great but the animation and voice work diminish an otherwise spectacular experience with their terribleness and at times unexpected glitched encounters. Basically, I’d say you’re much better off waiting for the actual finished product to ship in one piece than to pick up the game in its current form. If all of the content were in one place and available, maybe I could more readily judge it based on the full package rather than episode by episode in its forgettable and incomplete form. What’s here isn’t bad, it just isn’t much.

Concept: More Hitman, less of a hit.

Graphics: The graphics constantly blew me away. They looked even better than those present in last generation’s impressive Absolution and they didn’t seem particularly bothered much no matter how much action was on screen at any given time. Animation work could’ve been handled much better conversely.

Sound: The voice work was often so terrible as to not even be laughably bad. The music was equally nonexistent at times.

Playability: It’s the controls that save this package in my mind. If they had been anything less than stellar, it would’ve doomed the entire project.

Entertainment: What’s here is a lot of fun to experiment with and dabble in, however it feels more like a demo of the full game than a release of anything meaningful in its own right. I hope IO can come through with their promise of constant content production, but even still a month is a bit too long to wait to play the next step in the journey.

Replay Value: Moderate.

Overall Score: 7.0/10.0

Tagged , , , , ,

Firewatch Review

2609427-firewatch

Campo Santo has done something special with Firewatch. The first and obvious comparisons will be to games like Gone Home which are in the first person but feature little to no interactivity in terms of action. These games are more so aesthetically and narrative driven, a very coloring or storybook genre, akin to the more action-packed and decision based Telltale episodic games. The main difference between Firewatch and Gone Home however lies in the amount of leeway players are given, or given the illusion of having. Both experiences are very much linear ones, do not make the mistake of thinking Firewatch is set in a lush sandbox by any means just because it looks that way. Surrounded though you are by woods on all sides, it is not only a linear experience but one that has minimal action as well. The main draw lies in the narrative.

Campo Santo’s first adventure gives the illusion that there is both an open world surrounding you and that some of the gameplay is action oriented. Now, these “action-packed” moments are little more than scripted occurrences, but they still get the blood pumping and progressive the narrative at the same time as they keep a hand to the pulse of the gameplay to keep things from growing stale or going cold. It’s the moments like this and the simple trappings of nature that surround you when you pause for a moment and just gaze around that bring this game to life, not to mention the mysterious circumstances that slowly build throughout the fateful summertime exploits of Henry the fire watcher.

Just like Gone Home, Henry’s backstory is an important detail in Firewatch and does not disappoint or lack attention to detail in its simplicity. He’s escaping a marriage quickly stagnating and taking up residence in the backwoods of Wyoming, serving as a fire watcher for the driest part of the year. Although the better part of the game’s narrative progression is sparked by walkie talkie conversations between Henry and his supervisor Delilah as well as through notes and papers scattered about, there is still a rich story to be found if you pay close attention to the environments and interactions both up close and from afar.

The whole game seems like it should be something of a mundane, potentially even boring experience, but I can assure you though it lacks action it is anything but. It is far from perfect and it may not even be superb or great, but for its eerie and mysterious moments I can only give fairly deserved praise. There are simple moments where you can just look around and observe, and then there are tense moments where you’re trying to figure out just what is going on, whether there’s some sort of conspiracy to uncover, a disappearance, or some other foul behavior or characters of ill repute on the prowl. Firewatch does a good job of keeping players guessing, and I must say it unravels rather like an onion- layer by layer, not eagerly showing its full hand and even leaving some questions at the end.

Ironically, Henry is looking for some measure of peace in his duties as a fire watcher and I’m sure he’s very disappointed to learn that this is not in fact what he stumbles upon. Instead, he experiences fear, paranoia, and constant scrutiny for the duration of the game and throughout specific events that will test his resolve and wits. It’s not as cerebral an experience as Gone Home is known to be, rather more of a deceptive at times and downright eerie one at others. Firewatch seems to be about relationships more than anything else- how they can be built up or torn down. Not just between Henry and Delilah or others the player will interact with through some form or another, but between other characters you learn about as well.

A curious little thing called interactive dialogue keeps the game exciting when it needs to be and even adds a little player choice to the concoction, meaning it isn’t just a point, click, and discover adventure like Gone Home largely was. I guess this will also in some ways add to the replayability of the title, but not in any large way. Most situations are going to play out entirely the same regardless of the way the conversation leads up to them. While that may sound disappointing, don’t be too down because what is there is already pretty enjoyable. Delilah is a welcome source of both narrative exposition over the radio and knowledge about local lore and the surroundings themselves. Feel free to radio her at pretty much any moment throughout the game for interesting conversations and observations.

Not only is Firewatch set in the wilds of Wyoming, but it is also set thirty years or so in the past in an age of Reaganomics and nationalism. The backdrops already seem somewhat surreal in the way they blend and blur the lines between realistic natural settings and graphically designed and moisturized postmarks. The setting itself adds to the narrative in subtler ways than most games that take place in the past, but it is well-handled and a welcome change of pace from other titles that overuse famous figures and landmarks. Exploring around the national forest will occasionally open up new and intriguing finds for collection or documentation, of which players should take note in terms of how it will subtly craft and mold the story over time.

The scripted sequences that progress the narrative and the interactions through relationship building and dialogue are the finer points of the game and make the experience one that I would say is entirely worth it even though the second and third acts gradually slack off and leave a sour taste in the mouth. What starts as a mystery I would love to uncover gradually morphs into something that even X-Files would shudder at in terms of just how much it seems to retcon earlier information and make liberal use of “video game logic.” What is at first an entirely believable and enjoyably realistic experience seems to hoodwink even the player themselves and end with a less than stellar thought.

Concept: Explore the wilderness and a potential cover up and other intriguing events in the backwoods of Wyoming over the course of a summer with your fellow fire watchers.

Graphics: It certainly has its own unique look and reminds me more of graphics or posters sometimes than a realistic or cartoon style of visuals in games.

Sound: Although characters never meet face to face per se, the voice work is well done and showcases an incredible level of detail and emotion in the way it conveys the words from script to realization.

Playability: It is quite literally a stroll through the woods and an enjoyable experience lacking difficulty but not lacking for substance.

Entertainment: Games in this genre are slow going but if you can get into the story then you’ll be right at home for at least seventy percent of the game or so.

Replay Value: Low.

Overall Score: 7.0

Tagged , , , ,

The Witness Review

original

I just first want to congratulate Jonathan Blow and the magical minds behind this particular project on yet another success. Since Braid, I’ve been eagerly anticipating projects that cater not only to my sense of curiosity and wonder, but also provide a solid experience and aesthetic pleasure to go along with mind-bending and detail-oriented gameplay and stories and clues galore. The Witness definitely accomplishes this and pushes the buck a little bit further along, daring others to attempt to do the same or (so I blasphemously must say) surpass it altogether. Within this game, puzzles, environment, and story- what can be gleaned from your actions and from the mysterious picture you must slowly build around you, are top tier and top notch.

For those of you interested in some of the design process or perhaps just in the creators’ intent and thoughts surrounding this project or other ones, feel free to visit the semi-official website for The Witness here as well. As for my own opinions about the game, I suggest you continue reading in order to find out just how well I have received it. Without further ado, let’s get to the meat of this review. As usual, apologies for any ill-made mistakes, typos, or edits that may or may not be found within the base text of this review.

I appreciate the fact that games often come around once or twice in a console generation that challenge players to think differently or to otherwise revise their stance on how exactly games themselves are supposed to work. Oftentimes puzzle games fill this role, but sometimes it’s a much simpler archetype such as the shooter revolution that came first with Halo: Combat Evolved, and later with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Last console generation we had the (arguably) strongest part of Valve’s Orange Box- Portal, and for the current console generation there could be a strong argument that The Witness fills these same or similar shoes in opening players’ eyes to new concepts. It may be too early to tell, but it is never too early to recognize a wonderful game for the concepts it leaves us constantly thinking of.

All great games and all great puzzle games start with a simple concept or two and then build upon that. Where most games that end up being sub-par make their mistakes or fall down is when they try to be something they aren’t or when they try to become too complex too early on. You can have as steep of a skill curve as you want in a game, however it has to be fun and genius at its core for that to work. Dark Souls takes your life in its hands and repeatedly crushes it, often alongside your hopes and dreams, but at its core the relentless punishment and extremely brutal bosses and challenging gameplay is fun because the experience is made entirely worthwhile by a plethora of other concepts and ideas along the way. Puzzle games such as The Witness should be treated no differently.

You awake on an island that has numerous nooks and crannies, ruins and hovels, scenic spots and shadowy hollows, mechanical and electronic devices galore. Your only real focus, other than figuring out just what is going on, is to connect monitors and grids like a circuit board essentially. For one inhabitant, the world of The Witness is easily one of the most impressive things about the game. The environment is gorgeously rendered and the way it in and of itself connects gameplay and concepts is also ingenious, proving that neither aesthetic pleasure nor pure gameplay need take from one or the other in order to craft a veritable masterpiece.

Think of Tron’s “grid” if you will, while thinking of an explanation for the bulk of gameplay elements in The Witness. Although you have some amount of freedom in exploration, you can’t break away from the grid for long in terms of puzzle solving or connecting start points with end points. Pathways that you create serve a purpose and are quite important. Each grid sports a different symbol- maybe its a polygonal shape or a character of sorts, but you must form that from start to end in order to solve a little piece of the bigger puzzle. Trust me when I say even the littlest of details make a difference in your surroundings, so if something seems off it is almost assuredly so on purpose or to hint at something else. Don’t expect to use the same trick or see the same clues every time however as the complexity and subsequently the difficulty and uniqueness of each grid area or puzzle increases over time. Just about the time you start to catch on, the game shifts perspectives and throws something else at you.

I’m going to make yet another reference to Portal here, and I hope you’ll excuse me if I continue to do so, but the action is appropriate in this instance. The Witness share some similar ideas, not necessarily in terms of puzzle ideas or mounting difficulty, rather in how it goes about presenting each puzzle or grid area. The majority of puzzles in specific areas, akin to the test chambers in the not-so open world of Portal, all fall into a similar or same category. For instance in Portal 2 there were a few chambers in a row focusing mainly on light bridges and goop. In The Witness, as with most puzzle games, you should expect to see newer elements slowly introduced and further ingrained into gameplay and built upon. It only makes sense to do as more and more opportunities and actions open up to players.

Although there are a plethora of puzzles to be solved in The Witness, I suppose you could say that they all fall into specific groups, or perhaps “focuses” as well. For instance, the island itself could definitely be broken down by the way the grid itself splits things up into specific areas of gameplay, each with its own focus in terms of puzzles and concepts. You could solve anywhere from say six to eight smaller puzzles in one longer “sequence” of sorts before you start to run into gradually larger and more complicated puzzles in one specific area of the island. If you think scratching your head over one small concept is giving you fits, imagine when that concept blows the doors wide open and hits you with a sucker punch in the face when you run into a larger, more complex and intense situation.

Don’t think that the game will be a cakewalk for fans of puzzle games or entirely too difficult for newcomers to the genre. In reality, I think The Witness performs excellently in terms of moderation- meaning it knows when to teach but it also knows when to assume players generally understand the tools and concepts they’ve been given and just what to do with a little brain power, elbow grease, and general spirit. Don’t mistake my comment as assurance that you will in fact be able to complete the game however. You may get stuck and find yourself forced to shut your brain off and come back to the game a week later, hoping that you’ll have a fresher perspective and be able to make more progress in the matter. By no means is The Witness impossible, but it’s also by no means easy. Definitely take notes and don’t assume you’ll remember everything you see or come across. It may take trial and error sometimes, but I’d prefer to associate that with experimentation rather than hoping you’ll get lucky and flick the right pattern or switch into place.

Unlike the largely linear experience presented in most puzzle games, The Witness actually allows you to freely leave a puzzle in progress in order to go solve other ones around the island. You also don’t even have to feel pressured to complete every single puzzle in the game in order to complete it, although I’d imagine that should probably be your goal if at all possible. In terms of storytelling, this jumping around isn’t prone to mess with much as the story is more of what you make it than really anything so established as a specific plot. Everything is all mysterious and nothing is ever quite fully confirmed, which definitely leaves things up to the player’s imagination which I thoroughly appreciated. You’re presented with the cold hard facts as they are- what will work and what won’t, and that’s simply that.

Now, there is some loose basis of a slight hint of a plot to be found, and that is through select recordings scattered about the island in sometimes devious, sometimes easy-to-access areas. These won’t do much to quell the questions, but they may sate some of your burning desire to get to the bottom of things, if only a little bit before the game’s ending. None of this should really detract from the experience however as at its core, The Witness is a test of logic. There are frustrating moments, but nothing beats the thrill of successfully completing a puzzle or a series of puzzles and discovering something new about the world you’ve been presented. Instead of questioning the purpose of things or asking the horrid “why” question, start exploring and figuring out how things work and what affects what. It’s all almost brilliantly philosophical in some ways.

Concept: Exploration and puzzle solving presented in a rich environment where no stone should be left unturned and no detail, however minimal ignored.

Graphics: The art-style is uniquely rendered and attention to detail beautiful to behold. Some may consider it basic or simple, but then things don’t need to be unnecessarily complicated to be gorgeous.

Sound: There’s more of an argument to be made for the ambiance than there is to be made for a soundtrack or voice work, but what there is of everything here is more than adequate and only adds to the sense that you’re isolated and surrounded by mystery.

Playability: Complicated puzzles can sometimes make games an exercise in frustration, but you should never be angered by difficulty even when you are stumped as the game is precise and easy to grasp once you get the hang of things.

Entertainment: It’s puzzle-solving at its finest or close enough thereto. Puzzle after puzzle will challenge how you think and what you know. Don’t stop to question motive or intent, but soak up the rich scenery and equally rich gameplay elements.

Replay Value: High.

Overall Score: 9.0

Tagged , , , , ,

Watch Dogs Review

[As Read on GIO.]

Ubisoft has tried their hand at crafting their fair share of open-world romps within the past few years- most recently Far Cry 3 among them, and has performed fairly well. As you’ll soon gather from my review here, Watch Dogs isn’t the greatest game out there to do it, nor the best looking next-gen title, however it more than adequately gets the job done. We’ve seen more than our fair share of demo videos for the game since two E3s ago, and the final product lives up to some promises and falls down on others, a result often found in today’s industry as developers find themselves pressured more and more to get more done than they originally intended, and end up either axing content or crafting sub-par content in specific areas here and there. On the whole, Watch Dogs is a fairly impressive new IP as well as a potential future money-maker for Ubisoft should they get their act more together and craft a truly quality sequel worth of this new generation and the hardware it offers up. The delay of the game’s initial release- postponed until May 27th of this year, did not add or detract much from the game’s final product and ultimately skeptics may have been the more correct of the two areas of thought in the format of the released product, it being slightly worse for wear than what was initially showed off.

It should come as no surprise that players take up the trench coat, phone carrying cowl of hacker and disgruntled wayfarer Aiden Pearce in this particular Ubisoft revenge tale. In fact, despite the vast differences, there could be many parallels drawn between Watch Dogs’ and Assassin’s Creed II’s revenge stories. Utilizing the citywide operating system that Chicago now runs on, Pearce is able to systematically hijack and take down many digital systems in order to rid himself of pursuers, kill foes in innovative new ways, and generally cause mayhem in his quest for vengeance and retribution for his deceased niece. Of course, when all else fails, he’s more than able to pick up a gun and use that to his advantage as well, even in combination with his hacking expertise. The story itself may seem like something out of one of those movie cliches, as it deals with an obviously corrupt corporation with far-reaching powers and influence. Pearce is pitted against said company which apparently had his niece murdered, and after many twists and turns throughout the decent story, he finally comes out on top…well sort of I guess, but that’s for another day. Also, let’s talk for a minute about who thought it was a good idea to put the entire city on one operating system- that’s pretty outlandish, but of course completely created for the purpose of this particular story, as otherwise it would’ve been a lot harder for Pearce to accomplish all he does. That’s beside the point however.

Watch Dogs is a pretty well designed open-world romp, even if it doesn’t feature the best of stories or specific gameplay elements. It is very strong in some areas and particularly weak in others, but its too late to really avoid that right now of course. Your time is split locomotion wise pretty evenly between traversing the environment on foot and in the variety of vehicles available for hijacking- including cars, boats, and motorcycles. As Watch Dogs isn’t a racing game, the vehicle controls could be much better, but they are far from terrible. I particularly enjoy the cars in Rockstar titles such as GTA and LA Noire, but Watch Dogs’ work as well for what you’re given. The other good thing about the way that the vehicles do handle is the fact that you can smash through just about any breakable environmental object and not have to deal with getting thrown out of or off of whatever it is you’re driving- like in GTA (the infamous no-enter poles and beams) or other open-world titles such as Mercenaries. In this respect, one could easily compare the level of possible environmental destruction to something out of a car crushing game such as Burnout or Full Auto or something of a similar sort, which is never a bad thing in my book. Of course, bear in mind that your foes have similarly god-like abilities in vehicles and will definitely use this to their advantage. Also, unlike GTA, you cannot equip weapons whilst driving- you can however hack environmental objects to cause mayhem, which may be even more fun.

Now, if you choose to approach things from an on-foot perspective, which is completely viable in most instances, you’re privy to quite a few more enjoyable hacking features than you may encounter the use or need for in vehicular segments. Hacking, being an integral part of the game of course, is also integral in combat and general locomotion and encounters. You can watch foes on camera in order to get the drop on them or give them the slip. You can use your hacking abilities to activate environmental traps and cause mayhem and you can also change the environment as well- much like you can in vehicular chases, by raising or lowering items and performing other helpful tasks. Watch Dogs is by no means an FPS or TPS but the shooting mechanics shine when they are employed as well, although to anybody playing I would heartily recommend a more cautious, stealthy approach to combat if it can’t be avoided, as it feels much more meaningful and is more fun that way. Sort of like something out of FEAR, but not to that particular extent (but think BulletTime), you can temporarily slow time and use it to either avoid bad guys, hide, or line up the perfect shot and take out a few foes. Thus, combat feels satisfying and is quite effective both in all-out shootouts and stealth approaches in the game, making for a fun open-world experience as well as a down-to-earth shooter when the occasion calls.

Talking more about the matter of hacking in-game, there are plenty of opportunities to do so, as well as to implement the new hacking abilities and upgrades you are constantly learning as you advance through the game. The classic approaches as shown in the tutorial and demo videos are always viable and versatile options- from overloading steam pipes to raising guard posts, however there are also several other abilities to be learned such as changing traffic signals, hacking into characters’ phones, and causing citywide sirens and alarms to distract essential personnel and cause general chaos to cover an escape or infiltration. The city is your weapon, here more literally than in any other game that has promised it. Hacking during car chases works well, but it is much more limited than on-foot hacking in that you must actually pass the hackable objects and you must begin the hack as the game prompts you to, otherwise you’re liable to have to circle around and start over again. Also, as you must level up your hacks and learn new ways to hack into systems, not all of these objects will initially be open to you. This can be frustrating, however it also translates well into adding to the feeling of steady progression of skills throughout the game, and pays off well later.

I’ve given you a glimpse at some of the general gameplay of the title- focusing of course of hacking and hijacking systems and vehicles, but lets go to a broader, graphical glimpse of the game and see how it shapes up as well. Depending largely on what system you get it on, Watch Dogs can look pretty good or pretty average. Obviously it looks the best on the new-generation consoles, specifically the Play Station 4. However, it doesn’t look too terribly different on PC or the previous console generation. This having been said, don’t expect the visual hype at least to live up to the grand expectations presented several E3s ago, as the game looks good, but no better than a lot of titles we’ve already seen before. It has its moments and doesn’t look bad, but particular textures can be muddied and torn at times which is never a good sign. For this reason, it is easily noticeable that Watch Dogs is indeed a cross-generation title and not a truly next-generation one alone, because it was built to conform to current standards and not so much to utilize the entirety of the potential tech available on new platforms. On the bright side however, Chicago is represented as an excellent open-world hub, the interactions with the environment and new areas that you travel to are seamless about ninety-five percent of the time, and on the whole- despite some degrading moments, the game looks and feels great and flows well.

For the most part, Ubisoft does a great job of making interesting campaign missions and side activities, giving characters a variety of ways to complete tasks and to broaden their play styles as well. As with any open-world title, there are plenty of repetitive aspects to be found in Watch Dogs’ content, however there are also several unconventional missions and encounters that will stick with you- from busting up your enemies’ “parties” to guiding NPCs that actually, surprisingly take orders well and don’t completely screw things up every chance they get. All of these encounters come off as fast-paced and fresh thanks in most part also to your skills as a hacker, and not necessarily because of your shooting prowess, although that doesn’t hurt either. Don’t think you’ll blow through the game in one sitting however, because despite some of the repetitive action, there is plenty to be found in the way of collectibles and experienced a la side content similar to that of Grand Theft Auto V. Heck, Ubisoft even managed to incorporate some interesting multiplayer elements into the main game itself, as other players can spawn in-game and hack you, chase you around and terrorize you, or even sort of assist you from the shadows. Of course, it’s even more fun to turn the table on an unsuspecting victim of yours as well, and it certainly beats preying on the completely oblivious AI as well, so going after truly human targets is much more of a challenge and thrill ride.

I’ve talked (mostly) about what Watch Dogs does well or at least marginally well at, so now it is only fair that I talk some more about the areas that the game could realize use some work on- for one reason or another. As previously mentioned, repetitive mission structure is a large issue, and many times missions that start off interestingly boil down to the same chase scenes and hacking tutorials, which can really put a damper on the overall experience. There are several cheap opportunities to extend the gameplay so to speak which Ubisoft also takes, opting to produce foes with an insane amount of padding to make fights more drawn out, as well as scripted tailing and pursuing missions that generally just aren’t fun at all in most cases. Ubisoft also bounces around the board as far as a story goes and doesn’t really convey it as meaningfully as they could or should have, leaving me not really caring about many of the characters and simply wanting to enjoy the sandbox open-world moments presented- which is fine, thankfully in a game such as this. Aiden Pearce’s character doesn’t have the greatest set-up, but it works, as you’re able to really make what you want out of him and craft the experience as you wish- one of the finer points of the title, despite the general failings in the character department elsewhere. Talking more about the story, the vast majority of it- while not necessarily forgettable, is often stupid, sardonic, and crass to say the least. I get that other games like GTA do this as well, but at least they can pull it off and the tone fits- here, it just didn’t click quite as well as I would’ve liked.

Now, despite its numerous failings in both story and at times graphics and overall visuals, as well as its failure to deliver on several early promises, Watch Dogs is far from a bad game. It is a really enjoyable and replayable experience, even if it is a highly flawed one as well. As with many similarly flawed titles of its genre and caliber, the main attraction and the main thing that works the most in Watch Dogs is in fact its open-world setting and the relative freedom players are allowed in deciding what they want to do or where they want to go, as well as when and why or why not. Choice and hacking capabilities alone make this a worthwhile title to play, even if it isn’t quite the hit they were looking for. I for one certainly enjoyed my time with this game, as well as the fact that it retained similarities to their other recent titles- such as Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry, without going overboard into those territories at all. If there’s one thing that can be said about it, it’s that Watch Dogs is certainly one of a kind- even if it isn’t because it’s sailed into uncharted territory, and is only because there hasn’t really yet been a game quite like it in conceptual terms. If they do choose to make it a series, which seems viable considering it sold pretty well, I’d be interested to see the hopefully improved sequel and to compare its rights and wrongs to those of this title as well.

Concept: Explore open-world Chicago as the revenge-seeking, trenchcoat and ballcap clad hacker Aiden Pearce. Enjoy some cheap thrills and spills, laugh at the mostly overdone story moments, and torment the people of the city with environmental chaos and hijacking of the citywide OS employed by a corrupt corporation.

Graphics: The game looks good on most consoles and devices, however there are times when it is visually muddied, and it doesn’t like up to the frame rate or overall graphical awareness originally promised as well.

Sound: There are several tunes in-game that work and several that don’t. The accompanying score works in most instances where the licensed content doesn’t.

Playability: With the exception of the odder than not vehicle controls, the other mechanics handle fantastically. Naturally, because of the vehicle controls, pretty much any of these mechanics being used during chases are more frustrating than not.

Entertainment: It’s in its own class and genre thanks to the exceptional hacking abilities afforded to your character, and overall it’s quite an enjoyable experience. Also, there are some doge jokes to be made about and in the game. I kid you not. Seriously.

Replay Value: High.

Overall Score: 8.0

Tagged , , , , , ,

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review

[As Read on GIO.]

Gasping for Air, Yet Again…

In my mind, Spider-Man 2 for the original Xbox and for Game Cube will always be the best portrayal of the friendly neighborhood spider vigilante. Since then, we’ve had one good game (Shattered Dimensions) and several poor portrayals of the webslinger. Of these various incarnations however, the only good reviews for one that is truly open world have come from- wait for it… Spider-Man 2 (by Treyarch, by the way). Shattered Dimensions, Beenox’s first major excursion on their own with the creepy crawly in 2010 turned out to be quite an interesting game in terms of both story and gameplay, even if it traded open world cityscape for smaller more confined segments and levels. GI gave Dimensions an 8.5 out of 10, and I personally rated it 8/10- so it’s a pretty decent game and certainly better than Spider-Man 3 (both the movie and game combined, essentially) which at most deserves a 6.25 or so.

Then came 2011’s Spider-Man sequel, Edge of Time- an adventure now narrowed down to only two spider-men (2099’s Miguel Herrera and normal day Petey Pie). This particular game used mostly the same compartmentalized formulas as Dimensions, although a few noticeable changes were made- none of which sadly came away as improvements, as the game was ultimately worse than the former title. GI gave it a 6.5 out of 10 and I myself a 6.0 out of 10. Finally, Beenox decided to return to the more open-world genre with the first Amazing Spider-Man title, adding in new elements, familiar foes, and a new plot-line as well. This sort of worked, but they faced many of the issues they had encountered with Edge of Time, and the game’s story was abominable if it even existed, and on top of that it wasn’t really a true open-world title with likewise open mechanics- things were still compartmentalized even if the scope was larger.

For a moment however, before I get into more detail about the previous not-so Amazing Spider-Man title, let’s think back to 2009’s interesting but ultimately ill-fated Web of Shadows. Okay, now flash forward to 2012’s Amazing Spider-Man. Seeing the comparison? Yes, they both did poorly, both were pretty crappy overall, and both received similar scores from both GI and myself. GI’s Reeves gave Amazing Spider-Man a 6.75 out of 10 whereas I, the always pessimistic reviewer (well, sometimes you’d think so in comparison) gave it a 6.5 out of 10. By the way, Web of Shadows got a 6.5 from GI, but honestly I think it’s a better game- not graphically of course, but plot and mechanics wise totally. Now, with that extensive recap of Spidey’s horrible recent history, you may be wondering just what point I’m trying to get at here… if you said that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 blows then *ding ding ding we’ve got a winner!

By now you’ve more than likely read Reeves’ latest review concerning the game, yeah the one where he gave it a generous 5.5 out of 10. Why do I say generous? Because I know that’s more points than some people would give it. Including myself actually, as I am giving it a whopping 50%, 5 out of 10, and 50 out of 100 as scores go. Now, generally I review mostly decent games and the lowest you’ll see my scores dip are the occasional 6 or maybe a 4 or 5 (Colonial Marines). Today however is a sad day, as I had hoped this particular sequel would be better than the previous ‘Amazing’ and yet as I should’ve probably expected, even with such already low expectations, I was let down once again. It didn’t seem possible, but things got even worse for New York City.

Let’s start off with the fact that essentially every aspect of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 comes from other games and honestly what is ‘new” and “unique” to this title alone shouldn’t be associated with it, as it’s mostly the rubbish elements of it. The open world setting has been done numerous times already, and better before- well, with the exception of the first Amazing Spider-Man and Web of Shadows since they weren’t handled very well either. Hell, Spider-Man 3 did a better job of it! This version of New York City, like its predecessor, is bland and unimaginative, and makes me cringe honestly for the people of New York now associated with it and this game’s ‘failure to launch.’ Elements that should coincide hand in hand with open world themes- side missions and extras to collect and commiserate over, are there but at this point I’d rather they not be since they are equally as unimaginative and poorly designed as the main plot and settings are. With the exception of a few faces not as commonly seen in the video game iterations of the series (lately anyway, and basically Carnage), pretty much every enemy has been recycled repeatedly since 2004’s Spider-Man 2. Yes, this means you get a little bit of Kraven for the umpteenth time.

I’d tell you more about the story specifically, but I don’t even remember the key plot points! And trust me, that isn’t just because I wasn’t paying attention or went into some drug-induced daze because of how poorly constructed the game was- it is literally so forgettable that you may as well ignore the story and just swing around the city. At least that mechanic sort of works better in this sequel than it did previously with all the web to surface junk and no true free-swinging. What I do recall didn’t really impress me all that much, and I’m also pretty sure had essentially nothing whatsoever to do with the movie’s plot- in fact I’m pretty sure several major character were missing entirely from this game, except for villains of course (they squeezed in as many as possible, gah). Something about some bs excuse for getting what is essentially the Sinister Six together, hunting Spider-Man (shocker!), and Green Goblin being a jerk- not that I’d have it any other way of course. Thankfully, no Mary Jane thrill rides like Spider-Man 3…unless that’s a secret unlock.

What really threw me for a loop however was the fact that any of the characters that are actually in the movie don’t look like or sound remotely like their actors. So…um…this is still a movie tie-in game? Hmm…we need some more sacred cow barbecues to light- you could probably do one just for the last ten years worth of Spidey games honestly. Also, if you’ve noticed the trend of me pretty much spouting off all the bad things this game incorporates and how poorly executed it has been, expect for that to continue- as much of a review as this is, if you’d read it without knowing that you very well could mistake it for a full-on roast session. Harkening once more back to the ever-greater Spider-Man 2, Spidey gains experience and can use it to unlock new upgrades, combos, and suits- the only cool element of which is the suit selection, since Beenox at least prides themselves on having cool looking comic tie-ins and timeline references. As for the combos and general web and combat upgrades, you could virtually do without any of them- they’re so nonessential in the mediocre, borderline QTE (you can basically dodge-counter the entire time), combat that it is just horribly disappointing.

Once more, like Spider-Man 2, these upgrades include swing speeds- how fast Spidey can loop de loop and scurry around the city essentially, and also random aerial and ground attacks that are very pale (Edward Cullen pale) in comparison to Spidey 2’s good ol’ Pile Driver and Lampost Webbing- good times those two… *sniff Some of the upgrades will induce even more general loathing, as they are essentially upgrades for mundane tasks any ordinary human being can perform, much less a super human with super strength, agility, and reflexes- and yes, I am referring to requiring an upgrade to pick up objects (I kid you not) and toss them halfheartedly at your foes. Sorry if I was mistaken in believing that Spider-Man was supposed to not only be amazing but a superhero, not some slacker superzero.

As with many superhero related games of recent notoriety (not necessarily the good kind), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 wants to defy all Marvel logic and be Batman- or rather utilize many combat mechanics made popular by the excellent Arkham brawler series. However, the action in Not-So Amazing Spidey 2 is so ridiculously insipid and easy that this isn’t even required, much less integrated well anyways. Beenox tries to throw in the whole sort of ‘strategic’ gameplay element of “remove this armor before attacking” and “stun this guy” but it comes too little too late in the game for it to be of any real challenge or consequence. Plus, if you have gotten any upgrades whatsoever, you’re probably so much of a tank anyway that you can web blast everyone to Oblivion and back. Basically however, you can easily get away with dodging and counter-attacking any enemies regardless of size, which you can of course in Arkham as well in most circumstances. It just happens to be more cumbersome in this case and more boring as that goes. I swear, even the boss fights weren’t tense or exciting- unless of course the game glitched and unexpected things and mayhem ensured, that’s always interesting in borderline broken and crappy games!

Essentially, there is one interesting gimmick that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has going for it: the hero or menace variable meter. Pretty much as it sounds, if you causes chaos and are a jerk towards most citizens- interpreted in game as not stopping enough crimes, you’re dubbed a menace in typical J. Jonah Jameson fashion. However, if you’re an angelic guardian and bust some criminal heads together, you’re a hero. Yay! Well, that’s basically that… Oh, and needless to say the side missions are even less imaginative than the main plot, and pretty much as bad and boring as those of Spider-Man 3 (which means pretty poorly thought out and thrown in numerous amounts of times). I hope you like rescuing people clinging to the side of buildings for whatever reason and stopping car hijackings, because you’ll be doing that dozens of times!

As my final piece of review point here, I want to talk a little bit about console generations and the varying versions of this game. As uninspiring as I’ve made the game sound, you’d think it would at least look decent graphically. Well, I guess decent is a broad term, so maybe it qualifies as that still… Needless to say, it looks virtually indistinguishable between consoles, with the usual exception of the expected ones looking slightly worse for wear and the “new gen” ones having slightly better framerates as well. So yeah, if you do for some reason decide to waste your money on this game, you may as well get it on whatever console you want, as they all look essentially the same and play the same as well- poorly.

Concept: Try to do everything that Spider-Man 2 did ten years ago, do it worse, shoe-in a bunch of extra villains for no real reason, say you’re a movie tie-in game, and call yourself Amazing. You’ve done it already probably as well.

Graphics: The textures are oftentimes muddy and bland, the city looks pretty barren and dull most of the time, and enemy types aren’t always that varied. Also, it looks about the same between generations.

Sound: The sound work is as uninspired and unimaginative as the rest of the game- poor voice acting or at best generic, none of the actual movie actors seem to make appearances, and there isn’t really a soundtrack unless you count Spidey’s insanely annoying one-liners (of such poor quality that Deadpool should take note).

Playability: The one “shining” part of the game- combat and action are easy to pick up and handle, but ultimately so repetitive that you’ll be bored to tears halfway through the game probably. May the odds be ever in your favor.

Entertainment: Haha- no really.

Replay Value: Low.

Overall Score: 5.0

Tagged , , , , , ,

Infamous: Second Son Review

[As Read on GIO.]

Infamous and Infamous 2 are two of my favorite superhero games of all time, and certainly beat out Superman 64 on any super powered games list. What made those two titles epic was the combination of strategy in platforming through an open world and the super powered combat Cole MacGrath possessed. Even better, the narrative choices were pretty much all up to players as well, so you could choose to be a hero or villain as you willed and upgrade powers and abilities accordingly. For these reasons, not just from the narrative continuation itself but from the core concepts, Second Son is yet another successful sequel, one of the best looking games to date, and also a very enjoyable romp through a near-future Seattle.

You now assume the role of street artist and pun rebel Delsin Rowe, a conduit with a large array of powers- stemming from his interesting ability to siphon power from other conduits (super powered people) and keep them for himself. Delsin’s main mission, after some narrative introduction, is to take down the Department of Unified Protection (DUP) in order to free other conduits and allow for greater choice and freedom in the United States, and specifically Seattle. Whereas Cole MacGrath battled the forces of evil in order to promote a future where conduits and humans could live together peacefully, Delsin must now battle the misguided DUP in order to maintain this dream and truly see it come to light.

The character of Delsin Rowe is really an interesting and highly believable one, as like most ordinary folk, he is a multi-faceted individual. He puts on a mischievous, rebellious attitude to hide his truly sensitive and family/friend-oriented spirit underneath. He isn’t just some douche who has no cares in the world- however devil-may-care he acts. He really cares about protecting those closest to him, which plays heavily into Second Son’s narrative at times. Since he is a street artist, he often times uses his graffiti and wit to attack the DUP and his adversaries just as much as he actually physically assaults them, leading the charge with a psychological attack on them. His humor never failed to make me crack a smile, even if some of his one-liners fell through in tough situations.

Sucker Punch isn’t afraid to call upon their heavy hitters early on in the game, and does so by pulling Delsin’s family and friends into the fray as well, leading to some very interesting complications of things. It all begins tied to conduits and the DUP, and surely it fittingly all ends that way as well, though the circumstances are somewhat turned about in that case. From the very getgo you’re tasked with making decisions that will establish your legacy alongside Cole’s, and craft you into either a hero or a villain. The progression system is tied perfectly into the narrative and the choices, and each upgrade fits equally well into the story and seems legitimate as well.

Delsin is inadvertently drawn into a complex DUP search and plot mainly because of his assumed connection with an escaped conduit, and the implications it has for his family and friends. After being shown that he will never be safe with the DUP around, he decides to search for answers to his questions, tie up loose ends, and take down the misguided, almost evil department. For a superhero or villain romp around a futuristic Seattle, Sucker Punch does a great job of making Second Son look and feel as realistic as possible. Even the story cohesively gels together and makes sense given many of the circumstances- something that could not often be said about the first and second Infamous titles.

Delsin’s powers themselves evolve as he progresses and as he encounters conduit minibosses essentially. Since his specific power is essentially parasitically adapting to learn powers from other conduits, each new encounter further imbues him with the strength and upgrades he needs to continue his one conduit assault on the DUP’s consolidated power in the city. This method of learning new powers and incorporating ones I otherwise wouldn’t have really thought of pays off and makes for a much more interesting experience than one simple set of powers, or even the three associated ones of Infamous 2 (shocking, burning, and freezing).

What is particularly amazing is that you only really encounter four or five major conduits throughout the several hour experience, and yet you come away with a plethora of awesome powers from each and plenty of leveling capabilities as well. Powers not only factor into obvious things as combat, but also into general locomotion and traversal of the urbanized environment as well, making traveling much easier and simplistic as the game progresses too. Each skill set comes across as extremely powerful or helpful, or even both, and most of all- surprisingly enjoyable to utilize across your adventures in Seattle and the surrounding areas.

Without ruining much, I can say that if you haven’t at least tried the game you’re certainly missing out on an unconventional and entirely enjoyable experience. I mean, who else can use smoke and mirrors like a super hero who can literally use smoke powers and others? Delsin’s smoke-based powers alone enable him to traverse areas and sneak in undetected as a puff of smoke and particles, shoot far-off enemies with cinder shards, and physically whip them with a smoke and fire imbued chain wrapped around his arms. It may seem like something out of Ghost Rider, but it is much more epic when you take into account that this is only one of his many power sets.

He can also utilize power-based energy sources in a fashion that reminds me of something Cole would do, as well as effectively cloak himself in pure energy for shield and invisibility bonuses- for a short period of time anyway, which is particularly helpful in organizing getaways. Overall, all of these powers and abilities are easy to switch between thanks to an extremely solid control layout and the dynamic visuals they represent. Speaking of the graphics themselves, not only do they look excellent but they react realistically to stimuli as well as environments and scenery go- crumbling and exploding dramatically and in total realism. And even better- the frame rate very rarely suffers, thanks to the quantity of power provided by the PS4.

As excellent as everything has been that I have mentioned thus far, there are still a few minor (and major as well) issues that keep the game from shining as brightly as it has the potential for, similar to the faults of the previous titles. Repetition is probably the largest qualm I had with the game. While the majority of the main content is excellently crafted and diverse, the plethora of side content doesn’t show the same level of attention to detail and care. There are a host of side activities to partake of, yet each is easily completed within a few minutes and ranges only from destroying targets or fighting DUP forces. These reward players with upgrade capabilities, but aside from that are pretty much a waste of time and effort.

As these upgrade pieces help you to essentially power up faster and therefore progress quickly through the main content of the story, they are essential to some degree, which seems like a crappy reality to be sidled with. However, as large a component of gameplay as that is, and as large of an annoyance as it is, I can think of many flaws that would’ve been a lot worse to implement in its place. These side missions and small objectives aren’t bad per se, just extremely menial and boring and repetitive.

It is great to see a sequel that sheds many of flaws of the original two games and even gains a new perspective through protagonists and powers without fully forgetting where the series has come from and how far it has gone already. I’ve been particularly happy with the Infamous series over the years, and this game was definitely one of the better ones in my honest opinion. Not only did it look wonderful but the controls felt tight and the overall aesthetics were pleasing and impressive through and through. I loved the choices presented to players as well as the options in response, coupled with the narrative itself and the vivid characters. Truly a wonderful start for the next generation, and a graphical masterpiece in both setting and particle effects in explosions, fires, and powers.

Concept: Explore a realistic setting in a possible future as a super powered conduit named Delsin Rowe, battling the oppressive DUP and fighting for freedom and equality.

Graphics: It’s the little things and the attention to detail that really make the experience, but the excellent animation work pulls it off as well.

Sound: The soundtrack and voice work are both excellent, although the soundtrack pulls the experience along better than the one-liners and humor do.

Playability: Not only is it fun and enjoyable, but highly usable and playable to boot. The makings of an excellent experience if there are any.

Entertainment: Highly entertaining as an adventure and as a story go, for not the first or second, but the third time in a row.

Replay Value: Moderate.

Overall Score: 8.25

Tagged , ,

Strider (2014) Review

[As Read on GIO.]

If you go back through Capcom’s gaming history, you will surely find several interesting characters that haven’t seen the light of day in a long while- despite us always seeing the same old Resident Evil and Dead Rising announcements everywhere. After all, those games are the cash cows for Capcom, and you can hardly blame them for wanting to create more of what they at least know to be successful. However, Strider is not a new character- having debuted in the late eighties-early nineties, yet this makeover is well-deserved and much appreciated in my mind. It’s good to see a classic game thrown into the next evolution of consoles and especially good to see it performing well and having many a new trick shoved up it’s ninja sleeve as well. And that’s exactly what Strider does.

The controls are easily the best part of the experience, as they offer a sturdy, firm foundation for the gameplay and environments to build upon. Not only do the animations look well in response to the controls, but the likely things happen when you do something such as sprinting or rolling- dust stirs up and you’ll hear the occasional realistic ninja grunt or two as well. The boss battles are almost always fun, fast-paced, and never lacking for entertainment. The character models are well-crafted, from Strider’s scarf to the mechanized villains which he must cut down to size. All in all, this is a pretty solid next generation title- albeit not the most ambitious there could’ve been. It is quite a solid offering.

Although Strider is a fighting game, it is also very much a platforming one. It combines the best of old-school mechanics with new, unheard of platforming traits and skills to grand success. These sequences serve as breaks in the action of fighting and add a little extra challenge- of a different sort, into the mix as well. Lasers, hammers, and many classic video game death traps make appearances during platforming areas, and the fact that Strider can traverse the world on floors, walls, and ceilings only makes things more entertaining. At some points, I even found myself comparing the platforming and sliding around to Super Meat Boy- on some smaller level. Thankfully, Capcom/Double Helix’s generosity in new gameplay extends to their generosity in death, as should you fail Strider respawns at the nearest checkpoint (located pretty well in most instances) and only loses a little health.

Think of Strider’s new world as something out of a Metroidvania themed game. Instead of being one particularly large two dimensional area however, there are several medium sized areas that you can warp to as you delve further into the game. Keep in mind, most environments are going to be here simply because of the large variety of places Strider visits in his journey and pursuit, so don’t rule any old Soviet-era lab or futuristic city or jungle fortress out quite yet… For a mostly two dimensional experience, the attention to detail in the environments and character models is impressive to say the least, and definitely rendered the best on next generation consoles and computers.

Large, open-air areas really feel immense and tight, close-quarters indoor areas really feel constricting as you travel the world and fight your foes. A curious and inquisitive warrior will find plenty of secret passages, treasures, and upgrades along the way, there are plenty of reasons to backtrack to areas once you’ve received more upgrades, and even the most exploration-savvy of us may miss a few things. The game never really gets that frustrating, honestly no matter how you play it- more gung-ho or more cautious. It’s a grand experience and just as successful a reboot as it is a new game in its own right. Surprisingly, the game also takes almost ten hours to complete- assuming you’ve done a little bit of searching for treasures and surprises as well.

As you progress, you’ll continually be unlocking newer and faster-paced abilities to furnish your repertoire with, getting better at using old, solid attacks, and learning new combinations of flurries, strikes, and parries as well. The d-pad switches your plasma sword from one type of attack to another- fire, ice, etcetera etcetera essentially. There are four major types of attacks, and each is important in the strategic flow of combat. For example, you may have to use an explosive fire attack to knock some armor off of an enemy before following up with a normal strike to the undefended flesh underneath. Every enemy is susceptible to a different method of attack, further adding to the strategy in combat, and to the fine level of detail in this particular project.

Learning how to swap out attack types on the go is really a necessity for surviving any length of time in this environment. As with any game however, there are of course a few places that could use a little bit of extra work. Namely, the story is pretty generic (which is forgivable in this genre usually), there is only one major save file for your games, and although you can travel about with ease, there isn’t literally a warp system (though it is not that hard to backtrack as aforementioned). The story boils down to (without spoiling it much) tracking down enemy bosses to kill, and eliminating as much of their enemy populace in specific areas as is possible.

There aren’t truly that many complaints about the trappings of this game, which can mostly be attributed to the well-handled controls and aesthetics. Thankfully, those complaints that do surface stem mainly from some extra, non-control and non-graphical or technical areas of the game- such as story, warps, etcetera. Now for the final verdict:

Concept: Bring back Capcom’s lesser-known ninja hero, who has been trapped in limbo for far too long and needs to get a good dose of both nostalgia and the lime-light for his return. Also, for pure enjoyment and exploration of the new capabilities of consoles.

Graphics: Between the animation work and the impressive level of environmental and character detail, the game handles perfectly, runs pretty smoothly, and certainly looks impressive for a two dimensional title.

Sound: As with most of Capcom’s titles, the voice work is way over the top and crazy at best, and the soundtracks include some catchy synth beat tracks and futuristic melodies to enjoy as you make the customary romp around the world defeating as many enemies as you possibly can.

Playability: Never will a new ability go to waste in this game- you’ll be utilizing each and every one of them without remorse by the end. The timing of learning and upgrading is perfectly spaced out so as not to be too quickly implemented or too slowly either. The controls handle perfectly and are incredibly responsive, leading to further enjoyment in the animation, gameplay, and upgrade departments.

Entertainment: Not only a solid reboot, but a solid new game in general. There isn’t really that much to complain about outside of a few minor grievances I’ve found within the game, and that most others have already harped on.

Replay Value: High.

Overall Score: 8.25

Tagged , ,

Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes Review

[As Read on GIO.]

A Snake Has the Time of His Life…

Well, A Fleeting Time- Before a Near-Death Conclusion.

First of all, before I truly start this review in earnest, I want to point out a few things that have been of major concern to several people I’ve talked with or read reviews from who played Ground Zeroes. The length is probably the number one thing that I’ve heard the most complaints regarding, from nearly every source I’ve come across. Now, the length coupled with the price tag is definitely the number one biggest source of animosity and disillusion I’ve heard thus far. These two factors definitely detract a lot from an otherwise respectable and representable MGS experience. Ground Zeroes never claimed to be anything other than an opening act to The Phantom Pain or whatever the hell we’re finally calling the true MGS V, despite all the confusion that has circulated about the two connected yet not-so connected titles. So, confusing- sure, piss poor price tag skills- definitely, good game- decently so.

Now, without too much rattling on about the bare-bones yet still pretty good generation of content, and the exploration and experience involved in this prelude act to MGS V, I’m going to abandon ship and sink into deep waters here for what will surely be an interesting review (and receive some less than pleasing feedback). I live to serve, people- remember that before you flay me alive, if you will. Jokes and Game of Thrones references aside, truly, I must move onto the actual review portion now. We’ll try to keep the subjectivity to a minimum… *cough um *cough sort of.

♦♦♦

No doubt you’ve noticed that Ground Zeroes is provoking some conflicting review scores from nearly every source you look to- and that the only thing people can truly seem to clearly and coherently agree on is the price tag being heavily inflated for the experience offered. Other than that, even here on Game Informer alone, you can easily take one glance at the user reviews section and see the vast discrepancies in reviews- ranging from terrible (3) to mediocre (6.5) to awesome (9). So, what’s the honest take on it? Well, that of course is all subjective, and up to you to make for yourself, should you choose to brave the shark infested waters and purchase the game. If you have already done so, then no doubt you’ve made some observations of your own, and either enjoyed the brief experience (a highly replayable one too, for its short spanse) or not. All in all, isn’t free will a beautiful thing? Would you kindly move on to the next paragraph now and here me out?

As just about anybody else- fans of the series especially, can probably attest, I was pretty enthusiastic about gearing up to snake make my way through a few levels in this prologue experience. However, what I didn’t expect was the entire experience to be just that- a prologue mission. Literally, one mission! Well, sure- it has some side content and whatnot as well, but the main experience lasts only about fifty minutes or so at best, making it a lengthy mission but a short full-package of content. Thankfully, the side content adds in a replayability factor and the changing variables of the open world camp setting do just the same, however, in total you’d be hard pressed to clock out more than four hours of in-game time here. Ground Zeroes is truly the evolution of the Metal Gear Solid franchise, however I am torn between hoping it is representative of The Phantom Pain and not wanting it to be. Allow me to explain further: the mechanics work well and the game is excellent, however the length, price tag, and general experience are not worth the trouble at all.

But enough about the bad- for now anyways, let’s talk about what this ‘game’ (download, really) does best and does well. The graphics are definitely next generation worthy, as the environmental setting- though similar throughout the tiny open expanse looks wonderful. The facial animations and modeling both in cinematic sequences and in-game normal gameplay mesh perfectly. And the additional effects to cameras and action- such as kicking up dust, rain, and dirt make it more realistic and gritty in more ways than one. Some things have undoubtedly changed between MGS 4 and Ground Zeroes in terms of design, but I must say I enjoy the new look as well as I enjoyed and loved the old. It’s the next stage in the evolution of the series. However, as wonderful as it will look and pleasing to the eye things seem, story-wise there is something much darker, gritter, and serious going on- also a change of pace for an otherwise somewhat comical series (in the past, as enemies and certain encounters go).

As much as it is warming up for a sequel to MGS 4, Ground Zeroes does not necessarily follow the canonical timeline as such- setting it more near the Peace Walker area than that of MGS 4. As such, the game features recurring characters such as Paz and Chico- operatives no doubt familiar in sight (and looking better, if not worse for wear) and moniker. Snake (and for the duration of this review I will refer to him as Snake, just because) heads to the prison camp slash base known as Camp Omega, and this is where the vast majority of Ground Zeroes’ action takes place- though cinematic sequences in the end and at other moments will take players to other locations as well. As strangely as it may seem- especially for a Metal Gear Solid game, the sneaking around and infiltrating the base portion of the gameplay actually goes off without a major hitch (well, unless you alert everyone that is…) however it is the ensuing exfil that complicates things a little bit (aka a ton).

Now, I’m not going to spoil the already short experience, but story wise I must say I enjoyed what content Ground Zeroes included- especially the slightly…depressing push at the end. You can definitely see how it serves as a prelude to Phantom Pain, and that this world is a much more dangerous, new one than the old MGS one we are all used to. Having seen the lengths to which Konami is willing to go here, I’m terrified for Snake and everyone in Phantom Pain because they’re sure to have a roller coaster ride of an experience, and I’m not even sure if anyone will make it out alive…much less intact. This is definitely the darkest that Metal Gear has gone, and after the comedic hiccup that was Revengeance- a good but significantly different game, I’m psyched to see what they can accomplish now. It’s just a shame that- despite replayability factors and all, there is still only one main mission in this thirty dollar bundle. A little loosely threaded if you ask me, but then again they need money to fund things and I did after all purchase their game- early too, I might add.

Quality may be a huge concern with people, especially those concerned with the price versus content argument, however for what it’s worth I found the quality to be impressive (or at least standard) in all aspects of the game. Yes, it is true that the brunt of the narrative is told in the first ten and last ten minutes, and that what follows between is your singular rescue mission revolving around Paz and Chico. However, I was impressed by the new ideas they’ve presented and the open ended format given to players in their inevitably different approaches to Omega in each subsequent playthrough. That coupled with tackling a different set of side mission and goals each time makes the short experience at least a marginally entertaining and interesting one, and in my book that is always chocked up as a victory of sorts.

Players can collect collectible items- such as Fox Unit Patches, search ardently for special heavy weapons and operating tools (rifles and launchers), or rescue side targets that pop up around camp during your mission. Everything is neat in execution and interesting, even if it doesn’t really relate to the story at hand or alter the gameplay significantly at any point. The best thing I noticed about tackling the mission yet again is that you are surely going to improve with each subsequent playthorugh as you find faster escape routes, clearer routes in terms of guards, and generally execute your mission in faster, more cautious, more professional manners. Though it is an open world, there is a little bit of illusion here- stemming from the fact you only have one main goal: rescuing your imprisoned operative friends. However, I don’t think this detracted from the experience, and I enjoyed the methods of experimentation allowed in how I approached the given scenario on hand.

It’s good to see that the side mission operations themselves add a little more flavor than the patch hunting and weapon locating, as they at least give you a mixed up array of variables and conditions to deal with- albeit still set in Omega’s locale. While the scenery is the same, your goal is changed each time- depending on whether you need to stealthily blow up turret emplacements or provide covering fire for another operative. I liked the change of pace even if the ten or so side operations didn’t last too terribly long or add all that much to the already scant offering. Practice makes perfect though, and despite not being able to play each op and main mission in one playthrough, you do keep your talents and upgrades/weapons pool alive between perfected runs (well, not that there really are upgrades, but you’ll understand).

Truthfully, I’m not surprised- after having played Ground Zeroes, that it disappointed many fans and even some newcomers to the series. I think newcomers especially expected something truly engrossing and phenomenal, and they simply didn’t get that. Fans of course expected an overarching, huge experience- and they didn’t get that either. However, what Ground Zeroes does deliver on is excellent, polished gameplay and mechanics, thrilling new tweaks and special, well-thought out additions to stealth action (see reflex mode, a mode giving you precious seconds of reaction when suddenly spotted), and skipping the traditional codex screens in favor of on-the-fly commentary from Kaz (with a simple button press). I’ll leave it up to you whether or not you deem this game worthwhile to place, based on what information I’ve provided you and attempted to explain in the easiest possible way without fear of spoilers. Despite the short showing here, I definitely think that everything (mechanics-wise) here and an added progression system and beefed up story could really make Phantom Pain a phenomenal, polished title.

While sadly the special pre-order and console specific content limits you in which version of the game you choose to buy, if you have the opportunity I heartily recommend either of the next generation consoles as the way to go- obviously the look and perform the best of all of the versions of the game, due of course to hardware advances. Whether or not you choose a Sony touted console though or a Microsoft one further complicates matters, as each offers a different additionally packaged mission. However, as neither of these missions is really anything special, you can feel free to choose relatively without fear, which version you’d like to buy if you have both or all systems. What a lucky person you’d be if that were your only dilemma whilst thinking of purchasing the game… Anyway, I guess it’s time to move on to our final segment here.

Concept: Provide a prologue to the upcoming Metal Gear Solid V and showcase the new darker, grittier world that Boss Snake and his compatriots inhabit, as well as a flashy next-generation engine and some innovations in the classic gameplay. What it doesn’t mention however is the shameful content versus price index on the box, however that can be tackled as you see fit- either with torches and pitchforks outside Kojima’s office or hope for the full-length game soon coming.

Graphics: There’s no question that this is a next generation title and boasts a very impressive and detailed, strong engine in Konami’s Fox engine, as Ground Zeroes looks and plays mighty fine and smoothly throughout.

Sound: The ambient noise and the low-key soundtrack of accompanying bowings and chords meshes well with the stealth and surprise encounters Boss finds himself in, but are easily overshadowed by a fantastic (if new) performance by Kiefer Sutherland- who has since replaced Daid Hayter as the voice of Snake, at least for the time being. Personally, I think both men have excellent talent in voice acting, so I wasn’t terribly torn when I heard someone new was voicing the character, weird a time as it was.

Playability: There are the occasional hiccups when you’re getting used to the control scheme, but aside from initial issues, the controls and the encounters they save your life in mesh perfectly and run smoothly and well for the duration of the game. No matter how hectic the gameplay gets, I constantly found myself able to get out of sticky situations so long as I knew the correct buttons to press and the limits to which I could push the Boss.

Entertainment: Now, this is going to be the sticker right here. What content there is proves to be highly entertaining, as short on story and time consumption as that is. However, I just can’t get past the fact that there isn’t enough to go around, meaning for all its solid mechanics and things Ground Zeroes does correctly, this section takes the hardest hit to the score. It could’ve been a lot worse, and I’ve been very kind with my score, but even I can’t overlook this.

Replay Value: Moderate.

Overall Score: 8.0

Tagged , ,

Kill Confirmed Pt. 2

[As Read on GIO.]

Killzone Shadow Fall

In Which I Ruin the Story a Little Bit More…

Well, I’ve written my relatively spoiler-free Killzone: Shadow Fall review by now, and I figured it was about time to write some more on the spoiling of the game’s story itself. Now, hopefully this works and that nasty no blogs posted glitch doesn’t come back. Once more, if you haven’t yet played the game or don’t want to ruin the experience while you are playing it, then please refrain from reading this blog. If you have already “gotten your feet wet” so to speak and already read part one, then I suppose you may as well continue reading. If not, but you’d like to read the first part anyhow before reading this one, then you can find it right here. As promised, although greatly set back by this blog glitch thing, my “After-Edition” of my Wolf Among Us spoiler series will be coming before too long hopefully. Now, let’s get this show on the road!

♦♦♦

1. Shadow Marshal Lucas Kellan is now being interrogated by Helghast and Anton Saric, the head security of the officer in the “city” of New Helghan. Saric continually taunts the Shadow Marshal by stating that the Vektans are weak and their world is failing. This doesn’t elicit much of a response from Kellan, who drifts in and out of consciousness.

2. Echo- the part-Vektan, part-Helghast crossbreed appears before Kellan when he finally regains consciousness. She tells the Shadow Marshal that she means him no harm, and only seeks to end the war- reiterating that it was not the general populace of the Helghast that were responsible for the terrorist activities in Vekta City- that it was the actions of a few only.

3. As Echo tries to figure out just who was Tyran’s contact on the inside, Kelln informs her that it was in fact Jorhan Stahl- an answer that doesn’t really seem to shock her, and only proves that it was not unknown that the man survived the events of Killzone 3.

4. Kellan momentarily points out that the reason Echo is not surprised at all is because she handed over Doctor Massar to him, and that now, with the bio-weapon in the madman’s power, it will wipe out the Vektans as well as half-breeds like Echo herself.

5. All of a sudden, the Lady Hera Visari arrives with an armed escort- rather, several of them, and scolds Echo for her rash actions, to which Echo retaliates by accusing her of working with Jorhan Stahl. Visari only confirms this, to which Echo inadvertently responds by revealing that the Lady Visari is her mother- thus insulting the woman.

6. For players that search the area properly enough, a dossier containing sensitive information about an operative known as “Maya Visari” can be found in the next level of the campaign. As it turns out, this “Maya Visari” is in fact the half-breed operative known only as Echo.

7. Flashing back to the current time however, Lady Visari orders her armed guards to take Echo ‘somewhere safe”- meaning away from where she can do any harm or help the prisoner at all, and Echo begs her to rethink that decision and to stop. Anton Saric reenters the room and Visari contemplates the irony that the Vektans and Helghast were once part of the same race, yet they strode two different paths and now one is the enemy.

8. As the Lady Visari makes to stride out of the room, she turns to Anton Saric, telling him to keep Kellan alive. Her reasons for this, while mysterious, may yet be justified or explained later on… Maybe they just need him for information after all, because everyone knows information is power, especially in the midst of a cold war.

9. Later on, Kellan awakens in his cell in the middle of the night to hear an unfamiliar voice telling him that it is time he escaped. This unknown ally helps to disable various security posts and equipment as Kellan makes his way through the underground compound, and helps to warn the Shadow Marshal of approaching security guards as well. If any guards do happen to catch sight of the Marshal, the ally then takes them down before they can raise the alarm.

10. Suddenly, Kellan is corned by several guards, who stat to advance menacingly towards him. As they near, Echo drops from a ceiling grate and dispatches them easily, simultaneously helping him and revealing herself to be his helper.

11. The duo makes their way to the surface, and while en route, Kellan inquires about Echo’s half-breed origins, stating that the Lady Visari seems to be more interested in war than any Vektan he has ever met. Echo replies that she, as well as Visari, in their fights, would only be defending their homes, and that in her case (Echo) no more innocent lives would need to be taken.

12. Once the duo reaches the surface, they decide to split up- with Lucas on the ground and Echo providing support from the rooftops via a high powered sniper rifle she is deadly efficient with. Kellan fights his way through the city slums, seeing the results of Helghast deportations- with numerous dead lining the streets from the senseless brutality of the soldiers.

13. Later on, Echo asks Kellan if he will tell the Vektans to stand down because of what he has witnessed, and the horrors and brutality that the Helghast have had to endure as well. He states that the Vektans just want “justice” and that they are not concerned with the truth, because they already blame the Helghast and that is enough. They just needed a face to put to an enemy.

14. Echo then reminds Kellan that the Vektans have never had to face total annihilation, and that the Helghast have had to do so- and push on regardless of that annihilation coming to be a reality and decimating their entire home world as a result. Eventually however, after many philosophical moments, the duo makes their way to the security center they were heading for and succeed in disabling it.

15. After having witnessed enough Helghast suffering, Kellan promises Echo that he will ask the Vektans to stand down, and then he rides a special drone piloted remotely by Echo over The Wall, to the Vektan side. As he lands and makes his way into VSA hands, he demands to then see his former mentor, Sinclair.

16. As promised, Kellan makes his way to Sinclair with the revelations that he has witnessed, telling the man that they should stand down before things heat up any further. Sinclair is outraged, stating that the Helghast, The Black Hand, Visari, and Stahl are all the same and that there is “no difference” between any of them in his view, because they all mean to destroy the Vektans.

17. Despite his anger with Kellan, Sinclair tells him that they have intercepted Black Hand intelligence, and that the VSA has discovered massive mining spires above the planet Helghan, which now lies in ruins. Kellan is tasked with infiltrating the main spire and finding Doctor Massar and the bio-weapon she helped to produce.

18. Once inside the mining spire, Kellan freefalls down the main shaft towards the station’s mainframe and the Doctor’s lab. After fighting a number of Helghast, he arrives at the laboratory but finds only Massar, who informs him that thee weapon is with Stahl being prepped for the “final test.”

19. Sinclair orders Kellan to escort Massar to one of the secondary spires, where they will join up with the ISA fleet waiting to retake the bio-weapon. Kellan proceeds to follow his orders, protecting the doctor from numerous security drones coming from the spire, and meeting with the ISA team sent to extract them.

20. Suddenly however, they find themselves in a massive firefight as many more Helghast soldiers arrive, and the ISA men are eventually able to push the Helghast back after an extended engagement. Just as they are prepping to leave the station, Echo arrives in order to fulfill her assignment of killing Massar. Despite Sinclair’s orders to kill her, Kellan orders the ISA soldier guarding the woman to stand down.

21. The ISA soldier refuses to stand down, so Echo kills both the soldier and the doctor. This results in Sinclair coldly telling Kellan that his safety is no longer ‘guaranteed” and that he has condemned himself because of his assistance in allowing Echo to fulfill her mission’s parameters. Now, Echo and Kellan team up- following a dropship into Helghan’s atmosphere.

22.As the dynamic duo descends over Helghan, following the dropship they spotted earlier, Kellan witnesses the effects of the Terracide- pockets of leftover Petrusite that have created gravitational shifts throughout the planet as a result of the actions in Killzone 3. These pockets have caused massive portions of land, as well as the planet’s core, to destabilize and have resulted in a desolate landscape wracked with earthquakes.

23. As the two freefall through the hellish world, they see that the dropship has crashed, and they make landfall on top of a sideways facing building. As the two meet up after their impact, Echo states that she did what had to be done, and that Vekta cannot meet the same fate as Helghan, because then she will have lost two homes.

24. The two split up, using gravity wells to navigate the dangerous terrain and destroying various Helghast security drones and droids littering the landscape now. Eventually however, Kelland and Echo meet back up at the crash site, and discover that Tyran is in fact still alive, and holed up in a base by the side of the canyons nearby. Echo tells Kellan that the bio-weapon should be the priority, and that it cannot be used under any circumstances. Kellan states that hopefully it won’t “come to that.”

25. The duo makes their way into the canyon-side base, discovering a massive fleet of ships in dry-docks, revealing that Jorhan Stahl has in fact anticipated the arrival of the ISA and these two operatives in particular. Kellan tries to warn Sinclair of the impending threat, but doesn’t get a response.

26. As they finally make their way to the security control tower, Echo attempts to reveal the location of the bio-weapon while Kellan engages a massive Helghast force lead personally by Tyran. Eventually, Tyran joins in when most of his forces have been destroyed, and serves as a boss encounter of sorts- similar to the shield generator one on the prison ship in Mass Effect 2.

27. Having incapacitated Tyran, Kellan and Echo demand how to stop the bio-weapon from devastating the Vektan world. Tyran states that New Helghan was a ‘fantasy” created by cowards and traitors, and that an invasion would “cost you everything.” Echo states that that may be so, but Tyran will never know, promptly before she executes him.

28. Finally, Kellen gets through to Sinclair, telling him that it is impossible to win the battle and that the bio-weapon will devastate the ISA fleet. Sinclair dismisses Kellan’s words, thinking he is not to be trusted because he has consorted with the enemy (Echo), and has lost his way thanks to her influence. The assault is therefore to proceed as planned.

29. Kellen and Echo frantically move towards Tyran’s downed dropship, Echo remarking that it is ironic that they are now both outcasts- for much the same reason, but that it isn’t a bad thing to have in common during a war.

30. As their dropship rises, so does Stahl’s fleet. When they reach the surface of Helghan, they witness the ISA beginning their fatal assault on Stahl’s base. Stahl activates Massar’s bio-weapon and a red cloud of radiation engulfs all of the ISA ships, which then plummet down to the surface of the world, leaving the Helghast ships intact and unharmed.

31. Echo suddenly loses control of the dropship and Kellan falls into a massive gravity well beneath Stahl’s base, losing communications with Echo and everybody else. Floating up, Kellan enters the base as the Helghast fleet prepares for an all out assault upon Vekta City. Kellan reaches the base’s war room and is greeted by many heavily armored Helghast soldiers, resulting in a long, drawn out firefight.

32. Once Kellan finally takes out all of the soldiers, he makes his way onwards towards Stahl’s last known location. Stahl congratulates Kellan over the intercom for making it so far and states that the Vektans in general “lack a belief that truly unites them,” unlike the Helghast  and that Kellan is rare in his determination. By killing Stahl, he (Kellan) will only delay the inevitable.

33. Kellan finally reaches Stahl however, tied to a life-support system due to advanced aging and Petrusite exposure, who claims that the Terracide only happened because the weak had to be destroyed and that it is Vekta’s turn to ‘share that fate.”

34. Suddenly, there is a gunshot from behind Kellan, and he turns to see Sinclair who then proceeds to shoot Kellan as well, having already killed Stahl. Sinclair announces that he is saddened that of all people, Kellan would be the one who lost his trust, and that, as long as the Helghast exist, Vekta will be threatened.

35. With the newly acquired biological weapon, the threat can be ended however- forever, according to Sinclair. He proceeds to apologize that he couldn’t be the person to protect Kellan as he promised to his father, Michael, and then shoots him once more- this time finally killing him. Now the credits come rolling in…

36. But…it’s not all over yet- far from it in fact, as the story would suggest, and as the game goes to show us after the credits. In fact, it’s far from over, as a new conflict is just beginning- whether we want it to or not. The second war has started, picking up barely where the last one ended…

37. The credits unfold to show the player- who is now obviously a Helghast operative, seeing as Shadow Marshal Lucas Kellan met his untimely and undeserved demise at the hands of his trusted, misguided mentor, Shadow Marshal Sinclair. The operative infiltrates Vekta City, where Sinclair can be heard giving a rousing speech in the abckground.

38. Sinclair’s speech calls for war on the Helghast, noting that they must “finally be eradicated” if the Vektans are going to be able to live in peace, and that the two species- though once the same race, can no longer “coexist together” in the same area or even in close proximity. Therefore, it would be easiest and just best to wipe them out before they “wipe us out.”

39. The operative fights through dozens of ISA and VSA personnel, finally coming to a well-positioned perch facing the now rebuilt VSA Headquarters, where Sinclair can be seen giving his speech. Pulling out a sniper rifle, the operative takes a deep breath, lining up a shot with Sinclair in the crosshairs. You can then hear the operative whisper, “For Kellan…” in a voice obviously belonging to Echo, before pulling the trigger. The screen fades for the last times right before the bullet is about to hit Sinclair’s head.

40. And thus ends Killzone: Shadow Fall’s excellently crafted futuristic cold war story- with some confusion on each side, yet a perfectly clear final shot to end a war before it officially begins. However, it is as of yet unclear if this will end the war or only martyr the twisted viewpoints of Shadow Marshal Sinclair. It would be interesting to see the Helghast as the actual “good” guys in the next game, or at least to play as Echo- seeing as there aren’t really many good guys in this conflict at all. Shadow Fall is more like Game of Thrones in this aspect than anything else… Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this spoiler blog, and good night folks.

Tagged , , ,
millie schmidt writes... with cats

millie schmidt writes...

Mr. Miniike's Tea-Sipping Reviews

Album reviews and pop culture nothings by a Christian INFP New Yorker turboplebe with no musical talent. Mostly empty gushing. How can you resist?

ultimatemindsettoday

A great WordPress.com site

Selected Essays and Squibs by Joseph Suglia

The Web log of Dr. Joseph Suglia

The Ninth Life

It's time to be inspired, become encouraged, and get uplifted!

Elan Mudrow

The Ridges of Intertextuallity

Storyshucker

A blog full of humorous and poignant observations.

What Inspires Your Writing?

A blog dedicated to writers...and the people, places, and things that spark their creativity

%d bloggers like this: