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Nier: Automata Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Replay Value: Moderate.

Overall Score: 8.5

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The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review

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Allow me to first start by saying that if this review were to truly encompass every minute detail that I’ve traipsed by or discovered within Breath of the Wild, it would be much too long for you to ever finish it- much less to even want to read it in the first place. This is a game that pays close attention to detail and despite my fine-tuning of this review over the past few weeks that the game has been out, we are still discovering new gimmicks and tricks and tips as a community right and left. I’m not so sure we won’t still be discovering previously unknown gameplay elements in the coming months after its release.

At first I had resolved not to write a review about such an epic game, however I’ve since of course changed my mind and therefore here we are today. I will undoubtedly be writing more on the game in the coming weeks, as there’s plenty to discuss beyond a simple subjective/objective point and counterpoint argumentative narrative. The game is as near to perfection as any other that I’ve awarded the lauded score that I will be giving this one- in fact it may be the most compete package that I’ve played to date, at least as far as the past five years or so go. I will go ahead and state that the console of choice I’ve played the game on has been the Wii U and not the newly released Nintendo Switch hardware- therefore bear in mind that there can and most definitely will be slight differences between the two experiences at the least in terms of technical proficiency.

If I were to sum this game up in as spoiler-free a way as I possibly could, I would have to remark upon the lavish open world and the role-playing mechanics that have now revolutionized the series for the better. True, I would also have to do my best to impart as much as I could upon readers in regard to the breaking of new ground that is the game’s narrative itself, and yet I would also be bound by convention to avoid spoilers whilst discussing the thoroughly unconventional themes and elements of said narrative. Now that I’ve gotten my hypothetical musings out of the way, let’s actually get down to business.

Breath of the Wild is far from the first Legend of Zelda game to explore the concept of an open world- several others have done it to some extent and yet none so to the depth or with the level of commitment that Breath of the Wild has. My favorite (still at least for now) game in the series- Wind Waker, was one of the most impressive in terms of the size and scope of the world and island-hopping narrative. And yet for all of its amazing design work at the time, Breath of the Wild scoffs and dwarfs it forty times over- all the while still offering players the same sense of exploration and dutiful scavenging for interesting tidbits of narrative and progression of upgrades and collected materials.

It’s not necessarily that Breath of the Wild is a departure from the series in terms of its exploration and open-ended mentality, merely that it is a departure from a lot of the conventional elements we have grown accustomed to over the years. In many ways you could very well compare its very gameplay to that of Fallout and Far Cry 2 in that your very supplies and materials will decay and break down over time, giving rise to a more strategic approach to combat and puzzles rather than utilizing the same master sword and mirror shield over and over again. As with the game design itself, there is an air of openness and detachment even from your very inventory- from armor to weapons to items to mounts. All of this funnels the player into a fulfilling quest of both cultivation and exploration throughout the dozens of hours you’ll invest in the game.

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No longer are you “level-locked” by a lack of special inventory items or particular gadgetry and weapons. Breath of the Wild embraces openness to the extent that you can enter virtually any dungeon and be able to make your way through- assuming you’re skilled enough to take down the hardiest of enemies with only a few hearts of your own to speak for. Nothing is impossible, but it’s definitely improbable in your lowliest of beginning stages that you’ll storm the desolate gates of Hyrule and conquer your darkest foes. The means are there, but you’re much better off exploring the world, leveling your gear, learning your skills, and adding to your inventory as you go- making for a truly deep experience like no other we’ve yet to experience in the Legend of Zelda series or the majority of role-playing games, for that matter.

So open and expansive are the narrative and exploration elements of the game in fact, that you can choose whether to embrace exploration entirely and abandon the main plot line or scour the world for all the key collectibles and story moments in order to first defeat your ultimate nemesis prior to focusing on open-ended exploration and side quests. There are a number of activities to be found in Breath of the Wild- as is critical within any respectable RPG, and for what it’s worth not a single activity feels needless or a waste of time and energy. Typically delving into dungeons or shrines will lead to special rewards and upgraded gear or equipment that will only benefit you in either your continued crusade to take back Hyrule or your quest to roam all the lands open to you.

In all of this opening explication I’ve surely managed to convince you that the world you are able to explore is expansive and impressive, however I cannot do it the justice it deserves without first allowing you to experience it for yourself. It is truly large and not only that but filled with lore, activities, and sheer worthwhile exploration and adventure- as any epic tale should contain. I’ve previously compared Breath of the Wild to The Witche 3: Wild Hunt and once you play the game for yourself you will probably be able to see why that is such a compelling comparison to make. While it is easy to view this world as a composite slate, you must also account for the fact that the sum of its individual parts add to the totality of the experience and truly make it a fascinating and exhilarating journey.

There is less of a sense of true direction than in previous Zelda tales, and yet the game does not lack for purpose or quality exploration and exposition. Everything is there for you to find however it won’t always be pointed out to you immediately- something that can also apply in terms of gameplay dynamics and overall mechanics. It only takes one glance at YouTube to see that players are still discovering new ways to explore certain areas or complete specific puzzles or tackle difficult bosses. It’s truly amazing the lengths to which Nintendo has gone to open up the world creatively and even add such an element of constant replayability to such simple things as locomotion and combat. Seriously- you can power rafts with magnetism, you can ride grizzly bears, you can launch felled trees into the sky, and you can sneak your way onto a Hinox and pickpocket treasures whilst it sleeps. The possibilities seem endless and will more than likely stay that way for a good long time.

While the opportunities and options available to you from the onset are nearly endless, that’s not to say you won’t quickly discover Link’s own limits which must be pushed past as you continue playing the game. Look no further than the stamina bar- which is about as competent in execution (climbing, defense, sprinting, attacks, etc) as the Cleveland Browns have been in securing a wining season within the past decade. Needless to say, all great adventurers must start somewhere and the few limiting factors that force you to think small-scale before you can truly venture out into the wide world and take the fight to your foes in your massive and ambitious quest only serve to improve the overall quality of the adventure itself. There is a level of exploration in Breath of the Wild that I’ve not seen in any game to date- meaning everything that is tangible is yours to collect, climb, scatter, or demolish, and this extends from simple locomotion through every other mechanical system inherently found in gameplay.

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The level of attention to detail both on the grand scale and in the little details- lore, dialogue, weather cycles, and character memory itself, is truly ambitious and respectable. If you ever for a second think you’ve “broken the game” or otherwise discovered something that couldn’t possibly happen, you should probably consider the fact that this title has such quality that nearly everything has been thought of before you’re even remotely close to discovering its existence for yourself. For such a gigantic game world, it manages to pay attention to things on a minuscule level as well and compartmentalize dungeons and gameplay in hopes of being able to offer more and more of the things we’ve all come to respect over the years. For example, the dungeons themselves may seem smaller in scale, however there are plenty more of them spread across the landscape and each offers an inventive twist upon legacy puzzles and classic gimmicks all the while adding completely new elements as well.

The game world is so large that it wouldn’t be fair to traverse it without the help of fast travel locations. Thankfully Nintendo recognizes this and adds them in the guise of shrines- offering dungeon like puzzle experiences in a compact package that utilizes a few different inventory items and unique gameplay elements, loot and treasures beyond your wildest dreams, and the eventual ability to utilize explored shrines as fast travel waypoints. Each shrine is truly unique in the way it forces you to discover its secrets and unlock its puzzles. While the mechanics in each do get a tad bit repetitive with time (within singular shrines), the replayability factor remains in that some must be returned to upon unlocking or discovering certain items in order to complete them fully.

Breath of the Wild is perhaps both the most expansive and difficult of all Zelda games to date. It is not merely a quest for glory or to liberate your homeland, but rather a tale of exploration and survival against all odds. I found many elements to be strikingly similar to those of Fallout: New Vegas’s hardcore modes requiring players to manage their hunger and thirst alongside health, gear, and other aspects of their mission and person. There is a level of strategy to each combat encounter and even to exploration itself within the world and there isn’t often much explanation past the opening few minutes as to what you should be doing, how you should be doing it, or where you should look to for guidance. For better or worse, Breath of the Wild tosses players out of their comfort zone and forces them to become gritty survivors.

I loved the attention to detail in the environments and their environmental effects upon Link as you traverse them. Take note of scorching hot lava floes and chilly northern climates, as the hottest of areas and the coldest of areas can and will affect you severely if you traipse through them unprepared and unequipped. Breath of the Wild is no walk in the park but it is also created with accessibility in mind enough so that it is no Souls game, merely a hardy experience that forces you to adapt as you go. You will undoubtedly die many times over and yet as you play and learn and find better equipment, you will begin to realize what it takes to succeed and the game will become less and less of a struggle to survive and even more exciting of an adventure to embark upon.

Discovery and exploration extends to every key element of the game- crafting potions and finding food recipes, equipping new weapons, wearing powerful armor, and ultimately figuring out which pieces of your very enemies could come in handy for recipes and schematics. Beyond that, there is of course the obviously imbued exploration leading to the discovery of new areas and characters over time- specifically many throwbacks to names of places and people from previous Zelda experiences and lore. Without ruining the majority of the surprise, you will definitely be able to speculate as to where exactly Breath of the Wild fits into the famously confusing Zelda timeline considering the fact that a ruined version of Ocarina’s Lon Lon Ranch can be found in-game as well.

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Having talked about nearly every other available aspect of the game, I feel it is only fair to touch upon the narrative itself as briefly as I possibly can without ruining it for prospective players. It’s no real secret that your ultimate goal in Breath of the Wild is to topple the legendary evil that is Ganon. The calamity that he has wrought in the world is telling in terms of its physical manifestation and the psychological effects it has wrought on the characters themselves. From the earliest moments of the game it becomes obvious that you must eventually face this evil, yet the time and preparation it takes for you to get there is entirely up to you. There is no three day clock counting down to catastrophe here- merely your own expectations and your own preparations culminating in one epic and final confrontation. Of course, as the game itself is so massive, you’re free to go and explore the rest of the world in the aftermath of the narrative finale.

What truly does amaze me and must be spoken about to some degree is the way in which Nintendo handles Link and Zelda this time around- from their interaction to their tied fates and thoughts and mannerisms. There is a definite vibe that Zelda would be channeling her inner twenty-first century feminine empowerment if she knew of such things, and I love that element to the narrative. There’s no sense in her playing the often helpless role she has in the past and even she is aware of this and sick of the sameness of her destiny- so much so that she goes out of her way to do all she can to assist Link throughout his journey rather than only standing in to assist him in his final struggle against Ganon (I’m looking at you Wind Waker). While the characters are familiar variations on the same theme we’ve always seen, they’re different and mature enough that it never gets old.

For such an impressive and massive exploration of game design and creation, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is truly a testament to Nintendo’s commitment to quality experiences in perhaps what is their greatest series ever. There are a few technical issues at times and yet for the life of me I can think of no other detriments to the overall experience that Breath of the Wild offers- which is truly astounding in such a large game, as the majority of even the most finely tuned experiences such as The Witcher 3 have had their fair share of dramatic bugs and glitches over the years. All things said and done, where you’re a long-time fan of the series or a newcomer altogether, if you have a Wii U or perhaps the Nintendo Switch, I implore you to give this game a whirl as it’s a truly unforgettable and worthwhile experience like none other. It’s way too soon to tell for certain, but compared to even the greatest iterations of the series, Breath of the Wild will be remembered fondly.

Concept: Meld traditional elements of The Legend of Zelda series into a truly open world design that tasks players not only with survival but exploration for the sake of progressing through the experience.

Graphics: It is not the gritty experience that Twilight Princess was in its more realistic art direction and yet Breath of the Wild’s design is flawless and fits perfectly with the tones present throughout the narrative.

Sound: From nature’s call to the subtle yet fitting melodies that ramp up with each new discovery and encounter, the themes are slightly different from past soundtracks in the series and yet they work just as well.

Playability: Forget past issues with motion control and sometimes finicky elements on the Wii and Wii U, as far as I am concerned the mechanics and controls handle better than they ever have before.

Entertainment: Whether you choose to mix story and side elements or pursue one solely over the other, Breath of the Wild is a thrilling and compelling experience and one that you will surely remember for a long time to come.

Replay Value: High.

Overall Score: 9.75

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For Honor Review

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In the week since Ubisoft’s For Honor released, I’ve been either playing the game or reading and watching anything related to it. I’ve read and viewed other people’s reviews, talked to them about their thoughts, and tried to talk myself out of writing my own review as well. That last point is not for lack of positive reinforcement, nor is it for negative reasons in regard to the game itself. However, I feel like everything I am about to say is going to in some ways sound pretty redundant, and that irks me above all else. It’s a good thing in a way- if everyone who plays and reviews a game is largely in agreement, then you’re bound to be getting the best possible feedback on your product or as a gamer.

I played through the beta period with a friend not long before the game became openly available, and some things have changed since that time while others have remained the same for better or worse. For Honor is at its best when you completely ignore the story and focus on the combat itself. I am not saying to ignore story mode in its entirety, as it will definitely help you out where multiplayer is concerned and as far as gaining experience overall goes. However, do not get sucked into the narrative itself as you will only emerge confused as to what the ruckus is really all about and why samurai are fighting knights who are fighting vikings. It’s as bonkers as you’d think and as bonkers as it sounds and even more impressively, it’s probably less believable than the events of Resident Evil 7 and their impact (or lack thereof) on its protagonist.

Like pretty much every other reviewer has said to this point in time, For Honor knows what it does and it does it well. If it were a merchant it would be selling death sticks- yes, that’s a Star Wars reference and joke. To take it one step further, the combat is such a priority and so well played out and played up that if this were Star Wars, For Honor would be the severed arm laying on a cantina floor roundabouts Mos Eisley. Now, reeling our thoughts back in and not straying too far from the source material here… In case you didn’t get the memo, combat is an important and impressive thing within For Honor and it is implemented in a way somewhat similar to that of Nioh’s complex yet fluid mechanics. What I mean by this is combat can be boiled down to simple mechanics and yet the ways these mechanics mingle and interlock become complex to understand on a grander level.

Whether you choose to play as a samurai, knight, or viking- heck, even regardless of what heroic class or caste you choose within those three factions, the combat can be boiled down to virtually the same controls and mechanics. Now, one class and one faction may of course handle differently than another, but mechanically they are both stable and familiar once you’ve got the basics under control. You choose between one of three positions- essentially left, right, and high/up. These positions correspond with greater reactionary time given to defense, offense, and overall speed and agility as a result. Similar to Nioh in some respects and simpler/different in others, all three directional positions can be changed on the fly and at a whim by players, lending to breaking combos, counter attacks, parrying and ripostes, dodging, switching targets, and so much more. Simplicity is sound and beauty and even simple mechanics fluidly combine to form a complex melee mesh.

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In case that wasn’t enough for you, don’t forget that battle-ready warriors must also be strategists who account for stamina expended, area of effect items and attacks, enemy ballistics, the ebb and flow of massive skirmishes, and other visceral and intangible factors. Hopefully you’ve all played enough of the Souls series by now to recognize the importance of stamina and why button mashing doesn’t quite work as well in melee brawlers as it does in traditional fighting games. In terms of overall realism, I hope you aren’t considering that as a factor for purchase because you’ll be sorely disappointed- however, as it stands, For Honor offers a semi-realistic and authentic melee experience that more than competently gauges the experience and challenge as a whole. It’s a very psychological experience and should definitely be different player to player when you consider the immense skill and understanding curve from class to class, person to person, faction to faction.

No matter what modes you take part in the mechanics and game remain largely unchanged- even between single and cooperative play, 1v1, 2v2, and so forth. The gameplay is almost always tense in skirmishes whether it be at the start or the thrilling and blood-soaked conclusion. Rarely will you so incredibly outmatch or outpace an opponent or opposing team unless you managed to exploit mistakes or openings and double or triple team their only remaining player. The whole 1v1v1 kind of setup is truly entertaining and interesting to see played out and it helps that it works remarkably well in execution as well as conceptually. Don’t worry about getting left out to dry by incompetent teammates however, as most modes also account for leveling the odds against multiple attackers by gifting you the power of revenge (mode) and devastating combos.

Like most traditional fighters and even other online hack and slash brawlers, For Honor offers more than a handful of playable characters between its three factions. Unlike most other games however, it is not as simple as you would expect to switch between them. Although every character is virtually the same on a fundamental basis, each faction boasts several classes that are far from the same old class in the other factions’ offerings save for a cosmetic upgrade or change. Each class offers varied range, capabilities, combos, chains, and more. On top of that, you can actually customize this even further to a certain degree whereas finishers and coup de grace are concerned, among other items of interest. While story mode will act as somewhat of a tutorial for certain classes and help you to warm up to gameplay and the variance between factions and methodology whilst fighting, it’s still quite a jarring difference in reality and really forces you to learn not just your own character but your opposition’s as well.

As with many fighting titles, each character is very much a give and take sort of proposition- meaning while one class may offer plenty of strength and attack power, another may have them beat on light attacks and plenty of stamina. You must be tactical and strategic even in your choice of class within your faction, and that’s perhaps the most interesting thing to note about a game that otherwise looks like a simple and repetitive hack and slash multiplayer experience. In many ways, even if the story does not, For Honor digs very, very deep and maintains its focus without sacrificing vision or fluidity of design. Each character has their own potential for earning gear and upgrades to cosmetics, statistics, and prowess as a whole. It’s a pain to slog through match after match in search of hard to come by earnings, so I’d recommend playing through the story mode as well for some slightly easier currency pickups, as well as finding collectibles and performing side tasks. If you’re careful and pay attention to how you pursue certain upgrade paths and characters, you won’t have to suffer through the plethora of microtransactions that plague typical Ubisoft and online-heavy games.

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And now we come to the relatively minimal negative aspects of the game, save for the aforementioned microtransactions which are of course deplorable but thankfully (relatively) avoidable as well. For Honor is a visceral and gripping experience- certainly one of if not the best fighting/hack and slash/brawling game I’ve yet to play. And yet for a game that focuses so much of its real estate on the online infrastructure it is afforded, that online aspect can be such a bear to deal with. I know it has only been a week thus far, and yet I still had higher hopes for the servers and the matchmaking- especially seeing as that’s obviously the main focus of the entire project. Disconnects and network bumps or errors must be addressed in the future, and sooner rather than later. If they are remedied then I have no doubt it’ll improve the experience as a whole.

Concept: Vikings, knights, and samurai fight for a thousand years in a conflict that nobody really cares too much about because we’re all too busy watching this one guy get his head lopped off and his body lifelessly tumble off a bridge and into some beautifully rendered water.

Graphics: The environments are varied and textured to an amazing degree. Characters looks great even though they are all strikingly similar up until you’ve leveled enough of your gear to truly make a name for yourself and stand out from the pack. Every environment also features accompanying dynamic weather changes and patterns which look and feel believable and fantastic.

Sound: Although you’ll mostly hear cries of pain and anguish, metal on metal, and other sounds typically associated with combat or films, the soundtrack is a great, resonant accompaniment as well.

Playability: Like any good fighting game, For Honor is easy to grasp and difficult to truly master. The mechanics are simple and straight forward, the means to defeating all of your enemies are laid out in front of you, and yet the path towards your objective is sometimes blocked by an incredibly agile samurai warrior who claims your life time and time again.

Entertainment: For Honor is a semi-flawed experience in that its fun and atmosphere hinge upon a networking system which boasts many prevalent issues at the current time. However, the experience as a visceral fighting game and realistic depiction of combat and battlefield tactics is unparalleled and often well-realized. It is a fun experience if you can handle connectivity issues for the time being.

Replay Value: High.

Overall Score: 8.0

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Resident Evil 7 Review

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I just want to say that, first of all I will do my best to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible. I know that the latest chapter in Capcom’s zombie-fueled saga has only been out for not quite a month, and yet I feel like everywhere I’ve turned I’ve run afoul of spoilers and videos and all kinds of crazy stuff. So I’m going to discuss a lot of things in general terms when it comes to the story and the overall plot and setting, but I’ll be sure to dial it in and hone in on the important factors that should be touched upon in any respectable review as well. It’s been a short few weeks and yet we’ve already been treated to some arcade-style downloadable deals and add-ons, which is far from a bad thing either in this case.

In many ways, Resident Evil 7 is the reinvention that fans longed for and that the series needed, although once the outer layers are peeled away and the gentle facade of the beginning acts fades away you’ll soon come to see that it may be different, but the fundamentals are largely unchanged for better or worse. Resident Evil, for better or worse, has always had its viruses and its villains, and that aspect has not changed at all. You may be tempted to think there’s a lot going on in the Louisiana swamps that cannot be explained away as easily as the delights of Umbrella Corps have been in the past, but even with the twisted logic of the series’ past, these events can be explained in the present as well. Resident Evil 6 was a game that I thought was okay as it stood on its own and for what it offered, but when taken for the sum total of its plot and where it should stand in the larger RE universe it was just plain bonkers and had plenty of holes and lazy writing.

Resident Evil has always fallen victim to plot holes and whether or not players can get rid of their disbelief and just enjoy the games for what they are, so even with this reinvention, few things have changed there. Resident Evil started as a simple concept and its only become more and more convoluted from there on out. The first two main games are probably the most straight forward, but from then on with the successive third, fourth, fifth, and sixth entries things have only gotten grander and worse as far as plot can be concerned. I respect Capcom for largely toning it down with Biohazard and keeping things on a smaller scale, although still hinting that the title is a perfect fit in the semi-reimagined universe all the same. But that doesn’t change the fact that even some simple things such as procedural character damage magically healed and limbs magically reattached and VHS tapes still being used in 2017 and a seemingly omnipresent camera that is never shown onscreen or on characters just don’t ad up.

Like I’ve said- Resident Evil has always been about the experience first, the tense boss fights and survival-horror elements still present in the more action-oriented titles of the series in recent years. Once you’ve dispensed with pleasantries and mostly ignored the wild plots that are typically a mess anyway, you can settle into solid gameplay and fluid mechanics with relative ease. Capcom has done a wonderful job of crafting something seemingly new and yet deceptively archaic in its design and interpretation, making Resident Evil 7 a perfect fit for the series in that it expands into new directions in some ways with the plot and graphics and characters, and yet still retains the same brand name and doesn’t so drastically change the formula as Resident Evil 4 did once upon a time. If your main worry was that a first-person perspective could never work with a series such as Resident Evil, then worry no more because that is perhaps one of the brilliant strokes the game pulls off and never has much of an issue with outside of expected clippings and occasional environmental travesties.

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While I’ve got to give Resident Evil 7 points for originality in some cases, I’d also have to ding it for taking some credit where credit is not due- at least not to Resident Evil 7. Many of the plot elements may be new to Resident Evil, and yet they’ve already been done by other horror titles such as Silent Hill and F.E.A.R as well. In fact, the bulk of the story itself stems from essentially some mix of Silent Hill 2 and F.E.A.R 1 and 2’s own plot mechanics. And while this is totally acceptable even if it is not so original, it’s just a weird thing to notice if you’ve played those other titles and sense a mildly disappointing amount of deja-vu throughout Biohazard’s campaign. Resident Evil 7 treads new ground for the series in many ways and yet it follows the same cliched tropes of horror as a genre in general, and I suppose you have to take what victories you can, but that really rung hollow to me. An every-man searching a supposedly abandoned setting for his wife in what turns out to be a cunning trap and descent into veritable madness- it’s not quite the first time we’ve heard that line.

The largest criticism I have for this game, if you couldn’t tell from the paragraphs I’ve written on it already, is the plot. So now that I’ve pointed out that it’s bonkers and doesn’t ever quite add up, even mechanically in-game, let’s move on to some other critiques and praises. One last tidbit that’s semi-related though is that Ethan Winters as a playable character, while promising in exposition, is perhaps more boring and predictable than even Chris Redfield has become lately. He barely reacts to anything- bashing his missing wife’s face in with an axe, getting limbs severed, seeing a man whose entire body has been lit on fire and subsequently blown apart with a shotgun coming at him with pulsating brain matter showing through his destroyed skull, or even picking up the telephone every fifteen minutes when the omniscient NPC enemies and allies manage to pinpoint his exact location in the house and contact him. Getting over disbelief in a far-fetched plot is one thing, but things just not registering for the main character like they should is another annoyance altogether.

Thankfully, while Ethan is largely forgettable and the small array of side characters who aren’t trying to kill you are actively just as memorable, the antagonists- both actual and perceived, are the larger attraction where characterization is concerned. The Baker family- those crazies you’ve probably seen in the trailers over and over or played with in the few demos released, are the main draw in the beginning of the game especially (although they’re still memorable in the latter portions as well). Each has their own distinct personality, own distinct powers and abilities, and also their own distinct domain on their family lands. In many ways, they are there to herd players towards eventual endgame objectives, and yet the more you encounter them the more you come to wonder about their origins before you finally understand them later in the game. Resident Evil 7 is a lot of smoke and mirrors, but the crazy stuff and tragic details surrounding the Bakers is definitely not just a bunch of smoke blown needlessly your way.

Probably my largest bone to pick with Resident Evil 6 in retrospect is the fact that it so often and so boringly broke up combat and the tenseness of situations by presenting players over and over again with locked doors. To be fair, in many ways that is sort of an age-old Resident Evil thing, and yet Biohazard somehow avoided this mundane searching and backtracking by actually making it bearable. I think it may be largely due to the fact that the game features a much more organic and intriguing environment rather than the linear and forgettable monstrosities of the previous title. It’s not less confined or expansive, and yet suddenly backtracking to collect a key or disarm a booby trap or uncover some new evidence doesn’t seem altogether lackluster or painful. Naturally, expect your fair share of needless jump scares over and over again and expect them to be old after an hour or two- but such is the Capcom way sometimes.

In some ways Resident Evil 7 brings the series back down to earth and back to its roots, and yet in others it is even more fantastical than the last entry. Thankfully, one thing it does well is craft more believable and entertaining boss fights and encounters. Every enemy seems thought out rather than hastily thrown at you like Resident Evil 6 was wont to do. The Bakers and the other more powerful adversaries each come with their own specific methodology to battle, although a much more prepared player can potentially blitz their way through earlier encounters with sheer firepower and determination. Action is still a large part of the game, but it has taken a step towards being more cinematic so that the bulk of the experience can be returned to its horror roots. It makes for a better and overall more enjoyable and tenser experience to be sure. The gunplay and most melee moments are handled quite well although there are some unexpected hiccups here and there specifically where reactionary movement is concerned with special weapons. On the whole however, the first person perspective increases the enjoyability of the well-oiled combat both aesthetically and physically.

All things considered, Resident Evil 7 is the return to form that the series needed even if it ultimately doesn’t change things up quite as much as it probably could or should’ve. It is by no means Resident Evil 4, but then that isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. It stands largely on its own although there are still obvious and subtle connections to the rest of the series, making it a tad clearer than expected as to just how it fits in with the other titles. The expansion of the universe and video game lore is welcome and for a series that constantly retcons its own ideas and even who’s alive and who’s dead, it largely adds onto the Resident Evil fiction without taking anything else away in turn. Given the chance, whether you’re a newcomer to the series or a longstanding fan, you should give the game a chance- it’s as good a jumping on point as any, especially given the lack of need to know information considering past titles.

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Concept: Reinvent the Resident Evil series as we know it, adding a breath of freshness to a series that has otherwise begun to grow stale over the years. Introduce new characters, a new plot, and new gimmicks along the way.

Graphics: Particularly great animation and environmental work adds ambiance and aesthetic thrills to the tense adventure. Add in the fact that limbs are lopped off and gore is always present and you have a graphically sound and impressive piece of work.

Sound: There is often little to no sound and yet that works in a genre such as this. When there is something to be said or done, the voice acting is about on par with most triple-A titles and doesn’t disappoint. The minimalist soundtrack ratchets the tension at all the right times as well.

Playability: Exploration and tense combat are given their equal due and are the largest elements in play throughout the game. It handles well for the entirety of the campaign and is an incredibly well-played experience to boot.

Entertainment: Most of the entertainment can be derived from the expansion of the lore and in-game details strewn about the world. Making subtle and not-so subtle connections to the other games in the series is what Capcom often does best and it works here better than it probably ever has before. In an experience that could’ve been largely standalone, Capcom unites Resident Evil 7 with previous titles in thrilling and interesting ways.

Replay Value: Moderately High.

Overall Score: 8.0

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Final Fantasy XV Review

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At first I ignorantly told myself that I would not do a review for Final Fantasy XV because it was simply too big of a game and by the time I’d probably seen enough, my review would be all but obsolete and unnecessary. Well, it turns out I’m a fool for a multitude of reasons and I am in fact here to deliver my verdict concerning the game. This is the first of two long-term projects that has reached completion in this November-December time this year, the second of which would be the eleven year journey that has been The Last Guardian. For a ten year old game, Final Fantasy XV certainly took note of the things Duke Nukem Forever utterly failed to do and sidestepped those issues swiftly. That’s not to say it doesn’t sport its own brand of incompetence at times.

In many ways, Final Fantasy XV playfully reminded me of other open world gems such as the first Xenoblade Chronicles title and Red Dead Redemption. Now, I know these are two entirely different games that share little save for an open format and plenty of side objectives, but it’ll maybe become a tad more apparent as to why I draw these comparisons later on. The trio of Final Fantasy XIII games (XIII, XIII-2, and Lightning Returns) each sought to change the malleable Final Fantasy formula in their own ways, however XV does so in an entirely new way and takes things from a different perspective as well. For such a large and expansive world, it truly is the little things that tend to set Final Fantasy XV apart, save for some of the more dynamic changes such as combat.

The narrative itself is as convoluted as the rest of the series can sometimes get as it stretches across multiple mediums and carries on after literal decades of real-life time. That’s not to say its themes fall flat or that it is terrible, merely that without consulting a fanpage or wiki, you are likely best going into the game as a blank slate and not thinking too much about that good old one-winged Sephiroth guy or anyone named after white fluffy sky pillows wielding larger than realistic swords. Like most of the other Final Fantasy titles, XV carries with it its own lore and themes and for the most part it can essentially be boiled down to a kingdom at the brink of war and friendship, brotherhood, and camaraderie.

Perhaps one of the realest sensations the game has to offer is the thoroughly tangible result of your interactions with your three brothers in arms and party members. Whereas you may encounter guest characters that fight by your side or otherwise advance the story along certain paths, the bulk of your adventure is spent within the confines of four named characters- Noctis, Ignis, Gladiolis, and Prompto. You’re essentially tasked with embarking upon the roadtrip of a lifetime, for lack of a better explanation and due to the fact you start off with a car. Yes, the car you’ve probably seen on all that promotional stuff. By the end of your journey though, let’s just say it gets a heavy duty upgrade and love letter from the auto shop. The brotherhood and camaraderie doesn’t start and stop with combat and side quests though- it extends to every aspect of your adventure as it permeates even the dullest of campfires and areas explored and camped in. No detour is too small, no task too much.

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The most important thing you should before anything else, if you’ve not already discovered it for yourself, is that Final Fantasy XV should not be constrained or defined by series traditions. It may unmistakably be a Final Fantasy title, but by the same token it is a new breed of beast. In many ways its faults and strengths play off of the same notes because travel and atmosphere are definite strengths whereas familiarity to borderline boredom and cheap sameness, lengthy ‘garbage time’ and unavoidable detours, and characteristic similarities detract from the overall experience.

For my mention of the impressively expansive world as well as its equally expansive lore, the one highlight of the complex story is that it keeps things simple and allows players to choose how much they would like to read into it. You’re perfect able and welcome to traipse through with the barest of details and to ignore or glean as much lore as you’d like. It’s there for you to find and the world is brimming with alternatives to main questlines if you’d like to go out and explore it, but by the same token this can sometimes seem a weighty task and nigh impossible due to travel time that is severely frustrating in the opening hours as you’re constantly hindered by an on-rails driving experience. Don’t try to travel from one edge of the world to the other unless you’d like to sit still for entirely too long and arrive somewhere between the doldrums and REM sleep.

I was immensely pleased that, although the narrative has other focuses that are definitely there, this is a story particularly focused on its main protagonists and not so much on the battles or politics of the land. While there are plenty of important moments and events, the time spent with your comrades and friends is balanced as equally if not more important and definitely has a positive impact throughout. For the most part, this is what the entirety of the Final Fantasy XIII timeline lacked- a sense of unity and camaraderie that felt earnest and believable as well as downright enviable. Character development is key in any role-playing adventure and it takes center stage as one of the most brilliant moves in gameplay/narrative design for Final Fantasy XV.

Without ruining their own redeemable and often laudable qualities for those of you who have yet to play the game, each of the four main party members definitely establishes their own distinctive attitude despite them all resembling some anime meets boyband crew. Don’t let their familiar garb and gear fool you- each of the four is their own individual character and story, and it’s entirely up to you to pursue that to your own ends and cultivate whatever relationships you can between the band for the duration of your adventures. Perhaps one of the most interesting elements of all is the natural melding of gameplay and narrative characteristics as each character has their own special “hobby” of sorts that ties into side content such as photography, cooking, and other small yet aesthetically pleasing values and attributive qualities.

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For all the expansiveness of the world, there is sometimes the feeling that it is almost TOO big, which seems a bit ridiculous as far as complaints go, but is made true do to the lack of objectives or opportunities in the most barren of regions. Arguably, these regions are veritable deserts, so who would expect much in the way of enemy encounters or loot there anyway right? Still, it is made all the more frustrating by the fact that these regions often take the most time to traverse, even by vehicle. Trekking around on foot for any extreme length of time is all but completely out of the question as the world is truly gigantic. There are meaningful and interesting side missions to be found quite literally everywhere, loot and goodies in pretty much every nook and cranny, plenty of upgrades and unlockables, and side adventures that culminate in dungeon diving that is entirely missable if you hardly dare to adventure outside of the main quest series.

Combat is one of the biggest and most innovative changes for the series and in my mind one that has been made for the better, streamlining encounters into a rapid response of buttons and role-playing elements that in some ways remind me of Lost Odyssey’s (Mist Walker) ring combat and flourishes. Speed is valued over brute strength and strategy wins the day. You are able to cue up some teamwork-imbued linked attacks almost akin to Marvel Ultimate Alliance’s combo attacks that utilize the powers of two heroes as well. Stringing together successful hits is as much about countering and evasive maneuvers in the vein of the Batman Arkham titles as it is to outright attacking your foes. To make matters even better, each encounter is fairly balanced to your level and style of play with the exception of some of the more difficult boss fights of course.

Some other miscellaneous notes about the game are going to follow. Square very much took the size of the world into mind when crafting some of the enemy encounters and even when creating the special “summons” that each character can utilize here and there during combat once meeting the standard requirements and defending themselves well enough in combat. The world is expansive and as such is populated by particularly nasty and hulking behemoths in certain regions, so powerful and so large that it often takes literal hours of game time during events to defeat them, meaning you may have to come back later for encounters. Surprisingly, this isn’t as horrible an idea as it sounds because you’re not necessarily forced to fight that single battle for the entire time in one sitting anyway. Summons allow you to essentially square off with these larger than life foes in your own monstrous showdown as well, many of which can be seen in action in the gameplay videos available online.

While combat works well, stealth oriented elements fall completely flat in the game and this is put woefully on display towards the end when you are tasked with infiltrating particular areas of the world in the final few chapters of your adventure. The main story and gameplay meld at this point and your experience will be limited until after its completion which allows you back out into the world in its entirety- a strange decision but one that does not terribly affect or impact the game or gameplay otherwise. Enhancements and upgrades will stem from both the main and side paths, meaning there is a healthy balance to be found on and off the beaten path throughout. All in all, the experience is an interesting and worthwhile one even with its mistakes and few artistic missteps along the way.

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Concept: Create a hybridization of Final Fantasy elements both old and new without it feeling like a cheap adventure title with the name plastered on but not really holding onto elements dear to the series.

Graphics: The graphics are for the most part spectacular and the animations are impressive and detailed. Camera angles are odd at times especially when paused mid-combat, however the gameplay never suffers as a result.

Sound: The voice acting is superb and there is an available collection of classic melodies from Final Fantasies both old and new. Some of the Final Fantasy XV pieces themselves are less stellar than others, however the soundtrack is passable.

Playability: The locomotion in terms of vehicles is one of the worst elements of the game as it is such an integral part of gameplay at times. However, combat and overall control of the game handles well once you overcome a slight skill gap.

Entertainment: The world and players won’t lack for activities both main and side content related to dive into. While the experience takes a hit in its later narrative exploits and also in its ability to traverse the expansive world, the overall experience is an enjoyable and worthwhile one.

Replay Value: High.

Overall Score: 8.0

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Hitman: Season One Review

[As Read on GIO.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Replay Value: Moderately High.

Overall Score: 7.5

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Battlefield 1 Review

[As Originally Read on GIO.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Replay Value: Very High.

Overall Score: 8.5

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A Rising Tide: Destiny and the Rise of Iron

[As Read on GIO.]

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Destiny’s latest expansion released nearly a month ago and now I’ve finally had a good enough taste of what it offers in order to give some of my own thoughts. This is a review of sorts but more importantly it is a discussion. Destiny has been and will undoubtedly continue to be a good game. The first two expansions were welcome if smaller additions, The Taken King was a very welcome and game-changing and much larger addition, and Rise of Iron falls in a happy medium between those two.

Rise of Iron changes a few things up, adds a few others, but for the most part tweaks the core experience you’ve come to recognize and enjoy. The fundamentals are unchanged however they have been given a facelift in terms of menu layout and inventory for example. You now have the ability to explore a whole new section of the Cosmodrone labeled as the ominous Plaguelands. While for the most part it is a nuclear winter reskin of the original areas, it offers some interesting new places to explore and missions delving into a cult-like mechanized and bioengineered Fallen guild.

Another much anticipated new addition to the gameplay is Felwinter Peak, Destiny’s newest social space and the second on Earth proper. Like any good update, Rise of Iron has its fair share of secrets, only a few of which I’m sure have actually even been discovered yet. If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones’ House Stark, then you’ll enjoy Felwinter Peak’s plethora of scenic snowy vistas, wolves, and twisty trees a la a weirwood forest.

There is a main questline but also a pretty good number of side quests including exotic hunts and strike missions (as well as a game changing raid that I won’t spoil at all here with details). However the updates aren’t limited to the solo and fireteam aspect of things, as multiplayer has also been changed both in terms of being updated and in terms of adding accessibility and functionality. There is a new dedicated offline/online sort of private match building potential, several new game modes including (for comparison) a sort of Kill Confirmed (for CoD fans) crest stealing mode. Maps have been updated, added to, rotated about, and even new additions have been added.

This is only a small description of what the complete package has to offer but rest assured it is worth shelling out the extra money for if you are a Destiny fan. If you have yet to play the game but are interested, I encourage you to seek out Bungie’s complete edition as it includes every single expansion and is the same price as a normal retail game. Between The Taken King and Rise of Iron alone there is plenty of new content to explore as you seek to rid the galaxy of the Darkness and raise your light level to the new cap of 385. My one grievance of sorts is that they don’t seem to want to increase the actual level capacity to say 50, probably due to balancing purposes.

All in all, you really should heed the call. It may not be the call to duty, but it’s a call to go on a galaxy-spanning adventure of a lifetime and to combat ancient and evil threats along the way.

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Films I’ve Seen Recently

The following is just a brief list of films I’ve watched/re-watched lately either in theaters or through other means. Not all are from this year of course.

No Country for Old Men 8/10

Escape from L.A 6/10

War Dogs 7/10

Star Trek Beyond 8/10

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“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Pt 1 & 2” Review

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First of all, allow me to say as a fellow ’80s child (alongside Harry who is of course a little under two years older than me by this point) that I appreciate this play/writing being created just as much as any ’90s child would. I read through the first seven novels and always had a blast exploring the mystical world that J.K Rowling crafted. I watched all eight films and was mildly surprised that each found its way to the silver screen in such an amusing and enjoyable way. Sure, things always differ between film and book and although I would’ve loved them to be exact replicas, I do understand why they could not be at all times.

Therefore, upon hearing that not only would there be a two-part theatrical production but a released text to accompany it in semi-book form, I was as enthused as anyone would be. And then of course there is the matter of the film adaptation of ‘Fantastic Beasts’ coming shortly as well. Suffice it to say, the world cannot have enough of Harry Potter- whether you condemn the producers for selling their souls and continuing to milk the brand or not is beyond the point.

To be clear, this particular review is for the text of ‘Cursed Child Part 1 and 2’ not the theatrical release. As much as I applaud them for taking leaps and bounds theatrically to shake things up and make them interesting, I’ve always preferred text and I like to envision the characters the same as I always have in my mind as well. I’ll do my best to hit the highlights of the three-hundred odd pages or so without spoiling anything, as if you all probably haven’t had things spoiled enough for you by this point.

‘Cursed Child’ should be considered the eighth base text in the Potter saga although it is as much Harry’s story as it is that of his youngest son Albus Severus Potter’s (alongside Scorpius Malfoy, perhaps the most darling character Rowling has written yet). Picking up roughly where the epilogue of book seven (Deathly Hallows) leaves us, nineteen or so years after the Battle of Hogwarts and all that was thenceforth ended in the wizarding world (see: Moldy Voldy and several lovable characters), ‘Cursed Child’ quickly proves that it isn’t going to stay quietly in the Potter mold. Within about fifty pages, three or four years pass at Hogwarts and an entirely different story begins to take shape. Things have never been perfect in Harry’s world and Rowling (alongside of course Jack Thorne and John Tiffany) makes sure to inject just the right, believable amount of familial drama and flawed characters into the mix as well.

I enjoyed the believable evolution and portrayal of familiar characters as well as the addition of new ones to make the story have its own, new sense of purpose and direction and life. The world may or may not be a better place and characters see their flaws and notice how things in the past may come back to haunt them and this is very much a large and intricately portrayed part of the story. I’ll not spoil any key plot-specific elements but I will most definitely say that time plays a large role in the story- not just in terms of establishing the future but reconciling with past actions as well. Rowling definitely goes the classic route and tugs on the heartstrings by making callbacks to previous notable moments in Harry’s life, exceptionally so in roughly the last fifty pages or so of the text.

I enjoyed seeing the overall arching storylines that traced characters’ paths from book seven until ‘Cursed Child’ and I also enjoyed how things ended. I say ended merely because the two-part theatrical production definitely serves as a fitting end for Harry’s story, although it could very well turn into the beginning of his son’s generation of characters’ story. I was satisfied with the end of Harry’s seven years at Hogwarts for better or worse and I’m just as satisfied by the end of ‘Cursed Child’ overall. It both trod old and familiar territory and spiced things up a little bit with some changes to the nostalgic formula and teases of darker things to come hither and thither. I’m excited to see where the world continues to go- whether in terms of films or other productions, and that will never change. The groundwork has been laid for delving into other realms of production and Rowling has proved that she can craft intricate and thought-provoking stories both with eight-hundred page tomes and three-hundred page manuscripts.

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