User Review

73 Reviews


  Viewing Reviews 1-10 of 73
avatar name

Posted:
2015-03-19

Darren_Summerell

Writer

Xbox One

8.8

The 'Diablo' series belongs somewhere in the annals of video gaming history due to the cult like following it inspired. Developed by Blizzard Entertainment, this third person isometric dungeon crawler has been the go to game for fantasy fanatics for decades. Now 'Diablo III: Reaper of Souls' has released for the Xbox One and we couldn't wait to get our hands on it. We had some reservations, mainly due to the fact that we had always played 'Diablo' games on our PCs, but once we got our hands on the title things quickly became apparent to us. We were in for a treat.

When 'Diablo III' was announced fans got rightfully intrigued and excited. This would be the game they had been waiting years to get their hands on. When the title finally released for the PC it came out to surprisingly lukewarm reviews. Despite the rabid fanbase, the game wasn't a polished experience. Things didn't feel quite right and the game never hit its mark. Let's not even begin to talk about DRM or the assorted other issues that uniquely plague computer gamers.

So we were rightfully skeptical about how a port to the Xbox One would carry over. We knew that 'Diablo III: Reaper of Souls' was an expansion to a game that came out pretty flawed upon release but we knew that Blizzard was the kind of company that could fix the situation if they were given enough time in order to do so. So we waited. And waited. And waited. And finally we got our hands on the Xbox One release of 'Reaper' and before we knew it we were back into the world that Blizzard so handily created. As the first expansion pack to be released for 'Diablo III' there was a lot here for us to hope for.

'Reaper of Souls' picks up in Act 5, right after your player has defeated Nephalem. Tyrael has foudn the Black Soulstone that holds, basically, the essence of seven great evils. He realizes how dangerous it is and so he ventures to to take it back to the Sanctuary in order to seal it away forever. This goes about as well as any good thing goes in the 'Diablo' series. Malthael ambushes the man and soon takes the soulstone and flees away as the 'angel of death'. This is where you come in. If you thought your adventure was over after Act 4, get ready for a whole new darker chapter.

If you thought that 'Diablo III' presented itself as a dark experience then you will begin to think of that time as rainbows and butterflies versus what you experience in 'Reaper'. This expansion takes a turn for the dark. Colors are saturated and bleak. Textures are gritty, crumbling, and soul crushing. You'll find corpses piled in cathedrals, evil spirits possessing the poor and weak NPCs, and you'll come to find a King that is in no shape to protect the people he has been charged to care for. The story is as obfuscating as any entry in the world of 'Diablo' and it is only to be paid attention to if you are a hardcore fan. Having been out of the game for awhile we spent a lot of time going, "Wait, who? What?" The intense names and extensive lore don't do anything to help the casual player out.

If you've spent any time with the other entries in Blizzard's flagship franchise then you know essentially what you are getting with 'Reaper'. This is a dungeon crawler in the truest sense of the word. You will push through many different terrains as you seek the ever illusive perfect loot. Much of the game is focused on you killing things in order to get better gear so that you can go forward and kill more things. It doesn't sound entirely riveting when we put it like that, but it is truly a fun experience.

Knowing that the game hasn't changed at its core we instead started hunting for those extra features and gameplay refinements that make these expansion packs worth buying. We ended up finding a couple that were well worth mentioning.

Adventure Mode

One of the most exciting new additions was the Adventure Mode. This mode allows players to go to any region available in the game without having to actually start a new game in order to do so. You'll have new objectives (which we'll list below) that you can work on defeating.

Bounties & Nephalem Rifts

When you are playing in Adventure Mode you probably want something to spice it up. Enter bounties. Each act allows you to complete 5 random bounties. Bounties require you to kill a specific enemy, kill a certain number of enemies, complete a certain event, or just clear out a certain area. In return for completing these bounties you will be given a monetary reward, some loot, and a few bloodshards which you can trade for better items. You will also get Rift Fragments which are used to activate Nephalem Rifts. These Rifts, once activated, open up a new dungeon for you to play through.

Now that we've talked about some of the new additions to the game we can take time to appreciate the overall aesthetic. We've talked about how dark the game is, but we haven't really discussed how beautiful it is. Some people complain about the top down view due to the fact that it can be restrictive from an artistic standpoint. We don't mind. The game still manages to show off stunning scale in the form of buildings and monsters.

The more we played through 'Diablo III: Reaper of Souls' the more we found ourselves enjoying the experience. 'Reaper of Souls' is almost definitively 'more of the same', but the 'same' that it gives us is a quality experience. There is just enough new content here that we wouldn't have felt bad if we had to shell out the $20 you have to spend to get the content for the game. If only for the new 5th act the expansion was worth having.

avatar name

Posted:
2015-02-19

Darren_Summerell

Writer

PS4

8.0

'The Wolf Among Us' is an interactive point and click adventure game that was released for the PlayStation 4 on November 2014. The game was developed by Telltale Games, who also have a history of producing top quality content that is driven by story. Their prior work, 'The Walking Dead', has become one of the best story driven games in the world. Much like 'The Walking Dead', 'Wolf' is an episodic game that requires its players to download the next installment in order to move on with the story. Let's take a long hard look at what makes 'The Wolf Among Us' so special.

So what's it all about?

So a brief glance at the character list for 'Wolf' will have you nodding your head in recognition. The main character of the story, and who we follow, is Bigby Wolf. He is the sheriff of a gritty little place called Fabletown. There he serves under Ichabod Crane, the deputy mayor, and alongside Snow White, his secretary. The beginning of the game introduces us to just how dark the story will get as we, playing Bigby, are immediately saving a young prostitute from a drunk and violent woodsman. We escort her back to safety and before we part ways she says these stark words: "You're not as bad as they say." And, unfortunately for the young prostitute, those would be the last words we ever hear her say. For the next time we see her she is beheaded and her head is left on the Woodlands doorstep. And thus begins the twisting and turning dark adventure into the world of Fable. Bigby is sent to investigate the murder and to find just who is responsible for the ghastly deed.

So how does it feel on the PlayStation 4?

I don't know when exactly it happened, but at some point there was a unanimous decision from within the entertainment industry to make everything 'gritty'. Batman was given the Nolan treatment. Superman and the Fantastic Four quickly followed. Now you can't look down the aisle of a movie store without staring at a dark and violent re-imagining of a classic or innocent tale. So we shouldn't be surprised to see that Telltale Games chose to go this direction with Bill Willingham's material. Instead of following Willingham's original thread of style: character studies of fairy tale figures in real life, we are greeted with a scathing commentary on the flaws of man and the errors of a class system. The game feels dirty due to how graphic and corrupt the themes within are. Is that bad? Well, if you are playing a Telltale's game then no. You know what you are getting from the company. But it is definitely different, and that isn't something to forget.

So how does it look?

The selling feature for these sorts of story driven adventures, outside of the plot, is how the art can grab you. Even the most interesting game will fall by the wayside if the artwork is off-putting. In signature Telltale fashion, 'The Wolf Among Us' looks as glorious as ever. The series of episodes look ripped straight from a comic book and the HD textures of the characters absolutely pop off our screen. When Bigby fills the screen with anger we can really feel his hatred emanating through to us. When smarmy Ichabod tries to control the flow of things, we can see in each twitch of his facial features how he is going to act. To put it simply, the game looks great. However, to truly appreciate the art direction you must have some sort of familiarity with comic books and the way that Telltale does their job.

So how is the gameplay?

This seems an odd question to ask for those that are interested in what is essentially a point and click adventure. Yet the question is still worth answering. In 'Wolf Among us' you will be granted new areas in each Episode that you play. Once you are in these areas you will need to get down and dirty to work over the scene. You need to investigate rooms, interrogate people, and collect items. You will be granted occasional moments of quick time action where you are forced to react quickly in order to survive. These moments are sparse but they keep your blood up for quite awhile afterwards. Once you've exhausted each area the game will push you forward. It's all simple, in a way, and that makes it all the more satisfying when you do mess up. The game doesn't let you play it perfectly and you will make choices that dramatically change the events going forward. This is a live 'choose your own adventure' and Bigby walks down the path that you lead him on.

Some of the most enjoyable sections of the game occur when you are trying to get information out of some of the more colorful characters in the game. You take on the role of a simplified detective, not unlike 'L.A. Noire', and you have to use all of your tricks to get information out. You will have options to be verbally or physically abusive. You will have options to try and win over your suspect with honey and sugar coated words. But be sure to act quickly and with confidence. Your enemies are smart and they will clam up or run off if they feel your tactics going forward. So in that way you have to always be on your toes. You have to be ready to make things work to crack this case open.

In conclusion.

At its core 'The Wolf Among Us' on the PlayStation 4 begs gamers to take a look at the dregs of society. Even in a place like Fabletown, where magic can be real, people still suffer and try to scrape by. But are these people, the poor and the destitute, the true problems? Bigby Wolf is a flawed man, trying to make good on a life full of hate, and the characters he runs across may be no different.

avatar name

Posted:
2015-02-27

Darren_Summerell

Writer

Xbox One

7.7

Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved on the Xbox One is a musical based video game developed by Harmonix and published later by Microsoft Studios.

Disney's classic films 'Fantasia' and 'Fantasia 2000' are heralded for the way they treated classical music and the beautiful, cinematic experiences that they helped to create. With Disney being one of the ultimate cash cows in the entertainment business it was no surprise to see that a video game, based off of these legendary films, made its way to our desk. 'Fantasia: Music Evolved' is a rhythm based game that seeks to recapture the magic of the 'Fantasia' films in an interactive, music oriented experience. The game promised to spark the magic once more and pull fans in, in a way that they never thought possible. These were big promises to make for a company that was selling us on an Xbox One, Kinect based video game, but we decided to give it a shot.

Going to Disney Land is an almost spiritual event for some people. Whether they went as children into the gated world of wonder or they went back as adults, there is something in the air. It can give you a tingle down your spine or force a smile onto your face. Disney truly is a magical company and the way that they've controlled their brand throughout the decades has reinforced this fact. We felt that same tingle down our backs when we first put 'Music Evolved' into our console. Pretty soon we were fully immersed in one of the more innocent and magical performances of the year.

The music is alive...

Rhythm based games are a niche product in and of themselves. Adding on to that already small niche the basis of motion control will make even more gamers get pushed out of your target demographic. Fortunately for us, that didn't stop Disney. 'Music Evolved' was developed through Harmonix with the goal of creating composers out of us all. In the game we stand in front of cinematic light shows and direct the songs around us with hand motions and body movements. Not unlike 'Rock Band' or 'Guitar Hero' the goal is to make great music. Completely UNLIKE those two prior titles, 'Music Evolved' doesn't punish you for your failures. Much like many other Disney IP's, the game rewards you simply for being there to experience it.

There is a little bit of story attached to the game and it involves Mickey Mouse and the role of becoming a sorcerer. We learn of how Mickey apprenticed himself to the great sorcerer Yensid. We then go on to find out how Mickey struggled with his role. Now the gamer is stepping into the robes in order to learn how to truly conduct the magic and music of the cosmos. It's a simple little story that sets the table for the rhythm based gameplay. It was enough to get us into the game without too much fuss.

Once you are inside of the game, you are ready to be introduced to a world full of worlds. Fantasia is a magical place full of many different realms. From the devil filled mountains all the way to the 8 bit wonderlands, you will explore and conduct in colorful imaginative environments. These different realms provide the player new opportunities to unlock minigames, find Easter Eggs, and further create depth out of an experience that could have been relatively shallow.

The heart and soul of the game is not in exploration, though it is an enjoyable aspect. Instead the game pushes us to wave our hands around in front of our television as we seek to replicate the magic of sound. Once you are 'in the song' you will see different motions and diagrams form across your screen. These coincide with the music that is playing and it is up to you to appropriately match the signals. You will have to punch, flick, slide, and conduct your way to the highest score that you are able to.

When you are 'on your game' in 'Music Evolved' you will feel like a true sorcerer. The different commands that flash across the screen sync up nicely with the music in order to create an effect that makes you believe in your conducting. When you do slack off and actually miss moments the only repercussion is that the song starts to lessen in volume. You cannot fail no matter how poorly you do. This is one of the more controversial gameplay elements and also one of our favorites. In the world of Fantasia we shouldn't be worried about competition. We should be focused on creating.

There is the basic single player campaign that will have you pushing through various classic musicians including Queen and Peter Gabriel. You'll run into many modern classics like "Royals" by Lorde or "Super Bass" by Nikki Minaj. There are also classical recordings of famous composers like Mozart, Vivaldi, and Tchaikovsky. These are particularly challenging to master in the game but they are also rewarding.

Looking past the single player campaign will reveal a few joy filled game modes. One of the most popular modes allows for players to remix these popular songs. You'll be able to switch out the guitar section of one song in place of a horns section. A lot of times you'll make a track that sounds nothing like the original but it is somehow still interesting. You get to shape the music by changing the instruments, adjusting the melody, and improvising in a way that is both exciting and still approachable.

The final game mode is multiplayer. This mode is similar to the 'Guitar Hero' line where you are competing against the person next to you. You each will have your own color of hand movements and the higher score wins. You can also collaborate on remixes and such in order to make some truly unique tunes.

Disney's Fantasia: Music Evolved on the Xbox One is another magical experience for those of us that might not ever truly grow up. The game gives audiences young and old something to share with one another while simultaneously pushing us toward something better.

avatar name

Posted:
2015-02-27

Darren_Summerell

Writer

Xbox One

8.9

'Forza Horizon 2' on the Xbox One is a racing simulator and this is the follow up to the previous title known as Forza Horizon, the game was published by Microsoft and developed by Playground Games and Turn 10 Studios.

The racing simulator has always held a special place in our hearts. We could date our obsession with sporty racers as starting with 'Cruisin U.S.A' and you could follow that thread of interest all the way up to the incredible 'Forza' series. This is the first open world racing game to really satisfy that deep need in our hearts for fancy cars and the open road. Though we fell in love with the game, will it do the same thing for you? Keep reading to find out!

Fancy cars and the open road...

'Forza Horizon 2' on the Xbox One is set during a fictional racing event called the 'Horizon Festival'. The festival takes place in Europe, primarily in France and Italy, and it is here that we spend our time on the roads. If you played the original 'Horizon' then you probably think you know what you are getting out of this game. You don't, though. Before even picking up a controller we decided to look at the map of the game. The map itself has drivable regions that accumulate to three times bigger than 'Horizon 1'. Yeah, so right off the bat you know you are getting a gigantic experience.

The biggest buzz word in gaming, next to sandbox, seems to be 'open world'. Gamers want everything to be open world. The restrictions that are commonly associated with linear games are no longer deemed acceptable. This new game style plays well in certain genres, like roleplaying games and slashers, but it doesn't seem tailor made for a racing game. It would be like trying to make the latest 'Madden' open world. What does that even mean? For 'Forza 2' it means unrestricted driving, and it is wonderful.

The open world element of 'Horizon 2' is probably the biggest game changer in the industry for this years crop of sporty racers. Being able to seamlessly drive from one end of Italy all the way to the other is special. Take in the sights, pull over for a great screen shot, or shred your way through a classic Italian vineyard. The experience is up to you. Naturally the game will get some comparisons to 'The Crew' but they really don't compare. The tone of the two games is completely different and we are thankful for that.

One of the first things gamers will do when firing up the game is to look at the available cars to drive. After all, how can you enjoy an open world racing game without a virtual ala carte to choose from? Fortunately for you, the developers put in as many cars as they could fit into the game. At the end of the day there are over 200 cars to choose from that range all the way from the absurd to the absurdly nice. You can drive 4x4s, farm vehicles, sports cars, and top of the line name brands. The supercars are sharp and handle beautifully on the hilly roads above Tuscany. The SUVs are durable but they feel slow and less inclined to follow sharp turns if you need them to. But cars aren't everything, even in a racing game. And for this title, the world takes center stage.

We've already briefly touched on how the open world aspect of the game is so important but now we will dive deeper. The setting for 'Horizon 2' is probably the most magical thing about the whole experience. You'll find yourself shooting down the borders of Northern Italy and France while you straddle hills and cliff faces. You'll rude the coast of the Mediterranean before swinging off into a classical little town. There is plenty of room for you to enjoy your ride and more than enough area to rack up those lovable skill points. Use these skill points to trade for perks and discounts on newer cars. This is addicting and it caters so well to the 'achievement hunter' crowd that we so firmly belong in.

The problem with open world games is that they often feel aimless. Without any sense of direction most gamers will end up growing bored of what they are doing. 'Forza Horizon' forgoes that concern by filling the disc up with events to partake in. There are about 700 events that you can compete in that will help you rack up skill points while honing your skills. You have Showcase Races, cross country competition, and even some verifiably insane off road content to partake in. All of these different game modes are different enough that you can cycle through them whenever you grow weary of one. They are also all dynamic enough that you will find yourself improving as you go forward in the game. These races actually do something for your skills.

Probably one of the most unique aspects of 'Horizon 2' is the Bucket List. This is a list of challenges that you must complete in order to fill out the list. They are completely unique activities that seem tailor made to inspire you to play with the world. Some items on the list will be simple, like clocking through a speed trap. Others will push you to reconsider how sane you are as you careen around a golf course. You'll also spend a ton of time looking for Barns all over the map. These will house special vehicles for you to get your hands on in order to drive.

No racing game would be complete without solid multiplayer and that is where we found our end to the experience. You can seamlessly enter 'online mode' with the click of a button. Then you will find yourself in a race that is synced to the time and day of your offline world. It's a unique feature that keeps the immersion aspect completely in tact. It is also a fitting cap to a wonderful game.

avatar name

Posted:
2015-07-19

Darren_Summerell

Writer

Xbox One

6.7

Shiftlings on the Xbox One was developed by the guys and girls over at Rock Pocket Games. The puzzle market has always been there, sort of in the background as a niche demographic. However, everyone loves a great puzzle game and we were glad to see an original IP hit the market trying to innovate what could be considered a rather tired genre. This platform puzzler, which caters to single and multiplayer situations, offers enough new wrinkles that we felt compelled to download it and give it a shot - if only to support a team of developers that cared enough to try something new. Dive into the review below and see if you’ll be adding this 2D game to your library any time soon.

The focus of Shiftlings centers on two alien janitors. These would-be heroes accidentally drink the 'fizziest drink' in all of the universe. In an almost Willy Wonka style effect, one of the aliens rockets into the air as he is filled with gas. The two janitors are connected via an air hose and thus their fates are intrinsically intertwined. Moving the gas back and forth with a press of a button can inflate and deflate their suits, making this one of the core physics based gameplay elements to drive the actual game.

Not to be outdone with this simple presentation, Shiftlings goes a little more meta in their premise. These two aliens happen to be the stars of a reality show that routinely sends them on janitorial conquests all over the galaxy. Their goal is to shut down gas vales, close waste pipes, and just be all around great galactic janitors. Hey, it’s reality television so anything will sell. The reality show factor of the game is increased tenfold thanks to the fact that there is a commentator discussing the action on the screen. The host of the show ends up making this experience even more entertaining and they are genuinely a nice addition to what is happening on screen.

After drinking the Black-Hola Cola the two aliens have the ability to inflate and deflate, as we said above, and this causes them to change sizes. Using this ability will become the core component of how you solve the various platform puzzles that you will run into. Every level that you play on will task you with a host of tasks while you attempt to escape through an exit portal at the end. The mixture of puzzles, problem solving platforming, and action keep the gameplay fresh while you are on your toes. For a title like this, which could lean too hard on the puzzle section, you have to give some leniency to what is happening on screen. Each level and puzzle element has been carefully orchestrated, it does a disservice to everyone involved if you simply try to rush your way through them.

Gameplay is restricted to its most basic form. You can walk, run, jump, and switch the size of your two janitors. Though the elements of the gameplay are simple, the actual game itself is not. The fact that Rock Pocket Games kept the gameplay entertaining with such a stripped down set of tools is quite remarkable, and it really gives them a bit of clout because sometimes the simplest stuff proves to be the most difficult.

As we mentioned above, you can play single or multiplayer. In single player you have to control the size of both of your aliens at the same time. You also have to move them both around at the same time, too. This can cause some issues of coordination which can lead to a run of early deaths. It is awkward feeling, of course, but you can eventually get used to it and start switching your characters fluidly. The platforming sections become much harder when you play solo through the campaign. When you switch to co-op, whether local or online, everything gets a little bit easier. Your buddy can control one alien and he’ll have autonomy over his decisions - as long as he doesn’t go farther than the hose can extend.

While we have stressed that the game is puzzle/platformer orientated, there are still spots of combat that make their way into the game. Bad guys will walk onto the screen in order to make your job even harder, but you can knock em out with a Mario like stomp on the head. Some larger enemies will show up as you progress in the game and these will have to be avoided as they are impossible, or very difficult, to kill.

Death in Shiftlings is thankfully 1) uncommon and 2) non threatening. When you do die you simply start the level over and try as many times as you need to, sort of like Angry Birds or any other physics based puzzler. If you do find yourself worried about death, you’ll want to know what to look out for. We mentioned the bad guys that wander into the level, but you’ll also have to pay attention to environmental factors as well. Avoid electric fences, moving machinery, and the urge to ditch your alien buddy behind as a hose disconnection will end up deflating and summarily killing both of you.

With all that said above, Shiftlings is not what we would consider a 'casual puzzler'. This isn’t Angry Birds and you can’t just dip in and out at will. Shiftlings is immensely difficult and there are at least 50 levels that you will need to play through before you can call yourself a champion of the game. Many of the levels caused us to take a break in order to plot out exactly what we needed to do in order to win. There is no shame in looking up puzzle answers, and many will do that, but we wouldn’t advise it. There is some real entertainment in winning on your own merit.

Shiftlings on the Xbox One is a humorous puzzle platformer that adds a cool physics wrinkle to a tried and trued genre. It Is a hard game, but also a funny and pleasant one.

avatar name

Posted:
2015-07-19

Darren_Summerell

Writer

Xbox One

8.7

Ori and the Blind Forest was developed by the people over at Moon Studios for the Xbox One and later released by Microsoft Game Studios. Masterfully blending a unique artstyle, a soaring soundtrack, and a riveting story - this sidescrolling adventure RPG quickly ascended the ranks to cult like status. We decided to pick up the game for our Xbox 1 in order to travel the world that Moon Studios so capably crafted. With blooming HD graphics and an amazing score, we were quickly enraptured by the game that displayed itself before us. Keep on reading to see if this is the kind of game you need to add to your library, though we are confident that it is.

To call Ori and the Blind Forest a simple Metroidvania knock off would do a disservice to the people who made the game and those who have already experienced it. So instead I will describe it as the magic of Disney meeting the power of a deftly crafted, tight, action RPG experience. Sound intriguing? Keep reading.

The story starts out with a beautiful and disastrous freak storm throwing down a creature named Orio from his home world, the branches of the greatest tree that the Forest of Nibel has to offer. Ori is stranded in the woods when he comes across a slightly humanoid, bear like creature named Naru. This creature nurses Ori back to health and instantly assumes the role of mother and protector. When Ori awakes he finds that Naru has become a surrogate parent. This seemingly innocuous beginning serve sonly to further entrench the drama that is approaching: the world of Nibel is in trouble. A darkness is approaching and Ori must once more become the guardian of light that Nibel needs.

Upon loading the game up I was instantly amazed by the beautiful score that overlayed the mystical and fantastic graphics. The art direction in Ori and the Blind Forest is borderline flawless. Each frame leaps to life with alacrity and a mysticism about it. Ori is a beautiful creature, full of light, and Naru is this gorgeously designed bear that imbues both stoic strength and motherly love. This isn’t just a side scrolling adventure. This is an experience that has been borderline unrivaled in recent years. Ori and the Blind Forest is an open book that comes to life in front of you. The hand drawn artwork adds so much depth and heart that sometimes I would catch myself just staring into the depth and texture that each scene offered us, and there were many scenes: icy caves, wooded glens, flower filled caverns, and giant volcanoes.

All that is to say that the graphics become second to both the tight gameplay and the stellar story. More than anything, Ori and the Blind Forest pulls you along with its anthemic soundtrack and intriguing story. It’s easy to see where the story is divided into three very separate acts: the fall, the death, and the redemption. Whose fall? Whose redemption? We shall let you find that out first hand, it’s a spoiler that will severely take away from your first enjoyment of the series. At its heart, what we can say, is that Ori and the Blind Forest is a coming of age tale that will be hard pressed to be topped by any artwork, in any medium.

But all of the above mentioned beauty doesn’t matter if the game is not technically proficient. Fortunately Ori and the Blind Forest exists within a medium that doesn’t demand too much for its gameplay elements. In the side scrolling action RPG world it is relatively easy to fall in line and deliver only the basics: movement, a few special attacks, and interesting puzzle sequences. Ori and the Blind Forest doesn’t let themselves get restricted.

As you play the game you will change between Ori and Naru and the two creatures play dramatically different from one another. Ori is fast, light on the wind, and capable of athletic sequences. Naru has to use logic and go at a slower, more methodical pace in order to progress. Ori himself can learn a dozen different maneuvers to use while in the game and each one builds on the move prior. Adventuring through the Forest of Nibel is no easy task, not without some practice, but once you get the hang of how to move within the space you will be traveling with ease.

If you are somehow laboring under the idea that this is an action-y sort of game, despite the heavy focus on story, then we should probably clarify further. While there are action elements, and tense sequences, the game does not rely on them to maintain your interest. In fact, combat itself is relatively rare. When fighting does begin it occurs in short bursts that serve to wake you up more than challenge you. Still, that does not mean that the game itself is simple or easy. Death is common place in the Blind Forest. You’ll probably die and restart a level a dozen times before getting through. But death isn’t punishment and it isn’t aggravating, either. You can use each experience to learn the sequences and improve your overall connection to the world.

We also enjoyed a simple addition to Ori that many games don’t do any more: Quicksave. Quicksave systems on console gaming is pretty rare, but it works wonderfully here. Gamers are able to dip in and out of the adventure at their convenience while also saving before difficult sequences. Hold the B button down for long enough and a marker will appear in order to create a save point. This allows you to engage in some flexibility with where you re-start. If you get past a super difficult cave make sure to make a save. Likewise, make one before going into the cave to begin with.

While Ori and the Blind Forest on the Xbox One isn’t flawless, there are some issues with collectables, it is one of the most refined games we have played in years.

avatar name

Posted:
2015-07-19

Darren_Summerell

Writer

Xbox One

8.1

The Evil Within: The Assignment on the Xbox One is a continuation into the dirty and grimy world that The Evil Within created. Developed by Tango Gameworks and later published by Bethesda Softworks. The survival game puts you into the shoes of Juli Kidman and it pushes you to complete a two part story in which you will have to find answers through any means necessary. Having played the original Evil Within is mandatory going into this game so if you want to avoid spoilers, you should probably quit reading right about now. For those that have already played the initial game, and wish to learn more about this expansion, keep on reading. We picked up The Evil Within: The Assignment for the Xbox One.

So DLC tends to come in two main varieties. The first kind of DLC is simply aesthetic, a repurposing of pixels in order to sell more copies of their game. You’ll see this kind of DLC in the form of 'horse armor' or other item based variety. The second form is a story enhancement package. The Assignment is the first DLC product offered for The Evil Within and it serves as an expansion to the story of Detective Juli Kidman. Kidman should be familiar to you due to her appearance in the primary campaign, however she was not always present and frequently took a backseat. This DLC package gives title developer Shinji Mikami another chance to show off his universe through the eyes of another character within it.

The Assignment itself follows the tried and trued style that The Evil Within has made so popular in recent years. The Evil Within is an atmospheric game that pushes you to stick to the shadows, keep out of the way of your enemies, and maintain a constant cool head while on the run - you don’t want to panic when you run into some of the horrors within the game. So The Assignment has you treading those same gameplay elements. It is not revolutionary or particularly inventive, but it is familiar and sometimes that is all that we need.

The campaign mode for The Assignment runs at around four hour and the story itself occurs simultaneously as the primary campaign. So you will have events from the main game intertwining with this title, thus making it all feel a little more relevant. This was a cool way to keep the story’s tight and unfortunately it hasn’t been followed too much by other game developers. We have seen games like Dead Rising use this to great effect, but we digress. The primary story thread that you will follow details what Juli Kidman was up to whenever she would vanish during the main campaign. Many fans had theories as to her whereabouts and what she was doing, and this release serves to answer at least a few of those questions. As Kidman you will run into Sebastian and Joseph frequently, only from a different perspective - it’s a pretty neat feeling if you liked the main game.

SO the primary difference when coming into this game is that Kidman is a much more intelligent character than Sebastian. The story itself is still convoluted and reaching, but it becomes more palatable through her more capable eyes. She is much more enjoyable as a character, Sebastian was grating most of the time, and that may be due to Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter) and her spirited voice work. She never resorts to theatrics but she always remains genuine, even in those simple moments where lesser performers would make theatrical choices.

For a lot of reasons Kidman is not as strong as Sebastian, the primary one is the fact that she does not have a weapon for the majority of the campaign. Being unarmed makes you almost hyper aware of your surroundings and the creatures and enemies lurking within the darkness. Kidman is a stealth based character who has the ability to strategically lure enemies around with a few tricks. Kidman can throw items against the wall to create distractions, she can yell out to get the attention of other characters, and she is also great at taking cover. Kidman’s individual perks include an auto-heal factor and her ability to constantly be on the move without running out of her puff.

With that being said, there are still some issues when it comes to working through the campaign from a gameplay element. Despite how nifty her abilities are, the old school controls still definitely weigh pretty heavily upon us. As is the wont of third person strategy games, sometimes you start to feel like you are driving a tank instead of maneuvering an individual person. With Kidman’s role being so stealth based, a clunky movement mechanism could be the difference between living and dying. Unfortunately we ended up dying a few times as we accidentally revealed ourselves in certain situations due to the clunky controls. We also had issues using our specialized stealth attack, and that wore on our nerves as the game progressed - particularly against some big bosses later on.

But all of the issues of clunk fall to the way side once you realize just how thrilling the game is. Just about any respectable survival game will be fun due to the nature of the genre, with death lurking around every corner. The Assignment takes it one step forward by keeping a weapon out of your hands and making you rely solely on your wits. Due to this you feel a sense of pride whenever you actually succeed in what you are trying to do. It just isn’t the same when you can run into a room with your guns blazing and fight your way to the end.

With The Assignment being the first DLC release for The Evil Within we can already tell that the title is going to have some serious legs. This 3.5 hour excursion back into the game, with an interesting character, is just the flavor of DLC that we need.

avatar name

Posted:
2016-11-16

Darren_Summerell

Writer

Xbox One

8.5

Gears of War 4 - An Old Friend Returns

There's an old adage: if ain't broke, don't fix it. This applies well to quite a few games and particularly Gears of War 4. It's the first proper mainline sequel to Microsoft's flagship in roughly five years and while it doesn't reinvent the wheel, it's feels like an old friend returned for the better.

Developer The Coalition, fresh off their successful remaster of 'Gears of War Ultimate Edition' - seem to have benefitted from focusing on where it all began. There's a purveying sense that this game knows exactly what it is, as if developing the original game gave them a two year crash course into what devotees and casual fans love about the series.

For the record: I approached this review as a casual fan. It's always felt like a series with a limited range but potent action and deft pacing. The games felt like they were intent on giving the player what they wanted first and foremost. This meant great set pieces, insane violence, and continually escalating fights that demanded strategy, and for the player to learn the nuance of its fluid cover gameplay.

With that said, let's focus on the campaign: GOW4 delivers all of that and is arguably the best in the series. It hangs the action and balance of the series' best while introducing the right amount of new elements to feel fresh. At the same time, the mechanics are thankfully identical to the best the series has seen (GOWIII), and there aren't overblown attempts to change the core gameplay. Everything has a new coat of polish that doesn't deter from the grit of its gameplay, and between the new environments, new characters and stupid-fun new weapons, there's enough freshness to make it feel like your returning old friend has learned some new tricks. It's important to note that a core tenant, co-op, is as good as ever here. Encounters and environments demand experimentation, and doing so rewards teammates that truly communicate/execute on the battle field. If you can, play the campaign with a buddy - it's just much better.

Aside from the marvellous campaign are the well established modes of (team) deathmatch and Horde 3.0. The latter is the fan favourite and this iteration streamlines with a 10 wave system and 'treats' those that make it through to incredible boss fights. The character progression system effectively rewards players too, this time focusing on a perk-like 'card' system that gives tangible and immediate benefits that can actually be felt on the battle field (no 3% accuracy boost perks here). Like the single player campaign, this mode is best experienced with a friend; but if you're intent on playing solo you can actually experience a variety of lone wolf situations that expand on the experience and may entice more than just solo-focused gamers.

The deathmatch mode continues the 'familiar' feel of the other modes but without coming off stale. We're treated to the similar modes of past, some esport-friendly modes such as Escalation, and the persistent 'card' system extends well between this mode and Horde 3.0. Actually, there's a synergy in the cards that, while extending the same benefit in both modes, actually creates a different sort of advantage in each mode because of the style/pacing. This unexpected benefit gives something to players seeking a multiplayer experience but also rewards players who decide to fill their plate when it comes to the games various modes.

Aesthetically, you won't find many games on the market in 2016 that look better than GOW4. It's apparent in budget, tech, and sheer effort that Microsoft wasn't going to let one of its crown jewels out the door without that shine. The Gears series has always done a marvellous job at helping us focus on its prettiest parts and this iteration is no different in pleasing the eye.

Aside from this, the sound design is as crunchy as ever and the somehow strange (somewhat questionable) pleasure we players derive from the chainsaw is even more impactful this go-round. The music, while verged on the 'canned big moment crescendo' scale at least fits when you stop focusing on how perfectly mundane it is.

Speaking of crescendos, the story toes the line of average but endearing. We're not breaking new ground here but we are seeing bros at their bro-iest and in that regard, it's consistent. The groundwork is well-laid out for future development/games and while the story slogs in the second half (and is questionably ended), The Coalition again carries the torch at a similar pace to what's come before it.

The big takeaway here is that if you enjoyed Gears of War when it came out, or any of its sequels - this is a safe if not refreshing purchase. It dials down the pretence and sells you on its action, its polish, and its ability to be itself.

avatar name

Posted:
2015-10-11

Darren_Summerell

Writer

PS4

7.0

Magicka 2 made its way over to the PS4 by way of the development team over at Paradox Interactive. Magicka 2 is a sequel to the PC only game Magicka and a continuation of the spin off title Wizard Wars. Utilizing a Diablo/Baldurs Gate/Gauntlet Legends isometric camera, gamers band together with their magical butt kickers to roll through a fantasy world full of treasures and danger. An action game through and through, Magicka 2 brings its excitement to home consoles for the first time ever. We are complete suckers for this style of game and couldn’t wait to grab some couch and play through the game with a friend. Keep on reading to see if you will dig the game as much as we did.

Magicka 2 is a perfect blend of both simplicity and complex interactions. One look at screenshots for the game will have you fully in mind of Diablo 2. The isometric viewpoint gives gamers a perfect view of the playing field and the magic that you can use will remind you of all your favorite spellcasting from prior entries in these sorts of games. At surface value, Magicka 2 is a simple game but there is depth to the spell system and addicting qualities to the action oriented gameplay that will no doubt keep gamers coming back for more and more.

Coming to the PlayStation 4 was definitely a risking decision to make for the franchise. Having already achieved cult like appeal on the PC, switching platforms could have cost them a fanbase. But it didn’t, at least we don’t think so. Instead, Paradox Interactive has refined their formula and further pushed their wizards and warriors franchise to a completely new demographic of gamers. I never would have gotten the game for PC, but on my PS4 this seems like the perfect way to kill a few hours of stress.

Before we dig too deeply into the rest of the game we wanted to make sure and point out that Magicka 2 is full of irreverent humor and nods to other 'nerdy' fandoms. There are Easter Eggs and asides ab out the show 'Game of Thrones', nods to titles like 'Diablo', and allusions to many other popular things from pop culture lore. But the humor is just a window dressing to a game that actively seeks to pull you in and keep you addicted to the action on the screen.

You begin your experience in the world of Magicka 2 as a mage. Starting out the game you run into a character by the name of Vlad. He is your guide, at least in the early going, and he is pretty convinced that he needs to convince you that he isn’t a vampire - not the blood sucker from history. He gives you an extensive overview regarding the action that happened in past titles and he is definitely a great implementation if only to catch up us non PC gamers on what happened in the first title. Eventually he gives you the quest to take down a big, bad, and evil sorcerer while also being asked to save the 'chosen one'.

The ensuing campaign will run you about six hours and you can play it with a few buddies on your same console. Thankfully the game progresses in terms of difficulty the longer you play, preventing you from engaging in a speedy run through. Magicka 2 makes sure to ramp difficulty in all the right spots to keep you on the edge of your seat, preventing you from simply power leveling and super gearing yourself past all of the supposed bosses. Death comes quick in the latter hours of your gameplay and you should be prepared to greet it with open arms at least a few times.

So the primary mode of combat in the game all comes down to spell casting. You are able to use up to five different spells at a time and they can be chosen from a blend of different styles: fire, earth, water, electric, arcane, and the spirit. Picking through these elements can be accomplished by hitting your DualShock 4 controller. You can create simple spells, like the flamethrower, or you can mix these spells together in surprisingly effective and violent ways. We once combined Earth and Arcane in order to get a 'rock bomb of death'. It was pretty cool and delightful to think that we had created it. Getting used to blending spells is super important because the game takes a no holds barred approach to combat. Once you see enemies you won’t have time to really think until they are all dead. So not knowing how to work your spells can be of very great consequence.

If you aren’t one to simply spell blast your way through enemies then you can also get up close and personal with a magical sword. You can imbue your rapier with the different spells at your disposal in order to magically strengthen it. Add electricity to your sword to add lightning damage to every strike. Mix fire with your blade for firesword magic. Etc etc. Melee is fun in the game but it definitely falls far behind the spell casting in relation to combat.

Thankfully Magicka 2 gives you more than just hordes of enemies to work through. You will also run into puzzle segments that can be solved by utilizing different spells. If you need to get across some water why don’t you try freezing it? Want to break through a wally, try a magical boulder. Are you freezing? Light up a fire spell. If that isn’t enough there are also magical buffs that you can impart upon yourself in order to further customize your magical butt kicking ability.

We won’t dig too deep into the story and we won’t touch on some of our favorite Easter Eggs. Being as the campaign is so short you should have no problem playing through several times before you hang the game up for good.

avatar name

Posted:
2015-03-19

Darren_Summerell

Writer

Xbox One

6.2

'NBA Live 14' on the Xbox One is a basketball simulation video game developed by EA Tiburon and published by Activision on the next gen consoles.

The 'NBA Live' series, developed by EA Tiburon, has been considered one of the only legitimate points of competition for the revered 'NBA 2K' series that is released every year. So when the series went off the radar for a couple of years, presumably so the company could get themselves together for a new release, basketball video game fans were rightfully worried. Having competition keeps these sorts of games thriving. When 'Madden' lost its primary competition in the 'NFL 2K' series, the game went on to become a placid caricature of itself. That isn't to say it is bad, but that it didn't need to evolve upon itself. There was no competition. So when 'NBA Live 14' was announced for the Xbox One we were rightfully excited. Here was a chance for us to get on the hardwood via a different company. Here was a chance for something special.

We were so wrong.

With Kyrie Irving adorning the cover of the game (he would later go on to miss most of the season that year with an injury) we gleefully unwrapped the packing. Throwing the disc into our Xbox disc tray, we then ran back to our couch and turned up the volume. A few moments later we were being hit with an awesome looking rendered introduction video of our favorite basketball players hooping on the court. LeBron James looked amazing going to the rim, Irving spun into the lane for a crazy lay up, and Derrick Rose added his own two handed dunk. The music and animation brought us in and we thought for sure, for absolutely sure, that we were about to get something special. After three years of development this game was going to be pretty incredible. We were ready to pledge allegiance to the 'Live' franchise without even trying 'NBA 2K14'.

We opted to dive straight into exhibition game play so as to get a feel for how the game checked out. We wanted to know how the ball handled in our hands before we dove into the deeper game modes. A moment later we were in Madison Square Garden as the New York Knicks ready to take on the Miami Heat. The stadium looked pretty good and the players themselves looked awesome, but something was just flat about the presentation. We know that the 'Live' series has always taken a backseat to '2K' in that regard but we didn't expect it to be so... dull.

Once on the court the game came back to us quickly. Using the right trigger you could implement the 'revolutionary' new BounceTek dribble system. There were no tutorials put in place to teach us how to use this feature but we managed to find our way around it before too long. Using a good ball handler we were able to hit the BounceTek stick at the right time in order to do some pretty cool moves while attacking the basket.

The basic core of a strong basketball game is on hand for those that were looking for it. You can dribble, drive, dunk, and shoot the ball from anywhere on the court. Attacking the rim felt pretty good and dunks resonated in our hands. The animations and physics of the net oddly stole the show for us as every shot seemed unique once it got through the bucket.

We ended our exhibition at half time and decided to move on to something new. We didn't hate our first experience with the game but we definitely felt like something was a little bit off. Shaking that vibe we headed over to check out the different game modes available.

While 'NBA 2K' was winning over legions of fans for their wonderful MyCareer mode, the guys at EA Tiburon were developing their own answer with the 'Rising Star' mode. Rising Star is essentially a clone of the MyCareer mode and it is a poorly made one at that. Once you start into the game mode you get to do a few minor customizations of your created character before you are launched into the draft. You eventually land on a pro team where you are then graded for every action you communicate while out on the court. Perform well and gain points so that you can upgrade your stats. The skeleton of a fun game mode was here but it lacked the flash and depth of the MyCareer mode that most of us had fallen in love with. And that sort of defined the other game modes as well (Exhibition, Franchise). We saw what we should be enjoying, but there was never anything more complicated underneath.

Now that we were starting to realize how mediocre the game was we decided to head to the online mode. If there was once place where the developers could not ruin the experience, it would be on the internet. We quickly realized this was a mistake.

Trying to play online was akin to running through a pool full of honey. Everything pushed against you and before long you would be too frustrated to even try playing the game. Lag was constant and connecting with random people was almost impossible. Once you WERE in the game you would have to contend with cheap opponents and unrealistic decisions by the AI around you. We quickly put the online mode in the garbage and walked away from it.

While this review sounds pretty harsh we do have some kind words for the Live Season mode. This Live Season mode allows you to play alongside the current NBA season, updating as things happen in real life. it was a cool way to keep things fresh but we have a feeling that, as the next title gets ready to release, it will quit being maintained--thus dashing the one redeeming feature of the title.

'NBA Live 14' on the Xbox One ended up being one of the most disappointing games we played this year. Everything was in its corner for it to be a success, but nothing came together in the end. On the other hand 'NBA 2k14' ended up being our favorite sports game to be released.


  Viewing Reviews 1-10 of 73