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Posted:
2015-03-10

Jamie_Hall

Writer

PS4

8.4

'Far Cry 4' on the PlayStation 4 is the next installment from Ubisoft Montreal in the storied 'Far Cry' series. This entry promises an open world full of action, improved graphics, and an almost cinematic element to its gameplay. The game came out with a ton of buzz but the question isn't about hype, it is about payoff. Does the team at Ubisoft continue to push the envelope or have they finally found themselves jumping the shark? Let's jump into the island world of 'Far Cry' and see just how well this title will pay off for its dedicated and passionate fanbase.

So what's it all about?

A good game will put you into the world of a disenfranchised hero. It is easy to root for the 'good guys', like Captain America, but it is harder for us to root for someone that doesn't fit the prototypical understanding of 'heroic'. In 'Far Cry 4' we get to follow a young man by the name of Ajaye Ghale. He is a Kyrati-American from Nepal who comes home to Kyrat in order to spread the ashes of his dead mother. Kyrat is a hyper fictionalized version of the Himalayas and it is there that most of the action takes place. On a simple trip to set his mother to rest, Ajay instead finds his home country in the midst of a deadly and disastrous civil war. The Royal Army of Kyrat takes on the helm of antagonist as they are led by an almost pirate like, insane, leader named Pagan Min. Min is set diametrically opposed to the 'rebel group' called the Golden Path. Ajay is thrown right in the middle of this war and forced to start making tough decisions almost immediately. What you do will help set the tone for how the game will unfold with every action having a huge consequence.

How does it improve upon Far Cry 3?

Director Mark Thompson loudly espoused his disappointment in how the narrative of the 'Far Cry' series clashed, initially, with the open world nature of the game. He felt that the open world aspect took away from the 'time critical' moments in the narrative and so there was always a clashing feeling. This has been corrected with the story of 'Far Cry 4'. While time is of the essence, you are never in a rush to accomplish your goals. The Civil War will continue whether you are actively fighting Min or not. And so it doesn't hurt you to take time out to explore and enjoy the scenery.

Outside of the narrative upgrade, which features a story based a ten year long insurgency in Nepal, the game itself plays a bit different geographically. While the map itself is roughly the size of 'Rook Island', it is much more mountainous and dense. There is no easy terrain to push through so you will always be trying to climb up or down, causing everything to add up on the clock. This isn't to say that the different lands are annoying. No, we found that the mountainous regions of Kyrat were an enjoyable upgrade over the tropical world of Rook Island. Fundamentally, though, they have a similar feel to one another. Lush green woods, big mountains, and bad guys with guns around every corner.

So how does it play on the PlayStation 4?

When you find yourself in the fictional world of Kyrat, you will almost immediately see that you are on your own in a world that wants to kill you. From the wildlife (Eagles?!) to the natives, everyone is out for your blood. That's the nature of life in a terrifying and violent sandbox game and it is something you'll have to live, or die, with. Fundamentally the controls of the game are similar and as easily used. You will still find your way shooting, stabbing, climbing, and grappling across the province of Kyrat. You'll do battle with enemies big and small while running into animals that are a little bit out of your league. The first time that you get killed by a giant tiger you'll laugh. The next seven times you get killed by an eagle you might instead want to throw your controller. Such is life, though.

How does it all look?

Almost every installment in the 'Far Cry' series has improved upon the one prior to it. There is no criticizing how 'Far Cry 4' looks. Upon booting up the game, and falling into the level, you will immediately find that you have something to see in every direction, for as far as your eyes can track. The deliciously sharp 1080p brings the world to life in front of you and the 30FPS mark holds up, even with the most exorbitant lighting and full screens worth of models and textures.

As you traverse the wild terrain of Kyrat you will see lush forests, climbing mountains, and prolonged expanses of desert. You'll run into beautiful giant elephants and a whole ecosystem's worth of animals. The view from your flying suit is simply admirable. It is one of the most enjoyable and most beautifully realized sandbox games in the entire genre. Many games of this style tend to repeat textures or recycle area styles. This isn't the case. With how detailed the production team got, you'd be convinced that this was a real life recreation.

It's your world, play in it.

One of the most admirable aspects to this entry into the 'Far Cry' series is that it offers you a true sandbox experience .There is no one way to accomplish much of anything. You have options and alternatives for every scenario. If you need help taking out an outpost then you can bait the place with raw meat to lure in the wild life. If you don't want to attack the base in broad daylight then go ahead and wait until the cover of night. Don't feel like being strategic? Hop on an elephant and roar your way through the outpost.

'Far Cry 4' is a complete gaming experience and it is one that PlayStation 4 gamers will want to partake in. From the beautiful graphics all the way to the compelling plot, there is something to keep you absorbed.

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Posted:
2015-07-16

Jamie_Hall

Writer

Xbox One

7.0

Call of Duty: Ghosts - Devastation on the Xbox One is an expansion pack released for the popular Call of Duty: Ghosts. The first person shooter was released on the PC, PS4, Xbox 360 and the Xbox One (reviewed). We have always loved what Infinity Ward has developed with the CoD franchise and Ghosts was a surprisingly fun experience. Activision published this DLC and we didn’t waste any time on our way to picking it up and getting right into the fast paced action. There was quite a bit to love here, a few moments where we shrugged and some genuine surprises that kept us gaming.

Call of Duty, by this point in time, is a pretty well known commodity. The game releases to acclaim and multiplayer takes off almost immediately. After a few months of hardcore online multiplayer the developers will start to drop expansion map packs to help fluff out the longevity of the title while the masses eagerly await the impending annual release of the next game. Rinse and repeat. Now we would look at this in a cynical fashion if we could, but we can’t, because the games themselves are almost always elite FPS experiences. When other developers start to challenge Infinity Ward in a meaningful way we will stop buying into their EA like method of releasing a game every 12 to 16 months.

With that diatribe out of the way let us jump straight into what there is to love in the Devastation DLC pack. Included in the game are four new maps, some new weapons, and a new playable character: The Predator. Yeah, you read that right and no it isn’t lame, it is as awesome as it sounds. Let’s start ranking the maps and knock them out of the park. First up is...

Ruins

Ruins opens up our map pack with a bang. This map is located out in the wilderness near an old Aztec temple of some sort. The map has tons of areas for players to work in vertical strategy and more than a few places to hide and ambush. Sniping is going to be pretty hard in this map because there aren’t any long, uninterrupted sniper lines to go hide and camp. Our biggest point of contention with this map is that it definitely forces gamers into certain areas, funneling them into kill zones where most of the action takes place. But what it DOES do is let you play as The Predator. In order to turn into the Predator you have to pick up and complete a certain field order. With Predator mode initiated you can use thermal vision, fight with shoulder mounted cannons, and use wrist blades to fight with hand to hand combat. The Predator is a tank of a unit to play as because of all the damage he can take. There’s also some mental things at play when your opponents see you bearing down on them.

Behemoth

Behemoth lands as the second map on our list and it was definitely a middling experience. The setting for this game map is in an industrial area with three different sections that change the gameplay up pretty drastically. The claustrophobic turbines make for some fun hand to hand and ambush style combat while the upper levels of the map open up the sniping metagame. This looks like a recycled map that took on some aspects of Halo and old Call of Duty and mashed it all together. The claustrophobic vibe that part of the map comprises makes for some nice strategic trap laying but on the whole this one was pretty forgettable. It isn’t striking visually and there isn’t enough new stuff to do in it to keep us plugged in. Veto from us every time it pops up.

Collision

Collision is comprised of a boat merging with a bridge to make for one chaotic and simple level. The bot allows for a ton of close quarters combat while going up onto the wrecked bridge opens things up for some more distance fighting. You won’t be doing much, if any, sniping on this level as there simply isn’t enough room. It’s very tight and there are several obvious kill zones that players will flock to in the early goings of the game. It’s pretty cool to see the two set pieces merged into one mash up of metal and obstacle, but we feel like there was more that Infinity Ward could have done to flesh this map out. It’s still simple fun and good for when you just want to let the bullets fly and who cares how many times you might die.

Unearthed

Unearthed closes out the map pack with some insane vertical play and a crowded map that promises to give a lot of replayability to gamers. The main feature in this map is a gigantic swinging crane which you need to operate in order let out grenades and rocket launchers. In doing so the metal cage will begin to swing back and forth across the map, giving the player in the cage the perfect opportunity to deal out some death on suddenly very vulnerable opponents below them. There is a long catwalk as well which is great for sniping and a cool underground area that breaks up the level a little bit for more close quartered combat. This map definitely reminded us of the shipping yard map from Black Ops 2 and it is probably one of the hardest maps to consistently dominate in the expansion. There are plenty of spots where campers are going to hunker down but you can always get to them, thus negating their ability to stay hidden.

The newest weapon in the game is an SMG called The Ripper. It’s a quick reloading, accurate assault rifle that works well in pretty much every situation. We particularly liked using it in the newest Extinction map: Mayday. Extinction is a new episode in the zombie driven DLC that adds some depth and epic scope to the fan favorite mode. We won’t spoil any of the story in this review.

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Posted:
2015-07-16

Jamie_Hall

Writer

Xbox One

8.8

Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee New 'n' Tasty was developed by the team at Just Add Water and produced via Oddworld Inhabitants for the Xbox One this past March, 2015. The game was also released on the PC, PS4, and the PS3. This 2D puzzler imbues all of the quirky love that went into the original Oddworld games and ports it over into an almost entirely new genre on a next generation game. With a great hero and some awesome puzzle action at the ready, New 'n' Tasty is more than enough for a heaping serving of puzzle fun. We were huge fans of the original Oddworld games and had to pick up this title for the XB1. Keep on reading to see if it lived up to our nostalgia!

If you remember the original PS One Classic, Abe’s Oddysee, then you are probably our kind of gamer. This cult classic title achieved amazing success over a decade ago and now it has finally come back to us on the Xbox One. We love to see old games get made over treatments for current generation gamers and we love them even more when they are done super well. We’ve seen games like Resident Evil 1 get the proper HD port to current gen systems so we knew that the bones were laid out for what needed to be done. Not only is New 'n' Tasty an accurate port over to the next gen, it also pushes the game in new directions while embracing what it used to be.

The game opens up with the same intro that we saw way back in 1997, only now the intro is fully rendered out in real time. Back in ’97 we thought that these visuals would be the pinnacle of all that gaming could be and how wrong we were. Still, looking back was the right choice here by the company because we immediately had that warm feeling in our stomach. Much like the 'Seegggaa' voice over when we go back to play Sonic, the intro set the mood for us.

Since we first played Abe’s Odyssee way back then the franchise has exploded into four separate entry. Each entry adds new characters and creatures while branching out the overarching story in a ton of different directions. But those are all just background noise. This is the original game and it is here that the plot begins. You play as Abe. Abe is a slave who works at a meat processing facility. One day Abe, who isn’t particularly gifted in any way, learns that his whole race is about to be added to the menu for consumption by his overlords. Abe and his fellow mudokons decide that it is time to get out of Dodge and try to escape.

The bulk of New 'n' Tasty is reminiscent of the original title. You’ll face off against your fair share of tough puzzles and platforming sections. The camera follows you as you maneuver up and down, right and left, and it occasionally becomes more isometric. The new camera angles show off the depth of work that the crew of developers put into bringing this title to life. Abe and his people have never looked so good and the art direction is a high point in the release.

Abe spends most of his time in New 'n' Tasty carefully plotting out where he and his fellows will maneuver going forward. This is a game that doesn’t rely on violence to maintain your interest. Puzzles aren’t based around reaction times and instead they demand that you think critically, employ plans strategically, and learn how to move all of your people in the right direction. Of course Abe isn’t without an ability. He can use mind control on certain opponents in order to clear the way for his prison escape.

A new gameplay mechanic helps push the stealth element forward a little bit. In New 'n' Tasty we see that Abe has access to a supply of bottlecaps that he can use to create distractions, allowing his escape to go on undetected. You’ll be using these caps a lot as you tip toe past your enemies or try to trick them into stepping onto a trap door.

The puzzles don’t stay simple, however, and the platforming elements get more difficult as the game wears on. As the puzzles get more difficult so too does your ability to control all of your loyal mudokons. You can use different commands in order to make them stop or follow you and the in game communication is pretty easy to get working. You can still use far noises if you want to, that hold over from the PS One and still exists on the XB1 much to the delight of the fanbase, we’re sure.

One of the most important changes in the game is the addition of the quicksave system. Being able to plug in and plug out without having to wait for intermittent checkpoints is a godsend. We love puzzle games and don’t mind doing the 'try and try again' method, but sometimes you just need to step away from the game for awhile.

So far we have been pretty positive about New 'n' Tasty but there are still some issues and, unfortunately, they followed Abe all the way to the new generation. Abe himself is not a light footed creature and poor controller tracking had us overstepping our bounds and struggling to get Abe to stop when we wanted him to. Put these issues in the same boat as the intense puzzle difficulty later on in the game and you will have some major frustrations. Multiplayer itself is lacking, as well. Co-op consists of trading Abe back and forth whenever one of you or your partner dies.

Upon finishing our time with New 'n' Tasty we found the game to be a great update of a classic experience. There are still some problems, but the title itself is definitely worth playing through at least once. For fans of the series this is a must buy if only for the graphical upgrade and the new gameplay mechanics.

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Posted:
2015-07-16

Jamie_Hall

Writer

Xbox One

8.1

Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones was developed by the team over at Curve digital for release on all of the major current and next gen systems. We picked up a copy of the 2d tactical game for the Xbox One. Right now the 2D pseudo-platformer is making a ton of noise on the next gen marketplace. These throwback titles definitely harken to a different age in gaming but they are being developed with eyes toward the future. Curve Digital isn’t a house hold name but the early release information that the team let out more than made up for it. Keep on reading to see if you are ready to try your hand at Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones.

The premise for Stealth Inc 2 is pretty darn simple. You have to guide your clones in an elaborate escape attempt from a laboratory. Who is out to stop your escape? Why a mad scientist who literally wants to kill you so he can win an award - an Employee of the Month award to be precise. So, yeah, not exactly high concept stuff right here but it puts you adequately into the mind of your little guys and it sells the setting enough to get you interesting. The development of the story is streamlined and fully integrated into the play. The atmosphere of the game also helps to create a relatively unique experience. We advise keeping an eye out for spray painted and project messages over the varying walls that you pass by.

So right off the bat Stealth Inc 2 gives us all of the vibes of the traditional 2D platformer with 3D sprites. We can hear you sighing from here, but it gets better. 2.5D stuff is so en vogue right now that it gets sort of tiring, but we liked what Curve Digital did with their art direction. Visually the game reminds us of Splinter Cell with a heavy dash of Minion like manipulation on the main characters. The lighting choices are really well done, with shadows and lights interplaying across different walls, and on the whole the game looks quite excellent. The little guys that you control have different colored goggles so you can tell them apart and they manage to portray personality in the way that they move. These mini Sam Fishers are likely to become fan favorites on the internet.

Level design is at a premium here and it all starts right off the bat in the tutorial level. You’ll learn all of the basic controls and mechanisms in the early stages of the game, setting you up for premier play later on. You’ll jump, hug shadows, duck lasers, and try to avoid all sorts of mean lab baddies that want to kill and throw you in a cage (the order doesn’t matter to them). There is more to this game than right-left movement and jumping, however. With those cool Sam Fisher goggles on our heads we knew that gadgets weren’t a long ways away. Curve Digital slowly introduces different gadgets to play with that dramatically alter the game. You can use your Inflate-A-Mate technique to get to higher levels, for example.

All of these gadgets and moves come together and shine when ti is time to solve puzzles. This platformer definitely brings it in the puzzle section, manipulating you into using several different techniques before you can move on. Projections on the walls will sometimes give you clues as to an incoming puzzle and your best bet is to keep an eye out for them. Puzzles are hard but not infuriating, but still rewarding when you finally work your way through them. You don’t have to paint-by-numbers your way through the game because it allows you to be a little creative with how you go about finishing off certain segments.

As it turns out, the world of a mad scientist is quite full of giant puzzles and they work as a way to prohibit you from surpassing certain points of the game until you are ready. There are unofficial walls in place that don’t open up until you’ve unlocked gadgets and techniques that you would need to progress. In this way we definitely got a bit of a Metroid-vania vibe. Collecting these different items becomes one of the core points of plot progression and it works pretty well. You keep your ears up and eyes open and this makes for a more engaging experience.

The controls, as far as we were concerned, work pretty well. In platform/puzzlers you really need to have a quick response when you maneuver your thumbstick or aim your jumps. Missteps can lead to death and cheap deaths are the quickest ways to get us to turn off a game. Fortunately we didn’t notice any lag and we found that the response time for jumps/item activations was more than appropriate enough to make for easy exploration and puzzle solving. With that being said, you should be ready to fail every once in awhile. You will miss some jumps and you will fail some puzzles, that’s just a key component of any puzzle game. But don’t let it frustrate you as the answers and clues are all right in front of you if you care enough to find them.

With that being said there were some moments in the game that left us dreadfully frustrated. Not all puzzles can be quickly accomplished and more than a few require you to actively participate in trial and error. That is, the game expects you to lose and demands that you do in order to find out how to win. There are puzzles that require you to run to the proper trap door while avoid lazers and jumping over crumbling blocks. If you don’t move quickly enough this feat can feel impossible. It’s possible, just very hard.

So if you are a fan of stealth games or puzzle games or, magically, both then Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones will fit right in with your library.

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Posted:
2015-07-16

Jamie_Hall

Writer

Xbox One

9.0

Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin on the Xbox One is a compendium of the three prior released DLC packs for Dark Souls II. Combining Crown of the Sunken King, Crown of the Old Iron King, and Crown of the Ivory King creates the backbone for what is a deep and expansive piece of DLC. With new features in tow the team at Bandai Namco Games really went above and beyond the call to duty. The expanded port was released for all the major systems and we picked up a copy for our Xbox One. Dark Souls II holds a special place in our heart and having more content for the Xbox One version of the game is a golden egg we couldn’t wait to crack open. Keep on reading to find out just why this title works so well.

Dark Souls II initially dropped for the Xbox 360 even though the Xbox One was available and ready for it. We loved the title so much that we pulled our 360 out of its resting place in order to burn through the game. Now the developers at From Software are making up for missing the XB1 on the first go around and releasing an expanded HD port of the title for current gen systems. Typically we roll our eyes at HD Remastered Ports because they feel so much like gimmicks and cash grabs. Fortunately for us, Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin is more than that. We’ve already pointed out that the import comes with all of the old DLC but there is even more at play here. We’ll get into that in a little bit.

Dark Souls is a deep and complex game with a story that is sometimes hard to follow. What it boils down to, in the barest of bones, is that there is an army of undead creatures filling the world and you need to kill them, collecting their souls as you go. The souls you collect help you beef up your character (you’ll need to beef up, trust us) so that you can fight even bigger, badder and meaner things. The franchise has primarily risen to popularity on the PC and it is known for having some of the most difficult gameplay in the entire world of action RPGs. This is a game that was made to make sure you die plenty of times during your play through. In fact, death happens so often that you soon just become accustomed to getting kicked down and restarting.

Every time that you die you start to hollow out which causes you to lose some viability when you attack creatures. You do less damage, have a lower HP capacity, and thus have a harder time. In short, you don’t want to ever die because you will start to fall apart in the game but death is unavoidable. So you have to have a hard nose for confrontation and a firm grip on your temper when you play this title. With that being said, Dark Souls II is never unfair with how it treats players. It very obviously caters to the hardcore crowd and that is the experience you end up pulling in. Accordingly when you succeed you feel such a sense of accomplishment that we wouldn’t have it any other way. But we digress, let’s talk about the actual changes that appear in this new title.

Immediately upon booting up the game we couldn’t help but notice just how beautiful the HD port was for the XB1. The game looks almost completely revamped when compared to the PS3 & 360 crowd and it even keeps up with those super powered PCs that everybody likes to game on. Extra textures available only to the XB1 version of the game increase the visual quality above that of the PC version and the 60FPS frame rate makes the action smooth and beautiful in a gritty way. The animations are smooth, the colors even more nuanced on screen, and the open world feel of the game completely developed upon. With that being said, the graphics still fall a bit short when compared to some other current gen RPGs. But then again Dark Souls has never been about looking like the prettiest game on the block, it’s all about the meat of the title.

Veterans of the 360 version of Dark Souls II shouldn’t get too comfortable with their knowledge of the game. Enemy locations, items, and difficulty has been swapped and changed throughout the entire title. You won’t know what is coming even if you logged 80 hours on the old version of the game. There are even new opponents to deal with where there were none to begin with. Traps make appearances in new places and the difficulty is significantly ramped up. The difficulty of the game is ramped even higher for those that think they know what they are doing. Thus is the trap that Dark Souls offers its gamers: fun and fury all at once.

'The Pursuer' will likely become a fan favorite addition to Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin. The Pursuer is a spirit who hunts down the player as you play through the game. He can show up anywhere at anytime and whenever he does you are guaranteed to receive a deadly fight. He has side kicks that apparate alongside of him and he is capable of popping up even in zones that you already cleared. There is also the Scholar of the First Sin. Killing him gives you an alternate ending to the game.

While single player will rule the day in Dark Souls II there is multiplayer that has been improved upon from the initial release. You can now play alongside up to five of your buddies all at once. You can cooperate or head straight to the PVP modes for some bloody action.

Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin is a wonderful port of an already amazing game. If you like action RPGs you need to buy this title, full stop.

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Posted:
2015-07-18

Jamie_Hall

Writer

Xbox One

8.0

The Geometry Wars franchise has come a long way since its inception almost a decade ago. Now we are staring down Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions for the Xbox One. Developed by the team at Lucid Games, Dimensions seeks to further throw gamers into the galactic battle against shapes, colors, and aliens that has become such a staple release. Addictive and action packed as always, Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions brought the heat in a few new ways. We picked up a copy for our Xbox One and got right down to business. What we found was possibly the most polished Geometry Wars release yet. Keep reading to see if you’ll be buying any time soon!

Back when Arcade Games were first getting really big and still in, you know, actual arcades, the only thing that mattered was racking up the highest score possible so you could throw your three letter initials onto the gamer charts. Score hunting is a passion, hobby, and pastime and we are glad to see that its spirit still lives on in titles like the Geometry Wars franchise. Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions is a twin stick shooter that literally brings you onto a whole new dimension of score hunting gaming.

The heart of the game is the same as it has been since 2007. Your goal is to kill as many alien enemies as you can until you lose all of your lives. You have an infinite amount of bombs and firepower in order to clear the screen of your enemies when things get crazy. The trick here is that your score multiplier doesn’t climb with enemy kills and instead relies on you collect geoms, which are little green shards. The higher your score is the more you collect and the more you get from each enemy death. There is no sky on how many geoms you can collect which is a nic change of pace compared to prior titles. There are a plethora of game modes laid out in Dimensions so let’s take a moment to look at them all

Evolved is the core game mode. You start off in a square arena and you have three bombs and lives on your side. You earn more lives every time that you cross a certain point threshold. Wrinkling off of Evolved is the Waves Mode. In Waves you only have one single life and you don’t have the ability to earn anymore. Think of a hardcore horde mode, or something like that.

You can also play Deadline which allows you unlimited lives but sets a time limit so you have to strategize how exactly you are going to rack up all of your points, taking care not to waste any precious moments. Pacificism mode turns your guns off but allows you to kill enemies by flying through certain spinning gates that explode. Finally we have King Mode. King mode is a twist off of the Evolved formula. Sort of like 'Territories', King mode prevents you from firing your weapons unless you are in the correctly marked territory. Domes come and go so you are always on the move.

Despite the fact that we haven’t had a Geometry Wars in awhile, the game still came back to us with alacrity. The game modes are a ton of fun and they still rely on skill to a heavy degree. You can follow certain patterns that start to present themselves if you are quick enough to spot them despite the fact that enemies are randomly spawned. The game pushes you to definitely fill the screen with bullets so it is easy to become 'button mashing' twin stick shooter, but there is still an emphasis on skill with twitch based awareness and reaction timing.

Perhaps the real reason that Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions is so addictive is the presence of the online leaderboard. With every game mode you will find a new leader board attached to it. As you play you can see the closest score of a real life competitor as it compares to what you are doing. So the urge to be the best actually can lead to driving you to playing even more than you planned. I mean, how can you stop when some random dude from Texas just bested your score at the last second? Nobody said addiction wasn’t fun.

If you want to play with friends but want to play locally you can do a cooperative run through. You can play with up to three buddies through 10 different levels until you come across the big boss. The game mode itself is sadly short and the action on screen is almost unintelligible when you have a full complement of players. Still, the chaos can be a ton of fun.

Online you can play a few different modes with up to eight total players split between two rosters. You can play Summoner which focuses teams on taking over certain territories. You can also play Stock, which has teams opposing one another as they compete for ammo to kill the big boss. We were surprised to find that online matchmaking wasn’t functioning due to the lack of players interested in online co-op. So if you want to play with people online it might be a good idea to have friends ready to play before hand. Offline mode definitely seems to be where people stay focused.

The single player Adventure mode is definitely where gamers are going to be spending the majority of their time. Across 50 different levels you will run across challenges upon challenges and the odd boss every once in awhile. As you play some of the levels will rotate out game modes so you are getting a fresh experience as you progress, keeping the game interesting.

At the end of the day Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions on the Xbox One is a perfect continuation of a lovely franchise. The game plays well, looks great, and is absolutely entertaining.

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Posted:
2015-07-19

Jamie_Hall

Writer

Xbox One

7.4

Some games age well, others don't. Some games are made to age well, and others aren't. Then you have at title like Super Time Force for the Xbox One. Super Time Force was developed by the crew at Capy Games with every intention of making a game that could be played for years. Utilizing retro graphics, interesting gameplay quirks, and a frantic shoot 'em up style of play we quickly found that Super Time Force was the perfect game for our almost-ADD riddled gamer hands. We downloaded a copy of this indie game for our Xbox One and immediately jumped into the action.

The independent gaming community has gotten a sort of odd reputation these past couple of years. With companies popping up out of the woodwork to create retro 2D style games it has been hard to really make a name with certain titles. Still, we get a great title every now and then and Super Time Force may just be that special title. What these indie developers can do that AAA companies cannot is take risks. When a company can take risks they tend to reach innovation a little bit easier and that innovation leads to a unique game.

The story for this game begins with a super scientist who discovers how to travel through time. His discovery obviously changes the course of the world forever. The Super Time Force is a squad of soldiers led by Commander Repeatski (har!). You take on the role of Repeatski in this special squad of future scientists. As it turns out, time travel has sort of gotten out of control and a time travel apocalypse has (already?) happened. Still, even though the stakes are high you will find yourself chuckling at the different tasks you actually end up doing as Repeatski. Maybe you need to find a way to implement faster internet into your ship so you can download cat videos, or maybe you need to find a cooler version of yourself from the future. Whatever it is you do, the hysterical Super Time Force team is on the job and ready to do something. Honestly, the humor reminded us a tad bit of Futurama and that's a huge complement.

So we've established that this game is a retro blast full of Futurama inspired humor so let's dig a little deeper into what you actually do with the Time Force. So your squad of Power Ranger like time travelers are comprised of unique characters that are all pretty equally possessed of a dumb name. Each member of your squad has their own signature move, used with the X button, and a charged attack, used by holding down the X button. You will start off with a trio of characters that have their own positive and negatives and you'll have to learn to rotate through them to take care of the action at hand as you see fit.

Jeam Rambois is your small arms expert. His machine gun shoots pellets in either a straight line or a Contra-esque three lined attack. Shieldy Blockerson specializes in, you guessed it, defending your crew with a shield. Her shield can stop pretty much anything and she can also create a bubble shield that will surround your allies. Aimy McKillin (ugrgghh) is the sniper of the group and her bullets can bounce off of walls or be charged enough to shoot through entire rows of enemies. She's pretty deadly. While we highlighted a few of the more unique characters, there are actually about a dozen other soldiers that you can revolve through, including the aptly named Dolphin Lundgren. Yeah, Dolphin Lundren. Moving on.

Super Time Force itself is replete with dumb humor but it never feels juvenile. Oh, well, okay it does feel a little bit juvenile but in a good way. Dr. Infinity, your evil nemesis, is full of quirky puns that he has to repeatedly one up every time we see him. He likes to make fun of the Super Time Force (or Stupid Time Dorks, as he calls them at one point). His work never gets to our squad of heroes as they all possess an almost Zap Branagan style of bravado. Commander Repeatski couldn't be more tryhard at being cool if he, well, tried. He's always trying to be cool in a new way and his repeated, oblivious, failings always make us laugh. The humor itself stays on point too and it should appeal primarily to the internet age nerds among us.

So we've gotten this far without actually describing what you do when you play the game. Let's fix that real quick. What you do is go crazy. Each level is built in flat fashion, utilizing retro graphics and 2D linear gameplay. The fights are completely in chaos as you push through row after row of your countless enemies. The baddies you fight aren't just pushovers or meat for your grinder as they are supremely capable of killing you with just one potent hit. Thankfully every time that you die you can hit the B button to rewind time, saving yourself from the death that just struck you. Every time that you rewind the game to bring your heroes back to life you end up creating an alternate timeline and now you will have ghosts of your dead heroes also filling up the screens. The more rewinds you commit the crazier things actually get. Eventually you'll probably end up slack jawed with a sweaty grip on your controller as your screen fills up with...tons of Super Time Soldiers. Gameplay also limits itself with sixty full seconds of time to reach the end of the level. You are given Time Outs to pause and rewind the game but they are limited so you have to use them strategically.

Super Time Force on the Xbox One is a special title and it is one that should be experienced by just about anyone with a passing interest in indie games, quirky titles, or innovating experiences. We found ourselves laughing and loving our time spent with STF and you will too.

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Posted:
2015-08-04

Jamie_Hall

Writer

Xbox One

7.3

The Golf Club was developed for the Xbox One by the team at HB Studios Multimedia. This golf simulator was released back in August of 2014 and it tried to take advantage of the lack of golf sims on the market. Being a relatively unknown franchise from an unknown developer has its drawbacks but it does allow us, as critics, to go into the title with a completely open mind. Going into this title we were hoping for something that gave us a mixture of McIlroy’s realism with a more refined, less branded twist on an ultra saturated sport. What we found was something that pushed creativity while still delivering a nifty sim. There were issues, of course, but the primary Course Designer mode assuaged those wounds.

If you are a golf fan and a gamer then you’ve probably spent more money than you want to admit to on EA Sports Tiger Woods titles or the PGA Tour series of games. These sims have always been the go to brand for golfing on consoles, dating back for the past decade at least. With the launch of the Xbox One there seemed to be an opening available for HB Studios to see if they could squeeze in while people were still winded on the other titles. Competing as simply a golf simulator would have been folly, as the other franchises have years of experience, so The Golf Club decided to do some things a little bit different.

The first thing we noticed, and you likely will as well, is that you are only a button press or two away from actually swinging your club. There aren’t seemingly dozens of menus in between you and a round of golf. You literally pick your controller up and hit the 'Tee Off' button and then you’ll be placed into a randomly chosen course and ready to go. The lack of load time means that you’ll be sitting down and playing almost in the same motion. The courses also load all of their holes at once which means you can see all of the other holes around you, allowing you to peak ahead. If you have friends online who are playing The Golf Club you can actually drop your character into their course and watch them behind or ahead of you just like you were out on the links.

Further pushing the social aspect, The Golf Club allows you to play friends who are offline as well... erm, well their ghost anyway. Set up a course and load your buddies ghost player into the match. You’ll watch a ghost of their player hit their shots and then you’ll be charged with trying to take them out. It’s pretty nifty but ultimately just another filler mode to make it seem less like you are alone on a gigantic, beautiful course. There are some downsides here, namely in the fact that you are still connected to the internet so if you have connection issues you will be booted off of the course. If you don’t want to deal with that simply play an offline round and jump back in whenever your connection stabilizes.

One of the biggest red marks on The Golf Club experience is the lack of name branding that allows the EA titles to recreate television broadcast type experiences. You don’t have crowds of people following as you golf, there are no famous TV broadcasters in the booth, and you don’t have logos flying everywhere to give the game that commercial feel. It’s a bit more intimate, instead, and that might be good for some but definitely will turn off a bunch of others.

We do like what the commentator in the game does, even though he isn’t necessarily a broadcaster. The commentator in The Golf Club is laid back and acts more like a caddy or a friend on the course with you. He’ll keep you updated on your score, give you some advice, and even tell you how your buddies are doing if you are playing a live game with them. He’s a helpful voice that rarely repeats himself and always seems focused on what is actually happening on the course, which is a nice change of pace from the seemingly random broadcasters in other games.

Unfortunately The Golf Club is hit and miss when it comes to actual game modes. You don’t have a career mode and you can’t create completely customized characters, either. There is also a lack of deep character progression that has become the staple in most EA titles. So you are mostly consigned to playing golf in random courses or playing around with the Course Creator, which we will now dive into.

The Course Creator is probably going to become the calling card of this game. The course designer in this game is so powerful that Greg Norman officially endorsed it, putting his name in front of it. Real life course designers also use the software in order to test out new projects, which shows its strength and ability to impact actual golfing. When you load up the course designer you will be placed in a birds eye view of a procedurally generated course. From there you can tweak certain variables, such as how long the holes are, how hard the greens will be, and so on. Then generate the course to get a base set and then begin modifying. You can change pretty much anything that you want, altering the land, adding new hazards, adding trees and water ways and bridges, while even incorporating wildlife in your course.

Once you are done designing courses you can share them online with friends, download other people’s courses, and then play them all to your hearts content. This provides unlimited replay value and it allows dedicated users to show off their design skills. In short, the game is almost worth buying solely for the Forge (Halo 3) like level editor. The golf simulation is adequate, as well.

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Posted:
2016-10-01

Jamie_Hall

Writer

PS4

7.0

Mirror's Edge Catalyst is an action-adventure platformer developed by EA DICE and published by Electronic Arts. The game can be considered a cross between the acrobatic style of free running only shown from a first-person perspective.

The storyline of Mirror's Edge Catalyst takes players to the city of Glass which is a beacon of technological progress and architectural beauty for the nation of Cascadia. All, is not well on this well polished surface, as within the glass there lurks many ugly truths. You take on the role and character known as Faith, she is an experienced Runner who has learned the brutal consequences of rebellion first-hand, from her endeavors to date, but even now, she still continues to fight for change and justice. In her shoes, the city of Glass is yours to explore, and every move is yours to make freely.

On Glass's rooftops live the Runners, members of a society of offGrids who have found an alternative way of lifestyle. They have chosen freedom from the Conglomerate's control (who run the city) knowing full well that the freedom they have chosen and the lifestyle they seek, will at some point come at a tragic cost. As the main story unfolds we get to see how the character Faith uncovers a sinister plot to the rid the city of runners, in a secret document known as "Icarus", a program designed to train their forces in various styles of combat in order to oppose the Runners and eliminate them from the city surroundings.

The game has a decent amount of momentum, and speaking of momentum this is a cure aspect in the overall makeup of the game. As a running maintaining momentum is the core to a Runner's strength, affecting how far and fast you run, jump, wall run, or wall climb whilst diving across the high rise surroundings.

Players must maintain and sustain momentum in order to boost your overall speed as you move around, the longer the momentum, the faster the game will run. In order to increase and boost momentum players must use logic and timing in a string of jumps, clearing obstacles in the way and choosing which is most appropriate given the circumstances the player is faced with. Some obstacles can be vaulted over or slid under, or provide a jumping point to easily scale walls or fences. A perfectly timed obstacle clearance can give Faith an additional boost in momentum, while other obstacles can boost your height at a cost to momentum. Strafing, turning, moving backwards, and running uphill all slow you down, so master your pre-emptive and recovery techniques to keep your momentum up.

Some of the basic moves in Mirror's Edge Catalyst has only briefly being touched upon, and they do play a major part of the momentum of the game, and the fluidity in which it can be played. Some of the basic moves consist of crouching, jumping, crawling, climbing, vaulting, wall-run, wall-climb, slide, swing, you get the general drift. For instance, you might use the crouch to take cover from enemies, or crawl through spaces, air vents and the like. Or you might use the grab or climb button whilst in mid-air, or free-falling to cling and grab ledges to avoid falling.

There are various attack modes in Mirror's Edge Catalyst which consist of Light Attacks, Heavy Attacks, and Traversal Attack, the first two are pretty self-explanatory so ii shall elaborate on the latter. Traversal mode is made up of both heavy and light attacks and a combination of free running, wall jumps, slides, doing these manoeuvre in combinations will increase power, and when done correctly they cannot be countered. Using a combination of the same movements is not a wise choice when facing enemies, you must change your attack patterns frequently otherwise enemies will pick up on this attack method and subsequently counter it upon execution. So a change in style of fighting is needed in order to mix up all three attacks modes in various forms of combat within the game.

During you stay within the city, Faith will come across various enemies who are looking to take her down, when you come across enemies an indicator will appear which is known as a reticle, this will give you the location and number of enemies within your given area. The reticle also notifies the player when faith is out of reach of impending danger, the reticle does this by simply disappearing off the screen. Faith is also aided in her quest with a shield for deflection such a bullets, battens and other weaponry that may threaten her, this shield can increase in strength also by performing some said tasks mentioned previous, in relation to the momentum, wall running, free running, aids to the power of the shield. The more moves you chain together the more the shield grows effectively, stumbling, stopping, decreases the overall strength.

The MAG attachment (Manifold Attachment Gear) is a handy gadget for moving and exploring unknown areas or environments which are not easily accessible. Faith wears this attachment on her hand and this can be seen as a rope which attaches to specific points and locations within the game, aiding Faith to explore unknown area which would otherwise be unreachable.

The Disruptor is another gadget only this one is geared towards taking out various enemies. A battery is charged kinetically whilst running and performing various moves, when the Disruptor is finally charged, the player enacts this and it places a radius around Faith destroying enemies, security camera, hunter drones, anything in her path. The latter is seen more when the battery has been fully upgraded, it becomes more powerful when fully charged and upgraded to the max.

There are various side missions and safe houses within the game, which need to be completed and used to fully partake in the game, these side missions are generally helping folk, earning bonus points, learning about the city in general. We also have the main story in Catalyst where we take Faith across the darkest depths of the entire city in order to take on the KrugerSec.

Mirror's Edge Catalyst is a worthy title which should be explored, it has elements of worthiness, uniqueness, all neatly tied together.

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Posted:
2015-10-28

Jamie_Hall

Writer

PS4

8.5

The Talos Principle Deluxe Edition is a first-person puzzle video game which draws heavily from Greek mythology, originally created by the Croatian developer Croteam and later published by Devolver Digital. It was released on PlayStation 4 on 13 October, 2015.

Storyline

In The Talos Principle, you begin after awakening from a deep sleep and you find yourself in a strange world of ancient ruins mixed with advanced technologies, a bit of ruff with the smooth you might say. Your creator has bestowed you with the task of solving a complex series of puzzles, you must now decide whether to have faith in your creator, or to take the route and ask questions like, what is my purpose here, who or what am I, questions like this.

The game features quite an extensive array of puzzles which you will have to solve, this is largely set in an impressive non-linear world, and the storyline becomes quite thoughtful dealing with our very nature of existence. In total the game has over 120 puzzles which with a storyline which is heavily influenced by primary mixing philosophy and ancient symbols with a puzzle solving twist.

Your primary existence should be to explore the civilization, understand the story that explains humanity and how it is linked to the advanced technology, finally coming to a conclusion based on the theories and clues which have been offered to you. The choices you make within the game has certain effects and consequences and you choose your own path to follow, just remember this, someone is always watching your every move.

The Talos Principle is played from a first-person perspective, there is an option to switch to a third-person perspective, so choice has been given here which is a nice added touch I was not expecting to see.

Gameplay

You take on the role of a robot which has a human consciousness and during your puzzle solving shenanigans you will have to locate the tetromino-shaped sigils by navigating various mazes and dealing with the obstacles which are found upon them. The obstacles mentioned might be enhanced created technologies like computer controlled drones or wall mounted turrets, should a player get to close to the drones they will explode taking out the player, these like the turrets can be disabled using jammers. The wall mounted turrets in effect shoot the player should they also get to close. Should you be hit by either a turret or a drone then the game is reset and the player starts the same level from the beginning.

As you progress through the levels you will obtain these hieroglyphics known as sigils, when you complete more puzzles and collect more sigils then further puzzles will then become active to participate in. There are also various items which assist the player in reaching the location on any given puzzle, for example, boxes enable players to reach higher levels, or on the flip side block certain drones from being able to attack you. A large fan that can be used to glide the player onto other objects, platforms during the puzzles.

The player's progress through these puzzles is sometimes limited by security systems that require the collection of specific sigil pieces which you will need to obtain in order to enter. Once the sigils for a given door or security system is used, they must then use the sigils to assemble a puzzle that will unlock that security system or door. Special star sigils can also be obtained by finding a unique solution whilst solving certain types of puzzles, once these Special Star Sigils are in your possession this in turn gives the player access to additional puzzles which are unlocked as a result. The player can also explore the open non-linear environments to find the computer terminals that include further puzzles to solve and unlock, they also contain various audio recordings and hieroglyphics depicted on the walls.

The Talos Principle Deluxe Edition features the Road to Gehenna expansion pack and this consist of four new episodes that take the experienced players through some of the most difficult challenging and advanced puzzles that have even been seen. The journey to Gehenna is filled with new characters and a new society with its own history and philosophy, this is much different to the original release, giving players a whole new world to explore and more challenging puzzles to solve.


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