Mark McMorris Infinite Air Review (PS4/X1/PC): “Shreddin'”

Snowboarding games in the past decade have been very few and far in-between. Yes, we’ve seen EA reboot SSX (yet still no mention of a new one this generation), and we’ve also seen Ubisoft attempt it with its mediocre Shaun White’s Snowboarding. Developer HB Studios, known for their golf simulator title, The Golf Club, is giving the much needed snowboarding genre a try with their latest title, Mark McMorris’ Infinite Air. Is this the definitive snowboarding simulator?

Gameplay: 4/5

Infinite Air is not your SSX-style snowboarding game, so let’s clear that up right away. Instead, HB Studios aimed to make a physics-based snowboard simulation game. Essentially, it’s the “Skate” of snowboarding games…and that’s a good thing. Infinite Air has players immediately start with a tutorial to get a feel of the control scheme. It starts simple and gets more advanced as that progresses, from simply learning how to turn, to how to do flips. It is a necessary tutorial to have since the controls are all physics-based. Now you may see some comparisons to Skate being made with this game, and again, that’s because this legitimately aims to set that precedent…but with snowboarding. Controlling the boarder feels responsive and fairly smooth, giving a weight and feel that’s authentic to snowboarding.

Infinite Air has you partake in Circuits as the main campaign mode. This consists of four varied events across six tiers. Each event has five objectives that can be completed, whether it be to score a set number of points, pulling off a specific trick, placing 1st in an event, earning a certain grade during a competition, etc. It keeps each event fresh and will test your skills in a variety of areas. Naturally, as you progress up to each tier, the challenges will increase in difficulty. There are different style events as well, whether it be slopestyle, big air, backcountry, etc. Each event style does change up the flow and really lends to keeping things fresh and varied. The final event of each tier has you going up against another famed snowboarder, those of whom can be unlocked.

There are several big name snowboarders to be found here. However, if none of the characters are to your liking, you can create your own character. While the customization isn’t enormously in-depth, there’s plenty of clothing types and accessories to choose from. Not all of these customization items are unlocked from the beginning. You unlock more by completing more challenges in the Circuit mode.

The controls will certainly take time to get a feel for. For example, jumping in this game won’t be a simple button-press. You will have to emulate the jump using the right-analog stick by holding down and then pushing up, or vice-versa (depending if you want to ollie or nollie). Granted, you can also hold down both L2 & R2 simultaneously and release to jump. Timing is important too, because you can’t pre-wind your jump early or too late if you want to get the most air. You can control spins using the L2 & R2 buttons (or LT/RT on X1) and like jumping, you’ll need to time your pre-wind just right to get the most spin. You’ll control the direction of the flips and spins, as well as where to grab the board with both analog sticks. Grabbing the board utilizes the L2/R2 buttons as well. Grinding rails occurs naturally and automatically, dependent on how you land on the rail itself. Is this sounding like Skate’s trick system at all? Again, not to say it’s copying directly from it, but rather incorporating it in similar fashion. After all, it’s an entirely physics-based game, as Skate was. Landing tricks will net you various statuses as well: Buttcheck, Sloppy, Ok, and Clean. Honestly, the trick system is very challenging to grasp at first and will take a solid amount of time. However, stick with it for a while and you’ll start pulling off some sick tricks. There’s an immensely gratifying feeling pulling off a 2160 roast beef flip (that’s a legit trick name apparently) while getting some crazy air. 

Now one of the biggest features that sets Mark McMorris Infinite Air apart from its competition this year (Snow and Steep) is the World Editor mode. This lets you create an entire mountain to your liking. This where things get really impressive. There are roughly 100 set pieces to place on the mountain. You’ll fly the chopper around the mountain, finding spots to tweak to your liking. You can sculpt the snow, whether you want to just smooth it out or grade it. There are a variety of ramps, rails/jibs, buildings, nature and other objects you can utilize. You can scale objects, adjust the height and tilt of them, snap them to the mountain (or have them float above ground if you’d like), and rotate them to any degree. You can even use a ruler tool that gives you an in-depth breakdown of distance, angle degree, width, etc. It has an intricate degree of depth for sure, and one that sets a standard in this genre. Furthermore, you can create your own runs on the mountain for others to try out. This is truly a fully fleshed-out mode. Publishing a mountain gives players an entire mountain of your creation to explore, as well as runs to tackle. There’s even leaderboards for your runs, adding some competition and activity to your mountain. It’s easy to lose hours upon hours creating a mountain that lives up to your imagination.

The World Editor mode is so simple to use and incredibly intuitive.

Additionally, the game does have a traditional multiplayer mode known as Live Ride. This has you inviting your friends onto the mountain to shred together. Unfortunately, during the time of our review, we were not able to test this feature out properly. There is also no split-screen multiplayer support.

The game does have a few issues that slightly takes away from the gameplay experience. First off, when you bail and “get up”, the screen refreshes with you getting back on your board. As opposed to getting you back on track, it literally respawns you right where you bailed. The issue with this is if you collided with the wrong side of a ramp or in between two objects, you will find yourself struggling to get out of that spot. The other issue is a few times I found myself facing the uphill direction when respawning. When this happens, it can be pretty frustrating. However, it doesn’t heavily hurt the overall gameplay experience, and is something that can honestly be patched.


Graphics:
3/5

Infinite Air’s visuals are quite nice and crisp. Environments have a clean, sharp look to them, with nice looking textures. Lighting effects here are solid, but there are some jagged-looking shadow effects on the snow at times. The snow looks great overall, with backcountry snow deforming as you shred through it and snow park graded snow being more compact. Riders animate smoothly as well, providing very believable animations whether carving, spinning, grabbing, or bailing. Since the environment generates, you will notice trees in the far distance popping up. The game does run at 30 fps, but there were a few instances where it dropped to the low 20s. It didn’t impact the control input much, but did take away from visual presentation a bit when that occurred. Interestingly, the developer allowed players to tweak visual settings such as draw distance effect, texture quality, etc. Although, even switching all the settings either to off or low didn’t seem to boost game performance. Despite some technical performance hiccups, Infinite Air is still a nice looking game without question.


Sound:
4/5

The audio presentation is certainly strong in Infinite Air. The sound of the wind as you speed down the mountain, the snow being carved, the board landing after getting some big air…it all sounds like you’re on the mountain yourself. When you get air, the music becomes more subtle to give a more dynamic feel. Even bailing has the music take a subtlety with an airy tone. The soundtrack definitely does a great job keeping you in the experience. Consisting of a mix of rock and techno music, it’s a very adequate selection of tunes that nails the game’s pacing. All-in-all, the audio department is very well done and keeps you drawn into the experience.


Replay Value:
4/5

Infinite Air’s title has the word “infinite” in there to convey the sense of seeing endless things on the mountain. Whether it be your creations, other’s creations or just seeing what the game procedurally generates before editing a mountain. While the game’s online mode seems to rely on inviting a friend to your mountain, and no public matchmaking, this limits you a bit in this aspect. Despite that though, between the game’s Circuit mode, browsing runs others make, tackling Daily Challenges, or creating sweet mountains, there is plenty here to keep you coming back for quite some time.

Overall Score: 7.5 out of 10

Mark McMorris Infinite Air clearly aims to be the Skate of snowboarding games, and certainly does a great job achieving that. What’s here is a snowboarding simulator that is very skill-based and challenging, but incredibly engaging to keep coming back to. Despite a few technical qualms, this is a much needed snowboarding game this generation. Snowboarding fanatics, as well as fans of Skate, will definitely want to give this a go. With the great amount of content, challenging yet gratifying trick system, and amazing World Editor, this is certainly a mountain worth shredding on. Hands-down, this is snowboarding’s answer to Skate.

PROs:

+ Skill-based, realistic trick system
+ Plenty of variety
+ Appealing visuals
+ Strong audio
+ World Editor is sublime

CONs:

– Occasional framerate dips
– Respawning is wonky
– Multiplayer doesn’t have public matchmaking

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for Mark McMorris Infinite Air! Copy reviewed on PS4.

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Resident Evil Revelations 2 Review – “Back on the Right Track”

RE Revelations 2 Wallpaper

The Resident Evil franchise has been around for approximately 2 decades and we have seen the series blossom into some of the most memorable games, giving you the feel of scavenging for items, weapons and ammo. However, we have also seen the series recently take a turn for the worse, with the horrendous spin-off, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, and the absolute mess known as Resident Evil 6. It has been roughly 2 and a half years since a new Resident Evil has released to the market, and with Resident Evil Revelations 2, the team over at Capcom is trying to appease fans like it did with the first Revelations. Does it bring the franchise back to its roots or does it continue to slap fans in the face with obnoxious helicopter piloting and tank chasing sequences?

Story: 4/5

Resident Evil Revelations 2 takes place between the events of Resident Evil 5 and 6. A special unit known as Terrasave is formed, which acts similar to the BSAA except that they’re more about curing the viruses rather than being a special military unit. While at a company party, Claire Redfield (who is now part of Terrasave) is seen entering and looking to meet the new recruit, Moira Burton. However, the party is suddenly crashed by a mysterious group and knocks everyone out by injecting them with a tranquilizer. Claire suddenly wakes up in a prison cell of some sort, finds Moira locked in another cell, and together they must find out where they are, what’s going on and how to escape this nightmare. Claire and Moira have a fairly believable bond interacting with each other. Moira as a character though has some of the most forced swearing ever in gaming history. Seriously Moira, what the f*** is with you and f***ing technology? See how forced and pointless the swearing was there? That’s how she speaks in-game.

At the halfway point of an episode, the plot will switch over to another series’ veteran, Barry Burton. Here we see Barry heading to the last known location of his daughter Moira and upon arrival, partners up with an unexpected little girl named Natalia, who’s origins are unknown. Throughout their segments of the campaign, you will see how everyone’s paths cross into each other, while solving the mystery occurring on the island. The story is told through an episodic format much like the original Revelations, but with more effect, as the cliffhangers at the end of an episode are quite strong. The story is certainly intriguing and kept me engaged through to the end with a few twists in store (as well as two different endings depending on a specific decision you make). Also, fans of the series will appreciate the continuity brought up from various RE installments. All in all, the storyline is one of the better written ones in quite some time, rekindling the classic, mysterious feel of Resident Evil.

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Gameplay: 4/5

Resident Evil Revelations 2 (much like the first Revelations), ditches the full-blown action with minimal scares and provides a much more refined style to its predecessor. The partner system is still in place (whether you like it or not) but works in an unexpected way that works very well. Gameplay still remains over-the-shoulder, with fluid move and strafe controls that may very well be the series’ best control scheme since RE4. Throughout the game’s four episodes, players will switch between Claire and Moira’s scenario and Barry and Natalia’s scenario, each with supporting character’s changing the dynamic a bit. For example, Moira is petrified to use a gun (even despite the fact that there are murderous creatures attacking her) due to having a certain “past”. Instead, she will provide Claire with lighting support and she’ll wield a crowbar in her defense. There are times where she may have to pry a barricaded door open while Claire will have to provide gun support against any creatures coming after both of you. With Natalia, a page was borrowed from The Last of Us where she has a keen sense of hearing and can detect where enemies are through walls. Adding another element to it, she can spot out enemy weaknesses, as well as hidden items in the area.

When taking control of the main leads (Claire and Barry), they will play as you’d expect from traditional Resident Evils. You’ll be able to wield up to four weapons to switch amongst on the D-Pad, while carefully managing your inventory like the classic installments. Ammo is certainly scarce in this game, so don’t expect to wage an all-out war with all the enemies. You will have to be careful and considerate with how to handle situations. Also, unlike previous iterations (except RE6), there will be no Item Box to actually store your items in, so you will have to make decisions on what items you’ll want to carry more of and drop on the ground. A handy element is to let your partner carry some of the supplies. For example, Moira and Natalia would be better at carrying more of the health supplies and misc. items so that Claire and Barry can focus on carrying more of the ammo. How you manage the items though is ultimately up to you. One of the biggest gripes that’s not in place here though is commanding your partner to pick up the items. Instead, if your inventory is full, you will have to switch to the character and then pick up the object. It may not sound too bad written down, but it becomes tedious to do so during the entire campaign. In RE5 for example, you could simply command your partner to pick up the items if you did not want to carry it or couldn’t. Why they haven’t implemented that here is questionable and impacts the flow at times.

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As mentioned earlier, the controls are incredibly smooth and fluid. Shooting also feels pretty solid and reminiscent a bit to Dead Space. Whereas RE6’s shooting felt too loose and janky, this one certainly feels tighter. The evade mechanic returns from the first Revelations but now isn’t about simply timing when to press up on the analog stick. Instead, you can control the dodge with the circle button and pressing any direction you wish to evade to. Timing your dodge is still important, as you can still take damage should you dodge too early or too late. At the end of each character’s segment in an episode, you will be able to use the BP you’ve earned and collected to upgrade skills. The skill upgrades are fairly similar to those found in Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, except you actually can utilize all your upgrades, not just equip three of them. Some of these vary from farther dodging radius, better firepower when crouching, sprinting and knifing at the same time, increased health, etc. There are a ton of skills to upgrade, as well as upgrading the levels of those skills to better them. Also, returning from the first Revelations is the weapon upgrade system. You will collect parts to attach to your weapons at a workbench that can increase the firepower, fire rate, reload speed, etc. Mixing and matching the parts with certain guns is a rewarding experiment, and trying to find as many parts to really make your weapon a beast is part of the fun.

When it comes to survival horror, the atmosphere and setting lend a dramatic amount to the experience. Capcom has done their homework and provided a creepy, and at times unsettling, environment that really can be twisted at times. No corner is safe and diabolical traps await you as you try to escape the demented facilities that accompany this island. Switching between Claire and Moira, and Barry and Natalia changes up the pacing of the game a decent amount. While it kept me thoroughly engaged most of the time, the very final chapter for Barry is far too slow paced to make it feel climatic until the last 10 minutes, whereas Claire’s final chapter feels much like it should (without spoiling anything). To make Barry’s final episode more of an issue, is that there’s a certain moment in the campaign where one of your decisions will greatly affect the ending. And I’m not talking about seeing an additional minute or so to the ending or a slight variation…this decision will add an additional 15 minutes of gameplay and story to resolve everything. Unfortunately, many people may not see this if they don’t make that specific decision and it’s a shame since it is much more gratifying.

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Aside from the main campaign, that sits anywhere between 7-10 hours roughly, there is a ton of replay value. First off, you can replay the game in New Game +, replaying the game with all your earned skills and upgrades. Secondly, you can tackle two new modes for each episode. The first is called Countdown, where you’ll have to speed run through the episode and can earn time back by taking down enemies and collecting clocks. The second is Invisible, where it harkens back to the Invisible Enemy mode found in the RE Remake. All enemies will be invisible and your partner can temporarily spot them. Both modes provide quite the extra challenge for purists. However, the main extra mode where people will clock in countless hours will be the infamous Raid mode.

This installment’s Raid mode is vastly improved from the original. In this installment, we start off in the Red Queen’s Chamber as a network code character (think the green coding from the Matrix). You will be able to choose which character you would like to play as (including some iconic characters like Wesker, HUNK and Leon), as well as choose what weapons to bring with you and attributes to equip. The attributes allow you to either increase your health, allow more melee damage, survive an instakill attack with a single HP left, etc. All the attributes can be leveled up with the Skill Points you’ll earn from leveling up, so upgrading these and choosing the right ones will help tremendously as you progress. The levels are broken up into gauntlets, each carrying approximately 6 stages. Each stage will have you ultimately taking out as many enemies as possible before the exit medal appears, however it can be trickier than that. When you complete a level, there are five types of medals to earn: finishing the level, killing all enemies, using no green herbs, clearing a mission within the recommended level, and completionist. Earning a completionist medal (which is earned by getting the other four medals in a single run) will prove to be quite the challenge. Luckily, just like its predecessor, Raid mode can be tackled in co-op (local and online) and it is best to play this with a friend. There are roughly 9 gauntlets and 3 difficulties. Overall, Resident Evil Revelations 2 plays great and has plenty of replay value.

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Graphics: 3/5

Resident Evil has, more or less, been a series we’ve seen some seriously strong visuals. From the Resident Evil Remake, to Resident Evil 4, to then Resident Evil 5 (I won’t even include 6 with the inconsistencies I spotted visually there), it has usually wowed us from trailers leading up to gameplay. When Revelations 1 was released on the 3DS, it was mind-blowing to see that the handheld platform could produce visuals so close to that of a console. To this day, that is still one of, if not, the best looking game on that platform. Revelations 2, on the other hand, went a different route. Due to cutting back on budget costs, it plays it safe and brings the game over to current-gen and last-gen consoles (PS4/X1/PS3/360) with solid visuals. The main difference between the platforms are that PS4 and X1 run at 1080p and 60 fps (which may drop a bit surprisingly on PS4 but nowhere near the point where it’s as noticeable as some people have blown it up to be), whereas the PS3 and 360 versions are 720p and 30 fps. There are texture differences naturally between current and last-gen editions, but as far as how the game looks on current-gen, it never looks “great”. Not often was I impressed with the visuals, with some dull looking indoor environments at times. Some areas look neat and nail the atmosphere, but it rarely ever stood out tremendously. Character models are detailed nicely, but they don’t appear to show anything that would classify it as a generational jump up. Enemy death animations also appear a bit disjointed and choppy at times, looking almost low quality. Gripes aside, it still looks good for the most part, with some solid lighting and again, terrific atmosphere. However, it just never reaches the point of “greatness”, which is odd for an RE title.

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One of the better looking, and honestly best played, scenes in the game.

Sound: 4/5

Resident Evil Revelations 2’s audio is quite good, with enemy screams sounding vicious and creepy, which will keep you on your toes to keep moving. Gun effects all sound appropriate and effective, while ambiance help keep that unsettling feeling in check. Voice acting is quite solid, even if Claire’s iconic voice actress (Alyson Court) is no longer onboard. Thankfully, the new VA that stepped in for her role does a good job of making her feel like the Claire Redfield we’ve come to know over the years. Barry’s and Natalia’s VAs also help breathe life into the characters and make it enjoyable hearing their dialogues amongst each other. Moira on the other hand…well, while I didn’t mind her delivery at times, it was every time she threw an F-bomb or some other swear word that just…doesn’t…fit…period. Seriously, no one would swear just to swear in the middle of talking. When someone swears, it usually adds emphasis to the situation. When you swear every 4-6 words, it’s downright obnoxious and irritating. On the flipside, the soundtrack accompanies the game very well, with music picking up when enemies appear and low-key ambiance music playing as you explore this demented island. Even the Raid mode remixes the Mercenaries theme from RE6 (the only good thing I can think of from that installment) for some of the missions you’ll do.

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Overall Score: 15/20 = 7.5 out of 10

Resident Evil Revelations 2 is a game that no one really saw coming, as it was thought to be a single spin-off for the series. Instead, Capcom aimed to bring back core fans of the series by sticking more to the survival horror roots, rather than the helicopter-fighting, tank-chasing, motorcycle-riding, Ace Combat flying, full-blown action non-sense that was RE6. Ultimately though, Capcom really did a great job with Revelations 2. While the visuals are a bit rough, and Moira’s excessive and constant swearing is downright stupid, Resident Evil Revelations 2 truly is a very good game, and a great Resident Evil game. The strong and engaging story, the eerie atmosphere, the environment exploring, the tight controls and combat, plus the return of the addictive Raid mode all couple to provide a robust package. Resident Evil fans have much reason to return to the series with this latest installment. Here’s hoping Capcom sticks closer to this route with Resident Evil 7…

Pros:

+ Strong story with series continuity

+ Tight controls

+ Creepy atmosphere

+ Solid soundtrack

+ Engaging gameplay

+ Raid mode is back

Cons:

– Having to switch to your partner all the time if you want them to pick up items

– Moira’s downright stupid swearing

– Barry’s slow final chapter

– Visuals don’t do anything special and just plays it safe

– Have I mentioned how irritating Moira’s swearing is…?

Resident Evil Revelations 2 was purchased by the reviewer and tested for the PlayStation 4 system.

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OlliOlli Review (PS4/PS3): “A Near Perfect Run”

OlliOlli Logo Landscape

Decades ago, the sport of Skateboarding took storm across the United States. Over time, we’ve seen the sport make it’s way around the world. It’s popularity didn’t soar until roughly the time when legendary Tony Hawk wowed people from all over pulling off the first ever “900 Spin”. In the 80s, there was a retro skateboarding game called “720” that was quite the hit back in the arcades. During the 90s, the NES had a specific series called “Skate or Die”, which had two installments: the first being strictly about skateboarding events, while the sequel was an outlandish adventure. In 1999, we saw one of the most rewarding and groundbreaking skateboarding titles release, Tony Hawk Pro Skater. The game was a critical and public success that skateboarding itself really gaining a significant amount of attention. Since then, we’ve seen other game developers bring about their renditions of skateboarding titles, with the next biggest success residing with EA’s SKATE series. Back in January, UK-indie developer Roll7 released a reinvigorating skateboarding title exclusively for the PlayStation Vita called OlliOlli. Now, the developer has ported the hit title to Sony’s home consoles, both the PS4 and PS3. Does the developer pull off a perfect run on consoles?

OlliOlli is a 2D skateboarding platformer that meshed together the arcade style feel of Tony Hawk Pro Skater, while providing a complex and rewarding trick system that the SKATE series achieved. Remarkably, the game takes those two styles and perfects the mechanics in a way where it sets its own bar. OlliOlli brings you immediately into the gameplay, offering a tutorial that brings you up to speed in minutes. You’ll learn that OlliOlli is one of those games that’s simple to pickup-and-play, yet incredibly complex to master. Controls and tricks are mostly handled with the left analog stick (or D-Pad if you prefer), while kicking off for speed handled with the X button. The Vita’s analog sticks worked great for this but now with the DualShock 4 analog sticks, it provides more precision than ever to pull off tricks. Pulling off an ollie is simply done by pushing the analog stick down and letting go, while tricks are done by pushing the analog stick in a direction or rotation. Pressing the L2/R2 buttons will result in you pulling off spins to your tricks, as well as nollies. To grind, you’ll simply press down on the analog stick, without any worries of balancing. Although you will have to be concerned on the amount of speed you can lose while grinding, which if you come to a halt, you’ll fall off your board and bail. Pretty straightforward so far, right? Well, now comes the intricate mechanics.

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Pulling off tricks and linking them together, between grinding and proper flip tricks, is quite intuitive and engaging to grasp. However, if you want all those hard-earned points to count, you’re going to have to land perfectly. That’s right, landing is actually a whole additional mechanic that can make or break your run…literally. To land a trick, you’ll have to press the X button, but at the proper timing. The time you press the X button will determine the rating you’ll receive, which also factors the amount of points you’ll earn. The rankings are as follows: Sloppy, Sketchy, Ok, Sick, and Perfect. Sloppy will net you only a few points, while Perfect will earn you thousands of points. Pulling off a Perfect landing is immensely rewarding and once you nail the timing, it’ll become second nature to achieve. Even when grinding, you’ll have to press down on the analog stick at the right time to earn a “perfect” grind. Doing so will actually affect the speed you maintain to grind. Maintaining a solid line and earning a perfect combo is what it’s all about if you want to rack up a ton of points.

The Career Mode will have you tackling 10 levels within five environments: Urban, Junkyard, Base, Port and Neon City. Five of the levels are handled on Amateur difficulty, while the other five are for Pro. Each level contains five objectives to complete, whether it be earning a high score, earning a high combo, completing a specific gap or line, collecting items, etc. To advance to the next level, you need to only reach the end of the run, even if you don’t complete any objectives. However, achieving all the objectives in a level will unlock the Pro level of that run. The levels will ramp up in difficulty and intensity nicely, without making the player feel degraded from what they’ve learned. Should you bail, it’s back to the beginning of a run. Luckily each run lasts for about 30-90 seconds. You’ll have to watch out for various obstacles, including grass, snow, stairs, spikes, barricades, etc. Now should you completely every objective in every level (both Amateur and Pro), you’ll unlock RAD Mode. RAD Mode will test out the most skilled players by success only being achieved solely through Perfect Grinds and Perfect Lands. Anything else will result in a seriously painful, run-ending bail.

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Aside from the Career Mode, there are also 50 spots to take on. Every level you complete in the Career can be tackled in Spot Mode afterwards. Spot Mode has you doing a specific run in the level where it’s all about pulling off the highest score you can, all within a single combo. Your score will then be posted on the leaderboards, so you’ll be able to see where you rank amongst your friends and other players around the world. Additionally, Roll7 incorporated a Daily Grind Spot, where everyday you can partake in a single event against all players. You’ll be able to practice the run before posting for a score, and the reason you’ll want to do this is because you only get one shot at the run. Whatever score you get, even if you bail, is all that counts…no do-overs. Upon completing the run, you’ll see what rank you achieved worldwide throughout the 24 hour time period of the Daily Spot. It’s a terrific mode that has you coming back constantly. No matter which mode you’re playing in OlliOlli, you will certainly find yourself coming back for more, time and time again. Even after taking breaks from the game, I was always eager to jump immediately back in and try to perfect more runs. One new feature brought to the console versions is the Friends Leaderboard (which will also be available via patch on the Vita at the release of the console versions). This is certainly a welcome addition, but would’ve been nice to see a true multiplayer feature incorporated here. On the flip side, thanks to the PS4’s “Share” button, players will now be able to post their runs for everyone to see online. This is definitely the type of game to share runs of and even stream live due to how gratifying it is to witness someone doing a sick run.

Visually, OlliOlli is a nicely hand-drawn, retro-style game that harkens back to the classic days of gaming. The main enhancement here is that now OlliOlli is in full 1080p HD from its jump on the Vita to the PS4/PS3. You notice immediately the crisp and cleanness to the game right from the get-go compared to the Vita version (which already looked excellent). Animations are fluid and detailed, while retaining the old-school vibe. The skater himself moves quite smoothly, even when bailing. The more he bails, the more of a beating you’ll notice on him where clothes will rip and blood will run down him. It’s nothing “too” bloody, but it’s a noticeable detail for added effect. Environments are nicely detailed as well, with numerous objects pertaining to specific areas. The Base area will have tanks and airplanes to grind on, while Neon City will have a bullet train speeding by in the background with neon signs and purple Godzillas to grind on. OlliOlli’s soundtrack is very suitable, accompanying the gameplay and setting very well. Added in the PS4/PS3 version of the game is the ability to also skip music tracks. This is a very nice addition so that you can get to your favorite song that’s your jam during a run. The sound effects are top-notch, with every audio clip perfectly matching the skateboarding and boarder perfectly. Whether you ollie, grind, land, trick, bail, or collect an item, it all sounds precisely like it should.

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OlliOlli was an extremely well-polished, superb title for the PS Vita, and the transition remains precisely the same on consoles. Much like the Vita, this is the PlayStation 4’s first skateboarding title to grace the console, but it also one of the best indies to release on it as well.
Roll7 has delivered an amazingly rewarding and addictive skateboarding title that truly should not be missed. In the way Tony Hawk Pro Skater kept me coming back for more back in the day, OlliOlli achieves the same feel and experience that’s very much needed. Add in the fact that the game has Cross-Buy and Cross-Save functionality across the PS4, PS3 and PS Vita, there’s almost no reason not to pick the game up. Here’s hoping we see an OlliOlli sequel in the near future. Until then, back to perfecting lines I go.

Overall Score: 9.5 out of 10 = MUST BUY!

A special thank you to Roll7 for providing us the review copy for “OlliOlli”! Copy tested on the PS4.

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review (PS4/PS3/360/X1/WiiU): “Losing some of its webbing”

ASM2_Spider-Man

“With great power comes great responsibility”, or in this case, with a new movie comes a new game. Activision and developer Beenox had released a movie tie-in release for the Amazing Spider-Man back in 2012, which not only was a great movie-based game, but a great game in itself. With the sequel to Amazing Spider-Man now in theaters, Beenox put out a sequel to their predecessor, aiming to improve on various elements. Is this installment worth swinging a web at or should your spider-sense be warning you to avoid it?

Story: 3/5

Taking place after the events of the first Amazing Spider-Man game, regarding the cross-species incident, we find Peter Parker reliving his past and witnessing his Uncle Ben’s death. It’s from this point where we fast forward to present day and Peter is trying to make amends for his uncle’s death by tracking down the killer as his priority. Throughout the story, Peter will soon find out that there’s more going on that’s connected to Uncle Ben’s death. Peter will face his greatest threat yet as he comes across Wilson Fisk (aka “The Kingpin)”, Green Goblin, Electro, Shocker, Kraven, Black Cat and Carnage. The story is pretty solid and engaging enough to keep you interested. However, there are times where cutscenes feel rushed, showing Spider-Man in one location and transitioning to gameplay completely elsewhere. There are also moments where you’ll be given dialogue options to choose what Spider-Man can say during cutscenes. Unfortunately, this doesn’t have any alternate effect on the storyline. Ultimately, while the story wasn’t as strong as its predecessor’s, what’s here is still fun, especially for Spider-Man fans to see the villains in place. Oh, and be sure to watch the cutscene after the end credits of the game (much like the Marvel films themselves).

ASM2-PeterParker

Gameplay: 3/5

When playing as Spider-Man, one loves to have the feel of what it would be like to web swing through New York City. The first Amazing Spider-Man game was Beenox’s first attempt at bringing the open-world aspect in and did a great job of doing it. In this sequel, Beenox wanted to bring out a more fleshed out, lively city. Additionally, the main core mechanics they aimed to touch on was the web swinging. In the predecessor, Spidey would stick his webs to anything in the air, no matter where he was. In the sequel, you use the L2 and R2 buttons to swing with the left and right hands respectively as the webs attach to the buildings now. He can even swing faster holding down both the L2 and R2 buttons together once latching a web onto a building. Physics-wise, this changes the swinging mechanic a good amount and actually feels reminiscent to Treyarch’s Spider-Man 2 back in 2003. There’s even a neat slingshot move where Spidey can attach webs between buildings and pull himself back to launch through the city. The web rush mechanic is still in place and has been refined a bit, allowing for a smoother flow and momentum by hold up on the analog stick. The issue with this new web swinging mechanic is that you’ll find yourself swinging into building corners that stick out and you’ll get stuck transitioning to a crawling animation. This tends to get frustrating when Spidey has a bomb he needs to toss in the river and time is of the essence.

ASM2_WallSlinging

Additional in this installment is the Hero or Menace feature. Now there will be a variety of side-missions that appears on the map where civilians or cops are in need of assistance. Choosing to save them will increase your “heroic” meter, with the press and civilians standing up for Spider-Man in the streets. Ignoring the missions over a period of time will decrease your hero meter and continuing to do so will progressively shift over to the “menace” side of the meter. At this point, civilians will trash talk Spider-Man, the Daily Bugle will badger Spidey and the task force around the city will be on you like white-on-rice trying to dispose of you. Beenox also focused on an increase in suits you can switch between. Each suit contains specific traits that pertain to various scenarios, whether it be for defensive purposes, stronger attacks or better stealth. The more you use a suit, the more it will level up (can reach up to level 10 as the max). Also, depending on your hero or menace rank, the attributes will either increase or decrease respectively. This time around, Spider-Man has a health bar again (as opposed to the no HUD, flashing red screen warning you of death). However, to regenerate health, you’ll hold down on the D-Pad and he’ll patch himself up with webbing within 3-5 seconds. Careful though, as enemies will find this opportunity to gang up on you.

Throughout the game’s 14 story missions, Spidey will mix up missions between outdoors and indoors. The first game focused more on indoor locations but this installment tries to flesh out the environment a bit more. Like the predecessor, the game blends a variety of protection, combat and stealth mechanics, while also throwing in a slew of boss battles. Boss battles were a highlight in the first game, in particular with the mammoth-sized mechs or flying mechs that terrorized the city. In this one, epic scale boss battles are completely removed unfortunately and we’re left with more “traditional” battles. Each boss fight tries to change up the method/strategy of approaching it, whether it be trying to sneak up on Black Cat, tricking Kingpin into stunning himself, or webbing Electro so that you can safely attack him. The bosses are pretty well done for what they are, but rarely had a “wow” factor like its predecessor.

ASM2_BlackCat2

Combat and stealth have been tinkered with a bit as well. Combat is built upon the rhythm formula found in the predecessor that’s akin to the Batman Arkham series. However, it feels like the combat isn’t as polished as it was originally. Dodging multiple attacks is frustrating as you have less than a split-second to dodge those, as opposed to single attacks giving you about half-a-second to react. Also, pulling off signature moves seems less common to do than the predecessor, leaving you pummeling an enemy a bit longer than necessary. Webbing takes more of the front seat now with Ionic Webs and Seismic Blast. Ionic Webs deteriorate heavy armor and metal brittle enough to break, while Seismic Blast lets you charge up your webs and blast people back. Stealth has been tinkered a bit, where you can now rappel from ledges and do a stealth takedown from a distance without enemies noticing as quickly. Enemies will notice if a comrade is webbed on the ground, which can lead to you going in for another takedown as well. Also, Spider-Sense has been enhanced this time around. Now, Spider-Man can see the visibility angle (with the proper upgrade) of an enemy on patrol, as well as highlights all items and objects in an environment.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 has a good amount to do upon completing the story (which takes roughly 4-6 hours). There are races you can take on in the city, photos to be taken, 300 comic book pages to be found, hideouts to sneak into and acquire new suits, and an endless amount of crime to stop. You can even revisit all the missions to go back and find audio logs, or just replay them for fun. Then there’s also the fact that you can replay missions with alternate suits to level those up. You will even play certain segments as Peter Parker himself, which is a nice touch. The game’s pacing felt a bit off though, with the first half of missions being nothing more than “ok”, and then the second half consisting of building on the villains and facing off against each one at the end of a chapter. When it reaches this point, it feels like the enemies are rushed into the story to make an appearance, face off against them and move on. Overall, the gameplay is still solid and enjoyable, but couldn’t help but feel like it was less polished than its predecessor.

ASM2_Carnage1

Graphics: 3/5

There’s no question that the team over at Beenox has shown off some impressive visuals throughout their history of handling Spider-Man titles. It’s unfortunate to say though that this installment was barely touched-up for the next-gen platforms. Reviewed on the PS4, the visuals looked exactly the same as its predecessor on the PS3 in 2012. The only difference in the next-gen version is that instead of running at 720p, it runs at 1080p (which is nice). However, aside from that, the visuals were still a bit uneven. Spider-Man himself, as well as all the main villains, are very well detailed (especially Spider-Man who appears very photorealistic). On the flipside, NPCs in the environment look very dated and lack any of the fine details, making conversations between NPCs and Spider-Man look…well, like Spider-Man is from another console generation. Also, textures in the environment tended to load up during action on-screen or during cutscenes. Spider-Man’s animations were mostly fluid and detailed (even when web swinging alongside a building and he runs along it while still in mid-swing) but during cutscenes, some of his movements seemed wonky and awkward. One of the cutscenes early on made me think Spider-Man was the “UPS Guy” from MadTV back in the day (90s reference), just constantly moving around and flailing his arms around while talking.

Hiccups aside, the game’s frame rate ran at 30 fps without issue and occasionally hit a higher rate during indoor scenes. Also, the city has been redesigned to be properly scaled and given more “life”. Buildings are more detailed and less blocky, while there are more cars on the streets as you swing by. However, the draw distance isn’t very strong and objects tend to fade in at a viewable range. The visuals are mixed overall, some things look quite good, with the city more detailed and Spider-Man himself looking impressive, while oddity issues arise that hurt it. It doesn’t help that for the PS4 version of the game, it barely improved the performance of the issues.

ASM2 - Aerial Shot 2

Sound: 3/5

Spider-Man games have genuinely had some strong audio, whether it be the soundtrack, sound effects and voice acting. In terms of voice acting, Sam Riegel returns to reprise his role as Spider-Man and does a great job much like he did in the first game. All the other characters are also brought to life from a mostly solid voice cast. Sound effects are also quite strong, with webbing sounding precisely as it should, combat sounding effective and the ambiance of the city (in particular when swinging at street level with the cars) drawing you into the experience. Unfortunately, the soundtrack is the weakest element here. The music found in the game (aside from maybe one or two tracks) is completely unmemorable. Unlike the first game which had catchy and memorable tracks to swing around the city to, this one’s soundtrack was on the verge of me having to breakdown and use a custom soundtrack. It’s unfortunate because I always look forward to a game’s soundtrack (especially Spider-Man games) and this one was just very underwhelming. Thankfully, the sound effects and voice acting are what redeemed the audio overall.

ASM2-Night Aerial Shot

Overall Score: 12/20 = 6.0 out of 10

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is far from a bad game, but as a sequel to a great game, it’s nowhere near as impressive as its predecessor. Visuals are a mixed bag, the story (while interesting) feels like it cuts corners a bit, the soundtrack is underwhelming and the mechanics aren’t as polished as they should be. The enhanced swinging mechanic is certainly a highlight here, but it feels like that was the only main element they focused on improving. What is here is still an enjoyable experience for Spider-Man fans, but it’s less imaginative and inventive than the first game.

Pros:

+ Swinging through the city is a lot of fun
+ The roster of villains is solid
+ Some boss fights are pretty cool
+ Story is decent
+ Great voice acting and sound effect

Cons:

– Combat mechanics feel less polished
– Most boss battles lack “wow” factor
– Soundtrack is very unmemorable
– Visuals are completely mixed

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for The Amazing Spider-Man 2! Copy reviewed on PlayStation 4.

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Deception IV: Blood Ties Review (PS3/Vita): “The reason we have the ESRB”

Deception IV Cover

Have you ever gone through a game and thought to yourself: “Man, the bad guys are always overpowered. Where’s my amazing abilities and cheap combos?” Well wonder no more. Deception IV places you on the other side of the story, as in, the ‘oh so good to be bad’ side! Utilizing an incredible arsenal of various traps used to surprise, torment, combo, torture and ultimately finish off your enemies, you may have to adjust to the feeling of being… evil. Do you have the stomach for it?

Story: 2/5

You play as Laegrinna, a seemingly innocent looking, adorable and calm mannered girl… who is also the daughter of the devil. Together with your three daemon “witches”, you have set out to claim 12 magical verses inscribed on slabs that bind your father (the devil) in the afterlife, keeping him from reigning over the world. By recovering all of the verses, held by descendants of the virtuous and holy who bound the devil, Laegrinna will be able to undo the imprisonment and give the earth back to the most powerful and “deserving”.

Deception IV Gameplay 3

Deception IV never really goes into detail about why Laegrinna is trying to bring back her father. Other than being evil, and taking over the world is what evil people do, you primarily have to just go with it. Some repetitive dialogue cutscenes detail the game’s 12 chapters as you progress from one location to the next, collecting verses off of fallen bosses. Again, while there is really no explanation given (or needed), the owners of the verses seem to be attracted to the other verses, allowing you to basically sit and wait for the next hot shot to come in seeking glory for slaying the “witch”.

Deception IV never really builds a decent climax, or shrinks down to a low, it’s a pretty steady paced game without a real enticing plot line. In fact, the one recurring sequence of mystery potentially holding an exciting twist or story development is completely forgotten and never given any substance, making the completion of the story seem merely inconsequential. To be honest, if this is what it’s like to progress as the bad guy, I’d rather be a henchman without a name tag, but at least a life outside of taking over the world.

Nonetheless, I have to give credit for taking everything we have come to know as a “noble quest” and completely flipping it on its side. Being evil throughout the story actually did make me feel less empathetic towards my enemies and more focused on the end goal, by any means necessary. While I definitely can’t say I was engrossed in the story, I will admit that the progression pace and dialogue from time to time did enhance the gameplay slightly.

Deception IV Gameplay 1

Gameplay: 5/5

​What’s interesting about Deception IV is that you don’t play as some all-powerful character able to cruise their way through to the end based on self-growth alone; you need the demonic help of three “witches” – or daemons. Caelea, the daemon of elaborate death, Veruza, the daemon of sadistic torment, and Lilia, the daemon of humiliating demise, aid in your retrieval of the verses as well as most of the dialogue in the game. In fact, you have almost no powers, other than to call on the powers of your daemons. Laegrinna is actually very weak and she cannot fight. Instead, she uses carefully placed traps to ensnare victims and rob them of their lives. Each location is set up like a grid, with each square being a spot you can place certain traps. There are three types of traps: wall, ceiling and floor – being that each type of trap will appear from one of those locations. Your three daemons dictate what each trap may be themed after. Elaborate traps have a specific inclination to link other traps together, creating large combos by which you can hurl enemies around, inflicting more and more damage as more traps are used. Sadistic traps are used predominately to inflict damage. They work very well to get past defenses as well as catch an enemy off guard. Humiliation traps however are merely meant to amuse. While they are sort of in between the other two types, they really have a knack for bringing the funny out in death (picture a giant yo-yo crushing someone).

Deception IV Gameplay 5

​You start off with only a handful of traps to use. However, as you progress, earning more elaborate, sadistic or humiliation points, you can buy new traps with a never explained currency called “warl”. The different traps appear to be never ending, constantly adding new possibilities to torture and kill enemies. While some appear to be similar, they often hold different qualities which can affect enemies in different ways. There are a handful of different categories of traps as well. While wall, ceiling and floor dictate how the trap will appear and can be placed, there are subcategories that give reason as to how the trap functions and affects enemies. For example, there are fire traps which burns enemies, enrage traps that cause the enemy to forgo their inclination to avoid harm’s way, as well as crushing, freeze, electric, piercing (etc) traps. Utilizing different types of traps is the key to defeating different enemies.

The enemies in Deception IV are all given personalities. Some are knights, assassins, brawlers and even regular townspeople, and each are given a backstory which may help in determining their weaknesses, as well as how they will perform on the battlefield. For example, many townspeople will run when they get hurt, while knights will chase you down even if they are an inch within death. Also, some enemies wear armor or hold particular abilities which may disable the use of different types of traps against them. Some enemies can jump over obstacles, sense traps or even heal themselves and others. All enemies learn where traps have been placed as well as try their very best to kill you, so when you’re pitted against up to three enemies, you need to be wise about who to attack first.

Deception IV Gameplay 4

​As stated before, pairing different types of traps against enemies in a combo is the key to success (and by success, I mean mercilessly killing them without a second’s thought). Some enemies will be resistant or invulnerable to different types of traps. Resistant to a trap means that type of trap (electric/crushing/blinding) will not affect them if used first in a combo. However, link it after the enemy has been taken by a different trap and you can use it against them. Invulnerable however means that no matter how much you try, you cannot use that type of trap against them – so stock up on traps wisely! Enemies wearing armor will also take less damage from traps, so breaking it is essential. You can do this by carefully performing a trap combo, including the enemy’s weakness in the chain, then launching them into the air. The trick is that you never really know the enemy’s weakness. Many can be determined from the character’s brief backstory, but most of the time you’re left to a trial-and-error scenario.

​Overall, the pure strategy needed to defeat even the most menial enemies is extremely satisfying, but when a boss is thrown into the mix, you really need to plan out your attacks carefully. The surprising thing about Deception IV is that even though the strategy is fundamentally the same for each enemy, and you may utilize the same trap sequence over and over again, I never got tired of it. Location is an important element in the game, as traps are placed in a grid lock formation and enemies obviously do not move square-by-square, so getting a large trap combo to successfully land is extremely rewarding. Timing as well as knowledge of how your enemy will progress are both very important; and therefore you truly feel as though you are meticulously planning each individual’s demise, giving off the feeling of being a higher entity than those who oppose you. Nonetheless, boss fights and multiple enemies coming for your head provide an excruciating challenge and should not be taken lightly. Proper preparation and careful planning are wildly rewarded.

Deception IV Gameplay 2

​As you progress through the story, you will encounter different challenges provided by your daemons, rewarding you with appropriate point boosts to each particular theme (elaborate/sadistic/humiliation). These often include utilizing arena specific traps. Traps that are placed within the arena offer type boosts as well as continued combo potential. There are also larger traps in arenas dubbed “trap-mobiles”. These mobile traps require high levels of strategy to engage but reward you with large point and damage boosts, as well as a special quicktime event if you kill an enemy with them! Completing these challenges in story missions give you large boosts in character progression, which is beneficial toward unlocking new traps. However, if you would like another opportunity to earn new traps, there are other game modes. Missions give specific qualifications that need to be met for completion, and free battle allows you to set the goals. While only missions give the currency (warl) to buy new traps, free battle gives the opportunity to create, share, and download other’s challenges. As a whole, there is plenty of game to experience, especially as the strategy incorporated into the game makes the story chapters and missions take much longer than anticipated, without any loss to enjoyment. There is just something about brutally torturing a righteous soul beyond that of forgiveness that makes you candidly understand what it is like to be evil.

Deception IV Gameplay 8

Graphics: 3/5

​Most of the locations in Deception IV are dark and dismal arenas of death (as fitting to the nature of the game), therefore there really isn’t any room for a “wow factor”. Light effects are near non-existent, even when flickering torches light a hallway and character repetition, as well as pixilation, can be faintly distracting at the start of the game. While textures do add depth and feel to the game, the real quality is in the traps. Each trap is beautifully rendered when in comparison to the rest of the game, and since this is what you’re mostly focusing on during gameplay, you will hardly have time to notice the under-equipped details in the environments. A thrilling zoom follow feature allows you to lock-on to enemies to get a close-up angle to the action, letting you follow their horrendously painful demise. You can also use this feature to plan the start of a combo, or anticipate attacks from afar. On the PS3 version of Deception IV, you can also record and upload to YouTube the combo sequences from this perspective!

The primary drawback in Deception IV are that cutscenes are merely dialogue events, showcasing protagonists and antagonists as cutout characters with text underneath. This never gives the game an opportunity to go beyond the quality found in the gameplay. However, as stated, the trap effects and textures supersede the rest of the game and allow to you forget the weaker portions of the graphical quality.

Deception IV Gameplay 6

Sound: 4/5

​The eeriness of a deserted castle or the playful terror of an old amusement park are captured wonderfully by the soundtrack in Deception IV; and more importantly do not interfere with the intense calculations needed to strategically plan an attack on an unsuspecting enemy. The reactions to the torment of said attack are a different story however. The screams of agony from enemies as they’re ripped to shreds by a descending saw blade tend to get slightly annoying. That’s not just the removal of all empathy the game has installed in me taking over, the enemy’s voices can be really annoying. Most of the voices from enemies are reused and therefore get old pretty quickly, but then again how many different types of screams do you want? Luckily, you can turn down voice sound effects if you find the repetitive sounds of anguish too much to endure. While main character’s voices are clearly different and seemingly fitting to their composure, you will have to deal with everything being in Japanese.

Again, the traps take the glory here as each sound effect adds real weight and life to the effects of the torture inflicted upon your enemy. The real benefit to these sound effects is the ability to utilize them in completing combos. More often than not, I found myself overwhelmed with enemies, therefore not able to zoom and lock-on to an enemy to correctly time a combo. By listening to the trap effects, I was able to tell when one had finished and when to start another, thus prolonging my combo and allowing me to finish off an enemy easier. The enemy’s screams were also a very distinct indication of when a trap had successfully struck, giving more success to the strategy and careful attention to detail necessary to finish off an enemy. After some getting used to the game, I found the sound effects were mostly well balanced, but you can tweak them generally to fit your preferences.

Deception IV Gameplay 7

Overall Score: 14/20 = 7.0 out of 10
Coming in completely blind to the series, I had no clue what I was getting myself into. While playing as the bad guy (erm… girl) set me off guard for a minute, I quickly found it an enjoyable change of pace. Gameplay is extremely addictive and unlocking new traps is exceedingly enticing, only to be overshadowed by the pure ecstasy of landing a devastating trap combo. While the graphical quality isn’t distracting, I felt it could have been improved, especially considering the lack of resources necessary for the cutscenes. The sound effects were substantial for traps, but tended to get repetitive for characters, even if it helped to understand where they were at in my cycle of death. Quickly into the game, I became enthralled with tormenting my adversaries, and that feeling never seemed to subside. If you don’t mind being a part of the statistic that shows why we clearly need the ESRB, I would highly recommend picking this game up.

Pros:
+ Wonderful strategy element
+ A plethora of traps to choose from
+ Zoom and lock on feature clever and useful
+ Challenge level provoking and rewarding
+ Being evil is fun!

Cons:
– ‘Cutscenes’ were merely dialogue
– Weak story element
– Screams got annoying
– Environment quality inconsistent with the features of the game

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for Deception IV: Blood Ties! Copy reviewed on both PS3 & PS Vita.

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Thief Review (PS4/X1): “Something lurks in the shadows, perhaps it should stay there”

Thief Wallpaper

Thief launches the series into a next-gen experience; adding to its quiver everything that goes along with a complete rejuvenation of a series: new graphics, a fresh story, clever designs and a whole new world to call your own. But just because something is new doesn’t always mean it’s better – does this new Thief properly pay tribute to the past entries in the ever popular series? Or should it just cower in the shadows, dwelling in the shame of being “just another game”?

Story: 1/5

Instead of reviving an old storyline from previous entries in the series, Eidos Montreal took a classic move and started from scratch; giving main character Garrett a new background with a new reason to be the master thief (as well as a killer new look). Thief takes place in a busy setting simply called “The City”: an almost middle-aged, steampunk, “we just discovered electricity” kind of place. This means that modern-day locks, contraptions and security systems haven’t been invented yet, which is all the better for us. It’s also around the time where sorcery and a hint of mysticism can viably make an appearance. For an agile spirit in both mind and body, this makes for a pretty attractive place to set up camp and reap the benefits of the ever abundant shadows.

At the start, the city is booming, meaning plenty of heists to pull off with a plethora of back alley deals going on. Garrett accepts a job working with an old student of his and you both head out to steal a valuable artifact. However, when things don’t seem quite right, Garrett has the smarts to turn away; but an overzealous “co-worker” thinks she has what it takes. A few miscalculations and an interruption or two and we wake up a year later with no idea what happened to her or what happened to our beloved City. What once was thriving with markets and healthy people has now descended into the depth of purgatory, with sick filling the streets and an overruling government squeezing the City into submission with a clenched fist.

Thief Gameplay 4

Garrett decides he needs to figure out what’s been going on for the past year and what happened that fateful night. What starts as a few simple inquisitory jobs evolves into something much deeper… and darker. Garrett soon finds out that he may be the only one with the ability to save the City he calls home.

Thief takes off with a pretty rough start. With what can only be described as a pre-rendered unsynced mess of a first cutscene, it’s pretty hard to get involved in the story. To be completely honest, every cutscene is this way, and to truly enjoy and take the story for what it is, you’ll need to distance yourself from the quality and focus on the hard facts. Sadly, that still won’t do you much good. While the story seems to make sense in the end, it relies on what I like to call “accept-a-scene’s”. These are events that take place without any previous or further explanation, forcing the player to just accept what has happened as practical and move on. While some games may have one or two of these events, Thief will have about one major event a chapter, really adding some suspicious loopholes to the story as well as incomplete connections, leaving you with a cheated feeling.

The story takes a few winding turns in an attempt to make it more interesting, but in the end with only one decent (though poorly followed through) twist, you won’t end up remembering much of what happened.

Thief Gameplay 1

Gameplay: 3/5

If you can get past the choppy cutscenes and poorly strewn together storyline, you can find a mildly addictive game to enjoy for a while. The City is a large arena filled with loot for you to steal. Sadly, many of the areas are patched together with loading screens, making the game feel unconnected and as choppy as the cutscenes. Luckily, none of the chapter missions will put you through this waiting period, allowing you to roam free and interact with the world as you like… well sort of. While the game originally boasted near-absolute freedom, you’re really quite limited. You have a clever arsenal of arrows at your disposal, but really only a handful of ways to use them. Wander through an area in a mission and you can clearly see how the developers wanted you to play it, which honestly makes you feel like some entity is watching you play, constantly forcing your hand to interact with the world the way it has intended you to.

Nevertheless, there is still a large amount of satisfaction in uncovering hidden passageways and alternate routes, and that’s really where the game earns its keep. Unlike many other stealth games, Garrett is not a force to be reckoned with. Facing one guard is challenging enough but when you’re pit against multiple enemies, your best bet is to run, hide, and survive. You have a small amount of self-defense, with the ability to dodge and weaken enemies enough to a finishing blow, but this takes time and will definitely cause attention! This is something that is highly appreciated, really capturing the feeling of being an actual thief, and it will make you play the game that much more skillfully. Utilizing no real powers or abilities other than a swoop action that dashes you forward a few meters, you’re left to use your wits.

Thief Gameplay 2

Different environments make sneaking around more difficult. For example: carpet will mask your footsteps, but be careful on wood, and God forbid you happen to step on any perfectly placed broken glass! This concept is strung about through the entire game as the AI is keenly aware of what happens around them. Sure, you can distract a guard with a broken bottle to make them wander over, but land that bottle too close and they’re on full alert, quickly searching every nook and cranny! Your only option is to stick to the over-protective shadows as much as possible. You can put out candles (when no one’s looking) or swoop across lighted areas to avoid detection, but you still need to be aware of everything that is going on in your surroundings. You may not have noticed the traps set up in that hallway, or the guard on patrol around the corner. It’s best to take it slow, using the incredibly smooth peak/lean function or utilizing your mystic focus ability to highlight objects of note. Sticking to your skills and being alert will allow you to cruise through the missions with ease; pulling off huge heists without anyone even knowing you’re there.

While story missions are long and well-thought out, it’s good to get some diversity in the game. That’s where miscellaneous jobs and client jobs come in. In between story missions, you can peruse the town in search of specific loot to steal. Most of the time this involves a drawn out and repetitive sequence to open a window and pick a lock with no threats around, but once in a while you will have to avoid a resident or guard. The real challenge is usually finding how to get to the said window, as the city can be a tempting puzzle. The client missions are a little different however. Locate the specific waypoint in the City and you’ll be ported to a small section to carry out your mission. These are a pleasant change of pace as the venues are small enough to tackle quickly, but complex enough to take your time and practice to perfection. It’s a shame there aren’t more of these as it would really add to the game’s replay value. Much like each story mission, there are collectibles to find, loot to steal and threats to avoid. At the end you’ll get a nice report screen detailing your actions and how you performed and what you should do to improve. These, combined with the story missions, will give you plenty of time playing to become the master thief. However, if that’s not enough for you, there is a challenge mode which puts you in a map (albeit a small number to choose from) and gives you new objects to steal. You can choose to alter how the game is played, possibly giving you more points when the job is completed, and then you can compare to your friends’ scores on the leaderboards. While these challenges will take some time to master, the real meat lies back within the City.

Thief Gameplay 6

Graphics: 4/5

It’s a rare occurrence when cutscenes are the weakest point of a game visually. However, Thief really showcases this conundrum well. Luckily, that means that the rest of the game looks stunning. During gameplay, you’ll constantly find yourself stopping to appreciate the textures and lighting effects, and how those light effects affect the textures and how the textures texturize the lighting effects! With a game almost entirely set at night, it’s an impressive feat that Eidos has been able to make the world stand out visually. Fog and visibility has been expertly created to make you feel like you truly can hide in the shadows, if only the same effort was put into the dreadful, yet somewhat infrequent game events.

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Sound: 4/5

Thief knows you need to concentrate, and that means silence. You won’t often notice music or background ambience unless it’s absolutely needed. One of the things Thief helps you with is knowing when you’re being spotted. An eerie atmosphere of voices will kick on when someone is contemplating if they see you or not, and music will drastically appear if they decide that you’re not actually a shadow. This allows to you focus on the environment as a whole when planning your next move. Realize that your footsteps aren’t so silent? Probably shouldn’t swoop then. Hear a guard walking around the corner? Maybe he’s sleeping quietly – best to peek and check it out. Thief also takes a new approach to sounds alerting threats by adding birds and dogs. Move too fast by a bird and they’ll act like an alarm. Dogs will smell and see you in the shadows so you need to consider your routes carefully! Sadly, not everything is balanced in the world. People talking will carry without drop off for a long distance! This truly creates a poor experience when you’re trying to sneak around a 3rd story building but you head the guards on the 1st floor by the gate as clear as day as if they were in the next room! Not to mention that in the City you’re constantly barraged by a mess of different people talking, it’s almost enough to make you want to sit through an unsynced audio session in the cutscenes!

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Overall Score: 12/20 = 6.0 out of 10

Overall, Thief is a rather unpolished attempt at a next-gen revitalization of a classic stealth game. Freedom isn’t truly free and while the in-game graphics will keep you mesmerized, the repetitive nature of the in-City jobs can feel like a chore after a short while. The City itself has some addictive puzzles and alternate paths if you can get past the loading screens, and the gameplay can be highly rewarding if you let yourself get into the mindset of a shadow-walker. However, in the end, if you’re looking for a stealth game, you should probably purchase Dishonored.

Pros:

+ Some pretty neat and clever paths in/out of missions

+ Awesome in-game graphics

+ Clever strategies to progressing in missions

Cons:

– CUTSCENES?!

– Loading screens all over the place

– Story is filled with “accept-a-scene’s”

– Same cool paths feel like you’re simply being guided

– Repetitive nature of out of mission heists

Thief was purchased by the reviewer and tested for the PlayStation 4 system.

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Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix Review (PS3): “A Remix Worth Checking Out”

Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix Logo

Kingdom Hearts, being one of the first Action-RPG games I’ve ever played, holds a very dear place in my heart and holds many memories of yesteryear that invoke nothing but feelings of fun and nostalgia. The concept of taking Square Enix characters and Disney characters, and mixing them together seems proactively obscure, but works all too well. And to see this game, as well as a few of its spinoffs, get the HD treatment is actually quite exciting for someone like me. But how does the game do in the quality department? In the same manner as Nintendo’s Wind Waker HD remake on Wii U, Square Enix has opted to remake Kingdom Hearts and two of its spinoff followups in HD to help prep fans for the upcoming Kingdom Hearts 3. But the important question is this; should you buy it?

Story: 4/5

Portions of the Kingdom Hearts story have aged well and others have not. The first game provides likable characters and an interesting narrative that guides the player from point A to point B with a clear goal and an easy to understand plot that drives all the characters forward. Unfortunately, as you head into Chain of Memories, the story becomes somewhat convoluted and by 358/2 Days, it becomes almost incomprehensible, not unlike the treatment of writing that was dished out in Birth By Sleep and Kingdom Hearts II (neither of which is included in this particular collection). The main character Sora grows up somewhat in the first game, but it becomes clear that by Chain of Memories his development has become stagnant; he knows his right from wrong and doesn’t have much growing up to do. Characters like Riku on the other hand are a whole other case and are a little more interesting to follow. Being able to do so in both Kingdom Hearts and Re:Chain of Memories is an interesting treat.

The Disney plotlines are abridged from their movie counterparts with subtle changes made to fit into the Kingdom Hearts universe (such as Disney villains interacting with Disney characters not from their respective movie or interacting with the Kingdom Hearts exclusive Heartless enemies). After the first Kingdom Hearts, there is a lack of focus on this as Re:Chain of Memories only offers retreads of the same worlds from the first game and 358/2 Days does not concern Disney characters much, if at all. Overall though, if you are interested in experiencing the full story without buying a Gameboy Advance and a DS to do it, this would be a great way to get that done. Unfortunately though, you will have to wait until HD 2.5 Remix to have Birth By Sleep and play them in canonical order.

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Gameplay: 4/5

The Kingdom Hearts gameplay, “simple and clean” as it were, remains fun but new and improved in the HD iteration. Camera control now belongs to the right thumb stick and some commands can now be utilized with the triangle button (similarly to the new gameplay design in Kingdom Hearts II). A welcome addition to Kingdom Hearts HD is the previously unreleased Final Mix content, which contains new cutscenes, items and even an exclusive super boss fight. Kingdom Hearts has occasionally offered its own form of platforming and unfortunately it works about as well as it used to; not well at all. Furthermore, many battles can be handled with a simple mashing of the X button and require little strategy. The bosses on the other hand will require much skill and strategy. The same applies in Re:Chain of Memories. Bosses force you to think on your feet and react as best as you can to certain situations, completely changing how you play the game. This can be both fun and frustrating depending on what your play style is and which boss you fight. The game allows you to customize your play style in both Kingdom Hearts and Re:Chain of Memories. In the former, you can adjust Keyblades, equipment, items, and other such tools to give yourself an edge. You can even adjust how you level up and what to prioritize in battle at the beginning of the game. In Re:Chain of Memories, it’s more luck based, as you have to obtain high level cards as you play the game, which is easier said than done. Even with these high level cards, victory is not assured due to the player being required to approach boss battles very differently from the more common Heartless battles.

Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix Gameplay 6

Kingdom Hearts allows you to play in real-time combat alongside Disney companions for the better portion of the game. Having Donald, Goofy and the likes of Aladdin or Jack Skellington by your side makes for an uncannily fun and strategic experience, especially if you are a Disney fan. Fans who are more Final Fantasy inclined will be very pleased to see the likes of Cloud, Sephiroth, Squall and other such characters from that universe more intertwined with the main story. For the most part, the Square characters will fight against you rather than alongside you. The game balances this well for the most part and doesn’t force you to do much grinding. The optional super bosses on the other hand are a different story. Another welcome addition is the ability to skip any cutscene at any time with a simple press of the start button and selecting the option.

Re:Chain of Memories handles this differently. While grinding can be done by simply encountering and battling every Heartless you find, this can become incredibly tedious and lead to little reward. This is made all the more frustrating by fairly stiff controls and a wonky battle system. As someone who played the Gameboy Advance original version, I can say that even with the more advanced controls thanks to the PS3 DualShock controller, Re:Chain of Memories is actually not quite as good as the GBA game. The gameplay was made overly complex and even confusing; for example, when you wanted to “stock” three cards together for a combo, you did so in the GBA game by pressing the shoulder buttons together (the shoulder buttons are individually used to cycle through your deck). In Re:Chain of Memories, this is mapped to the triangle button and the shoulder buttons seem to be reversed by default (hitting R1 cycles left and hitting R2 cycles right) and there is no way to switch the order. The most frustrating thing is that you lose the ability to move when you need to recharge your deck, which is obviously not the case in Chain of Memories for the GBA. All in all, minus these gripes of mine, Re:Chain of Memories is still fun, just not as much as the first game which makes up for its shortcomings.

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Why have I not mentioned 358/2 Days? Because if you do not yet know, there is no game there. It is basically a several hour movie that sums up everything that happens in 358/2 Days, splicing cutscenes with small text screens that abridge the parts that used to have gameplay. While it is a shame that you cannot play 358/2 Days, having played the original on DS, I can say it was not a very fun experience and I would prefer not to go through its tedious design again, even with improved controls (which may not have even happened if Re:Chain of Memories was anything to go by).

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Graphics: 5/5

The visuals in every game in this collection are absolutely gorgeous. The developers, originally only using PS2 tech, were very much ahead of their time. Bloom and particle effects are fairly abundant and the art style is cute in a Disney way, but also stylish in a Final Fantasy way. While the anti-aliasing could have been better in the collection, the games look stunning in HD. A minor gripe I have is that during some cutscenes, even during the 358/2 Days cinematics, some characters are given a “paper” like face with a flat expressionless texture that just flaps its lips out of sync with the dialogue. This feels distracting, especially whenever there is meant to be emotion between the characters conveyed to the player. It most certainly does not take away from the look of the experience, but if anyone expected the cutscenes to be remade to look better, you may be disappointed.

Re:Chain of Memories is very on-off in this manner. There are brand new fully voice-acted cutscenes whenever the characters are in Castle Oblivion. But once you enter a Disney world or using a World Card, all bets are off and the dialogue is told strictly with the “paper face” models and talk bubbles. It feels strung together and I would have preferred cutscenes for any moment in the game where I am not meant to play, but to watch.

358/2 Days, while also somewhat guilty of this, handles it better than either of the first two. All the cutscenes are very well animated and acted, with few noticeable instances of “paper face” and the gameplay being summarized with text walls akin to Metal Gear Solid 2’s extra Snake missions, but less tedious read. Visually, the story holds up excellently and the design has not lost any of its charm.

Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix Gameplay 1

Sound: 5/5

The music and voice acting in Kingdom Hearts, Re:Chain of Memories and 358/2 Days is absolutely brilliant. From Utada Hikaru’s magnificent voice handling the songs “Simple and Clean” and “My Sanctuary,” to Haley Joel Osment’s innocent voice work as the hero Sora, there is not a sound in this collection that isn’t wonderful. The soundtracks, while apparently completely redone, sound beautifully mixed in with the gameplay. The sound effects, particularly in the first Kingdom Hearts, are imaginative and fluent, immersing the player into this colorful world. If there was any gripe to be made here, it’s whenever there is a cutscene without music. Watching the characters can be fun, but it helps the mood to also have a subtle score help keep the player engaged, especially if he or she is expected to sit through a lengthy cutscene.

This carries over into both Re:Chain of Memories and 358/2 Days as both their sound effects and music sound brilliant (though this is a given in the former’s case as much of its assets are recycled from the first Kingdom Hearts). Re:Chain of Memories does have some new assets of course, but most of the in combat audio is recycled from the first game. Is this bad? Absolutely not. 358/2 Days on the other hand (and yes, I AM getting sick of typing out that ludicrous title) is mostly new assets and only uses the main theme from Kingdom Hearts II, Utada Hikaru’s brilliant “My Sanctuary.”

Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix Gameplay 3

Overall Score: 18/20 = 9.0 out of 10

Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix is not necessarily perfect, but for a Kingdom Hearts fan, it is a fantastic way to get a brand new look at the series and revisit older stories and prep up for the upcoming third (well, more like eighth) installment to the series. And if you are not a fan? This is great for you too! This is an excellent time for fans to jump in, get two full games and a movie version of the one installment that is often deemed to not be fun to play, and experience the story in time to get the next biggest installment next year. If you own a PS3, I cannot recommend this enough in spite of its minor flaws. Go out and get it.

PROS:

+ Improved gameplay in first game

+ Looks fantastic in HD

+ Music and voice acting are superb

+ Great way to experience the story

+ Two games and a movie for $40

CONS:

– Re:Chain of Memories controls are flawed

– “Paper face” cutscenes

Copy purchased by reviewer and tested on the PS3.

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Call of Duty: Ghosts Review (PS4 / Xbox One / PS3 / Xbox 360 / Wii U / PC): “Not Giving Up the Ghost Yet”

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Call of Duty: Ghosts marks the second generation leap in the series’ history, making expectations for the newest iteration even higher than usual. Ghosts was released for the 7th generation consoles ahead of the next-gen versions, with the PS4 version now out and the Xbox One version serving as a launch title. Ghosts takes a trip back to Infinity Ward’s more current-day time period seen in the Modern Warfare series, but with a major twist: playing the losing side. Being a Call of Duty title, a high-budget campaign experience, riveting and addictive competitive multiplayer, and a co-op mode are assumed to be the standard fare. But is Call of Duty: Ghosts an exceptional entry in the series, or just a ghost of its former self?

graphics

Story: 3/5 

The first step to answering that question would be to tackle the game’s single-player campaign mode. Despite its title, Call of Duty: Ghosts has nothing to do with Modern Warfare 2’s Simon “Ghost” Riley or its storyline; instead, Ghosts takes place in an alternate timeline in a similar time period as the Modern Warfare series. The campaign starts out with the Walker family, consisting of Logan (you), his brother David “Hesh” Walker, and their father Elias taking some R&R on the San Diego coast. A series of tremors cause the Walker family to head back home; however, to their horror, they find the streets and homes along the way being torn apart, with the pavement being shifted into rough crags and homes being tossed about like toys. A quick flashback to 15 minutes prior shows that an earthquake wasn’t the cause of the destruction, but rather a hostile takeover of the U.S.’s ODIN Satellite, loaded with deadly tungsten rods designed to level any threat on the ground on a massive scale. A couple of NASA-trained American soldiers are able to call off the attack and destroy the ODIN, but not before several major American cities are utterly destroyed. Back on the ground, Logan and Hesh link back up with Elias and evacuate the town on a truck, but not before seeing the results of the ODIN strike below, leaving several gigantic craters in the ground.

From here, the game skips forward 10 years and involves America’s war with the South American Federation, a coalition of countries responsible for the ODIN attack. American is battered and broken, but not beaten, as you and Hesh work with Elias to commence surgical strikes against the Federation forces occupying the U.S. You’re joined by your Army-trained German Shepard, Riley (likely a homage to Ghost himself), and through a series of circumstances and missions gone sideways, meet up with the titular Ghosts themselves; a cadre of elite, special-forces-trained soldiers, and work to take your place amongst them.

While Ghosts’ story certainly sets a good enough stage within the first 30 minutes of play, there really isn’t the personal connection that was present in previous titles, like Black Ops 2. Raul Menendez is a constant thorn in your side, and makes it clear he has a personal vendetta with the Masons and Frank Woods. His followers play mostly a supporting role; the whole time, your mission is to take Menendez down. That sort of connection is lacking in Ghosts. For the majority of the game, you’ll find yourself facing a faceless enemy in the Federation, pulling off surgical strikes that seemingly lack any sort of overarching goal or reason; it’s just taking what you can, where you can. While this certainly fits the scenario of the game – placing players in the losing position from the get-go – it really has a negative impact on the game’s story and makes it hard to care about the missions you’re carrying out. It’s also jarring that the story simply skips forward 10 years after the first level, with you and Hesh suddenly committing surgical strikes against the Federation occupation forces, along with your dog Riley in tow; it’s all very sudden. When did Logan and Hesh join up? Where did Riley come from? These are simply questions you’ll have to leave on the back burner.

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Call of Duty finally makes its way to space.

Character development is another mixed bag with Ghosts. The Walker brothers – yourself and Hesh – have a constant and unbreakable bond throughout the game, and this really does come through a lot of the time. Whatever happens, you can count on Hesh being there to support you. The father, Elias, is another story – while he talks about his pride in his sons and how much he cares about their training and development, he comes off as a rather cold character in spite of what he tells his sons. It feels odd to have Hesh refer to Elias by rank one minute, then segue immediately to calling him “Dad” when there isn’t any warmth to warrant it. Then there are the Ghosts themselves, Merrick and Keegan being your most constant companions. Early on in the story, they come off as condescending and superior, basically telling you that you can tag along if you do “what I say, when I say it”. Over time, however, they learn to respect you and Hesh, until an eventual camaraderie builds. Other than their titles, however, I didn’t feel particularly moved or awed by their skills or behavior. Ghosts are near-legendary in the game’s universe, but to me, they felt like just any other soldier you’d find in a Call of Duty game. Perhaps that speaks to the strengths of the series’ characters, but I expected a little bit more from them.

The linchpin that brings the squad together is, without a doubt, your dog Riley. You learn to work with him very early on, and he proves an invaluable ally throughout the campaign. More than just an extra soldier in the squad though, it’s clear that he shares an extremely personal bond with you and Hesh. Logan is there with a quick pat on the head for a job well done, and Riley returns this affection by remaining faithful and loyal to you and your squad, ready to attack anyone who poses a threat. Riley’s welfare was constantly in the back of my mind, even when we were separated between missions, and when Riley was in danger, I found myself getting increasingly anxious, even being pushed to anger against his attackers whenever he got wounded. I even found myself emptying entire magazines into his attackers, more than enough to put them down, after Riley was attacked. It really speaks volumes about Riley’s design and integration into the story when you can say that he has a profound emotional reaction on you, and without him, Ghosts would have been a vastly different and shallower experience.

Of course, no modern Call of Duty game would be complete without a face for your enemy, and Ghosts has one in Gabriel Rorke. A former Ghost himself, he now finds himself working with the Federation, and a big part of the story involves you trying to find out why. I know I mentioned before that the Federation is a faceless enemy, and that still holds true – while it’s clear Rorke is meant to be the big bad of the story, he’s not really around enough to reinforce this fact. After encountering him early in the story, you spend a good half of it trying to track him down, and he really doesn’t take a personal stake in the campaign until later, towards the end. Most of the time before this is fighting hordes of nameless, uninteresting Federation soldiers. When he does appear, though, he makes for a stellar antagonist. He’s voiced extremely well, has all the snide confidence of an enemy who always thinks he has one over you, and knows exactly where to hurt his victims the most. If the story had involved him more, it would have made for a more accurate depiction of the situation you find yourself in, with the Federation working for him, not the other way around.

Overall, the game’s story comes up a bit short compared to games of Call of Duty’s past. It starts off sufficiently, and ramps up towards the end, but there’s a large swath of the middle of the campaign that will be an absolute drag, making missions feel hollow and pointless without a gripping story to motivate you. There’s also just too many questions left unanswered.  The campaign should take around 5-6 hours to complete on normal difficulty, making the story small enough to digest while still having some depth to it, but those of us used to the blockbuster thrill rides of Black Ops I & II and Modern Warfare 3 may feel a bit cheated this time around.

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Underwater too.

Gameplay: 4/5 

At this stage of the game – no pun intended – most of us know what to expect from a Call of Duty game. The mechanics have remained largely the same from year to year, and most could say that the series is afraid to take risks, but the mantra Infinity Ward and Treyarch seem to embrace is, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Yet again, this stance seems to have been mostly successful in Call of Duty: Ghosts.

Solid, fast-paced gunplay is at the center of the Ghosts experience, as it has been in all Call of Duty games. Aiming down your sights and taking shots at enemies downrange is extremely fast-paced and responsive. Infinity Ward have replaced the “dolphin dive” mechanic – sprinting to prone – with a new sliding maneuver, where your character will slide for a few meters into a crouched position if you go prone while sprinting, or straight to prone if you hold the button down. This feels like a nice change, and makes dashing into cover much easier than in games past. It’s also now possible to lean around corners when aiming down your sights. A yellow arrow will show up on your crosshairs when this is possible. Infinity Ward have expanded our options a bit in terms of weapon variety, now introducing a new weapon category, Marksman Rifles. These weapons aren’t totally new to the series, as many long-range single-shot assault rifles and semi-automatic sniper rifles (such as the M23 EBR) have been present in games before. However, they now get their own category, and perform largely similar to each other, bridging the gap between the balanced performance of Assault Rifles and the long-range per-shot killing power of Sniper Rifles. Each come fitted with a scope and usually fire semi-auto, but other options exist. Players will also find that many weapons feature unique qualities built into the gun, like the Honey Badger’s integrated silencer or the bolt-action Sniper Rifles’ recoil compensators, which reduce kick after each kill.

Perhaps one of the biggest changes to the Multiplayer formula this year is Infinity Ward’s take on the Pick-10 system. However, rather than letting you spend points on every piece of gear and perk in your loadout, players have access to a primary weapon with two attachments, a secondary with a single attachment, a lethal grenade, and a tactical device for free, along with 8 “perk points” by default. This makes sense, as the game is extremely perk-focused this time around – there are 35 to choose from in all, from 7 unique categories. Some are returning favorites, others are weapon attachments seen in Black Ops 2 in perk form, while yet others provide completely new benefits, such as providing extra lethal or tactical grenades or providing a random extra perk at spawn. Each of these perks has a point cost in line with their power, and players can earn extra perk points by removing a secondary weapon, lethal, and/or tactical grenades from their loadout. This new system is an interesting take on the now tried-and-true Pick-10, but it can’t help but feel a little overwhelming at first. 35 perks in all is a lot to choose from, and using squad points – the new unlocking currency present in Ghosts – can feel risky when you’re not sure where to go first. Luckily, the game gives you a strong head-start by letting you pick a pre-set package when you first create a soldier. Whether it’s a weapon-focused Assault or Rush build, a stealthy silencer build, or a long-range Marksman Rifle package that you pick, the game will start you off with a weapon, two attachments, a secondary, lethals and tactical devices, and a selection of perks to compliment the playstyle you choose.

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The game’s new-found complexity really comes through when considering that weapons are no longer unlocked as you rank up anymore; squad points need to be spent to unlock them, but on the plus side, you can unlock them in any order you like, with some weapons costing more than others. You can also elect to use squad points to unlock perks early, otherwise a new one will be unlocked every other level or so. Finally, these squad points can be used to unlock additional members of your Squad – more on this below.  It’s definitely a less accessible system than Pick-10 was, but with some practice, players can come up with interesting loadout choices that make use of a variety of perks and equipment choices. Squad Points are also awarded at a more rapid clip than Black Ops 2’s unlock tokens, given that there are a variety of ways to earn them, including ranking up, completing assignments, and achieving field orders. In this way, it doesn’t hurt so much to drop 6 points into unlocking a new weapon to try when you can easily earn them back in just a couple of games.

Ghosts brings back the “Strike Package” feature present in Modern Warfare 3, allowing players to choose from an Assault or Support strike chain of killstreaks, or the Specialist package to earn more perks as they achieve more kills. Thankfully, taking an objective counts towards earning killstreak rewards, as with Modern Warfare 3’s Hardline Pro perk, but now available to everyone in the baseline. This was a huge plus for me in Black Ops 2; making killstreaks based on score, not number of kills, encouraged more objective play, and bringing this sort of reward system into what was already present in Modern Warfare 3 helped to keep this team-based feel intact. As in Infinity Ward’s last game, Assault streaks are designed to kill or hamper your enemies, while Support streaks are meant to support and strengthen your own team. Newer players who don’t feel confident in their skills may want to stick to the Support streaks at first, since your progress up the strike chain doesn’t reset on death. There are fewer lethal options in Support this time around, though, so players will want to commit to a team-player mindset when choosing this strike chain.

Speaking of strike chains, two very large changes have made their way into Ghosts. First, the fan-favorite  UAV has been replaced by a killstreak called the SAT COM. Rather than launching them in the sky, SAT COMS are placed on the ground, and function a bit differently from their last-gen cousins. SAT COMs provide stronger and better effects the more that are simultaneously deployed on the field at once. With one SAT COM up, enemies will only appear on your team’s mini-map when within line-of-sight of a teammate. With two, your team gets the traditional sweeping UAV scan. With three out at once, the sweeps occur more frequently. Finally, if you can manage to deploy four SAT COMs at once,  the sweeps will occur extremely quickly, and enemies’ directions will be displayed on the map as well. They still last for a limited time like UAVs, so it’s now extremely important to communicate with your team and ensure you’re getting the biggest benefit from your SAT COMs. Additionally, you’ll find that the Care Package is no longer a selectable killstreak; these are instead earned by a new gameplay mechanic called Field Orders. Enemies will sometimes drop light blue briefcases when they die; pick these Field Orders up, and you’ll be given a challenge to complete, such as getting a kill while prone or killing someone from behind, before dying. Achieve this, and you’ll be rewarded with a care package drop marker and a squad point. Fail, and your briefcase drops for anyone else to pick up. It’s an interesting mechanic that adds a new level of complexity to the meta-game.

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Squads mode puts up to 10 AI teammates at your command.

The traditional multiplayer modes – Deathmatch, Demolition, Capture the Flag, etc. – are all present here in Ghosts, along with a few new ones. Cranked is an exciting and fast-paced Deathmatch variant where killing the lead player will earn you multiple speed benefits, like moving and reloading faster, but also start a countdown timer. Keep getting kills to keep this clock alive, but if it hits zero, you explode. Search and Rescue is like Search and Destroy, but players drop dog tags on death. Pick up a teammate’s tags, and they respawn. Pick up an enemy’s tags, and they’re out for the round. Blitz takes the concept of American Football and adapts it for an FPS – a zone activates on each team’s side, and your team needs to reach these zones before the enemy do to score a point. There are many others, including Grind, Hunted, and Infected, and the sheer number of game modes available provides a large variety of game types to play. However, the biggest, and most interesting (in my opinion), addition to Multiplayer in Ghosts is the all-new Squads mode. Players can assemble a squad of up to 10 unique soldiers, customize their appearance and outfit them however they see fit, then go into battle alongside them against other players’ squads in all of the core game types. Each squadmate unlocks gear and ranks up separately, though unlocking and outfitting your squadmates takes from your shared pool of squad points, so it’ll take some time to unlock everything you’ll need for your entire squad. However, once you’ve loaded up your squad to your exact specifications and take them into battle, it’s extremely satisfying to watch them play intelligently with the gear you’ve given them. Assault Rifle characters will play the midfield; SMG and shotgun-toting squadmates will rush into the thick of battle; characters with silenced weapons will try to flank and out-maneuver the enemy; and squadmates wielding sniper and marksman rifles will set up in a good camping spot and pick off enemies in their field of fire. The AI is complete unprecedented in a Call of Duty title, and will provide a pretty stiff challenge. Squads will likely appeal to those players who get a lot of satisfaction out of designing a plan and watching it execute flawlessly; being able to outfit your squad to your specifications makes this possible and rewarding. Your squad will even earn experience while you’re away, fighting against players who challenge them in the mode’s Squad Assault gametype. Several other gametypes exist as well, including Safeguard, a take on Modern Warfare 3’s Survival mode.

Finally, for those of us looking for a different co-op challenge, there’s the new Extinction mode. Rather than fighting the living dead in games past’s Zombies mode, players will be staving off an alien invasion just two weeks after the first ODIN strikes in the story. Like Zombies, Extinction features four unique soldiers to play as, though this time around, players are given a series of objectives to complete, rather than just trying to stay alive; for instance, protecting a drill to destroy several alien hive sites, before staving off an alien attack on your evac chopper. Currency is earned by completing objectives and damaging or destroying enemies, and these can be used not only to buy new weapons, but to activate a pre-selected group of four power-ups, such as an ammo box or a deployable sentry gun. Teamwork and tactics are key in this mode, and having several objectives to complete provides a depth of focus not present in Zombies mode. It’s a fun, fresh-yet-familiar co-op mode that players are sure to love.

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Seriously. In space.

Graphics: 4/5 

We’re entering a new era of gaming with the release of the PS4 and Xbox One, so naturally a game’s graphics quality will be a top concern. Ghosts succeeds in most regards here, but it’s not perfect. Textures have taken a marked step up from the previous generation, with surfaces looking crystal-clear at a distance, while staying sharper up-close than before. Lighting, especially, has been greatly improved on the next-gen consoles, with lighting effects on surfaces and weapons having a more realistic sheen and shadow casting. In fact, there are going to be several times in the campaign where you might actually stop and just take an awe-filled look around. Sniper fans will be especially pleased, as zooming in with your scope no longer obscures your peripheral vision. Instead, the area around the scope will be blurred out, allowing you to barely see your peripheral vision zone while scoping in on a target. When you consider the amount of power this takes – the game essential has to render your view twice – it’s impressive. On the downside, however, there are many points during play where you’ll notice a marked decrease in framerate, especially during some of the game’s larger battles or outdoor areas. This is near-blasphemous for a Call of Duty title, a franchise known for constant 60-FPS performance. I wish I could say it didn’t take away from the experience, but when it happens, it’s not pleasant. There are also several graphical glitches that may creep in – a squadmate’s gun floating in mid-air during the campaign, for instance. These little cracks keep Ghosts from graphical perfection, but it’s still a game that doesn’t take the easy route on next-gen consoles, providing a noticeable step up from the previous generation.

Sound: 4/5 

Ghosts’ soundtrack suffers from the same issue as the story – it’s competent, and the tracks are appropriate to the situations they’re played in, but it’s not the kind of soundtrack you’ll find yourself humming when away from the game. Where Ghosts’ audio direction shines is in the voice acting and weapon sound effects. All of the actors in the campaign do a good job voicing their characters, but Kevin Gage steals the show as Gabriel Rorke. Rorke’s an old soldier with a fearsome reputation and all the snide confidence of a villain who knows he has the upper hand, and Gage delivers Rorke’s dialog like a knife sticking you in the side, bringing an extremely personal touch to your (admittedly few) encounters with the antagonist. This time around, Infinity Ward’s also put some extra effort into providing a more realistic audio experience with weapon design. Guns sound appropriate to their size and what they’re firing, but perhaps the most noticeable – and appreciated – improvement is when firing silenced weapons. Guns don’t let off wimpy pops when shot, but still boast a loud sound profile when suppressed, just like firing a real weapon. Along with louder footsteps in multiplayer, this really helps to break the uselessness of sound-enhancing headphones and perks in Black Ops II and present battles like they should be – loud, dangerous affairs.

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Overall Score: 15/20 = 7.5 out of 10 

Call of Duty: Ghosts may present the weakest showing for a game in its franchise in recent history – not counting Black Ops: Declassified – but Infinity Ward have shown that they’re still capable of producing a competent Call of Duty game. The campaign may be somewhat mediocre, but will draw you in to the game’s Multiplayer, Squad, and Extinction game-types, where most of Ghosts’ longevity will take place. If Black Ops II is staring to feel a bit old, Ghosts will give you the refresher you need.

PROs: 

+ New Create-a-Soldier system provides greater variety than Pick-10

+ Larger variety of multiplayer game types to choose from

+ Squads mode is fun and rewarding

+ Extinction is a fresh take on the tried-and-true Zombies formula

CONs: 

– Flawed, lackluster campaign

– Framerate drops more frequent than they should be

– Excellent antagonist isn’t present enough to be relevant

Call of Duty: Ghosts was purchased by the reviewer for the Playstation 4 system.

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PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures Review (PS3/360/Wii U): “PAC is Back in 3D”

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Namco’s iconic character from the past 20+ years returns in a new 3D action/adventure title, PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures. Published and developed by Namco Bandai, is PAC’s return to 3D platforming one worth chomping into?

Story: 3/5

PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures is based on the new animated series that launched in the summer, so the story is like that of a typical Saturday morning cartoon. PAC-MAN, Spiral and Cylindria are all speaking with Sir C until they find out the ghosts of the Netherworld have escaped and are wreaking havoc on the citizens of PacWorld with the aid of their leader, Betrayus. The story is told through in-game cutscenes to help connect the plot with the gameplay a bit. There’s not a lot of storytelling to look forward to here, but it’s solid enough to just carry the gameplay along. Let’s be honest: You’re not playing this game to look for an amazing story, but what’s here is certainly serviceable. It’s a fun, cheery story that’ll you won’t find yourself terribly engaged in, but enjoy it enough to get through the campaign.

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Gameplay: 4/5

PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures is a 3D platformer that harkens back to the days of classic platforming. For fans of PAC-MAN World 2 from the PS2/GC/Xbox days, you’ll be in for a treat here. If you’ve never played that, then you’re still in for a great game fundamentally. PAC-MAN is away from chomping down the infamous ghostly creatures roaming around mazes and is out in the open environment. The object of each level is to reach the end and collect one of the fruits that we’re accustomed to PAC-MAN eating (cherries, lemons, pineapples, etc). Controls are simple, with movement being controlled with the left analog stick, camera with the right analog stick, jump button (with a double jump incorporated), chomp button and special ability button. PAC-MAN controls very smoothly and platforming is done quite fairly, with a solid amount of challenge incorporated. One of the more satisfying elements in the game lies within the chomping attack. When ghosts are grouped together in a somewhat close radius, PAC will be able to chain together his chomps into quick combos. Simply pushing the analog stick in the direction you want him to go next, he’ll lunge toward the next ghost to chomp before touching the ground. Doing so when there are more than just a few ghosts (4-5+) always feels rewarding and fun to pull off.

Not only will you jump and chomp your way through levels, but also utilize numerous abilities that PAC-MAN can acquire through specific power pellets. Those specific power pellets will give him either an ability to throw fireballs, shoot ice beams, magnetize to objects, swing around with a chameleon’s tongue. roll around as a giant boulder, or even bounce around as a little ball. These all become essential throughout your platforming as each is pertained for specific scenarios and enemies. For example, you’ll come across fire ghosts which can’t be chomped unless you freeze them first. Same goes for ice ghosts but firing them up first before finishing them off. Certain environments have metallic platforms that are the only means of traversing forward, no matter how zany the platforms may look. This is where the magnetism would come into effect, allowing PAC to stick to the platform whether it’s right-side up or upside-down. The combat with these specific abilities adds even more satisfaction, with the fire ability being my personal favorite. Throwing fireballs non-stop as PAC locks on to each target effortlessly just feels tight and rewarding.

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PAC-MAN will traverse a variety of environments within the six worlds (such as Pacopolis and the Netherworld), each containing roughly 4-7 levels. Within each area, you’ll have to collect the pellets that PAC-MAN is known to collect for over 20+ years, as you’ll have to accrue certain numbers to unlock temples within certain regions. When on the World Map, you’ll notice you can choose paths to reach certain levels, but not all the levels need to be completed to advance. There are bonus levels that you’ll notice veer off the path as a dead end. These levels you’ll find a bit more challenging than the standard levels, mainly to earn some Arcade Tokens. However, if you’re a 100% completionist, you’ll be doing these as well. Occasionally you’ll tackle boss battles within levels, all of which require unique strategies to beat. Whether you’re facing a giant rock golem or a fat ghost chef, each boss will have you utilizing various skills and brings variety to the table. Speaking of which, that’s another thing PAC-MAN has going for it, variety. Throughout levels, there may be times where you’ll shoot PAC out of a cannon to bring down towering obstacles, ride a molten rock down a volcano and ski down icy slopes. These little elements help keep the game’s pacing smoother. Unfortunately, checkpoints aren’t always placed in the best spots, having you go back to some sections where frustration might ensue a bit. This isn’t too often of an issue, but often enough where it’s noticeable. Also, reviewing the game based on the Wii U version, the only feature the GamePad provides is off-TV play at all times. There’s no “special” uses incorporated into the GamePad but better to not force something gimmicky in there, as the off-TV play is always one of the most welcome features for a game on the Wii U.

When you’re not out saving the world from ghosts, you can explore the school PAC-MAN attends. Here you can talk with the NPCs, including the original four ghosts from PAC-MAN (whom are not out to get you anymore but are now friendly), as well as play some arcade games. While the arcade games are not rehashes of classic PAC-MAN games, they’re retro-styled mini-games that you’ll spend your Arcade Tokens to play (which you’ll find hidden within levels). For example, one of the mini-games is like a Defender clone (PAC-MAN style) called Cherry Copter Rescue. Here you’ll have to rescue those that are trapped in slime and escort them to the exit, while being careful of the ghosts trying to take them away. Another would be Lemon Blaster, where you’ll pilot the Lemon Rocket in a 2D side-scrolling shoot-em-up like R-Type or Söldner X.

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Additionally, there’s a multiplayer mode which puts a spin on the classic PAC-MAN formula where you’ll play as the ghosts and try to hunt PAC-MAN down through 3D renditions of eight mazes that you can choose from. For GameCube owners back in the day, you may recall this as “PAC-MAN Vs.” and is quite similar to that. You can play with up to four players or even solo with bots controlling the other remaining players. You’ll traverse through the maze trying to prevent PAC-MAN from eating all the pellets and put a stop to him and his friends. While you’ll be working together with your friends to put a stop to him, you’ll also be competing for who can nab the most points amongst each other. Here is where things get interesting. You’ll pick up power-ups littered throughout each maze. You can use these to help stop your opponents, with either traps, mines, missiles, etc. One particular power-up called “Ultra Berry” allows you to scare everyone blue except for you, making everyone a vulnerable target. Suddenly, the co-op nature isn’t so team-based friendly anymore. It’s a fun multiplayer mode to play around with for sure but lacks online play, which could’ve really made this a ton of fun to tackle with other live players. Regardless, the overall gameplay in PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures is just great, simple fun that’s accessible to newcomers and fans alike.

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Graphics: 4/5

PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures isn’t trying to be a graphical powerhouse, and that’s completely fine. What’s here though is certainly a lush, colorful, vibrant world that’s very easy on the eyes and more than suitable. PAC-MAN is animated and detailed very well, as are the ghosts and other characters that litter the game’s world. Environments are nicely detailed, with weather effects going on in the background, as well as ghosts flying rampantly around the areas. The game never dips in framerate at all, staying at a constant 30 fps, and no screen-tearing either. Even the ability effects look pretty good, whether it’s the ice or fire, it just looks smooth and appealing. This is all powered by Vicious Engine 2. Again, it’s not a game to showcase groundbreaking visuals, but it’s a great looking game that’s immensely enjoyable to look at.

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Sound: 3/5

PAC-MAN’s audio department is precisely what you would expect being based from the show. All the characters’ voice actors return to reprise their roles as PAC-MAN, Spiral, Cylindria, Sir C, and the ghosts. The ghosts all have certain lines they’ll say when they encounter PAC-MAN and they pertain to the certain attributes they are. It’s appropriate and fits the game’s style. The soundtrack fits the game pretty well, even if it’s nothing too memorable (although I was digging one of the songs on the Ice Realm world). Unfortunately, there were some audio glitches where certain songs that were supposed to play wouldn’t kick in until a random point later in the scenario. An example would be the boss battle with the ghost chef. It continued to play the music from the stage itself but about 3/4 of the way through, it randomly cut to the music that was supposed to be playing during the scene. Even during another few scenes this occurred again. The sound effects on the other hand are completely spot-on. All the classic sounds from the PAC-MAN series are in full force here and still sounds as awesome today as it did over two decades ago. The game’s audio sounds just like a Saturday morning cartoon, and that’s a good thing.

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Overall Score: 14/20 = 7.0 out of 10

PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures doesn’t aim to break any new ground as a platformer, but that doesn’t mean the game isn’t worth playing. What’s here is a downright fun game that any platforming fans would do very well to look into. While the story and audio aren’t anything to write home about, the great gameplay and lush visuals help make this overall package a very good one. For only $39.99, I still recommend platforming fans pick this game up, or at the very least, a rental.

PROS:

+ Great, varied gameplay

+ Nice visuals

+ Rewarding Chain Chomp mechanic

+ Has the vibe of a Saturday morning cartoon

+ Only $39.99

CONs:

– Generic storyline

– Soundtrack isn’t too memorable

– Multiplayer lacks online

A special thank you to Namco Bandai for providing us a review copy for “PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures”! Copy tested on the Wii U.

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Atomic Ninjas Review (PS3/Vita): “Radiates Fun”

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You usually know what you’re getting when you go for a downloadable title, no matter the platform – bite-sized games with appropriately reduced prices. This isn’t to say that the downloadable market is bad in any way – it really stands in a league of its own right alongside the triple-A console market. However, you get what you pay for, and even the best gameplay experiences to be found in downloadable titles can be a bit light on content.

At least, that’s usually the case – unless you give Atomic Ninjas a try.  Developer (and publisher) Grip Games has come up with an engaging, exciting, and surprisingly bang-for-your-buck-worthy competitive multiplayer title. The game pits you (and your tiny acrobatic avatar) against up to three opponents, be they human or AI, in a race to complete a variety of objectives in a smattering of 2.5D arenas. Combat is a central part of the game, but rather than outright killing foes, your ninja makes use of a variety of weapons and gadgets to maneuver around the arena and knock opponents off the stage or into environmental hazards. Weapons and items are varied, from hard-hitting boxing gloves to swift and deadly shuriken, and grappling hooks to climbing claws and more. Killing an enemy gives you the chance to swap your hapless opponent’s weapon with your own, adding insult to injury while switching up your tactics in the process.

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It’s this randomness that stands as a core strength for the game’s fun factor, as so many elements of the game are switched from one round to the next, making it near-impossible to get bored. Games consist of a large variety of objectives, including Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, King of the Hill, Domination, and Treasure Hunt (a deadly take on keep-away), with free-for-all and team varieties of each present, sometimes within the same match! It’s really disorienting in the best way when you’re spending a few minutes trying to kill one player, only to be paired up with them the next. Toss-ups like this keep the gameplay extremely fresh and lend tremendous replay value to a genre that relies so heavily on it. Several game-changers come into play at the most appropriate times as well, such as entering an unstoppable “Noob Rage” mode when you’ve died several times in succession, and a “Power Play” state where for a limited time, everyone respawns instantly after death.

While these random tweaks will keep you engaged in every match, it’s the advancement options that will keep you coming back for more. Players initially start with a single character and power, but can unlock more by leveling up (with experience earned through play). Powers can be strengthened by completing Ninja Challenges, which require you to fulfill certain conditions within a game, like killing 5 opponents in a round or earning 250 points from flag captures. Combining the correct powers with the right weapons and items can really boost your effectiveness, and are great no matter what your play style is.

There’s several ways to get into the fight; Both platforms support online play with up to four players, as well as offline bot-matches, but the PS3 has the edge in its ability to field up to four players in split-screen competitive play. If a Wi-Fi connection isn’t available on your Vita, you’re stuck with bot-matches. This isn’t to say they aren’t fun, though – bots put up a good enough fight to keep things interesting, but sooner or later you’ll want to go head-to-head with other human opponents. Connecting to other players is currently a bit tricky, but will get better as the Atomic Ninjas player base grows.

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It really needs to be said that while Atomic Ninjas is light on story, its whimsical writing and hilarious presentation really make for an extremely enjoyable and light-hearted experience. I was laughing out loud during the majority of the tutorial level as the NPC instructed me in the basics of Atomic Ninjas play while pelting me with outrageous criticisms and deadpan deliveries. As for the ninjas themselves, Players can choose from a quirky cast of them, from the familiar silent-but-deadly shadow warriors to a brave, stoic samurai, a wise (but senile) Kung-Fu monk, and even a zombie ninja. Each character is fully voiced and features his own unique personality quirks. Each ninja will loose his own quips during a match when killing opponents, getting hit, or meeting an early (but brief) demise. However, nothing is quite as laughable as when a player enters “Noob Rage” mode, letting loose sounds more violent and gibbering than a Call of Duty player on a death streak (sorry guys – you know who you are). Character choices aren’t just important for presentation, though – each one starts with their own weapon and item, lending to a unique gameplay style right out of the gate. These aren’t set in stone, though, and your weapons and items can be swapped on-the-fly by finding item crates in the arena and killing opponents to steal their stuff.

Atomic Ninjas features a simple but pleasant cartoon style, with bright, vibrant colors and tiny, whimsical proportions. It’s a visual treat the whole time, but at the same time, isn’t particularly jaw-dropping. That’s fine, though – less to distract you from the action. The sound is another seesaw too – the voice work, sound effects, and music are all great and really lend to the atmosphere of the game, but a couple of technical problems keep them just shy of a perfect score. While playing on the Vita, there were rare occasions where music would lose its fidelity and static would become audible, which isn’t pleasant by any means, but is thankfully rare enough, seemingly only happening at the end of a match. This seems like an issue that Grip Games can squash with a future patch. Otherwise, there really isn’t much to complain about – the game is very well-balanced, but there were a couple of occasions where a really devious player could pin me in one spot with very little I could do to retaliate. This was especially bad when an opponent caught me in a corner while in Noob Rage – I was powerless to do anything to escape until the mode wore off, and it was extremely frustrating. However, it takes a lot to get into this sort of situation, and it taught me to stay away from dead ends when an opponent starts slavering.

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Atomic Ninjas stands out as one of the most addicting, engaging, and just plain fun downloadable titles of this year. The bite-sized game sessions lend themselves perfectly to the Vita’s pick-up-and-go nature, while the randomness of each moment will hook you for hours on end. Multiplayer is this game’s watchword, and it creates an extremely fun and competitive arena for players to duke it out with each other. A couple of technical issues mar Atomic Ninjas from a perfect score, but between the solid gameplay, hilarious presentation, and pleasant visuals, Atomic Ninjas is a game you won’t want to put down.

Overall Score: 9.0 out of 10 = BUY IT!

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for Atomic Ninjas!

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