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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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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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Wipeout: Create & Crash Review (Wii U/Wii/3DS/360): “Not a Total Wipeout”

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Wipeout has become quite the reality show on ABC over the past few years. Essentially being an Americanized version of the cult-hit “MXC” on Spike TV years ago, Wipeout brings together contestants to tackle absolutely insane obstacle courses with completely unexpected traps to dodge. Naturally, with a mixture like this, it was only a matter of time before the gaming industry tried to formulate this into game form. Wipeout: Create & Crash is the fourth installment in the Wipeout game series, but is it an obstacle course worth tackling or should you just avoid this “big balls” of a game?

Gameplay: 3/5

Wipeout’s gameplay is simple: you’ll run along a set path on the obstacle course, jumping and sliding past the traps that await you. You’ll take part in 12 episodes all based on specific themes, such as pirates, halloween, wintery scenes, prehistoric times and even your traditional classic Wipeout theme. Each episode has you running the gauntlet in four levels, the first and third being always being a specific course, the second being a mini-game (which I’ll explain in a bit) and the fourth being the Wipeout Zone, where you’ll face the most brutal of obstacles in the biggest spectacle possible. Controls are incredibly simple and straightforward that practically anyone will be able to pickup the controller and play. The camera is fixated behind the character’s back, always facing forward. You’ll move forward by pushing up on the analog stick and can take steps backward pushing the stick down. You never adjust the direction you’ll be facing and only push the stick left and right to change spots on a specific obstacle or when zip-lining to avoid obstacles on the sides. You’ll also be able to jump with the A button, duck with the B button and slide with the Y button.

Wipeout Create & Crash Gameplay 4

Before tackling an episode, you’ll be asked if you’d like to partake in a Daily Course Bonus Challenge. Once a day, you can participate in a single run through a randomly generated course for a few extra Ballsy Bucks. During episodes, I mentioned that there are four levels. The first level is a Qualifier Round, where you’ll be sprinting your way through a course as fast as possible. The second level is a mini-game where you’ll either have to shift lanes on the tracks to avoid incoming obstacles, or bounce on angled trampolines while avoiding getting nailed by an airborne obstacle. The third level is just like the Qualifier Round, only with less people in the standings. The fourth and final level of an episode is the Wipeout Zone, which is the grand finale. Here, you’ll be tested with the most challenging obstacles and start by being launched into the water and swimming your way to the start point. The course itself is always over-the-top with fireworks, flames and spectacles around. There are two difficulties you can play the game on: Normal and Black & Blue. Normal mode is basically “easy” mode, where if you fail an obstacle at a certain checkpoint 3 times, it’ll automatically advance you to the next checkpoint (but you do add 10 seconds to your timer every time you fall in the water). Black & Blue mode removes the “3 try” rule and makes you keep repeating an obstacle until you successfully pass it, no matter how much time you accrue on the clock. I highly recommend playing on Black & Blue mode off the bat as it gives the game a bit more challenge. Speaking of challenge, while the game is pretty easy, this year’s edition of Wipeout brings a huge improvement over last year’s “Wipeout 3”. The course designs are more demanding and imaginative than ever before, with some pretty crazy obstacles to dodge. When you get knocked into the water, you can press the B button to see an instant replay of your “wipeout”, with a few cinematic camera angles that try to replicate the feel of the show. These are ok, but often times the camera does a poor job of showing the “pain” of your mistake.

Wipeout Create & Crash Gameplay 3

Aside from the main episodes you’ll complete, there are a few more modes to explore. Wipeout Max is new this installment, where you’ll play through an endless amount of randomly generated levels that increase in difficulty. This is basically an endurance of how far you can get before a course becomes too challenging for you to beat. It’s a fun little mode that helps keep things interesting. However, the biggest addition to the game that’s the main selling point is the Course Creation system. For the first time in a Wipeout game, you’ll be able to become the mastermind of some truly devious courses. You’ll use your Ballsy Bucks to purchase themes based on the episodes you complete, at which point you can purchase and choose the layout of your choice to customize. Once selected, you will enter the course creator, where you can select between 6-12 adjustable obstacles depending on the layout you chose. Creating a course is incredibly simple to use that anyone can easily jump into and create something in literally minutes. You’ll use the D-Pad to scroll to each adjustable obstacle, at which point you can cycle through the variety of pieces to place, as well as the difficulty of each set of obstacles. There are 3 difficulties to cycle between, each with their own unique obstacles. Depending on how big the obstacle section is determines the type of obstacle you can place, such as a catapult, a straightaway with 8 wrecking balls, a spiral spinning cylinder, a zip-line trail and more. You can also test out each obstacle at their specific locations or just test run the entire course without any load times at all. The bummer with the obstacles of choice is that no matter which theme you choose, you can’t use the theme specific obstacles. So if you choose to make a course with a snow theme or a pirate theme, the obstacles will always be the same default choices.

Wipeout wouldn’t be Wipeout without a multiplayer mode (which is completely omitted on the 3DS version oddly). I mean, it is based on the TV show where contestants are competing against each other. The game’s multiplayer provides two modes: Party Mode and Trap Attack. Trap Attack gives players with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk the chance to run the gauntlet on the TV screen, while the player with the GamePad will see fixed camera angles of the course from the GamePad screen directly. The GamePad player can launch balls at the opposing player, as well as trigger specific traps to mess up the opponent and make them fall off the course. Party Mode is more the traditional multiplayer where players take turns running the course and competing for the #1 spot for the fastest time and of course, the Wipeout winner. It’s nothing great or overly engaging, but can provide for some solid fun with friends and some laughs as well.

Wipeout Create & Crash Gameplay 2

Graphics: 3/5

Wipeout: Create & Crash has a basic, fun art style to it, that’s certainly passable and pleasing on the eyes most of the time. However, there are some seriously wonky physics issues. Whenever your character gets knocked backwards, you’ll see them cycle through a variety of animations stuck in place, hovering over the ground. Get hit by a wrecking ball and you’ll see the character clip completely through the ball in slo-mo, then launch to the side. Then there are the balls being shot at you outside the course…except they literally appear out of nowhere in the distance when shot towards you. Another weird design are the water effects. When swimming in water, there’s almost no effect shown that your character is swimming in the water. Even when you fall in the water, the splash is incredibly minimal and is essentially flat textures layered over each other. Some unpolished issues aside, the level designs are pretty solid, with a decent amount of detail given to the obstacles. It’s not a bad looking game by any means, but an average one that’s hindered a bit by some wonky animations and visual effects.

Wipeout Create & Crash Gameplay 1

Sound: 3/5

Wipeout’s audio consists of an entirely appropriate soundtrack that provides the vibe of the TV show and themes of each episode. Commentary is provided by John Anderson and John Henson, with Jill Wagner providing additional lines. While they are the commentators of the show, they’re just not very entertaining or funny to listen to. John Henson’s lines in particular always fall flat and are just plain bad…almost like he’s trying too hard to be comical. Lame jokes aside, the sound effects are exactly what you’d expect of Wipeout nature, with over-the-top effects kicking in when being nailed by an object. The audio isn’t too bad and is solid overall, just don’t expect anything great here.

Wipeout Create & Crash Gameplay 6

Replay Value: 4/5

Wipeout: Create & Crash offers a solid amount of replay value, especially compared to the previous installments. While completing all 12 episodes will only take 2-3 hours to complete, there’s plenty of characters and gear to unlock. Additionally, each of the episodes has you aiming for bronze, silver and gold Ballsy Trophies, as well as additional objectives in each level. However, this year’s installment introduces the new Course Creation mode, which is where players will spend most of their time on. Using the Ballsy Bucks you earn in the game, you’ll unlock numerous obstacles and themes to build your own crazy courses with. Add in the new Wipeout Max mode that has you doing an endless endurance run of randomly generated levels until you fail and there’s some really good replay value. There’s no online mode to find here and sharing level creations is done in a very archaic method of swapping 14-digit generating codes.

Wipeout Create & Crash Gameplay 5

Overall Score: 13/20 = 6.5 out of 10

Wipeout: Create & Crash is without question, much better than last year’s Wipeout 3. It brings more content, more ideas and more creativity to the table. If you enjoy Wipeout games, you’d do quite well to give Wipeout: Create & Crash a look, especially with the Course Creation system that opens up a solid amount of game time. While it’s nothing great or memorable, what’s here is still an entertaining game.

PROS:

+ Fun gameplay

+ Course Creator is simple to use

+ Interesting course designs

+ Good amount of unlockables

CONS:

– Wonky physics

– Sharing created courses is dealt in an archaic method

– Commentary isn’t funny at all

– Some technical bugs

A special thank you to Activision for providing us a review copy for “Wipeout: Create & Crash”! Copy tested on the Wii U.

Enjoy our review? Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @GamersXTREME for the latest in gaming news and reviews.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review (Wii/360/3DS): “Ahh…Shell Shock”

TMNT 2013 Wallpaper

Over time, we’ve seen some stellar media franchises progress over the years. One particular franchise that’s had numerous changes has been the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Between it’s dark toned comic, chipper late 80s/early 90s cartoon, to the comic-based 2003 cartoon and now, Nickelodeon’s rendition that started in 2012, there’s no question we’ve seen the turtles in a variety of ways. However, if there’s one thing that fans of the franchise will remain fond of, it’s the video games that released in the early 90s. Whether it be TMNT: Turtles in Time, TMNT II: The Arcade Game, TMNT: Hyperstone Heist, TMNT III: Manhattan Project or even the 2003 TMNT game for the PS2/GC/Xbox, they’ve always been known for their downright fun, beat-em-up gameplay. Well, with a new media rendition comes a new game based on the latest cartoon. Developed by Magic Pockets and published by Activision, is the turtle’s latest return a radical one or should it stay in the sewers?

Story: 2/5

There’s one thing for sure: TMNT games are never really known for their story. However, if you plan on incorporating one, make sure it’s somewhat coherent. Unfortunately, TMNT’s story here mainly falls flat. The turtles are thrown into mischief as there’s a mutagen bomb that Stockman plans on detonating in NYC that will turn all its inhabitants into vile creatures. Fans of the show will instantly recognize characters such as Fishface, Dogpound, the blob known as “Justin”, Krang bots, Foot Ninja, Karai, and naturally, Shredder. The story is told through very brief cutscenes with minimal dialogue just to remind you there’s something to connect the player to the scenario. However, as opposed to the story being somewhat engaging, it’s very shoddily pieced together. It doesn’t help that the presentation of the story is downright poor and incredibly rushed. Even though it’s nice to see familiar faces return, the story is minimal and very subpar.

TMNT 2013 Gameplay 1

Gameplay: 2/5

“Well, that was incredibly mediocre.“ Leonardo states this numerous times throughout the game, and it pretty much sums up the gameplay of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The game is designed as an old-school style brawler where you can choose between all four turtles on the fly, which is nice since you don’t have to wait to lose a life before choosing another character as had been done in previous TMNT games. This option gives you the chance to try out any of the characters during any point in the game. Yet while each turtle has their different variation of moves, they are very limited and the game becomes more of a continuous button masher. Each turtle has a basic attack move, a special attack, and a throw feature (along with jumping). The problem is that the moves and gameplay are incredibly repetitive. Each level is a series of areas where you need to defeat a horde of foot ninjas and Krang bots. Once destroyed, you continue on your path until you do it all over again. This continues until you complete the level.

TMNT 2013 Gameplay 5

There are 5 levels in TMNT and each level contains 3-4 sub-levels. Yet with the exception of the last sub-level on each level, you are basically attacking enemies until you complete the level. There are some minor collectibles that you can locate in order to gain more points, and pickup items such as throwing stars and smoke bombs, but they are pretty much useless in the game as you can just slash your way through everything. At certain moments, you can access your camera device to locate hidden doors. If you locate them, you can find additional mutagen canisters needed to unlock a mini-game (which is essentially the classic arcade game “Defender”, TMNT style) in the Extras area. The last sub-level is a boss battle that pits you against some of the main enemies from the TV show, such as Dogpound, Baxter Stockman and the Shredder. These boss battles deliver a change of pace and strategy, which was refreshing, but not enough to help ease the boredom that the game delivers. The game is also extremely short, taking only about 2-3 hours to complete, and in a way, I’m glad it was short because of how tedious it is. While you can co-op your way through the game on the Wii and 360, the 3DS is mysteriously missing this option, which is strange. I did enjoy the ability to upgrade each turtle by collecting orbs from defeated enemies and then using them to update your characters strength and move set, but most of the upgrades aren’t even needed to complete the story mode.

Once you do finish the game, other options become available to you, such as Time Attack and Survival Mode, but they are more of the same and offer nothing new to the experience. You can tell that the game is geared towards a younger audience based on the easy difficulty, and that Nickelodeon wanted to quickly put out a product that aligned with the popular show.

TMNT 2013 Gameplay 3

Graphics: 2/5

Let me start off by saying, the versions I am reviewing are the Wii and 3DS version, not the Xbox 360 (which is already an odd assortment of consoles they chose to develop for…omitting the PS3, Vita and Wii U). However, even for a Wii game 7 years into the console’s lifecycle, the visuals here are less than average. Washed out textures, incredibly blocky character models, stiff animations and lifeless, mundane environments round TMNT to be one of the most inexcusable visual games for 2013. The TMNT game that released in 2003 for the PS2/GC/Xbox looked next-gen compared to this…and that was 10 years ago! When I look at a 10 year old game and am immediately blown away by the comparison, it’s just plain sad. On the 3DS, it’s a bit more excusable and less ugly due to the condensed resolution. The only benefit visually is that the game runs quite smooth, with only a few rare instances of slowdown.

TMNT 2013 Gameplay 2

Sound: 2/5

Turtles games have relied heavily on energetic soundtracks to really engage the player during the beat-em-up fun, with the pinnacle soundtracks being Turtles in Time and Hyperstone Heist. What we have here is something that matches the tone of the show a bit, which is fine. Although there’s nothing memorable to leave the game humming too, it’s still serviceable background music that neither adds or detracts from the experience. The voice actors from the TV show reprise their roles, but they all fail to deliver any excitement to the game. Some of the line deliveries just don’t match the tone of certain scenarios and just feel stiff. For example, there’s a boss battle where April will keep shouting “keep it up guys, you’ve almost got him!” but I didn’t even hit the boss once yet. The boss battle lasts for about 5 minutes and she repeats it every 20 seconds…so do the math and it’s pretty nonsensical. Worse yet, occasionally some voices will be blown out while others will be much lower. Sound effects are pretty poor overall as well, feeling like stock sound effects for an amateur game development program.

TMNT 2013 Gameplay 4

Overall Score: 8/20 = 4.0 out of 10

When I heard there was a new TMNT game coming out, it was easy for me to get excited. Being a die-hard turtles fan, I’m always eager to play a new game in the series. However, what I was left with was an immensely rushed and pale imitation of the SNES/Genesis beat-em-ups from years past. What the game lacks is soul. It feels lifeless, generic and doesn’t have anything that the older TMNT games didn’t do better…in 1992 or even 2003. While I had the slightest mild enjoyment playing this game for the fact that it was a TMNT game, the game itself is just incredibly dull and unimaginative. The only thing going through my head as I played it was, “Ahh…Shell Shock”.

PROs:

+ Has the show’s intro

+ Turtles can be upgraded

+ 4-player co-op on Wii/360

CONs:

– Ugly visuals

– Awful audio mixing

– Subpar, rushed storytelling

– Unimaginative, bland levels

– Very spotty hit detection

– Too easy

– 3DS version omitted co-op completely

A special thank you to Activision for providing us a review copy for “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”! Copy tested on the Wii and 3DS.

Enjoy our review? Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @GamersXTREME for the latest in gaming news and reviews.

Curious to how our review system works? Check out the About section.

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

Pac-Man Ghostly Adventures Gameplay 1

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.

Pac-Man Ghostly Adventures Gameplay 4

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.

PAC-MAN-image106

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.

PAC-MAN-image10

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.

PAC-MAN-image013

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.

PAC-MAN-image134

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.

PAC-MAN-image129

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.

Enjoy our review? Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @GamersXTREME for the latest in gaming news and reviews.

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Grand Theft Auto V Review (PS3/360): “The New American Dream”

Grand Theft Auto V Wallpaper

Grand Theft Auto V is the latest iteration in the GTA series. GTA V was developed by Rockstar North, and published by Rockstar Games. It is single-handily the biggest budget video game ever created. It is also the most anticipated release of this console generation; however does GTA V live up to all the expectations and hype?

Story: 5/5

Rockstar has officially launched the next-gen era two months before PlayStation 4 and Xbox One has even released with their sixth game, GTA V. Gone are the days of simple story structure from the past GTA’s. Rockstar has finally created a story that is more compelling and tightly woven, than in previous iterations. The game begins with a prequel mission set nine years prior to the events of GTA V. The mission establishes how Michael and Trevor, two of the three main protagonists come to know each other. Both men are career criminals and are on a heist when things get chaotic very quickly. Chaos and murder follows, and the men are forced to take different paths in life. Nine years later, Michael is living comfortably in Los Santos (Los Angeles). Surrounded by a large mansion, cheating wife, and two spoiled teenage kids, his life is a wasteland. We come to see Michael in a semi-retirement stage of his life, but it is clear that he is unhappy. Eventually, we meet a young gang member named Franklin. Franklin (like Michael) is a thug, however his economic status is clearly much lower than Michael’s; living with his aunt on the south side of town. Working as a repo man for a sleazy car dealership, Franklin crosses paths with Michael, and the two begin a dangerous but profitable business relationship.

As the story line progresses, it’s clear that this is the tightest, most complete story that Rockstar has ever told for a Grand Theft Auto, and possibly all Rockstar games for that matter. More extraordinary is the level of script writing, and the overall narrative itself. Over the course of the game, the missions involved are deep and quickly pass the typical GTA “point A-B” runs of titles. Each mission evolves as the characters themselves do, and becomes more engaging. 95% of the story missions actually feel like necessary levels for a character, rather than just easy filler. We watch Michael slowly break out from a middle-aged depressed criminal (ala Tony Soprano), into a purposeful criminal trying to protect his family and come alive inside again. Franklin and Trevor both progress and become richer as the narrative expands and unfolds. With that being said, it’s worth noting that GTA V stepped away from the complete seriousness and grittiness of GTA IV and went back more to a Vice City/San Andreas style of storytelling, just extremely refined to top cinema quality.

Grand Theft Auto V

Gameplay: 5/5

“Go pick up my girl from the hospital, and take her to my garage”. ”Follow this guy’s car and see where he goes”. Gone are those GTA days of old where this simple mission structure was standard and a staple. GTA V brings us into the next generation with a glimpse of what is possible now with enhanced mechanics and mastery of current consoles. Let me first just preface on GTA IV and something’s that must be mentioned before discussing GTA V. In 2008, GTA IV launched with a blockbuster sales record and unheard of development costs, setting the record for what was at that time, the biggest budget game ever at 100 million dollars. There has been much discussion and debate, as to the game’s review scores back then, and what people would have given it now. At the time, the game was a groundbreaking and innovative open world title that fully represented the pinnacle of a studio’s talent and hard work. Recreating New York City and its surrounding boroughs was no small task, let alone creating a living, breathing, virtual city filled with citizens, crime, cars, depth, and story, all complete in HD visuals. Rockstar did this. Unfortunately, they changed and/or missed a lot of key elements that made the GTA franchise what it is today. What was missing was the over-the-top, ridiculous, funny yet dark humor. They also took away the power of giving the players lots and lots of choices, and extra things to do. In Liberty City, once you completed the game, there wasn’t too much else to do in the city. Gone were the addicting features of owning vast property or businesses, and flying planes. Customizing your character with different haircuts, varied outfits or even customizing your vehicles were just some of the features lost. There are more things I could list, and so can all of you, but it would be pointless now. Even with all of these elements gone, GTA IV still went on to win countless awards, sell millions of copies and once again, making a significant cultural impact on a generation of gamers. It was Rockstar’s first venture in open world next-gen gaming and they were just starting to understand the power of the 360 and PS3.

Grand Theft Auto V Gameplay 1

Fast forward five years later. The Xbox 360 is now eight years old, while the PS3 is seven. From 2008, up to current day, they have released five successful blockbuster titles this generation. They have nearly tripled the budget from the previous entry, making GTA V the largest budget for an entertainment property at over 260 million dollars. I must say that it clearly shows in large letters that Rockstar has put the money to use. They have learned the mistakes of GTA IV and mastered the power of the systems by creating something unseen, unheard of, and unmatched this generation. Gameplay has been refined with a fine tooth comb this time around, giving gamers a much more comfortable feel. Rockstar has managed to combine the shooting mechanics of their own properties such as Red Dead Redemption and Max Payne, as well as the driving of Midnight Club, making the perfect hybrid. The opening missions start out in the seedier side of Los Santos, which made me feel like I was playing a super charged version of GTA: San Andreas from 2004. If you just drive north, you can head through the maze like freeway interchanges, open country sprinkled with ranches and farms, and hillbilly-infested desert and backcountry. Everything is brimming with life, and packed with things to do. Within the first twenty minutes of gameplay, you start to become overwhelmed by the scope of it.

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As I stated earlier, Rockstar has taken mechanics from their previous AAA games of this generation, and combined them into GTA V. The shooting system has been improved to be more like Max Payne 3. Adding to that, there are three options you have: Free-aim, classic GTA, or Assisted Aim (I would suggest GTA or Assisted Aim) until you get acclimated with the controls. With assisted aim, characters get a lock on when pushing down the triggers and targeting enemies. The reticule feels way more responsive than in IV’s shooting. Weapons also seem to have more of an impact as well. The biggest enhancement is in melee combat, which is very satisfying. Keeping in mind, it’s worth noting that each of the main characters has a skill set that can be constantly improved in areas like fighting, driving, shooting, flying, stamina, etc. This means that the more players actually do in each of these activities, the more they will improve. This has a real impact on the game as you continue, due to the fact that the missions become more challenging. When driving with Franklin, it feels different than driving with Michael or Trevor. And shooting with Michael feels better than with Franklin or Trevor. All have their strong suits, but you can make them all achieve higher skill sets to maximize your favorite character.

Driving has taken a major step forward from the mechanics of IV as well. If you love the blend of arcade and realism that Midnight Club has, then you’ll love GTA V’s driving. When driving at high-speeds from a band of gangsters or swat teams, I don’t feel like I’m fighting my own car while trying to turn fast or burn out, and do a 180. Each of the main protagonists possesses their own special ability which is unique for a GTA. By pushing in analog sticks, Franklin slows down everything except his own driving ability, allowing him to maneuver in and out of traffic in an effortless manner. Michael has a Max Payne “Bullet Time” special that accentuates his experience with guns. Trevor’s special is a psychotic rage mode that allows him to take and dish out more damage via his weapons or fists.

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After several hours, the game grants you the ability to switch between each of the three main characters. Swapping characters is a major part of what makes GTA V distinctive, and it’s as seamless as you could possibly hope. Just by holding down on the control pad and flicking your analog stick, you can instantly transition to another character. The amazing aspect to this is the sheer realism of the characters and their lives. For example, just because you’re playing as Franklin at the moment does not mean that the other two characters are standing still in their respective corners of the world. Switching rapidly between characters will have you witnessing them in a variety of actions or situations depending. I was playing early on as Franklin and switched to Michael, who happens to be my favorite. As soon as the camera zoomed down on the character you’re switching to, you are immediately treated to a brief preview of what they were currently doing. In my case, I saw Michael enjoying the company of a hooker in an alley on the lower end of town. Another time, I switched to Trevor, who was in the middle of a gunfight with a group of gang members on a beach filled with pedestrians running for cover and screaming. There’s such an incredible volume of things to do that even after fourteen days of playing, I’m still overwhelmed by the options they offer.

Two years ago, when this was first announced, I was one of the first in my group of friends who was completely thrown off by Rockstar’s desire to have three main playable characters in a GTA game. The whole idea seemed ludicrous and sloppy. Oh boy how I was naive, and severely wrong. Rockstar has created the perfect chemistry and gameplay for these characters to coexist. A new addition to the formula are the missions called “Heists”. Heist missions involve all three characters working together, and it works flawlessly. When Michael, Trevor and Franklin are busy setting up a heist, they all work together piecing different aspects of the crime step-by-step. This changes up the formula from past GTA’s. Instead of simply having the plan come together in one mission with one character, the gamer has to plan each step of the heist. Casting out the area of the future crime or choosing the right crew such as a good getaway driver, gunman, and a tech guy is all crucial to being successful. From there, you choose whether to invest in paying for a few seasoned criminals or some “fly-by the night stick up men” with itchy trigger fingers and nervous junior drivers. As an example in an early heist I did, I chose to pay cheaply for a getaway driver and put all my money into a good gunman. This was a mistake, because as the mission was ending and we were fleeing the scene, my driver crashed and was caught by the cops along with half our money that he was holding in a bag. There’s a lot riding on the decisions the player makes. Most plans begin with choosing one of two options and those are either: go in blasting or go in silently. For the jewelry store mission I played, you can storm in; rob the place, and then shoot your way out after they’ve collected the diamonds. You can also be discrete, steal a chemical that induces sleep and will knock out all the store employees including the security guards and make a silent getaway. The six heists are the highlight of Grand Theft Auto V. These are the moments when all three characters are working as an organized unit. These situations are tense and full of harrowing moments you’ll never forget. Best of all, they are as varied as the San Andreas landscape, which is again, extremely vast. Not only are the three thieves going after a different score with each heist, but the way they pull them off is constantly changing, and evolving. They seem to become more sophisticated with each heist and crime, and they need to be. Each heist becomes more elaborate, and our heroes will be forced to track down all the parts needed to pull off the successful hit.

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Unless you experience it for yourself, it’s almost impossible to fully grasp how big GTA V is. It’s not just a living breathing city, it’s a world. It’s the colossal story, the utter amount of missions and the diversity introduced with them, the activities to take part in, or the mysteries waiting to be uncovered. It’s without a doubt, the highlight of this generation. How Rockstar managed to achieve this on these current systems is baffling to me. Especially when you see too many developers today still botching up games that are both multiplatform or exclusive. To be honest, other studios should be embarrassed at this point, if not anything else, and Rockstar proved it.  To look back at GTA IV, it is clear they took the highs and lows of the past and completely overhauled the scope and mechanics, and invested heavily in all these areas. Rockstar has brought back a number of elements that were taken away from the last game. It goes without saying that Los Santos is a world riddled with activities beyond anything I would or could even attempt to list here, for fear of becoming the longest review in history. The gigantic map is bursting with icons ranging from exercising to flight school to shooting ranges and tons, tons more. To name a few things, you can smuggle drugs and guns, purchase investments through the fictional in-game stock market via your smart phone, buy real estate and businesses. You can also play darts, ride a bike along the beach, compete in triathlons, watch TV, go to the movie theater, or strip club, and even train your dog. Additionally, you can tow vehicles, drive trains, dive and snorkel in underwater coral reefs, smoke weed, drink, get a haircut, get tattooed, race vehicles, skydive, customize  your car or bike, buy new clothes, jet ski, surf the web or even go to a shooting range. Honestly, that doesn’t even cover half of what can be done in GTA V. The key word here is “vast”.

GTA V puts crime and murder back into the funny and over-the-top category, if that’s possible. You can drive expensive sports cars right at the opening of the game. The money you earn in-game has way more value than in IV because of the amount of things you can spend it on, some of which I have mentioned earlier. The entire state is yours to explore, and conquer. As I stated earlier, the character I enjoyed doing this the most with was Michael. However, the world of Grand Theft Auto V is so big that it requires three characters to explore it. While that line may sound cheesy and laced as a PR comment directly from Rockstar, it’s true. If they told the story from the eyes of just one character, this would lead to new areas not being revealed until multiple hours into the game, eventually rendering the game a 30+ hour campaign that would bring any GTA loyalist to disgust. Along the way, you’ll find an abundant amount of distractions to keep you exploring the state. This ranges from random activities to intuitive side missions. Again, the staggering amount of content can be overwhelming and sometimes even a tad frustrating, but in a good way. There is just so much to see and do, that most gamers will become dumbfounded at first. You can be exploring the rich suburbs of Rockford Hills as Michael (who lives there), to the beautiful and scenic Vespucci Beach complete with an iconic boardwalk and festival games. And at the flick of a button I can traverse through the slums of the ghetto as Franklin, observing the everyday happenings of Los Santo’s lower income neighborhoods. Choose to play as Trevor and you will explore vast dessert and forests. In between those are small town Americas filled with bars, gun shops and trailer parks. This all encompasses Blaine County, which is directly north of Los Santos. The gameplay is damn near perfect, and though there are some blander side missions, the main story is bursting with unforgettable characters that feel more fully grasped than even the best of the series’ previous characters. It’s a remarkable example of open world gameplay at its finest, it does so much so well that it’s hard to find flaws in Rockstar’s colossal epic.

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Graphics: 5/5

Simply put, GTA V is one of the best looking games on current-gen consoles. If you combine the vibrant nature of Red Dead and Max Payne 3, with the detail of LA Noire and GTA IV’s Liberty City, it equals a lavish package that represents the most extraordinary sandbox of our time. Visuals are pushed with the RAGE engine, as well as the Natural Motion Euphoria engine for the stellar animations. It’s because of this, that the technical/visual achievement is the most distinguishable aspect of the game. I must say, it’s not the great leap forward that GTA IV was over the original GTA’s on the PS2 and Xbox. However, it is a vast technical improvement in a number of areas. The draw distance stretches out further to the horizon than ever before, the freeways and streets are more populated with cars, and the vehicles themselves are much more detailed. Compared to Liberty City’s grit and urban decline, the state of San Andreas is sunny and glittering. The lighting effects perfectly capture the bright sunshine of the West Coast. Creating a virtual world has always been Rockstar’s strongest suit, and with GTA V, they have raised the bar once again. The game no doubt takes visual theatrical cues from some famous movies such as Michael Mann’s “Heat” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs”, along with many other movies and TV shows. Whether it’s the landmarks, visual style of characters outfits or the cutscene animations, the game screams Hollywood. Movie buffs will get a thrill at the number of classic cult film references placed in here.

The level of detail is unquestionably astounding, from minor extras like the working desk fans in an office to dome lights turning on when you open car doors, or after getting wasted and being discharged from the hospital, your character will still have cuts and bruises on their body. The moon phases actually change as the days and weeks progress, or while in a police shootout, if you shoot one officer in the leg or body, another might drag him behind cover for safety. If you drive at night with your headlights off, oncoming cars will flash theirs, to alert you. And this is only a miniscule list compared to the amount of features Rockstar has crafted into this world. The water effects for the ocean and waves are some of the most beautiful detailed water physics I have seen in a title this generation. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the game is that the size of the world and the level of detail it contains. Amazingly all of this equaled zero graphical slowdown. To be fair, my version (for the Xbox 360) I had installed the first disc which was mandatory on both PS3 and 360, but the second disc I installed on a flash drive. I wanted to make sure that I was playing on the most optimal of settings. Aside from literally one or two times where I noticed some visual stuttering, the game was polished with precision. Another impressive aspect are the character animations when they’re in conversations between each other. While walking or driving around together, their movements are fluid and top-notch. For example, while all three guys are in a vehicle together, I would regularly rotate the camera to see them inside the car. In doing that, you will see your characters conversing with their hands and moving their lips in sync to each line perfectly, while turning their heads towards each other, and explaining something or possibly telling a story. The dynamic feels so real, that you feel that these characters are alive and can actually see each other. At times, you feel like just a couple of real guys you control via your controller. Regardless of what your opinion is on the franchise, no one can question this game’s technical merit. It’s the same open world game element we’ve all come to know and love, just extremely more polished and improved to a much higher standard of excellence.

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Sound: 4/5

Keeping with positives first, GTA V’s soundtrack is an extremely diverse and well pieced together soundtrack. There’s a large selection of choices for any music fan. With over 15 radio stations, two of which are talk radio, and 240 licensed tracks, it’s definitely Rockstar’s biggest venture yet. You have something for everyone, whether it’s techno heads, hip-hop fans, country listeners or some pop, Spanish, and my favorite being some old school tracks dating back to the 60’s. If music isn’t attractive, you have hundreds of hours of hilarious and well-scripted talk radio programs. The downside for me was that the number of songs I actually liked was far less than I originally had hoped for. Don’t get me wrong, many people might feel I am being ridiculous due to the sheer number of titles offered, but in my 18+ hour play through, I can’t list more than 20 songs I really liked. For a game with 240 songs, that was kind of a low point for me. Then again, GTA IV’s soundtrack wasn’t stellar for me either. Vice City and Vice City Stories will always have the best soundtrack in my opinion, with San Andreas in third.

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I will say that GTA V’s orchestral themes are its strengths acoustically. Rockstar has finally incorporated some orchestral background pieces into a GTA, and that really made the entire experience fell like a well-crafted cinema fit for the golden age of Hollywood. Sometimes I would often find myself turning off the radio and enjoying the background theme playing, which varied depending on what was going on at that exact time. For this, Rockstar brought in three well known composers to work solely on the orchestral music. One of these composers had previously worked on Red Dead Redemption’s theme, as well as L.A. Noire’s theme, which was hauntingly amazing.

The dialogue is the sharpest (and wittiest) that it has ever been for the series. It’s well delivered in the thousand plus lines from the three main characters alone. Part of what made Liberty City feel so alive was the background noise of people going about their lives in the city, and reacting to your chaos. Even more so, in Los Santos the background noise is deeper and more realistic. Conversations you hear on the street are so enjoyable, that I found myself on many occasions just being nosey and stopping to listen to people having deep conversations that sometimes lasted for minutes on end. For Rockstar to invest so many lines of realistic dialogue in some background NPC’s that you might or might not ever stop to hear is fantastically mind boggling. There are literally thousands of conversations going on all over the state, which if you stop and listen to, will either have you on the floor laughing, or deeply concerned for their values and beliefs. Bumping into random citizens will give you some amusing responses as well. Cars sound more realistic than ever before. Getting out of a car and turning the engine off will make a slight ticking noise just as in real life when turning a vehicle off. Sometimes cars will stall, and you will hear the engine trying to power up, but fail. Sound effects including car engines, gunfire, explosions and ambient sounds are all top-notch. I will say that while the soundtrack is diverse and large as I stated before, it does fail to contain a solid list of hits. However, the orchestral themes, plus the profound amount of dialogue combined with realistic audio effects of ocean waves, seagulls, gunfire, and much more all keep the audio beautiful, but not perfect.

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Overall Score: 19/20 = 9.5 out of 10

There is a natural problem with reviewing a game as vast and deep as Grand Theft Auto V. No matter how much I try, I will never be able to cover all that the game has to offer. It is a title that represents the peak of the blockbuster AAA standard. GTA V realizes its own grand desire without the visible compromise you’d come to expect from consoles on their last full year of life. If you’re reading this review now, it is likely that you have already beaten the single-player story or at least started it. For the past week, I have wrestled with a proper score for a game so enormous and well-crafted that has become a cultural event mentioned daily in mainstream media and news. GTA V may not be remembered for reinventing the wheel as they did with Grand Theft Auto 3 nearly twelve years ago, but it’s enough to keep that wheel spinning rapidly.

GTA V represented the peak of Rockstar’s creativity and design. All gamers that at least play some of this game will walk away feeling richer in an enjoyment sense of the word. Grand Theft Auto V is a plethora of modern day pop culture commentary on the best and worst of our society. Whether it’s politics, media, reality TV, or violent video games, Rockstar has something to say about it. In the only way they know how, they aren’t afraid to to go after the right, left, rich, poor, white, black, gay, straight and everything else. It’s thought-provoking and hysterical, while always secretly pushing the bar to make their point. Just reviewing the single-player experience alone, I can easily say that this was an astounding experience. GTA V goes beyond the image and feel of a game…it feels like an epic movie that you are blessed to have been apart of. It will likely be considered as one of the greatest games of this generation with the words “stunning” and “essential” always following it.

PROS:

+ Gorgeous visuals

+ Did not even discuss the enormous online multiplayer

+ Three intertwined story lines that flow seamlessly

+ Hundreds of side missions and activities

+ Heists add a new dimension to a game built around crime

+ Choices, Choices, Choices

+ Massive, engaging and gorgeous world

CONS:

Radio selection is missing the solid addicting hits

A special thank you to Rockstar Games for providing us a review copy for Grand Theft Auto V! Review copy tested on Xbox 360.

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Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate Review (PS3/360): “The Ultimate Fighting Machine”

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In September of 2012, Team NINJA released their highly-anticipated sequel to one of the hottest fighting franchises, Dead or Alive 5. The game provided for some intense fights, along with some cinematic elements to further heighten the sense of battle. A few months after the game’s release, Dead or Alive 5 Plus came to the PS Vita so that fans can take the fight on-the-go. Now, Team NINJA has released the “Ultimate” version of their superb fighting game, bringing five new fighters, five new stages, additional content and improved online system.

Gameplay: 5/5

Dead or Alive was always an interesting fighter, and not solely because of the chicks and their “boob physics”. DOA was built around the concept of a “Rock, Paper, Scissors” fighting mechanic, in which certain moves work out better against others. Still to this day, this mechanic really stands out by providing a very complex, yet gratifyingly sense of accomplishment when understood. Thankfully, newcomers, as well as fans who need a brush up course, will be taught how every mechanic comes into play via DOA5’s Story mode.

DOA5‘s Story mode takes place shortly after the events of DOA4, in which Kasumi is determined to find Alpha-152, her weaponized clone that DOATEC created, and eradicate her completely. In the meantime, Helena Douglas is trying to give DOATEC a re-imaging by holding a fifth Dead or Alive tournament and showcase that they’re not all about creating weapons. Throughout the game’s 60+ missions (which will take roughly 3 hours to complete), you will take control of every character from the DOA universe and witness how their story connects with everything at hand. The story jumps around a good amount due to the fact that you’ll focus on a specific character each chapter and see their whole story, as opposed to a linear story structure. It has an intriguing opening scene that will definitely grab your attention, however the story from this point all the way until the halfway point won’t garner your attention as much. It’s not until the second half where the story really picks up tremendously and has you truly engaged. Regardless, the pacing is properly done and you’ll find yourself getting through this in no time, mainly because it has a “one more fight” appeal to it. To add some replay value to the story, Team NINJA added Bonus Missions in each fight where you’ll have to complete a certain stipulation (i.e. Perform 3 Mid-Counters, Perform a Ground Hold 3 Times, etc.). Completing these will unlock Titles, which are mainly to add some taglines to your profile when going online. You can have up to two Titles shown on your profile at once.

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Aside from the Story, you’ll have your main fight modes such as Versus, Arcade, Time Attack, Survival, Training, and the newly added Team. Versus will let you take on your buddies or the COM in any way you see fit, solo or tag team. You’ll be able to adjust the COM’s difficulty, health bars, rounds, and time limit. Arcade mode will have you tackling eight stages in solo, or five stages in tag team, against the COM in a range of up to eight difficulties: Rookie, Easy, Normal, Hard, Champ, True Fighter, Master and Legend. Time Attack is the same ordeal as Arcade except it’s about getting through the stages as fast as possible to post a competitive time for people to beat on the leaderboards. Survival is back as well from the past, this time broken up into difficulties and each difficulty adds more fighters you’ll have to take on. Each time you take out an opponent, you’ll receive a little bit of health back and now they’ve added items for you to collect (like in previous DOAs) to bump up your score. This wasn’t found in the original DOA5. Team Battle has you pick a team of 7 fighters to take on an opponent’s team. These are essentially 1-on-1 battles, so you can’t tag any of your team in and your character’s health won’t replenish. Training returns as well with even more features at your disposal to truly let you master your characters in a variety of scenarios. The Command Training is where you’ll want to get the most out of mastering your character as it will showcase every move in order. Should you need to see what you’re supposed to be doing, you can press the R3/RS button together to view a demo of that particular move; a very handy feature.

With DOA5, the game was very well balanced amongst their rosters. However, Team NINJA has listened to much feedback within the community and made even finer adjustments to balance. What I can say here, is that unlike Capcom’s attempts at rebalancing a game which then led to it being quite the opposite (Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, I’m looking directly at you), Team NINJA knows what logical choices to make here. Many of the previous characters’ moves have either slightly different time frames on when to pull off moves (with actually more flexibility), as well as adding new moves and animations for characters. For example, Hayabusa has a new 4-hit punch/kick combo, that when usually finished with the kick, was a single downward kick. Now, he has a new animation that has double the kicks, which can then be linked to a new sleek spin-kick that does some serious damage. Coming from previous versions of the game, it was great to see additions like this were put into character move sets. When choosing one of the 29 characters, you’ll notice that they have a stat breakdown. All characters are rated based on Strike, Throw, Hold, Power, Speed and Moves. There’s not a single fight that you’ll partake in thinking “damn, this character is cheap” and the reason for this is DOA’s infamous Counter system. When it comes to an intuitive counter system, DOA has always stood on top of the list of fighters. It is because of this counter system that the fights in DOA are always interesting and edgy. They have returned to the 4-point counter system (hi, mid, mid-forward and low), in which you’ll have to master when to counter an opponent’s move or stop their combo.

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There are a few new features to be found in DOA5 that are well implemented. First off, new moves that can make battles more interesting and provide more flair are the Critical Strikes, Power Blows and newly included for Ultimate, Power Launchers. Critical Strikes will allow you to really give your opponent no chance of countering or attacking for a little bit more time than normal. To successfully pull this off however, you’ll need to string a combo and then a Critical Strike move for it to be effective. You’ll know you did it right because a powerful audio effect and screen shake will kick in at that moment. Power Blows are charged up moves (think Ultimate Techniques from Ninja Gaiden) that can be initiated when your health bar is flashing red (which is at the 50% mark) and if pulled off successfully, you’ll witness a flashy and brutal combo to only be finished off by quickly choosing a specific location or Danger Zone to knock the opponent into. However, you can now do a Tag Power Blow, where if both your teammates have a flashing red bar, you can trigger a Power Blow, then quickly tag your partner in and deal extra damage by using their Power Blow also. You’ll only get one of these per round so you can’t abuse this system continuously in a match. Speaking of Danger Zones though, DOA5 introduces a much more enhanced type known as Special Danger Zones. Knocking opponents into these will cause the environment to alter, whether it’s causing the building you’re on to collapse, a raft to dislodge from a tree and fall off a waterfall, or knock someone into a military chopper and blow it up. These moments are jaw-dropping to say the least and give DOA5U an intense, cinematic style to the fights that really bring a deep immersion into them. Initiating these Special Danger Zones to trigger is immensely satisfying as it really draws out the intensity of a battle to a whole new level…literally. Another feature brought to DOA5 is partially one that was implemented in DOA: Dimensions for the 3DS and that is the ability to have your move list open in front of you during a fight. Where as the 3DS used the touch screen to showcase your move list and you could tap the move to pull it off automatically, DOA5U has it placed in a corner of your screen and you’ll be able to scroll through it with the right analog stick. However, just note that you can’t have the move be pulled off for you like the 3DS edition. Lastly, the one additional feature to further add to game’s combat are the Cliffhangers. Cliffhangers will initiate when your opponent is knocked off a high ledge from environmental alteration and from here, a little mini-game is in effect. As the striker that initiated it, you’ll have to press either the Throw or Attack (Punch or Kick) button to keep dealing more damage to your opponent while transitioning to the next part of the arena. As the defendant, you’ll have to press a button to quickly grab the ledge, followed by the Throw or Attack button in hopes of pressing the same button as your opponent. Should you succeed, you’ll deflect the opponent’s attack. It’s a great little addition that changes up the pace of the fight and just look amazing to see in action. Every character has their own unique Cliffhanger attacks that are showcased and seeing them all is a pure joy.

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In terms of new characters to the series, Mila and Rig made their first debuts in the original DOA5 and to much welcome. Mila is an MMA fighter and seeing how popular the sport is in today’s times, it seems like a logical route to go. Her strikes are incredibly fast and proves to be a likable character that many may want to look into trying out. Rig, a Tae Kwon Do fighter, is another very welcome addition. His expertise in lightning fast kicks and sleek maneuverability make him a character that many may want to also consider testing out. Then you have your Virtua Fighter cameo characters: Akira, Sarah, Jacky and Pai. For you Virtua Fighter fans, you’ll be glad to hear that Team NINJA replicated these characters exactly the way you remember from their respective series. Everything from the character’s details, to their move set is here in full swing. Additionally in DOA5 Ultimate, they’ve added five new characters into the mix: Momiji and Rachel from Ninja Gaiden, Leon and Ein from DOA, and Jacky from the VF series. Momiji and Rachel handle like their NG counterparts, with Momiji being a very technical character, while Rachel is a bit slower with heavier attacks. It’s a spectacle seeing the tag throws amongst the NG characters, especially Hayabusa and Momiji doing a duel Izuna Drop. Leon and Ein return precisely the way fans can expect, Leon being the grappling fiend and Ein having insanely fast and heavy hitting strikes. Jacky from Virtua Fighter is also handled with the same amount of detail that was crafted for the other VF characters. These new characters in Ultimate are excellent additions and a ton of fun to experiment with.

Now, there’s a Combo Challenge mode for every character so that you can learn and master some of the more complex combos. It starts off easy and as you progress, naturally gets very demanding. However, completing these are immensely rewarding and mastering them will give you the upper hand against some of the better players online. Another nice feature for DOA5 Plus is that all the characters are unlocked right from the beginning. Those who were grinding tons of hours just to unlock Alpha-152…well, she’s already unlocked from the start here. Save data from DOA5 is also transferred over to DOA5 Ultimate so any progress with the Story and Titles will transfer over with no problems. You will be asked to transfer your save data from DOA5 upon entering the main menu for the first time. Also, I mentioned earlier that there are five new stages in the game, three of which straight from the Ninja Gaiden series and two fan favorites from DOA3. From the NG series, there’s the Desert Wasteland and Aircraft Carrier from Ninja Gaiden 3, and Sky City Tokyo from Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2. Desert Wasteland provides for uneven open terrain, but doesn’t disrupt the balance of a match. The Aircraft Carrier is a massively open environment that doesn’t hold anything exciting per se, but a cool venue nonetheless. Sky City Tokyo is an NG fan’s dream though. Team NINJA brought back this awesome locale and has a very cool Special Danger Zone to trigger, which is the massive statue mini-boss that was introduced in Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2. Using a Power Blow and knocking your opponent into the statue, to only see him get crushed is sweet and complete Ninja Gaiden fan-service. From DOA3, the fall laden Forest and endless dropping Lost World return. Forest has foliage littering the environment with a plethora of trees that can be used to dish out additional environmental damage to your opponent. The Lost World, easily one of my personal favorite stages, makes its return, as there’s nothing more satisfying than constantly knocking your opponent off a high cliff and chasing them down each drop. The backdrop is stunning and has been crafted perfectly.

Naturally, many people are looking forward to taking DOA online and there are a few modes in play here. You can keep it straight forward by doing Lobby Match, which is basically an unranked match and probably a good place for beginners to start. DOA competitors will most certainly be tackling the Ranked Matches so that they can show off their skills and receive higher grades. The grade system from DOA4 and DOA: Dimensions is back in play here but for those who don’t know, you’ll earn Grade Points for each match won. Once you’ve earned enough points, you’ll go up a grade (i.e. F to F+, then to E-, then E, etc). However, should you lose a match, you’ll lose some points and can be degraded. The online experience was rock solid throughout my duration of playing matches, but the netcode has been improved a great amount in DOA5U, providing smoother connections than ever before. After matches, you’ll be able to save replays of your fights and you can even upload them directly to YouTube. One of the biggest omissions from DOA5 was the lack of being able to find a tag partner online. Fans of the series know exactly what I’m referring about but for those that don’t, when playing an online tag match, you could form an online tag team with either a random player in the lobby, or your friend. This was one of the best components with the online structure of DOA4 and it was odd to see it missing from DOA5 originally. Now, that’s no longer an issue. Also returning from DOA: Dimensions are Throwdowns, except it’s a bit different this time around. While playing the game offline, you can receive Throwdown invitations mid-fight. Simply pressing the Select button, you can accept someone’s invitation and initiate an online match (think of SFIV or MvC3 where you have the Arcade Request except you aren’t forced into them). It’s a cool feature that keeps the online aspect of the game constantly going.

DOA5U_GroupB_screenshot_05_JACKY&SARAH VS RIG

Graphics: 4/5

Visually, DOA5U looks stunning for the most part. The character models are superbly detailed, showcasing sweat during fights, as well as environment interaction. Should the characters fight in the middle of a warzone, sand and dirt will stick to the character as the fight goes on. Same goes for when you’re fighting in the snow. The snow will stick to the character and their clothing. It’s the attention to little details such as this that make the character models pop out more. The lighting within the backdrops and environments are exceptionally well done, fleshing out the arenas with more life. Whether you’re fighting on a moving raft through a cave, on a building top that’s falling apart, or on an elevator in a laboratory, every stage has is detailed nicely. There are other things going on in the backgrounds of stages as well that really make the arenas stand out from being simple, cardboard-cutout environments. For example, when fighting in a gym boxing ring, you’ll see other people training in the background while your fight is going on. When fighting in the DOA5 tournament ring, you’ll see large screens in the background showing the fighters’ details (nationality, fight style, etc.). Again, it’s little details that add up to making the visuals pop out more. The game runs at its signature 60 fps at all times and character animations are top-notch. All the animations for the fighters are incredibly choreographed and watching them in action is a complete spectacle. As amazing as these characters looked in action, the Story cutscenes had a different effect. Characters look pretty good in the cutscenes but mouths were very stiff when talking, making them look a bit odd at times.

As great as the game looks, there was a gripe I had that hurt the game’s graphics score, and that’s the inconsistent texture work in the environments. Most environments, as I stated, look great. However, for some odd reason, some of the ground textures seem a bit washed out at times. Everything in the environment might look great but when you notice the ground, it certainly stands out from the more polished details within the environment, giving an inconsistent look. An example would be the Street and Primal levels, in which the ground textures look a bit bland. In the Primal level, the snake and alligator in the background are neat and look decent, but you’ll notice the textures don’t have that fine-tuned polish. Also, the grass textures look a bit off. In the Streets level, objects like a trashed car or barrels that you knock an enemy into could also look a bit sharper, as can the ground. However, then you have other stages like the Flow, Fuel, and Scramble stages that looks absolutely stunning. Furthermore, some stages got additional visual flair. A prime example would be the snowy Ends of the World stage, which now showcases much more powder and fog, giving off a much more frigid appeal. While the inconsistent textures are a minor gripe, it’s one that was noticeable enough to detract from the visual score. Regardless, DOA5U is an excellent looking game and easily has some of the best character models in the fighting genre.

DOA5U_GroupB_screenshot_08_EIN VS HITOMI

Sound: 4/5

DOA5U has a great soundtrack that accompanies some truly powerful audio effects. From the moment you enter the main menu, the game gets your blood pumping, ready to get your fight on. Whether you’re fighting in a military zone, atop a collapsing building, in a jungle or on the streets, every track does a great job of capturing the setting of the fight. Music changes to more intense, dramatic tunes when a Special Danger Zone is initiated, heightening the adrenaline of a match. Some tunes also return from the previous DOAs, such as Christie’s theme and Alpha-152’s (which is always a badass song to fight to). DOA5 introduced background stage music that played in matches pertaining to the locations as opposed to the opponent’s theme song. In DOA5U, they’ve added an option to switch the music to play based on Character or Stage. Additionally, you can customize the Character’s battle theme to any song of your liking. However, they’ve gone an extra mile…and THIS is where I was personally most content with the added features. Playing through Arcade mode, you will unlock the previous soundtracks from the entire DOA franchise. Want the badass main menu music from DOA4 in the main menu of DOA5? Done. Want to train with the training them from DOA2? You got it. Want to hear Hayate’s awesome theme from DOA3 when you versus him? No problem. This is a much welcome feature that audiophiles (like myself) will appreciate. The audio effects really do a great job of signifying how powerful every hit is, including when initiating the Critical Strikes and Power Blows. It all adds up in providing an adrenaline-fueled audio experience that goes hand-in-hand with the gameplay. Definitely a game to crank up your speakers/sound system.

Unfortunately, there are two songs that really ruin the game’s well done soundtrack: Zack’s theme and “The Show” stage. Zack’s theme song is an incredibly childish and awkward song to listen to that will irritate to no end. The Show is a stage where you’ll fight in a circus and while the stage looks cool, playing overly cheerly carnival music in a dramatic fight just doesn’t fit…at all. Luckily Zack’s theme only plays during his scenes in the story and The Show’s song is strictly for that level (but an easily be changed now). Also, English Voice Acting is a mixed bag. The voice acting is ok, with some characters doing a decent job, while others are not as effective. Interestingly, for the Virtua Fighter characters, their audio sounds slightly muffled just like the way it does in those games. It’s actually pretty cool to see they’ve replicated those characters to that extent. For DOA fans, you can switch the voice acting audio track to Japanese to bring back the feel of the originals a bit more.

DOA5U_GroupA_denger4

Replay Value: 5/5

DOA5 Ultimate has a good amount of modes but they’ll surely keep you occupied for quite some time. Whether you’re aiming to earn 100% of the Titles (good luck with that), unlocking every costume for all the characters (271 in total), unlocking all the system voices, completing all the Bonus Missions in the Story mode, tackling the Combo Challenges for every character or playing the game with buddies locally or online, DOA5U is a game that will stay in your PS3/360 for months on end. Whether you play for 10 minutes or multiple hours straight, DOA5U will provide an enormous amount of entertainment.

Overall Score: 18/20 = 9.0 out of 10

DOA5U is easily Team NINJA’s most ambitious title to date. There are a few quirks that counters DOA5U from achieving perfection, but in terms of gameplay, Ultimate is a furthermore perfectly tuned fighter. The game was mentioned as “Fighting Entertainment” by Team NINJA and in that sense, they meant that the game was accessible to both newcomers who’ve never enjoyed fighting games, as well as the core fan base. They’ve definitely succeeded by providing an experience that anyone can wrap their hands around and be engrossed in. Much like how the BMW is considered “The Ultimate Driving Machine”, Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate is “The Ultimate Fighting Machine”. If you missed out on this before, don’t miss it now. If you already have DOA5 and/or DOA5+, this is still an absolute must-buy.

PROS:

+ Addictive, gratifying combat system

+ Strong audio

+ Jaw-dropping Special Danger Zones; Cliffhangers are awesome

+ Great amount of content to keep the replay value going

+ Character balancing is finely tuned

+ Background Music customization is a superb feature

+ Combo Challenge is a great way to perfect intricate combos

+ Online Tag while teaming up with online friends is back

+ New characters are very well crafted

CONS:

– Some uneven environmental textures

– Ho-hum voice acting; some are decent, others not so much

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate! Copy reviewed based on PS3 version.

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Splinter Cell: Blacklist Review (Wii U/PS3/360): “The Stakes Have Never Been Higher for Fisher”

Splinter Cell Blacklist Wii U Wallpaper

Splinter Cell: Blacklist is the latest entry into the Splinter Cell franchise, and is the direct sequel to 2010’s Splinter Cell: Conviction. Developed by Ubisoft Toronto, the long-awaited sequel has finally made its way back to a Nintendo platform, as well as the PS3 and 360.

Story: 4/5

Taking place several years after Splinter Cell: Conviction, Sam Fisher is now heading up operations at Fourth Echelon. The President of the United States had previously shut down Fisher’s former employer, Third Echelon. Sam and his team are now taking orders directly from the President in their high-tech airship headquarters (Paladin) reminiscent of the Normandy in Mass Effect. Fisher and the team can quickly fly to different locations all over the world, and they will need to. A terrorist organization called “The Engineers” is seeking to remove all “US” forces from foreign countries. They announce a nationwide countdown that when reaches zero, will mark a terrorist attack somewhere in America. This will continue to happen until the US withdraws troops and intelligence people from foreign soil, and it’s up to Sam and Fourth Echelon to stop this. The plot draws close to real world issues, and it is this fact that keeps the story engaging.

Splinter Cell Blacklist Wii U Gameplay 8

Gameplay: 5/5

Splinter Cell: Blacklist truly feels like an evolution from prior entries, in particular Conviction. There’s a taste of the classic Splinter Cell in here, but it never goes farther than that. The game pushes forward with a deeper concentration on more chaos and action. Additionally, it brings a new difficulty mode called “Professional”. This mode will strip you of ammo stockpiles and increase enemy AI, as well as prevent you from killing certain enemies. AI throughout is generally good, coupled with attack dogs will surely give any veteran player a run for their money in difficulty. There are 10 main story missions that each can take anywhere from 30 minutes up to an hour depending on your difficulty setting.

Variety is key to the success of Blacklist’s gameplay. Ubisoft clearly took a page from Bioware’s mission style and gameplay of Mass Effect. While on the Paladin (4th Echelon headquarters), there are side missions specifically given to you by certain crew members. Some of these missions are used to flesh out the story. The tie-in with Mass Effect is that most of these missions are about recovering a piece of technology or weaponry that is used to continually upgrade your flying headquarters. This can become addictive, as you want to always keep your ship upgraded because it aids you on the battlefield when in missions. Some of these missions are playable in solo offline play, but others are co-op missions only. Note: the Wii U version supports online co-op play only and not offline split-screen play.

This is gonna hurt.

This is gonna hurt.

Splinter Cell: Blacklist gives you a wide array of choices as to whether you want to be stealthy or a loud brash action hero. Initially, each and every single player mission revolves around stealth. It is up to you whether you will progress that way. The environments are large enough to allow individual playing styles for each gamer, and the in-game scoring system will reward those who play these certain styles. As I stated earlier, you can in fact suit up with machine guns and explosives and blast your way through levels, but it will ramp up the difficulty. When playing the more traditional way of stealth, you will earn Ghost scoring points. If you play using a mix of stealth and action you will obtain Panther points which are granted for playing down the middle. Ubisoft has made sure each mission feels unique and diverse.

A lot of this game takes place on the airplane headquarters itself. The location acts as a central intelligence hub where Sam can walk around and interact with his fellow team members at Fourth Echelon. You can also customize, upgrade, and plan new missions from here. Interacting with different team personnel will open different menus, whether it be the stereotypical computer nerd Charlie, who handles your gear upgrades, or Isaac, a field ops solider who is frustrated from being benched from missions while your campaign takes place. At the completion of each mission, if you wish you can actually call your daughter, Sarah, to fill her in on your current status, and get information about your family back home. This serves to create a very human element, in a game that otherwise stays very intense and violent. Lastly, the cash you earn from each mission can be used to customize your weapon loadouts and outfits. In addition, the Wii U version does contain excessively long load times throughout the campaign, and some clock in at over 50 seconds. You eventually get used to the loading, and for most should become irrelevant halfway through the game.

Splinter Cell Blacklist Wii U Gameplay 2

Playing the missions through the Strategic Mission Interface (SMI) opens a world map giving players access to all aspects of single player, co-op and competitive modes. Additionally, there are mini-game style missions that take place on the world map, challenging your geographical skills. These missions involve paper chase trails around the map that indirectly connects to the single player story. When completed, you will receive a generous cash reward that can help you speed up your upgrade progress, rather than just relying on single player missions. Certain missions will have moments of choice, where you must decide to show forgiveness or no remorse upon a current target. This helps engage beyond the usual methodology of a typical stealth game, while also adding a certain level of personality. The downfall with this is that different decisions still result in the same outcome regardless.

There are some exclusive features for the Wii U version of this title that are aided with the use of the GamePad. First up, several gadgets which you can choose to equip in the loadout screen have “exclusive Wii U GamePad integration.” During normal play, your GamePad’s screen will function as Fisher’s inventory, and all you need to do is tap on an item to equip it. Fisher’s “snake cam” and “goggles” also uses the GamePad’s screen to show you in first-person what Sam can see. You can even zoom-in by pinching the screen like an iPhone or tablet, and mark enemies by tapping on them. Controlling a remote-operated mini-drone with a camera via the GamePad’s gyroscope is also fun, intuitive and responsive. The classic sticky-cam (a staple of the series) is also controlled by the gyroscope of the GamePad. When an enemy is around a corner, just throw a sticky cam and use the GamePad to see and rotate around. At times, you feel like a government agent using a tablet displaying classified data or surveillance footage. These are just some of the aspects that truly make the Wii U version distinct from the other two versions. I couldn’t help but notice, that when playing the Xbox 360 version, I missed the ease of having my weapons and gadgets all mapped out in front of me via the GamePad. When playing the 360/PS3 version, you will have to pause the action and swap through items, which can occasionally become a nuisance.

Just one of the many touches that makes the Wii U version excel.

Just one of the many touches that makes the Wii U version excel.

As Sam creeps through the darkness, a green light on his shoulder tells the player that he’s covered in the darkness. It can be over in a flash, but the smooth nature of movement around the environments helps that flow greatly. Mark and Execute can be used to quickly eradicate a few enemies, as you only need to silently kill a few to fill the meter up, but it can also be used to track movement, along with the radar that you unlock. Customizable/upgradeable goggles can eventually allow the ability to track footprints. This aids in letting you track enemy patrols. As I mentioned earlier, Sam’s appearance is customizable too. Each piece of clothing from his suit can be enhanced, increasing his stats for stealth and armor. Every single weapon is upgradeable and has a healthy variety of options for each. Blacklist even gives you the option to upgrade your accessories as well, such as the tri-rotor “flying drone”. When using this drone or a sticky camera, the GamePad will immediately display the video and not the TV. It is a very cool and integral feature that distinguishes the Wii U version from the rest. The single player story will take you anywhere between 8 to 12 hours depending on the difficulty. If you choose to do more side missions to earn cash and greater upgrades, than the later number can easily go past 15 hours.

If the extensive single player wasn’t enough, Ubisoft has brought back Spies vs. Mercs. Classic mode is a simple 2 vs. 2 game where one team must hack three terminals, as the other team tries to stop it happening. Blacklist adds a new version of this that increases the player count to 4 vs.4. This mode doubles the amount of players while enabling the full customization features from the single player campaign. Extraction is another mode that is basically a Deathmatch. Then there is Uplink Control, which is a king of the hill mode. These four online modes are sure to keep gamers busy for a quite a long time. Spies vs. Mercs mode is a marvelous mode that will keep you enthralled the longest. It helps to have a dedicated group of friends on your list also.

Splinter Cell Blacklist Wii U Gameplay 1

Upgrading Sam’s equipment is essential throughout the experience.

Graphics: 4/5

Blacklist is a gorgeous production regardless of what platform you purchase it for. However, there are some blemishes that keep it from reaching near perfection. I reviewed the Wii U version of the game, but after careful research have concluded that there are similarities and differences among all the console versions. All three versions suffer from stiff animations on a lot of the NPC characters. Unfortunately, it is more noticeable only because the rest of the game (for the most part) is very beautiful to look at. The 360 and PS3 version seem to suffer from screen-tearing, regardless of installation or not. The Wii U version occasionally will drop one or two points in frame rate, which is hardly noticeable to the human eye, but I must mention it in the interest of equality. Additionally, cut scenes often had some lip syncing issues that did pop up more than a few times on all platforms. Aside from these shortcomings, whether in daylight or darkness, the game looks terrific. The transfer from the TV to the GamePad on the Wii U version is incredible. Visually on the GamePad, the game loses a notch at the most, but still manages to look amazingly pretty on there.

This is easily one of the best visuals I’ve seen on the Wii U in general. The inside of your control center on the Paladin really makes you feel like you’re flying aboard a mobile ultra-stealth air carrier with a team of experts around you. The textures within environments are near perfect, and the lighting effects of course play a huge part in the game. The environments tend to feel alive and real, which many sandbox games today just can’t accomplish. Back in 2010, SC: Conviction was a world that felt alive and open, even if you had a linear path, and in Blacklist, it’s even more apparent. This factor alone easily makes you feel more engrossed in this alternate world of spies and terrorist that most ordinary citizens will never see, nor experience. Despite some inconsistencies, the world of Sam Fisher has never looked better.

Splinter Cell Blacklist Wii U Gameplay 3

Sound: 5/5

Disappointingly, the voice acting of Sam Fisher, Michael Ironside was not allowed to return and reclaim his famed role of Sam Fisher. I must say that this man’s voice is what made the franchise what it is today. Mr. Ironside brought such a deadpan and black comedy sense of humor to the role of Sam that his presence is easily missed here. Ending on that note, I have to say that Eric Johnson does a great job of trying to deliver a cold and calculating protagonist that’s sole concern is only the mission at hand. Sam Fisher feels authentic again and as vicious as he has to be. The supporting cast delivers convincingly genuine Hollywood dialogue with only a sprinkle of cheesy thrown in (thankfully its only a sprinkle). The script is well executed, hitting all the notes of a serious plot that is further intensified through a cast that are reading their lines with passion. The soundtrack combines a 24/Homeland feel that adds perfectly in the background to the “race to the clock” war storyline.

Splinter Cell Blacklist Wii U Gameplay 6

Overall Score: 19/20 = 9.0 out of 10

Splinter Cell: Blacklist is truly a worthwhile, first-rate experience. It has its faults in certain areas, but it is easy to forget them while playing the adventure. Bringing back the classic Spies Vs. Mercs was a wise choice that is sure to please many SP: Conviction alumni. For $60, you are getting an above-average length single player campaign that encompasses a riveting plot and cast. All this, while welcoming gamers of all crowds, whether the stealth or the action player, you will find your niche with open arms. Blacklist is a summer blockbuster with value that will extend beyond the season. This a great addition for the Splinter Cell franchise, and a fantastic Wii U title. A special nod of recognition must go out to Ubisoft for their continued support of Nintendo, and their recognition in the Wii U’s potential on the world stage of gaming.

PROS:

+ Gorgeous visuals

+ Riveting Plot

+ Choices, Choices, Choices

+ Spies Vs. Mercs is Back

CONS:

– No Ironside

– Load times can be extreme for the Wii U version

– NPC facial animations can be stiff

Copy purchased by author for review purposes. Review based on Wii U version.

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