Danger Zone Review (PS4): “It’s Crashin’ Time”

Cars, explosions and mayhem are a recipe for disaster in the best way possible when it comes to entertainment. Danger Zone, a spiritual successor to Burnout’s Crash Mode, has just released for the PS4 courtesy of Three Fields Entertainment (comprised of creators from the Burnout series). This downloadable title is a return to what they know how to do best: Create a game about causing the most amount of destruction possible with your car. Is this downloadable spiritual successor a worthy return?

Danger Zone is designed to heavily resemble Burnout’s Crash Mode. For those who never experienced this phenomenal mode in the racing series, Crash Mode was about driving into a heavily congested traffic environment to cause the biggest accident possible. Danger Zone literally creates the same premise for the new generation. However, opposed to driving in living environments and cityscapes, you are driving in a virtually simulated environment.

When starting an event, you will see an overview of the simulated roads and traffic to give you an idea of how to plan your big crash. Taking control of the car, fans of Burnout will be right at home, with the tight controls and physics. Once ramming into another car, you can still control your totaled vehicle with the left analog stick and sway it in the desired direction. However, you can only do this for as long as there is momentum in the wrecked vehicle. This is essential to trying to nudge a car into another lane, or even trying to collect items like bonus cash and Smashbreakers. Smashbreakers are exactly like Burnout’s Crashbreakers. This will allow you to explode your vehicle and any other cars within the radius, while giving you control again to push your vehicle elsewhere. Trying to grab Smashbreaker icons along the course is key to stringing together some crazy combos. Also, you need to try and be careful not to fall off the track. Falling off will derezz your car and your run will be over immediately. You will have to earn a certain amount of money in an event to score either a bronze, silver, gold, or platinum medal for the run. You can simply progress to the next event by at least obtaining a bronze. Gradually, the game’s events will become more intricate. This will require further creative ways to cause mayhem in order to advance. Each run though takes no more than a minute or two to see fully unfold, which makes this great for pickup-and-play aspects. 

Now as fun as this all is, Danger Zone comes with some issues. First off, the biggest issue is the lack of personality. While the game is supposed to have a “test facility” setting, it just feels devoid of personality. The fact that this is the only environment you will see in the game is lackluster. Also, you only get to use the one test car the whole game. There are no local or online multiplayer modes what-so-ever either. It does have leaderboard support, but a game like this would certainly gather friends together to try and compete to who can cause the craziest crash. Lastly, not that this affects the overall score, but the lack of a platinum trophy is a bit of a bummer.

Danger Zone runs on Unreal Engine 4, and everything looks very well detailed. Cars have details to them when crashing, whether some scrapes on the side or the cars themselves actually charred up from fire. There’s nice shading and lighting, as well as sharp texture work. The animations and physics are very appropriate and have a good weight to the carnage happening on-screen. Interestingly, the game runs at 30 fps, while the game’s main menu runs at 60 fps. While it’s intense seeing all the crashing occur, the Burnout games were able to maintain 60 fps during gameplay, with more happening in the environment. This has a lifeless environment with not much happening to prevent 60 fps. Does it affect the overall gameplay? Not necessarily…but it’s noticeable. The audio effects are crisp, with the engine echoing in the opening tunnels, cars crunching into each other, tires screeching, car alarms going off, and explosions going on. The audio is great without question…but there’s not an ounce of music to be found in the game. I can understand no music playing during the crash event itself, but zero music for the main menu or results screen feels lacking.

Danger Zone is a fun title that brings back Burnout’s glorious Crash Mode, but isn’t without its shortcomings. The gameplay is crazy fun and it’s great for pickup-and-play sessions. Unfortunately, the issues mentioned do detract from the overall package, with the worst being the game’s lifeless simulated environment. Despite its shortcomings though, Danger Zone is a title that still is worth a shot and very reasonable for $12, especially if you’re a big fan of Burnout’s Crash Mode.

Overall Score: 7.0 out of 10 = BUY IT!

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for Danger Zone! Copy reviewed on PlayStation 4.

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.

Cave Story + Review (Switch): “A Story Worth Telling”

Cave Story + is the latest hit indie to get a full retail release on the Switch by publisher Nicalis. Cave Story first released as a PC freeware project back in 2004. Creator Daisuke “Pixel” Amaya single-handedly crafted every detail in the game back in its initial release. Since then, the game has received various enhanced ports over the years, whether it be for the WiiWare, DSiWare, 3DS, Steam, and now Nintendo Switch. Is this story worth visiting?

Story: 4/5

Right from the start, you control a character named Quote, an amnesiac with no idea as to who or where you are, nor what’s going on. You find yourself in a mysterious cave without any weapons to start with. As you progress, you come across creatures known as Mimigas, a bunny-like civilization that seems to be dwindling in numbers. In speaking with them, you will start to hear bits and pieces as to what is going on, and just how pivotal your character’s role prior to his amnesia played. There are a cast of characters that really help flesh out the game’s plot, with several twists and turns that keep you constantly wondering and wanting to see more unravel. What are the red flowers? Who is Sue? What are the massive eggs in the Egg Chamber? Who is the Doctor? These are but a few questions that kick things off early on. Also, certain actions and choices you make in the game will affect your ending. It’s difficult to really get further into the story without ruining the surprises ahead, but what’s here is truly great and enticing. The main gripe here is that you cannot immediately skip cutscenes after at least watching them once (more on that later on).

Gameplay: 5/5

Cave Story + is, for all intents and purposes, an enhanced version of the original game. However, there are still many who may not have experienced Cave Story to this day, so lets cover the game’s framework and mechanics first. Cave Story is a 2D homage, action-adventure platformer, akin to Metroid where exploration is rewarded. It plays very much like an 8-bit game, with all the mystery and intrigue of discovering elements on your own, but providing just enough knowledge to get you going. You will traverse the various locations within the cave, finding health capsules to increase your health, weapons to further defend yourself, and useful items that will help you progress through the environment.

Controlling Quote feels incredibly responsive and simple. You have your jump and shoot buttons, with the shoulder buttons letting you cycle through weapons on the fly. If you do not have the Pro controller, no worries. The Joy-Cons felt just as great (and dare I say I preferred this control method). Platforming itself feels tight and fair. If you miss a platform, it’s not the game’s fault, but rather your miscalculation. Quote can wield a variety of weapons to defend himself. You will first acquire the Polar Star, a pistol-like weapon. Throughout the journey, Quote will wield missile launchers, blades, machine guns, flamethrowers, and a few others. Enemies drop gold gems, that when collected will fill up that currently equipped weapon’s level gauge. Each weapon can be leveled up to three times. Each level radically changes the way the weapon fires. Even their uses may change. For example, the machine gun not only gets more powerful, but by it’s third level, can be used as a jetpack of sorts. Each of the game’s weapons are a blast to use and quite creatively designed. While some weapons have ammo for them, you will rarely have to worry about collecting ammo. Ammunition regenerates at a rapid rate (except for the missile launcher, the only weapon with ammo to collect for). Careful though, as taking damage will begin to diminish the equipped weapon’s level meter, so it can drop down level.

Cave Story is a challenging game that screams old-school. While the game does offer multiple difficulty settings, you will be challenged even on the easy setting. Whether the boss battles test your skills, or the clever level design’s platforming does, it really nails that 8-bit, old-school feel. There are no checkpoints at all as well. The only means of a checkpoint are finding floppy disks to save your game. If you die, you will reload at the last save point. Thankfully, save points are not too few and far in between. The most impressive element that truly harkens back to the old-school gaming days is how your adventure unfolds. Certain character interactions and item swapping can affect the weapons and items you will carry to the end of the game, as well as alter the game’s ending. Holding onto one weapon, may benefit you in the end game, as opposed to trading it in for someone else’s weapon. Picking up certain items that seem useless may actually help in a way you didn’t expect. NPC interaction is a massive element to the game. You need to initiate the conversations with NPCs to see if that will provide a choice factor, or provide hints to assist in your adventure. The game’s pacing is also sublime. Never at any single moment did the game feel like it dragged or had filler just to extend the game’s length.

Upon completing Cave Story with the “best” ending or with certain elements completed in the story, there are a variety of extra modes and content unlocked. First off, you can unlock an additional story mode called Curly Story. This lets you experience the game as Curly Brace, who will have more dialogue in place where Quote never spoke. Additionally, there are Challenges to access in the main menu and even an unlockable Boss Attack mode. These challenges have leaderboard support as well. For this Switch version, two-player co-op is being added later this summer.

As superb as Cave Story’s gameplay is, there were two things that stood out as minor irritants. The first was the lack of being able to skip cutscenes. When you watch a cutscene, then start a boss battle, die, and then reload your game, to only have to keep pressing A to somewhat speed up the dialogue…well, that can be a bit tedious. The second is that while there is a map system, it’s absolutely minuscule to understand, whether playing on the TV or the Switch itself. While I rarely ever resorted to it, the times I pulled it up I couldn’t help but wonder why it was so tiny. Despite these two elements though, that doesn’t hinder Cave Story from being an absolutely addictive game that’s immensely difficult to put down. Upon completing the game the first time, I immediately started up a second file to replay the game and try to acquire a different ending and make different decisions to change up the game. Not many games achieve that nature.

Graphics: 5/5

Cave Story + is a beautifully vibrant and clean upgrade from the original Cave Story. Everything looks crisp and smooth, whether in 1080p on the TV or 720p undocked on the Switch. All characters have nice animations and better detail than ever before. Environments are also incredibly well designed, with each area having great detail and variety to help each locale look and feel unique. Even the water reacts smoothly to when Quote submerges and surfaces. All this, while also running at a locked 60 fps, really makes the game look stunning. The only aspect that would’ve been a nice additional option would be if you were able to change the graphical styles to that of the previous versions (even the 3DS’s polygonal look).

Sound: 4/5

The game’s chiptune soundtrack accompanies the action on-screen very well. Whether it be upbeat or somber tunes, each track fits well for the most-part in the areas and scenarios presented. While not every song stood out, what’s here is still very good. Sound effects also fit just right, with each weapon sounding unique and pertaining to the style weapon it is, the explosions, and the selection tones. A really nice touch is being able to choose from four versions of the game’s soundtrack: Cave Story +, Remastered, Famitracks, or Organya. Personally, I enjoyed Remastered the most of the four. You can even listen to the game’s Jukebox and hear each track’s version.

Overall Score: 18/20 = 9.0 out of 10

Cave Story + is a fantastic game that still holds up all these years since it’s original release. The gameplay is addictive and downright superb, the visuals are stunning, and the story is very engaging. The game’s constant mystery and sense of discovery replicates that of the golden days in gaming. If you’ve never experienced Cave Story before, there’s never been a better time. If you’ve played through the game already, investing in the awesome physical copy (which includes CD soundtrack and full-color instruction booklet) is certainly worth the $30 price tag.

Pros:

+ Sublime gameplay
+ Engaging story
+ Various soundtrack versions to choose
+ Free future DLC
+ Excellent physical copy packaging to outweigh digital version

Cons:

– Unskippable cutscenes (when replaying sections)
– Map system is minuscule
– We have to still wait for two-player co-op mode

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for Cave Story +! Copy reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

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.

NBA Playgrounds Review (Switch/PS4/X1): “Frazzle Dazzle”

NBA Playgrounds is an homage to the basketball games of yesteryear. In a time where games were not aiming to be ultra-realistic simulations, we had awesome arcade-style basketball games like NBA Jam, NBA Hang Time, and NBA Street (the second game being this reviewer’s favorite). Saber Interactive has now decided to revitalize this lost take on the genre with their latest title, NBA Playgrounds. Is this title a “razzle dazzle”?

NBA Playgrounds is a 2v2 style basketball game that aims for the pickup-and-play zaniness of NBA Jam, but with its own modern twists. You start off the game opening up card packs. Each card pack contains five basketball players to add to your accessible roster. You get a few packs to start with and can earn more by playing through the game’s Tournament mode. You get to mix and match your players to form the dynamic duo team of your liking, and can mix this up any time before a matchup begins. The tournament will take you to varied locales like New York City, Paris, Shanghai and Hong Kong to name a few. Each of the outdoor courts do a very good job of capturing the locale you’re playing at. There are six locations around the world where you will partake in tournaments, each with four matches. Each match even has a bonus objective to tackle to help net you more XP for your active players (more on that later).

The game’s mechanics are fairly easy to pickup-and-play, much like that of NBA Jam. You’ve got your simple pass, shoot, steal, block, and turbo buttons in place. Even each of the players have stats that resemble the style of NBA Jam, whether it be the 3-point, Dunk, Block, Steal, and Rebound skills to name a few. When holding the turbo button, you can move the right analog stick to pull off tricks. The more tricks you pull off while connecting it with a dunk, the more your special meter will fill up. This system is interesting, as it runs a lottery pick for a power up that could help change the odds of a match. For example, you may be able to get double points for dunks for a short time, get a single 100% accurate shot no matter where on the court you are, unlimited turbo, etc. Each time you complete a locale in the Tournament mode, you also earn a new lottery pick powerup.

At the end of each match, you will get XP for both your player profile and the players on your team. You will earn new card packs to unlock more players each time you level up, and your players will level up from bronze, to silver, to then gold status the more you use them. It’s also very commendable that the developers didn’t fall into the microtransaction route with unlocking more players or “buying” card packs. You will get duplicates in the packs occasionally, but this converts into XP for that particular player should you have them already. Also, you can earn Epic and Legend cards, which consist of classic basketball players.

Sounds promising so far, right? However, this is unfortunately where things get a bit dicey. Unlike NBA Jam or NBA Street, the mechanics here never feel fluid, and a lot of that has to do with the useless teammate AI. So let’s get this out of the way, if you’re planning on playing this solo, you are going to have a frustrating time due to your teammate AI. Unfortunately, there’s no way to play the Tournament mode with a friend, which is the main method of unlocking content. Your teammate will literally do nothing but run around following an opposing teammate, but that’s it. He will not try to block shots. He will not try to steal the ball. He will not go for rebounds. He will not even listen to your command to set up an alley-oop when you press the button for it. Additionally, taking shots at the basket also feels very inconsistent. You have to time your button press and let go of the shot button at a certain animation frame to better your accuracy. The problem is that the animation is in such a precise window that is almost impossible to master, or even pull off on a regular basis. Even the dunks require letting go of the shot button…and good luck even figuring out what animation frame point to let go on this one. There is apparently an update in the works to provide a shot meter which should help dramatically, but in the meantime, this is what we have.

Lastly, the game does have its Exhibition and Online modes. Exhibition allows you to fully customize the rules, as well as even change the ball being used for the match. This is definitely where the game will shine, in particular when playing with a friend here. However, the Online mode is interesting. The developers stated that the Switch version would have online running shortly after launch and it’s been roughly three weeks since launch…still nothing. So unfortunately, there’s not much to report on this end and frankly, this could’ve helped the overall score considering the dumb AI in Tournament mode makes for a frustrating single-player experience.

Visually, NBA Playgrounds has a neat art style that nails the over-the-top nature of the game, giving an arcade-like feel to it. Dunk animations look great, and characters animate fairly smooth. The environments have character to them and it’s great seeing outdoor locations that take place around the world. On the flipside, the big problem that rear its ugly head quick is when you see the game running on the Switch docked, and then you undock it. While the game looks solid on the TV, the undocked mode has the game running well below the 720p capabilities, giving the players a very blurry and practically standard-definition appearance. Hopefully this gets patched as well. It makes playing it on-the-go fairly ugly. The game does run at 60 fps most of the time, but the start of each match has the framerate running erratically for about five seconds or so. It’s not game-breaking, but it is jarring and happens regardless if it’s docked or undocked. In terms of audio, the announcers are entertaining to listen to. While nowhere near the classic nature of NBA Jam’s announcer, they do provide some chuckle worthy commentary. The soundtrack is comprised of hip-hop beats, and it fits the game pretty well. Sound effects also do a good job capturing the powerful dunks, dribbling and squeaks of the sneakers on the street courts.

NBA Playgrounds is game that screams pickup-and-play. The problems here though lie within its poor teammate AI, sub-HD undocked visuals, inconsistent shot mechanics, and lack of functional online mode (despite the option being in the main menu, sitting there locked). Even despite all these gripes, I did find myself coming back more and more for a round here and there. What is here is still playable and somewhat enjoyable playing solo. However, there’s no denying the game needs some updating, as it needed a bit more time for a “boomshaklaka”.

Overall Score: 6.0 out of 10 = Wait for a Price Drop (or Patch Update)

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for NBA Playgrounds! Copy reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

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.

FAST RMX Review (Switch) – “The New F-Zero”

It has been 14 years since Nintendo released a new home console installment for their popular series, F-Zero. Thankfully, Shin’en Multimedia has been so fond of the series, they’ve taken up the task of creating their own high-speed,  futuristic racing game series, FAST. The series first started as a WiiWare title called FAST Racing League, then saw a sequel on the Wii U know as FAST Racing NEO. Shin’en has now brought FAST RMX to the Switch as a launch day title. Is this a title you should race to buy?

FAST RMX is a dramatically-enhanced version of FAST Racing NEO. It brings double the amount of tracks (30 tracks in total), double the vehicles, enhanced visuals, plenty more bumpin’ tunes, and some gameplay refinements. You will partake in the game’s Championship mode, which is broken down into 10 cups, with three tracks in each. You have three difficulty levels as well that also affect the game’s speed: Subsonic, Hypersonic, and Supersonic. Just to give you an idea of how “fast” FAST is: On the Subsonic difficulty (the game’s easy mode), you will be flying through levels at 700+ MPH; expect to be doing over 1000+ MPH on Supersonic difficulty. The team at Shin’en absolutely nailed the exhilarating sense of speed, all while being able to control your vehicle through that velocity.

If you’ve never played a FAST installment, imagine F-Zero and Wipeout combined, with a polarity twist (i.e. Ikaruga, Outland). As you’re zipping your way through tracks, you will need to switch your ship’s color polarity between blue and orange to hit specific colored boost and jump pads. Having the opposite polarity on will either slow you down dramatically or make you fall to your doom. It’s an extremely well-implemented system, and one which gives FAST its own identity.

As mentioned, cups will consist of three races, with every track providing variety to the backdrop and mechanics. Whether you’re racing through a windy desert, a perilous snowstorm, a stormy coast, or outside a space station, there’s plenty of variety in the tracks. If the speed’s not enough to keep you on your toes, the AI will; it will challenge you and have no qualms about taking advantage of you missing boost pads or boost orbs. Thankfully, FAST RMX’s refinements have adjusted difficulty curve from its Wii U predecessor, making it a feel much more fair. Also when you beat any cup, you unlock those levels from the completed cup for Hero mode (more on that below).

There are 15 vehicles to choose from in FAST RMX, most of which need to be unlocked. Each vehicle has its pros and cons with different attributes for acceleration, top speed, boost power, and weight. If you want more top speed, chances are the vehicle will be heavier to turn and have slower acceleration. If you want better control, you may sacrifice top speed for that.

Aside from the game’s Championship mode, you can grab a few buddies for 4-player split-screen action, or gather multiple Switch consoles and do 8-player local multiplayer. If that’s not enough, you can always take the action to the 8-player online mode. The online functionality ran smoothly during our tests. When jumping online, you choose your vehicle and are instantly thrown into the middle of race. If the race started, you will have to wait it to end (but you will still be able to watch what’s happening in the meantime). It’s very easy to jump into an online match. Unfortunately at the time of writing, there is no way to party up with friends. However, Shin’en has stated that the feature is in the works.

FAST RMX includes a Hero mode for you F-Zero fans out there. Your boost meters doubles as your shield in this mode, drastically ramping up the game’s difficulty. Like F-Zero, you will be focusing on balancing boost with shield, only boosting when absolutely necessary. In FAST Racing NEO, Hero mode was locked until you beat every cup on every difficulty (and due to the high level of difficulty, many never got to experience this mode). This time around, Hero mode is accessible once you beat any cup in Championship mode.

The controls in RMX feel a bit more refined than in its predecessor. This is also one of the few launch games that utilizes HD Rumble, and you certainly feel it. When playing with the Joy-Cons in separate hands, you will feel collisions coming from different directions. Hit a wall on the right and you’ll feel it in the right Joy-Con. Drive through a windstorm in the desert and you’ll feel the wind whirl through the controller. It’s a neat addition and showcases the potential of HD Rumble. The game supports every control type possible: Joy-Cons paired, Joy-Con sideways, and Pro controller. While the Pro controller did feel more comfortable for this game, the Joy-Cons still felt more than suitable. You even have the option of playing with motion controls.

Visually, FAST RMX is absolutely stunning. FAST RMX is up there with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as a visual showpiece that’ll impress anyone who sees the game in action. Its Wii U predecessor ran at 720p and 60 FPS, but RMX runs at a native 1080p and 60 FPS locked. This frame rate holds up even in intense 4-player split-screen action. This is brilliant, and something I hope other developers take note of. Levels and vehicles are superbly-detailed, with sharp texture work and terrific lighting. The sense of speed is also second-to-none, with awesome visual effects that truly make you feel how fast you’re going. The developers even implemented a feature to make the visuals even sharper in the options menu called Chromatic Aberration. This removes the softening tone of textures.

FAST RMX’s audio is also praiseworthy. From the moment you boot it up, the bumpin’ techno/electronica soundtrack will have you further immersed in the white-knuckle races. It really nails the insanely fast-paced tone and setting of the game. Sound effects are sublime as well. The menu effects, boosting, colliding, environment and announcer all truly make this audio stand out. And speaking of the announcer, F-Zero GX fans will notice that Jack Merluzzi provides his talent here as well. All-in-all this is one powerful audio package that deserves to be cranked up.

FAST RMX is a truly sublime racing experience. This is one game that’s very difficult to put down once you pick it up. Its addictive gameplay, insane sense of speed, breathtaking visuals, and superb audio really make this a phenomenal package. The amazing part is that everything here only costs $19.99 – a triple-A-quality package at a bargain price. While the online mode is missing a friends option at the time of this review, the game is an absolutely exhilarating adrenaline-rush overall. If you own a Switch, rush onto the eShop and buy this game. If you don’t own a Switch yet, this game is another reason to own one.

Overall Score: 9.0 out of 10 = BUY IT!

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.

Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove Review (Switch) – “Pure 8-Bit Solid Gold”

With indies being a scene where developers can truly create the games they envision, Yacht Club Games sought out to release a game that’s an homage to the golden NES era of gaming. Shovel Knight was a true Kickstarter success story, and since then, the developers have continued to keep adding to the game. Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove has hit the Nintendo Switch as a launch day title, containing three campaigns: Shovel of Hope (the original Shovel Knight), Plague of Shadows, and the newly released Specter of Torment. How does this compilation fare on Nintendo’s new platform, and how does Specter of Torment fare as the newly released addition?

Let’s kick off by saying, if you haven’t played Shovel Knight on any platform yet, there is no better time to experience it. Yacht Club Games is extremely passionate of their project and have literally brought it to almost every platform possible. Now, here we are with a version for the Nintendo Switch, containing the entire package plus more. As mentioned, Shovel Knight contains three campaigns, and while the majority of the review will cover Specter of Torment, we will cover the basic ground work of what’s new with the previous campaigns.

Shovel Knight’s original campaign remains fully intact, with the added features such as co-op play and Custom Knight (both of which were on the Wii U with its latest update). Additionally, there is a new feature to summon a fairy knight to follow you around and highlight where helpful items are (both in plain sight and hidden). Plague of Shadows takes the original campaign’s framework and provides players with an entirely new (and challenging) way to play by controlling Plague Knight. This has players trying to master the alchemy that Plague Knight wields, and utilizing this fully during platforming sequences. It’s a fun twist to the original Shovel of Hope campaign that’s certainly a ramped up challenge. However, the real highlight of the show here is Specter of Torment. While the original Shovel Knight (Shovel of Hope) is a spectacular game, and Plague of Shadows is a blast (literally), Specter of Torment really takes the formula further ahead.

This campaign serves as a prequel to the events leading up to Shovel of Hope. It tells the tragic story of Donovan and how he became Specter Knight. Without spoiling anything, Specter of Torment’s story is the strongest one told yet, and kept me going to see how it all connected. You will face off against all the knights from Shovel of Hope, showing how they swore their allegiance to the Enchantress. However, the levels will not be the same layouts as that from Shovel of Hope. Make no mistake, Specter of Torment feels more like a sequel to Shovel Knight (even if it is a prequel) rather than a simple addition.

Specter Knight’s platforming and combat has much more versatility than Shovel Knight and Plague Knight. Thanks to Specter Knight’s ability to run up walls for short distances, grind rails on his scythe, and “Dash Slash”, this really adds an engaging new dynamic to the gameplay. It’s not even just these new mechanics, but rather the brilliance in each level’s design. Yacht Club Games clearly provided an immense level of care to each stage, testing players with these mechanics and making them feel rewarded. Even with those tense platforming moments, the game never hits that mark of being “hard” just to be “hard”, but rather hits that perfect mark of being “challenging but fair”. Even the Dash Slash makes a big difference in terms of combat. Imagine Ninja Gaiden’s Ryu Hayabusa homing in on ememies with his air slash attack and you have an idea of what’s in place here. Whether with enemies or bosses, it feels gratifying to keep pulling off. And speaking of bosses, all the bosses have new attacks and tricks up their sleeves. Oh and the final boss battle in particular is really badass.

Specter Knight’s overall structure is similar to Shovel of Hope. After the opening level, you will be presented to the Tower Hub where you can walk around and talk to NPCs, acquire upgrades, find hidden elements, and choose your level. Unlike Shovel of Hope, you will have access to all the levels right from the get-go (akin to Mega Man). Throughout the levels you will find red skulls. These can be used to acquire Darkness abilities in the Tower Hub. These abilities range from summoning a skeleton sniper, to recovering health, to throwing your scythe and have it slice along platforms to take out enemies. A really neat feature is that when you cash in the skulls for an ability, you are brought to an area where you must escape using that particular ability. As opposed to just having the ability and rarely trying it, or not knowing how it works at all, the developers found a perfect middle ground introducing new abilities. You can even upgrade those abilities and acquire new sets of armor to change your passive attributes. For example, there’s an armor that allows you to still live if you fall on spikes or fall in a perilous pit (which would normally be an instakill).

When you beat the 3-5 hour campaign, there’s a New Game Plus mode, as well as a Challenge mode. You can even go back and try to get 100% game completion before tackling New Game Plus. Investing in the Treasure Trove collection versus just Specter of Torment will net you the previous campaigns as mentioned. Also new in this version is Body Swap mode. Every character has a male and female altered appearance now. The Enchantress will now be The Enchanter, and all the Knights will have specified appearances and animations to coincide with their gender swap. It’s a neat little feature, and one that feels more thoughtout than thrown-in. Playing through Shovel Knight in co-op is also a great addition and something not often seen in 2D side-scrollers.

Visually, Specter of Torment (and its predecessors) is a flawless rendition of how an old-school, 8-bit game looks. The game runs at 60 fps (as many NES games did), has stunning sprite work, and excellent backdrop effects. It’s like literally popping in a high-quality NES cartridge. It’s just stunning to see how clean it all looks while maintaining the authentic old-school style. Audio wise, Jake Kaufman returns to provide a remixed soundtrack (and some new tunes of course) for Specter of Torment, and hits it out of the park. The soundtrack perfectly nails the energy this campaign has and stuck with me well after turning the game off. The entire audio package is superb and really nails the NES feel to a tee. 

It must be stated that I was a bit concerned playing this with the Joy-Con’s button pad. After going back and forth playing this with the Joy-Cons and Pro controller, I can positively say that the Joy-Con’s button pad was very natural to play with. So if you were on the fence about playing this side scroller with the Joy-Cons and can’t find a Pro controller at the moment, the button pad does a superb job.

No matter how you perceive it, the NES era was an absolutely essential moment in gaming history. Through the 8-bit era, we have come to see many iconic characters burst into the gaming world, becoming legends amongst the gaming society. From Mario, Link, Mega Man, Hayabusa, Bomberman, and countless others, there’s no denying the impact these characters made 30+ years ago, up to this very day. Shovel Knight and crew certainly ranks among these legendary characters. Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove is an absolutely essential game to own on the Switch. It’s perfectly crafted gameplay and level design truly showcase a labor of love for this genre that many others cannot imitate. For $25, you’re getting a combined 10-15 hours of three campaigns, plus an additional free campaign (King Knight) releasing in the near future, as well as a free 4-player Battle Arena mode (also in the near future). Steel thy shovel and get this collection now!

Overall Score: 9.5 out of 10 = BUY IT!

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove! Copy reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

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.

Aqua Moto Racing Utopia Review (PS4/PC) – “Refreshing Ride”

Aqua Moto Racing Utopia_20161221142058

Extreme sports racing games are a dime a dozen nowadays, but there are some developers trying to rekindle relatable experiences, while also aiming for a new market. Swedish developer Zordix has been establishing themselves with a series that started on the iOS/Android called Aqua Moto Racing. In years to come, they brought their series to the 3DS, and now, they’re bringing the series to home consoles for the first time ever. Aqua Moto Racing Utopia is the latest installment in the series, available on Steam and PS4 (with a Wii U release in the near future). Is this worth braving the waves of the ocean, or is it stuck in open-waters?

Aqua Moto Racing Utopia is essentially a racing game that most closely resembles Nintendo’s “Wave Race” series. You will race through a series of championship events, each with different CC engine speeds, as well as jet-ski types (sit-down and stand-up models). The sit-down jet-skis are much more speed-focused, whereas the stand-up ones excel in stunt flexibility. Before hitting the waters though, you will start off by creating your own character. This is a nice way to kick things off by giving the player a bit of customization. There are a decent amount of options to tinker with to ensure not everyone looks similar out on the waters.

Aqua Moto Racing Utopia_20161221142521

Races rely on racing alongside the buoys in place on each track. You’ll be bobbing-and-weaving your way on the water to ensure you’re on the right side of the buoy you need to pass. If you miss three of these in a race, you’re disqualified. As you progress, you will earn cash based on your placement (as well as some to earn out on the track). This can be used to purchase newer and better jet-skis, with multiple attributes that are affected. Each jet-ski can be customized with a variety of colors, whether it’s the body or decals.

Each environment has a distinct feel, with multiple variation tracks to tackle throughout the game’s championship mode. Whether it’s the lush jungles, a water filled town in China, the open-ocean around tanker ships and oil rigs, or tropical paradises (to name a few), all of these locales are as fun to ride as they are unique. Another cool aspect is the option to race in first-person mode. The way the camera handles in this really adds to the immersion, whether you’re whipping around turns or doing flips in the air.

Aqua Moto Racing Utopia_20161221142318

Any game revolving around water is reliant on its physics, and honestly, the physics in place are quite good. The jet-skis handle more or less like they should on both calm and intense waves, with an arcade-style feel to it. It may be a little less interactive than Wave Race’s water physics, but what’s in place here works great. When going off of jumps and high waves, you’ll be able to pull off tricks as well. Doing so will allow you to gain boost. You can also pull off specific tricks while on water. The tricks are fairly simple to pull off, with some more advanced ones that take some time to master. There were some instances though (more evident during trick events) when the trick inputs didn’t respond, or the trick name was displayed but the animation kicked in after releasing the buttons. It worked well enough for the most part, but this particular instance is something that could be patched.

Aqua Moto Racing Utopia_20161221142528

There are plenty of modes to explore as well. Aside from the game’s core championship mode, there are time trial and free roam modes. Time trial is standard fare, except you’re provided times to beat to go for a gold medal in each track (aside from beating your own times). Free roam has you go around any of the game’s environments, but with a twist. There are “Z Balls” to collect in each environment, as well as a hidden collectible to find. Also, there are interactive events that can be triggered in each area, which is a great little feature to incorporate here. Then there’s the multiplayer modes. The game supports both local and online multiplayer. Local multiplayer has 4-player split-screen action, whether you’re racing against each other or tackling the party games together. The party games are a blast, whether it be Aqua Moto Hockey, King of the Hill, Capture the Flag, or our personal favorite here, Duckling Mama (think Super Rub-a-Dub from the PS3 launch days…if you ever played that). The online multiplayer strangely only consists of racing against others, with no party games to be found. While the party games are tailored more for the couch multiplayer, it would be nice to get friends together online to do this as well. That being said though, we were able to test out the online amongst staff members here and can say it ran quite smooth. Oh, and there’s a fairly attainable Platinum trophy to be found in this game as well.

I think we're going to need a bigger jet-ski...

I think we’re going to need a bigger jet-ski…

Visually, Aqua Moto Racing Utopia is an incredibly clean and vibrant looking game. Environments look great, with some nice texture work and immensely inviting water. The objects and jet-skis are also well-detailed and appropriately scaled. Characters on the other hand are a bit lacking detail-wise, and have some stilted animations. There’s one odd animation too when landing from a trick. If you’re not fully complete with the trick, the animation doesn’t finish and goes right to the rider and his jet-ski being perfectly leveled with the water. Is it immersion-breaking? Not entirely, but it’s noticeable. On the flip-side, the game runs at a smooth 60 frames-per-second, which is a huge feat. The audio in AMRU is also right-on. Each environment has music that matches the locale very well, and the audio effects do a good job capturing the arcade-style feel to the game. The announcer on the other hand sounds mundane and unnecessary. Honestly, just going to the options and shutting him off makes it better.

Aqua Moto Racing Utopia_20161221144441

All-in-all, Aqua Moto Racing Utopia is a great game that can easily be recommended to fans of arcade-style racers, and more so, fans of Nintendo’s Wave Race series (since Nintendo still has yet to return to the series within the past 15 years). Zordix has really evolved this series since its conception on iOS, and continues to get better each time. While the $30 price tag may be a bit steep for those on the fence, it’s certainly a worthy game to add to your collection. Between its vibrant visuals, addictive gameplay, and strong local party games, Aqua Moto Racing Utopia is one wave you’ll want to ride.

Overall Score: 8.0 out of 10

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for Aqua Moto Racing Utopia! Copy reviewed on PS4.

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.

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.

RESIDENT EVIL REVELATIONS 2_20150319210053

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.

RESIDENT EVIL REVELATIONS 2_20150322232454

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.

RESIDENT EVIL REVELATIONS 2_20150322231237

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.

RESIDENT EVIL REVELATIONS 2_20150324090134

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.

RESIDENT EVIL REVELATIONS 2_20150324001041

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.

RESIDENT EVIL REVELATIONS 2_20150322232236

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.

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.

Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires Review (PS4/X1): “Hack, Slash and Take Control of China Once Again”

DW8E Wallpaper

Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires (DW8E) takes command of the hack and slash world again by offering players the opportunity to take control of China, one divided land at a time. In a more strategic layout than its sister games, DW8E aims to bring the player a new experience of not only conquering, but all of the politics and tact that go with it. Does DW8E coerce its way into our blood thirsty thumbs? Or can we simply not handle the alliance right now?

Story: 4/5

Dynasty Warriors has always been known for having the same story – that is, you can’t really change history; and as this game is based on real events, it can be difficult to sway from how the unification of China actually occurred. Therefore, in traditional fashion, DW8E sets the scene for what is expected. The Yellow Turban rebellion and Romance of the Three Kingdoms make their appearances once again, however they’re handled a little differently. Like in past Empires games, they follow a non-linear storyline, which basically disrupts the entire history play from the start. Instead of following real battles, resulting in certain well-known kingdoms unifying China, you’re allowed to dictate how history actually happened.

When starting up the campaign mode, you’re able to choose from a number of different kingdom distributions. Either the traditional Yellow Turban rebellion set up with China vastly divided, or with certain powers already beginning to take hold, or even a completely random division. From here on out, it’s essentially up to you how history unfolds. You can choose to be your own Lord, starting your own kingdom as whichever character (or custom character) you’ve chosen. You can choose to pledge your allegiance to any number of different kingdoms and fight for them until the end – or you could betray them, or leave and start anew. The options really are impressive. So while it was a slight disappointment that the traditional history lesson offered by most DW games wasn’t entirely present (absent a plethora of interesting facts and mini-lessons during loading screens and the like), it is somewhat refreshing that you’re able to take the history of China into your own hands. Don’t expect anything in-depth and gripping however, as without the traditional events, we’re left with a somewhat dry and repetitive narrative of seizing land and capturing officers until there’s simply no one left. 

1

Gameplay: 5/5

While the story didn’t have that “come back and play” feel to it, the gameplay certainly brought me back time and time again. The first few hours of gameplay are riddled with tutorial messages which are more than necessary. Unlike most DW games, it was almost as if the set up to each battle was more gameplay than the actual hack and slashing! On average, 70% of the time spent playing DW8E was actually utilizing planning what to do next in the kingdom: raise currency, troops, construct facilities, form alliances, participate in raids or quests, get married?! With so many options having major effects on the outcome of your story, you really had to think about what you were about to do – and what that meant many turns down the road. 

The game is set up in rotations of months. Almost everything you do takes up one month, and you’re limited to 50 years of gameplay (600 turns). As stated before, you can start the campaign in any distribution you want, but for the most part you’re either be starting with very little land owned – or none at all. As a free officer (no allegiance to yourself or any kingdom), you can travel the country and enter any kingdom you’d like. Each kingdom contains different weapons, items and quests to undertake to unlock more gear. Therefore, travelling to different locations to purchase different equipment can be very beneficial. However, once you’ve settled down in a kingdom, you’re limited to remaining there. However, you now have the options of building up your kingdom to anything you choose. Should you create your own kingdom, you can pretty much do whatever you want. However, if you join a pre-established kingdom, you must work your way up through the ranks. Performing small quests (capture a caravan, or deliver a supply chain, etc) will unlock different equipment, as well as either boost or hinder your reputation. During large scale invasions, there are also battle objectives which can be completed in order to earn positive merit. Either of these help you move up in the world to both the officers serving in your kingdom, as well as the people of your kingdom. 

4

Once you’ve established some rank, you gain more responsibility which involved keeping generals healthy and people happy. You’ll have to partake in war councils where you set planned invasions to overthrow different territories, or choose to partake in multitude of other events to boost your kingdom. In the end, there are countless ways to succeed or fail in growing a kingdom, which adds a serious amount of depth and strategy to the game unseen in any title previously. 

Thankfully, it’s not all politics and business. The core gameplay has remained largely the same with a few additions. You’re still a one person powerhouse essentially able to turn the tides of any battle, something that is absolutely necessary for any DW game. There are also an extremely large amount of different characters to choose from (with more and more being added every installment) and each containing their own weapon makes them each extremely unique. The dual weapon system has made a return where you contain a main weapon but also a secondary to switch to. Either of these can be switched out before a battle, but it’s best to stick to classes your character has decent proficiency in. A lot of the weapon attributes have been removed, leaving only random skills for weapons and a “rock-paper-scissors” elemental system. There’s also a new system called stratagems. Essentially these are commands (or spells) that affect the entire battlefield. They can be anything from short-lived attack boosts, to archery towers, to entire ambushes. While this offers a nice change of pace, often it was neglected and unnecessary, as being a one person powerhouse meant you could go into battle alone and come out victorious (at least for most of the battles).

5

However, as with any new title there tend to be some omissions. The lack of the option to control voice output from the controller or TV was obnoxious, not to mention the extremely high sensitivity had no way to be adjusted leaving my character and horse control looking like a sporadic, choppy mess often in the wrong direction. The map and text was also very small, leaving me needing to get uncomfortably close to my TV at many times. While you could zoom in on the map during battles, it felt like an all-or-none, where either I could see the entire map but nothing (including my character icon) in it; or I could zoom in to see the 10 foot radius around me and nothing else. 

Multiplayer still exists in both campaign and free mode where you can set up any sort of battle scenario and play it out in a once-and-done type manner. Not only is splitscreen an option, but online was completely present throughout the entire game! As mentioned earlier, the create-an-officer is back, but more importantly create-a-horse is present! You can also customize banners and set up entire custom regiments. Beyond the campaign and free modes, there wasn’t much in the way of challenges as seen in some past entries, but there is definitely enough unlocking and conquering to keep you busy for a long time.

2

Graphics: 2/5

Dynasty Warriors has never been the leader in graphical quality and DW8E follows suit “xtremely” well. While the menus are vibrant and clear, the text is quite small. Normally this wouldn’t be as big of an issue, but when the gameplay involves spending the vast majority looking at the text, it can be a very frustrating thing. It also appears Koei Tecmo has yet to understand what draw distance is. Enemy troops pop in and out drastically in a very small radius of the player. This is not something new by any means, but once would think that after so many successful titles, this would have changed from the PlayStation 2 instead of remaining quite honestly, the exact same. The environments in each battle are nothing to be proud of and have even taken a step back from previous, last gen titles. No longer do we have somewhat lush forests or colorful fall Asian backgrounds; instead we’re presented with dirty, open landscapes equipped with one time of day: grey. Lighting hardly plays a role, but even fires during night gameplay should be able to spark some illumination. Instead they fall flat and are barely seen to display on the surroundings. Enemy troops outside of well-established officers are a clearly lower graphical quality than the rest of the game. Perhaps this is due to their vast numbers on the battlefield, but then shouldn’t we see more than approximately 50 characters render at once instead of pop in and out? Even the cutscenes are nothing to brag about. Where in many games animation and details can shine, DW8E cutscenes are left in the same quality as the gameplay, with clear lines and polygons visible and distracting. The saving grace is that not once during the onslaught of death brought on by my hands was I disappointed in the flow and feel of power from the weapons. Attacks are fluid and smooth, complete with exciting effects that display how different playable officers are from the normal troops. While some of the weapons are truly ridiculous (there’s a weapon called an “arm blade” that is literally a mini canoe), the feeling was immediately overridden by the visual power of using them. 

 DW8E Gameplay

Sound: 4/5

As in any DW game, DW8E contains the always interesting mash up of rock and classical Asian music. The best thing, is that it works time and time again. The soundtrack gives you the moral boost needed to charge headfirst into battle, or sit down and strongly contemplate who to strike an alliance with. Simple selection sound effects are bold and reverberate your choices, making you feel as though whatever you have just selected is the most important thing you’ll do all day. The voice actors are all original actors, meaning they’re speaking Chinese which is wonderful immersion, but I couldn’t easily find any option to revert to English – as has been present in most past games. The lack of an ability to also turn off voices from the controller got obnoxious fast, as it also came out of the TV creating a strange sudo-echo. Yet again though, the sound of the weapons tearing through crowds of troops utterly defenseless against my battle fans or 11 foot sword created the immersion necessary to bring about a feeling of true power. 

 DW8E Gameplay 2

Overall Score: 15/20 = 7.5 out of 10 

DW8E brings a lot of new features to the table – most of which occur outside of what was the original gameplay. The story is different from past titles, yet the ability to make it personal creates a brand new desire to complete the campaign. While the graphics are nothing above last gen or even last-last gen in some circumstances, the fluidity and emersion of the other factors won’t pull you out of rage mode and hitting that 2,000 troops killed mark! Thankfully, the original gameplay has stayed true, allowing you to become a one-general army and in the end, is all you could want from a Dynasty Warriors game. 

Pros:

+ Impressive and addictive strategy driven campaign mode
+ SO MANY unique characters to choose from
+ One-person powerhouse of death

Cons:

– Graphics from the PlayStation 2 in cases
– Small text in a text driven campaign
– Controller sensitivity

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires! Copy reviewed on PS4.

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.

Bladestorm: Nightmare Review (PS4/X1/PS3/360) – “A Nightmare Worth Conquering”

Bladestorm Nightmare Wallpaper

In 2007, Tecmo Koei and developer Omega Force brought a new IP to the PS3 and Xbox 360, Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War. With the current generation currently running amok with remasters and definitive editions of game, Tecmo Koei and Omega Force decided to actually revitalize their IP in more of an expansion than a port called Bladestorm: Nightmare. Is this game worth the revitalization or is it a nightmare to steer clear away from?

Story: 4/5

Bladestorm: Nightmare contains two full-fledged story modes to experience. The first is Hundred Years’ War mode, which tells a fairly accurate historical rendition of, you guessed it, the Hundred Years’ War. Here you will create a mercenary that will take on contracts that work with either the English or French. You will aid famous characters such as Joan of Arc and Edward the Black Prince. You will see events unfold through the battlefield, as well as through diaries and conversations with soldiers in the main pub.

In the second and brand new mode, Nightmare, the developers decided to provide an alternate history with fantasy elements in place. Instead of a war between England and France, demons and mythological creatures are running rampant across the lands. The twist is that Joan of Arc, whom is known to be quite the heroine, is now the villainess commanding these demonic armies. Controlling the mercenary you created, you and Magnus (another mercenary) are both imbued with a sword that can take control of hordes of the demonic army. With this, you and Magnus are what actually stands a chance against the ever-growing army. You will be tasked with getting key characters to join your cause. Throughout Nightmare mode, you will see the events unfold in a familiar storytelling method that’s akin to Warriors Orochi 3 (Ultimate).

The stories in both modes are intriguing and promises something for those looking for a historical aspect or those looking for a fun, fantasy take on the history. In all honestly, it’s quite easy to get hooked into the game’s story and it’s cool seeing these characters care about the events unfolding.

 

Joan of Arc went through a bit of a change...

Joan of Arc went through a bit of a change…

Gameplay: 3/5

Bladestorm: Nightmare is an interesting game to describe genre-wise. It takes elements from various games where it’s part RPG, part strategy, and part action hack-and-slash. Seeing as how there are two games included with Bladestorm: Nightmare (Hundred Years’ War and Nightmare), each plays mostly similar with a few notable differences that will be mentioned. Let’s start with Hundred Years’ War.

You’ll start off by creating your own mercenary. Creating a character is fairly in-depth, allowing you to customize practically every single feature from body weight, facial structure, voice tone and pitch, skin color, etc. From there, you will enter the story and begin learning some basics to battle, such as how to command your squads, how the battle system works, and a few other elements to ensure you are off to a good start. Before actually partaking in battles, you will select your contract to accept at the local pub. This area provides to be the main area where you’ll take a break from battle to upgrade your character, buy and sell items, talk to other NPCs with information about the events unfolding on the battlefield, read diaries, and save your game. Upon taking a contract, you will begin your mission. Whichever side you choose to aide will not have any dramatic changes in the storyline, but how you play may change how missions will pan out.

BLADESTORM: Nightmare_20150316224728

When out on the battlefield, you will have a squad follow you and listen to you on command. The type of squad varies, whether it is sword, bow, axe, etc. There’s an insane amount to choose from. Each can level up their stats so that more units follow your squad, and that their traits can improve as well. In terms of combat, if you are expecting to be a one-man army and just decimate your foes single-handedly, good luck because that most certainly isn’t happening. Combat is primarily handled by holding down the R1 button. Doing so will have you command your units to attack while your character will do the same to the nearest enemy automatically upon holding the button down. Depending on what you unit you have, they will either have an upper hand or lower hand to the opposing unit. This means that essentially certain units can deal more damage to the opposing specified unit. The game actually has a chart in-game to highlight which units go up against others best. When you form an army of squads, you can even unleash a “mass attack” to obliterate enemies with dramatic results.

Depending on the unit you control, the game’s dynamics will vary a bit. For example, if you’re part of a spear unit, you’ll most likely have a horse to ride on, which will make traversal a little faster than foot but will make you more prone to missing attacks. If you utilize the bow unit, you’ll be able to manually aim your well-placed arrows but shouldn’t take a chance leading a unit into close-quarter combat. The strategy plays a deep element into the overall gameplay in a satisfying way. Now in Hundred Years’ War, the more bases you take over on the battlefield, the more of advantage you will have overall. This will actually affect the next contract you take because the bases you took over will actually carry over. The battlefields are massive, with each feeling almost the size of an open-world in a separate game. Although, as cool and grand in scale as these battlefields look, traversing them takes forever…almost painfully so. Unfortunately, with these battlefields being massive, you’ll find yourself traversing more so than not with no enemies or NPCs in the area, leading to dull traversal.

BLADESTORM: Nightmare_20150316234018

In Nightmare, the gameplay is essentially the same concept but is handled differently. Instead of being at a local pub to tackle contracts as a mercenary, you will progress in a straightforward chapter system. Throughout the game’s nine-chapter story (which can take between 6-12 hours depending on the difficulty you choose), you will work alongside Magnus and other key characters to form a united army to take down the demonic forces. Unlike Hundred Years’ War though, no matter how many bases you conquer on the battlefield, it will not stay that way should you return in a later chapter.

In terms of combat, it remains exactly the same but now with one key difference, you can control an army of monsters. Whether it is goblins, griffins, Cyclops, or even dragons, the dynamic switches up a bit with this. For example, you can actually ride a griffin, cyclops and dragon, which makes the scale of the battles even more grand. Actually leading a squad of these is just plain cool. It must be said that out of the two modes (Hundred Years’ War and Nightmare), Nightmare had me hooked a bit more since the progression was paced better.

BLADESTORM: Nightmare_20150316224940

A cool feature is that both Hundred Years’ War and Nightmare are transferable amongst each other. Upon completing Nightmare mode, you can summon monster armies in areas that allow you to in Hundred Years’ War. Also, your character progression is seamlessly integrated between both games/modes. The entire game can be played in co-op, both local and online. However, if you’re playing the PS4 version, the infamously awesome Share Play feature is shockingly blocked.

As enjoyable as Bladestorm: Nightmare is, there were a decent amount of issues that hurt the experience a bit. First off, there are some bugs in the game. There have been several instances where my characters would run at a fraction of their speed and then revert to normal for absolutely no reason. I would be in the middle of an empty battlefield and this would occur, so I knew it wasn’t from some sort of enemy attack. While I understand that in reality they wouldn’t be moving that fast out on the battlefield, in a game, it can be daunting. Second, some missions have you protecting a key character who must traverse from point A to point B. The movement speed for this character is ludicrously slow that it becomes a real chore to complete these missions. Third, the final boss fight in Nightmare completely stopped at a halt during the final phase, where animations were frozen and AI wasn’t responding properly. I even accidentally broke apart my formed army and the controls wouldn’t respond at all to reform them; it wasn’t even showing the sub-menu to do so. Navigating menus can also be a bit convoluted to go through. Another issue was invisible walls. There were several times on the battlefield where my squad and I couldn’t advance at a certain point in town for no explicable reason. Despite the gripes that held back the experience a bit, I still found myself enjoying Bladestorm: Nightmare to return to it and keep taking over the battlefields.

BLADESTORM: Nightmare_20150317130656

Graphics: 3/5

Visually, Bladestorm: Nightmare isn’t the flashiest looking game. After all, it is a revamp of a 2007 game but without a lot of effort focused on the graphics. Yes, the game is now in 1080p and depending on whether you play on the PS4 or X1, the framerate will vary. While the developers stated the PS4 version runs at 30 fps, I found several instances more so where it dropped below that. However, that’s not to say Bladestorm is a poor looking game. The lighting and environmental designs are done quite well, breathing some life into the battlefields. Trees sway in the background and grass blades lend to that extra terrain effect. Characters look fairly detailed with flashy pieces of armor. The game showcases hundreds of characters on-screen at once which lends to that “battlefield” feel. Omega Force games are notorious for displaying a ton of enemies on-screen but with tons of pop-up within the environments. Thankfully with the power of these consoles, draw distance has been dramatically improved and can continue to do so with future installments released specifically for this generation. Animations are also fairly smooth considering the amount of characters on-screen, without any animation frames dropped for characters out in a further distance. It’s not exactly a game that will showcase the PS4/X1’s prowess, but it’s not a poor looking game either. It hovers that line of solid, but not overly impressive.

BLADESTORM: Nightmare_20150316233957

Sound: 4/5

Bladestorm’s best element may very well be its audio department. The sound of the armies advancing, the swords clashing, and enemies cries while they meet their doom all meet together to form a great audio experience. All the characters have English and Japanese voice acting that’s pretty serviceable and never quite reached “cringe worthy”. However, the real star here is the soundtrack. The orchestrated soundtrack that accompanies Bladestorm perfectly captures the game’s essence and setting. Whether you’re at the main menu, preparing for battle, or storming the battlefield, the music will go along superbly with the action at hand. It’s so memorable that I found myself thinking of the music whenever I’d leave the game and go about my daily life. The main gripe with the audio were the drop-out bugs. There were times where the sound effects completely dropped when entering a base and then would cue back in after taking it over. It wasn’t very often, but happened on a few instances where it was noticeable. Other than that, crank up the audio because this has one superb soundtrack.

BLADESTORM: Nightmare_20150317131513

Overall Score: 14/20 = 7.0 out of 10

Bladestorm: Nightmare is a game that truly surprised me. While it has some issues that hurt the experience, it’s still a good game that people who like strategy infused with RPG and hack-and-slash mechanics should certainly give a go. While there is a learning curve, I found myself easily captivated to keep returning once grasped. There’s something about commanding your own squads to form an army, then work together to decimate anything that stands in your way that is immensely satisfying. Couple the fact that there are two games packaged in one, with progression seamlessly carried between the two, and you have a pretty solid package. It may not be for everyone, and it may not have garnered a big audience in 2007, but Bladestorm: Nightmare is a game that should be experienced by any strategy and/or RPG enthusiast.

 

Pros:

+ The original 2007 Bladestorm is included
+ Seamless progression between both games packaged
+ Enticing gameplay
+ Fun storyline
+ Outstanding soundtrack

 

Cons:

– Several gameplay bugs
– Slow environment traversal
– Average visuals
– Overwhelming menu navigation

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for Bladestorm: Nightmare! Copy reviewed on PS4.

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.

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate Review (3DS) – “The Hunt Returns in a New Dimension”

MH4U Wallpaper

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (MH4U) is the 12th installment into the series, but the 7th that we’ve seen in the states, and only the 3rd that we’ve seen on a Nintendo platform. It’s had raging success overseas, but hasn’t shone much in the past few years. A new marketing plan, some overhauls and new ideas seem to have put it in the spotlight along with the New 3DS XL; but does it live up to the hype? Or does it get trapped in its own pitfall…trap?

Gameplay: 4/5

Monster Hunter is infamous for its grind-heavy gameplay nature…not so much for its story. In fact, this is really the first MH game to attempt a story and somewhat succeed. Past titles have simply thrown you into a town with the “it’s you’re duty to protect this village” cliché. MH4U starts off with some pretty enticing cutscenes to introduce the village you’ll be spending a lot of your time at. We’re introduced to who will be essentially our guide – a rugged adventurer who is pretty much the epitome of a role model in this world. He states (through text mind you, though mumblings are spoken but the only form of communication is through text) that something is happening and they need to get to the bottom of it. With his newest recruit (you), he decided you’d be the best to venture into the wild – untrained – and ascertain information about the impending doom of monsters overruling the village.

The story starts out somewhat slow, which is nice. It gives you a chance to explore a little bit of everything in the mechanics before pulling you in too strong. But as you complete more quests, the story slowly begins to pick up. In traditional fashion, one solution leads to another problem’s discovery, and before you know it, you’re slaying just about anything you can find in a ‘monstrocidal’ rampage fashion. Essentially, there is a wild virus that is going around making all of the monsters crazy. Not terribly long after you get the hang of the game, you’re forced up against the foe making all of this happen. It might have been a little rushed to pit you up against a monster of that caliber so soon, but this really is a game that you can move at your own pace with. You find that even after killing that monster, something still isn’t quite right. Many other monsters are being noticed when they shouldn’t be and it’s your duty to discover why…and that’s pretty much what you’ll be doing for about 90% of the story. Miscellaneous quests will become available with some small dialogue that attempts to make it seem like killing this monster in particular will lead us to the next. Like a bad game of Clue, you just need to push to the end to reveal the secrets behind this children’s “mystery”. Successful completion of the story nets you a bunch of village upgrades and unlocks a ton of content though. So while it is necessary, it feels like they may have forced it a bit too much – much like the childish jokes and comedy rampant throughout the game that simply distract the player rather than add anything to the value of the dialogue. Once the story is completed though, there really isn’t anything left as far as a structured outline. You’ll partake in a plethora of different quests, both offline and online, and it begins to feel like monster hunter all over again.

MH4U Gameplay 2

Grinding has always been a major part of the Monster Hunter series; and it’s no different in MH4U. If you’re against grinding, then you’ll want to stay away – but really, MH has a way of making it feel like it’s not even grinding at all. There are hundreds of quests in 4U that pit you against 70 different large monsters and a handful of smaller ones. The premise is simple: you defeat a monster, use what you earned from it to make better equipment, and repeat the process until you’re satisfied (spoiler: many of the people who play these games are never satisfied). In order to complete this task, you’re given 14 different weapons, an all-time maximum! You can choose to take on monsters alone or with a group of 3 others, and considering the difficulty doesn’t scale to the number of players, having more only makes things easier. [It needs to be mentioned here that this is the only MH game I have ever had difficulty playing online with others – not due to connectivity but due to greed. With so many people “needing” different things, most won’t help unless it’s what they need – an issue I haven’t encountered as being this pervasive before. Nonetheless that doesn’t take away from the score.]

Considering there are 14 completely different weapon classes, and 70 main monsters… there’s a lot of gear to make! So understandably there’s a lot of hours that can be put into the game, making the replay value shoot through the roof. Monsters are programmed to know where you’re at and exactly how they can combo you into fainting if you’re not careful. Three faints in a quest and you fail so you really need to learn the monster’s attacks and how to avoid them. In many respects, this is one of the most skill-based games on the market meaning that no matter how much time you put into it, you can always improve, adding additional challenge and an overwhelming feeling of success after every hunt.

MH4U Gameplay 3

A few new mechanics have been added to hunts as well, further expanding on the knowledge and strategy needed to successfully pull off a quick quest. Mounting is by far the most prevalent of the additions. MH4U takes the fight to the third dimension by allowing verticality within the levels. You can climb and jump off of ledges and cliffs and attack midair. Successful attacks on a monster will cause you to enter a “mini-game” where if you complete it, the monster falls over for a extended period of time, completely open to attacks for the duration. At first, I was skeptical of this mechanism, but over time I came to realize it is well balanced and pivotal in controlling the moral of certain fights. (Also, for those veterans, this solves the issue of upswinging).

They’ve also added a plethora of new skills to the game. Skills are unlockable abilities that come with certain armor pieces. Combine enough of the right pieces and skill points and you’ll unlock the ability. The new skills either contain a very special ability, like consuming an item only to have your stock count remain the same; or a combination of skills bundled into one. Considering skills are one of the most important parts of the game, these can really push the odds in your favor.

One of the more robust changes to the game are expeditions. These are ‘free hunts’ that set you out into a procedural (never the same) forest where you encounter a variety of different items and monsters. While this does add a new dimension to the game, it feels like it does more harm than good. Many of the large monsters included in the 70 are actually hidden behind this expedition wall. In order to unlock them, you must go on an expedition and encounter a different monster. Killing it, or giving evidence of its discovery, will offer a small chance that you will unlock a guild quest. Guild quests can be stored (up to 50) or registered (up to 10). Registered guild quests can be posted in the guild hall like any other quest, with one catch. Every time you complete it, it levels up. You can level it all the way from low rank to high rank and then to G rank. The issue is that this drastically limits the number of monsters available to most people as personally it took a few days of extended play for me to acquire a guild quest for one monster. Once I had that monster, it wasn’t long before I had leveled it up and it was no longer useful to me (needing low rank parts and it had leveled to high rank), meaning that I had to grind expeditions again. There is no indication as to what monsters found in expeditions will give rise to certain guild quests, so you’re pretty much just guessing out there.

MH4U Gameplay 4

Expeditions also yield armors and weapons that have their own upgrade paths outside of the traditional means. Many of these armors contain skills not available outside of expeditions (or in rare quantities), and therefore can be useful in armor sets. With the exception that drops are completely random and often armors are lacking in many other qualities, these could theoretically be used, though they truly seem to be a wasted effort in such a coordinated pre-established system. The weapons on the other hand are a different story. Much like the armor you can discover, you can also find misc. weapons on expeditions. These weapons also have set stats, but unlike their normal counterparts made from the smithy, they’re stats can vary wildly. Essentially this equates to a random number generator (RNG) process where you may end up with an incredible weapon, or something utterly useless. Monster Hunter has always been known for its ability to stick to a straight statistical format, rewarding those who put forth the effort to overcome the odds of accumulating rare items. This new process appears to thwart this system by offering high reward for simply being lucky (much like the talisman system already in place). While it is entirely up to each individual if this is desirable or not, it stands that it is breaking away from the traditional Monster Hunter formula.

All things considered this is a Monster Hunter game, and it definitely plays like one. The addition of the third dimension blends extremely well with the hunting system and there’s more equipment than you could ever imagine. If you’re a fan of collecting gear and working for it, then you’ll be right at home.

MH4U Gameplay 1

Graphics: 3/5

Considering this is my first 3DS review (as well as first 3DS game), I really don’t have a lot to compare to personally. However, I’m no stranger to watching playthroughs or other gameplay videos of 3DS games so I have certain expectations. In all honesty, I was somewhat impressed at the start of the game. The graphics in the cutscenes were vibrant, full bodied and detailed, leaving very little to desire for. However, instantly upon seeing actual gameplay, I began to cringe as it looked nothing like I was anticipating. Environmental textures are flat and near-dimensionless, which really makes you feel as though you’re playing something from the early 2000’s. I was even more upset when it looked as though the armors and weapons didn’t stand out from the environments like they have in past titles (see MHP3 HD). Considering they are the crux of the entire game, I would have thought some more effort would have been put into making the gear you create more visually nourishing. While they are certainly detailed and in their own right, impressive and cool looking, there is nothing about their graphical quality that alleviates the disappointment of a world constructed on pixels. Luckily, monsters seem to be somewhat of an exception here. While they definitely do not stand out as better quality, many of the monsters you fight appear to be much smoother – getting away from the rigidity of the square infestation that is the overwhelming pixel ratio.

God forbid you ever try to play in 3D, the already unimpressive graphics take a drastic plummet, giving both me and my friend headaches within 10 minutes of use.  In such a fast paced game, it truly doesn’t make a lot of sense; as with the 3D turned all the way up frame rate begins to stutter from time to time, really taking you out of the experience. While visually the game leaves a lot to be desired, it should be pointed out that the game is still lively and vivacious, making the poor quality easier to forget when you’re enjoying the warm palette of the volcano, or the bitter scheme of the frozen tundra. In the end, it seems as though the game is limited by its console; it tries exceptionally well to bring a lot of detail, color and crisp visuals, but instead falls short and the graphical conflicts are brought out twice fold.

MH4U Gameplay 5

Sound: 4/5

Monster Hunter has always been known for its ability to encapsulate the feeling of the game perfectly in its soundtrack. Unfortunately, it has managed to miss its mark a little bit in this entry. While many of the quests are paired with great music counterparts (mostly taken from past games and reapplied), the villages and guild halls have been paired with songs that tend to make you feel as though you’re at the carnival, rather than a smoky tavern filled with life-risking bad asses (and your overly occasional 12 year old). Perhaps the developers were trying to go for more of a contrast between on and off a quest, playing on the light-hearted nature of the scenery; but it just doesn’t seem to quite fit. Nonetheless, the monster’s roars, the sound effects of hurling your friend high into the air while simultaneously tripping a monster with your elemental great sword are spot on and immersive. I cannot recommend enough that you use a decent headset while playing this as all of the sound effects in a hunt get brought out marvelously. So while the majority of the sounds in the game are adrenaline-inducing, there are a few times when you’re painfully reminded that you’re not a small child standing in line for a cotton candy at the nearest amusement park. [And as a side note for all of the MH veterans, the main, epic, incredible MH theme song does not appear in the game until the third song in the credits]

MH4U Gameplay 6

Replay Value: 5/5

While the expedition quests don’t make a lot of sense when trying to acquire new armor and weapons, it does add one element to the game: replay value. The random assortment of monsters that can be combined in a guild quest acquired from an expedition feels limitless. This addition, combined with the built-in online, makes for a truly unique experience. Any hunters can post a guild quest and work with others to level it up; this means that beyond the hundreds of other quests in the game, you now have an entirely new, ever-changing repertoire of quests to undergo. Happen to enjoy a particular quest? Then ask that friend to share it. Anyone can send you any guild quest they’ve acquired and you’ll receive it at the base level it was discovered at. Since you can store 50 at one time, you can really build up some fun and exciting hunts!

Beyond expeditions there are well over thousands of weapons and armors to make, meaning you’ll need to do quite a bit of hunting of every monster in the game, but it’s all worth it for that shiny new sword! There are also challenge quests that pit you and a single friend against certain tough monsters – the catch? You have to use the equipment they provide! Completing all of these unlocks something special of course, so it’s definitely worth your time! With challenging gameplay that never fails to put your skills to the test you can sink hundreds of hours into the game.

MH4U Gameplay 7

Samus joins the hunt…

 Overall Score: 16/20 = 8.0 out of 10

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate holds true to the series’ pre-established grind/reward system, offering players an impressive array of equipment if they put in the time. While a number of new additions work very well, there seems to be the beginning of a shift from a statistical system to a random number system, contrary to nearly every past game. The graphics leave a lot to be desired and 3D should never be used, but the sounds are immersive and boastful. If you’re a fan or the series, or enjoy collecting an extreme plethora of different, powerful, and unique equipment, then you should definitely pick it up! Don’t let the score fool you, the core gameplay is sound and enjoyable and yields to an incredibly impressive replay value.

 

Pros:

+Gameplay is fluid and reliably the same as past titles

+Extremely large replay value

+Insane amounts of creative equipment to make

+More weapon classes than ever before

Cons:

-Story is a good attempt, but feels forced and drawn out

-Graphics draw away from the experience and 3D is abused

-Some childish moments clash with the blood spewing gameplay

-Some establishment of RNG takes away from theme of putting in time and effort to get reward


Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate was purchased by the reviewer and tested for the New 3DS XL system.

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.