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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Thief Wallpaper

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

Story: 1/5

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

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

Thief Gameplay 4

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

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

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

Thief Gameplay 1

Gameplay: 3/5

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

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

Thief Gameplay 2

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

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

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Graphics: 4/5

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

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Sound: 4/5

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

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Overall Score: 12/20 = 6.0 out of 10

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

Pros:

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

+ Awesome in-game graphics

+ Clever strategies to progressing in missions

Cons:

– CUTSCENES?!

– Loading screens all over the place

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

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

– Repetitive nature of out of mission heists

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

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Great Deal For Gamers on Black Friday

Target

Target has posted a sneak preview for its big Black Friday deals. Headlining the weekend for video game savings from November 28th to November 30th are two console deals: a 4GB Xbox 360 S bundle, which includes Kinect Sports Season Two and Kinect Adventures, for $190 and a 250GB PS3 system with The Last of Us and Batman: Arkham Origins for $200. In theory, you can purchase both an Xbox 360 with a Kinect plus games and a PS3 with games all for a cheaper total than the cost of a PS4 or X1. Current-gen games have also had their prices slashed. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Max Payne 3 are both marked down to $10; Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and Splinter Cell: Blacklist are $25; and Battlefield 4, Batman: Arkham Origins and Madden NFL 25 are $35.

Target is giving out gift cards too. For those who purchase a copy of Assassin’s Creed 4, it will grant you a $20 gift card. while purchasing a copy of Call of Duty: Ghosts or Mario and Luigi: Dream Team will grant you a $10 card. Whether you are in the market to snag a current gen console just some games, Target seems to have you covered this Black Friday.

(Source – Target)

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

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

graphics

Story: 3/5 

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

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

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

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Call of Duty finally makes its way to space.

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

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

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

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

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Underwater too.

Gameplay: 4/5 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Seriously. In space.

Graphics: 4/5 

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

Sound: 4/5 

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

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Overall Score: 15/20 = 7.5 out of 10 

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

PROs: 

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

+ Larger variety of multiplayer game types to choose from

+ Squads mode is fun and rewarding

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

CONs: 

– Flawed, lackluster campaign

– Framerate drops more frequent than they should be

– Excellent antagonist isn’t present enough to be relevant

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

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Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition Spotted

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A strong rumor has been circulating that Tomb Raider is getting a next-gen edition with all of its downloadable content included. Aptly named “The Definitive Edition” was spotted at an online retailer, listing all of its features included. As of now, it was seen to be listed for PlayStation 4 and one mystery system, most likely being the X1. Aside from the DLC, gamers who pre-order it will receive a special packaging with an art book.

It goes without saying that this title for the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 looked amazing, and one can only imagine what it will look like on a next gen platform. The listing has the launch date as sometime in winter of 2014. Stay tuned for more news on the next gen Tomb Raider.

(Source – http://www.shacknews.com/article/82075/tomb-raider-definitive-edition-listed-for-next-gen“>Shacknews)

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

Wipeout Create & Crash Logo

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

Gameplay: 3/5

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

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

Wipeout Create & Crash Gameplay 3

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

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

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Graphics: 3/5

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

Wipeout Create & Crash Gameplay 1

Sound: 3/5

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

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Replay Value: 4/5

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

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Overall Score: 13/20 = 6.5 out of 10

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

PROS:

+ Fun gameplay

+ Course Creator is simple to use

+ Interesting course designs

+ Good amount of unlockables

CONS:

– Wonky physics

– Sharing created courses is dealt in an archaic method

– Commentary isn’t funny at all

– Some technical bugs

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

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

TMNT 2013 Wallpaper

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

Story: 2/5

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

TMNT 2013 Gameplay 1

Gameplay: 2/5

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

TMNT 2013 Gameplay 5

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

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

TMNT 2013 Gameplay 3

Graphics: 2/5

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

TMNT 2013 Gameplay 2

Sound: 2/5

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

TMNT 2013 Gameplay 4

Overall Score: 8/20 = 4.0 out of 10

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

PROs:

+ Has the show’s intro

+ Turtles can be upgraded

+ 4-player co-op on Wii/360

CONs:

– Ugly visuals

– Awful audio mixing

– Subpar, rushed storytelling

– Unimaginative, bland levels

– Very spotty hit detection

– Too easy

– 3DS version omitted co-op completely

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

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

Pac-Man Ghostly Adventures Gameplay 1

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

Story: 3/5

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

Pac-Man Ghostly Adventures Gameplay 4

Gameplay: 4/5

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

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

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

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

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

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Graphics: 4/5

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

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Sound: 3/5

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

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Overall Score: 14/20 = 7.0 out of 10

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

PROS:

+ Great, varied gameplay

+ Nice visuals

+ Rewarding Chain Chomp mechanic

+ Has the vibe of a Saturday morning cartoon

+ Only $39.99

CONs:

– Generic storyline

– Soundtrack isn’t too memorable

– Multiplayer lacks online

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

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

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EA announces Titanfall’s Release Date

titanfall

The much awaited news for Titanfall fans has finally be announced. Titanfall will be gracing the PC, Xbox One, and Xbox 360 on March 11th of 2014. The game will also contain a premium $249.99 Collector’s Edition, which will be released alongside the standard edition. The Collector’s Edition will include an 18-inch hand-crafted Atlas titan statue with diorama and battery-powered LED lighting, a surprising 200-page art book, and an exclusive schematic poster. The good news: both the standard edition and premium are available for pre-order now. For up to the minute news on next gen release dates or delays, stay tuned!

[Source – Forbes]

NYCC 2013: “Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures” Demo Playthrough

Pac-Man Ghostly Adventures Gameplay 4

At Namco’s booth, they had a playable demo for the upcoming “Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures”, coming to the PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii U on October 29th. Check out the 5+ minutes of gameplay below!