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Dead Space Remake Review - Hits The Marker

Fri, 01/27/2023 - 03:00

14 years is a long time in the video games industry, yet it still doesn't feel like quite long enough for EA’s Dead Space. The original 2008 game is a modern classic that holds up exceedingly well by today's standards. There's very little that feels dated about its design, and the strategic dismemberment that forms the basis of its combat still offers a unique and gory thrill that's yet to be replicated. The remake's leap in graphical fidelity breathes new life into its stifling horror, but public discourse has centered on whether it really needs to exist in the first place. That might be a cynical viewpoint, but it's no less valid. And after reaching the end credits myself, I'm still not entirely convinced it needs to either, yet I'm extremely happy it does. Remaking Dead Space in 2023 may not feel especially necessary, but EA Motive has crafted a game that manages to improve upon its excellent progenitor in a variety of ways--even if only marginally so.

These improvements begin with its story, which has been expanded via a number of alterations to both its characters and storytelling. The basic beats that make up the original game's narrative remain intact, starting with your fateful arrival on the USG Ishimura. After responding to a distress signal, you find the hulking planet cracker-class ship floating lifelessly above the planet of Aegis VII. Once on board, things take a familiar sharp turn downhill, but now once-silent protagonist Isaac Clarke has been given a voice to react appropriately. I'm generally not a fan of silent protagonists, although there's always a danger of vocal characters being overly chatty, especially in a horror game where atmosphere and tension are so delicate. Thankfully, that's not the case here, and Isaac's newfound agency makes him feel less like a simple tool to be ordered around. Actor Gunner Wright reprises the role after bringing Isaac to life in Dead Space's sequels, so there's a level of continuity here that's also reflected in other aspects of the remake's design.

Much of the script has been rewritten to accommodate Isaac's speech, and the tale it weaves is still engaging. The church of Unitology--a cultish religious sect that plays a significant role in the Dead Space universe--is much more prominent this time around, especially early on. Characters mention the infamous church in a way that feels natural, discussing the sect before they're aware of just how substantial its impact will be on future events. Kendra Daniels--one of Isaac's colleagues and your main point of contact throughout the game--has also been rewritten in a manner that elevates the remake. Previously she was prickly and leaned into some needlessly antagonistic behavior, but she's now been transformed into an empathetic character, which pays off down the line in a more effective way than before.

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Season: A Letter To The Future Review - The Meditation Game

Fri, 01/27/2023 - 02:00

Some games demand a specific kind of real-life setting to really be absorbed. Horror games beg for the lights off and headphones on, while co-op games are often more enjoyable when played together on a couch rather than online. Season: A letter to the future requires its own special circumstances--a calm, peaceful environment--and if you can provide that, you'll find in it a special stillness, a pensive story, and a memoir from a fantasy land worth experiencing.

Sometimes the language of open-world games is obvious, especially if you've played a few of them. Excitingly, Season doesn't feel like such a game, as its approach to gameplay and story are fresh and largely disinterested in giving you boxes to check. You play as Estelle, a young woman who sets off to observe and record a part of her world on the precipice of a new season. In this unnamed world, which is like ours but also definitely is not ours, a new season doesn't mean just a change in temperature; it means a total rebirth of the state of things. The game is deliberately unclear regarding exactly why, when, or how seasons emerge, and it seems at least sometimes they are influenced by people rather than natural things that happen to those people. Seasons seem to be more defined by the particular circumstances of a society--the breakout of war or widespread sleep, for example--more than they are snow days or fallen foliage.

For Estelle, it's important to document the outgoing season as all will be lost when the new season begins, even as no one seems sure what that season will usher in itself. For the people of Tieng Valley, a lush farming village that's largely been evacuated due to an imminent dam collapse, the beginning of the season may even be a matter of life and death. Equipped with a camera, audio recorder, scrapbook, and bicycle, Estelle treks into the valley to interview the last remaining locals, capture the state of the vista in its final days, and reflect on things like memory, community, and grief. These, and other themes, are delivered through thoughtful monologues and conversations that allow for players to insert themselves in the story.

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Forspoken Review - Forsaken

Tue, 01/24/2023 - 01:00

Though it takes inspiration from isekai--stories in which people from Earth are transported to and become trapped in a fantastical world (think Alice in Wonderland but Japanese)--Forspoken ultimately doesn't understand what makes that genre so popular. Instead, it tells a largely forgettable story that sets up major stakes but fails to offer a compelling reason for why the player should care. Luminous Productions' action-RPG feels great when it allows you to really stretch your legs and magically parkour across its fantasy landscape, but combat is clunky and regular exposition too often stalls the action.

In Forspoken, protagonist Frey finds herself trapped in the magic-filled world of Athia after stumbling through a portal. There, she bonds with a sentient brace she nicknames Cuff and then encounters a group of survivors living in the last city that's free from the effects of a dangerous miasma. This blight, which Frey calls the Break, covers the land and transforms living creatures into mutated monsters. Frey is the only exception, making her an ideal candidate for exploring the Break, finding its source, and destroying it. The whole situation is an intriguing narrative setup but boring or unlikable characters let it down. It's difficult to like the standoffish and stubborn Frey, the incessantly sarcastic Cuff (who regularly quips in Frey's ear like a discount JARVIS), or any of the survivors who are all too eager to completely rely on Frey's protection from the Break while also asking her to complete boring optional tasks like going on a tour of a lifeless hub or petting a bunch of sheep.

Forspoken's story is one about belonging--finding a place you want to stay and a people you wish to protect. Like any isekai protagonist worth their salt, Frey is initially resistant to her new surroundings before discovering that she's actually ideally suited to the world she's found herself trapped in. However, it's not a world that the game is able to adequately convince the player of wanting to stay in and protect. The emotional connection Forspoken tries to establish to incentivize the player to take action--to help the people that need Frey's help--is deeply uninteresting and oftentimes head-scratching and odd. The characters don't take the threat of Athia's imminent destruction very seriously and any tension that comes from their perilous existence is repeatedly undermined by meaningless busywork they want you to do. The characters themselves are also incredibly plain with two-dimensional personalities. They have no real convictions or anything interesting to say.

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One Piece Odyssey Review - Filler Arc

Wed, 01/18/2023 - 09:44

For decades, the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates have thrilled and enchanted readers and viewers across the globe. Turning such a beloved and long-running action-adventure series into game form has proven to be quite a challenge, with many developers stepping up over the years to try and gamify the magic that's made the One Piece anime and manga such a success, often to mixed results. One Piece Odyssey is the latest such attempt, and it takes the approach of transforming One Piece's dramatic battles into a turn-based RPG. While it does a solid job of getting the look and mood of the series down, One Piece Odyssey unfortunately offers little more than a very basic RPG adventure.

The game opens with the Straw Hat gang stranded on the mysterious island of Waford. Their ship, Thousand Sunny, lies in a wreck nearby and with no obvious way to repair it, the gang sets out exploring this wild new world. A strange young girl named Lim emerges and, fearful of the pirates, she removes all of the crew's strength and special powers. With the help of Adio, a rather suspicious adventurer who calls the island his home, the Straw Hats set out to recover their powers, learn the secrets of Waford Island, and escape to journey another day. Along the way, they'll also be able to relive the great adventures of the past.

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Fire Emblem Engage Review - Rings Of Power

Wed, 01/18/2023 - 01:00

Fire Emblem: Three Houses was a smash hit for Nintendo both critically and commercially. While it didn't dramatically shake up the combat, its ambitious multi-campaign structure swung for the fences. It only seemed natural that Nintendo and developer Intelligent Systems would build off Three Houses' success. While Fire Emblem Engage certainly builds on the deep and rewarding tactical combat, the predictable story and repetitive side activities feel like a step backward for the long-running series.

Fire Emblem Engage follows a more traditional structure than Three Houses’ calendar-based progression. Your time is split between the tactical turn-based combat the series is known for and a hub-like area where you can interact with other characters and outfit your units with weapons and equipment. While there are multiple missions available to you at any given time, the story sticks to a linear structure as you plot a course around the map. There are no major story decisions, and apart from a couple characters found in optional paralogue chapters, everyone will recruit the same characters at the same time.

This traditional structure isn't inherently a bad thing. Some of the best games in the series follow this narrative style, and Engage's presentation and narrative are more polished thanks to its focused design. But this approach also puts the story in a brighter spotlight and, unfortunately, the extra polish doesn't hide the predictable and meandering plot, which overall falls flat.

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Sports Story Review - Over Par

Tue, 01/10/2023 - 09:25

Developer Sidebar Games' sophomore effort, Sports Story, builds off the successes of its golf-focused RPG predecessor by adding more sports to participate in and additional considerations to the golfing experience. However, these efforts veer too far off course from what made Golf Story as special as it is, creating an experience that oftentimes suffocates under the bloat of too many unwanted fetch quests and unpolished mechanics. A weak story and numerous technical issues also hamper the experience, making Sports Story a disappointment overall.

Sports Story picks up a bit after the events of Golf Story. After proving to be a capable golfer, the unnamed protagonist now finds himself on the cusp of signing a contract and going pro. After going through the motions of checking into your hotel, finding new golf clubs, and acquiring a license, you head off to the countryside for a little practice. Upon reaching your destination, you find the area under the abusive thumb of the bat-wielding Iron Dragons and decide to take on the role of a detective to figure out what's going on and stop this gang from ruining people's lives.

The story abruptly shifts around this early point. No longer are you an aspiring golfer doing his best to solve other people's problems through your golfing skills; instead, you start hopping from one location to the next as a freelance investigator, aiding people in the struggles they're facing and collecting clues related to the ongoing threat of the Iron Dragons. It's not all that compelling a tale to watch unfold, especially with many of the funny and memorable characters from Golf Story either only showing up in a limited capacity or being entirely removed from the plot in favor of focusing on the bland and annoyingly simple-minded protagonist.

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High On Life Review - Talking Heads

Fri, 12/16/2022 - 11:12

When I booted up High On Life for the first time, I knew what I was getting myself into. I'm familiar with the work of not only Justin Roiland (Rick and Morty, Solar Opposites) but also of his game studio Squanch Games (Trover Saves The Universe, Accounting+), so I had an idea of the sort of comedy that was coming my way. What I did not expect, however, was a 3D shooter with Metroidvania vibes that echo some of the best games of my youth, and more importantly does them justice.

High On Life tells the story of an unnamed protagonist--whom everyone calls "Bounty Hunter," even their own sister--fighting against an alien drug cartel that's invaded Earth. The cartel wishes to round up every human on the planet and sell them as the drug, which other aliens can consume via elaborate machines. Our bounty hunter hero is armed with Gatlians, a race of talking guns, and each Gatlian possesses its own attacks and abilities. The concept is admittedly very weird, but it's a well-told story that kept me guessing until the end.

At this point, it bears acknowledging that this is 100% a Justin Roiland project, complete with all the hallmarks of his comedic philosophy. Rapid-fire monologues, fart jokes, demolition of the fourth wall, ad-libs, dark comedy--it's all intertwined within the game's narrative and presentation. If things like Rick and Morty, Trover Saves The Universe, or Solar Opposites aren't your cup of tea, this won't be either. That said, I have a very high tolerance for this sort of goofiness and I found myself laughing throughout the 10-hour adventure.

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The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Next-Gen Update Review - Wind's Howlin'

Tue, 12/13/2022 - 12:54

In The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, the sacred is always at war with the profane, and beauty is always at war with blood. The series has always contrasted its world's physical glamor with its intrinsic violence, but never has that contrast been this uneasy, this convulsive. That The Witcher 3 depicts the immediate brutality of battle in great detail is not a surprise; many games fill the screen with decapitated heads and gory entrails. It's the way this incredible adventure portrays the personal tragedies and underhanded opportunities that such battles provide that makes it so extraordinary.

It is more than its thematic turbulence that makes The Witcher 3 extraordinary, actually. Excellence abounds at every turn in this open-world role-playing game: excellent exploration, excellent creature design, excellent combat mechanics, excellent character progression. But the moments that linger are those that reveal the deep ache in the world's inhabitants. In one quest, you reunite two lovers, one of which is now a rotting hag, its tongue lasciviously lolling from its mouth. In another, a corpulent spouse-abuser must find a way to love two different lost souls, each of which test the limits of his affection. Don't worry that these vague descriptions spoil important events: they are simple examples of the obstacles every resident faces. On the isles of Skellige and in the city of Novigrad, there is no joy without parallel sorrow. Every triumph demands a sacrifice.

Every horse Geralt has owned is called Roach. Talk about an identity crisis.

As returning protagonist Geralt of Rivia, you, too, face the anguish of mere existence, sometimes in unexpected, unscripted ways. The central story, which sees you seeking your ward and daughter figure Ciri, as well as contending with the otherworldly force known as the wild hunt, often forces this anguish upon you. But it was my natural exploration of the game's vast expanses that proved most affecting. At one point, I witnessed a woman sentenced to death, doomed to starve after being chained to a rock. It's a chilling sentence, of course, but it was only later, when I accidentally sailed past the tiny island where her corpse still rested, that the horror of her punishment sunk into my heart. The Witcher 3's story did not script this moment; it was merely a passing detail that might have been lost in the waves or overlooked in favor of the harpies circling overhead. Yet there she was, a reminder that my actions--actions that felt righteous and reasonable as I made them--allowed this woman to rot in this faraway place.

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Dragon Quest Treasures Review - All About That Bling

Tue, 12/13/2022 - 07:55

Loot. Few words in gaming hold such power. The promise of sick loot is a siren song that has driven many a player to take on bold challenges and reconsider their objectives… as well as to make exceptionally poor judgments and even pry open their real-life wallets. Many games, regardless of era and platform, are fundamentally about the satisfaction of obtaining loot, but few will admit that. Dragon Quest Treasures is the rare game that states outright that accumulating a trove of legendary loot is the whole point--and, if you can endure some of its gameplay and technical foibles, you too can experience the satisfaction of having a Scrooge McDuck-like vault of gold (but not the experience of swimming in it).

Dragon Quest Treasures tells the tale of young Erik and Mia, who were first introduced in Dragon Quest XI. Dissatisfied after having been adopted by the pillaging, hard-partying Vikings, the duo decide to escape from the ship and go out on their own to become great treasure hunters. Along the way they free a duo of odd winged critters and stumble upon the Dragon Daggers, enchanted weapons that whisk them away to the realm of Draconia, where treasure hunting is a way of life. Somewhere on these floating islands lie the legendary Dragonstone artifacts, and Erik and Mia are going to get them all--along with an absurd amount of mythical relics just waiting to be dug up.

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Unlike the mainline Dragon Quest series, which is turn-based and menu-driven, Dragon Quest Treasures is an action-RPG. Playing as either Erik or Mia (who are functionally identical), you explore one of several large open-world islands, defeating enemies, completing quests, gathering materials, and--most importantly--discovering those sweet, shiny silver and gold treasure chests. The more treasure they find, the more notoriety they get--and the more their base, initially a decrepit magical railroad station, becomes remodeled into a fabulously gaudy headquarters. This also opens up more gameplay elements, as well as revealing hints about the location of the elusive Dragonstones. While you can explore the game freely at your own pace, some parts are progress-locked based on how much loot you've accumulated.

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World Of Warcraft: Dragonflight Review In Progress - Who Says You Can't Go Home?

Thu, 12/08/2022 - 06:30

World of Warcraft: Dragonflight is about coming home, in more ways than one. It's a homecoming for the titular Dragonflights of Blizzard's long-running MMORPG, who return to their ancient ancestral home to pick up the pieces and rebuild after thousands of years away. It's also a homecoming for players, who after years of languishing in WoW's unpopular Shadowlands expansion, get to return to Azeroth and all the familiar sights and sounds it holds.

Dragonflight, in that regard, is incredibly nostalgic, but not in the way you might expect. Though it without a doubt features the return of fan-favorite characters, monsters, and even gameplay systems, it never feels beholden or shackled by them. Instead, it takes those familiar elements and breathes new life into them. Whether it's the return of talent trees reminiscent of those from the game's earliest expansions, the game's updated user interface, its lack of mandatory activities, or the feeling of adventure the new dragonriding system invokes, Dragonflight miraculously feels both fresh and familiar at the same time. Even if there are some aspects of Dragonflight that could be improved, I can't help but be impressed at how a handful of new ideas, along with major facelifts to some old ones, breathe new life into Blizzard's flagship title.

Dragons, as you might expect, are the star of this new expansion. Players ride new, highly customizable Dragon Isles Drakes. The majority of the main campaign's primary characters are dragons. There's even a new dragon race, the Dracthyr, that is only playable as the new dragon-themed spellcasting class, the Evoker. The Dragon Aspects Alexstrasza, Nozdormu, Wrathion, and Kalecgos all play key roles in the game's initial story campaign. To see them all front and center for the first real time since 2010's Cataclysm expansion is part of what makes Dragonflight feel so nostalgic, signaling a return to the high fantasy of Azeroth after nearly two years of the dark, dour, and death-themed settings and characters of Shadowlands.

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Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 Reunion Review - Conflict Resolved

Tue, 12/06/2022 - 21:00

Much like protagonist Zack Fair himself, the story of the self-proclaimed country-boy-turned-SOLDIER-First-Class is not one shrouded in mystery. If you've engaged with Final Fantasy VII or any of its various spin-offs, prequels, remakes, or animated movies, chances are you understand the weight of his legacy--which is, coincidentally, only rivaled by the weight of his sword. However, if you're looking for the definitive way to experience it, look no further than Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion.

A remake of the 2007 PSP exclusive Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, Crisis Core Reunion is a faithful retelling of Zack Fair's story with dramatic visual upgrades, full voice acting, and several quality-of-life changes. Considering the game was already heralded as a fantastic prequel and one of the best titles on PSP, it comes as little surprise that this version is triumphant in making Crisis Core into a modern day must-play for Final Fantasy VII fans. Not only does Crisis Core Reunion port the once fairly difficult-to-find game to several new consoles, allowing for a greater audience to experience the title, it transforms the game from feeling like a smaller, handheld experience into something that can proudly stand beside Final Fantasy VII Remake as a worthy companion.

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion follows Zack Fair, a skilled young man who quickly moves up the rank of soldier--Shinra's elite fighting force--to stand beside other legendary heroes like Genesis, Angeal, and the later-notorious Sephiroth. However, once information regarding the various experiments Shinra conducted on these elite warriors begins to surface, the four colleagues quickly find themselves at odds with each other. Inevitably, these tensions set into motion the events of Final Fantasy VII, including Sephiroth's turn toward madness, the burning of Nibelheim, and Cloud's involvement in the whole ordeal. However, Crisis Core doesn't solely exist as a precursor to something bigger, as it succeeds in weaving an engaging, intimate, and emotionally impactful narrative of its own.

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Need For Speed Unbound Review - Comic Book Racing

Tue, 12/06/2022 - 11:44

The first thing that jumps out when starting Need for Speed Unbound is its vibrant art style. At a time when most other racing games are striving for photorealism, EA's latest distinguishes itself from the rest of the grid by adopting a stylized mix between reality and comic books. While its cars land on the side of realism, the characters behind the wheel are cel-shaded and its open world falls somewhere in between the two aesthetics. Vivid graffiti-style flourishes also pop up when you activate nitrous or fly off a ramp, and drifting kicks up colorful tire smoke that looks hand-drawn, with all of these effects punctuating the action with a unique sense of style.

There aren't any modern racing games that look quite like it, yet the rest of Unbound feels like a continuation of 2019's Need for Speed Heat. From the distinction between day and night races to the cat-and-mouse chase that occurs when you have to outrun the cops and make it to a safe house in order to bank your money. Unbound doesn't attempt to reinvent the wheel, but what's here maintains the series' recent quality, even if there are some wrong turns along the way.

As is now customary in Need for Speed games, Unbound features a rather forgettable story about getting back at a former friend who stole your ride. There's little point in delving into details because, ultimately, it's inconsequential. Cutscenes are sprinkled in every now and then, but for the most part, the story is just sort of there, happening in the background as you drive around the city, so at least it's unobtrusive. There's some fun incidental dialogue every now and then, including one mission where you're traveling with a "weeb racer" who spends the whole journey telling you about the history of anime and how it definitely isn't a cartoon. Rapper A$AP Rocky also makes an appearance (because why not?) and it feels like he was given a microphone and free rein to say whatever came to mind. It's a moment that stands out in a game that's filled to the brim with ancillary dialogue. Aside from this, the story is relatively easy to ignore, but it does succeed in giving impetus to the game's structure.

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Warhammer 40K Darktide Review - Left To Shred

Sat, 12/03/2022 - 05:10

When I spoke to several teams making games in the Left 4 Dead lineage, they each had some unique thoughts on why the game, and its resulting genre, works. But they also each echoed one similar thought: Pacing reigns supreme. Horde shooters, like Warhammer 40K Darktide, can live or die on the flow of its co-op missions. Aided by an AI director, missions must be tuned to reliably challenge, but not necessarily overwhelm the player. Impressively, Darktide gets this aspect of its grimdark missions exactly right, though the ways in which the game adds new layers don't work quite as well.

Darktide is not just a Left 4 Dead-like, it's also the spiritual successor to Fatshark's previous series in the genre, Vermintide. Moving the experience out of the base Warhammer world and into the far-flung and grimdark future of Warhammer 40K comes with a major makeover both cosmetically and mechanically. The biggest new addition comes in the form of an arsenal of firearms that have no place in the hard fantasy of traditional Warhammer. But in the 40K era, things like hand cannons, assault rifles, and electricity-infused projectiles not only fit right in, but also dramatically alter the flow of combat by adding more range-based considerations.

This massive shift is well-implemented, as enemies will match you blow for blow. Fighting from a distance will see them trading shots and taking cover, and if you--or they--are able to close the gap, they'll quickly swap to melee combat. When this happens, Darktide leans into the still-great crowd-control elements first seen in Vermintide, where both nuanced swordfighting and mindless hacking and slashing are usually viable techniques--though on higher difficulties, the former naturally becomes more crucial.

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The Callisto Protocol Review - I Don't Belong Here

Fri, 12/02/2022 - 16:00

Despite releasing a full 15 years later, you could argue that The Callisto Protocol is the spiritual predecessor to Dead Space, given the original pitch from director Glen Schofield was for Visceral Games' survival-horror title to be set within a prison, not a mining vessel. And in a lot of ways, The Callisto Protocol similarly dazzles with its incredible art direction and sound design, even emulating Dead Space's over-the-shoulder third-person perspective and integrated HUD. However, The Callisto Protocol goes its own way by focusing on melee strikes and dodges, utilizing a combat system that feels great at first but isn't suitable for the game's more action-focused latter half. Plus, lengthy death animations compound the frustrations of surprise difficulty spikes, creating an experience that feels like an uneven mix of horror and action that fails to adequately commit to or excel at either.

In The Callisto Protocol, you play as Jacob Lee, a freight transporter contracted to ferry cargo for the United Jupiter Company, moving supplies from the UJC-operated Black Iron Prison on Callisto to the colony on Europa. On a routine trip back to Black Iron, Jacob's ship is boarded by Outer Way, a group blamed for a recent terrorist attack on Europa. In the ensuing struggle, Jacob and Outer Way leader Dani Nakamura are the only survivors, stranded on Callisto. They're both picked up by Black Iron security head Captain Leon Ferris and incarcerated in the prison on orders from warden Duncan Cole. Jacob awakes in Black Iron hours later, discovering a mysterious infection has been released into the prison, transforming the prisoners and guards into biophage monsters. Escaping from his cell, he teams up with fellow prisoner Elias Porter to find a way out.

The Callisto Protocol doesn't devote too much time to storytelling and worldbuilding. None of the characters (save for Elias) are especially likable, and though the main villain has an intriguing motivation--you can clearly see how The Callisto Protocol was originally intended to fit into the PUBG: Battlegrounds' universe once you find out what the bad guy is up to--it's only revealed right as the game is concluding. I wish it had been revealed far sooner because, though the ramifications of it are interesting, there's not enough space in the plot for those ramifications to be explored. The game fleshes out the world up to that point with optional audio logs to discover, but most don't actually reveal all that much, and those that do aren't very interesting to listen to. It's ultimately not worth going off the path in pursuit of these collectibles.

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Marvel's Midnight Suns Review - XCOM Superhero Squad

Thu, 12/01/2022 - 01:00

Marvel's Midnight Suns' story draws clear inspirations from the original Rise of the Midnight Sons comic book series from the 1990s in which Blade, Morbius, and Ghost Rider--among others--unite to fight against a recently resurrected Lilith and her army of demons. Developer Firaxis Games' title, however, incorporates more faces from the current Midnight Suns series, such as Wolverine, Magik, and Nico Minoru. In making these changes, it distances itself from the source material's idea that to defeat a monster, you need a team of monsters. Instead, it is a story about the power of friendship between a bunch of misfits, which is forged and strengthed through battle as much as traditional social scenarios. Midnight Suns aims to combine relationship-building with memorable role-playing moments, and the result is a stellar turn-based tactical combat title driven by interesting characters.

Marvel's Midnight Suns begins with the Avengers in a tough spot--the prophesied return of an eldritch god is on the horizon, having been brought about by Lilith, who now leads an army of HYDRA soldiers and demonic children in a war against humanity. The Avengers aren't adequately prepared to tackle such a supernatural threat, so they turn to Doctor Strange and his newest apprentice, Scarlet Witch, for aid. After their first attempt at fighting Lilith goes sideways, Strange introduces the world's mightiest heroes to the contingency plan: the Midnight Suns, a group of young heroes who each wield magical, supernatural, or demonic powers.

That's where your character, The Hunter, comes in. As the child of Lilith, you possess incredible magical abilities, which is what helped you defeat her 300 years ago. That final duel left both you and Lilith dead, but just as HYDRA managed to bring your mother back to life, the Midnight Suns are able to do the same for you. Not content to leave the fate of the world up to others, the Avengers also decide to set up shop in the Midnight Suns' headquarters, The Abbey, to join the fight against Lilith.

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Evil West Review - Undead Redemption

Wed, 11/23/2022 - 10:08

Evil West asks a simple question: What if cowboys fought vampires? It's the kind of off-the-wall thinking that gets a Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford movie greenlit, and developer Flying Wild Hog certainly gets a lot of mileage out of its whimsical concept. Set in an alternate version of 1890s America, Evil West is the Wild West at its wildest. A familiar backdrop of swinging-door saloons, rolling tumbleweed, and abandoned gold mines are interwoven with Nikola Tesla-inspired electro-steampunk technology and an assemblage of ravenous bloodsuckers. Evil West shines in the heat of battle when that initial question can be answered, but its strengths are often diminished by the dated design wrapped around them.

The story is a fairly by-the-numbers affair, pitting a vampire-hunting organization against a vampiric enemy force threatening the continental United States. You're strapped into the spur-clad boots of Jesse Rentier, a typically gruff protagonist with very few emotions beyond mild indifference. His occasionally pragmatic response to the absurdity occurring around him is slightly endearing, but it's telling that I had to look up his name before writing it here. The narrative does periodically broach some interesting themes; for instance, one of the Highborn vampires is concerned by humanity's ever-expanding technology and the threat it will pose his fellow sanguisuge--but these threads never really go anywhere. The only one that does revolves around a smarmy and misogynistic government official, yet his comeuppance isn't as satisfying as it deserves to be.

Ultimately, these one-dimensional characters and cringeworthy dialogue replete with strained expletives are easy to ignore. The story is little more than a vehicle for its chaotic combat, propelling you from dusty town to murky swamp in search of new monstrosities to extinguish. The most surprising thing about Evil West is that it's more of a brawler than a shooter. The behind-the-back third-person perspective is reminiscent of the most recent God of War games, letting you get up close and personal as you pummel enemies to a bloody pulp. Jesse is equipped with a metal gauntlet that adds extra heft to each punch, while a charged uppercut can be utilized to launch smaller enemies into the air where you can follow up with a cannonball strike to send them careening into a conveniently placed spike trap or stack of TNT. Jessie's melee strikes feel suitably weighty, and the gratuitous gore that coats each arena in blood and crimson viscera really sells the power fantasy at Evil West's core.

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Call Of Duty: Warzone 2 Review - Al Mazrah Shines

Wed, 11/23/2022 - 07:59

Although Call of Duty: Warzone 2 introduces the new Al Mazrah map, it integrates both new and iconic locations together to serve as a crucible for the battle royale's big overhaul to a lot of core features and the introduction of Modern Warfare 2's mechanics and movement. The end result is mixed, with some of Warzone 2.0's new additions making the moment-to-moment action feel fresh, while updates to other classic Warzone features feel like a step back for the battle royale title.

Warzone 2's 150-player skirmishes of solo, duo, trio, and quad combatants are played out on the new Al Mazrah map. The fictional desert region in Western Asia does a great job of combining new Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer maps with several nostalgic locations that longtime Call of Duty fans will recognize. Your adventures in Al Mazrah will take you through Rust, Terminal, Highrise, Afghan, and Quarry from the original Modern Warfare 2, and every location--old or new--blends together to create a vibrant and beautiful environment.

In comparison to Modern Warfare's Verdansk map, Al Mazrah feels more diverse, with its mixture of arid desert, large bodies of water, tight cities, and exposed small towns. Water was very limited in the original Warzone because Modern Warfare lacked swimming mechanics, but the sequel brings over all the features and mechanics of Modern Warfare 2, which means that large bodies of water, boats and swimming are now added to the mix, and they're meaningful additions that give you fresh ways to take on fights in Warzone 2. Being able to dive away from a bad gunfight or use it for stealth to flank an opponent in particular adds a new kind of dynamism to engagements.

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The Dark Pictures Anthology: The Devil In Me Review - Holmes Sweet Holmes

Tue, 11/22/2022 - 07:36

When The Dark Pictures Anthology was revealed, its promise was immediately obvious: Take the team that gave us the excellent Until Dawn and have it tackle new horror subgenres at a clip of about once per year. Results have been mixed across the four released games, but on a steady upward trajectory that does not falter with the latest effort. The Devil in Me is Supermassive's latest slasher, and it outshines its predecessors--with a more cohesive plot, best-in-series characters, and a bit of clever gamification injected into the cinematic experience.

The Devil in Me takes us to Chicago, first at the turn of the 1900s to introduce--or, for horror fanatics, more likely remind us of--H.H. Holmes, sometimes dubbed "America's first serial killer." Holmes' "murder castle" was in fact a hotel that he had outfitted to operate as more of a maze of horrific contraptions that could make Jigsaw's works look like Mouse Trap. After a short flashback, the game jumps to the present day and follows an indie film crew making a documentary about Holmes.

To their excitement, they're invited to a scale replica of the killer's ghastly hotel that doubles as something of a museum where they're promised footage and exclusive background information. As it turns out, the curator of the grounds is less than well-hinged himself--who could've guessed?--and what unfolds from there is roughly five or so hours of quality slasher material.

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Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales Review - Miles Per Power

Sat, 11/19/2022 - 04:43

Editor's note: Spider-Man: Miles Morales is releasing on November 12 for both PS5 and PS4. For this review, Jordan played on a PS4 Pro. Other GameSpot staff tested the game on PS5 and found it to be a largely comparable experience, with the PS5 version benefiting from improved visual flourishes and load times. For a technical-focused discussion of the PS5, and how Miles Morales benefits, check out our PS5 review. This review has also been updated by Alessandro Barbosa to reflect our experiences on PC.

Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales feels like the second half to The City That Never Sleeps, a three-part follow-up expansion to 2018's Marvel's Spider-Man--the game even begins with the option to watch a short recap of the first game and its DLC in order to bring you up to speed on Miles' origins, reinforcing the notion that this is an extension of what's come before.

And, unfortunately, the gameplay in Spider-Man: Miles Morales (which I will hereafter refer to as SM:MM because I'll be damned if I try to write a full review that cleverly tries to make a distinction between Spider-Man/Miles Morales the game and Spider-Man/Miles Morales the character; I won't do it) never quite manages to break free of that feeling. That isn't necessarily a bad thing--I like 2018's Spider-Man for its engaging combat loop, so I'm glad SM:MM emulates it. It's just that sometimes SM:MM can feel too similar to what's come before, which can get in the way of establishing Miles as his own brand of superhero. Regardless, the familiar trappings of SM:MM are used to tell an entirely fresh story with a few brand-new faces. And it's that narrative and those characters that manage to distinguish SM:MM as an open-world action game that's compelling to play.

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Pokemon Scarlet & Violet Review - A Braviary New World

Thu, 11/17/2022 - 20:00

While Pokemon Legends: Arceus dipped its toes into what an open-world Pokemon game could be, Pokemon Scarlet and Violet fully embrace it. This new approach to the tried-and-true Pokemon formula reinvigorates the mainline series and delivers one of the most challenging and rewarding Pokemon adventures to date. Where they really shine, however, is in non-linear progression. Scarlet and Violet make some subtle efforts to guide you to specific locations, but ultimately, how you forge your own path through the vibrant new region of Paldea is what makes it so memorable.

Scarlet and Violet start off like most mainline Pokemon games: You wake up at home, meet your rival, pick one of three starters, and before long you're exploring the world and catching a wide range of monsters. While the tutorial might still feel a bit overbearing for longtime fans, it moves at a brisk pace. Before long, Nemona, your peppy, battle-hungry rival, turns you loose, and you're free to explore a hefty chunk of the map, battle trainers at your discretion, and catch wild Pokemon. It does slow down a bit as it introduces characters and the three main questlines, but soon after that, you are free to explore Paldea in its entirety.

Scarlet and Violet's strength lies in their freedom, and that freedom extends beyond its open world. At the outset you are given three different paths to follow: The Path of Legends, which has you hunt down and defeat abnormally large Pokemon; Operation Starfall, where you deal with this generation's Team Rocket; and the familiar Victory Road, in which you take on eight gym leaders. Unlike previous games, there is no predetermined path through the story. Although trainers and wild Pokemon get tougher the further you get from Mesagoza, Paldea's centermost city, there's nothing outright stopping you from marching up to one of the toughest gym leaders in the game and challenging them to a battle. In fact, Pokemon Scarlet and Violet doesn't even tell you how tough a specific area is until you are actually there.

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