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Somerville Review - I Wanted To Believe

Wed, 11/16/2022 - 01:15

Despite aliens existing as one of the most prevalent enemies in video games, seldom do we get to experience them from the vantage point of ants beneath their shoes we may well be. So often, we're tasked with shooting aliens in space battles or gunning them down on the back of military vehicles, and the lack of a proper alien invasion story in the vein of Signs or Invasion of the Body Snatchers has been a personal annoyance for years. For the most part, Somerville finally gives us such a game, but that uncommon setup I've so looked forward to is ultimately hampered by both story and gameplay decisions that keep it from feeling impactful.

Created in part by a former Playdead (Inside, Limbo) developer at a new studio called Jumpship, Somerville feels similar to those milestone puzzle-adventures. The color palette favors darkness, the story unfolds without dialogue of any sort, and you'll explore by moving through a world full of threats, solving puzzles to overcome each obstacle and outrun unassailable enemies.

In Somerville, you play the patriarch of a family of four which also includes your wife, baby, and dog. It doesn't take long at all for the story to pick up; within minutes, you go from passing out on the couch on a typical evening at home to scrambling for shelter as otherworldly pillars rain down from the sky. Separated from your wife and child, the nameless father and his four-legged friend embark on a quest to reunite with the others.

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Pentiment Review

Tue, 11/15/2022 - 01:00

I loved reading history books growing up, especially those written more like a storied account of what happened as opposed to straight facts on the page. There's an implied truth to history when it's told moreso as a story, as it admits that there's no objective truth to the past. History is simply what we make of it. Pentiment is written around this idea, providing a means of exploring a point in history from an outsider's perspective--the protagonist is not native to the region and we, the player, aren't native to the time period. Rather than simply retell history, Pentiment affords the chance to influence it, and in doing so, delves into the subjectivity of historical record. Pentiment also features some fun nods to history with its fabulous art style and stylish fonts, but the narrative throughline of its three acts--a conspiracy of murder mysteries--feels lacking, given the frustrating restrictions to each investigation and the unceremoniously abrupt ending.

In Pentiment, you play as artist Andreas Maler, who is attempting to finish up his masterpiece while working for the Kiersau Abbey, which overlooks the Bavarian town of Tassing. A visiting baron draws the ire of both the farmers and craftspeople in town, as well as the Christian nuns and brothers of the abbey, but no one is prepared when he winds up dead. With Andreas' mentor--a man too old and feeble to have possibly overpowered the baron--pinned for the crime, the young illustrator vows to conduct his own private investigation in hopes of bringing the true culprit to justice. In doing so, Andreas is drawn into a strange conspiracy of cryptic notes and unspoken secrets, and his actions shape both Tassing and Kiersau Abbey in a story that spans a quarter of a century.

Your actions have consequences in Pentiment. Most conversations can branch in a number of ways depending on the choices you pick, and Andreas' relationship with those around him is further shaped by the resulting consequences. Oftentimes, these consequences are felt immediately--a worried wife catching you in a lie might not offer information on her husband, for example--but there are quite a few with much longer-reaching effects. During the second act of Pentiment, the game kept telling me that choice after choice I was making would "be remembered," but it wasn't until the final minutes of the act that the results of my actions were revealed. And in a twist of fate, my decision to repeatedly be nice to someone in the hours up to that point meant that they wouldn't abandon me during a dangerous situation.

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Tactics Ogre Reborn Review - 4D Chess

Thu, 11/10/2022 - 22:00

Tactics Ogre is a landmark game in the evolution of the strategy-RPG genre, yet it's never quite received the appreciation it deserves outside of Japan. Part of this has to do with the long shadow cast by its directly-inspired and much-beloved younger sibling, Final Fantasy Tactics. Despite receiving an incredible remake in 2011, PSP exclusivity once again limited the audience for Tactics Ogre. Now, with the release of the HD and massively revamped Tactics Ogre Reborn on every platform under the sun, Square Enix is taking steps to correct a long-standing injustice--though some quibbles with presentation and gameplay changes keep this from being the definitive version of the all-time classic.

Our story follows young Denam and his sister Catiua, two siblings of the Walister clan. The Walister have suffered under the oppression of the ruling Galgastani for years, and a resistance movement has begun to form among them. What begins as a plan to avenge the death of the siblings' father snowballs into a mission to rescue Duke Ronwey, leader of the resistance. But as Denam becomes part of the growing resistance force, he discovers the lengths that Duke Ronwey will go to advance his cause, forcing him to make very difficult choices. As the struggle expands to involve neighboring states, Denam will need to find his own way to put an end to the conflict.

If you're familiar with previous works by director and writer Yasumi Matsuno (Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story, Final Fantasy XII), you'll find similar themes here: intertwining politics, moral quandaries, class struggles, and idealism gone awry. Depending on the choices you make (including some absolutely gut-wrenching, life-or-death decisions) the story's path--as well as which special characters you can recruit--will change dramatically. There are plenty of twists and surprises to experience, enhanced by a combination of a superb English script from famed localizer Alexander O. Smith and the addition of voice acting for cutscenes. The World Tarot system from the PSP remake also returns, which acts as an enhanced New Game+: Upon completing the game, you can go back to previous points in the story, exploring different outcomes and routes while keeping your current character roster.

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Sonic Frontiers Review - Sonic, Is That You?

Tue, 11/08/2022 - 01:00

From the moment it was first revealed, it was clear that Sonic Frontiers is quite unlike any of its predecessors. Sonic's 3D adventures have been more miss than hit throughout the blue hedgehog's 31-year existence. For every Sonic Generations, there's been a Sonic Boom or Sonic '06 leaving behind a bitter taste and further diluting the speedy mascot's appeal. Each new game has offered some variation on the Sonic formula, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle and finally give the series a consistent direction moving forward, but none have succeeded--at least until now. Sonic Frontiers is that game.

It certainly has its flaws and still maintains many of the familiar elements you'd expect to find in a game starring the eponymous hedgehog, but it's in the differences where Sonic Frontiers stands out and occasionally excels, making it the best 3D Sonic game in more than a decade.

The biggest and most notable change is the shift to a semi-open world. Sega calls Frontiers "open-zone," meaning the game is split into multiple islands that Sonic is free to explore. Each zone has its own aesthetic, from verdant rolling hills to arid desert plains and a simmering volcanic island floating above the clouds, meshing together natural beauty with ancient alien temples, grind rails, and bounce pads. It's a curious amalgamation but one that works well enough within the game's sci-fi conceit. The environments are also part of a striking tonal shift for the series. The vibrant primary colors of classic Sonic levels like Green Hill Zone have been replaced by a color palette that's low on saturation and high on pastel hues. The obvious inspiration here is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, not just in the way Frontiers looks, but in its use of music and the shift to open-ended world design. It doesn't play anything like Link's five-year-old adventure, but you can see how Sonic Team was influenced by it throughout.

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God Of War Ragnarok Review - Blood, Sweat, And Tyrs

Fri, 11/04/2022 - 03:00

God of War Ragnarok is a lavish production with pristine visuals, jaw-dropping scale, crunchy combat that is as satisfying as it is brutal, and a world that begs to have its every corner and crevice explored. It's a spectacular blockbuster, but these are the least of its achievements.

In a game where a hulking god rips all manner of creatures limb from limb, the most shocking moments aren't bathed in blood, but carried by poignant words and heartfelt emotions. They are a former God of War--known for mercilessly killing his kin--finding the words to empathize with loss; a despondent child emploring a father to break a self-destructive cycle; a moment of tenderness in the life of a boy that has the weight of the world on his shoulders.

God of War Ragnarok's most impressive achievements are its exploration of loss and love; grief and growth; determinism and defiance. It's an astoundingly well-written game that deconstructs the mythology of Norse gods and rebuilds it as an odyssey about families. Its story isn't about the end of the world, but those that have a hand in it. They're revered as mythical gods but are characterized by deep flaws, twisted by skewed perspectives, and corrupted by questionable motivations in the same way the people they preside over are. And yet, some also have redemptive qualities. In that respect, Ragnarok's story is told from a grey area where nuances blur the line between heroes and villains; good and evil. By constantly challenging you to reconsider who they are and the factors that drive their actions, these characters remain compelling throughout.

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Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Multiplayer Review - Meet The New COD, Same As The Old COD

Tue, 11/01/2022 - 09:20

Infinity Ward's rebooted Modern Warfare 2 brings back a more classic Call of Duty multiplayer experience than we've seen in recent years, with maps better tailored to traditional 6v6 play and dialed-back movement mechanics. Modern Warfare 2's gameplay really feels like a refreshing return to old times again for Call of Duty, but unfortunately, the package as a whole feels lacking and gun customization is overly complex.

As a whole, Modern Warfare 2's multiplayer is the fast-paced shooter you expect it to be. The standard maps are scaled down for 6v6 matches this year, so there are less quiet and campy moments, and you're almost always finding yourself in the thick of the action. Modern Warfare 2 does dial back the overly fast-paced movement of recent years too, but that doesn't mean you can't choose a run-and-gun playstyle. The gameplay is just a bit less twitchy too, as the movement feels more on par with the original Modern Warfare series than the 2019 version.

Sliding doesn't quite feel as fast and fluid as Modern Warfare 2019 and the bunny-hopping movement has been nerfed a little since the beta. You can still hop around a corner, but there's not a build-up of an overly-aggressive speed that lets you start hopping all over the map. This makes the multiplayer movement feel more grounded and slower-paced than the last few entries of the franchise, which is a great change. The last few years of Call of Duty has left the majority of the casual player base at a disadvantage in trying to counter the hopping and sliding frenzy.

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Marvel Snap Review - MCCGU

Thu, 10/27/2022 - 04:31

The advent of digital collectible card games has led to an explosion of different approaches to the genre. Mostly, though, new games have adapted the fundamentals of physical CCGs. With Marvel Snap, Hearthstone veteran studio Second Dinner has reduced the collectible card game to its most essential pieces and reimagined them, creating a combination of systems that are elegantly simple without ever feeling simplistic.

Like many other modern card games, Marvel Snap automates its equivalent of mana or energy, adding one unit per turn. But then it streamlines the genre even further: Each game lasts only six turns, and there is no direct combat between characters or choosing whether to deal damage to enemy scrubs or "go face" for direct player damage. Instead, your goal is to accumulate the most power across three locations. At the end of six turns, whoever controls two of the three locations wins the match, and ties are determined by total power across all three.

Those three locations are randomly selected from a massive pool, each introducing their own intricacies and elements, and the areas range from the straightforward to the silly. The symbiote planet Klyntar will depower every card played on it, while NYC's Central Park adds a 1-power squirrel to each other location. The locations are revealed from left to right over the first three turns. The random nature means you can be halfway through a match when a surprise third location completely shakes up your strategy, and sometimes you'll need to gamble by blindly playing a hero into an unrevealed location.

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Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed Review - Into The Ether

Thu, 10/27/2022 - 04:17

If Illfonic Entertainment set out to make an authentic Ghostbusters experience, it's done so in Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed. The game's look, sound, and feel is true-to-form, right down to the voices of Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson as Ray Stantz and Winston Zeddemore, respectively. Manning a proton pack and PKE meter for the first time in order to track and trap ghosts is a shot of ectoplasmic adrenaline. As a video game, however, it falls into a devious trap of its own, one where excitement hastily shifts to monotonous repetition. Spirits Unleashed captures the Ghostbusters feeling well, but that authenticity belies a shallow, repetitive game that quickly wears out its welcome.

Spirits Unleashed puts you in the shoes of a new Ghostbusters recruit, a nameless grunt sent in to deal with the paranormal hauntings in New York City. The repurposed firehouse from the Ghostbusters franchise serves as your base of operations, and it features a workbench for upgrading gear, lockers to customize your Ghostbuster, and a training area to work out the kinks. Across the alley from the firehouse is an oddities shop run by Ray Stantz himself, where you can talk to the Dan Aykroyd-voiced character about the current goings-on.

The core gameplay loop is an asymmetrical multiplayer experience, where four Ghostbusters take on a single ghost; the Busters must trap the ghost with no chance of escape, while the Ghost must evade capture and scare NPCs through noise and possession in order to fill a "haunt meter." The ghost has three rifts that act as respawn points at its disposal, and when all three are destroyed, the ghost's next trip into a trap will mark victory for the Busters.

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Signalis Review - Silent Thrill

Wed, 10/26/2022 - 03:00

They say everything old is new again, and that's definitely been the case for survival-horror games lately. Full remakes, remasters, and reboots have made the headlines in one of gaming's more underserved genres, with no end in sight. So it's been an exciting change of pace to play Signalis, which is blatantly inspired by landmark franchises like Silent Hill and Resident Evil, but offers its own original horror universe to explore.

Signalis doesn't look exactly like the games that inspired it, but it only takes a short while before a veteran of the genre knows what they're in for. The top-down 2D pixel art isn't a precise callback to its spiritual predecessors, nor is its lack of voice acting, but as soon as you start finding door unlock codes on the back of photos you investigate in your inventory screen, memories of the Raccoon City Police Department or Brookhaven Hospital will inevitably come flooding back.

As its protagonist, the robotic LSTR (pronounced Elster), moves through darkened hallways and abandoned dorm rooms set aboard a futuristic space vessel seeking habitable planets for its dystopian "Nation" to conquer; she walks, runs, aims, and carries a gun just like Jill Valentine or another horror alum of the PS1 era. Searching behind every door that isn't "jammed on the other side" for her missing human companion, the story unfolds in a way you've likely seen before--as though you're perpetually falling into a world you might not be prepared for, but you can't turn back.

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Bayonetta 3 Review - Real Hot Girls Hit

Wed, 10/26/2022 - 00:00

There's nothing more attractive than confidence, and Bayonetta 3 developer PlatinumGames is well aware of it. From the way Bayonetta sashays about the screen--left hand cocked on her hip while the other clutches her gun--to the sheer bombastic nature of the game itself, every part of Bayonetta 3 is unapologetically self-assured. Like the titular witch, Bayonetta 3 feels as if it doesn't much care how it is perceived because it knows its own worth as a game that offers fast and fluid gameplay, jaw-dropping spectacles, comedy, and camp in a way very few others do. And it's hard to argue with that when it's true.

Like its predecessors, Bayonetta 3 is spectacular in the truest sense of the word. Though the game's core gameplay is familiar, it ups the stakes, sending players on a multi-dimensional journey across time to save the world. If that's not enough, this venture also comes with full-scale kaiju battles, exhilarating chase sequences, a new, sword-wielding character who is wildly fun to play as, and a series of 2D stealth-based chapters that follow Jeanne as she infiltrates enemy headquarters. All this, paired with the qualities that made Bayonetta 2 so beloved, make for a can't-miss entry in the action games genre.

Bayonetta smiles with her pistol.

Bayonetta 3 begins with a bit more breathing room than its predecessors, but just barely. After introducing the concept of a multiverse filled with other Bayonettas, other Jeannes, and the gut-sinking feeling that everything we do has been done once before, it dives headfirst into its action-packed gameplay. As a supernatural storm overtakes New York City, Bayonetta is forced to take on the homunculi, a new enemy that are neither angel nor demon, and are hellbent on eradicating not only our Bayonetta's universe, but every universe (and every version of Bayonetta) imaginable.

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Resident Evil Village - Winters' Expansion Review - This Rose Doesn't Bloom

Tue, 10/25/2022 - 05:27

The Winters' Expansion includes Shadows of Rose, the first piece of story DLC for Resident Evil Village, which picks up 16 years after that game concluded and introduces Ethan Winters' teenage daughter, Rose, as a playable character. Rose has unique powers at her disposal that make her feel distinct from the many other protagonists in Resident Evil's long history, but it's the shift to a third-person perspective--along with changes in pacing, style, and tone--that set Shadows of Rose apart from Village's main campaign. It's more comparable to the recent Resident Evil remakes than either of Ethan Winters' misadventures, but for as much as I adore those games, I'm hopeful this switch isn't indicative of the series' future.

Shadows of Rose begins with the discovery that Rose's powers have blighted her formative years. The narrative is light on details regarding how her powers manifest, but sweating a white substance is enough reason for spiteful classmates to mercilessly bully her for being "different." Rose just wants to be a normal kid and rid herself of these debilitating abilities, so when she's offered the chance to find a cure she jumps at it with little hesitation. However, attaining said cure requires her to enter the consciousness of the Megamycete. This fungal root is not only responsible for the Mold and Rose's powers, but any humans who made physical contact with it have had their memories absorbed and stored within. This conceit allows for some fun surprises and also lets Capcom revisit iconic locations from Village's story, albeit with a few key differences.

The first locale you're dropped back into is Castle Dimitrescu. The resident Lady of the house is absent this time around, but the castle walls are now inhabited by a villainous version of Ethan's merchant ally, The Duke, who gleefully dispatches his own creatures to snuff Rose out. These grotesque monstrosities are similar in design to the Molded from Resident Evil 7, except they have a nasty habit of sucking Rose's face off whenever they get ahold of her. To combat these Face Eaters, Rose is aided by an unseen entity called Michael who can only communicate by conjuring written words that appear floating in mid-air and on various surfaces. Michael manifests a pistol early on, and he'll provide you with ammunition and healing items from time to time, as well as providing hints on where to go next. His presence is more crucial to the story than the moment-to-moment gameplay, but the floating words add a fun wrinkle to chase scenes as it feels like you're being guided by an omniscient being.

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Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Campaign Review - Just Like Old Times

Sat, 10/22/2022 - 08:59

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2's story picks up three years after the events of 2019's rebooted Modern Warfare. Captain Price's iconic Task Force 141 is now fully assembled and, of course, another threat of global terrorism has emerged. Fresh new mechanics, more flexibility in how you complete missions, and a host of callbacks to the original series make Modern Warfare 2's campaign feel satisfying despite an increase in difficulty.

This rebooted version of Task Force 141 features Price and the familiar faces of Simon "Ghost" Riley, Kyle "Gaz" Garrick, and John "Soap" MacTavish. However, Modern Warfare 2 introduces a new ally with Colonel Alejandro Vargas of the Mexican Special Forces. While this is a different story than 2009's Modern Warfare 2, it does reintroduce General Shepherd from the original campaign. Modern Warfare 2019's Kate Laswell and the PMC group known as Shadow Company all make a return as well.

Playing as members of Task Force 141, you are put to the test when a United States airstrike kills Al-Qatala leader General Ghorbrani, whose successor, Hassan Zyani, vows revenge and teams up with an international drug cartel to transport stolen U.S. ballistic missiles. Hassan plans to launch the missiles against United States targets and it falls upon Task Force 141 to stop this from happening. The campaign is a globe-trotting affair, sending you to fight in places like Amsterdam, Mexico, Chicago, and even parts of Al Mazrah, the fictional setting of Warzone 2.0's map. This gives a refreshing variety to the scenery from mission to mission, with nighttime stealth ops, desert battles, a prison break, and even an oil rig set piece that feels like a throwback to the original Modern Warfare 2's The Only Easy Day...Was Yesterday mission, without being a remake of it.

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Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope Review - This Sparks Joy

Fri, 10/21/2022 - 02:38

Against all odds, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle was a charmingly weird success, fusing Nintendo mega-star mascot Mario with Ubisoft's less-than-inspiring little rabbit oddballs and throwing them into a turn-based strategy game, of all things. It was an open question then whether Ubisoft, which took the lead on the project, would be able to capture the ineffable Nintendo magic while borrowing some of the company's most iconic characters. With that question now answered, Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope sets its sights higher, managing to not only be a surprisingly good Mario spin-off, but legitimately be better than some of Nintendo's own recent games starring the plucky plumber.

Like the original, Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope is very strange. It occupies a parallel version of the Mushroom Kingdom where Mario and his friends casually socialize with their Rabbid doppelgangers, and where many of them are packing heat--albeit in an abstract, bubblegum package. The Rabbids are a little obnoxious and off-putting, but Mario and his friends seem too polite to say anything. When they discover a Spark, a new life form that is obviously a Rabbid fused with one of Rosalina's Lumas, they immediately know something must be wrong because Rosalina would never allow that to happen to her babies. The implicit acknowledgement that being a Rabbid mutant is a terrible fate got a good chuckle out of me right from the jump.

This is indicative of how Ubisoft approaches the overall tone: reverent and respectful of Mario lore, such as it is, while cheeky and self-aware about its own Rabbids creations. Mario and his friends are video game royalty, and its cast includes a literal space goddess. The Rabbids were always made to be annoying; that was sort of the joke. These are not the same, and the game knows it, juxtaposing the two against one another to surprising comedic effect.

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Gotham Knights Review - Knightfall

Thu, 10/20/2022 - 22:00

Batman is dead. With so few words, Gotham Knights is instantly intriguing. What does Gotham look like without its Dark Knight perched over the rotten city? What do his nemeses--many of whom exist in some way because Batman did--do without him? Most importantly, what impact does his death have on Robin, Batgirl, Nightwing, and Red Hood, the so-called Bat-family? Their leader's sudden demise leaves a massive hole in the heart of Gotham, and Gotham Knights is the story of sidekicks stepping out from his shadow. Although the new guard fares well from a narrative standpoint, the gameplay systems built to serve their 30-hour campaign to reclaim Gotham let the team down.

This isn't an Arkham game, though Gotham Knights does use the beloved series as a jumping-off point. In a totally open-world version of Gotham City, the Bat-family will still spend much of their time swooping down on enemies from gargoyles overhead and chain attacks with stylish combat moves as they dispatch packs of gangsters. They'll still crawl through vents to get the drop on baddies who are feeling empowered by Batman's sudden departure. The open world is also structurally familiar in the way it carries the player through the game. It is full of icons ranging from main story beats to one-off time trials and challenges, so at first glance this version of Gotham doesn't seem all that different from other versions of it, or other open-world games for that matter.

Though it looks the part, with its stark class divide, constant crime sprees, and neo-noirish intentions, patrolling the urban sprawl is sadly a chore. Because Gotham Knights trades the tried-and-true action-adventure roots of recent Batman games for a loot-focused brawler, the cadence of action foregoes compelling storylines that complement the main campaign for rote and repetitive street brawls that reward you with crafting resources. The game starts really strong, with several authored story missions that feel nearly as big and bold as you'd expect, given the last 15 years of Gotham-set games. After that intro, however, the game settles into unremarkable and unfilling gameplay loops driven by awkward games-as-a-service design principles.

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New Tales From The Borderlands Review - Good Stories

Thu, 10/20/2022 - 22:00

New Tales from the Borderlands is a fun pit stop in the space Western of the Borderlands series. Much like its predecessor, Telltale Games' Tales from the Borderlands, this new adventure focuses on an ensemble cast of everyday people, not the superhero-like Vault Hunters of the main series. And in a very similar vein to the first game, New Tales from the Borderlands makes a solid case that the series needs more stories like this one. It's just more interesting to see normal people navigating Borderlands' capitalist hellscape of corporate wars as they approach the ludicrous antics and dystopian lawlessness from a more relatable perspective.

The normal people in question are altruistic scientist Anu, her younger adopted brother Octavio, and frozen yogurt shop owner Fran. Anu wants to build a device that can end conflicts nonviolently, much to the chagrin of the weapons manufacturer she works for. Octavio desires respect and fame, seeking an idea for a get-rich start-up business. And Fran desires vengeance upon weapons manufacturer Tediore, whose invasion of the planet of Promethea results in the destruction of her shop. Upon learning the invasion is to acquire a Vault Key and open the Promethean Vault, the trio finds themselves working together to acquire the Vault's treasure before Tediore can claim it, hoping it will be something valuable enough to secure funding for Anu's research and Octavio's dreams, while also depriving Tediore of their goal and netting Fran her revenge.

Most of New Tales from the Borderlands has you making dialogue choices for Anu, Octavio, or Fran, or performing some feat via a quick-time event. Your choices can have a range of consequences--strengthening the relationship between two characters, for example--but their primary effect is repercussions on the story. You can't outright avoid the major narrative beats of each chapter, but you can influence how events transpire to color in your own take on the adventure. Fran is always going to be visited by the insurance agent overseeing her claim of the damage to her shop, for instance, but it's entirely up to the choices you made leading up to and during that encounter that determine whether she gets that payout, and shapes how the agent perceives her going forward. This structure does mean that New Tales from the Borderlands can occasionally feel too scripted--especially near the end of episodes when the story has to guide you towards an unavoidable outcome to set up the next story beat--but it works for the most part, injecting enough player agency into the story to create tangible change in pretty much every event.

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Uncharted: Legacy Of Thieves Review - Charted, Again

Wed, 10/19/2022 - 03:14

Naughty Dog is one of the most recognizable names on PlayStation hardware, and the roaring success of its Uncharted franchise across two generations of the console plays a large part in that legacy. It makes sense then that the studio's first full release for the PlayStation 5 celebrates that storied history, bringing two of the series' best entries to new hardware with a suite of improvements that make experiencing the treasure-hunting adventures a pleasure again. Although some of the underlying design choices are showing some age, the Legacy of Thieves Collection is the best way to play Uncharted 4: A Thief's End and Uncharted: Lost Legacy.

Across both games, the most significant changes are clear to see in the game's three modes of play. Fidelity mode targets a native 4K presentation, with the frame rate aiming for a locked 30fps(and sticking there for pretty much every scene). The new performance mode, which is likely the best way to play, reduces the resolution to 1440p but doubles the frame rate to 60fps, which it easily maintains for much more responsive gameplay. A third mode, Performance+, cuts the resolution even more, with a native 1080p presentation and a frame rate that aims for 120fps. You'll need a display that supports that in the first place, and even then, it's a tough concession to make visually for added fluidity that's not really required for the narrative-focused adventures that this collection contains.

What the additional horsepower of the PS5 offers, then, is choice, which wasn't present with the original releases on both the PS4 and PS4 Pro. Both Uncharted 4 and Lost Legacy have been playable on PS5 through backwards compatibility, but have been frustratingly locked to the same 30fps cap as the PS4 versions in both respective campaigns. The higher frame rates for both were reserved for their respective multiplayer modes, which aren't included in this Legacy of Thieves Collection anyway.

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A Plague Tale: Requiem Review - Picturesque Terror

Tue, 10/18/2022 - 05:00

There's a sequence in A Plague Tale: Requiem's fourth chapter where you're forced to flee a literal tsunami of rats. As you jump from one stone rooftop to another, the swarm of plague-infested vermin sweeps through the town below like raging flood waters, toppling over buildings at their foundations and consuming anyone caught in its destructive path. It's a moment of Hollywood spectacle that showcases the remarkable advancements in technology since A Plague Tale: Innocence was released in 2019. Whereas the first game could handle 5,000 rats at any one time, its sequel can populate the screen with a staggering 300,000. This vast multiplication enhances the terrifying and oppressive nature of the series' signature rodents, but moments like this are an outlier; for the most part, Requiem feels very familiar to its predecessor.

Although developer Asobo Studio has supplemented its stealth action gameplay with a few new additions, this sense of familiarity persists throughout the first half of the game. Like Innocence, Requiem puts you in the well-worn shoes of Amicia de Rune, a teenage girl who's tasked with protecting her younger brother, Hugo, as they traverse a plague-stricken, 14th-century France in search of a cure for his mysterious illness. Amicia is armed with a sling that can both kill helmet-less enemies and strike crates of conveniently-placed armor to create a distraction. You also have access to alchemical ammo that can either light fires or snuff them out, letting you navigate through the mischief of light-averse rats and use them to your advantage by shrouding enemies in darkness.

Amicia is a more proficient fighter this time around, so you're able to counter armored enemies after being spotted and leave them stunned for a few seconds. If you have a single-use knife handy, you can finish them off with a killing blow, but knives are hard to come by and also double as a tool for opening padlocked workbenches. These hidden stashes are filled with various crafting materials, so I always found it more advantageous to hold onto any knives I could get my hands on rather than wasting them on a single kill. You can also use Amicia's sling to strangle unarmored enemies by catching them unaware from behind. There's an element of risk and reward in doing so, however, since the animation is fairly lengthy and it's not completely quiet.

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Scorn Review - Pound Of Flesh

Fri, 10/14/2022 - 21:00

Scorn is designed to be disgusting. The walls of its labyrinthine halls are constructed with twisting contortions of flesh, and its mechanically complex contraptions are drenched in the blood of discarded carcasses that lay decaying without care. The inspirations of Scorn's aesthetic are familiar but well-implemented, creating an atmosphere of languish and disgust that is maintained throughout. However, disappointingly, Scorn's infuriatingly unbalanced combat, uneven puzzle design, and severely restricted checkpointing make its setting the least off-putting part about it.

Scorn's most immediate impression comes from its aesthetic. This is textbook H.R. Giger, with the artist's flair for biomechanical structures influencing every biome you visit in Scorn. If you've watched Prometheus recently, you'll be quite familiar with the types of interweaving, fleshy layouts that Scorn has in store, with some variety in each new area preventing the presentation from feeling stale. The gratuitous violence and frequent body horror is less impactful, however. There is some initial shock value in seeing your arm mangled as a new key item is seared into it or watching as a parasite latches onto your body to slowly rip out your intestines, but many of these actions are repeated frequently enough that their impact diminishes over Scorn's seven-hour runtime. Scorn's violence isn't memorable; instead it's a disappointing departure from the well-crafted horror of its inspirations, wasting the potential of its alluring aesthetic.

Exploration and puzzles are at the core of Scorn's gameplay loop. You'll explore a handful of different constrained biomes during each of the game's five acts, all of which are large, multi-step puzzles made up of small ones that must be solved in a specific order. Most solutions come about through simple exploration; each space has multiple areas for you to poke around in but usually only one correct path to follow, meaning you'll regularly come across multiple dead ends before arriving at the correct route to take. Interactive consoles often let you manipulate the space, too, moving around large objects to complete other routes that let you progress further into the biome you're currently in. Each of these spaces is like one big Rube Goldberg machine that you're slowly activating one piece at a time, and it's satisfying to see levels fold in on themselves and click into place once you've got everything down. This is crucial given Scorn's purposeful lack of storytelling, with only two short cutscenes at its start and end tasking you with making any sense of everything in-between.

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PGA Tour 2K23 Review - Links To The Future

Fri, 10/14/2022 - 10:10

From a pure golfing perspective, PGA Tour 2K23 is the best simulation golf game ever made. With realistic ball physics, precise shot-shaping, and an emphasis on rhythm and swing path, 2K23 delivers on the many idiosyncrasies of the beautiful game that is golf. Combine the refined golfing mechanics with deeper levels of customization, and I can safely say that PGA Tour 2K23 is a meaningful upgrade over its predecessor. And hey, it also marks the return of Tiger Woods to the virtual links, which is a big deal for those who grew up playing Tiger Woods golf games.

PGA Tour 2K23 is the first new entry in the series in two years. That's unusual for sports games, as most have annual entries. After spending more than a dozen hours with 2K23, I'm starting to feel like this release model--where developers have more time to make improvements--would go a long way toward fixing many of the issues that plague long-running sports series. It doesn't offer minor, iterative changes. Instead, PGA 2K23 is a marked improvement on its predecessor–a rarity in the sports sim genre.

The PGA 2K series--previously called The Golf Club before 2K acquired HB Studios--has always done a remarkable job with swing mechanics. Emphasizing timing and rhythm more than popular golf games of yesteryear, the series makes each swing feel critical--just like the real sport. PGA Tour 2K23 follows that tradition and improves on it with a couple of new core features: a revamped swing meter and a three-click swing system.

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Lego Bricktales Review: Build Brick Better

Thu, 10/13/2022 - 09:07

Lego games are not usually centered around their actual construction toy namesake. A massive library of Traveller's Tales games have been built on crossovers with many licensed franchises, turning properties like Lord of the Rings and Marvel superheroes into slapstick action-platformers, and Lego A Builder's Journey used the brick-building toys to tell a heartfelt story. Lego games don't often capture the feeling of actually playing with Lego bricks, but Lego Bricktales actually does with incredible accuracy.

Bricktales is all about building, transporting you to five Lego-themed worlds and presenting you with a series of physics-based building puzzles. The physics system underlying the whole thing is impressive, as the Lego bricks actually perform the way any experienced brick-builder would expect. Whenever you finish a project that requires weight-bearing, you'll need to test it with a falling object or a little robot crossing your construction to make sure it holds up. If you didn't reinforce it with support struts, the pieces will just fall apart. Even elements like a step being one spacer too high could create enough fall momentum to break the structure.

In that way, Lego Bricktales functions like a STEM toy, teaching some basic engineering principles in a fun and engaging way, just like actual Lego bricks. Putting it into a virtual space like this means you get to stress test the results of your hard work in a way that feels personal and tactile. You can sense the physicality of the interlocking brick system in a way that other games haven't quite captured. It's very satisfying to walk up a set of stairs that you designed yourself, recognizing your own patterns and even your mistakes. And once you've completed the building challenge, you unlock a free play mode that lets you use additional decorative elements to make the structures look great. As you progress through a biome, you'll be surrounded by your own works of brick-built functional art, using them to traverse the environments.

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