Review: Defense Grid 2

Defense Grid 2
box_defensegrid2_w160
Cost
$24.99
Format
Digital
Size
1.44 GB
Available On
Xbox ONE [Reviewed], PS4
Release Date
9/24/14
Developer
Hidden Path Entertainment/505 Games
Publisher
Hidden Path Entertainment/505 Games
Modes
Single Player and Co-Op

Defense Grid 2 is a tower defense style strategy game in the same vein as its predecessor, Defense Grid: The Awakening. The aim of the game is to stop aliens from invading your base and stealing your precious power cores by placing upgradeable towers on the map. If you lose all of them it is game over. The great thing about Defense Grid is how it differs from other tower defense games I have played. When an alien steals a power core it isn’t gone until said alien leaves the map with it. So you can scramble and kill the retreating aliens with added towers if need be whilst they try and escape the map. I found that I was killing the majority of aliens whilst escaping.

At the start of each mission you are given a set amount of resources to spend on buying towers. You get to choose from 9 different towers ranging from guns to missiles and lasers, along with a booster tower which increases the effectiveness of any tower you place on top of it. Each tower can be upgraded a maximum of two times. All of which will cost you more resources which will consistently replenish throughout the mission. You also get extra resources as a wave end bonus at the end of certain waves. As you progress through the missions, you can be randomly rewarded with tower augmentations which you can equip to your towers (one at a time) to increase their power or add abilities such as targeting the most powerful enemy first. Defense Grid 2 does a great job of incorporating the different towers as you progress through the missions so you are not bombarded with too many options from the word go.

Along with being able to place towers on the map, you also have a special ability to use which is determined by which Command Team you choose to take with you on the mission. After using all abilities in different situations, I never really used them again as there was no need for it. Maybe if I was competent enough to play through it on a harder difficulty level (yes, I am a strategy baby, so I played it on Easy…but I’m World number 1 on mission 11!) the special abilities would have played a larger part in my strategies.

Leaderboards

Yeah, proud of that. Leaderboards are a prominent feature and in each mission your score is racing against your friend with the closest score.

At the end of each mission, based on your performance you can receive a Bronze, Silver or Gold medal. I can’t give you the requirements for scoring well in the game as I have received Gold medals with only one power core remaining, all power cores remaining and using all resources or hardly spending any at all. So it is a bit confusing how consistently get high scores.

The missions in this game are not short by any means. With some missions having 100 waves of aliens, you will notice that they can take up quite a significant chunk of time. But with the RB button, you can speed the game up. If it wasn’t for this feature I can honestly say I would have been bored out of my mind within the first few missions. The default speed the aliens attack is mind numbingly slow. I would have preferred it if there was a slow down button with the sped up game play being the default. I only ever played on the default speed at the beginning of each mission to set my initial towers and if all my power cores had been stolen. The other quite nifty feature is the ability to revert to your last checkpoint by pressing LB. In too deep with wave 48 of 50 and wished you had a set of concussion towers next to the base? Tap that LB button and go back in time unpunished. I didn’t actually use this feature much, mostly due to the fact I was playing on Easy, but I can see how this feature can be indispensable for strategists playing on the higher difficulties.

Speaking of the difficulty level, as I mentioned above, I played through the campaign on Easy after dabbling with the Normal difficulty and having my rear handed to me on a plate several times over. I have no idea how anyone can complete the game on Hard, never mind the highest difficulty, Elite. With that being said, Easy was just too easy. Unless there was more than one core to defend, I could literally use exactly the same defense layout on each mission. It didn’t even seem to matter what towers I used either. I managed to get gold ratings on every mission I played whilst grinding out some of the achievements for placing 100 of each tower.

Including the prologue, there are 21 missions to go through in the single player portion of the game. Each mission begins with a wall of text for you to read which gives you the outline of the story, which is bland at best. Not really worth mentioning to be honest. Each Command Team you encounter has their own dialogue and whilst some of the dialogue can be quite amusing, they don’t really add anything to the story at all. Although 21 missions doesn’t sound like much, each mission has plenty of different challenge modes to choose from, really adding a huge amount of replayability to the game. Each challenge mode has certain rule changes for example, in ‘Out of Bullets’ you are tasked with defending your base without the use of Gun or Cannon towers.

joke

General Fletcher showing off some of his British wit.

Something I noticed that Hidden Path Entertainment should really be commended for is the inclusion of a community suggested game type. In the first 7 missions there is a challenge mode called ‘Fully Loaded’ which gives you all tower types to beat that mission and they have even credited the community member for the suggestion which I think is a really nice touch.

Although I found the story uneventful, the levels couldn’t be more opposite. Yes, the levels look unappealing to me and they look very similar, but each one plays very differently. Some levels have you defending one base with a myriad of options as to where to put your towers, as well as several paths for the aliens to attack your base. In those instances you have to block off the paths with towers to funnel the aliens towards the path you want them to take. Others have you defending two bases with several paths where aliens could attack from or a set path with limited options as to where to put down your defenses. On top of this variation, some later levels change their structure by adding sections of the map for the aliens to divert across.

If you find yourself overwhelmed in a certain area, you can buy extra sections of the map by using the command shuttle to sway the tide in your favor.

Speaking of the many game modes, Defense Grid 2 comes with three multiplayer modes. The first one is DG Fighter where you compete against another player and any aliens you defeat will appear on their side of the map and vice versa. The second is Co-op Doubles which has two players working together on a single map. Lastly there is DG Coordinated Defense which has you and another player attacking the same aliens on the same map but you each get allocated positions for your towers to be placed. I cannot really give much of an opinion on these modes because I was unable to find a match. Whilst searching for a match you can continue playing missions on single player if you wish, which is something more games should definitely incorporate.

Even though Defense Grid 2 has an immense amount of replayability, the high price tag that comes with it will probably make a lot of gamers that aren’t already a fan of Defense Grid to go get their fix elsewhere until it either appears on sale or as a free download as part of Games With Gold. Although I do feel the price point is a bit lofty, if you enjoy Tower Defense games you will not be left disappointed. That there, is the problem. Unless the price decreases, Defense Grid 2 is only really going to appeal to that niche audience in my opinion.

Onto my favorite part of every game…the achievements. Defense Grid 2 boasts a huge list of achievements, 65 to be exact. Ranging from placing 100 of each tower to defeating 50,000 aliens and the humdinger of them all, achieving 100 Gold Medals across any mission. You get 21 Gold Medals from the story mode, the rest are going to be obtained from completing all the different types of challenge modes for the missions. There are plenty to choose from but it is a bit of a grind. I’m sitting at just under 40 right now and took a break from it. But I am looking forward to picking it back up in a few days to get the remaining 60ish. All in all it is a good list with a variety of tasks you need to perform. Just a little note, any achievements that you should unlock during a mission will not unlock until after the mission is complete, so don’t panic!

Overall, Defense Grid 2 is a fantastic addition to the Tower Defense genre with spectacular level designs that will really get you thinking about where to put your defenses. Although the story is severely lacking, the sheer amount of different game modes available more than makes up for it. The only real sticking point is the price.

 

PROS:
1) Tons of replayability
2) Great level design
3) Tower Defense game play at its best

CONS:
1) Price point too high
2) Bland story

8.0
EXCELLENT

 

Review: Styx: Master of Shadows

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Styx: Master of Shadows

Styx: Master of Shadows
box_styxmasterofshadows_w160
Cost
$29.99
Format
Digital
Size
6.48 GB
Available On
Xbox ONE [Reviewed], PS4, Steam
Release Date
10/8/14
Developer
Cyanide
Publisher
Focus Home Interactive
Modes
Single Player

Styx is a stealth game that is billed as a story prequel to Of Orc and Men. You play Styx, the first Goblin, who was one of the NPC characters in Of Orc and Men as he tells his story of trying to steal the heart of the World Tree. Styx: Master of Shadows is told over 8 missions and is a digital only game that costs $30 on Xbox ONE. Each mission runs about 30 or so minutes but takes about 2 to 3 hours each because of the shear number of deaths and reloads. Being a stealth game though if you follow someone’s perfect guide its going to go a lot faster. Digital only games over $15 are a hard sell as people are just getting used to the idea that on the ONE there is no distinction. There are just games, big and small, cheap and not so cheap. So does Styx: Master of Shadows have enough quality gameplay to justify the $30 price?

Styx is a pure stealth game in that there is no run and gun option. You can kill enemies in stealthy manners, like from behind or hidden from a chest, but direct confrontation is a recipe for death. When you are seen and attacked you have to successfully parry several attacks, with the harder the enemy the more parries needed, before you are given a direct kill option. Which seems fine since you are just a little hunched over Goblin and not made for direct contact with Humans UNTIL you see Styx pick up these fallen enemies and just toss them about like rag dolls so he definitely has the strength to just win any battle. So chalk that up to a thematic choice to keep with the straight up stealth style of the game but a blunder none the less. The thing that Styx excels at is little touches that other stealh games miss out on. The biggest is accidents. Accidents don’t count against you and don’t make guards freak out and instantly start searching for a spy in their midst. Don’t get me wrong, they react, but in a realistic fashion. Worried about what happened, but not insane about it. Noise levels are handled extremely well. Knocking over broom and kicking pots is going to make some noise and get people investigating as it should.

styx_02

As far as the story is concerned, let’s play a drinking game. Every time Styx has a line of dialogue where he mentions his headache, take a drink. You’ll be dead before the end of the first mission. The story is told in cutscenes and in game audio dialogue. The story does luckily pick up in the first mission but it’s presented in a weird fashion. The opening level story is told in a in-game rendered cutscene. This is followed up by in-game dialogue as you go through the mission. But after you finish a mission the wrap up, which is technically a continuation of opening story, is told with audio over paintings. It just comes off weird because it’s all part of the same scene where Styx is relaying the story so why such a huge change in style? Then we start the next mission and it’s back to cutscene.

So what does Styx add to the stealth genre? The whole game is about finding and drinking Amber to power Styx’s abilities with the main ability being that Styx can clone himself and use the clone for various activities. Most of which revolve around the clone being able to squeeze through small areas to activate doors for Styx to go through. The big problem with the clones is that only Styx or the clone can act at once. If you need to move Styx, the clone is just standing around waiting. Then you have Styx wait while the clone moves. There is no go do this while I do this other thing. The clones has 4 abilities but the best abilities are all attack oriented and this is in a non-combat oriented stealth game. This leave you with using the clone as distraction so you can sneak past. The thing that is nice is the game doesn’t count clone alerts against you for the sake of stealth. All in all the clones felt like more of a hindrance and kind of gimicky then something that helped me move forward in the game mainly because of the time it take to switch between the two. The guards would already be in the process of resetting before I could even get Styx to start to try to sneak past them.

This comes to Styx: Master of Shadows best point. Pathing. There are a multitude of ways to get from A to B in this game. There is almost always ways up, through, or under any obstacle. Some are quite obvious, but the best ones need to be scouted and discovered. Your Amber Vision points out things that can be grabbed and showcases graphical hints that certain ways may lead to collectibles or simpler travels. One of the issues with the game is Styx’s movement through these levels. Since we are going for stealth precise jumps are extremely important to the game to navigate the ledges above the enemies, Styx’s movement through the game is kind of stiff. I find myself saving quite a bit as even the slightest misstep could send you 4 levels down to either your direct death, a crowd of enemies, or just the inconvenience of having to do everything over again. When most of the best routes are above the ground it adds a false level of difficulty just based on how awful the jumping is.

Styx uses the Unreal engine for graphics and it’s presented in what I would call a dumbed down Dishonored. They have a very similar look but Dishonored was just so much crisper. Styx also suffers highly from the Stormtrooper problem. There only seems to be 4 or 5 guards models so you’ll be stabbing or sneaking past the same guy about a billion times. The lip sync on cutscenes is also just enough off to be distracting. The graphics are definitely above average, just not as clean as I’ve know the Unreal Engine can be. The levels themselves are pretty good looking and are extremely varied so although the enemies repeat, the level design is fresh.

styx_01

Styx does feature a skills progression system. There are 5 categories and each category contains 4 upgrades. When you complete objectives in the game or finish a mission with special criteria, like no alerts or no deaths, you earn Skill Points. You can spend these back at your Hideout between missions to improve Styx. Things like producing less noise, using a visions ability to find collectibles or being able to do a death from above kill. You can also upgrade your clone so that he can grab enemies for you to run up and get the quick kill or even cooler is you can place a clone in a chest or closet and he will kill any enemies that happen to wonder by. Besides the 4 clone abilities they are all typical stealth skills that every single stealth game in the universe is using.

The collectibles are horrible. Each level seems to have 10 Tokens / Coins you need to find per section. These must be found in one playthough of a mission to unlock the thief insignia for that level. Until you get all the tokens in all sections of a level restarting a mission will reset your progress for that level. I’m sure people will come up with 100% stealth, no kill, get all coins videos but for your average gamer you are going to be doing a lot of playthroughs of a mission to get everything completed. Most of the coins are right next to enemies almost forcing you go on the attack if you want to get them all.

All in all Styx is a fine game and a generally good time. It simply doesn’t push the stealth genre to anything new or exciting. If you come to Styx as a Run and Gunner stealth player you’re going to have a hard time adjusting to this sneaky combat system. You’re going to die a lot. This game is set up more towards Outlast where you are punished for being seen. It is possible to escape and hide, in fact like most stealth game enemies give up pretty quick [like seriously? If you see an enemy combatant in your base you just figure you were day dreaming if you don’t catch him in 2 minutes? This is ALL stealth games], but the name of the game is stealth. If you are a pure stealth fan than it is worth the $30.

NOTE: If you are playing Styx and need help we do have an Achievement Guide right here on GameGuideCentral!

PROS:
1) Strong level design
2) Strong stealth mechanics

CONS:
1) Minimal enemy differences
2) Large sections of non-precise jumping

7.5
Good

 

Review: KickBeat

KickBeat – Special Edition
box_kickbeat_w160
Cost
$9.99
Format
Digital
Size
879.54 MB
Available On
Xbox ONE [Reviewed], PS4, PS3, Vita, WiiU
Release Date
9/26/2014
Developer
ZEN Studios
Publisher
ZEN Studios
Modes
Single Player / Split Screen

KickBeat is ZEN Studios’ take on a music and rhythm game played with a controller that has a combat twist. Unlike other music and rhythm games where you have arrows or different colored dots flying at you, KickBeat replaces those mundane items with circling enemies. Enemies that want to cause you great pain.

The objective of the game is to counter the enemies attacks, in rhythm to the music, using the A, B, X, and Y buttons as they attack you. When countering enemies you are rewarded with ‘chi’, which will fill your chi meter below your feet. Collecting enough will allow you to activate your special power which will double your score for your counters, just like star power in the Guitar Hero games. If you fail to counter an enemy you get hit and lose some health. If your health fully depletes, you fail the track and have to start over. Each track is graded out of 5 stars dependent on your score with elusive red stars to be earned in the higher difficulties for near perfect runs.

There are four main types of enemies; Orange enemies – they attack one at a time, Blue enemies – they attack in quick succession, Red enemies – attack simultaneously and Yellow enemies – linked together, you need to press and hold the required button when the first enemy attacks, then release the button when the second enemy attacks.

Some enemies will have a bonus or power-up above their heads when they attack you. To collect them, you need to double tap the button they attack you on, which will actually be incorporated into the rhythm of the track. There are two types of bonuses; a multiplier bonus and a score bonus. The multiplier bonus when collected, increases your multiplier and the score bonus adds 500 points to your score.

As for the power-ups, there are four different types, a health boost, a chi boost, a shield and a shockwave. The health boost replenishes some of your health, and the chi boost does the same for your special. The shield will protect you from incoming attacks for a short period of time and the shockwave destroys all enemies that are circling you getting ready to attack. I only ever used them if I got hit and struggled to find the rhythm again. If you pick up a shield of shockwave power-up whilst already holding one, the one you are holding will be removed and the new one will take its place but it isn’t much of an issue because they pretty much give you the same amount of time to recover your rhythm.

Bonuses

 
The story begins with the Sphere of Music being stolen by Mr Halisi, the owner of Radio Earth. His sole intention being complete control over all music. Master Fu, the guardian of the Sphere of Music tasks Lee with finding Mr Halisi and reclaiming the Sphere of Music so the World can once again listen to music. So Lee travels the world in search for the Sphere of Music and encounters countless enemies trying to stop him in his tracks.

The story is split into two parts. Part one, you play as Lee and part two you play as Mei, Master Fu’s Granddaughter. The last track of each venue is a boss battle, but it is essentially the same game play, just with different things attacking you.

After each venue which consists of up to four tracks to fight through, you are presented with some beautifully hand-drawn cut scenes. The voice acting throughout the cut scenes are pretty good all in all and I found myself laughing at a couple of the jokes too (my favorite being the Justin Beiber dig in the cut scene below).

With the game having 24 tracks, running anywhere between two and a half minutes and six minutes, you are looking at Lee’s story taking you roughly two hours. Mei’s story will take exactly the same amount of time, and this is where I was disappointed.

Although the story line is slightly different for Mei, and the cut scenes are different, the game play is identical. You play through exactly the same venues with exactly the same songs, just with a different character stood in the middle of the arena. I personally would have preferred the two story lines to have 12 songs in each so you didn’t have to essentially play through the same track list twice.

This leads me to the greatest part of the game in my opinion. The track list. I was absolutely blown away by the tracks. Each track just got better and better and I found myself looking forward to the next track just as much as playing the game itself. These are the tracks included in the game:

Pendulum – Self vs. Self, Propane Nightmares (Celldweller Remix)
Celldweller – Switchback, I Can’t Wait
Marilyn Manson – The Beautiful People
Shen Yi – War Dance
POD – Boom
Papa Roach – Last Resort
Blue Stahli – Takedown, Scrape, Ultranumb
Southpaw Swagger – It’s Showtime
Pre-Fight Hype – It’s Goin Down
Voicians – Fighters, The Construct
Rob Zombie – Scum of the Earth
Styles Beyond – Nine Thou
Pre-Fight Hype & Southpaw Swagger – Tug-O-War
enV – Destination, RPM, Vee, Shakestopper, OCP, Bloom

I did however find that there were some instances where no matter how hard I tried to keep to the beat, the enemies attacks didn’t seem to match up to the beat of the track. This wasn’t during every track and it wasn’t consistent throughout any track, so I may have just struggled to keep to the beat.

Other than story mode, KickBeat offers a survival mode, a freeplay mode and a split screen mode.

Title

In survival mode, you play through track after track until you lose all of your health. I can’t actually say whether or not your health regenerates after finishing a song because no matter how hard I tried, I was unable to finish the first song and there is no way to alter the difficulty of survival mode.

In freeplay mode, you can make a playlist of any songs you want and just play through them. Nothing fancy, but pretty much every rhythm game has this mode.

The game has four different difficulty levels and if, like me, you aren’t a rhythm guru, I would strongly suggest starting out on Normal difficulty, which is the lowest difficulty. I even found the first two or three songs even on Normal difficulty to be too much. Surprisingly though, things got a lot easier as the story progressed. I think the rhythm was a lot more prominent and easier to follow in the later songs. On the higher difficulties, I really struggled, regardless of the song and I’ve only managed to finish one song on Master difficulty which is the highest difficulty level. The level of difficulty is extremely daunting, especially for newcomers to this genre, but when you do finish a track and you get rewarded with five stars, you get a massive sense of accomplishment, regardless of what difficulty level you are playing on.

With the game being so difficult, you need to make sure you can play it with no distractions. If you cannot hear the music it is near impossible to stay alive, let alone finish with a half decent score. This leads me to my biggest gripe with this game. If you pause it mid track there is no countdown when you unpause it. You might as well restart the track if you have to pause the game because it is pretty much impossible to carry on without a countdown.

Onto the achievements. What can I say? there are at least 14 achievements that will be difficult to near impossible to obtain. The game is no joke. You need to five star all songs on Master difficulty. If you can do that, you have a fighting chance, but it gets even harder. They expect you to only get perfect hits on a Master difficulty song and complete 18 songs in survival mode. Scary stuff for completionists.

All in all, KickBeat is a great Rhythm game with a unique twist. The track list is probably one of the best track lists for a game I have played and although the learning curve is steep and the story is a bit short and repetitive, it is a great buy for $9.99. If you are a completionist, I would stay well away from this one unless you have crazy rhythm skills. I have already resigned this one to forever be incomplete on my tag.

PROS:
1) Amazing track list
2) Challenging for all skill levels
3) Excellent blend of rhythm and fighting game play

CONS:
1) No countdown when unpausing the game
2) Short and repetitive story

 

7.5
GOOD

 

Review: Flockers

Flockers
box_flockers_w160
Cost
$24.99
Format
Digital
Size
5.86 GB
Available On
Xbox ONE [Reviewed], PS4
Release Date
9/23/14
Developer
Team 17
Publisher
Team 17
Modes
Single Player

Flockers is a Lemmings style puzzler where you herd sheep through a series of obstacles and try to get as many as you can to safety while avoiding death spikes and buzzsaws and a just a ton of other sheep life ending devices. The sheep’s part in all of this is to just go forward, period. They don’t think about how 20 sheep before them were just horribly sawed in half. Until you tell them differently, forward they will go. Like hardcore White Wilderness style. So yes, the first thing you are going to say to yourself is, “Self, this is Lemmings. But with Sheep.” and you’d be telling yourself the truth. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Lemming was a fantastic game, in 1991, when it came out. The question is does Flockers do it better or worse and does this style of game stand the test of 2 decades time?

The basic ability in Flockers is a system of blocks to aid you in moving about the stages. A single sheep block might help you climb a small ridge or allow you to aid other sheep in dropping from a high distance. From there you can add another sheep to the top to create a wall to block the sheep’s movement while you wait for a buzzsaw to move past. You can also stagger the sheep to create a series of stairs to climb to even higher area. The genius of this system is that these constructs also allow you to break them down in interesting way. Take the 2 sheep wall, add a bomb to the lower sheep and you just created a cannon to send the top sheep to press a button or reach a new area. During the first couple of levels I was worried that this lack of abilities would be this games downfall but these secondary interactions had a new level of planning to the game.

The other abilities are just as basic and straightforward. You have jumping, flying and making a bomb. Standard abilities to be sure but there are nuances here. Take the jump. It’s a pretty big jump and there are times when activating this ability too early will actually hinder you as sheep will jump over things you need them to hit, like buttons or waking up other sheep.

The graphics are what I can only call standard Team 17 graphics. Nice enough but definitely more 360 than ONE. Flockers looks almost exactly the same as Team 17’s last game Worms Battleground with the slightest of upgrades. Flockers provides an in-game challenge system where you can earn different skins and blood color. Yes, the color of blood your sheep’s bleed when they die horribly is customizable. These skins are modeled at a fairly high level of detail and you can see this higher quality when viewing the sheep close up, but that level of detail is lost when you zoom out enough to be able to see your entire flock at once so you can micro manage and keep them from dying every half a second.

One of the biggest opportunities missed here is when you get stuck with no way to finish the level. Lemmings had a bomb button that just tore the entire world apart and made it a little bit ok that you just lost horribly. In Flockers you just get to hit Restart. Kind of a minor, but in my heart a major, letdown.

There are 60 main level with every 10th being a “boss” level. Pretty much boss level means that there is something that is going to be actively trying to eliminate your sheep besides your own errors. There are also 6 secret levels unlocked by running over a special icon that is hidden in a standard mission. These secret levels offer up some pretty unique design. The first one being a group of sleeping sheep and you are scored by the number you can wake up in the time limit and then also keep alive. These variations here and there help to keep you going from one puzzle to the next without boredom setting in.

One of my issues is a complete lack of story. Now this is a puzzler so it’s not going to be War and Peace, but I’ve come to expect a funny little side story to my puzzler of late and there is pretty much nothing here. A 10 sec intro that doesn’t explain anything and doesn’t push anything forward in any way shape or form. It’s like they started to write and animate something and just got bored with and felt they had “put all this time into it so I guess we’ll put it in” type of situation. Opportunity lost there.

Let’s talk about difficulty. To just finish a level, that’s going to be easy. I haven’t seen a level where you need to get more than 1 sheep to the exit to count as completing the level, BUT if you are going for 3-star perfection, which there are several achievements tied to, it is brutal. You need to be perfect on a lot of levels. No mistakes, no misplaced sheep, no hesitation in placing your abilities. As I played in the review environment there were many early levels where I barely got 3 stars and no one else had. Obviously guides will be coming (I’ve filmed quite a few 3 stars myself) but on it’s own it can quite the challenge to get everything exactly right.

If you are an achievement hunter this game is going to be a bit of a challenge. The majority of the achievements (over 50%) are more end game style. 3 staring everything, killing a TON of sheep in various way. That sort of thing. One is for killing 500 zombie sheep, not too hard in a game about sheep getting murdered right? You unlock the Zombie sheep by kill 5,000 sheep, so its really an achievement for killing 5,500 sheep and when each level has around 30 or so sheep it is a bit of a grind.

Overall this is a fun puzzle game which the ONE is direly in need of and hits that nostalgia button at the same time. It’s tough difficulty is alleviated by the fact that even if you don’t 3 star something you can come back and work on it later without completely halting your progress in the game.

PROS:
1) Strong puzzler
2) Lots of levels

CONS:
1) Graphics are lacking
2) No story to help push you along

8.2
EXCELLENT

 

Review: Destiny (First 24 Hours)

This entry is part 3 of 15 in the series Destiny

Destiny
box_destiny_w160
Cost
$59.99
Format
Digital
Size
18 GB
Available On
Xbox ONE [Reviewed], PS4, PS3, Xbox 360
Release Date
9/9/14
Developer
Bungie
Publisher
Activison
Modes
Single Player & Multiplayer

So right before launch Bungie released a statement saying that there were no review allowed yet and they didn’t send review copies because no one is capable of reviewing Destiny until you’ve played like a bajillion hours. Well, I’m going to do this review after just 24 hours or so of real time and maybe 6 hours of play time. And after that amount of time I can emphatically say I am NOT impressed.

Destiny is no doubt a really beautiful game and I am glad to see games start to push beyond 360 and into the ONE era but graphics do not make the game.

As I started writing down info for a full fledged review I started to notice a increasing large stack of negatives. So I am just going to copy my list over here and then we’ll go through it one by one.

No internal volume control
Separate loadouts for single vs multiplayer needed
Single player abilities do not work the same in multiplayer with no guide as to differences
Only 4 multiplayer game modes
Only 10 multiplayer maps
Strikes are BORING
Patrol missions are interesting but super repetitive and time consuming for little reward
Achievements are not tracked
Info is on Bungie.net only including all clan info
General lack of information past sparse tutorial
No penalty for death
Fireteams are only 3 players
WTF is the story?

No internal volume control

Really? Are you f-ing serious here. There is not a single option to change music volume, game volume, ANYTHING. I record for YouTube and no volume control is insane. Let alone that music is your number one ticket to a copyright strike. I was going to say is this the 80s? but I can’t remember or name a single other game where you can’t control the in-game volume in this decade or any for that matter.

Separate loadouts for single vs multiplayer needed
Single player abilities do not work the same in multiplayer with no guide as to differences
Only 4 multiplayer game modes
Only 10 multiplayer maps

Let’s just look at multiplayer all together. The single player / co-op could not be any more different than the crucible multiplayer. Not just in the general sense of its PvP versus PvE. Things work differently, abilities work differently. But there is no information on this. What is important for a gun to be good in PvP vs PvE? What stats carry over? How do they relate? These are serious questions that are only answered by dedicated players just doing blind testing. This sort of info needs to be front and center. Also because of these differences there really needs to be different loadouts for your Guardians so that you can have a PvE ready vs having to move all your equipment over before switching to Crucible.
I don’t know a game in recent history that has had so few multiplayer modes and so few multiplayer maps. There are 4 modes at start. Let’s forget whatever made up names they put on these modes, they have Team Deathmatch, Free For All, 3v3 Team Deathmatch and Domination. So off the bat, nothing new. They didn’t create a single new mode type. All rehash. From what I can, and you can really only tell from looking at Grimoire cards, is that there are only 10 maps at the start also. And my god they are drab and boring. There is nothing dynamic or innovative or special about a single one of them. The only way I can even tell them apart is that one is slightly more towards blue than gray from the last one I played. One map had some doors that opened. They I didn’t even know where doors from the start as they were so lagged and delayed in opening that I missed the opening event the first time. There are a LOT of dead ends also, just places where I was trying to path from A to B to find myself smack dab in a solid wall.

Strikes are BORING

I guess the one and only Raid is really high level so I don’t even know a thing about that but I’ve played Devils’ Lair and it’s just as boring and retarded as it was in Beta. There are 3 parts. Boring ass long tank battle, insane no place to set up a defense wave section, and then final boring ass long sphere battle. And you’re done. Neither of these large enemies (Spider Tank or Splinker) are enjoyable in the least and are more about ammo management then any kind of real strategy. In fact it’s like Bungie knows how long and tedious they are because they automatically replenish your ammo magically at intervals of the battles. Not even a crate drop, just here’s more ammo in your gun. Your welcome.

This really goes for all the missions so far. Just boring and straightforward from one group of AI to the next. No flash, no interest, no solid reason to keep going.

Patrol missions are interesting but super repetitive and time consuming for little reward

So after you do a few missions you can just run around the worlds and pick up small missions that for whatever reason as tied to random sticks in the ground. You have to find a stick, and then you typically just call the Tower to ask what you are going to do. Why can’t these just be a menu selection? I’ll now tell you why, because 90% of what you do is just go from one end of the world to the other. The actual mission tend to last all of 1 minute, but it’s inflated because of the 1 minute of finding the mission and then 4 minutes of traveling to the actual mission location. There is no fast travel from within the world of any kind.

Achievements are not tracked

Didn’t the ONE just get a nice update so that achievements are more trackable? Not a single achievement in Destiny tracks percentage. NOT ONE. And my god for a game that Bungie thinks I should be playing for 100+ hours and years of my life these achievements are worthless. No imagination and nothing is remotely end game.

Info is on Bungie.net only including all clan info

I hated this in Battlefield 4 and I still hate it. Game forcing you to go to their website, which typically is down or slow, to get information that should be in the GAME. For a clan, I have to invite to group, then they have to go back to the site to actually make the group a clan and all of it, EVERYTHING, is only accessible on the website. WTF!

General lack of information past sparse tutorial

After your typical how to jump and how to reload, they tell you nothing. Nothing. There is no help of any kind on how to do anything in this game. At least The Golf Club had the decency to make some YouTube videos for their game.

No penalty for death

There is no reason to live in Destiny. Dying means nothing. My team was trying to find a Dead Ghost (Which is glitched anyway) and it was surrounded by mobs that were so high level that we weren’t even allowed to see their levels and we just ran in there and died somewhere around 50 times each trying to get this Ghost that wasn’t even there due to bad programming and it didn’t matter. Fact is we were actually lowering their health through the process and if we had wanted to spend another agonizing hour we could of actually beaten these 3 elites just based on Stalin-esk tactics of the individual soldier’s life doesn’t matter. In the end it would of been 300+ deaths to 3 death but we would of won the battle.

Fireteams are only 3 players

Multiplayer you can have up to 6 but the main game is 3. All night is “You guys have room.”, Nope, sorry we are LOADED up with 3 whole guys. Not a big enough world for more people. People are all excited that there are other Guardians running around the world. Not me. I am there to win my battles and get my kills with my friends, I don’t need randoms KSing everywhere I go. I appreciate any game with co-op as that is where my real enjoyment comes from but only 3 people is a joke.

WTF is the story?

Seriously. 5 or so missions in and WTF is going on and why the F am I supposed to care about it? Get a ship, get a drive, eliminate this area. blah, blah, blah the whole thing is told in one liners from the Ghost and the rest I have to read.

This game compares to me to Gears of War: Judgement (Which on Meta got a 79 and generally negative reviews from users) in that it is quick missions and rehashed (just GOW) multiplayer. That game to me is better than Destiny. It had a story, say what you want about how absurd Gear’s story got, it had a fully fleshed out story. The best part of Judgement was the story changed as you made the game harder. “I heard you had the best equipment”, “No sir, we only had pistols” and then you only had pistols for that mission if you selected to make it harder.

Let’s also draw comparisons to just released Free to Play Warframe. Now Warframe being FTP is a money grab. That’s just straight up fact. Pay $20 and you get this thing now. BUT, you can grind the whole thing out. It definitely has launched with more Modes and more Maps. The weapons system with weapons levels and mods to pick what you want your gun to do is a great system. Mods are still drops and still earned so you still have that loot to win system that Destiny and Diablo also live by. Warframe has a interesting crafting system to make your own weapons and items. I give a BIG BIG BIG nod to Destiny in graphics and party system but Warframe is getting better.

More maps are probably coming. More modes are probably coming. Paid DLC and maybe even free updates but I just paid $60 for this and it’s no where near $60 of content today which is when I am playing it!

If your game really doesn’t begin until level 20 why the FUCK am I playing the first 20 levels then?????

These are just some quick thoughts.

PROS:
1) Graphics
2) Party System

CONS:
1) Lack of Modes & Maps
2) Lack of info
3) Missions are lackluster and tedious

6.2
Average

 

Review: Child of Light

Child of Light
box_childoflight_w160
Cost
$14.99
Format
Digital
Size
2.31 GB
Available On
Xbox ONE [Reviewed], PS4, PS3, Vita, Xbox 360, Wii U/th>
Release Date
4/30/14
Developer
Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher
Ubisoft
Modes
Single Player


Books can tell incredible stories with brilliant writing that take the reader to other worlds. Movies can show the viewers those worlds in ways they couldn’t have imagined. Music can make the listener feel those worlds in unexplainable ways. Video games may be the only medium that can do all of these things in one. And with the ability to experience and move in those worlds, video games can also make you live those worlds like nothing else can. Child of Light is a living breathing fairy-tale book, with art and beauty that the makes the big screen jealous, and music and ambiance that would make the orchestrators of old truly proud.

Child of Light is an RPG developed by Ubisoft Montreal. It’s a 2D platforming adventure game that feels like a classic Japanese RPG. It’s also the first non Rayman game to use the incredible UbiArt Framework engine. Ubisoft has been on a roll lately. They’ve been able to continue franchises with success by reinventing them instead of just cashing in, like the Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry series. They’ve also continued to introduce new innovative games like Watch_Dogs and The Division. And as of late, they’ve started to release small scale “indie-like” games using the UbiArt Framework. The diversity and quality of these games is wonderful. Far Cry 3 was an extremely successful game that had both critical and sales success. You’d think that Ubisoft would see that success and want to do nothing but roll out Far Cry games. But that’s not really the case. Instead, Ubisoft allows the creative director of Far Cry 3, Patrick Plourde, to completely switch shifts and create a wildly different and gorgeous game, Child of Light.

In Child of Light, you play as Aurora, a daughter of a Douches and Duke in Austria in 1895. Her mother passed away when Aurora was just a baby. Raised by her father alone, Aurora herself falls ill and dies in her sleep. When she wakes, she arrives in a new unknown world called Lemuria. Aurora has to find out where she is, why she has come here, and how to get back home. Along the way, she meets many new friends and foes and people in-between. She learns that the Queen of Light who once ruled the land has disappeared and the Black Queen has taken over. The sun, the moon, and the stars have been stolen and the land is swallowed by darkness.  The real beauty of the story of the game is the writing. The entire game is written in rhyme. The plot and the communication between the characters are read like a poem. The rhyme is most in the style of A, B, C, B. But other styles are used as well. It’s beautiful and unlike any story I’ve experienced in a game before. Only a few times did the rhymes feel like a stretch; for the most part, it sounds just like a classic piece of poetry. Each character has so much personality and even the way they speak and rhyme feels unique to their own. There’s a firefly named Igniculus, who becomes Aurora’s best friend. There’s a coward dwarf named Finn and an in-love mouse named Robert. There’s a happy jester named Rubella and her depressed jester brother Tristis. Each of these and more are characters that join you in your party. There are also plenty of non-playable characters that play important roles in developing the story. It’s a storybook plot told in a powerful way. There are twists and turns that feel right in place in the fantastical world. Everything about the story of Child of Light feels like a perfect fit.

The gameplay in Child of Light is personality my favorite battle system in any RPG I’ve ever played. Before you enter into a battle, you traverse Lemuria as a 2D platformer. There are a few puzzle type elements but they are really just roadblocks that last a few seconds before you learn how to bypass them. Enemies are scattered throughout, if they see you and hit you, you enter battle mode with the enemy getting the first hit. And if you hit the enemy from behind first, you enter the battle with the advantage. Your first friend you find is Igniculus, he helps in battle in a completely different way than the other party members. You can highlight enemies with Igniculus and hold them to slow down their attack. The battle system draws comparisons to the Active Time Battle system from Grandia, an RPG that Ubisoft published at one point. It’s a mix of turn based fighting and engaging action. On the bottom of the screen, there is a meter that has each player from your party and the enemies. Each one moves down the bar until they reach the attack section, which is where you can select your move. Some moves are quick; some are more powerful but take longer. Some attacks can slow down the enemy, some poison them, etc, typical RPG stuff. But the reason the “typical” RPG stuff feels anything but typical in Child of Light is that speed, being frozen, and slowing down completely changes the battle. If you hit an enemy while they are in the “attack” section you can push them back further. I’ve had plenty of matches where the combination of slowing the enemies down and hitting them at the perfect timing resulted in them never even being able to get a single attack off. But at the same time, the difficulty level can still be intense and is at a perfect point. I lost battles, I won battles, but I never felt ripped off by cheap difficulty.

You can also switch out your party at any point and have up to three members battling at once. Each character feels very unique. Some focus on power while others focus on magic. Some characters don’t have many attack moves but they can heal teammates or speed up moves for the group. Rearranging the team and completely changing the strategy is a huge part of the fun and challenge of the game. Enemies have weaknesses, like physical or magic moves and lightning or fire moves. You can find and place gems to give to the party members to change and improve the statistics of each character. You can do things like give them more defense or change the attacks to lightning. Each character also has his/her own skill tree. You can choose which abilities and move sets to unlock and improve on; which gives, even more, freedom for expression in your favorite play style and strategy.

Let me take a moment now to try to explain how absolutely incredible the art and music and game feel Child of Light possesses. Using the incredible UbiArt Framework, Child of Light is a visually stunning game. It uses a water color art style that looks like it’s ripped right out of a beautiful centuries old fairy tale book. The game is bursting with life and personality. The brilliant art style perfectly coincides with the story, characters, and poetry of the game. The backdrops and backgrounds of each level and battle look like a painting, a true work of art that would be found hanging in museums across Europe. Each character and enemy is given so much detail. The music in Child of Light is a masterpiece. Fully orchestrated piano, violin, drums, trumpets and more give the game a sensation unlike anything I’ve played before.

I talk about “game feel” from time to time. Game feel is a combination of art, music, storytelling, game play and pure magic that some games have that allow for this unexplainable feeling that allows the gamer to completely be immersed in the world. Bioshock creepiness nails this. The Last of Us is brilliant with this. Wind Waker’s charm and beauty do this amazingly. Super Metroid’s eeriness does this. The game “Journey” is another example. Imagine the developer creating an idea, feel, and an emotion for the world of the game. Imagine the developer making every single game choice to correspond with this idea. From music and art to gameplay and even how the pause screen looks. Literally, every aspect of the game is there for a reason and is done with pure excellence. Game feel is sort of when all of this is done in just the right way, with true purpose and distinction, so the gamer really feels the game in unparalleled ways. Far and away Child of Light is the most emotionally powerful game I’ve played in years. There’s no easy way to rate the “game feel” of a game. Some games have it and some don’t. More specifically, most games don’t have it. There are good games out there that just don’t have that game feel, and they end up being good games and nothing else. Then there are good games out there that have incredible game feel that pushes the game to new heights. But the best games of all time are great games by themselves, and then they throw in this incomprehensible immersion that completely takes over and allows the gamer to truly live out these games. Child of Light is one of the best “game feel” game I’ve ever played. The music, the art, the storytelling, the writing, the poetry, the emotion, the love and care and charm and character that Child of Light is bursting with is something that I cannot express enough. There’s a subtle innocence to Child of Light that is something truly unique and truly beautiful.

Child of Light is my favorite game on the Xbox One and my favorite game in years. If I made a list now of my favorite games of all time, Child of Light might crack my top ten. Based on the emotion, storytelling, characters, art, and music alone it would be an incredible game. Throw in an amazing battle system, great progression, perfect pacing, and pure fun and you have yourself a game that is unlike anything the entertainment world has ever seen. In fact, Child of Light is unlike anything the world of art has ever seen before, and that’s saying a lot. The absolute only complaint for some is the length. It will take around 10-12 hours to beat, but that’s without exploring and collecting everything in the world. I didn’t have a problem with the length at all, for just $15 and for the type of experience given, it’s the perfect length. If you haven’t played Child of Light, please show Ubisoft some support for making games like this. Buy the game, play the game, fall in love with the game and fall in love with the reason why video games can provide us something that nothing else can.

PROS:
1) Unique storytelling in gaming with fairy-tale and rhyme
2) Amazing, deep, and fun battle system
3) Beautiful art and incredible music
4) Unparalleled “Game Feel”
CONS:
1) On the short side when compared to JRPG style games

10
Perfection

 

Review: Stick It To The Man

Stick It To The Man
box_stickittotheman_w160
Cost
$9.99
Format
Digital
Size
1.78 GB
Available On
Xbox ONE [Reviewed], PS4, PS3, Vita, Xbox 460, Wii U
Release Date
8/28/14
Developer
Zoink! Games
Publisher
Ripstone
Modes
Single Player

Stick It To The Man is a side-scrolling platformer / puzzler developed by Zoink! Games. The main protagonist is Ray and the story starts as Ray is on the way home from his job testing hard hats. Due to a unfortunate accident Ray is hit on the head by a mysterious canister and awakes to find that a long pink sticky hand is protruding from his head (think those sticky toys you get for 25 cents in a vending machine) and the rest of the story is about finding out what is it and why it’s there. No one but Ray can see that it is there and the game refers to it as a Spaghetti Arm. This spaghetti arm is your entire interaction with the environment. It allows Ray to read people’s minds and more importantly to make their thoughts manifest into physical objects Ray can use to navigate the world. Ray also uses this arm for fast movement. There are push pins plastered all over the map that allow Ray to quickly traverse the world and the game does a good job of creating paths that allow you to maneuver back and forth from one side the other. The main use of the arm though is to interact with world around him. Ray can peel back the layers of the world to reveal objects and characters inside buildings and vehicles and then pull those objects out and use them to advance to new areas.

rev1_stickittotheman

The game is very beautifully laid out in paper cut out fashion. This style of game art is really starting to catch on and when done right, as it is here, really looks good. (Is there a term for this type of art? Someone somewhere must of come up with some jargony name.) Everything you interact with is a sticker placed on top of this paper world and your job as Ray is to manipulate these stickers to solve your goals. One of the first such challenges is to take the teeth out of an alligator and give them to a small dog. This allows the dog to scare off some bad guys so you can progress. All of the puzzles are along this line and really the entire game is a series of puzzles to get from one area to the next. There is nothing Mensa level in Stick It To The Man. They are not trying to confound or confuse you, the puzzles are really here to advance the story. In fact if you look at the map it will plainly point out everything you can interact with and it’s really your job to just pick the right item at the right time.

Besides fetch style puzzles the only other obstacle are sections of enemies you need to maneuver around. You progress through these areas with a combination of moves and using their own thoughts against them. Come up on a agent who is thinking about you and this allows you to pull that image of Ray off of the enemy’s thoughts and place it on the face of another agent causing a small window of chaos for you to move to the next area. The one issue is that controlling the arm is unfortunately quite touchy and it can be difficult to pinpoint a single specific object when there are groups of things to interact with. During the later stages you need to manage the Agents through their thought stickers and I found myself performing an action that got me killed versus the one I wanted to do many times.

re2_stickittotheman

The story is what really keeps this game flowing. The voice acting is just excellent and even the most minor character has something to say and contribute to the story. Basically the entire game is Fetch, Outrun Enemies, Repeat but it doesn’t get boring because of the level of story telling that is going on. If you are just a playthrough to get it done type of gamer then you might find the repetition a little boring. But then again you really don’t get a chance to be bored because it’s not very long.

The length is a definite issue. There are a total of 10 chapters with the first 2 being short story / tutorials. To 100% complete the game took me about 3 hours and that is playing completely fresh and not watching any guides. It does hit that near perfect price point of $10. A lot of fast easy games are coming in at $7 but I feel the production quality here justifies the $10 price point. Once completed though, there is really zero replay value to Stick It To The Man as you really will most likely experience everything there is to this game the first time.

PROS:
1) Strong story
2) Puzzles are interesting

CONS:
1) Length is very short
2) All puzzles fetch style
3) Zero replay value

7.8
Good

 

Review: Battlefield 4

Battlefield 4
box_battlefield4_w160
Cost
$49.99
Format
Retail and Digital
Size
35.62 GB
Available On
Xbox ONE [Reviewed], PS4, PS3, Xbox 360
Release Date
11/22/13
Developer
Dice
Publisher
EA
Modes
Single Player and Multiplayer

Just a few years ago the interwebs were abuzz with the war between the two first person shooter kings. Which series is better? The close quarters intense twitch based blood fest of Call of Duty or the massive scale destructive squad based slaughter of Battlefield? Now that battle is less prevalent, as new games like Titanfall and Rainbow Six: Siege try to take over the reins. Old champions like Halo are trying to recapture the crown. Even a semi-new genre of shooters has emerged and taken over the conversation, including the likes of Destiny. BF3 vs MW3 was the huge debate, and it’s tough to say who definitively won that specific battle. One may say that the ongoing war is still being won by Call of Duty, but the battle of the ‘3’ was won by Battlefield. So here we are with Battlefield 4. The massive scale is supposed to be like nothing else we’ve ever played with epic multiplayer, amazing graphics, gripping campaign, and endless hours of fun. BF4 is developed by Dice, Dice LA, Visceral games and Bioware. Dice has created great games in the past. With such high expectations, including a live demo at e3 2013 that saw a gigantic skyscraper come crashing to the ground alongside the audience’s collective jaws, what could possibly go wrong?

The campaign in BF4 is built to be full of emotions, characters you care about, and high action. I appreciate the lofty goals but the final product doesn’t quite hit the mark. The story itself is rather traditional. It’s really hard to do anything new anymore; people die, things explode, yada yada yada. We do see some brutal situations that from behind a controller we aren’t too shocked by, but behind a real gun in real war, would be life-altering. Sometimes in video games the giant set-piece moments are completely over the top and unbelievable. Like if you’re in a helicopter crash with ten other guys and you happen to be the lone survivor that gets to live another day. I call these moment, “oh come on” moments. When it happens once you think, man this guy is lucky. When it happens seven times in a few hour campaign you think, this is just getting stupid. BF4 walks this line to many times. There are a few set-piece moments that seem semi-believable, like shooting a window of a sinking armored car to escape while tragically leaving a comrade behind. But then other moments, like falling out of a ten story collapsing building or quite a few others that I’ll won’t spoil, are way to over the top and bring the player out of the believable setting into a superhero-esque setting that destroys the tone. The campaign itself takes about five hours to play all the way through.

The characters are for the most part likeable. You play as Recker, and the squad you run has a lot of personality. They argue with each other, joke around with each other, they have slightly over the top behaviors, but they are for the most part believable. But the biggest complaint, and it’s a huge one for me, is the fact that Recker literally never talks. Can we PLEASE end the days of the silent protagonist in this style game? It just looks and feels so stupid when someone like Irish, one of your comrades, looks you in the eyes and screams out for answers and help in the moment of insanity and you just stare at back like a deer in head lights. Are you a mute Recker? The biggest douche bag ever? What’s wrong with you? In a fantasy game or a classic pixel game of old or something of that nature it’s possible and even sometimes the right choice to make playable character completely silent. Maybe it’s best that Link and Crash and Jak stay quiet. Certainly in a game like Journey, Limbo, or the upcoming Rime it’s best to keep the protagonist quiet so the gamer can be sucked into the living brilliant vibrant world. But it’s absolutely ridiculous in a modern military shooter when everyone around you is engaged, questioning, screaming, shouting, staring into your soul as you just stand there dazed and awestruck like a speechless twelve year old child who just opened up his dad’s porno stash for the first time. This is admittedly a problem in many games, including Call of Duty. But it’s never been worse than in BF4 because of its attempt at a gripping emotional story with interesting relatable characters.

The biggest complaint in BF4 is the inexcusable glitches. I for one have never been more genuinely upset, frustrated and downright angry at any glitches in any game I’ve ever played. We’ll go over the multiplayer problems in a moment. In single player there are multiple glitches that can totally ruin the game for the player. Along with silly, strange, and forgivable visual bugs there are multiple campaign glitches that completely lose saved data. I personally got through the first four missions, of the campaign, including almost every single hidden item in those levels, before taking a break and going to multiplayer. When I returned I was shocked and irritated to see that none of that was retained by the game. I then heard from Swaggers (my friend and co-writer on this amazingly awesome website) that many people had to play the entire game in one sitting to make sure everything was saved. So I did that, including every hidden item in the game all in one six to seven hour sitting. This time the game remembers that I beat every level and collected every dog tag, but it forgot half the weapons I found. On top of that it didn’t save any of my high scores. How can I beat the level without posting a score? So basically the game is saying I beat the level without killing a single enemy. I’m either the greatest stealth player of all time or this game has worse memory than Dory from finding Nemo.

Multiplayer in Battlefield is where the money is made. After the success of BF3, Dice has to pick up right where they left off and improve on the BF formula while adding new and innovative features. And Dice did this magnificently, right? No… The map design, gun and equipment feel, and vehicle feel are all for the most part on the same page as BF3. Snipers at mid to long range, which is 75% of the time in BF, are still overpowered. Shotguns are still worthless unless on a few specific levels. Vehicles in the right hands still equal god mode. These things feel just like BF3, but then the changes come into place, and very few of them are the right changes. The movement and player control feels clunky and slow, and after many complaints, Dice finally decided to add a patch which states that “Changes have been made to soldier movement so that it closely matches the one in Battlefield 3”. So in this case Dice is literally going back to BF3, basically admitting that it’s the superior game in this aspect. Dice also introduces “Levelution” which is a dynamic level altering system to go along with the series’ stellar destruction mechanics. Specific areas of most maps have elements that can be destroyed via explosions or gunfire. This can be anything from bridges crumbling to whole skyscrapers collapsing. In the case of the massive building coming down, the way it completely changes the map flow and just how sweet it looks never gets old. But some of the others fall flat. If Dice had been able to implement more skyscraper-type levelution into all the maps it could have been one of the game’s strongest points.

There are massive fundamental design flaws in Battlefield and they shine through in BF4. From inside the game, there is only one way the player can edit each class, and that’s in the middle of a match. For some unknown reason there is no way to simply alter the Recon, Assault, Engineer, and Support classes from an out-of-match menu. This is just stupid, no nice way to put it. It’s great as an added feature that I can edit those classes mid-match, but that should be optional not the requirement. This is a design flaw, but on top of that there is a ridiculous glitch that still exists nearly a year later that deletes and resets the player’s class. So this is how 80% of my matches started; Right away I’d open up my class because I remembered that I just unlocked a new camo and scope for my sniper, so I spend the first minute of the game doing this when I should have been able to do this in the lobby between matches. The very next game I’d jump right in, pick my class, let’s say assault class, and rush right toward the objective. One problem, my new launcher, red dot sight and ego grip that I recently added to my class are nowhere to be found. What happened? Now I either wait to die or kill myself to re-edit my class. Then I’d notice that this has happened with all my classes and I need to re-edit every single one, which takes some way to long. Meanwhile the enemy team is barraging my base and I’m attaching my flashlight to my M9. There’s another way you can edit your classes, and this is on the battlelog website or app. The app is glitchy, I’d recommend the website. The website itself is very detailed, full of content, and extremely useful. But again there’s so much here that I should be able to do in the game itself. There are assignments in the game that give the player rewards like new guns, equipment, and dog tags. This is a cool feature that creates great replay value. What’s the problem? There is no way to access these in game. It’s entirely possible to play the game for hours and hours and wonder what these random assignments are that are unlocking midgame and what they mean. Any assignments you have progressed in are visible at the end of that match; but without context it’s confusing as to why they exist. And even if the player knows, it’s obnoxious to jump back and forth between the game and the website to see what assignment should be worked on next and how close they are to being completed. Why this isn’t in the actual game itself is beyond me. All I know is that as someone who is a completionost and someone who enjoys “side-missions” in multiplayer this is taxing and strenuous.

Battlefield 4 is a beautiful game. In the campaign the brilliant lighting shines through, the environmental effects pop with brilliance, explosions burst with color and the facial animation breathes life into the characters. My only complaint is that it’s missing the added umph. Technically it’s incredible, but it’s lacking the magic that can propel some games by creating a tone and game feel that genuinely pull the players into the world. In multiplayer the graphics take a big step back, but this is to be expected considering it is 32vs32. Things like plants and minor explosions can tend to look bland. But considering how much is going on and how many players are battling it out at the same time, it’s truly remarkable. Point black BF4 is just a pretty game.

Battlefield 4 is a definite misstep in an otherwise very strong franchise. The series still has a large following, but a good chunk of them certainly feel burned with this entry. The biggest problem is without doubt the massive amount of glitches. Small bugs can be forgivable, there’s always some random impenetrable rock that somebody learns how to get inside and reek havic. But as long as they are cleaned up quickly it’s not a big deal. But the sheer amount of glitches in Battlefield, how they completely ruin the experience for the players, and how long it’s been with so many of them still being present, it’s impossible to give Dice a pass here. I still haven’t been able to finish my own campaign achievements and I’m dreading going back in. If Dice could build a time machine and fix every single bug before the launch of the BF4 it would have completely changed the view of BF4’s success or lack thereof. But even without the glitches BF4 still could have been better. The campaign feels like just another campaign. There’s not much innovation and it’s yet another crazy ride of unbelievable death defying moment. I do like the emotion and characters, but that’s almost completely ruined by how strange and stupid it is that Recker is a silent protagonist. The multipayer at its core gameplay is a lot of fun, a nice addition to the BF series. But it’s still not as good as BF3. And the lack of features in game, like being able to edit the class and look at assignments, feels incredibly old. We’ve had features like this in online FPS games since the early 2000’s. Battlefield Hardline got pushed back by a few months, and I’m truly hoping it’s because Dice has seen the many issues in BF4 and want to make sure Hardline doesn’t duplicate them. As far as I’m concerned, I really hope they get their act together before StarWars Battlefront is released, because Dice has the talent and ability to make it a phenomenon, but with recent history I’m very skeptical. All in all Battlefield 4 is a game that feels rushed and broken. It’s still a lot of fun in multiplayer, but wading through the various glitches can be painful. Here’s hoping this misstep was just a hiccup and not a peak at the future of Dice starting to be “levolutioned” to non-existence. Also please give me Bad Company 3…

PROS:
1) Beautiful Graphics
2) Fun Massive Multiplayer

CONS:
1) Terrible game altering glitches
2) Lacks features in game that are industry standards (Forces you to use website)
3) Feels unfinished

6.1
Average

 

Review: The Golf Club

The Golf Club
box_thegolfclub_w160
Cost
$34.99
Format
Digital
Size
1.86 GB
Available On
Xbox ONE [Reviewed], PS4
Release Date
8/19/14
Developer
HB Studios
Publisher
ID@Xbox
Modes
Single Player & Pseudo Multiplayer

The Golf Club aims to bring a simulation level realistic golf game to the Xbox ONE. It is the polar opposite of the over the top, crazy ability style golf game that Powerstar Golf is. The Golf Club takes you to the course, puts a club in your hands and then sits down on the bench and quietly giggles to itself as you try to figure out how to hell you even do something as simple as swinging the club. There is not a single tutorial here. HB Studio’s official YouTube channel has a series of tutorial videos that are your only option if you can be bothered to leave the game and find them. There are no power indicators, no landing area circles to be found. The entire game is visual. If you are a Tiger Tracking / Astrid’s Putting Preview type putter you are going to be in for a world of hurt. You are given a basic grid and the knowledge of how far you are from the hole and the rest of the putt is up to you. Again, there are no power or percentage indicators here, just your golfer pulling back the putter and you letting it go. I’m not against this “no frills” golfing experience but when you deviate so far from the standard golf game’s setup a little tutorial heads up is the least I would expect from you.

It’s a chore to even start a round of golf. Let’s look at how you start up a round on one of the official courses. How many official courses comes with the base game? Well that is a difficult answer to provide because of the insanely convoluted way in which you even pick a course to play. When you start a round you are presented with a Windows Metro style menu of various sized boxes. Each one representing a course, some official and some user created. If these initial 6 or so courses don’t meet your fancy you are taken to a course search window. One of the worst search engines ever designed. Besides selected pre-approved searches like Top Rated Of The Week or Courses Your Friends Have Played your only other option is a word search of the exact course name left to right. Meaning if I made a course called “Lucky Number Seven Swags” (Which I did and you should play it to get the Lucky Number Seven achievement) the only way to find it would be to search for “Lucky Number”. A search for “Swags” or even “Seven” would not find my course. The even more major issue is that the search is ONLY based on names. I can’t search by Creator. No search by difficulty, number of holes or any of the other standard items that would make sense in a game that prides itself on the shear number of courses that will soon be available via the course creator.

The course creator is really The Golf Club’s shining star and even it is flawed in many ways. As with the main game, outside of searching for YouTube videos, there is no help getting started. Let me get it out there that you can do some amazing things with the course creator. I’ve already created 5 or so achievement helping based courses and after the initial four hours of bumbling around like an idiot figuring it out I’ve got the most basic of basics down now. It start by asking a series of questions about your basic plan for the course. Links style? How many tree? How much water? And after all of that it generates a random course for you after about 1 or so minutes. Don’t like it? You can generate a completely new base course or go in hole by hole and tweak to your liking. You can place golf carts down and even animals like a humpback whale that will swim around in the water. Seriously. You can put a humpback whale on your course. Where it fails is in terrain adjustments. Raising and lower land is a chore. The game can get lost in your elevation changes and suddenly you have a course where all the trees are 2 miles up in the air and I haven’t been able to find a fix besides loading a previous save or re-starting the entire course from scratch. The terrain also balloons in and out while trying to make changes that make it extremely difficult to see what you are currently working on. There is also no grid on most of the course making it hard to differentiate elevations.

Let’s talk about customization of your equipment. There is none, discussion over…. OK, let’s dig into this a little further. You are not going to be playing a round sporting your Nike hat or with your Callaway irons. I wouldn’t fault HB Studios for not whoring their game out to brand names for money, but they did put Greg Norman’s name on the course designer so they are obviously not above branding. In fact throughout your entire experience with The Golf Club your actual clubs will never change. There are no better skills to unlock, nor is there any better equipment to earn. The golfer and equipment you start with on day one is the exact same golfer and equipment you will be playing a year from now. Ummm, a year, that’s being insanely generous. One can argue making everyone play with the same universal set of stats levels the playing field of the game but the fact remains that real golf offers an insane range of real equipment all catering to different play styles. Want to provide a realistic golf experience? Then by all means don’t have a Luck skill or allow spin to be added mid-flight but at a bare minimum something as simple as choosing your driver’s loft should absolutely be in a game that promotes itself as a simulation.

This brings me to my biggest overall complaint about The Golf Game is that it appears to really only be the FRAMEWORK of a more complete and actually polished product. Like have I just paid $35 for a released Beta? This makes me question whether the lack of indicators and meters is a thought out design policy or simply something HB Studios just hasn’t gotten around to coding yet. Take the graphics that look amazing on PC but are dull and low-res on the Xbox ONE. Another thing that just didn’t get enough polish before they shipped it out the door. The commentator, John’s tone is uninspired and his casual demeanor comes off as aloof and uninterested. Like they pulled a hobo off the street to do some one-liners. And I know in sports games you are going to get repetition out of commentary but I didn’t expect it start on the second hole I played.

It’s a game with promise to be sure, but at launch I’m left frustrated that I’ve paid good money for a game that isn’t finished and that sadly the developer seems to think is finished.

PROS:
1) Course creator is fun

CONS:
1) Graphics are dated
2) No customization
3) Finding good courses is a chore
4) Game just overall appears not finished

4.1
Poor

 

Review: Max The Curse of Brotherhood

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood
box_maxcurseofbrotherhood_w160
Cost
$14.99
Format
Digital
Size
2.96 GB
Available On
Xbox ONE [Reviewed], Xbox 360
Release Date
12/20/13
Developer
Press Play
Publisher
Microsoft Stuidios
Modes
Single Player

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a 2.5D sidescrolling puzzle platformer developed by Press Play, a company owned by Microsoft. It’s a sequel to the Wii and PC game Max & The Magic Marker, which was released in 2010 before Microsoft bought Press Play. Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is developed my Microsoft Studios and is a part of their indie game push along with ID@Xbox. You play as Max, who found a curse online that sent his annoying younger brother Felix through a portal to a monster infested magical world which Max instantly jumps in after him. This world is being controlled by the evil lord Mustachio. Mustachio plans to use Felix’s youth and some evil magic to allow him to go back to being a young man and continue to reign over the land before his old age catches up to him. It’s up to Max to save Felix and save the day. 2D/2.5D puzzle platformer games have become one of the most common genres in gaming. So each entry needs to have its own unique puzzle and gameplay elements. In Max this comes to fruition with the magic marker; an item found early in the game that builds in power and abilities in each new world. Max: The Curse of Brotherhood, along with Halo Spartan Assault, was the first game to be utilized with the Games with Gold program for the Xbox One, which allows Xbox Gold users to download and own games for free.

Max’s story is very simplistic and predictable; it plays out like a kids Disney or DreamWorks movie. Honestly this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, there’s no reason at all to have some crazy story because at its core Max is a kids game that us adults can also enjoy. There are really only four characters in the game. Max, with his motivation to right his wrongs and save his obnoxious brother Felix, is a good enough protagonist. Felix’s voice is one of the more unbearable things I’ve heard in gaming. I guess this is a good thing, because they try to make Felix be that annoying little brother character from every movie and TV show ever so they do a nice job, but jeez is he irritating. On one of later levels you can hear his cry for help every five seconds and he repeats the same three or four phrases over and over and over and I almost didn’t want to save him. Mustachio is just a crazy evil bad guy, nothing special really, other than the fact that he is incredible ugly and disturbing. And there’s a fourth character, a creepy old lady who has no name but gives Max his magic marker and aids him throughout the journey.

There are seven chapters with two to six levels in each chapter for a total of twenty-two levels. Each chapter is atheistically very different, varying from anything from a desert to a forest to a dark rivery wasteland. The level design offers some diversity. Usually you can walk at your own pace to navigate the puzzles and platforms and avoid the enemies. Sometimes however you’ll get chased by a giant monster, ride a log down some rapids, run from some rising lava, etc. Nothing in this aspect is revolutionary, it’s all been down before, but it still offers some appreciated array of level design. The real special part of the gameplay is the magic marker. And this is where you make your bread and butter in this genre. The gameplay needs to be fun and the puzzles need to utilize the games twist properly. In Portal this is the portal gun, in Braid it’s the time bending, in Fez it’s the world manipulation. While Max doesn’t use its magic marker anywhere near as creatively and perfectly as those games, it still does a fine job of creating rewarding puzzles and gameplay.

When traversing the world there are predetermined spots around the environment that you can manipulate using the marker. The key in these moments isn’t’ to necessarily find these locations, although sometimes they are slightly hidden, instead it’s about properly using them to climb over a giant rock, smash open a gate, take down a monster, etc. To move max you use the left analog stick, and to control you marker you use the right stick. As soon as you create something with the magic marker you can destroy it with a click of a button. This can be used to start over if you messed up something, but it’s also used to solve puzzles. The abilities you unlock for the magic marker allows for continual fresh and interesting gameplay. The first thing the magic marker can do is raise pillars out of the ground. This is the most simplistic power of the marker, but it is still used in intriguing ways. Sometimes it’s used to block a monster, or maybe to simply climb onto a ledge, or sometimes it’s used to create platforms for rolling rocks to fall down and smash into giant stone walls. You soon learn to create vines to use to swing over giant pits, but again they find creative ways to go beyond what you expect like attaching the vine to a giant boulder and pushing it off a ledge then quickly breaking the vine and watching it fly through the air and smash into a monster. They continue with this throughout the game, always using the abilities in ways you wouldn’t expect. Later in the game you gain the ability to create branches, water spouts, and launch fire through the air. I was pleasantly surprised by the range of usages for the magical abilities of the magic marker. Each one could have easily been a simple one trick pony, but that thankfully isn’t the case. The game’s puzzles are at their absolute best when you are asked to use multiple abilities in one puzzle. They do this pretty often and usually they are done well. The final boss battle is weak. It’s actually a strange and doesn’t feel well. In a puzzle based platformer it’s hard to do boss battles well. Putting any kind of direct combat or even puzzle based combat into the game feels forced, but I don’t blame them because no matter what it’s hard to pull off. Max also has hidden collectables to find that can provide a decent challenge at times.

The graphics in Max are sub-par. The first chapter of the game takes place in the dessert and it’s the ugliest chapter in the game. It seems strange to start off with such a bland boring environment. The next chapter looks better, it’s a forested area. But the darker the game get’s the prettier it gets. There is a strange swampy rivery chapter that is very pretty; the art design is fantastic here. And when lava get’s thrown into the mix in dark dungeons in the later chapters it is also visually appealing. On a technical level the game is not impressive, but at some places the art design picks up for the lack in power. There is little detail and not much enemy verity. At some point the game is flat out ugly. There are objects that are used repetitively throughout the environment. This is done in games often, but if you use that same rock in or tree stump in nearly every level than there are tricks that can be used to make them look slightly different. I also encountered strange visual glitches from time to time that threw me out of the experience. The voice acting is aggravating to the ears, and the writing is equally dreadful. The music is also lacking, sounding like it got ripped right out of a straight to dvd soundtrack. Overall the general presentation of the game seems very rushed. More time to work on detail in the environments and overall appearance would have greatly enhanced on Max’s overall feel and tone, which would in turn improve the overall game itself.

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a good start to Press Play’s development on the Xbox One. It’s by far not a perfect puzzle platformer, but it does make the most of the magic marker and creates fun gameplay. The puzzles could have been much tougher, there were very few moments where I truly had to stop and think, but as mentioned before this game is designed partially for a younger audience. Max could have used more time in development. The core game is there, but the polish is not. It’s not the prettiest thing to look. I’m a big proponent of game “feel”. A game’s graphics, art, music, story, and characters can create a tone that pulls you in like no other medium in entertainment. The best games are the ones that create incredible game feel and tone. Bioshock, Limbo, Arkham Asylum are games of the last generation that did this perfectly. Games from the last year that created phenomenal game feel are Child of Light, Last of Us, and Valiant Hearts. Max really doesn’t do this at all, there’s no game feel and no purpose of the direction of the game. More focus and time could have propelled Max to greater heights. Not all of the puzzles themselves hit home, this isn’t the same level as the aforementioned Portal, Braid, etc. but it’s a solid inaugural effort for Press Play on the Xbox One. I look forward to Press Play continuing their efforts on their new home for Microsoft, and I look forward to the possibility of more Max games in the future. Press Play has things to learn but they are on the right way, and that’s definitely a good thing for us gamers.

PROS:
1) Strong core game design
2) Good use of Max’s magic marker

CONS:
1) Overly simple plot
2) Poor polish and detail in graphics and art
3) Little to no “game feel”

7.0
Good