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Dead Cells – Multiplatform Review

Scaling Rougelite mountain, one cell at a time

Ed Mcmillen has been a hero to me since the release of Super Meat Boy. His follow-up, The Binding of Issac, is easily in my top ten most played games over the past decade and I greatly admire his cutesy-gore aesthetic. It’s is such a well crafted game and has layers upon layers of content that slowly reveal themselves at an almost perfect pace. I poured hundreds, if not, thousands of hours into it through it’s various incarnations. Hell, bought it on every system I owned that it was available on. It was hands down my favorite rougelite for years. “Was” being the key word in that sentence. Dead Cells, in all it’s parts, is expertly executed. From the combat to the ever growing number of weapons and skill unlocks it strikes the perfect balance of the grind for knowledge and forward progression.

Isaac has been king of the roguelite castle for years, and in no way is this meant as a slight to the game. I think Ed is ready for the world to move on and the gaming community is hungry for the next big thing. There have been an absolute avalanche of games that have tried to recreate the craze that Isaac started but most have fallen just short in one way or another. Games like Nuclear Throne and Enter the Gungeon seemed like the next logical step, but on May 10th of last year Motion Twin’s Dead Cells hit Steam Early access and started its road to full release. More importantly, it started it’s climb to the top of rougelite mountain. Between then and now the game has changed drastically: Mechanics from early builds have been completely altered. More than a fair share at the request of the community. The weapon and perk selections have grown dramatically and, thanks to Motion Twin’s dedication to making Dead Cells truly great, a fantastic community has built itself around the game. 

Combat Savvy

The core of the Dead Cells experience lives in it’s combat and weapons systems. Combat is Fast, Fluid, and surprisingly tactical. As you play through the game you’ll pick up blueprints for a bevy of weapons, items, and perks that you can unlock using cells dropped from all the enemies you will inevitably slaughter. The combination of swords, shields, bows, skills, perks and other gadgets feels almost endless. You have four slots to fill, two of which can be filled with either a melee weapon, ranged weapon, or shield. The other two are where your skills go. Each run will have you balancing new strategies depending on what weapons and skills drop and what perks you choose. These weapons, items, and perks are broken down into three, conveniently color-coded, combat styles: Brutality, Tactical, and Survival. The three styles tie into perks by giving you passive buffs like  “Killing an enemy gives you X health” or “Shortens the cooldown on your skills by X%.” Building up any of these three styles with whatever power-ups you get is just one part of a larger synergistic combat system.

Every item you pick up has a chance to have an “Affix.”  This system helps keeping runs from feeling too similar. In a single run you could pick up two Ice Grenades and depending on the Affixed they have they could handle completely differently. These range from just additional damage to things like “Does 125% damage against a bleeding target” or “Enemies killed with this weapon explode into a cloud of poison gas.”  Using these affixes to build synergies is not only key in succeeding in Dead Cells but maliciously fun. Curating a build well can lead to some absolutely vicious combinations.

Once you’re savvy enough to what the game has to offer, and if RNGsus is on your side, you could end up in a situation like the following: A group of enemies are in front of you. In your main weapon slot you have a sword that does 100% damage against a burning target. In your secondary slot you have Firebrands. In your first skill slot you have Oil grenades and in your second Skill slot you have a Deployable turret that causes its victims to drop a swarm of bitters. You open the salvo by throwing your Oil Grenade, this douses anybody unlucky enough to be in the blast radius with a Flammable oil that enhances the effects of any fire weapon. After they’re drenched in oil you throw the fire brand and it lights up the ground and any enemy in the immediate area. The enemies covered in oil take extra damage from the fire. They are roasting up real good. You deploy your turret and then move in to attack with your sword. Every swing is eviscerating any foe that happens to be covered in flames, as they die a swarm of bitters crawls out of their corpse thanks to the turret you put down. The bitters help with taking on the rest of the hoard. Before long, everything is dead and you’re left standing. A scenario like this is the norm in Dead Cells and this is just one example of the synergistic possibilities. The minute-to-minute gameplay is non-stop action.

Nothing Rogue… Like it.

Dead Cells, much like the aforementioned Binding of Isaac, is a game that reveals its layers to the player over time. Though this is a quality of almost all rougelites, not many pull it off as gracefully as Motion Twin did here. While It can be absolutely devastating losing a good run, your knowledge of new enemies, areas, and paths constantly lead to new possibilities. You learn and move on.  Dead Cells never feels unfair in that quest for knowledge. Death is seldom a symptom of the game working against you. It gives you all the tools to succeed and looks at you to execute to the best of your abilities.

As you progress through the game you’ll find Runes scattered about the world. These runes open up new, sometimes, faster paths through the game. What’s more interesting is that opportunities to use runes that you’ve yet to unlock present themselves in almost every area of the game. So in addition to unlocking whole new areas, the runes also allow players to access even more parts of existing areas. These offshoots usually contain extra weapons or power-ups that would have been otherwise inaccessible and can sometimes help a ton at the beginning of a run.

You sure do have a pretty…. Background.

If I had any friends that thought pixel art couldn’t be gorgeous, I would very likely show them Dead Cells as an example. Multi-Layered backgrounds haven’t looked this good since parallax scrolling was invented.

Alright, maybe I’m being a bit hyperbolic, but seriously, Dead Cells is easy on the eyes. For the amount of carnage that can be happening on screen at any minute, everything is easily defined and readable. Every weapon or enemy attack animation is fluid and incredibly well designed. You can really see and feel the weightless slash of the Balanced Blade vs the slow brutal smash of The Nutcracker.  Despite it being randomly generated, Dead Cells’ levels can often feel hand crafted. You’d be hard pressed to find something in the genre that even comes close to handling level design this well. No two areas feel the same. The Toxic sewers feel oddly claustrophobic. They’re a maze of pipes and paths. The Clock Tower feels daunting and insurmountably lofty. It’s really remarkable that Motion twin was able to pump this much character into each section of the game and you can clearly see the care they took in building Dead Cells. 

 

The Verdict

Dead Cells is a metroidvania at heart but even a single playthrough will reveal that it is so much more than that. Motion Twin took such care in crafting every aspect of the game that the end product is truly something special. The combat is brutally beautiful, the art and level design in each area can at times be awe inspiring, the sheer number of combat possibilities seems infinite, and the soundtrack fills the game with an energy that few fail to capture. If you haven’t checked out Dead Cells yet, I highly suggest you do. It is a unique experience in more ways than one and will keep you coming back for more after every run. I can’t wait to see what Motion Twin does next.

Dead Cells was purchased by the reviewer and 100% promises that he didn’t plagiarize this from anywhere.

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Holiday Gift Guide 2017 – Plantronics RIG 400LX1 Review

At this years PEPCOM Holiday Spectacular I was given the opportunity to review a new headset out of the new line of sets by Plantronics called RIG. Gaming headsets are flooding the market as competitive gaming becomes more and more popular. The competition is heating up as companies try to innovate, and Plantronics has made some significant changes that gamers should be excited to get their hands on. Ultimately, however, some concessions have been made that take away from the experience altogether.

The first thing you should know about this headset is that it is 100% Dolby ATMOS enabled, and actually comes with this “in package”. No need to purchase anything extra to get this incredible audio experience. For those that don’t know what ATMOS is, it is basically this: ATMOS simulates sounds not only on a x axis but also the y. In other words – sounds sound like they are coming from above or below. A full range of sounds. Bullets sound like they whiz by your head. You hear footsteps that actually sound like they are above your head. It is truly a remarkable feat when it comes to sound engineering. But the thing is – this headset has nothing to do with ATMOS. You can use nearly any headset to get the same experience. This headset, however, does have some incredibly crisp audio.

I currently bounce between different headsets and the RIG-400 is by far the highest quality as far as pure sound goes. Highs are sharp and clear and the lows are full of bass and full of punch. You really cannot get a more clear picture of sound. What is picture of sound? I don’t know. I just made it up, but it feels the right way to describe it.

The biggest downside to this headset is the microphone. It is a very short stem that stick out from the ear piece and can’t really reach your mouth for clarity. I have had mulitple complaints about my audio quality from my teammates on Destiny 2 and even in Skype chats. I had to switch to my podcasting mic so that I was heard clearly.

This headset is very light on your head, which is nice, but the lightweight plastic also creeks a lot. Every head turn or tap on the chord connecting you to the amp on the X-Box One controller comes through in your ears. It can ruin some of the audio that these headsets emit in such quality.

One of the niftiest features in the aforementioned amp that snaps into the bottom of the X-Box One controller. The dial is easily accessed with your thumb, which allows you to adjust on the fly very easily. There is a little switch that can let you adjust in-game audio or chat audio as well.

Overall, if you are looking for a new headset to buy this holiday season, the Plantronics RIG series may be a good option. The 400 LX is a bargain at $49.99, as well. If you rely heavily on using the microphone on your headset, however, you may want to look elsewhere or invest in Plantronics higher quality sets.

The Plantronics RIG series is available at your major retail stores and Amazon.com for $49.99

 

Proven Gamer was given a RIG-400 LX1 for review.

 

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Absolver Review

SloClap’s Absolver is and isn’t one of the best games I’ve played this year. It comes under the genre of MMO games. If you’re playing MMO games it is worth buying a decent mouse, we recommend you check out the iControlPad review of the best MMO mice for an overview. It’s unique take on hand to hand combat is by far the game’s bread and butter and I can’t recall a game where I’ve felt more like I was actually doing martial arts. Unfortunately, in between the intense moments of reading opponents moves and firing my own back I found myself wandering around a largely- lifeless, mildly-claustrophobic open world wondering what the game could have been if it had been a bit more fleshed out. There are no side quests, no real distractions at all to be found in the world of Adal. It’s empty. It’s maddening at times. But, it’s completely deliberate.

Absolver’s barely-there story is your character’s rise from a lowly Prospect to Absolver and is as ambiguous as the rest of the game. You’ll wander the world, fight all the dudes that need to be fought and rise to the position of Absolver. I wish the game’s namesake title held more weight. By the time I finished the game I felt like I had learned a lot but barely accomplished anything meaningful.

For how short it is, the “Boss” encounters are all relatively challenging, especially if you’re going at them solo. I lost at least once to each of the bosses I went up against before finally figuring it out what I needed to do to best them.  All told the campaign took me roughly 5-6 hours to complete. The meat of the game is really in the PvP and “Combat deck building” aspects.

How the combat in Absolver comes together and feels is absolutely brilliant and full of choices. Right from the get go you’re asked to chose from one of three styles: Forsaken, Khalt, or Windfall. Once you choose a style you are unable to switch. Luckily there are multiple character slots so you can try out all of them and figure out which is best for you. Each style has it’s own unique defensive ability. Forsaken can Parry attacks, Khalt can straight up absorb attacks, and Windfall(my personal favorite) is all about dodging attacks at close range. All three of the starter styles are rated by “difficulty” but I found the rating of the three styles to be pretty arbitrary. I had more trouble timing the Parry and Absorbs with Khalt and Forsaken but was perfectly adept at timing my dodges with Windfall. A final fourth class, Stagger, is unlockable in game after encountering a particular enemy. This Drunken Master type style mixes Offense and Defense Simultaneously and is meant to be the most difficult style to master in Absolver.

Each of these styles also ties into one of the attributes you can increase by leveling up. Paying attention to which style is effected by which attribute is key to success in PvP. While they don’t explicitly tell you what style is anchored to which attribute it is pretty clear before committing any points what effect it will have on your current build. You also gain a few special moves via leveling up: Being able to quickly drain an opponent of stamina or push back some encircling enemies and a few others.


The rest of a player’s moves are tied to their Combat Deck. Here players can equip loads of different moves to eight different slots. Each of these slots corresponds to one of four “Stances”. Players can create  huge flowing combos and pick powerful transitional moves.

The selection screens for combat and gear aren’t explained upfront and can be very confusing at first. You really have to dig in to understand each of the systems.

While combat choices are pretty slim when you first start out, you’ll fill in much of your Combat deck quickly within the first few hours. By dodging and blocking enemy attacks you gain knowledge of moves you don’t currently have. Do this enough and you’ll eventually unlock new moves to throw into your deck. Each move in your deck has certain starting and ending stances that will determine what you can and can’t combo into or out of. I tried my best to create a deck that if executed properly could loop infinitely. I’m not sure if this was the best strategy or not but it seemed to work well and it gave me a better understanding as to what was coming next in a combo chain and what attacks came from what stances.

You can also manually adjust your stance by holding right trigger and pointing your control stick toward whatever stance you’d like to better suit your current predicament. At first I didn’t use this much, but, after a few hours went by, I was doing it constantly because it was imperative to use certain strikes in certain situations. Hitting block immediately after throwing out an attack will feint the attack. Again this was something I didn’t understand how to use till much later. I started using it to bait out certain attacks and counter accordingly. This is how Absolver makes you thing about fighting differently than any other fighting game I’ve ever played.  It doesn’t handle it’s complexity in the same way as a Tekken or Soul Calibur. It isn’t about memorizing overly complicated inputs. It’s not about chaining special moves together that are Down Right Fierce(puns are fun).  Absolver derives its complexity in understanding the tempo and timing of fighting; The management of space and stamina and it does it damn well.

Often, by accident, fights would end up looking choreographed. This was especially the case when fighting another player as opposed to A.I. I can’t even explain how cool I felt the first time I ducked a high shot, jumped over a low shot, and counter attacked an opponent. That’s one of the really interesting facets of Absolver. Not only is the combat weighty and balanced, but it also has the tendency to just feel and look like it’s straight out of an old king-fu flick.  

Though Adal is small, it’s all intricately designed and pretty easy on the eyes. Soft Pastels and a minimalistic art style make Adal look stunning without being to visually busy. This tonal shift away from high-definition sprites and character models isn’t foreign to the world of indie game development. Polygonal and Voxel models are all the rage at the moment. But here, Sloclap did such a good job of making Absolver’s package so ambiguous that any other stylistic choice would have been a disservice to the rest of the game. There were a ton of times where I stopped dead in my tracks just to take in my surroundings. Whether it was looking over a vast forest or staring up at a massive tower, I was continually surprised at how gorgeous this compact open world was.


Many people at a glance have compared Absolver to Dark Souls. While I understand the comparison at a base level I don’t think it’s apt in describing the core experience of what  Absolver is.  It’s very much in it’s own category. It’s kind of a simulator in a sense. It’s more about the feel of the combat than the look of it(though it does look great). Absolver, altogether, in everything it presents and how it presents them seemingly has a singular purpose: It is laser beam straight from martial arts to a controller and in that pursuit it absolutely succeeds.

7/10








 

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Diablo III: Rise of the Necromancer Review

Kill, loot, boss battle, repeat. This is the formula that makes Diablo, and games like it, shine so brightly.  In the years since the launch of Diablo 3 launch, Blizzard has added only one new character. For $14.99, you can take control of a brooding Necromancer as you journey through the game’s five chapters. Unfortunately there is not much to this expansion other than the addition of the new character, which doesn’t add much to the overall experience.

Rise from your grave…

The Rise of the Necromancer DLC comes with the new class and a few little extras, which makes it a hard pill to swallow for the price. With that being said,  it is fun — but not mind blowing in any way. The Necromancer is a good mix of range and pet attacks. The character controls much like the demon-summoning, ugly baby of a Wizard and a Witch-doctor.  Blizzard has made the Necromancer fit very well within the frantic energy and darkness of Diablo, as you spill nasty blood and guts with spikes, bones, and spears, as well as summoned undead who do your bidding. Blizzard has given as much detail and polish to the voice acting and animations as they have to the characters that have been around for years.

You feel like a true bad-ass when tearing monsters limb from limb. You can even explode the corpses you left behind to do incredible splash damage. Unfortunately, the Necromancer’s skills don’t mesh well, as in other classes. I found it hard to focus on one style of play; Blizzard wanted me, as I saw it, to pick one focus over another.

I liked using skeletons to help fight, but it was at the expense of my ability to do massive damage.  I found myself summoning bodies to do the fighting while I sat back and sniped from a distance. The class made me feel like there was no defined “role” for it, as the Monk is for DPS and the Witch-doctor is for control.

The seemingly real point of the Necromancer: look cool while killing stuff.

All other classes do this too.

The Ultimate Price

This pack is more like an add-on, and much less of an expansion, but Blizzard has released a meaty patch to go along with it. There are a few added zones and bounties to do in adventure mode, as well as a new rift challenge. That is a nice touch, but it has nothing to do with the actual content you pay $14.99 for. That is the true issue. You are paying $14.99 to play a new character class. While other games, like Marvel Heroes Omega, do this, too, Marvel Heroes provides many characters for you to buy. Here, you are spending — at this point — 50% of the retail price just to add a new available character.  It is fun to play as the Necromancer, but you can pass on the class and not feel bad.

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The Walking Dead: A New Frontier Episode 3 ” Above the Law” Review

With episodes 1 and 2 of Telltale’s The Walking Dead: A New Frontier ending on such a strong note with a fantastic cliffhanger, episode 3 “Above the Law” has plenty to work with and gets off to a good start. Javier and company make their way to a new settlement only to find that his long lost brother David is not only there, but is an important high ranking official within the New Frontier. Telltale does a great job of building David’s character to be mysterious and possibly not trust worthy. The episode starts with main protagonist Javier and the remnants of his family with new found friends Tripp and Jesus immediately being locked up in a holding cell without any clear sign that they will be released even though the guy in charge is his brother. From there, the usual dialog options prompt with little evidence to show that your choices will really change the way you and your brother get along. In fact, it seems no matter how you respond the facial expressions you get in return stay tense, and it is just a matter of time before Javier and David come to blows.

Telltale has done an excellent job with their use of fan favorite Clementine for this installment in the Walking Dead series. Even though she is not the main protagonist, she is a very strong support character and her involvement in the story moves it along quite nicely. She has issues with the New Frontier, which you learn about in a really smart and fun flashback, and more specifically David, Javier’s brother. She insists that you cannot trust him no matter how the scenario plays out. This keeps you constantly on the edge when it comes to fully trusting and interacting David even when it seems that you can, and seemingly should. Episode 3 also builds on the estranged relationship between Kate and David, and her desire to get away from him as soon as possible even after being separated for years due to the current state of the world from the outbreak. Telltale has done a good job of building Javier’s character by using family and how far you will go to protect them, all while leading to the inevitable fallout between David and Javier and ultimately who will end up with Kate. Unlike the last episode, this one tried to leave you with a big cliff hanger but didn’t quite hit a home run. I was actually caught off guard by how abrupt the ending came about. This didn’t kill the experience, but it defiantly left me saying “That’s it?” Again Telltale is in a good place to pick the story back up and hopefully will lift the curse of previous games and make episode 4 memorable and fun to play.

Overall this episode runs great and looks fantastic. I did not experience any of the usual Telltale engine slow downs, framerate drops, or chugs. In fact the episode ran smoothly and never crashed, which unfortunately is saying a lot. Graphically The New Frontier is a great looking game and the story to this point has held up quite nicely compared to previous Walking Dead games. Overall this episode was a little short but definitely delivered and left me wanting more even though it had a lack luster ending.

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Talisman: Digital Edition Review

Based off the board game, Talisman: Digital Edition tries to bring the fun from the tabletop to consoles and PCs. While I can’t comment on how entertaining the actual board game is, it seems likely that something was lost along the way during the transition to video game.

Talisman is a turn based game that pits you against other human or AI characters. The goal is to reach the center of the board and kill off the remaining characters. There is a plethora of characters to choose from (especially with DLC expansion packs) that all have their own advantages and disadvantages. You draw adventure cards when landing on certain tiles which may give you items, monsters to fight, or an event that causes some effect to your, or someone else’s, character. Item cards increase your stats or help your character through certain situations. Monsters take a life from you if you lose, or nothing, most of the time, if you kill them. You can also attack other players if you land on their spaces in order to take their items or a life.

Without any experience playing the tabletop version, I found it very difficult to get a grasp on Talisman. The “tutorial” is not easy to follow and only shows “hints” when a situation occurs instead of giving a set of rules or guidelines before playing. A mock tutorial game or even just a written “how to” list would have been extremely helpful, but it just isn’t there. It took me multiple games for me to get the hang of what I was doing, which, if my ability in the game is any proof of, was still not that great.

While playing Talisman: Digital Edition, I could tell that it was not made with PS4, or consoles in general, in mind. Touching the touchpad brings up a cursor on the screen that can’t actually click anything. There are buttons on the screen that aren’t “selectable” but pressing certain buttons causes them to make animations like they were “clicked on.” The left thumbstick has you select the different players and see what items they are holding, but doesn’t let you navigate the board or select important cards when prompted. Those jobs fall to the D-pad which was just confusing and seemed unnecessary. It is clear that Talisman: Digital Edition was meant for the PC.

I am sure that there are many things that could have been done to make Talisman: Digital Edition more enjoyable, but you really have to force yourself in order to like this game as it is currently. If you are really looking for a “Talisman” experience, you may be better off grabbing a few friends and heading to a tabletop.

 

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The Walking Dead: Ties That Bind 1 & 2 Review

Reviewed on PS4

The Walking Dead represented a new direction in story telling for Telltale back in 2012. With an emotional and compelling story mixed with fantastic relatable characters, Telltale placed themselves in game of the year conversations across the globe and have become the standard of modern story telling in video games today. The Walking Dead Season three titled: A New Frontier, is now the forth installment in the Telltale Walking Dead series, and it does not disappoint in episodes one and two. To be fair, it is really hard to tell a story with the weight and gravity of the original season and after the third installment falling some what flat and not really progressing things in the Walking Dead universe, I went into this game with mild expectations. As a fan of the series and of Telltale’s work I was, and am still optimistic about the future of where they go with the Walking Dead.

In previous installments the game focuses on a little girl named Clementine who went from a helpless little girl to a strong and courageous character that has survived everything this post apocalyptic world has had to offer and then some. In A New Frontier, you follow a new protagonist named Javier, a professional baseball player, instead of Clementine from the previous two main line seasons. The first episode opens up with Javier rushing back home only to find his father Rafa has died and his family in mourning. Very early in the game the choices you are faced with already carry emotional weight and establishes the tone of the relationship with your brother. This theme continues throughout the first two episodes as you flash forward and Javi assumes leadership of the small group consisting of Kate, your brother’s second wife, and his two kids. Not long into the game you cross paths with a hostel group called The New Frontier (similar to the saviors from the main line Walking Dead comic and TV show), and protagonist Clementine. I was glad to see her introduced early on in the game and to my surprise she has been hardened from life in this world overrun by zombies and awful people alike.

Graphically this Walking Dead game is a great improvement to Telltale’s previous titles. The character design is still the graphic novel cell shaded style we know and expect, but the models are also more three dimensional and a little bit more realistic. Telltale has touted that they are using a new engine, but I have to be honest when I say do not be fooled their games still don’t run well. With characters popping in and out between scenes and the slight stutters when the action picks up just shows through and through that this is a Telltale game. As for my experience, none of this affected the gameplay, but one can only imagine what the rest of the episodes will look like. Seriously, Telltale, fix your engine! Sound design and voice acting are great as to be expected, but I just wish that overall the game would run a little smoother. However, it is still an improvement from past games.

The moment to moment gameplay in TWD was really tight and between the two episodes never left me board and ready for a change. The dialogue and relationships introduced so far have been great and the QTE has not been overbearing or broken. It definitely seems that Telltale has learned a few things from previous episodes ad seasons. There wasn’t any real slow downs to this point which made for great pacing. Also, as you progress throughout the two episodes there are flashbacks into what Clementine was doing in between seasons two and three. These flashbacks have been short and sweet and have continued to build an already fantastic character in Clementine. Javier is also very likable from early on and the same goes for most, if not all, of the characters introduced thus far.

All in all, this is shaping up to be a great game. New engine, new graphics, same great story telling and dialogue mixed with some new great characters and a fan favorite from the previous installments. As per usual, the twist and inevitable cliff hanger at the end of episode two was fantastic and completely unexpected. I am really enjoying where this story is going and truly cannot wait to get back into the next upcoming episodes. If you are a fan of the previous games, you will definitely like this one. If you were lukewarm towards them, I would still suggest this game as it is an improvement to an already great formula with the caveat that there are still some of the same engine issues as before. Granted they are better but still not perfect. As for first timers into the Telltale Walking Dead universe, this is still a great starting point as you follow Javier and his family closely while learning more about Clementine without being held back by not playing the first two games.

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Overcooked! Review

Overcooked is brought to you by Ghost Town Games and it is a very easy game to pick up, there are only 4 different action buttons that you use throughout the entire game. Walk, grab/put down, chop/wash, and boost. Please note that the first two levels are really easy with 2 or more players, then the game takes a crazy turn and gets more difficult. as it adds level hazards, like moving trucks or ice or even Rats! All easy to adapt to if you have the chops in the kitchen! There’s also a “taunt” button. I didn’t see how it helped or didn’t help any given situation, it was just really funny to watch them spout “curses” in a kid friendly Gordon Ramsey style.

The whole premise of the game is to sharpen your chops to appease the beast. Whom is destroying the world from the time line you come from. Yes, you start off not being able to satisfy the beast (a spaghetti monster) then have to travel through time to become better versed in the ways of the kitchen in order to eventually quell the spaghetti monster. After you travel through time and start you food culinary quest you are greeted by a top down over world style map in which you use to go level to level, or kitchen to kitchen. You travel via a food truck/bus and it’s super reminiscent to traversing the overworked in Final Fantasy VII.

Going back to how difficult the game is, this all changes after some time of play and practice and upping the communication between you and the other players, treat it like an actual kitchen, call things out and make sure everyone has a role and can keep up with it. One player cuts, one player cooks, and so on with delivering food and washing dishes. Each activity that’s fine takes a set amount of time depending on how many cooks are doing the exact same activity. Example: If you’re cutting mushrooms by yourself then it would take 5 seconds, if someone was on the other side of the counter cutting the same mushroom it would take 2.5 seconds. This can be utilized very effectively if you have a season veteran running everything else like plating dishes or washing said dishes.

actualoc2

The game does a really good job of bringing back couch co op. So much so that you can play two players with one controller. Let me explain, earlier I mentioned there being only 4 actions you can perform in the game. If you pick two players but only have one controller it will take the usual control scheme and split it right down the middle. The two sticks being movement for two players and the bumper buttons being the action buttons. I honestly really enjoy this. I’ve missed couch co op for the longest time and I’m so happy to see developers taking the extra mile and making a two player game available to play with one controller. I know wii games will let you pass the controller, but this game is co op! Which means two players playing at the same time.

The versus mode is unlike anything I’ve ever played in the best of ways, you control two characters in one kitchen. You can chop thing while your other hand is moving the character and cooking and delivering the food! It’s wild crazy and fun! This game is a must play for people who want something new to throw into the mix of multiplayer game nights!

The trophies are all very easy to obtain not counting the earn all three stars in every kitchen trophy, as some of the kitchens are very difficult. I cannot see how anyone can make it very far in the game with only one player.

All in all it is a very solid game, where team work and communication is key. There are very few bad things I can say about the game. The only problem I had with the game was how precise I have to be with where I put my cut veggies or other such items I have to pick up then put down. However after sometime that got easier with practice. The levels change with every new area you unlock so things DO NOT become stale. Pick up this game with a good partner or team and you won’t be putting it down until you save the onion kingdom!

PG8_10

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Battleborn Review

Gearbox Software has come a long way over the past years. The company made a name for itself with PC mods and the company hit it big the Borderlands series. Does the company still have the ability to create a new game title? We find out with my review of Gearbox’s new title, Battleborn?

The plot is set a million years in the future where there is only one star left in the universe and every race battles for supremacy of the last solar system. A powerful villain is planning something with the last star and it is up to the Battleborn crew to make sure the remaining star and worlds are safe. Gearbox kept the same quirky humor and character design that made the Borderland series great, but the story may not be the most interesting reason for you to buy the game. There are some great cut scenes and humor between characters, but they are limited and left me wanting more.

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The game contains 25 different playable character that can be unlocked through player progression. Each character contains different attacks, customizable abilities, and styles help players decide their gameplay strategies. Every character has different strengths and weakness that you will have to learn if you want to complete a game match. Gamers may not enjoy playing every character because each character has a very radical form of gameplay. One gunner character has more agro ability while one elf archer has more long distant attacking gameplay. Personally, I only enjoyed the sword wielding vampire who gained health as he unleashed swift melee attacks.

Battleborn is a great game for those dedicated players who want to spend several hours learning how to play and utilize every character. For the casual gamer, this concept may be frustrating because you will die often in the game. There is a huge learning curve with all the characters and unlocking everyone will take a long time. Players may give up before getting every character in the game.

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The missions work well when engaging in online coop, but only work if you select your desired character(s) before someone else does. The multiplayer experience can be rewarding when you do select your character, set your characters skills and abilities, and play with others.

The multiplayer gameplay focuses on League of Legends or Heroes of the Storm objectives based matches which is far better than a simple kill count match. While moving away from the kill count is fun, one multiplayer game can take a long time. One match can take up to 35 minutes to complete. This may sound like fun, but the endless fight between the same five online players on line can drag on and wind up being frustrating.

While Battleborn has a decent story and fun cut scenes, the long progression and multiplayer games turn you away. If you’re a League of Legends fan, Battleborn could be up your alley. I give Battleborn a 6 out of 10.

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Screencheat Review

Screencheat Review:

After years of peaking at a friend or family member’s section of the screen on a first person shooter I finally find myself being rewarded for something I wasn’t “supposed to do.” In the N64 era of shooters, you had four squares and a golden gun. Now, in the 2016 era of shooters, you have a high speed internet connection and millions of friends and like minded gamers to play with. Today “screen lookers” have been made obsolete with the technological advancements in gaining and the availability of having your own console and monitor. Even if you go to your local LAN party most people bring their own gear, and we are seeing that a lot of the triple A high profile shooters are doing away with split screen and couch co-op. But if you thought split screen multiplayer was going away for ever you are in luck because Screencheat brings back the feeling of sharing the space with other players and with an interesting twist on gameplay rewards you for taking a little peek to see where the other players are.

As a matter of fact “screen looking” is the key gameplay mechanic. Each player, whether it be a friend or a computer controlled bot, has their own little space on the screen. And the best part is they are invisible! That’s right, the only thing you can see is your gun. This makes it an absolute necessity to look at the other player’s screen. One would think that would be easy but I found it quite challenging to get used to. I remember a time where I would quickly and quietly glance at another player’s screen just to get a leg up on where they were at and racing to them to take them out only to turn around and deny that I ever did it. Now Screencheat forces you to rely solely on doing just that. Sharing the screen with up to 8 players makes for an interesting, but sometimes frustrating experience.

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The environment means everything in this game. Each level is broken down into sections consisting of a few colors. Long hallways, staircases, elevators, and moving platforms are all covered by their own bare and basic color palate. Each map has its own special obstacles, but none of them were truly special or really stood out. Sure I had my favorite (The Garden) but none of the levels will be remembered as iconic or a must play. There were not a lot of spawn points either, so more often than not I would respawn in an 8 man battle only to be thwarted almost instantly, but occasionally landing a double or triple kill with only being able to see the smoke seeping from an enemy’s freshly fired gun barrel was very satisfying.

Being that this is a first person shooter the gunplay is what is most important and screencheat is a very boring shooter. The arsenal is unique and silly ranging from a small pistol, a candlestick, and a grenade launcher all the way to a wooden sword and horse that leaves a trail of fire behind you when charging your opponent. The shooting doesn’t feel good at all but in a way the game makes up for it with these corky weapons like a teddy bear bomb. All in all it remains a very fun shooting experience, just not a very good one.

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A fresh new take on the first person shooter genre coupled with a goofy arsenal makes Screencheat an overall fun game. It offers traditional 4 player split screen fun, as well as the ability to add bots making it up to 8 players at once which keeps things pretty interesting. Although being invisible in a FPS is not my preferred method of play, I really enjoyed myself and welcomed the challenge. Online multiplayer, several familiar game modes, and a slew of timed trails leaves you with plenty of content to keep you satisfied all while expanding on the thrill of looking at another player’s screen.
Proven Score 7/10

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Gunscape Review

Gunscape is a first person shooter and world building hybrid combining familiar elements of Minecraft and contemporary shooters such as Wolfenstein 3D and Doom. Solid gameplay mixed with an easy to use level creator makes for a fun game that allows players to jump right in and create single player, co-op, and multiplayer deathmatch arenas or full length campaigns.

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Gameplay and level creation are key in Gunscape, but it also comes packed with a meaty campaign if you are not interested in creating your own. Although the story (or whatever you want to call the narrative during the campaign) is quite forgettable, (if you can even figure out what is going on) Blowfish Studios compiled a slew of levels showing off just what Gunscape is capable of while also playing to the nostalgia of old school first person shooters. There were shades of Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and even Turok. Not to say Gunscape is trying to imitate other games, but I appreciated the nod to old school games that paved the way for this genre.

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There’s quite an arsenal in Gunscape as well as plenty of enemies to do battle with. From creepy little dead girls and zombies all the way to Nazi-esque soldiers and dinosaurs, variety is on the menu. Each of the eight chapters are comprised of several short missions that can be completed very quickly, and truth be told, there isn’t any real depth to what is going on in the game. The majority of my time in Gunscape was spent playing with the level creator. It is simple, quick, easy to use, and has plenty of items and blocks at your disposal all while allowing up to eight player split screen for a fun and faced paced experienced. If you are looking to just create a small deathmatch arena, or a large scale multilevel maze with bases on each end for your teams to occupy and do battle, you can with ease. You can also string your levels together to create your own campaign and share them for you and your friends to enjoy.

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Graphically this game isn’t really that impressive, but what it lacks in looks it makes up for by giving you a world to build and explore without having to mine for hours. Gunscape is intentional with its 90’s first person shooter feel from guns and enemies to the music in each level. If you are looking for a fun block building experience where you can battle up to 8 players locally and run a saw blade through a dinosaur then this is a great game for you. If you are looking for a cinematic experience with great dialogue and in depth story telling then I would look somewhere else. With Gunscape the barrier to entry is minimal and the replay value is high. I would recommend this game to anyone who is a fan of older first person shooters and fans of world and block building.

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PROVEN SCORE 7/10

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Resident Evil Zero HD

In a world where the line is often blurred between true survival horror and action adventure, Resident Evil Zero HD is a breath of nostalgic, fresh air. Bringing back the look and feel of classic Resident Evil survival horror with updated 1080p graphics and trophy/achievement support, this HD remaster takes an existing good game and makes it better.

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Resident Evil Zero opens up with an unfortunate helicopter crash right outside of Raccoon City near the Arklay Mountains. You start the game with protagonist Rebecca Chambers, the youngest member of Special Tactics and Rescue Service (STARS.) Once Bravo Team regroups from the crash, they stumble upon a Military Police vehicle turned over with two soldiers shredded to pieces while their prisoner and former marine Billy Coen is missing. Shortly after finding what seems to be an abandoned train, Rebecca and Billy cross paths and the adventure begins. From here on out, the unlikely duo encounter a huge array of zombies, dogs, monsters, and the newest addition, leeches. Like most Resident Evil titles, you start off battling your way through your traditional slow moving dead heads. Then, shortly after, there is a nice little throwback to the original RE with a dog burying through a window at you. It’s not long after that you come across these slimy and disgusting leeches in hordes throughout the train only to discover their hive mind mentality and ability to come together to form something even more disgusting and terrible. You don’t spend too much time on this murky, thought-to-be-abandoned train, before you pay a nice visit to one of Umbrella Corporation’s spooky Mansions. From there your quest to survive really takes off as you battle zombies, monkeys, leeches and their counterparts, crows, and other unfortunate experiments from Umbrella’s finest.

Graphically, this game is stellar. The already beautiful pre-rendered backgrounds have been touched up with new lighting and textures. It is quite beautiful at times, and this title provides plenty of environments to explore from the train to the mansion, inside and out. The cut scenes in the game still look great, but it does not appear that they received the time and detail as the rest of the game. As far as the enemy character models go, there is an insane amount of detail. And much like the personalities of our two main protagonists, the character models look good but lack detail in some areas.

Speaking of dull personalities, just like classic RE games, some of the voice acting is just plain out bad. Billy Coen, with his 80’s hair that kind of looks like a Joe Dirt mullet, his tribal tattoos, and his cheesy one liners, fails to deliver when it comes to becoming a big hitter in the series like Leon Kennedy or Chris Redfield. Rebecca’s character could have been better. A bright young member of STARS looking to prove herself could have really been helped out with some better dialog. Or maybe just a better dance partner. Either way, neither of them were just plain out bad, but there were times where I laughed at the utter dullness of the two somewhat bland protagonists. Now as for Oprea Leech man……I still don’t know what he is. His character just doesn’t fit the universe. It looked as if he was ripped from Parasite Eve or Final Fantasy. And then of course Wesker, who goes down as one of the greatest, most interesting, and coolest bad guys in all of video games, shows up and delivers the goods as one would expect.

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Unlike last year’s Resident Evil HD remaster of the HD Remake, the gun play in RE Zero is actually pretty good. In the original RE bullets were not only scarce, but it would take almost an entire clip to put down a zombie. In Zero, that is not the case. Depending on the difficulty you can take down a zombie or dog in as little as two rounds. And like any good survival horror, ammo and resources are few and far between. Inventory management is key in RE Zero! In previous Resident Evil titles you have a limited amount of slots on your person, but you had these strategically placed inventory crates that you could run back to at any time and exchange items, health, and ammo. In this game, that is not the case. You have six slots per character and you can trade items in between them on the fly. You can also drop items anywhere in the map and come back to them unlike in most games where if you discard an item, it magically disappears. For an added challenge, your larger weapons like the hunting rifle don’t just take up one slot, they take up two not including ammo. So, you will spend a very large amount of time looking at your items trying to plan what you need to make it to the next save point and weighing the pros and cons of guns and herbs vs items to progress through the game.

You have the option to play with the old tank controls or a fast more modern version of them. As a personal fan of the Resident Evil control scheme, I feel the tanks controls are an important building block to creating the tension needed in a proper survival horror game. But I understand that can make these games much more difficult for casual gamers to pick up a title like this and run with it. Zero does feel much faster and more responsive than previous RE titles, and this game adds a new mechanic to the series by giving you the option to switch between characters on the fly with the push of one button. At times this is a very nice and fun feature, but there are some instances where the AI is just not good and your partner will die and you will be forced to restart from your last save point and it’s possible that you did nothing to deserve it.

Alongside the challenging Trophy/Achievement list, Capcom added some new and fun content. Aside from some silly outfits there is Wesker mode. To unlock it you must complete the game. Then you are allowed to run back through and smash Zombies and other creatures with all of Wesker’s super abilities. Unfortunately you still have to hear Billy Coen’s somber and often flat voice rather than the iconic DC Douglas. But hey, at least you look cool!

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With fixed camera angles, tank controls, beautiful and spooky environments, and that classic Resident Evil charm, Resident Evil Zero was good before and continues to impress today. The crisp 1080p graphics with the much improved lighting, great sound, fun but tension filled gameplay, and new game content like Wesker mode, this Resident Evil title a must play.

PG8_10

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Just Cause 3 Review

When Square Enix announced Just Cause 3 would release in 2015, I simply said, “Take my money.” This over the top action series has been one of my favorites since it debuted on the Xbox 360. After spending some time playing this game, I felt the need to tell you if this game if worth you money.

Like previous installments, Just Cause 3 is an over the top sandbox video game that contain explosion mechanics that can rival a Michael Bay film. Not everything in the world can be destroyed, but those elements that do explode contain a unique physics engine that makes every attack seem different. While taking out a group of soldiers, I inadvertently hit a gas pump which produced a myriad of destruction through a fluid butterfly effect.

While destruction is the shining grace in this game, there are some small concerns with the game. Once concern, that can make you stop playing the game, is the repetitive nature of the game. While Just Cause 3 is a huge and beautiful world, a lot of its side missions repeat itself. You can destroy a police station, take out some enemies, blow up some items, raise a flag, and that is the constant recipe for taking back the country from a tyrannical antagonist. It often seems too repetitive outside of the main story line. The only benefit for taking over the land is to unlock new challenges and missions to explore the protagonist’s abilities.

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Just Cause 3 has some unique and fluid mechanic that challenges and entertains the player with different abilities. You can take out the enemy AI through some simple shooting mechanic, but it is much more fun to utilize other mechanics to deploy some creative takedowns. I accidentally stumbled upon running up to one enemy, attaching an explosive on his chest, and detonating it after I got to a safe distance. Not since Red Faction Guerrilla have I had so much fun with destruction and character abilities.

You’ll want to acquire all the different abilities, weapons, and vehicles you can because Just Cause 3 throws a lot of simple AI enemies your way. It almost seemed necessary to run away from certain fights because you can get outmanned in a moment’s notice. I wouldn’t say getting overrun is a bad thing in a video game, but Just Cause 3 has a major problem with frame rates and loading issues. I dies in the middle of the first mission to discover the load time for the first mission is longer than expected.

The load times are only limited to the character deaths and starting up the game and they don’t interfere with the game’s lackluster story. Just Cause 3 doesn’t deviate from the same story style as its predecessors and can be easily skipped. Some character even realize they are in a lousy story and make fun of it, but the plot seems to run thin as you get into later stages of the game.

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If you want to avoid a simple story and focus on a fun open sandbox game this lots of destructible features, Just Cause 3 is a great game that contains tons of unique weapons and vehicles for your enjoyment.

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WWE 2K16- Review

Over the past decade, Wrestling games and their fans have been stuck. Given that developers have tossed back and forth between the idea of simulation and arcade style games. Dating back all the way to WWF Wrestlefest, these games have been traditionally brawlers/fast paced games which didn’t feel well set for a 60 minute Iron Man Match. Past games let you brawl into WWF New York, and drop the People’s Elbow in Times Square. These matches would make you impatient if they went over 5-6 minutes and quickly become boring. More recently, with 2K’s acquisition of the WWE franchise rights, things have begun to change. 2K has brought the title more towards a stylized simulation and made this a real fan favorite for wrestling fans.

A Commitment to Excellence:

Starting with the Main Event. WWE 2K16 brings wrestling back to the table in all of its kayfabe glory. To compliment the largest roster the game has hosted, character models have been updated, and look stunning in their updated environments in 1080p at 60 frames per second. Given the last incarnation of WWE 2K was plagued with screen tears, match ending glitches and some inaccurate character models. Fans will also be delighted to know that Cody Rhodes (Star Dust) will not get jumbled in the ropes during his signature Disaster Kick. Another small thing you might not notice in this year’s title is updated and outdoor arenas.

Large Roster, Larger Community:

For me, the community is a huge part of WWE games. I love being able to sign on at any given time during the day and see that I can get matched up with an opponent. On top of improved online connectivity, 2K’s community creations have grown due to a major revamp on the Creative Mode side. Players are now able to utilize multiple different variations of gear thanks to new sections, and this in the long run makes for many characters easily created, which improves on the already MASSIVE roster. It is very easy to get carried away and create characters to actually replicate your ideal dream matches. Some of my favorites thus far have been:

  • Tommy Dreamer Vs. Raven
  • Ric Flair Vs. A.J Styles
  • Jason Voorhees Vs. Crystal Lake Camp Counselors (Handicap match)

*Editors Note: We made Randy the Ram, no Ram Jam though.

Another story told, another great showcase:

2K Showcase mode returns this year, and with it a new story. Stone Cold Steve Austin is the featured athlete of both cover and showcase this year. The story of the meteoric rise of “Stone Cold” is well told and historically accurate through excellent FMV, and video bumpers. The matches themselves are well chosen and some of the most important pieces of Stone Cold’s rise to fame. This mode beyond boasts great unlockable content and a high replay value.

What We Didn’t Like About WWE2K16

Cena Didn’t Kick Out At 2:

A great game doesn’t come without at least a small fault. WWE 2K16 suffers from a major setback in its technical aspects. Grapple and Submission are almost as hard to understand as that girl who you fell in love with in college, but could never get to say the worlds. I mean honestly, it’s a timed button mashing system that runs you in circles. This was a major problem last year. Given the games strategic mishaps, this will leave you frustrated and in need of a shot or two if your timing is off. Adding to that is a convoluted circular pin escape system that would even keep Cena down for the 3. This has been an issue plaguing the 2K series for more than a year. I can see this frustrating long time patrons of the series. It feels like a major learning curve. This is my opinion though. Many people do enjoy the new controller system.

Overall, WWE 2K16 is a major upgrade over its predecessor. 2K put in the work this year that was needed in last year’s incarnation. In a year of broken games, it’s good to see at least one annual title rise to its community’s demands, and fix the things we felt was wrong.

*WWE 2K16 was provided for review by 2K Games. This review is the independent publishing of The Structure Network, and has in no way been sponsored or provided.

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Minecraft: Story Mode Episode 1 Review

Telltale Games has had quite the busy year so far—they finished up their newest episodic story with Tales From The Borderlands while the upcoming season finale to Game of Thrones:A Telltale Games Series is coming this November. It seems that the team at Telltale is not done yet this year as we got the first of five episodes for Minecraft: Story Mode, which is their take on Mojang’s widely known and popular creative game. Unlike the previous games they have put out—which had characters, stories, and a world to use for source material—with Minecraft there is a free range to create a unique story with original characters we have never seen before.

Even so, Telltale definitely put themselves in a tough position when they picked up Minecraft to make an episodic game for. It’s tough to imagine how a game where you basically explore a world and build whatever you want to would transition into a five-part episodic story driven game where there aren’t any characters or places you can reference.

I will say that Minecraft: Story Mode does a good job with what it was trying to accomplish, the game features the iconic crafting table which allowed you to create items to help progress through the story, and while it wasn’t at the depth of crafting Minecraft itself has it was still nice to see it put in the game.

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Minecraft: Story Mode features Telltale’s bread and butter point and click gameplay while also including a good amount of quick time events and combat. The developer’s dialog and story options return as well, though this time around they are a bit more lighthearted. Minecraft: Story Mode is child friendly and without many decisions that might have you questioning yourself or getting too emotionally invested. The game’s simplistic gameplay allows anyone to jump in and enjoy the story and have fun which, at it’s core, is what Minecraft is about.

With that being said in Minecraft: Story Mode you take on the role of Jesse who, joined by with his friends and pet pig named Rueben, is trying to win the Endercon building competition with the hopes of meeting Gabriel the Warrior, a member of “The Order of the Stone.” Gabriel and his allies are the group of legendary heroes that defeated the Ender Dragon. Things go south and our ragtag group of unlikely heroes are on the quest of a lifetime to find the remaining members of The Order of the Stone so they can help save the world.

Minecraft: Story Mode also boasts a wealth of talented voice acting. If you picked a male character for Jesse the game’s lead voice actor is the hilarious Patton Oswalt while Catherine Taber voices the female version. With the supporting casting of comedian and actor Brian Posehn as Axel, I found myself enjoying any dialog sequences involving Patton and Brian. And just like in previous TT games there are, of course, various story related choices that can result in minor changes to the game’s outcome. From getting black eye to losing your stone sword and deciding who you team up with going into Episode 2, your choices matter. But, I’ll shy away from any details as to avoid spoilers for those of you who have yet to play the game yet.

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Assassin’s Creed Syndicate Review

The Assassin’s Creed series has had both moments of glory and tremendous failures over the past eight years. Though the games have had both major breakthroughs in gameplay and graphics, certain published some sequels have had their fair share of poor reception. With Ubisoft’s rocky decision in the series, every installment can seem like a gamble for the gamer. So, how does Assassin’s Creed Syndicate hold up?

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate takes place during the industrial revolution of 19th century London. With an environment unique from other Assassin’s Creed games, Syndicate takes during an age where coal and iron working where at their apex. Though not entirely a time of peace, the backdrop of Syndicate is far from grand wars of previous titles. This era works for Syndicate since it concentrates on the harsh environment of the world, the citizens, and the assassins seeking change in London.
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With fewer NPCs roaming the streets, Syndicate centers on the horse carriage and shipping traffic surrounding London. The traffic system can really make a player think in how they approach the game’s various missions.

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate follows the lives of twin assassins Jacob and Evie Frye. With conflicting personalities and distinctive fighting styles, the protagonists of Ubisoft’s latest addition to the Assassin’s Creed series provide a different mix to the game.The game starts off with the twins already in the middle of their careers as assassins, rather than have you go alongside them through their journey to become assassins. Jacob is carefree and keen on joking around, which really shows while he is speaking or eliminating Templars. Evie, on the other hand, is intuitive and educated. Jacob is aggressive and brutish in his combat while Evie has a more refined elegance. The subtle differences in the assassins’ combat help reflect the personality of the character you’re controlling.

Put these two characters together and their sibling remarks/humor provides excellent interactions amongst themselves and others around them. The twins are a refreshing change from the “my family member dies and I want revenge” mindset that has plagued protagonists in the previous installments. I find myself enjoying Evie and Jacob’s interaction to be a wonderful mix and they may be my favorite video game characters to date.

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Both assassins can be accessed at any point in the open world setting of London, though there are certain story missions that won’t allow you to switch between the twins. This may not be ideal for players that enjoy one over the other, though it does show the world and story through two different set of eyes.

Within the series’ latest installment, the mechanics surrounding weapons are outfits have been revised for an experience that focuses on the story. Fans of the the series that played Assassin’s Creed Unity may remember the game’s long list of weapons and clothing system that were meant to increase stats and personalize your assassin. While these elements can still be found in Syndicate, the options are greatly toned down. Syndicate replaces the swords, pikes, and great axes of previous titles with concealable weapons. Rather than drawing a saber and engaging templars, Syndicate has players utilizing handguns, brass knuckles, cane-swords, and kukris.

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Though there are few upgrades that are character specific, Syndicate allows you to improve the twin assassins in a relatively simple manner. By combining personal upgrades alongside those of your in-game gang, you will really feel like you can control the streets of London.

Though Syndicate does not have many options in regards to weapons, the game makes up for it with a new close quarter’s combat system that bears a resemblance to that of the Batman: Arkham series or Shadow of Mordor. Combat places greater importance on a hand-to-hand combo based system where players can utilize the environment around them. I personally had a lot of fun fighting on top the moving trains that can be found in the game and was elated when I discovered I could knock people off. Combos in Syndicate are brutal and I found myself cringing at the game’s brutal finisher moves. Syndicate offers some of the old fashion Assassin’s Creed finesse while also allowing gamers to take a more aggressive approach with either assassin. This combat system is also complimented with an upgrade system for the variety of skills each of the game’s protagonist.

While Syndicate’s combat and the upgrade systems take major steps in the right direction, the game’s free-running suffers from similar issues found in previous titles. Gamers will continue to have problem getting either Evie or Jacob to move exactly where they want them to when scaling buildings or leaping from building to building. Luckily, Syndicate incorporates a new grappling system to help ease the scaling of London’s buildings. An instance where this newly implemented system particularly stood out to me was when a mission had me climb to the top of Big Ben. Normally climbing to the top of the clock would taken around fifteen minutes of gameplay in another game, but the grappling hooks allowed me to climb to the top of the monument in less than ten seconds. The grappling hooks are a huge help when trying to get to different parts of the cityscape.

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Though I wish I could tell you that Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is free from the gameplay glitches that plagued previous titles, I can’t. I’ve observed both NPCs disappear out of nowhere while I was standing and a group simply waltz past me while I was engaged in a fist fight during a mission as if there was not a battle happening at all. There also appears to be some major disconnect issues that should hopefully be fixed in a timely manner with the next a patch update.

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate has some rough spots to fix, but the game has offers several improvements that both fans of the series and gamers just picking it up can enjoy. If you can overlook the troublesome free running problems and the common game glitches, Syndicate can be an enjoyable gameplay experience.

I give Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Syndicate an 8 out of 10.

PG8_10

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Review: Tales from the Borderlands Ep. 5: The Vault of the Traveler

In the final episode of Tales from the Borderlands, Telltale Games has managed to create one of their funniest, yet darkest episodes yet. The episode takes you on a roller coaster of emotions as you laugh, feel uncomfortable at times, and want to tear up at others. The game ties up loose ends, characters die, and other characters return. In the Vault of the Traveler, Telltale actually makes it feel like your choices from the previous episodes greatly impact the way your story ends. Characters react to you based on how you treated them in previous episodes, and there is even a choice that you make earlier in the series that can determine if one of your main characters lives or dies at the end. There are throwbacks galore to previous Borderland titles and Easter eggs that range from Power Rangers to Final Fantasy 7. Much like Telltale’s other games, episode 4 was a drag, but they always knock it out of the park with the finale. Telltale continues to finish strong.

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As always with Borderlands, comedy was one of the stronger parts of the game. Much like the main Borderlands games, I caught myself caring about the robot characters more than the human characters. Their innocent, yet comedic charm makes them more likable in my opinion. Loaderbot and Gortys speak to me much like Claptrap did in the previous games. That being said, a lot of the human characters came into their own in the finale. Characters I could care less about previously suddenly made me care, even Handsome Jack made me feel sorry for him.
The final boss battle of Tales from the Borderlands was phenomenal. There is a nod to the Power Rangers here that I thought was brilliant. The combat itself was a mix of the usual run of the mill Telltale combat that we are used to from previous games from the developer, but they have added in a fighting game style that reminds me of Street Fighter. Even the combat animations are nods to move from Chun Li as well as Ken and Ryu.

I do however have a couple of issues with the story. In times it felt too rushed. This is in part because Telltale left a lot of plot holes that needed to be tied up from previous installments. The game would have benefited from having more substance in Episode 4 to spread out the content instead of trying to fit the amount of content that they did in a mere two hours. This seems to be a recurring trend with Telltale games, as The Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead season two suffered from the same criticisms.

Another recurring trend with Telltale games is the hiccups that the game engine seems to suffer from. In several spots of the game, frame-rates would drop, scenes would stutter and seem to skip. The company seems to be pushing out title after title, where they could really benefit from taking a little down time to optimize the game engine to make the game more enjoyable for their fans. I played the game on PS4, so I can only assume that the last gen versions of the games suffered from these issues more than I did.

The audio for the game was on point though. There were a couple of license tracks that really added to the experience, especially Retrograde from James Blake that plays during the title sequence of the episode. Voice acting wise, as always Telltale are at the top of their game. The characters voices fit them, the lines were delivered with meaning and were all around enjoyable to listen to.

Tales from the Borderlands Episode 5: The Vault of the Traveler gives the series an amazing conclusion, in what I believe is the best ending that Telltale has given us next to The Walking Dead Season 1 and definitely the strong episode of this series. All of the questions that loomed from previous episodes were answered and tied up nicely, as well as new questions to consider about that will in no doubt shape the future of Borderlands, such as is this a sneak preview of what Pandora will look like when we finally get Borderlands 3.

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Tales from the Borderlands Episode 4 Review

The Penultimate episode to the series is closing things nicely.

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The Tales from the Borderlands series of games, if you read my reviews you know, is consistently entertaining and fun.  Each episode so far has provided something unique in terms of story and gameplay that always keep the episode from getting boring or tedious.  I honestly love how much effort and love went into making the past four episodes.  I care about the characters and the universe.  Everything just resonates so well with me in the series and chapter 4 is definitely no exception.

Tales from the Borderlands Episode 4: Escape Plan Bravo finally shines some light on the groups situation. Well, at least for a brief moment. It wouldn’t be a Tales From The Borderlands game if something didn’t go awry and often.  It is expected, but it works because I am always drawn to the characters and how each situation unfolds.  This kind of reminds me of watching and playing your favorite movie and video game series.  You know that the main characters will get into trouble over and over, but they always manage to get out of it using inventive and often times hilarious ways.  How would you expect one of the main characters to get past security with facial recognition technology?  Two words- Face Pizza.

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With each new chapter in this series, Tell Tale games seems to figure out new ways to bring in the action and the gross-outs.  I won’t spoil anything here, but the aforementioned face pizza is equally hilarious and absolutely disgusting.  It really works for the series. What also works is how this episode decided to handle its “violence”.  There is an unforgettable scene where a “shootout” takes place that hits all the right notes and manages to not only be endearing, but my favorite part of the series as a whole so far.  I felt like this break from Borderlands reality along with how it all played out felt so out of place that it worked incredibly well.  I would honestly recommend playing the first three episodes just to get to this wonderful scene.

Aside from all of the humor and “action”, there was a really great emotional weight her as well.  A major event happens, which I cannot spoil here, that actually brings a pause to everything, but this sweet and heartbreaking moment.  Fans of the Borderland series will actually be affected more so than players who have not spent more time in this universe.  Nonetheless, this moment is quite moving and is handled in exactly the right way.  The other bum note that gamers might agree with me on is the of a few familiar characters.  There are some series regular cast that barely make an appearance.  One of my favorite characters only showed up for about ten seconds via a brief phone call that just reminds players that he still exists in the world.

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Other than that one minor issue, I would have to say that Tales from the Borderlands Episode 4: Escape Plan Bravo is as entertaining if not more so than the previous entries.  I have loved where the series is headed so far.  The characters and events that unfold are so entertaining that I really don’t want any of it to end.  This last episode along with the previous three have set up so much that I am not sure how they provide a satisfying conclusion is the one and a half to two hours it takes to finish each one.  I have confidence in Tell Tale however, and I cannot wait for episode five.  I highly recommend Episode 4 of Tales from the Borderlands as well as all previous episodes if you have yet to try them out.

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Review: The Bridge

With more and more Indy games showing up these past two gaming generations, it takes a lot for one to stand out. Even more so for those with abstract art direction and intriguing puzzles abound, which seem to be more common lately. With games like Limbo and Braid leading the helm, The Bridge is an interesting take on the puzzle genre, which adds an M.C. Escher art style to the mix. While The Bridge was originally released in 2013 on the Xbox 360 and Steam, it will make its way to the now current-gen consoles. At first glance, The Bridge seems like a rather simple game, but adding the M.S. Escher style adds an interesting new perspective to the genre. This forces players to skew how they view the environment, right from the first puzzle and it only gets more crazy as the game trudges on.

While the plot is extremely minimal in comparison to the gameplay, there is one to be found by those who look into every detail. Both the environment and the text that appears when you beat a chapter add to the mystery of an otherwise explanation-less world. At first, The Bridge just throws you right in with no sense of what’s going on, but the more levels you complete, the deeper the plot begins to dig into your brain. While it did throw me off at first, I found myself completing levels and puzzles to try to unravel the mystery of our unnamed protagonist and this strange world he inhabits.

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The Bridge features extremely simple gameplay, using only a few buttons throughout the course of the game. However, mastering all the tools at your disposal are key to beating the puzzles. With powers such as rewinding and tilting the world, they offer better mobility to an otherwise slow-moving protagonist. With how slow the character moves, it can be kind of infuriating when you’ve rewound a couple of times, trying to find the solution. Rather than outright dying, you’re given the ability to rewind from where you died, which proves to be helpful as the game can be a bit of a trial and error for certain puzzles. While it starts off fairly simplistic, the game can and will have a rather interesting difficulty spike.

The Bridge hosts a small amount of content, with only 24 levels for the base game. Once you beat those however, you do unlock Mirror versions of those levels and that’s where the game really gets started. The regular 24 levels offer good challenges, which can be frustrating at times when the solution is not so clear. The Mirror versions however, can be downright difficult in comparison. Some puzzles will take you at most 20 minutes, while some can be done in a matter of seconds, which in turn can be a bit disappointing. While the levels are incredibly well thought out, gorgeous to look at and downright fun, it will leave most gamers wanting more, especially when the game can be beaten in a matter of 4 hours.

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As stated earlier, the game was originally released in 2013 and now re-releases with no additional content. While that is a bit of a bummer for players who have already experienced The Bridge, releasing on the newer consoles allows more gamers to discover this abstract puzzle game. I would like to have seen extra puzzles to give returning players a great reason to try the game again. Even more disappointing, it shares the same achievement list as the Xbox 360 version, which can be completed rather easily. While it offers nothing new from its 2013 version, it’s still worth checking out for fans of the puzzle genre who haven’t played it before. The Bridge is an incredible addition to the puzzle genre and one that should not be missed.

The Bridge releases on Xbox One, August 14, 2015, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita on August 18th and Wii U on August 20th.
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editors note: this game was reviewed on X-Box One
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The Witcher 3 Review

2015 is a big year for gamers. So many games filled with potential, coming both from the AAA and indie scene, are on their way. One of the most anticipated ones, “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt”, is finally out. This AAA, high fantasy RPG aimed to emerge us in its beautiful, massive world filled with characters, side quests, and a superb story to end the trilogy. Luckily, I’m here to tell you that for the most part, The Witcher 3 delivers in every single aspect. And outside of a few minor problems, it is just as good as it promised to be.
The first thing I noticed when playing the game, is just how good it looks. The Witcher takes full advantage of its fantasy setting, as it presents an incredibly beautiful world. Skies are full of colors, water physics relaxed me, and riding my horse while seeing dozens of trees getting pushed by the wind felt great. On the more technical side, the game usually maintains a steady framerate, without a lot of pop up. It’s worth mentioning that outside of when you start the game or when you die, The Witcher has no loading screens. Meaning that you could go from one end of a map to the other, without having to wait.

On The Witcher 3, we follow the story of Geralt, a witcher who is on the search of his disciple, Ciri. He must find her, before The Wild Hunt (the bad guys) do. As someone who didn’t play the first two games, I was afraid of not understanding what was going on. The game does its best at explaining what happened in one or two cutscenes. While certainly not ideal, I understood why Geralt’s mission was so important. The story is pretty good. It tells an emotional story, while delivering some unexpected twists and turns. While riding through the main quests, I constantly found myself ignoring them, so I could explore. And that brings me to the star of the show… the game’s huge open world.
CD Project Red managed to create a game 30% bigger than Skyrim. This is a particularly respectable accomplishment, and they should definitely be praised for it. Thankfully, the game also has many extra activities. And by many, I mean way too many. From side quests, to undiscovered locations, to an awesome card game, some knuckle fights and other mini games, The Witcher has an extraordinary amount of content. This is not by any means a bad thing. While it was overwhelming for the first couple of hours, I eventually realized I would never see everything the game had to offer, and I was fine with it. That’s when the fun started. I dived into the game and I didn’t want to come out. I felt like I was a part of the universe, and I had an important role to play in it. Helping a sick man, killing monsters who were attacking villagers, or rescuing a kid in danger was great. I really did feel like Batman’s great, great grandfather.
My main problem with the game comes from the way it controls. Geralt feels extremely stiff and heavy, an issue I also share with the Assassin’s Creed series. Many times I wouldn’t be able to pick some loot up because I’d go over it, and then I’d spend about 10 second trying to get to the loot without walking past it. I eventually just got used to it. And while it’s not a game breaker, it definitely is something that annoyed me. The other minor issue I have with the game is that the story is not just as epic as I thought it’d be. Like I said before: story’s pretty good, but not great.

When all is said and done, people will look back at “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt” with respect and appreciation. An incredible world filled with a crazy amount of content and a pretty good story make this game an early Game Of The Year Contender. And while some small issues hold it back from perfection, I still consider this a must-play.

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