Although not as commercially successful as the Battlefield or Call of Duty series, Sniper Elite has carved out a niche in the shooter genre for the blatant and unrepentant camper crowd. Sniper Elite 3, developed by Rebellion Development and published by 505 Games, has brought the best parts of Sniper Elite V2 to the current generation of consoles.
In Sniper Elite 3, American sniper Karl Fairburne is sent to the besieged city of Tobruk to help repel Nazi forces, under the command of General Vahlen, during their North African campaign of 1942. The city ultimately falls to the overpowering offensive capabilities of the Germans, but Fairburne’s efforts get noticed by the British, who recruit the hawk-eyed sniper for a little recon and assassination mission. It is the player’s mission to uncover General Vahlen’s plans, disrupt whatever evil he is planning to unleash upon North Africa, and put a bullet in his bitch ass.
Tools of the Trade
Snipers are not armed like regular infantry. Karl’s starting loadout is comprised of a scoped M1 Garand, a Sten SMG, and a silenced Welrod pistol. These weapons can all be upgraded with different scopes, barrels, and stocks as the game progresses. Other weapons, like the Thompson SMG, MP-40, or Luger 9mm, can be substituted for the standard loadout, but I was happy with the starter set for most of the game.
Players are also able to make use of trip mines, land mine, AP mines, dynamite, grenades, and rocks. Camping snipers are generally big pussies in a firefight, so the smart ones set up traps to cover their six while they cowardly eliminate targets from a relatively safe distance. Bonus points are awarded for shooting from cover or from sniper nests, or by muffling their shots. Shots can be muffled by passing aircraft, noisy Ratte Factory machinery, or by sabotaging generators to sputter noisily,. This often requires that shooters synchronize their shots with the ambient noise spikes to effectively camouflage their shots. Some secondary weapons, like the Panzerschreck, can also be found in certain areas and are useful in taking out tanks, vehicles, and groups of unfriendlies.
The Trail of a Dangerous Man
General Vahlen is a very dangerous adversary who is up to some large scale shit. However, being a video game villain, he has left a trail of information for those who are willing to kill to get it. This trail winds through Nazi oasis camps, dusty canyons littered with destroyed vehicles and ancient ruins, occupied African cities and fortresses, and a super weapon factory built into the side of a mountain. The levels are mini-sandboxes, generally allowing the player to complete objectives in any order desired. The graphics are very good, but the landscape is mostly brown and drab: it is set in the desert, after all.
Karl will have to assassinate targets to obtain information from the bodies, track enemies, disable vehicles and howitzers, protect allies, rescue prisoners, and kill a mountain of Axis soldiers to get to Vahlen. Players can also collect items like playing cards and war journals for some extra XP.
Carving a Niche
The Second World War has been mined to death for game content. Stormed Normandy beach? Yep, done that. Parachuted into Nazi-occupied France? Been there. Tortured Nazi officers for information with a chainsaw before flying to the moon? You betcha. However, scoping in on a soldier, calculating for distance and elevation, and pulling off a perfect head shot was more rewarding than I expected it to be. Especially when that reward comes in the form of an X-ray slow motion close-up of the carnage. Why can’t this feature be in every shooter campaign? The money shot not only features head shots: I blew out intestines, punctured kidneys, perforated lungs, and even blasted the balls off of bad guys. Anatomy has never been this much fun.
Sniper Elite 3 is, by no means, a particularly fast-paced game, but that doesn’t make it slow or unexciting. If you do fuck up and get in a jam, the Sten will be effective enough for a group of three or so, but the player will need to relocate if he or she draws too much attention. Moving vehicles will have to be taken out by either sniping vital parts or with anti-vehicle weapons. Players can also take a stealthy approach with the Welrod or the knife...but they better make it count the first time.
Rebellion has conjured up several competitive multiplayer modes based on the sniper-centric theme of the SP campaign. Cooperative includes a protect the partner from a distance, tag and bag, and horde mode. Several single player challenges exist for those who have exhausted other play types, and there’s a global leaderboard to let players know where they stand in each challenge.
You Knew it Was Coming
No game is perfect, and Sniper Elite 3 is certainly no exception. Sometimes the vaulting/jumping mechanic doesn’t work correctly, often exposing the player to enemies at an inopportune time. Although Karl is a formidable sniper, the nature of his profession requires him to travel light and unarmored and as a result he dies very quickly in gunfights. Disappearing bodies can be problematic, especially if they are carrying the vital information that Karl needs to progress the level.
Most objects in the game cannot be interacted with, which means a folding canvas chair poses the same impenetrable quality as a wall. The AI, for the most part, is incredibly unbalanced. They are either infallible sharpshooters of the highest quality and keenest level of alertness, or they are nearsighted dolts who incompetently ignore grazing bullets and a completely visible opponent directly in their line of sight. The single player portion of the game is very short, less than 12 hours, but the multiplayer stuff can keep the magic alive a bit longer, if you’re into that kind of thing.
I had more fun with Sniper Elite 3 than I should have but, despite its relatively short campaign, I had enough by the time I had finished and had no desire to participate in a 4v4 sniper campfest. It’s a fun experience, but I would wait for a sale before adding Sniper Elite 3 to my game library.
Detective Ronan O’Connor is killed in the line of duty while investigating Salem’s Bell Killer. O’Connor, a widower, is unable to join his wife in the afterlife until he can take care of his unfinished business. Ronan now exists between two worlds: the living world and a ghost town full of souls who haven’t resolved their corporeal affairs. Ronan now must solve his own murder before the Bell Killer can strike again. Sounds like this ghost could use some help.
Ronan soon finds a reluctant ally in a local medium, named Joy, whose mother was helping the Salem police on the Bell Killer case. The killer has taken an interest in Joy and her mother, so the girl takes refuge at a nearby church while helping Ronan with material objects, like opening doors. O’Connor often finds opportunities to help other ghosts find the light by using his detective skills to find their bodies, solve their deaths, or remove whatever personal baggage is holding them to the material plane.
No Ghost Bullets For You
Murdered: Soul Suspect is not a shooter game, it’s a detective story. Much like Ryse, the game is driven almost completely by its narrative. The majority of the gameplay is spent doing detective work, exploring the world, interacting with ghosts, and a few quick time events. If you’re looking for some kind of spooky shooter or horror game, then keep looking. The only actual action in the game consists of taking down demons, which is a quick time event, or running around as a cat, which introduces some mild platforming elements to an otherwise action-free game.
It’s Kind of Like LA Noire
Those of us who have played LA Noire have some fond memories of collecting clues, pondering the evidence, interrogating suspects, and solving the case. Some of the elements have trickled into this game, but they have been dumbed down for a slower crowd. The clues in Murdered: Soul Suspect are impossible to miss, since they are usually marked by chalk, an evidence marker, or have a light shining directly on them to make them stand out: you’d have to be an idiot to miss them. Even if you are an idiot, there is no way to come to the wrong conclusion due to the “everyone’s a winner!” style of unerring deduction. Players are simply not allowed to be wrong. This would be fine if Murdered was being sold as a children’s game, but the profanity puts this on the adult shelf.
It’s Kind of Like Watching TV
The seemingly singular focus on the narrative almost eliminates the necessity for someone holding the controller. I play games because they’re interactive. The player should have some measure of control, or at least the illusion of control. There should be some sort of accountability for player error, and there should be a reason for a controller and a person holding it. When the most interactive part of your game is prowling around as a house cat, then there’s a problem with your game.
This is not a game: it’s an episode of the Twilight Zone. The game looks good, the voice acting is top-notch, and the story is one of the best on the new consoles, but Airtight focused so heavily on crafting a story that they left the player out. I can watch fucking ghost stories on Netflix.
The game is short enough to be conquered in a couple of evenings and offers no replayability. Consider this title a weekend rental only.
Is it Watch_Dogs, Watch Dogs, or Watch-Dogs? Does it live up to the hype or is it just another game that had a little too much to drink at last year’s E3 launch party and decided to send out a naughty tweet to the hundreds of thousands of people in attendance?
Release Date: May 27, 2014
Platform(s): Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, PC
THE WINDY CITY… WITH THE WIND KNOCKED OUT OF IT
Originally announced at E3 in 2012, to much fanfare, Watch Dogs was originally scheduled for launch in November 2013 but ultimately launched on May 27, 2014 to allow Ubisoft to add more polish to it. Set in a digital stand-in for Chicago, protagonist Aiden Pearce explores this sandbox world by hacking pretty much everyone and everything with his generic looking stand-in for a smartphone while trying to save his sister in between side missions of ridding the city of its criminal elements, avoiding or defeating rival hackers, and racing from point to point. A backdoor into Chicago’s central operating system or ctOS allows Aiden free reign over everything and no one is safe… especially those responsible murdering his niece and kidnapping his sister.
Eleven months earlier, after a failed robbery at the Merlaut Hotel that led to his niece’s murder instead of his, Aiden Pearce seeks revenge. Armed with l337 hacking skillz of prompting you to press X or Y and his Samsung Android/Apple iPhone wannabe smartphone Aiden is ready to don his baseball cap, a bandana, and his leather one-strap Trenchcoat of Holding (I don’t know what else to call it - It can magically hold an arsenal of shotguns, pistols, assault rifles, sniper rifles, grenade launchers, and chemicals and electronic components to save the day without encumbering the wearer or interfering in the wearer’s movement). Aiden appears to take on a badass persona but never quite succeeds because the only one that takes Aiden’s badassedness seriously is Aiden and the game publishers. The audience is simply told in very indirect terms that “Aiden is a badass” without any actual proof… unless you consider hacking $6600 from a citizen that was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer and then showing up to your nephew’s birthday party without a present as being a badass. In that case, he isn’t a badass, he’s just a dick and like the Windy City of Chicago that missing any actual wind in this game, Aiden’s the badass that’s missing the bad… ass.
GRAND THEFT WATCH_DOGS?
One of the biggest obstacles for Watch Dogs are the endless comparisons to Grand Theft Auto that it has had to endure. I don’t think this game was ever meant or marketed to be a GTA replacement. If it was, the person responsible for that marketing effort should be caned and canned because it isn’t GTA. Yes it’s a sandbox game just like GTA. Yes there are vehicles that, much like in GTA, you can jack from those driving them. Yes there are missions that involve you shooting up several enemies and blowing things up just like in GTA… but this is no GTA. It is a completely different game just as Assassin’s Creed, Crackdown, Infamous, etc. are all different games yet none of them were compared to GTA as harshly as Watch Dogs.
If you’ve played GTA though, you can’t but help make the comparison. Running and not being able to jump in Watch Dogs gets irritating. Not being able to freely melee any of the NPCs like you could in GTA gets annoying. Not being able to go to a strip club and use your mic on a live stream to verbally seduce a virtual stripper is a major hang up. Having the police on your tail and not being able to get rid of them like a bad case of herpes can ruin your day. Not being able to go to a strip club. Attacking an armored vehicle for $7G’s or mugging pedestrians for $10-$30 then running for your life can be a pain in the butt. Not being able to go to a strip club. Minor things like this might make or break a picky gamer’s day (and their ability to go to a strip club).
On the flip side though, if you’ve played GTA, playing Watch Dogs can be a pleasant break from Los Santos. The ability to run around and not accidentally jump to your death from atop a building is a welcome addition to accident prone players like myself! Not being able to go to a strip club and then have your wife or kids accidentally walk in on you telling your virtual stripper how much you like looking at their oddly shaped polygonal boobs is a Godsend.The ability to not accidentally melee a pedestrian for $2 and then having to run from police using deadly force is great. The ability to walk around and look at your phone while making thousands of dollars from hacking and not having to run for your life is so fulfilling. The ability to use certain elements in your environment such as overloaded utility boxes or underground steam pipes to take out enemies is awesome. The best ability in this game however is… being able to pull out your phone when someone in the game is talking to you and pretend like you are checking email or something important when all you want to do is ignore the other person just like in real life. BEST. FEATURE. EVAR!
HACK THE PLANET
Anyone watch the movie Hackers with a young Angelina Jolie and Jonny Lee Miller in it? That’s what this game kind of feels like. In the movie like all movies involving hacking, no real knowledge of actual hacking is required. In the movies or on TV, hacking is so easy that just about anyone with a MacBook Pro can do it. So long as an actor/actress can press buttons convincingly like the young Jonny Lee MIller or Angelina Jolie in the movie, they can hack just as you you can hack in Watch Dogs.
Since you can hack in this game, you might as well hack the whole planet, err, city and in order to do that, you won’t playing a lot of campaign. The real action isn’t in the main campaign. It’s in the side missions, walking the streets of virtual Chicago, hacking the people in the city, and mutliplayer contracts/races. The side missions are a combination of races, running after bad guys, or taking out entire street gangs while walking on the streets of Chicago and hacking people in the city is just that and is just that easy. Multiplayer, however, is a completely different story.
My first day with this game was spent just walking around the city hacking everyone and fulfilling all of my voyeuristic fantasies by reading their short little bios that appear on my phone. In between reading bios, I’d make stops to various ATMs to withdraw money from accounts that I had hacked. By the end of the night, I don’t know how many bank accounts I had compromised but I had a good $100 grand in the various pockets of my one-button/strapped trench coat. Don’t mind the fact that I took most of this money from just about everyone that was diagnosed with some sort of terminal illness. Making money illegally was never so easy!
When you get bored of making money (and you will get bored after you’ve purchased the limited inventory of collectibles and weapons in this game), you can tackle the side missions that either have you racing after a bad guy, have you taking out gangs, unlocking ctOS antennas around the city, etc. Just as you start to bore with these activities, a random online player/intruder jumps into your game and hacks your data. It’s not quite stated what data this intruder is hacking or stealing but this player is stealing your data nevertheless (maybe it’s the obese clown Real Doll porn that you have in a folder called “WORK STUFF,” who knows). You then have a limited amount of time to track this intruder down and put a stop to their hacking.
Finally, you can always just walk around the various parts of virtual Chicago and interact with the NPCs.
The multiplayer aspect of Watch Dogs can be a lot of fun with friends and or randoms. There are two ways to play multiplayer. The first is through the game itself by navigating to your map then hitting one of the bumper buttons to go online and the second is through the mobile phone ctOS app. The Online Multiplayer modes are:
1. Online Hacking has your character infiltrating another characters game with your objective being to locate the other player and install a backdoor into their network while remaining undiscovered. If you do to get profiled, the other player's objective is to find you and kill you.
2. Invasion happens when someone else invades your game. Your objective is to track down the intruding hacker, profile them and kill them before they can fully install a backdoor into your network.
3. Online Tailing is like an online game of cat and mouse where you take turns trying to follow each other without being detected. In the event of detection, the goal changes to the same goals above - find and kill the player tailing you.
4. Online Race is pretty simple. Drive as fast as you can from point A to point B while using ctOS to your advantage.
5. Online Decryption pits two teams or three individual players against each other. Each team or player face off to collect data by staying close enough to the source or by killing each other off. The team or player that collects 100% of the data wins the match.
6. The ctOS Mobile App on iOS and Android that allows you to take 5 minutes out of your day to challenge friends or random players in between meetings or while you are out and about ignoring the world.
STOP IN THE NAME OF THE LAW… OF PHYSICS!
Believe it or not, the Disrupt engine that Watch Dogs was built on was originally going to be used for a driving game. Thankfully Ubisoft decided against that as the physics in Watch Dogs would give any driving game enthusiast a permanent WTF look on their face. A couple of Forza friends commented on how they like the driving in this game and how it feels more realistic but this is a video game and although it may be realistic that you can’t take a turn at 100 mph in a beat up economy car in the game and in real life, when your in-game car takes a turn at reasonable speed, drifts onto oncoming traffic, kisses an oncoming truck head on, then causes the truck to fly back 20 feet while you still maintain most of your momentum, you’ve got to question the physics… or real life if this has ever happened to you in real life.
Another item that I’d like to bring to everyone’s attention is the law… The police. The police in this game are ruthless and will chase you with orders of shoot to kill for just about any offense, regardless of how serious the offense. They will pursue you to the ends of the city boundaries with reckless abandon and will not stop until you are dead, dying, or have somehow managed to successfully elude capture. If you drive onto the train tracks or somehow figure out a way to get your vehicle onto the El tracks, they will follow. If you drive from one end of this virtual Chicago to the other, they will follow. If you jump out of your vehicle, they will stay in theirs and run you the f-ck down. If you jump into the water and swim away from them, they, uh… they… uh… they cease pursuit and take a break for donuts. For some reason, they can’t seem to follow or track you in the water and then while you are in the water, your phone magically survives and you can take calls or hack nearby civilians.
As much as I like this game and am still having fun with it, I cannot recommend this game as a brand new purchase. There’s just a lack of polish even if Ubisoft took a few extra months to add it that really bothers me. The lack of shadows on just about everything, vehicles appearing as if they are floating on the street as they drive by, repeating dialog of NPC’s after you listen to them for a while (and when I say ‘a while,’ I really mean 2 seconds), etc. all add to my not being able to recommend this as a brand new purchase… instead, I can say get it used. It’s not quite the ‘next gen’ experience but it’s a fun game to play when you’re tired of the usual fare and if you get it used, you’ll save yourself a few bucks while still having a fun game to play on a rainy day.
Supergiant Games thrilled the gaming world with their first game, Bastion, during the Summer of 2011. Narrated by Logan Cunningham, Bastion quickly became an Indie mega-hit with many people wandering around their homes talking in his deep, throaty voice. Now, almost three years later, Supergiant once again tackles the Action RPG genre with their latest release, Transistor.
Release Date: May 20, 2014
Platform(s): PS4 and PC
In Transistor you play as Red, who is a famous singer in a city under siege by something called the Process. Red lost her voice during the initial attack but gained a sword companion instead. The sword, coincidentally named the Transistor, is voiced by the recognizable velvety tones of Logan Cunningham. Throughout the game, the Transistor helps and guides Red as they travel across the city of Cloudbank trying to figure out what the heck is going on.
It's all about the function
As you play through the game, you unlock additional skills called functions. Functions can be combined and strung together for a variety of battle move combinations. One of the keys to the game’s combat is being able to effectively plan out a few moves while at the same time avoiding damage from the robots. If you don’t plan properly, your functions can be overloaded and thus unusable for a time. If you lose all your functions in an area battle with the Process, you die and have to start that area all over again.
The majority of the game is played in the isometric view, with you on foot hauling around a big ass sword behind you. As you play through each area, you encounter different things that you can interact with, such as OVC Terminals and Access Points.
At OVC Terminals, you interact and learn news about what is happening to the city, as well as “speak” with the Transistor.
Access Points let you configure skills and function combos. They all have cool names like crash(), breach(), spark(), and jaunt(). These terminals also let you re-config functions to create new interesting functions with upgrades, such as load() + breach(). You can have four main functions equipped at a time, with what seems like endless combinations of secondary and passive skills. Players have a limited amount of memory slots to fill, so be strategic in what skills and combos you create.
At the Access Points, you can also add and remove a variety of Process Limiters. Limiters remind me of using skulls in Halo. It handicaps players in some way, but gives more bonuses at the end of each battle. For example, one limiter reduces the number of memory slots you have available. If you completely die, you get the option to remove these though as you try that area again.
“Limiters Make the Process Stronger.”
The gameplay was a little awkward for me at first: I am not used to playing a lot of games with the PS4 controller. With that aside, it did take a while for me to figure out how to configure combos and plan effective moves correctly to take down the enemy Process robots. Which then brings us to the Backdoor.
The Backdoor is a separate area of the game that is accessible from multiple places within Cloudbank. This is your home base: a tropical oasis of sorts, where you can relax in the sun, play some ball, listen to music and even practice honing some of your skills. Think of it as a dream-like world apart from the destruction and mayhem in the city.
I am greatly distracted by this area and end up wasting too much time here kicking around a beach ball. With witty comments from the Transistor such as “Take that ball!”, this area is fun and engaging.
This is just like Bastion, right?
Yes...and no. Transistor has the same feel of Bastion, with a strong narrative story and isometric camera views and they both have the traditional ARPG elements. However, while Transistor plays similar to Bastion, it really has its own sense of style and personality. On top of that, the music is enthralling and the story.
Transistor is just as engaging as Bastion was. Yet, it is in essence, its own beautiful beast. Transistor is the kind of game that shows you there is more to video games than shooting your friends across a desolate field of destruction. It transports you into a beautiful world with a compelling story and maintains that feeling throughout the entire time.
At its core, Transistor is truly delightful, quirky, and at times even breathtaking. For $20 USD, you should not pass this one up.
World War II has been fairly fertile ground for both film directors and game developers to ply their trade. Some of my favorite movies are set during WWII: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Inglourious Basterds, Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List and 1941 are some of my favorites. In video games I have stormed Normandy beach in at least two different games, parachuted into France, defended Pearl Harbor, shot my way through Nazi U-boats, and chased diesel powered Panzers across every type of terrain.
Even some of the greatest comic book characters, like Magneto and Captain America, got their start in the Second World War. Modern pop culture exists only because the Nazis were stopped. A lot of games have put players in the war, but few games pursue the horrible alternate outcome of that war. What would have happened if the Nazis had won the war?
Wolfenstein veteran, B.J. Blazkowicz, and his group are on a desperate all or nothing assault on the island compound of Nazi General Deathshead near the end of 1946. The war has been extended due to the sudden, drastic improvement of Nazi technology, and the allies are losing the war. After their plane is taken down by flak, Blazkowicz, Captain Fergus Reid, and Private Wyatt silence the guns, crack the doors, and storm Deathshead’s castle with the intention of putting a bullet in that fucker’s head. Deathshead, however, is ready for them and he forces our hero to make a terrible choice that will affect the rest of the game.
The House of the Rising Sun
Blazkowicz was taken out of the war that day in 1946 by a 4 inch piece of shrapnel in his brain. The year is 1960, and Blazkowicz has spent the last fourteen years in a Polish sanitarium as a giant vegetable. Deathshead has been using this asylum as a farm for experimental subjects, but eventually orders the place shut down and the remaining patients executed. The husband and wife staff interferes with a soldier’s duty and are executed as well, leaving only the daughter, Anya, to answer to a Nazi officer named Keller. However, Blazkowicz snaps into action just as his turn for a bullet comes up. Armed with a steak knife and the soldier’s pistol, he fights his way outside to save the girl.
The duo find temporary refuge at the home of Anya’s grandparents. Blazkowicz learns the horrible truth of how much time he has lost and that the shadow of the Third Reich now covers the entire world. Even the Americans capitulated after atomic fire rained down on New York. Blazkowicz interrogates a stowaway senior Nazi officer, with a chainsaw, and discovers that the remnants of the Resistance are being held in a prison in Berlin. So it’s up to Blazkowicz to single handedly break into a super-prison, restart the resistance, beat the Reich into submission, and finish off Deathshead. You didn’t think it was going to be easy, did you?
I Rode a Tank, Held a General’s Rank
Swedish developer, MachineGames, has taken the reins from id Software for the ninth installment of Wolfenstein. The game is presented in the classic id FPS style that Quake, Doom, and Wolfenstein vets will immediately recognize. Although MachineGames has abandoned the supernatural in favor of the technological in this installment, The New Order is definitely a Wolfenstein game.
This is not an open world game. Like every other game in the series, Wolfenstein: The New Order features very linear levels but often rewards exploration of the levels with powerups and collectibles. Game environments include a London Museum, Berlin prison, Croatian labor camp, underground train depot, the Gibraltar Bridge, castles and underground headquarters....oh, and the moon. The environments are very well rendered and, quite often, visceral.
The graphics, overall, are very good: not quite Crysis 3 on the pc, but very close for a console. The character models are especially striking, detailed, and memorable. The facial detail is remarkable, even very close up, as well as the details on clothing, the Panzerhunds, mechanical devices...even the fucking water looks spot on.
Haben Sie Glück, Punk fühlen?
It ain’t a shooter without the guns and, for the most part, the armory is standard fare: pistols, shotguns, sniper rifles, grenades, etc. Minigun turrets are featured in the prologue, but once Blazkowicz hits the 60s, those miniguns become rapid-fire energy weapons. These energy guns can be removed from their turrets to get mobile with the death-dealing. Simply place the gun back on the turret to refill spent ammunition.
Once inside the labs in the London Nautica building, Blazkowicz can retrieve the Kraftwerk Laser. The laser serves two functions: cutting chains and turning Nazis into a mess of red goo. The Kraftwerk can be continually upgraded, all the way to the end of the game, and almost always occupied my second weapon slot. Most weapons have an unlockable secondary function: assault rifles get missiles, shotguns get ricochet ammo, etc. Punching right on the D-Pad, on the XB1, activates the secondary function.
Tell Me a Story, I Won’t Leave Till You Spill Your Guts, Old Man
Historically, id doesn’t get hung up on balancing the shooter experience with a quality narrative. I honestly can’t remember the storyline for Quake or Hexen, but I do remember that they were fun as hell to play. Even Wolfenstein’s publisher, Bethesda, has been hit and miss as a storyteller. The narrative does not take a backseat in this shooter, and MachineGames has provided plenty of contextual ammunition to propel our hero’s actions. The story is, by no means, a New York Times bestseller, but it’s better than most of the shit that Hollywood is shoveling in our direction these days. The narrative provides motivation, context, progression, immersion, and closure. It hits all the right chords and climaxes perfectly. MachineGames set me in an alternate timeline, in Europe, and made it feel natural. Not bad for a video game.
The antagonists in Wolfenstein are scene-stealers of the very best kind. Frau Engel comes off as entitled, sadistic, and in love with herself. Bubi is her sycophantic, bourgeois boyfriend who lives to validate Frau Engel’s every utterance. Several of the lesser baddies, like The Knife, had a good measure of enthusiasm poured into the voice performances, but the dude who played Deathshead knocked it out of the park. Part mad scientist, part sarcastic dick, Deathshead is one of those antagonists who has to be put down, but you almost hate to see him go.
You Knew It Was Coming
I like Wolfenstein: The New Order, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a perfect game. I’ve played enough id shooters and have had my fill of being funneled through linear environments that corral me into the place that the dev wants me to be. The different perks given to our protagonist, either lockpicking or hotwiring, depending on the player’s choice in the prologue, opened up an alternate option on some levels. It’s a big world that begs to be explored: perhaps it’s the mark of a good game that makes you want to see more of it....but I wanted to see more of it. Another point of contention is that the game would choose what weapons I started a new area with, often changing my weapons just by walking into a new room. I had run out of ammo for the sniper rifle on the Gibraltar bridge and it kept sticking that same empty fucking gun in my hand. Yeah, nice try.
The lack of any cooperative or multiplayer game types might be a dealbreaker for fans of games like Titanfall. If you’re looking for an online shooter to play with some friends, keep looking. Wolfenstein is a single player experience.The game also features multiple depictions of sex and the f-bomb is dropped quite frequently, so don''t pop Wolfenstein in for the kids thinking that it earned its M-Rating for a little bit of violence.
If you’re a fan of old school id shooters then picking up Wolfenstein: The New Order is a no-brainer. It looks good, the gameplay is tight, the story is compelling, and it entertains and immerses like a good game should. The game strikes a good balance between stealth and shooter combat . There are only two games on the XB1 that I have given a perfect score to, and this is one of them. I hope you pre-ordered this one, because reserved copies have a beta code for the new Doom game. Even without the beta, Wolfenstein is worth the sixty bucks. Now go kill some Nazis.
Microsoft dipped its toes in the Windows 8/Xbox One port pool with Halo: Spartan Assault, without receiving an overabundance of flak. This time, either taking a cue from rival Sony’s Vita experiment, or perhaps ignoring the unfortunate fate of the Ouya, MS ported Ninjabee’s Nutjitsu (May 8, 2014) from the Windows phone, giving it the Xbox One treatment. Will this stealthy Ninja Squirrel usher in a new age of indie game development for the new gen consoles, or will it be eaten by foxes?
In Nutjitsu, players assume the role of Risu, a ninja squirrel, who is tasked with retrieving acorns and scrolls from a rival clan of foxes, named the Kitsune, who have presumably taken the nuts by nefarious means. Gameplay is contained to one single-screen maze at a time, and level advancement unlocks new mazes to play. Objectives range from gathering nuts and scrolls, hanging out (the squirrel, not the nuts), or staying alive.
Players can choose either Ninja Missions or Survival Missions. Those who choose the Ninja Missions will have, alternately, five different objectives. Players will either collect acorns, collect a specific color of acorns, collect scrolls, collect acorns and put them in a bag, or loiter in a magic area for a specific amount of time. Survival missions only require you to continue breathing. Higher difficulty settings require you to collect more stuff or avoid more numerous enemies.
A Ninja’s Bag of Tricks
Risu is able to take two two items with him at the beginning of each level. I know what you’re thinking: I’ll take the Katana and a sack full of ninja stars. Nope, Nutjitsu is the first ninja game in the history of gaming where the ninja does not fight. This nutless rodent has to make do with 5 different items, which have to be purchased with in game coinage, and may only take two with him. These items are mapped to the A and B buttons.
You Knew it Was Coming...
Nutjitsu is a perfect example of why porting games from a phone to the XBone just doesn’t fucking work. First off, the screen doesn’t fit the tv. The game is centered in the middle of my flat-screen and only uses about 60% of my tv. Yeah, I bought that big flat screen so I would have a huge black border that gives the illusion of playing a video game on a 20” television that I dropped down a fucking well. Nutjitsu is the first game that can be snapped like an app, which is completely pointless since the gameplay is seriously affected and almost twenty percent of the screen is obscured while it is snapped. Watch me snap my ninja rodent game so I can make it even smaller. Who’s idea was that?
Can anyone out there think of another game where the protagonist picked up collectibles while evading enemies in a maze environment? Maybe I’ll ask my friends: Inky, Binky, Pinky, and Clyde. Apparently, there was an arcade game around in the 80s that resembles this phone game..oh, did I say phone game? I meant next-gen console game: the phone version of this game is free.
I was going to include some of own gameplay into this review, but this game does not allow recording by the XB1’s game DVR. That’s a shame, because you’re missing that one part where I cleared a level in 25 seconds.
Nutjitsu is a good looking game, if your eyesight is good enough to actually see it, but it is also a very boring game. The weapons suck, the music might as well be a fucking lullaby, and the one unique feature that the game possesses, the snap, is ruined by not being able to play it while snapped. It’s a perfect Windows phone game, it gives you something to play with when you’re in the bathroom...well, something else to play with anyway. The levels can be knocked down like dominoes, making it a perfect portable to keep the kids occupied in the car or to briefly entertain in line at the DMV, but unless you’re sitting on the can or waiting for a bus, there’s no reason to play Nutjitsu. Download it for free on your phone, but give this Pac Man clone a pass on the console.
Welcome to The Backlog, where older games we have (but haven’t yet played) finally see the laser light of our disc drives!
This edition looks back at Assassin’s Creed III. Last December a buddy mine took advantage of a Best Buy trade in program and snagged me Assassin’s Creed IV for free. I was ready to play it when I realized I still had AC III in its wrapper. Well I couldn’t very well play the fourth iteration without playing the third now could I? I unwrapped the game with anticipation, plopped it in the Xbox 360 disc tray and settled into my chair.
In The Beginning...
I always liked the story aspect of the Assassin’s Creed games, even when it gets a little too high and mighty for its own good. I enjoy the gameplay, but I will admit that I despise the collecting aspect of flags, feathers and cryptographic markers. I view those as non-essential elements designed only to extend the length of gameplay, which I have neither the time nor the patience for. By the end of Revelations I was also getting a little tired of Rome and Italy, so I was looking forward to the next chapter set in early America.
Over the course of the adventure you play as three characters: Haytham, Connor and Desmond. The story in AC III started off well and held my interest in the beginning but when Haytham is on the boat I started to become pissed off and frustrated. If that was to be the tutorial at the beginning, it gets a big ass fail. Half the time Haytham would get into an attack stance and refuse to attack, block or even try to break defense. I would have to let myself be killed and start again and again and again.
That “attack stance but do nothing” bug plagued the entire game. I have yet to actually throw a controller during a game, but I got damn close with this one.
The game bragged that the animus and, therefore, my controls were streamlined and improved to allow a more free-flowing parkour type transitions between elements. Basically the console tries to make a decision for you about where it thinks you are trying to go to help make the transition between elements easier. Sorry, but nope…didn’t really work. For example, in the forest both Connor and Haytham could run on a downed tree with a clearly placed horizontal branch at the end that both could jump to.
Easy right? Well, almost the end of the tree both would randomly leap 90 degrees to the left or right. So I’d walk back to the beginning and try again. That would almost be okay if more than 50% of the time they would get back on instead of running smack dab into it from every conceivable angle. After a couple minutes of that I gave up and just ran. Running was quicker as I could run the distance in less than half the time it would take me to try and use the trees. The only time I climbed one was:
I have a question for Ubisoft: why is riding a horse in this game so damn difficult? Getting on the horse is easy, staying on the horse is easy. Making a small gradual adjustment on the path you are supposed to follow is next to impossible. The smallest movement would see the horse leap into trees and bushes and get stuck. Then, like with the trees, I tried to just run but after dismounting I would get stuck in the same damn trees or bushes, unable to move. Once I dismounted and managed to fall through a wooden dock and could no longer move. I hate restarting a level because of crap like this.
The Desmond, sailing, and hunting missions were pointless. I had to play through the sailing and Desmond missions to finish the story, but neither set added value to the overall game. Thank jeebus hunting was optional, and I exercised that option to the fullest. Yes, I am aware that I could have traded goods for money in which to buy upgraded weapons and such, but I got through the entire game without upgrading or buying anything.
Navigating in the map reminded me of a Disney show my kids watch: “Wizards of Waverly Place”. One episode has the kids play with a magic stick one of them bought out of the back of a wizarding magazine or something (think X-Ray goggles from the back of comic books). They would hold it up to their head and say “transport” beaming themselves three feet away while anyone around them would fall asleep. That was what Fast Travel felt like.
Here are the steps to get from your homestead to New York:
Roam Where You Want To...
I can respect that Ubisoft wants me to roam and discover the world they worked hard to build, but how about a goddamn option menu? When I click on the fast travel icon please give me the option to go directly to New York without passing Go.
I really needed some inspiration to finish this game, and I found it in a Reddit AMA from one of the former designers/programmers. Reading through the AMA confirmed that I wasn’t entirely alone in my disappointment and it provided some insight to some of the issues within the game. Knowing that others suffered as I had oddly renewed my desire to see it through to conclusion.
In the end, even after all my frustration, it was a decent story, although I would not rank it up as the best of the series. At times it felt as if the entire American Revolution was fought single handedly by Connor, yet I enjoyed the twists with the characters and, overall, I am glad to have completed another chapter in the story.
My goal this year is to finish AC IV by the time AC Unity ships. Wish me luck!.
Ubisoft and Redlynx are at it again, but this time they’re doing it in high definition, next-gen console goodness. Trials Fusion, is here - at some point we have to stop calling the Xbox One and PS4 ‘next-gen’ because, like Trials Fusion, they are already here. If you haven’t already picked this game up and thrown a controller at your TV, now is the time to do it! Although I wouldn’t truly consider this a next-gen game, as it is still available on the Xbox 360, it’s a great addition to your Xbox One, PC, or PS4 gaming catalog.
HATE THE PLAYA, NOT THE GAME!
The highly addictive and extremely competitive gameplay in Trials Fusion make it such a great diversion to pick up and play a few minutes at a time. You start out on EASY mode, progress to EXPERT mode, and finally slosh your way to THROW YOUR CONTROLLER/STRANGLE YOUR FRIENDS mode where you ride your motorcycle or quad over insanely impossible and outright deadly obstacles while trying to contain your rage. It’s like a Bruce Banner/Hulk Simulator game. You play as quietly and calmly as possible until you hit a jump that has you going over it again and again and again. That’s when your muscles tense up, your man-boobs turn into pecs, you grow a pair, and your voice goes from tenor to bass as you throw insults and curses at your console. Playing beyond that point, you run the risk of your skin turning green, you start to see red, and you hate and rage on everything. GRRRR!!!!!!! You’ve now turned in to the f-ing hulk and NOTHING CAN CALM YOU AND YOUR RAGE UNTIL you finally clear that jump that’s been calling you a girly-man for the last 15 minutes. When you finally clear that jump, and you’ve screamed ‘HULK SMASH’ a few hundred times, your rage subsides and you’re back to being mild-mannered Bruce Banner.
Jump, flip, clear obstacles with as little to no faults as possible, get the best time. That’s Trials Fusion. A simple enough premise until you actually start riding and experiencing the frustration, err, fun begins...but that’s not the half of it. The real beauty of this game lies in the sense of competition that it brings by showing you each of your friends that has played the game. You see your score and the scores/goals/times for you to beat and the next thing you know, your 5 minutes of casual gaming has turned in to 2 hours of you trying to beat your nearest rival on the easiest course. You can’t stop… You just have to beat the guy that has a 5 second lead over you with 2 faults… but when you do, you’re still not happy because you got a four second faster time with 2 faults so you try again and again and again until you’ve beaten the time with 0 faults. It’s like crystal meth for your video gaming brain - once you start, you can’t stop until you get that next fix. When you get that next fix, you’re pretty much jumping off of walls, both literally and figuratively.
I’ve resorted to calling this game Trials Frustrusion on my Livestreams, because it is just that: A fusion between a fun game and a frustrating game. Fortunately though, the fun outshines the frustration in more ways than one. Just when you’ve mastered the fun, the game throws you a curveball by introducing FMX. Short for “Freestyle Motocross” or “f-cking motocross sucks balls” depending on your current frustration level. The FMX feature in this game allows your rider to do some really crazy stunts while soaring through the air similar to what players of SSX are familiar with. Now, you’re not just trying to beat your rivals’ times with no faults, you’re also trying to do it with style and class through your insane tricks. Life just really hates you now.
If you’re not too concerned about competing with your friends, you can compete against yourself. Power through all of the tracks then go back and see how many gold medals you can get. When you’re done doing that, don’t forget about the challenges that are present throughout the game. Challenges such as doing x number of backflips while running a course, keeping your throttle on full throughout the entire run, riding wheelies for x number of meters, etc., etc.
Once you’ve challenged yourself, grab a second controller, just because you can, and just because your first controller is probably stuck in your TV. If you seriously thought I was going to say grab a second controller for some head-to-head local action, you were right. You can play multiplayer on Trials Fusion but unlike other games, MP on this is local only so you can have up to four buddies on a couch playing this. Online multiplayer is a feature that Ubisoft/Redlynx has announced that it will add on later as a free update giving us a tease that it will be a completely “new type of multiplayer.”
Trials Fusion is a great game to play if you are tired and just want to kick back for a series of fun challenges. Notice I didn’t say “kick back and relax.” This is not a relaxing game. If you want a relaxing game, go play Call of Duty. Getting spawn-camped in COD is more relaxing than Trials Fusion but it certainly isn’t as fun. For $20 for the game only or $40 for the game and season pass, this is a must have for anyone that wants a departure from their regular gaming habits.
Zen Studios released their next set of Star Wars pinball tables, Heroes Within, just in time for Star Wars Day (May the Fourth Be With You). These hit pretty much every OS ever (including Kindle Fire HD? That’s really a thing? You play games on your “book”?!) on Tuesday April 29th. I got my hands on a review copy of the PS4.
The release was originally slated to only contain 3 tables but they must have had too many great ideas and “as a thank you to fans” ended up shipping 4 at the same price. The bundle costs $9.99 on consoles, or $1.99 per table on mobile devices. The 4 tables in the pack are Han Solo, Droids, Episode IV: A New Hope, and Masters of the Force. I’ll discuss each one order of preference least to favorite based on some playthroughs.
First off, anything where you have to listen to C-3PO chatter endlessly is a terrible idea, but at least they have a decent version his voice. In one mode of the game you actually get his head as a golden ball so you get to knock him around a bit while collecting pieces of his body from different spots on the playfield. That kinda made up for his annoying chatter.
This table is set atop a sandwalker that’s actually walking along while you are playing. Which sounds cool in theory but in practice having the sides around the actual table scrolling and flashing is really distracting trying to focus on what’s going on with the ball. It had some cool stuff on the playfield, but with the distracting periphery I’d rather play the other tables.
Episode IV-A New Hope
Zen is kicking it old school going back to the original movie, retroactively titled A New Hope. It’s nice to see Han, Luke, Leia, and Obi-Wan, but not having the actual actors do the voices is off putting. I wish licensing wasn’t so full of red tape and they could just use actual samples from the movies.
This table, as well as the Masters of the Force, has a light saber based launch, which I don’t like. I know its cool, and fits in the universe, but it just doesn’t have any resemblance to a physical plunger when you launch the ball. It just feels wrong. That’s my virtual pinball pet peeve…
The playfield on this one is pretty short. There are a bunch of center ramps for different rules as well as an underside mini playfield to make up for the length. With some practice it feels like the skillshot would be really easy since you just have to pick which ramp you plan to head up first. Overall solid but not my favorite of the 4.
This one had potential but the voice acting was even worse with lots of Han lines. Those coming from not Harrison Ford made hurt my brain while trying to concentrate on the game. They did get the look of the Millenium Falcon right, as well as all the other art and toys on the table.
The table features music from the Mos Eisley Cantina and an upper playfield with a shooting gallery of infamous bounty hunters.That was really neat, but I only managed to get into that mode once and promptly missed my shot. At least I’m not pretending Greedo shot first…
The enter your initials simulated Dot Matrix Display was a neat touch. Instead of just the usual scroll along to pick your letter this one looked more like target practice.
Masters of the Force
I’ll take Yoda and the Emperor over C-3PO any day! This is a really neat table. Its divided down the middle with the light and dark side of the force so even the left and right flippers are different colors (which takes a bit to getting used to). It showcases characters from all 6 episodes of the movie franchise.
I really wish this was an actual table (get on that Stern!). The playfield reminded me a bit of the recent Wizard of Oz (WOZ) table from Stern competitor Jersey Jack. The upper playfields are in similar spots with similar modes. Also some of the virtual features reminded me of what they are doing with LCDs like the crystal ball on the WOZ table. There’s a cube feature that reminded me a lot of Theater of Magic, so they’re picking awesome real tables for inspiration.
This was by far my favorite and really well done.
Should “Force” Open Your Wallet?
These were 4 very different and very solid tables. I like them all better than anything in the original Zen Star Wars pack and I’m glad they did away with that choose the light or dark side thing when you are actually playing. Even if you are more of a pinball fan than a Star Wars fan, these are all really fun tables, even ignoring the theme.
Especially with the bonus 4th table for the same price, I think these are worth picking up for Pinball and Star Wars fans a like!
From From the publisher that brought you Battlefield comes…uh… uh...
From the publisher that brought you Call of Duty comes… uh… uh…
From Mi-Clos Studios comes the mobile game “Out There.” Whoopeedo!
Your work day starts like this: You arrive at the office for a 9AM meeting. You’re walking to the conference room and get there 10 minutes early. You pull out your phone and say to yourself, “hmm, I can squeeze a quick game in before my meeting. Let me try this new game from Mi-Clos called “Out There.”
You fire up the game and the whole story can be summed up in the 3 minute intro of the game or in the following run-on sentence: You play an astronaut in the 22nd century where “mankind tries desperately to find resources beyond its exhausted planet” and while you were asleep in cryonics aboard the ship Nomad that connects Earth to Ganymed, a moon of Jupiter, “something happened” and you wake up “OUT THERE” (insert ominous, creepy, spacy music here). By the time you’ve gone through this opening sequence, you turn off your phone and you get to work because your meeting has started.
After the meeting, you decide to pay the Executive Bathroom a visit because your lactose intolerance kicks in from the 10 cups of coffee and milk you drank at the meeting. It’s 10am and you sit yourself down, drop your drawers, pull out your phone and decide to start playing more “Out There.” You pick up where you left off… adrift in space. Before you can get to playing, you have to go through a tutorial that explains all of the game’s elements to you. You pilot a spaceship that is in search of rare elements and you must mine these elements, repair your ship, mine more elements, craft new technologies that can be beneficial to your exploration, mine even more elements, monitor your ship’s oxygen and fuel levels, mine the most elements you ever thought existed, decide what you will do next and where you will take your ship, and finally, mine elements even more elements than before. By the end of the tutorial, you finally find out that this game also a great “twist a plot” mechanic that allows you to pretty much play a new adventure each time you play or replay it. You wrap up the tutorial and it’s 10:20 am and you realize that you haven’t actually played the game yet but instead, it’s time for you to put away your phone and get back to work.
Lunch rolls in at noon and you grab a bite and your phone. You find a nice place to eat outside under a tree and you start pull out your phone to continue playing. FINALLY, you’re about to play but wait, as you travel to the Dwarf Yellow Star, you get a message saying that on Day 9, you were on a wonderful beach but the whole thing was just a dream and that the reality is that an alarm wakes you to tell you that something’s broken on your ship and that you must fix it. Your drill needs repairing apparently. To repair your drill, you must mine for resources. To mine for resources, you must use your drill. Thankfully you can launch probes that can mine for you. Probe comes back and it’s filled with cargo of Helium. Great, if I only had balloons, I’d be able to throw myself a birthday party. You can’t use Helium to repair your drill so you move on to the next nearest planet. It’s Day 18 and you’re running really low on certain resources. You hope to yourself that the planet you jumped to has them… you launch a probe and nada, so you jump to another planet.
On the way there, you get a notice that it’s Day 27 and a small leak in liquid nitrogen has happened and that it’s too late to do anything about it so you say, “F-ck it, I’ll deal with it when it becomes a problem.” Your ship takes damage. You check your cargo and you have no resources to make the repair so you do what any astronaut would do.: you travel to the next planet hoping that it will have what you need. You get a warning that says that you don’t have enough resources to get there but would you like to risk it? You’ve got no choice at this point. Stay where you are and die or try getting to a new planet and maybe finding what you need. You risk it… That was the end of your journey and that was also the end of your lunch break. Now get back to work, slacker!
Exciting? Not really. This game teaches you about managing your resources while giving you the ability to pick your own adventure. Although that premise had promise, the fact that this is a mobile game is what kills it. Mobile games are meant to be consumed on the fly. Got five minutes in between meetings? Kill some zombies. Fling some birds at pigs. Crush some candy and annoy your friends by asking them to play. The fact that it takes 5 minutes to do anything in Out There is a big hindrance to anyone enjoying this game. If this game were an Indy or Arcade game on the console, I would be giving it a different review but it is not. It is a mobile game where you play on the go. When you’re sitting down to read and do a tutorial, you’re not going anywhere.
At $3.99 get a coffee, and skip “Out There.”