With most first-person shooters these days, you have to slog through a bunch of cutscenes, stripped-down tutorial sequences or even character creation that, for obsessives like myself, takes forever. Tower of Guns requires no such formalities. Tower of Guns knows exactly what it is. Tower of Guns is guns in a tower.
ToG has that stripped-down indie vibe that is both endearing and slightly frustrating. The pacing, writing and gameplay mechanics are sloppy to the point of feeling satirical, and in a way it kind of is a satire of first-person shooters. The player is presented with little faux story hooks that mean nothing to the actual action you’re engaging with, it’s all winky and tropey with references to popular games.
Really, it’s a great game if you want to sit down and just be immediately shooting at targets and not worry about how it will impact your global ranking, keep an eye out for collectables, or be listening for key plot elements. Robots fly at you, turrets shoot at you, you shoot back and run around. Nothing really seems balanced, things just kinda happen. It’s chaos.
The randomly-generated levels and powerups make every run unique, but the palette they’re painting with feels awfully narrow. It’s hard to play this game for too long because you feel like you’re just on an endless track through samey obstacles and everything just gets a little boring.
ToG comes off feeling like what it is, an indie project made by one guy trying to squeeze near infinite variety out of limited resources. He did an admirable job of that, but game jam-quality games are only interesting for, at most, an hour at a time. It’s cute, but you get the jist of it pretty quickly.
You’ve got health, money, XP, a usable item and a weapon modification. XP will boost your weapon’s damage and shot type as it levels up, money lets you pick up weapon mods or other various powerups as you come across them, and the usable items give you some options when playing that aren’t always that useful.
Tower of Guns is an enjoyable, but incredibly basic game. It feels like a lot of default settings in a 3D game-maker toolkit taken to their logical conclusion: a briefly enjoyable but overall forgettable experience. Not at all worth the $14.99 price tag, but I’d pick it up if it ends up on sale at $4.99 or so.
When I first saw this on the dashboard I would have sworn up and down it was just a car pack. I knew it was free but figured they were just giving you the cars from the movie in the game. Still, I wasn’t going to pass up a chance to own some of those and I made plans to download it. I clicked the link and didn’t even blink until I wondered why it was taking so long. Well, a 15GB file is either one massive crapload of cars or there was something else going on. Unfortunately, Google fiber hasn’t made its way north of the 49th yet so 15GB still takes some time to download and install. Instead of looking into what I was actually receiving I shut my Xbox down for the night. The next day a friend of mine at work clued me in to what I had actually downloaded. Fast and the Furious isn’t a car pack, isn’t an add-on, it is a standalone expansion for Forza Horizon 2...and it was FREE!
I was shocked. Playground Games had dumped a new set of storylines loosely tied to the movie onto the streets and maps of Horizon 2, provided some amazing vehicles to drive and,as an added bonus for you achievement hunters out there, Fast and Furious is complete with a full set of new achievements worth 1000 points!
If you have played Horizon 2 then you already know the locales and how the game works (if not check out Sarcasmo’s review of Horizon 2). You may remember how it starts when the cocky English dude asks you to drive the Lamborghini Huracan to the festival from the docks in Nice. That is the same way Fast and Furious starts but instead of cocky English dude you get Ludacris and, unfortunately, you don’t actually get to participate in the festival. The festival is still happening around you, and Luda talks a bit about it, but you are there to do a job so the festival is off limits.
That job is to win 10 cars the Fast and Furious crew needs for their next big adventure. In true Horizon style, the races are not all point to point or laps. You get a taste of all Horizon 2 has to offer such as off-roading, racing a plane or helicopter, speed trap qualifiers, plus barn finds and a few bucket list challenges as well.
What Playground games has provided is a decent chunk of the Horizon 2 game world. If I had to quantify it I would put my guesstimate somewhere around 25%. It equates to most of roads in the France section of the full game. Fast and Furious also delivers some new cars to play around with including the infamous Dodge Charger driven by Dom (Vin Diesel’s character) in the movies. You also get some hopped up versions of an old Barracuda, a newer Challenger, Nissan GT-R, McLaren P1, the infamous Bugatti Veyron and a few others to explore the world in. Exploring is one of the Horizon 2’s best aspects and in Fast and Furious it is just the same. I managed to find all 135 roads plus a bunch of old dirt roads leading through forests and plains and vineyards. I smashed millions of dollars’ worth of cars into millions of dollars’ worth of grapes because I could. I willfully destroyed farmer’s picket fences around their land for miles and to run up my score. I ran up and down long straight-ish roads for hours with different cars to try and beat Sarcasmo’s best scores and times! I even succeeded once or twice!
Rock and Rollin’
Now, both you and I know this game is a promotional tool for the movie and Horizon 2. There are some expected limitations and I ran into them quite often….literally. At the end of some roads there are gates where there usually are not. Unlike other elements, such as some fences, smaller trees and grapevines in Horizon 2, these gates don’t give. I always feel a little guilty smashing around these beautiful automobiles (and for living after hitting a gate at 340 kph) but after the first couple of scrapes and bangs what’s 42 more? I also found some lovely orange cones where I didn’t expect them to be and blew through them only for the game to fade to black for a second and come back with my car pointed in another direction. The equivalent of the aforementioned gate but without the guilt of ramming a rare P1 into an immovable object.
Again I feel like I need to point out that this was a free game and not a demo. Looking at the store it seems to be sold for $9.99, but even at that price it’s a steal! There is no denying it’s a short game, and with only 10 cars it does feel limited when compared to the full game. However, on the flip side you get a sizeable chunk of southern France to explore while driving some pretty incredible automobiles with the impeccable look, sound, feel and physics that comes with the Forza games. For the price, I would say that equates to a match made in heaven!
Capcom has been around since the days when players paid for gaming one quarter at a time in mysterious electronic arenas known as arcades. The venerable developer is responsible for some of the biggest game franchises out there, like God of War, Phoenix Wright, Devil May Cry, Mega Man, etc., Capcom is probably best known for their scary games, especially the Resident Evil series. Resident Evil Revelations 2 asks the question” what would happen if we took the lamest characters from previous entries and teamed them up with a young woman who refuses to use guns and a little girl armed with a brick?”
Claire Redfield is attending some sort of celebratory function at her place of employment, Terra Save, with the newly hired Moira Burton, who is Barry Burton’s daughter. The celebrations are cut short when mercs with SMGs break in and whisk the party away for some late night experiments on Anthrax Island. Okay, it isn’t really Anthrax, but every one of the kidnapped party goers have been injected with the Urobos virus and will mutate at the first sign of fear...or something like that.
Claire wakes up to an open cell door sporting a high tech bracelet that allows her to communicate with her captor, a woman calling herself The Overseer, at her captor’s whim. The bracelet also serves as a monitoring device and electronic mood ring, changing colors when the virus is becoming active. Claire teams up with Moira, who is immediately proven to be as useless as her father by refusing to use a gun, opting for the flashlight/crowbar combo. I bet folks were knocking each other over to play as Moira during co-op.
Claire and Moira must escape the facility and make contact with the outside world. Perhaps the duo can channel Lara Croft and find a way to get a radio message off the island without getting killed in the process.
Enter the Dork
Barry Burton makes his way to Anthrax Island, six months later, to save his daughter, who may or may not be dead by this point, depending on who you ask. He meets a girl named Natalia who claims to have spent time with Claire and Moira. Natalia has a knack for being able to spot loot and the infected, even through walls, and is pretty handy with a brick. Using the worst sort of adult reasoning, Barry allows the little girl to chaperone him through a monster-filled nightmare to exact revenge on The Overseer, who may be related to another character in the Resident Evil canon.
Tools of the Trade
Most of the weapons are standard RE fare: machine pistol, semi-autos, magnums, SMG, an assault rifle, a couple of shotgun variations and combat knives, usable by only Claire and Barry. The two tag-alongs are armed either with a crowbar, which is useful for opening some doors and crates, or a brick, which is useful for building houses if you have enough of them.
Although some emphasis is placed on combat, many of the thematic elements from RE are still alive and well: puzzle solving, resource management, ammo conservation, and scavenging are a huge part of RE Rev 2.
Like the last couple of Resident Evil games, a cooperative tactic is necessary to progress, and players will alternate between armed and unarmed characters on both teams. Players will rendezvous with imprisoned Terra Save coworkers from time to time, teaming up long enough for them to turn, die, or betray you. Too bad, Crazy Pedro would have made an awesome playable character.
The Parts I Liked
The big winner in this game is the atmosphere and setting. Every once in a while I would be hit with a wave of nostalgia and feel the distant but still familiar Resident Evil vibe from the first two games. The environments are super creepy, the antagonists are reasonably threatening, and a couple of missed shots could be the difference between clearing a level successfully or dying in the woods with an empty gun.
The AI companion in this game is a vast improvement over the last couple of games: not once did Natalia or Moira attempt suicide. Moira will attempt to keep the path ahead lit with a flashlight, and will even toss an herb Claire’s way if the player starts to taper off in a fight. The combatants are able to move and shoot at the same time and this prevents the combat from becoming rooted and unnecessarily difficult.
You Knew it Was Coming
Barry Burton blows, there’s that. At times the weak and combative worthlessness of the pacifist/underaged companions made the game feel like a long escort mission.The same shitty companions could make for hostile co-op sessions: who in the hell wants to be the little girl with a brick or the character who won’t use a gun? I mean, Barry is a shitty choice but he’s still better than a little girl with a brick....barely.
The story is a jumbled wreck and perhaps tries too hard to take a new antagonist and make her OG. Why can’t we have a bad guy that’s doing bad shit in a game for a reason that actually make some kind of sense? Why does it have to go back to the same old over-elaborate revenge fantasy come to life? Bad guys do bad shit because they’re motivated, not because they’re crazy and/or angry.
The game has its moments of true original Resident Evil atmosphere and nostalgia, but those moments are fleeting and unsustained. Replayability is fair: you get some new skins and can replay any chapter with all the equipment currently in the inventory, but I petered out about halfway through the second chapter on the replay. I disliked both of the main protagonists and hated the two tag-alongs. Resident Evil Revelations 2 is interesting, but I don’t love it. Most folks will get what they want out of it with a five day rental.
Battlefield: Hardline is a game that insists upon its coolness. It’s not cool in the ways that you might expect a hardcore FPS to be cool, but cool in the ways that, say, Law & Order thinks that it is cool. Everyone is very serious and very unlikable. The bad guys are cartoonishly bad and remorseless, the “good” guys are all vaguely corrupt. Hardline is a game with no heroes and the foregone conclusion that things won’t work out in the end.
All the grit and intensity pile up like the cliche badges and guns of disgraced detectives. The only time the plot isn’t wholly predictable is when it’s just kinda confusing. You chase perps for various offenses through the filthy streets of Miami, but it’s easy to lose track of anyone’s motivation. The sense of accomplishment at completing a mission is undercut by the lingering questions of “who was that guy?” and “why is everyone so mad at everyone else?”
The single-player campaign is broken up into episodes. And when they say episodes, they mean episodes of a cop drama complete with previews for the next episode and “last time” catch-ups. Each one is a segmented string of cinematics that take themselves too seriously, quicktime events and on-rails driving and sequences that have virtually no stakes. You just do them until you follow the correct path and the game allows you to continue.
Where the campaign shines is the almost Batman-like stealthy action sequences. You go from one criminal or group of criminals to the next using a hyper-advanced super scanner to tag and identify bad guys. If you startle them with your badge out, they drop their weapons and patiently allow you to arrest them. You also have the options of tazering them, whacking them upside the head with a baton or just mowing them down with the military-grade hardware that basically rains from the sky as the game progresses.
I don’t know if this game is uninspired or just inspired by uninteresting things, but Hardline just feels like a wasted effort. Nothing about it is bad enough to be outright unpleasant, but none of it is particularly good. The voice acting is average, the graphics are nothing special and the writing is full of tropes and lazy stereotypes.
One of my favorite aspects of the game is the way they do collectables. There are pieces of evidence hidden around the levels that must be scanned and each sheds light on some aspect of a specific case. Once a case is completed, you can hear the conclusion and unlock some new gear. There are also some named criminals you come across on each mission that give bonus XP if they’re taken alive.
The completed cases provide gear for the multiplayer modes which are predictably good. They paint the usual military shooter arenas with a layer of cops and robbers, having players break into vaults or steal money. It’s an interesting change of pace that it fun to play, but it’s just another iteration of the tried and true Battlefield multiplayer experience. There’s a neat selection of gadgets like ziplines and one player per side can take on the role of the “Hacker,” tagging foes and doing the usual commandery things, minus some of the roles’ utility in previous games. The real-cash purchasing of boosts and weapons feels a little gross, but I guess that’s just the way of things when you’re dealing with EA.
Overall, I’d say pass on this one. It’s got a little bit of a unique flavor with the cop aspect, but it’s so mired in the generic Battlefield thing it just feels like a million other games that did it better. If it gets down to the $20 range, it’d be a worthwhile diversion, but don’t pay full price. It’s just not cool enough to justify the price tag.
Turtle Rock Studios and 2K released Evolve back in February. The 4 vs. 1 gameplay promised to keep the adrenaline flowing along, whether you were on the 4 player hunter side or playing as the monster. Given the studios pedigree with the two fantastic Left for Dead games along with my time in the Alpha and Beta releases I couldn’t wait to pick this game up!
If you ever played the Left for Dead series, you probably played it in co-op mode at some point in time with friends either on the same couch or online. Like me you probably dreaded hearing the sound of sobbing produced by a witch tucked away somewhere. If you were lucky you could sneak by but one little dumb ass zombie could turn that little game of “sneak past the witch” into “Holy Shit! She is kicking our asses! Where did all these other zombies come from!? Aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!” Do you remember that adrenaline rush as she started screaming and coming after you? Do remember that feeling of complete badassedness when you defeated her? For me that is what Evolve promised to be...just the whole damn time!
Evolve takes place on an alien planet where the monsters thrive and are destroying the human colonies set up there. Along come the best of the interplanetary badass bounty hunters contacted to clean things up. That is pretty much the whole story. Then again this game really doesn’t need a strong story all it needs is a premise but Turtle Rock to take that premise and do one better. Besides the 4 on 1 gameplay there are plenty of hostile creatures and plants that are more than willing to inflict pain and suffering regardless of which side you are on. You have to constantly be on your toes and know when to pick a fight and when to run away. For me this just added another level of intensity and I loved it!
I will admit I didn’t get a lot of time in with the Alpha or the Beta as it took forever to find a match. The Alpha I completed two matches in two hours. The matches only lasted about 5 minutes each so you can guess how long I waited in the matchmaking lobby. I shrugged it off as it was an Alpha release and those two matches were glorious! The Beta was a bit better, with waiting times improved but still an average of 15 to 20 minutes to get into a game. In the Beta I managed to try all the classes and even won as the Goliath! That beating the witch feeling from L4D was definitely there. I knew I was going to love this game!
My gameplay style favors more of a tank class. Run straight ahead and blow the crap out of everything until I die is pretty much my goto strategy. I know it’s not a good strategy but bad habits are really hard to break. If, like me you have a favorite class or gameplay style, Evolve allows you to rank their favorite classes from 1 to 5. You can choose from the monster, the Heavy, Medic, Trapper or Support. You can also constantly change those around. Playing in single player mode allows you the ability to hop between the hunter classes so you can play all four. When playing in multiplayer, Evolve uses your ranking in matchmaking to find games that you can play your favorite classes in. In theory this sounds pretty awesome and would allow a single player complete control while reducing wait time in multiplayer. Features like this just amped my anticipation level to 11!
I threw my money down on a pre-order and downloaded the companion match 3 mobile game! I was all in! Unfortunately, due to prior commitments I wasn’t going to get a chance to play Evolve until the Friday after it released. I was a little bummed out by that but sometimes family comes first right?! I spent most of Friday evening in single player getting used to controls and gameplay. Single player has a neat premise where there are 5 maps that you have to either beat as the hunters or the monster. The maps and objectives are never in quite the same order and you get a choice in a couple stages to make things even more random. If you win the stage then your team gets a bit of a bonus on the next one. To help even things out the opposing team gets a buff in some form or fashion. This is where I hit my first disappointment. I lost every fricking match all night long, hunter or monster it didn’t matter. If I was the hunters the Goliath would be all the way across the map by the time you parachuted in and at level 2 before I even saw it. As the monster I could get about 50 yards away before turning around and seeing the outline of four hunters and a trapjaw tracking me. I jumped, I climbed, I snuck around but it did no good. As the monster you need to hunt and kill the alien prey to “Evolve”. Your best chance of survival is to get to the third and final stage of evolution. At that point you are pretty badass and damn near invincible. I know this not because I ever made it to stage 3, but I had to fight a shit ton of monsters who were. This wasn’t fun, but I persevered. I figured if I kept at it and levelled my hunters up I might stand a chance.
I kept at it that weekend but playing as different classes hurt me as I couldn’t get enough points in one to level them up. I went back to my goto strategy and focused on the Heavy. I hoped that by levelling him up and unlocking higher level characters I might stand a chance. So I kept running and gunning! When I got tired of getting my ass handed to me by the monster I played as the monster to level him up. That was until I got tired of getting my ass handed to me by the hunters. When I got tired of that circle of pain and frustration I went back and played the tutorial as a different class. At least that way I was pretty much guaranteed a win. After a couple hours of constantly losing I needed a break and walked away very frustrated.
Saturday night I thought I would try multiplayer out. Unfortunately I came away severly disappointed again. Wait times to even get into a game ranged anywhere from 10-15 minutes. That time was from when I initiated the matchmaking to when my character landed on the ground. Unfortunately my first game was a shellacking. I was a level 3, my teammates ranged from a level 12 to 20. The monster was a level 40 Wraith. We were annihilated in the span of around 3 minutes. When you get knocked down either the medic or the trapjaw (if the trapper picked that character) can heal you. If you die there is a wait time of around a minute to 90 seconds where your character will parachute back into the fray. This also allows for new players to connect to a game in progress if someone drops out. We never saw that actually happen during these matches as they were over too quick.
I noted previously that the Goliath is somewhat slow and lumbering. The other monster classes are most definitely not. The Wraith can teleport short distances and if the team is within that distance it can basically pinball from one hunter to another before you can even blink. The Kraken can fly around pretty quickly and can defend and attack with electricity which apparently does way more damage than any bullet I hit it with. Either way both are far superior to the Goliath. Sadly, after a couple rounds of utter multiplayer humiliation, Evolve decided to make me the monster. I would have chosen the Wraith or Kraken but they are unlockable monsters like the different hunters. You have to level up to play as them. Needless to say I hadn’t yet and only had the Goliath to choose from. I headed for the water as that hides footprints and jumped and climbed to get away. While I was devouring my first kill the hunters were on me. Roughly 30 seconds after that I was dead. Apparently Evolve decided I needed a couple more chances as it made me the monster two more times which ended in pretty much the same way. The only good news out of this was that if you stay within the same group at least its only about 2-3 minutes between matches. However, as soon as you leave in frustration and try and find another match, like I did, it goes back to the 10-15 minute range. I shut it down after about 5 minutes of waiting. It wasn’t worth it.
Mrs-Soup and I love our co-op games and, given Turtle Rocks history, I assumed Evolve would have couch co-op as well. My bad. If there was ever a game that cried out for teamwork from people within the same room it’s Evolve. Playing in single player the hunters AI, when playing as a hunter, is roughly equivalent to around an 80IQ. They can’t find crap, the medic heals everyone but you, if it heals anyone at all, the trapper never traps a damn thing and support just yells out hillbilly catch phrases. I don’t know if they ever did any damage to the monster as it focused on me the entire time. When you are the monster their IQ and ability to hit their mark magically jumps around 40 points. Their teamwork becomes stellar all of a sudden. There has got to be some kind of happy medium here but Turtle Rock didn’t find it. Along with no co-op there isn’t even a way for two people to play against each other! That would have been awesome! Like the rest of this game, there was a lot of potential for awesome that just didn’t show up.
I was so pumped about Evolve. I had great times with the Left for Dead series, in the games I played in Alpha and Beta of Evolve I had a blast but for the full release it was nothing but frustration and disappointment time after time. I tried to go back to it but as the time went by my characters were further and further behind and multiplayer matchmaking would put me with guys 3 to 4 times higher than me. I was the weak link and in this game, if you want to win, you can’t have a weak link. People would see my level and either drop out or salivate if they were the monster. Like any other multiplayer game if you try to get into this game now you will get crushed. It’s too late and the single player isn’t strong enough to even recommend this for a Price Drop or Rental. It breaks my heart but from my experience with Evolve I have to give this one a Skip. Evolve could have been so good but just wasn’t.
George Romero certainly did the horror world a solid when he invented the modern zombie. Those flesh eating bastards have stolen scenes in hundreds of movies, tv shows, and eventually saturated the video game market with their shambling presence. Dead Island dev, Techland, has crafted their fair share of zombie games and has passed on Dead Island 2 to make another zombie-centric game: Dying Light.
Although moderately successful, both Dead Island and Dead Island Riptide have been criticized, by me, for being formulaic and repetitive. Most of the zombies were identical twins, Riptide recycled environments from the first game, both games suffered from heavy lulls in action and progression, and they didn’t always work right. Will Dying Light reanimate Techland’s survival/action/horror reputation, or has the Polish dev pulled another Riptide?
Players assume the role of Kyle Crane, a mercenary working for the Global Relief Effort (GRE) whose mission is to enter the quarantined city of Harran, which is absolutely rotten with zombies, to retrieve some damaging data from a GRE turncoat named Kadir. Dipshit Crane gets bitten by a zombie almost immediately and is saved by a lady named Jade, at the expense of her own brother, from death and zombification. Harran has its own brand of Zombrex, called Antizin, that is administered to Crane, but supplies are dwindling due to stolen airdrops and the rising number of bite victims. The GRE is not terribly popular in the ruins of Harran, and Kyle must covertly continue his mission while proving to Jade and the rest of the survivors, who have holed up in a ruined apartment building, that he was worth saving.
Running Around and Killing Stuff
Earning his place in the tower means that Crane is going to have to go out in the city and get shit done. He’ll have to get radio towers going, collect zombie samples, find medicine, destroy nests, fetch stuff, and find the One Ring if he’s going to justify his Antizin doses, but he’s not getting anything done running around like some flat-footed Sam B. Nope, he’ll have to slide, vault, run, jump, and parkour the ever-loving shit out of Harran if he wants to get the bad guy, impress the girl, and stay off the unfriendly streets of the ruined city. There’s probably some kid running around that can teach him how to do that.
Crane’s parkour skills are upgradeable, so the longer he stays alive the more moves he can add to his repertoire. Drop kicks, takedowns, and vaults give combat a real improvisational edge over the Dead Island games, providing the zombie game fighting mechanic a sorely needed kick in the ass.
A Little Bit of Boom
Firearms are in pretty short supply in Harran: maybe one day they’ll set a zombie game in Texas. Paltry shooter options include the POS pistol, a shotgun, and police and military variations of an automatic rifle. Most of the combat will be of the melee variety with modified machetes, knives, bats, crowbars, or whatever junk the player can trade for or find laying around.
Players are able to modify their weapons to deal additional or ongoing elemental damage like electrical, fire,or poison. Schematics can be found or purchased for these extra damage recipes. Mods exist that can strengthen a weapon or give it more endurance, which is important as these melee weapons degrade faster than a rotting zombie in the Harran sun. Weapons can be repaired on the fly, but each weapon has a limited number of repairs. Generally, the higher base quality weapons have more repairs and more slots for mods.
Biters are your average, garden-variety zombie that are in every zombie game. They are not usually a real threat unless encountered in a crowd.
Virals are the Danny Boyle 28 Days Later type fast zombie. These bastards are attracted to noise like gunfire, exploding Bombers, or crashing into shit.
Bombers blow up when you get too close, usually killing the player in the process. Try taking these guys out from a distance, hopefully they’ll take a few biters with them.
The Toad is a fat, acid-spraying bastard that must be a primary target in any crowd. They will usually perch on top of a bus, car, or building and rain acid down on the player until put down. Fortunately, they are the weakest zombie type and can usually be taken down with one hit.
Screamers are infected children who do not physically attack the living. However, they possess a mighty scream that can damage and briefly incapacitate players and also attracts other zombies. Put them down quickly.
Volatiles will only be encountered at night, or in dark places. They are extremely allergic to UV light. Volatiles are big, fast, and very nimble. If you just have to be out at night move slowly and pay attention to their cone of vision.
Goons are the tanks of the zombie world. They are tough and slow, but usually armed with a large melee weapon, like a sledgehammer.
The Demolisher can be encountered, often in pairs, in the second half of the game. They are zombie hulks who will charge and fling cars at players. Dodge that charge, amigo, or be prepared to hit restart.
Day vs Night
The day/night cycle in Dying Light plays a pretty big role in the game. Daylight is when biters congregate in the great outdoors to enjoy the Harran sunshine and get some shambling done. However, once the sun goes down the zombies become much faster and more aggressive. The Volatile, a daytime recluse, comes out to play at night, en masse. Keep an eye on their cones of vision and be sneaky or be prepared to run for your life.
Safe houses are your best bet at night time survival, providing that the player has cleared the safe house, restored power to the UV lights, and barred any entrance points exploitable by biters. This is a manageable, scaled-down version of the only new mechanic introduced in Dead Island Riptide that actually worked: the horde siege. Although Dying Light doesn’t require players to strategically place mines or repair eroding barricades, fixing the place up does provide a sense of accomplishment, progress, and ownership. It also allows the player to instantly advance the clock to the next morning.
Progressing the Art of the Zombie Game
Dying Light is a much better game than either of its Dead Island predecessors: it looks better, plays better, moves faster, and is technically the most solid zombie game to come from Techland so far. Moving the game to a nearly completely urban environment has sidestepped the jungle lulls of the Dead Island games. The pacing is much better, the combat is very good, and the dev has provided an actual antagonist in need of an ass whooping.
The game is difficult without becoming too much for an old guy to handle. The character advancement kept up with the increasing difficulty and the plethora of inventive weapons and modifications made me want to get out there and use them up so I could craft something new. The parkour and combat are the foundation of Dying Light, and I sincerely hope to see this built upon in their next game.
The game, like any game, is better with a friend, and Harran can be explored with a co-op buddy.
You Knew it Was Coming
Although Techland has progressed their craft considerably, Dying Light is still a long way from perfection. Despite the inclusion of an antagonist, Techland has regurgitated the same plot from the two Dead Island games: save the city before it gets bombed. Coincidentally, Capcom used this same plot device on their last Dead Rising game. Fight zombies and stop the bombs from falling: same shit, different game.
The zombie character models are seriously overused. There was only two different version of the viral, a couple of goons, demolishers are virtually indistinguishable from one another, and a single character model for the screamer and toad. Sometimes I get tired of fighting the same fucking guy over and over.
A bad guy with tattoos...yeah, that’s original.
Some players felt that the game was too difficult and have resorted to utilizing a duping glitch to beef up their arsenal. My conscience won’t allow me to personally take advantage of a glitch, because it’s a cheap-ass way to play, but scrounging around for shit got old. Rais, the bad guy, is a hollow and poorly characterized antagonist who takes advantage of every opportunity to be a dick...just because. This game could have benefitted from a credible malevolent personality with some kind of practical motivation for his actions other than “what would a psychopath do?”
Dying Light is a considerable improvement over Techland’s two Island games. There is a definite sense of progression, empowerment, and the combat is visceral and satisfying. Replayability is fair, the campaign is reasonably lengthy, and the majority of the missions were exciting. However, the cookie-cutter plot, baffling bad guy, incessant scrounging, and repetitious aspects of the game dims what could have been a shining star in a very bland genre. Buy this one on sale.
The Devil has kidnapped the President of the United States to marry off his daughter, Jezebel, to in a shotgun wedding deep in the bowels of Hell. If there was an award for most creative game premise, then Gat Out of Hell would win hands down. Gat Out of Hell is a stand alone expansion to Saint’s Row IV: players need not have played SR4 to play the expansion, but where’s the fun in that?
The survivors from SR4 are aboard the ship celebrating Kinzie’s birthday. However, Matt’s choice as Ouija for a party game has unforeseen consequences as The Boss is sucked into hell by demonic forces. Johnny Gat and Kinzie force the Ouija board to open a second portal to hell, and the game is on.
Highway To Hell
Johnny and Kinzie hook up with Dane, the Ultor antagonist from SR2, who has spent his time in hell increasing his wealth and influence, as well as cementing alliances with some of Hell’s more notorious and powerful residents. Ultor serves as a safehouse and the place to switch between Johnny and Kinzie as the playable character. Similar to the loyalty missions in Saint’s Row IV, the player will receive upgrades and perks by performing missions for Dane and his colleagues: William Shakespeare, Kiki and Viola DeWynter, Vlad the Impaler, and Blackbeard.
Dane’s plan is to create enough chaos in hell to make Satan take notice, then capitalize on Satan’s distractedness. Johnny’s plan is to crash the wedding and shoot Satan in the face. Ultimately, both plans should be used, as the distraction missions allow the player to gain proficiency and upgrades for their hell powers, and at least one dissenter should be at the wedding: shooting the father of the bride in the face is a very clear objection to the union.
The game has no storyline to speak of and is instead presented as a interminable series of side missions. Johnny and Kinzie perform missions to gain the loyalty of Dane and his colleagues, to gain super-powers and weapons, upgrade weapons and abilities, and for spending money. These side missions are very similar to SR4, but with a Hell-themed twist. The Blazing activity from SR4 is now Hellblazing and requires the player to navigate an aerial obstacle course instead of super-speeding through a track in Steelport. There is a ragdoll equivalent to Fraud, some Hell-themed Mayhem activities, and a few infiltrate and capture the flag activities.
Arsenal From Hell
The biggest difference between SR4 and Gat Out of Hell, aside from the hellish environment, is the available weaponry. There are no dildo bats in Hell, nothing to jam up your victim’s ass and fire them off into the stratosphere, and no Dubstep Gun. Volition has provided some Hell-themed varieties of standard firearms with some supernatural effects. The best of the bunch are the Seven Deadly Weapons, each one based on one of the Deadly Sins.
While all of these felt unique and were fun to play around with, my favorites were the recliner that equipped with a gatling gun and missile launcher, and the sinister Gallows Dodger that would enter a mass murder mode once it was fed enough souls.
The vehicles, like in SR4, were only useful for the first 25% of the game: after that the player gains enough superpower proficiency to make land-crawlers obsolete. Most of the vehicles in Hell are pieces of shit anyway: battered taxis, ancient sedans, crap motorcycles, etc. There are a few nice vehicles, like limos and armored cars, but if you just have to have something to drive I would suggest that you take the Predaceptor for a spin: you won’t be disappointed.
There are a lot of similarities between Gat Out of Hell and Ubisoft’s little bite sized piece of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, and that’s not a bad thing. Players get a decent amount of Saint’s Row content without the AAA price tag. This is an over the top take on a game franchise that has already gone over the top. I hazed demonic frat boys through floating rings, ran over as many shambling pedestrians that I could before being gunned down by the Five-O from hell, created devastation from a floating recliner, and punched Satan in the face. This is a series that hasn’t taken itself seriously in a long time.
Gat Out of Hell also features a cooperative mode that allows the player to assault Hell with a friend. Some of the missions can only be performed cooperatively, so completionists will need to make a friend to get their 100% cheevo rating.
You Knew it Was Coming
All the irreverent humor and crazy side missions cannot disguise the fact that the game has no structure. When Volition failed to include a main mission, this left me with no sense of game progression. Players can pretty much go to the tower at any point in the game and crash the wedding, thus ending the game. There are a lot of activities around town but, being variations of the same activities from SR4, they got old real quick.
Playing as Johnny Gat and Kinzie means that Volition’s excellent character creator goes unused for this game. This isn’t a deal breaker, but that player-character bond from the previous games has been compromised. Johnny Gat is a kick-ass personality, but he’s not The Boss.
Gat Out of Hell is the violently wacky conclusion to SR4 that both outdoes the main game and falls short at the same time. If you haven’t played SR4, then the Re-Elected bundle with all DLC, including Gat Out of Hell, would be the way to go. SR4 vets can rest assured that SR4: Re=Elected is identical to the last-gen entry and that rating still applies. Save your money and buy this DLC independently.
Pinball and PS4 codes? Guess its my turn for a review! Zen dropped their latest two pack of tables dubbed Iron & Steel which features two Zen originals. Its been 3 years since they did a non-franchised original table so I was excited to check these out. I think it gives designers more free reign to put in cool pinball features if they don’t have someone like Marvel or Disney breathing down their necks making sure everything stays cannon (or you know not, I’m still confused about Bro-spiderman from the Venom table).
Wild West Rampage
This table has a completely new wild west theme featuring a corrupt Sheriff and the bounty hunter who's ready to take him down. What’s not so wild west cannon is that instead of going with a mode to save a damsel in distress Zen made the bounty hunter female so kudos there. Although sadly I didn’t love here really grating hootenanny accent y’all! Its hard to have a western themed pin without conjuring thoughts of the very popular, very rare, very expensive Bally Williams table Cactus Canyon. Just like Cactus Canyon, Wild West Rampage (WWR) features a train and guns on the bumpers so there is definitely at least some homage going on there.
Cactus Canyon Playfield
Wild West Rampage Playfield
The graphics on WWR look fantastic on the PS4. The bounty hunter and sheriff look like they just stepped out of a next gen version of Red Dead Redemption. The train is really detailed and I love the spinning gun distraction effect every time you hit a bumper. Sizing of the playfield is spot on and perfect to leave in static mode and be able to see everywhere without straining your eyes to see tiny things at the top. The haptic feedback from the bumpers really feels dead on for this game and had me wondering if all PS4 Zen tables had that (they do but I never really noticed it playing other tables).
This game actually has a full on story mode if you are skilled enough to make it through. It shows how bounty hunter Cindy takes down the sheriff and even provides some back story on how she ended up in town. Yeah pinball with character development! There’s a ton of interesting stages to advance the story complete with explode barrels and breaking windows. One of my favs is there’s a train mode with three separate mini-playfields to progress through on top of different train cars. Another is Kaboom mode where you have to shoot down dynamite. I was of hoping an 8 bit guy in a prison sweater was going to make a cameo. There are a ton of modes and lots to master that will keep you playing for days. I give this table two guns up. Pew! Pew!
I had forgotten that Zen isn’t just a pinball house. CastleStorm is based on their popular action RPG our own Sarcasmo Jones reviewed a while back. In this table Sir Gareth is back to protect the kingdom from Vikings. For some reason this playfield really made me think of Smurfs. I’m not even 100% sure why, I guess the art style of the castles and the episodes where they were friends with Johan and Peewit (how’s that for a Smurf deep cut?).
Castelstorm Playfield overview
This is really solid table with lots of cool features and fun medieval cliches like a donkey kick ball launcher and an evil dragon. You can’t go wrong with a pin that has a Tap Keg mode! It is a little harder to follow the ball t in static mode than WWR was, but its still not too bad to play without the screen scrolling on. For the upper playfield, I did find the timing of switching to zoom view and when you need to hit the flipper overly difficult. You basically have to just hit the flipper before you can see the new view or you’ll drain back to the regular playfield.
CastleStorm has a little Rollers of the Realm type RPG action going with a mode that sends some Vikings out to pillage. You’ll need to vanquish them by rolling over them with the ball. There’s a wave in a separate mode that sends ghosts out after you and you have to knock them out as well. Another RGP type mechanic is there is a Arms Drill multiball where you are trying to hit specific shots before time runs out. Its a pretty cool “practice” mode that helps you learn shots and rack up points. My favorite mode for this one has you loading a ballista with sheep to catapult smash your enemies. Even with all this wackiness it still plays like a normal pinball game instead of something with weird game mechanics bolted on. The one thing that was a bit strange for a pin was I almost never hit the slingshots (the bumper things just before the flippers for the pinball illiterate). I actually had to play a few times and really aim for them to make sure they even bounced (they do). Overall a this is a solid table though Wild West Rampage was my clear favorite of the 2.
Should I pick them up?
These are both great tables and I hope Zen gets into a groove of doing non-licensed ones more often than every 3 years. Super double bonus points if they want to stick with cliche themes and the next one is Pirates! These are definitely a buy it new for me!
Do you like strategy games? Do you like turn based strategy games? Do you remember a game called “Battle Chess”? How about the game Civilization? Risk?
You don’t have to answer “Yes” to any of those to enjoy A Druid’s Duel. The first game by Thoughtshelter Games, based out of Minnesota, A Druid’s Duel is a casual yet engaging turn based strategy game available on Steam February 25th. Good news for you Mac or Linux gamers as A Druid’s Duel is available for you via Steam as well! Thoughtshelter Games pitches their game as deceptively simple to play yet difficult master. After playing I can tell you it was a bit challenging to pick up at first and difficult to master would be a severe understatement. In all fairness I do believe that had more to do with me than the game itself.
If This Then That
I think in this case it’s best to draw comparisons to other games to give you an idea how A Druid’s Duel plays. Like chess, you have different pieces with different moves and abilities that you have to move around the field. Like Battle Chess you get to watch your Druids attack the other team. Like Civilization or even Risk you could have multiple enemies all looking to grab as much land and territory as possible. Make sense? Then you have the overall gist of the game.
For full disclosure, I am terrible at strategy games and A Druid’s Duel was kicking my ass on the second level of the easiest playthrough. The sad thing was I felt like the game was deliberately taking it easy on me, akin to how I would let my kids “win” at a game. After my third or fourth attempt I clued in to what I needed to do!
Here is where I realized: I am an idiot. I go into every game balls out, guns a-blazing! That is the “strategy” I took here and it failed. I was trying to win by simply having the most Druids on the board. It didn’t work and I kept losing. My ego was beating. I had to suck back, reload and come up with a new plan.
I am going to let you in on a not so secret secret that is found in the “How to Play” section: The more land you can claim the more mana you accumulate. The more mana you have allows you to place more or stronger Druids on the board. As well each Druid has a unique ability and those abilities cost more mana. The base Druid’s (Guardian) ability is a wolf that can scout and capture up to four enemy territories. Use him early and often! To shape shift into the wolf costs 10 mana which thankfully I usually had at the beginning of the game. Running that wolf out and capturing territory early gained me the mana to continue strengthening my army and my position. I was able to push the enemy back and win!
Beyond unique abilities, each Druid type also has a unique move and attack pattern. Each can attack only in certain patterns or distances. I am still learning the nuances of that but much like chess you can set up guards or decoys to help protect your Druids or lure the enemy in.
Territories come into play as well. Not just in how many you control but more importantly what kind. There are six seasons in the aptly named Realm of the Six Seasons and they are represented on the tiles of the game board. Each season represented on the tiles provide different amounts of mana. This changes the game from one of quantity to quality. Capture and hold those that provide the most mana and you will be able to have your way across the board. To top it off, the most powerful Waywalker Druids can add or delete territory within their field of movement, providing tiles to capture or stealing them from under your enemies feet.
Where do they keep coming from?
I was grasping the concept of the abilities and the territories and I started to win handedly as I progressed through the campaign. I even contemplated moving up from the “Initiate” difficulty level to the next level named “Adept. I contemplated it but I swear I heard Han Solo whisper in my head “Great Kid! Don’t get cocky” and I backed off. I was glad I did.
The next level was a new chapter and instead of just one enemy to face now there were two. Again came failure after failure while feeling like the game was telling me “watch me and do what I do”. I swear I was but I just wasn’t doing something right. Like before I took a step back, came at it at with a different tactic and started to progress again through the campaign.
I have stated before that I love a game with a good story. While I can’t comment on the whole story as I didn’t have time to play through all 130 levels (nor do I believe I possess the skills to get much farther than what I already have). The part of the story I did manage to get through was unfortunately rather predictable and not that memorable. That being said, the story does serve as a bit of a prelude to each encounter so I learned to quickly read it prior to jumping in.
What A Druid’s Duel does fantastically is casual strategy. The game is not as deep as Civ or Alpha Centauri but it is faster paced and you can play a level in under 30 minutes for the most part. I managed to get through a few in the beginning in under 10 minutes. Those of you that are actually good at strategy games could improve on my times significantly. The gameplay is solid. The music is soothing, appropriate and well done. It does tend to get a little repetitive so I turned it down after a while. The levels themselves are well crafted and the graphics reminded me of older cartoons. By that I mean the tiles and Druids appears to be handdrawn characters with just enough detail to trick your mind into thinking there is actually more. While the levels do tend to feel similar to one another the initial placement of tiles, enemies and controlled land made each level I played more challenging and diverse.
I wish I had friends...
When I received the invitation to review A Druid’s Duel I was given the opportunity to play against the individual who provided the press kit and game codes. I thought I should learn the ropes in single player first before attempting online humiliation. After being trounced on the easiest difficulty setting in single player I decided in self interest not to take him up on the offer.
I did actually try to play the online multiplayer...just not against anyone who may have the remote possibility of knowing who I am. To enable online play in A Druid’s Duel, you must sign up for the games portal. This will give you access to the leaderboards, friends lists and news. I would say the portal would fall under the “nice to have” category and honestly most of what it does can be handled by Steam. Sadly though I was unable to find a match which, while good for my ego, was bad for the review. That being said, the game play would be relatively the same with the exception of added real human players, who would take no pity on me whatsoever.
All in all, A Druid’s Duel is a well crafted, engaging, quick, and most importantly, fun casual game experience. If you have ten dollars burning a hole in your pocket and are looking for a game you can easily jump in and out of I can highly recommend it. I can see this being a great game to play while on a commute and all the while I was playing I kept thinking that A Druid’s Duel would be a great game on a tablet...so long as that tablet supported Steam at the moment. (hint hint Thoughtshelter!)
Ubisoft is on the ropes in 2014. Last year, Ubi had two games that nearly made our GOTY list: Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and AC IV: Black Flag. This year they have bungled the ever-loving shit out of Watchdogs, tried to sell us a $60 broken commercial in the form of an Assassin’s Creed game, and I can assure you that The Crew is not being considered for GOTY. That means there can be only one last shot for Ubisoft: Far Cry 4.
Ubisoft has taken the Far Cry franchise away from its familiar island setting and tucked it away in a fictional Himalayan country, named Kyrat. Although the President of Kyrat assures the world that his regime is a Democracy, it is instead a pure military dictatorship with all the trimmings: forced labor, sex slaves, a brisk drug trade, gladiator matches, and a heavy-handed disdain for the good old days. There are a few brave souls, called The Golden Path, who fight for freedom and tradition under the mighty heel of authoritarian oppression. If only they had a symbol to rally around...
Ajay Ghale, American raised son of Kyrat, is bringing his mother’s urn back to Kyrat to fulfill her dying wish. Things go very bad very quickly when Ajay is kidnapped by the President of Kyrat, the flamboyant Pagan Min, and forced to eat crab rangoon in a palace while his “plus one” is tortured for information. Terrorists, led by the traditionalist Sabal, soon storm the palace and liberate Ajay from his meal, but leave Ajay’s friend, Darpan, on the rack with electrodes on his nipples, with the assurance that he would understand.
Ajay eventually finds refuge in the hometown of the local resistance and is shocked to discover that his father founded the Golden Path before his murder at the hands of Pagan Min. The locals convince Ajay to fight for a land that isn’t his in the name of a father that he never knew. Okay, it’s a video game, not a Hollywood blockbuster, but it’s enough to get shit started.
A Tried and True Formula
Not much has changed in the way of gameplay from the last two Far Cry games. Players scale towers and put them out of commission to remove the fog of war and highlight points of interest on the map, as well as landmarks, animal hunting grounds, and the locations of helpful herbs.
Securing outposts from the opposition is another task that Far Cry veterans will immediately recognize. Each enemy outpost taken will provide another fast travel point on the map and open up side quests, like hunting, assassination missions, hostage rescues, and game hunts.
The new part of the outpost and tower formula is the fort. There are 4 fortresses to claim in Far Cry 4, one for each villain: De Pleur, Noore, Yuma, and Pagan Min. These are very heavily fortified with platoons of reinforcements at the ready, making these a very good opportunity to flex your co-op muscles. If you don’t have any friends, assassinate the fort leader to cripple the defenses, or hire a mercenary or two. Taking out the fortress will stop the attacks on all outposts in the area and net the player a nice chunk of change.
Pagan Min runs a robust policy of propagandization on his subjects. The local pirate DJ will reward the player with a sack full of attaboys for taking out Min’s propaganda centers with extreme prejudice. Removing any propaganda posters that litter Kyrat will also reward players with extra little goodies.
Tools of the Trade
Ubisoft has kept the weapon selection from the last couple of games: assault rifles, SMGs, shotguns, grenade launchers, bows, rocket launchers, hand grenades, Molotov cocktails, pistols, etc. Using the bow on hunts will double the usable hides for crafting. Players must craft their own holsters, wallets, grenade pouches, etc. Ajay is obviously a very inept and wasteful seamstress: it takes 5 Rhino hides to craft a single wallet. Who in the hell is going to use the world’s most gigantic and endangered wallet?
Besides the endangered Rhino, players will also hunt goats, deer, bears, tigers, leopards, and fish for crafting purposes. Oh yeah...don’t forget about the fucking Honey Badger.
All of the familiar travel options have returned: jet skis, four wheelers, gliders, shitty cars and trucks, gun trucks and boats. Ubis has added a crappy 3-wheeled taxi thing and a gyrocopter. Don’t expect any racing cars in this game, but expect to race anyway.
This Ain’t Rook Island
As expected, Far Cry 4 is a much better looking game than its predecessors.Ubisoft has taken the feedback from Far Cry 3 and have done their best to create another bad guy to be remembered. Pagan Min is stylish, well spoken, dignified, and deceptively violent. He has his foot on the throat of Kyrat and he’s having the time of his life. Pagan will occasionally contact Ajay, through the radio, just to let his personality shine.
The outpost and fortress sieges required a bit more of a tactical approach than before, and I liked the fact that bonuses are rewarded for being stealthy and not setting off alarms. If the player is not satisfied with the result of the assault, it can be replayed at anytime.
The wildlife is a bit more aggressive and deadly in this game. There were several times that I was attacked by animals while attempting to sneak up on an outpost. Tactics change very quickly when tigers are attacking, alarm bells are ringing, and reinforcements are en route. Since Kyrat is landlocked we did lose sharks, but we gained Eagles. Be wary traveler, death may come from any direction, even the sky itself.
You Knew it Was Coming
The biggest gripe I have about the game is its willingness to sacrifice suspension of disbelief over stupid shit. Ajay can fix trucks with smoking engines by welding the door handle. The Golden Path does not assist Ajay in taking an outpost, but they should be able to defend it, right? Nope, drive 100 feet from a newly liberated outpost and a panicky voice will come on the radio to inform you of an attack that they cannot repel on their own. How did these people get along before Ajay arrived?
This lack of self reliance permeates the entire game. Ajay continually has to break off from what he’s doing to help in a firefight, protect civilians and soldiers from animal attacks, and singlehandedly respond to any emergency that happens to occur in Kyrat. I’m kind of busy here, send one of those useless Golden Path guys to do it...but have him change into a red shirt first.
Keep in mind that this is not a kid’s game. The game slathers on the profanity and violence like butter on cornbread. There are multiple depictions of drug use and drug references. Kyrat’s entire agricultural industry is dependant the heroin and opium trade, so drugs are a perpetual and pervasive theme. There are also some wild naked titties.
Despite the contrived shooter genre plot devices, Far Cry 4 is a lot of fun to play. The gunplay is tight, the driving is bumpy but exciting, and I never got the feeling that any place was entirely safe. Co-op and multiplayer modes are icing on a familiar but favorite cake. If you liked Far Cry 3 or Blood Dragon, then this is likely more of what you like. Far Cry 4 is huge fun, and gets our highest rating and due consideration for GOTY.