Just when I was starting to feel like I should let the other writers have the pinball review codes occasionally, Zen announced a Portal table and I immediately called first dibs. Full disclosure on the depths of my Portal fandom, I’m currently sipping a beverage with ice cubes shaped like weighted companion cubes.
‘You’re doing very well’
Hooray Portal Pinball, complete with all the characters from the first and second game.
Zen did a great job of translating everything Portal into a pin and it really reminded me of the game. You’ve got Chell standing around the sides of the table moving through portals based on different shots and modes. GLaDOS and Wheatley are cheering and jeering for you respectively. ATLAS and P-Body show up when you make it into multi-player mode. Hail, hail the gang’s all here!
For my first few playthroughs it almost felt like Wheatley was adapting the difficulty and giving me more “you suck balls” to continue my turn instead of draining. Or maybe that was a special mode for the press before launch…
My first few attempts were annoying chaos (as are first few games on any new pinball machine when you are trying to figure out the rules). Once I figured out how to get into test chamber mode, the rules were really easy to follow though. It was nice that it allowed you to choose your test each time so you could work on mastery of one or try to skip around and see what else was out there.
The propulsion gels from the games could be generated with different shots which made for some interesting ball dynamics. The elusive Ratman from Portal 2 also gets his own playfield in one mode. And of course there’s cake involved.
I’ve seen other reviews and discussions that the sounds were annoying. I thought they were very well done and it was great to see they had all the original voice actors. Pins can get a bit repetitive if you hit the same shots all the time but this one didn’t annoy me. One thing I did need to do though was turn the music down and soundFX up in the system menu because otherwise GLaDOS was too quiet to hear.
‘Cake and grief counselling will be available at the end of the test’
Zen did an amazing job of giving you the true Portal experience that Chell must have felt, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. It felt a lot like before she figured out maybe something wasn’t right and was just taking endless tests doing the same stupid crap over and over and over again with little reward. I found you pretty much need to become a pinball Zen master (pun intended) to hit all the right timed shots for each test chamber mode.
The testing modes weren’t hard to get into but they are really hard to actually complete. I think I managed to complete one in all the times I played so far. Which gets me nowhere near finishing all 6 needed to get into boss mode to fight GLaDOS. That meant I also couldn’t get Chell over to all the spaces on the board through the portals, light bridgers and other game homages. The good news is I do feel like if I played a lot more I could master the shots and make it through the full rule set.
The flipper on the upper playfield is totally my nemesis. I’ve had a similar thing on other Zen and real tables and I just can never get my timing down and drain immediately. It at least it reminds me I’m consistently bad at something. I was hoping for the GLaDOS voice over“The Enrichment Center regrets to inform you that this next test is impossible.” Except it is possible for other people so instead it felt more like: "Well done. Here come the test results: You are a horrible person. I'm serious, that's what it says: A horrible person. We weren't even testing for that.”
The table layout is OK. Its a straightforward layout with a center lock to start the tests and a bunch of ramps. I was excited for wide outlanes which I usually love but these are triple outlines and I drain down the 3rd lane all the freakin’ time. Setting the controller so tilt was shake instead of the left stick helped me prevent it sometimes but it still felt frequent and out of my control.
I liked the spinning cubes on the bumpers by the flippers and the turret bumpers were a nice touch. There was something I was hitting that was giving me points toward cake up on the DMD but I never quite figured out where that shot was.
‘Congratulations the test is now over!’
I had fun with this game and I’m glad there’s a Portal pin. I did not love this table and think Zen has done a ton of others that are a lot more fun. If you are a Portal Fan it's worth adding to your collection. If you are a pinball novice it is probably a good one to build some skill and learn how rule sets work through endless testing. But if you are just in it for the love of pinball and have no connection to The Portal games you’ll probably get bored with this table really fast.
Racing games on the current gen consoles have been hit and miss (mostly miss) since the consoles launched. Forza 5 was a much smaller game than its predecessors, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit and Horizon 2 were good games with short legs, DriveClub and The Crew were ambitious, open-world titles with very little curb appeal. Project CARS had been in an open development cycle for quite some time, and brought with it the hope that console gamers could enjoy the same type of top-tier sim racing that could be found only on the PC.
Project CARS gives players a great deal of freedom to choose the types of races and careers they want to participate in. Every car and track in the game is immediately available for racing, practice, and time trials. Players do not need to complete objectives to open a track or earn money to purchase vehicles. Project CARS is wide open and ready to roll from the start.
Project CARS vehicle list is a modest collection of a handful of cars across several different racing genres: GT, prototype, karts, open wheel, road cars, etc. The sixty vehicles available at launch represent some of the finest cars in their respective classes.
The tracklist is where Project CARS really shines. All of the familiar favorites from Forza and Gran Turismo are here, like Nurburgring, Le Mans, Bathurst, Hockenheim, Brands Hatch, Catalunya.While the real life tracklist is impressive, Project CARS has thrown in a few interesting fictitious and semi-fictitious tracks that are just as challenging as any real life track in the game. My immediate favorite time trial track was the California Highway, with a very tight and twisty road that eventually opens up for some top-end pavement roasting.
A Winning Concept
The game itself is intended to be a peripheral-friendly sim racer that promotes close, competitive racing. The cars can be tuned, but not upgraded, so that all racers on the field have a nearly identical car, which transfers a great deal of accountability from the garage to the driver’s seat. An awesome tune will not save you here, and drivers will have to rely on raw talent, braking, negotiating traffic, and capitalizing on others’ mistakes to advance on the track.
The game accepts a number of racing peripherals, so wheel racers who felt slighted with Forza 5’s initial lack of peripheral support may find Project CARS to be a very happy place for them and their toys.
Jason “Playschool” Cotter
Here’s where shit goes downhill. Trying to play this game on the XB1 is like trying to wash your face with salt and sandpaper. The cars are monumentally inconsistent, especially when using the controller. Even after doing a little internet research, the suggested settings for the cars simply did not help. My SLS suffered from every steering malady conceivable, from going wide on sweepers to locking into uncontrollable oversteer on tighter turns.
The animation chugs and becomes more pronounced when there are more cars and action onscreen. I’m sure that the developer was not shooting for shitty handling and framerate issues, but that’s what we got. SlightlyMad has promised a patch to address these issues, but it never should have been released in this shape to begin with. I could only play for ten or fifteen minutes before becoming discouraged and turning to cat videos on YouTube for solace.
While Project Cars is not necessarily my kind of racing game, it is a sim racer’s paradise. If you’re the type of racer who likes the “everybody drive the same shit” races, then this is a must have, but only if you’re playing on the PS4 or PC, because the Xbox One version is a broken piece of shit. Project CARS, on the Xbox One, is a rental that can only be endured in small doses. Wait for the patch, amigo.
I hopped on the Mario Party bandwagon in the Gamecube years enjoying 4, 5, and 6. For me it reached its peak on the Wii, using motion controls. One of my favorite party game moments was pitting gay men against married men in the shake the soda mini game. (married man with 3 kids kicked everyone’s butt).
WiiU Mario Party
I had been eagerly anticipating Mario Party for the WiiU and decided this would be the killer app that would finally make me break down and pick up some Amibios. For the uninitiated, Amibos are like Nintendo’s proprietary version of Skylanders or Disney Infinity figures that work with the WiiU pad for certain games. I picked up the game bundle that came with a Mario Amiibo and couldn’t resist getting his nemesis Bowser while at Target. Speaking of Target, I bought this game and the Final Fantasy Type 0 HD at the same time and got carded. I’m pushing 40 dude, you’re really gonna card me for something that’s 18+!?
Innovation on the next gen console
I was really looking forward to what the gamepad and amiibos could add to the franchise now that it was hitting double digits. There’s been a general gamer complaint that Mario Party games were “‘too random” in the past. I always thought they struck a good balance between random and skill that helped level the playing field and made the game fun for mixed skill levels. This time not so much though. You may as well just watch rather than play. The guys at Penny Arcade summed it up nicely.
Nintendo didn’t really add any new features since the Wii versions either, in fact it feels like they took some away. The WiiU was a good opportunity for them to venture into online multiplayer but, alas, no dice (pun intended). They took away features, like being able to set the game length by time, and there are fewer boards to choose from than in previous games. There are only 5 in game boards, technically there are 9 other boards, but you need their Amiibos to be able to access them. That’s right up there with terrible “free” to play tactics. And the boards just felt way too linear. In past games there were more branch points and random action spaces that moved people around where as this just seemed like rolling straight ahead.
There are 3 different board game modes you can play the game in: Traditional Mario Party, Bowser Party, and Amiibo Party. Like past games, all 4 players traverse across the board competing for stars. There is also a mode that let’s you skip the board game aspect all together and just get right to the mini games.
Traditional Mario Party Mode
This mode of the gameplay pits four human or computers player against each other. You are all riding around the board together in a vehicle collecting stars and other bonuses. Riding around in the same vehicle started in Mario Party 9 and apparently Nintendo didn’t get the internet’s memo that that was a terrible idea. It sets this weird dynamic that’s neither teamwork nor competition. I found it really hard to follow whose turn it was and what goals I was close to on the board. The game felt like completely random chance to me for both the rolls and mini game competitions. I played a few times with my husband and neither of us beat the computer (and unlike me he’s actually good at video games).
The selection of characters has the usual suspects with a few newcomers. Rosalina from Mario Galaxy is available as well as Toadette and Spike. I had to go look up who Spike was because he just doesn’t look right if he’s not throwing something with spikes on it like he does in every other game he’s appeared in.
I really don’t need another thing to collect but since there was a bundle with Mario, and I’m a sucker for Bowser, I broke down and picked up amiibo for this one. There aren’t really any earth shattering differences between the regular game and the Amiibo version. The biggest difference is with Amiibos you roll by tapping the figure to the gamepad, which is cool initially, but gets old pretty quickly since it's really just extra steps and switching around what you are holding. Playing daily will also get you new gifts for your Amiibos to use in the game (you’re still somehow failing to incite my normally overwhelming desire to collect all the things Nintendo). I guess if you were already conned into getting some Amiibos this is a good game to dust them off for. Especially where some of the boards require you to have them to access.
Bowser Party Mode
Bowser Party pits the other 4 players together against Bowser who is trying to catch up to them and stomp them Thwomp style. It’s 4 players (human or computer) competing against Bowser (for up to 5 people playing at once). If Bowser is human controlled, that player gets the WiiU gamepad and the advantage of roll again if his first roll isn’t sufficient to catch up with the other players. Bowser also gets to choose the mini games for each round. In this mode it was pretty clear what you needed to do on the board to achieve victory as a team. Bowser seemed extra powerful though, especially with being able to re-roll. He had an overwhelming advantage and ended up winning in all the configurations we played. Bowser is my favorite Nintendo character and it's kinda fun seeing him stomp on people, but it gets old really fast when there’s no actual challenge. You may as well just watch youtube videos of him stomping on things...
I haven’t played in a while and trying to finish up this article I couldn’t even recall a single mini game that came up. Kudos that they had cute alliterative or punny names, but that’s really about the only nice thing I have to say about them. Fruit of the Doom was my favorite though the actual game play wasn’t fun...
Not surprisingly I vote SKIP! Maybe it's fun if you have little kids who aren’t very good at video games, but even then meh...
Also honest trailers did an even better job than I did at explaining just how terrible this game is! My favorite summary was “Unique mixture of boredom and rage” they should put that on the box!
At the beginning of the Decline of the Golden Age of the Arcade, a game was introduced that had kids lining up their allowance, in quarters or tokens, on a machine for two or three rounds of unadulterated violence and gore: that game was the Midway’s Mortal Kombat. It seemed to have everything: unbelievable fighting mechanics, awesome special moves, and fatalities that allowed the winner to finish off the loser in the bloodiest ways imaginable. Mortal Kombat was the shit. Fast forward thirty three years and both the arcade and Midway are gone, but Mortal Kombat lives on. NetherRealm Studios and Warner Bros. Interactive have delivered on the tenth installment in the venerable MK franchise: Mortal Kombat X.
Mortal Kombat X is the direct sequel to the Mortal Kombat reboot of 2011, so the the echoes of events from that game are felt here. Quan Chi has taken the souls of Jax, Kitana, Liu Kang, Nightwolf, Sindel, and Kung Lao, all slain in the last game, and has transformed them them into his personal army of revenants. Shao Khan was destroyed at the end of the third tournament, allowing Quan Chi to bust Shinnok out of his prison in the Netherrealm and declare war on Earth Realm. However Johnny Cage and Raiden team up to imprison Shinnok, securing an semi-stable truce with Outworld in the process.
The majority of Mortal Kombat X takes place several decades after the events of the previous game. Johnny Cage and Sonya married at some point, but are now divorced. However, Johnny is now some sort of advisor for the Special Forces, commanding a squad that includes his daughter, Cassie, Jacqui Briggs (daughter of bionic muscleman Jax Briggs), Takeda (Kenshi’s son), and a descendant of the original Kung Lao named Kung Jin. However, a civil war has broken out in Outworld between the rightful heir, Mileena, and an usurper named Kotal Khan.The chain of events from that clash of Kombatants means that Johnny’s squad of untested youths go straight from practice to the real thing when refugees escape to Earth Realm with tales of a man with a laser eye. Naturally, this piques the interest of General Blade and she sends the four amigos into Outworld for some recon and a positive ID on Kano. Let the game begin.
The impetuous and impulsive Kung Lao still utilizes his razor-brimmed hat as a weapon, as well as a tornado attack, teleport move, and a mean air dive. He’s respectably quick and has some pretty easy combos, and is an equal threat both up close and at a distance.
Jackson Briggs is probably the largest human on the list, but that doesn’t make him slow. Jax works best as a grappler, utilizing the devastating Gotcha Grab and body slams. Briggs also has an energy wave that can be used at a distance, a punching rush to close the gap between fighters, a ground pound to throw off the crouch blockers, and a rising air kick to thwart aerial assaults. He’s not just another pretty face.
Sonya has a few high tech toys at her disposal, as well as her signature leg-grab Her ability to juggle opponents in MK Trilogy is legendary, but it will take some practice to be proficient with Sonya in MKX...probably not the best choice for a starter character.
This butthurt blind man has been seeking revenge against Quan Chi since Deadly Alliance, but has chilled considerably in this installation. He still makes liberal use of his magic sword, telekinetic moves, and a grisly sword-wielding shadow.
This Edenian princess has been down with the tournament since MK II. Kitana’s combos are crazy-quick, she can rip you with the fan from across the screen, and one of her fighting styles allows her to use Jade’s bo stick. Her personality has taken a bit of a hit since she died, but she is still a formidable fighter.
Scorpion has been brought back from the dead, by Raiden, and is presented in human form during the story. However, the PvP presentation is his classic spectral form, complete with spear, teleport, and accessible combos. Scorpion is a well-rounded fighter and a solid choice for a starter character.
This cryomancer has been a Mortal Kombat staple since the first game. In addition to his ice clone, freeze blast, and ground slide, this Lin Kuei assassin can also forge ice weapons during combat and finishing moves.
Mileena has the body of an angel but a face that only a Tarkatan could love. Easily one of the fastest and easiest to learn characters, Mileena is a threat to any character on this list. Her teleport kick and forward roll can be performed on the fly, and her sai throw is a threat no matter where the other player is on the screen.
Takahashi Takeda is the son of Kenshi, and also possesses the gift of kinesis. In addition, he packs a weapon similar to Scorpion and is nearly as quick as Mileena or Liu Kang. Don’t let him back you into a corner...you’ll die there.
Cassie is the daughter of Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade, as well as the de-facto protagonist for the story. Her moves are similar to Sonya with some gunplay thrown in. Cassie is another good choice for a starter character.
Jacqui, daughter of Jax, is not as powerful as her father, but she is faster and her move set is very similar to dear ol’ dad. She has a rushing punch to close in the gap while dealing some damage, as well as a shotgun gauntlet strapped to each arm.
This thief turned Shaolin monk turned Special Forces plays like Nightwolf on amphetamines. Super fast, brutal and accessible combos, and quick ranged attacks means that you’ll be seeing this guy on a lot of leaderboards.
Shang Tsung’s second in command from the first game, Goro, is unlocked by completing the story mode. He also takes the penultimate slot in the combat ladder, second only to Shinnok. Goro’s advantage is his size and he has a walking punch that might be unstoppable. I wonder if he’s still mad at Johnny for that whole nut punch thing...
Quan Chi’s giggling teleport stomp from the last game is the best special move in any fighting game, ever. This Netherrealm sorcerer can also shoot green skulls and temporarily zombify opponents for a free uppercut or finishing move. He’s not particularly fast but he’s versatile enough to string flawless victories together in the right hands.
Although arguably one of the weakest characters in the 2011 reboot, Boon and company have balanced Raiden to be more of a threat in this game. Most of his special moves involve lightning and his superman attack is one of the most foolproof moves in the game.
D’Vorah is some sort of insectile humanoid and an associate of Kotal Khan. Although her missile weapons seem low-powered, her counters are probably the best in the game, easily brushing off both rushing and jumping attacks while dealing a ton of damage in the process. Keep D’Vorah at a distance and quell the urge to jump in and get close, unless you’re sure to connect with a combo or special move.
My introduction to this two-part monster was an eye-opening baptism by fire. A combination of speed and power makes this duo the Noob Saibot of Mortal Kombat X. Good luck.
Reptile is a good, balanced character, like Sub-Zero or Scorpion. Intermediately powerful and fast, with a lot of offensive weapons to choose from, like the toxic snotball and invisibility.
Kotal Khan is the new emperor of Outworld, and he’s kind of a dick about it. Khan is a big, slow guy with only half of his arsenal actually being useful. Players should have a little Kombat experience under their belt before taking this wannabe Aztec god for a round or two.
This construct containing ten-thousand souls has a seemingly endless arsenal of attacks. His combos are brutal and devastating, and can be initiated halfway across the screen. Don’t stand in one place too long while fighting against Ermac: he has to be kept on defense or it’s game over, amigo.
Easily the fastest male character in the screen, Liu Kang’s special moves and combos are accessible and easy to pull off. His still makes use of the fireball and a variety of flying kicks. He’s still pissed off about his death in the last game, but Liu Kang is a great choice for a quick, flawless victory.
What kind of a dick brings a gun to a fistfight? A mercenary. In addition to his revolvers, Erron Black can adopt a fighting style that also utilizes a rifle.
Another MK original, Johnny Cage has the biggest mouth in the game, except for Mileena. Johnny’s moves haven’t changed much: split-punch, snotball, and shadow kick are still his go-to special moves. He’s not particularly quick or powerful, but he is a very well-rounded character that can hold his own against almost fighter.
This Australian mercenary is one of the best all-around fighters in the game. Kano packs cool knife attacks and a rolling ball that can be initiated anywhere on the screen, even in the air. Kano was the highest-scoring character during my playthrough.
You have to pay to unlock Shinnok...so fuck him.
Single player ladder combat is the core of the single-player experience. It’s a semi-secluded place to learn new characters and moves and gain combat proficiency. Players are graded on their tower performance and can compare their leaderboard scores with friends and other Kombatants throughout the world. Player scores are modified by flawless victories, fatalities, brutalities, number of continues, etc.
Many different towers exist. One tower offers an endless supply of opponents in a survival mode, test your strength is for players who like to break shit, and test your luck places modifiers into the matches, like raining heads, combat on caffeine, acid rain, Cyrax’s bombs, etc.
Living Towers provide combat challenges that change hourly, daily, or weekly, often unlocking collectibles.
Mortal Kombat was originally a PvP fighter, and that’s where the best fights can still be found. MKX is best enjoyed with two controllers plugged into the same machine and shaming your opponent with a bloody finishing move, preferably in front of a gaggle of unbelieving gawkers.
The dark side of the 2011 reboot, aside from the stupidly unbalanced final fight, was the stuttering presentation on online PvP. It’s very difficult to fight when your fighter is in the middle of a three second lag and, unbeknownst to you, on the receiving end of an 8-hit combo. I was unable to coax the skittish i6Hitman out from under his bed for a few rounds of Kombat, but Gatsu Godhand was willing to participate in the online experience. We agreed that Mortal Kombat X online is much more stable than its predecessor, and not nearly as rage-inducing. I was tempted to throw my controller, but that was due to getting my ass beat and not the lag. Congrats to Gatsu for being a fine Kombatant...next time, we’re playing Forza. The King of the Hill mode from the reboot has also returned to Mortal Kombat X
Your Skills are...Extraordinary
The highlights of any Mortal Kombat game are the fighting and finishing moves. The X-ray moves have been carried over to MKX, Fatalities and Brutalities are in full force, and interactive elements, like throwing an old woman at an opponent, are often quite entertaining. Although many characters are missing from the roster at launch,like the cyber-assassins, Sindel, Baraka, Nightwolf, Sheeva, Kintaro, Jade, and Stryker, there are plenty of qualified fighters to choose from. Many of the moves have been simplified to make them more accessible and similar to other fighters:most special moves involve down, toward or away, toward to pull off. Similarly, finishing moves have been standardized to away, down, towards, away, or a variation thereof.
A Messy End
The only real drawback to this game, because it is really quite good, is the shitty story. Players do not have to engage in the story mode, but if you want to unlock Goro as a playable character (yes, please) then it must be endured. The story mode focuses heavily on the new characters, particularly Cassie, Jacqui, Takeda, and Kung Jin. I would advise practicing up on some of the newer characters before starting the story because you will not be playing with characters that you know.
The story is a jumbled wreck of flashbacks, people coming back from the dead, unnecessary backstory explorations, and hyperactive plot direction, which makes the story mode seem more like an endurance match than a narrative. Why does Kotal Khan invade an Earth Realm forest? Why does Scorpion irrationally declare war on his allies to get at one guy? What is up with Farmer Jax? It’s a damn good thing that we don’t play Mortal Kombat for a good story, or something like that could affect the rating.
Mortal Kombat X keeps everything that worked in the last game, fixed the multiplayer fiasco, and brought balance back to the MK Universe. You can now have a match online that satisfies like fighting someone sitting next to you on the couch. Beat their ass, eviscerate them, and then eat their guts: that’s the Mortal Kombat way. NetherRealm and WB got this one right.
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.