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There are a lot of things I like about co-op gameplay.  Being able to coordinate with teammates to reach an overall objective is, in my opinion, the best way to play games.  Sometimes a single player campaign will catch your eye or stick with you, but for the most part when the campaigns are over most of us turn to multiplayer or co-op to get the most out of our games.  Occasionally, a company will design a game with little to no campaign and just focus on the multiplayer and co-op experience, but this is typically hamstrung by the fact you need to buy items in game or fork over a huge amount of cash for downloadable content to get a more rounded out game experience.  Destiny is a huge example of how you need the dlc to even play certain levels to get the most out of your game.  While I get the need to provide more content and make money at it, I feel that gamers without large wallets are starting to become victims of this pay to play mentality.   Thankfully, Evolve is changing this for the better.

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Evolve is the newest title from developer Turtle Rock Studios and publisher 2K Games.   Evolve is pretty straight forward in terms of basic gameplay, but where it shines is how you approach the various scenarios with your team.  Think of it like chess; easy to learn, and hard to master.  Evolve is a fully co-op game without a campaign mode and I know some of you are rolling your eyes already.  Patience.  The main concept of Evolve is that you are a 4-person squad tasked with your basic bug hunt, except that one of your compatriots is the monster.  This is a 4 on 1 battle for survival where the best man/woman or monster can win.

 

The overall story is that your group of hunters is dropped into hot areas and needs to assist the local scientists, rescue survivors, destroy nests, or defend certain points.  The hunter group consists of 4 players (or AI) each of varying classes; Assault, Trapper, Support and the Medic.  Assault is your basic tank/damage dealer, the Trapper is great at locking down the monster and slowing it, while Support buffs the team with different abilities depending on which character you selected. The medic is pretty obvious and tries to keep their teammates in the fight for as long as possible. This squad will be pitted against a certain monster in one of the previously listed scenarios.  One of the nicer points is that each class has 3 different characters to unlock as you become more proficient with your character’s particular abilities.  For example: Eva is your starting Medic and the group’s sniper.  She has a healing beam that continuously heals damaged players, and a bolt action sniper that has armor piercing rounds.  Now after you level her up, you will unlock Lazarus who is also a Medic, but he can cloak and revive fallen comrades instantly.  Each class progresses the same way and has enough variations between new characters to keep you engaged and entertained even if someone picks the class you wanted for the next round.

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If you select, or get selected, to be the monster you’re in for a treat.  There are a total of three: Goliath, Kraken, and the Wraith.  Like the hunters, each monster has their own strengths and weaknesses, be it brute strength, flight, or cloaking.  I won’t divulge too much on the monsters’ individual abilities because unlocking them is all part of the fun.  The monster, to me, is where the fun is at.  You get to hunt indigenous wildlife and feed while avoiding the hunters.  The reason you want to avoid them initially is because the hunters working in tandem are a force to be reckoned with for a fledgling monster… until you evolve.  When you start as the monster you assign a certain amount of points to the attacks and special abilities you want to use.  From there you gain evolution points every time you feed until it’s time to evolve.  Once you begin your evolution (5-10 seconds) you’re vulnerable in your egg until you assign the new points and emerge, bigger and meaner.  In total, your monster can evolve a total number of 3 times and once it hits level 3, the entire game changes.  At this point hiding really isn’t something to be worried about as you can knock a lone hunter across the screen and pummel them into submission.  Think of Hulk tossing Loki around in the Avengers.  Thankfully, the game gives you a total of three monsters to upgrade and unlock.  So that’s a total of 12 hunters and 3 monsters without purchasing any dlc.  That being said, there will be more hunters and monsters all available for download if you want to pay for them.  There’s even a season pass available so you can get all the content for the year as well.  The difference between Evolve and every other game DLC that’s out there (Destiny, listen up) is that all future map packs will be free.  The developers have gone with a concept that I think is stellar.  You get all future maps at no charge and the only thing you do need to pay for is characters or monsters.  That way if you go into a match with people who have dlc you can still play on the map and experience the new dlc and see if you actually want to buy it.  Whereas games like Destiny leave you in the cold, because the maps and weapons/armor are part of the DLC.  If you don’t have it then you’re out of luck.

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I think my favorite part of Evolve is that you can you play on random maps with random people or you can even customize your own battle experience.  This is one of the few games where if you make a custom/private match you actually keep the xp you earn toward leveling up.  So you can have a private match with 5 friends or you can do a match with just you and another person.  In that case, I can be the monster and my friend can actually control the remaining AI characters simply by quick swapping via the directional pad.  A word to the wise, if you play solo as the monster against the computer, be ready for a fight.  The AI is relentless and can spot you across the map and will hound you the entire match.  Now I know how any monsters who fought the X-Men felt.  That being said, the planet of Shear is highly inhospitable to both hunters and monsters, as you find some of the local fauna can take a monster out just as easily as a hunter(s).

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Just to mention a side note as well.  The game does also have a companion app for Android or iPhone users called Evolve: Hunter’s Quest that plays as a puzzle game, but will also unlock extra damage and abilities in the game once synced to the server.  Some of the unlockables for certain characters are definitely worth the time playing so you can upgrade your damage, healing duration, aoe, etc. for your hunter on the PS4/Xbox One/PC.

All in all my time with Evolve has been fantastic even though it’s only a co-op game at it’s heart.  That being said, with you able to play online with strangers or set up any sort of custom match you want, and being able to get free map dlc, this is the sort of game that offers a replay value that most gamers want and need.  So if you’re game, and think you have what it takes, grab a couple of friends and join the hunt.  The question becomes, are you the hunter or the hunted?

Mordor_title

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For those gamers looking for a lot of action similar to the Batman: Arkham series mixed with some high fantasy, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor could be a good choice.  Set in the Lord of the Rings universe between the events of The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring, Shadow of Mordor is a great game for LOTR fans.  But, is it enjoyable for people who haven’t read the books or seen the films or for those who are not into the series?  Yes, one can play this game without any knowledge of the series.  However, it will be more enjoyable for LOTR fans.

The game was a sleeper hit when it came out in September of 2014, a hidden gem in a sea of mediocre games that had come out that year.  Developed by Monolith Productions and published by Warner Bro. Interactive Entertainment, it came out for PC, PlayStation 3 and 4, and XBox 360 and One.  For the purpose of this review, I will be exploring how the game felt for PlayStation 4.  The game is considered an action RPG and utilizes a more open world map.

The short version of the story is basically The Crow meets Lord of the Rings.  If you haven’t seen or read either, first of all I would suggest that you remedy that right away.  However, that might take some time so here is the synopsis: it’s a revenge tale about a Ranger named Talion (voiced by Troy Baker) who is killed, along with his family, and brought back to find those that killed them (the Uruks).  It’s an interesting revenge tale, and it’s fun to see familiar LOTR characters in the story as well.  Since the game takes place between The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, one can see Sauron’s minions getting stronger throughout the game.  Along with Talion, there is another undead wraith, Celebrimbor, who is helping out and giving him cool powers.  The relationship was a very similar feel to when Aragorn recruited the undead in Return of the King.   

 The biggest problem with the story is that, as a whole, it’s not strong enough to hold what I would say is the “average” person’s attention.  Sure, it’s fun, but it’s not super compelling.  Big-time LOTR fans would probably love it.  However, when I played it, I was playing more for the game play and not for the story.  As good as the beginning of the game started, it very much fizzled out over the end.

The story is in interesting idea but was executed poorly.

The story is an interesting idea but was executed poorly.

The game play, though, is very good, except for a few issues.  If you are familiar with the Batman Arkham games, Shadow of Mordor will be very easy to get into.  The game play is almost exact, and you level up in a similar way.  You fight in a similar way.  You can even change (most) attack commands mid-stride, making it easier to stop and counter and enemy.

The “RPG-aspect” (or leveling up system) of the game is very similar to the Batman: Arkham games as well.  Shadow of Mordor is not really the traditional RPG that I thought it was going to be.  When I heard it was open world, I was thinking more “Elder Scrolls.”  The game is very open world, and it’s very action oriented.  The leveling system is very interesting.  There are two skill trees to level up: Ranger and Wraith.  Each are interesting and fun to play.  There are ability points for getting enough XP, and the player can use those points to add certain powers and moves from the skill trees.  There are also options to upgrade the sword, bow, and dagger with runes that the player obtains from killing Uruk Captains (more on this later).

Overall, the basic game play mechanics of the game are very fun, but that’s not the crowning jewel of the game.  Technically, most of the game play is nothing new, since it borrows heavily from the Batman games’ mechanics.  However, the Nemesis System totally and utterly blew my mind.  It is new, original, and highly creative.  All year, I was looking for something new in gaming.  I was getting really tired of game play that is borrowed from ten or fifteen years ago.  Instead of relying on arena-style boss battles and push-the-button-oh-look-more-enemies, Shadow of Mordor gives us the Nemesis System, which I would describe as a roaming boss battle that remembers.

As you play the game, you meet Uruk Captains that can be pretty tough bosses.  If you kill one, you upset the balance of Sauron’s army.  If you or the boss run away during battle, the guy will remember you.  If one kills you, he will get more powerful when you come back (you’re already dead, so you can die as many times as you’d like–see the next segment for more details).  Not only that, but he may challenge a higher ranking Captain and change ranks.  If a normal Uruk kills you, he will get promoted up the ranks and so on.  If you die from something random, a lot of Uruks among the ranks get more powerful.  These bosses will remember that they killed you previously and comment on it.  You also can interrogate Uruks to gain information about bosses in the higher level ranks.  Each boss has strengths and weaknesses, and you have plan your attacks accordingly.

I have honestly not seen anything quite like this system.  I thought it was revolutionary when BioShock had the roaming boss battles, but Shadow of Mordor has improved upon that even more.  Sure, it can be a pain when you have a boss that has killed you several times and has gotten really powerful because of it.  But let me tell you, when you finally kill the guy, you will be cheering.  I also really enjoyed the strategy element that comes in when attacking these bosses.  You can’t go about doing things in just one way because what works for one boss might not for another.  Plus, you can make decisions such as allowing one boss to live so it will take out another (Uruks like to fight each other for power).

The Nemesis System really is the best part of the game.

The Nemesis System really is the best part of the game.

Here’s the only problem with the game play: besides a lackluster story line, the game can be very monotonous.  The side-quests are extremely repetitive and the nemesis system, which should be awesome, is very overbearing.  It’s hard to do ANYTHING without a boss targeting you out, which ends up being extremely annoying after about ten plus hours into the game.  The game play doesn’t translate well overall, unfortunately.  With a poor story line, the repetitive game play ends up being boring and hard to get through.  Sure, you can blast through the man quest with no problem, but for those who like to really get into the game, it ends up being very disappointing.

The graphics are fairly good, though there are much prettier-looking games out there for this current generation.  The overall look and feel of the game was a little dark and somewhat dull, which added to the monotony of the story after awhile.  However, I can understand the developer’s choice in this color palate, since it fits well with the dire tone of the story line.

The overall tone of the game is bleak and so is the color palate for the graphics.

The overall tone of the game is bleak and so is the color palate for the graphics.

Overall, the game is pretty decent: it makes great strides with the Nemesis System, but unfortunately does not do the same with the story.  However, it is refreshing to see a developer in the gaming industry try to do something different for a change, and I have to give Monolith productions a lot of credit for that.  Although I do not feel the game is a full price buy, now that it’s been out for several months, it would be a good addition to anyone’s gaming library at bit of a discount.

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I love me some zombies. Seriously, anything from Resident Evil all the way to Dead Nation, as long as there’s shambling corpses waiting to have their heads bashed or detached I’m game. In 2011 developer Techland graced us with a first person, open world romp called Dead Island and the sequel, shortly after call Dead Island: Riptide. This tasked us with picking one of several survivors (each who had their own strengths) and setting about the island with miscellaneous quests and lots of blood. This was one of the first zombie games I had played in a while that actually felt visceral in regards to the damage you could inflict and how an actual outbreak would be like if your were in the middle of such a situation. Needless to say, when I heard Techland was doing another open world zombie-fest I was excited. Then they said it included parkour style locomotion I was sold. Enter Dying Light.
Dying light is another open world adventure from Techland with a first person perspective that pits you against the undead in a more suburban type sprawl than in Dead Island. The main protagonist in this quest is an undercover operative named Kyle Crane who is dropped into the fictional city of Harran. Harran has recently been swept up in an outbreak that turns the infected into to the usual zombie fare. Crane is sent in to recover a file that’s key to the outbreak by the group he works for called the GRE. After parachuting in and almost being eaten alive Kyle meets up with a local group of survivors to begin his adventure. I don’t want to get into plot points here, but lets just say there are a LOT of side missions and quests to keep you occupied.

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Before we get too far I need to point out there are quite a few similarities between Dying Light and Dead Island. I mean, to the point where I thought I was playing the wrong game for a second. The combat, crafting , loot, etc. all feel like a sequel to Dead Island. This is good in it’s own right, but I was curious why this wasn’t just called Dead Island 3, then I started to notice things. First off, the graphics and sounds are excellent. Dead Island did a great job on PS3 for looking good , but the new consoles make tropical settings and suburban environments all the more realistic. Shadows are cast in very natural light as the day slowly progresses towards night, and when the sun rises in the morning. The infected even received an overhaul in regards to appearance and realism. The modeling accounts for layers so when you haul off and hit a zombie in the head with a sickle you get a pretty realistic result. They’ve even added a “stun” feature so when you hit a zombie with a critical it goes into an x-ray view to show the bone damage a la Sniper Elite.

The next thing that really changes things up is the infected AI. They’ll do their normal shambling and staggering, but with the new infected runners will come looking for you if you make too much noise. These runners make the ones in 28 Days Later look like pansies. I made the mistake of throwing a Molotov too close to an exploding barrel once, and although the resulting explosion was amazing the echoing shrieks that emanated from surrounding neighborhood let me know I was in for it. A pack of runners showed up and I figured I’d parkour my way out of the situation.

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This is where the free running aspect comes in big time. You can freely run, jump over obstacles, grab ledges just like Mirror’s Edge. Based on how much you run you level up your skill for Agility which in turn grants you more moves like sliding, vaulting, and even leg sweeps to break your pursuers limbs to slow them down. On top of it all of the mo-cap for the parkour moves was handled by the founder of parkour himself, David Belle. So when the runners closed in on me I thought I had it made when I climbed to the top of the house next to me. This is when I realized theses are not your run of the mill fast zombies, these are parkour zombies spawned straight from hell. They hone in on nearby sounds and will search for you until they find something else that interests them (IE another noise distraction). If they make eye contact you better get to running and try to break line of sight.

Needless to say, after being torn apart and re-spawning I made more of an effort to be aware of my surroundings. Then night fell. The voice over the loud speaker will tell you to find a safe house until morning. Now if you want to level up fast running around at night is the way to go. They give you double power and agility points for everything you do, but at a cost. At night is when the hunters come out. Aptly named, the hunters are night stalkers that can leap from rooftops out of the night to dispatch you quickly. This adds even more a difficulty because these hunters will chase you like the runners during the day.Dying_Light_Screenshot_12

On top of the next gen graphics, sound effects, and new aspects of game play there is also drop-in/out co-op for up to 4 players. This has worked seamlessly so far with hardly any issues. The inclusion of the “Be the Zombie” DLC rounds off the co-op and lets you invade another players game at night as a hunter. There’s also more DLC lined up with a season pass available through the PSN Store so the zombie goodness can continue.

Dying Light is definitely in the same vein as Dead Island, but with more crafting options, bigger and better zombies, and the inclusion of night time missions it certainly not the sequel people assume it is. This is one of the more fun open world adventures you’ll go on in a while. So, if vaulting off a zombie in to a crowd of the undead brandishing Excalibur (it’s an Easter egg) to remove some limbs sounds like your kind of party, pack up 3 of your best buds and see if Dying Light whets your appetite, or leaves you running scared.

 

Borderlands_PreSequel_FeaturedImage

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Fans of the Borderlands franchise rejoiced when Gearbox announced that a new game would come out for the series.  Set between the original game and Borderlands 2, Borderlands: The Pre Sequel (a made-up word that’s a play on prequel and sequel) would be the fix fans of the game needed while patiently waiting for Gearbox to start working on Borderlands 3.  So did it live up to what fans were expecting?  For the most part, yes.  However, despite being the best new game that I’ve played this year, it still does not compare to its predecessors.  But that’s okay.  It’s still a blast to play.

Overview

Borderlands: The Pre Sequel is a first-person shooter that supports both single player or online cooperative (up to four players).  It was developed primarily by 2K Australia instead of Gearbox, who is the original developer of the series, and was published by 2K Games.  However, Gearbox did work with 2K Australia during development.  Much to the dismay of many fans, it was released only for PC, PS3, and XBox 360 on October 14.  Gearbox stated that this was because there is much more of a demand of the game for the last generation of consoles versus the current generation (Source: Gamasutra.com).

The Pre Sequel is a nice addition to the Borderlands franchise.

The Pre Sequel is a nice addition to the Borderlands franchise.

Story

Taking place between Borderlands 1 and 2, the player gets to see Handsome Jack (or just “Jack” at this point) go from hero to the  much-hated (or much-beloved, depending on who you talk to) villain of Borderlands 2.  At this point, he’s just an employee of Hyperion, a corporate conglomerate with its eye making tons of money from Pandora (a wild, wild west type planet with a lot of resources; hence, “Borderlands”).  However, after the company’s Helios space station is attacked by a group called the Lost Legion, Jack must become the hero and save Helios and Pandora’s moon, Elpis.  In order to do this, he commissions the help of a group of colorful characters to go to the moon and gain back control.  It certainly was interesting to see Jack as the hero instead of the villain.

I will have to say that the set of playable characters you get to choose from this time are absolutely awesome.  I actually had a hard time choosing which one I wanted to play first.  They are all pretty cool characters, and it doesn’t seem like you can go wrong with any of them.  There’s Athena, the Gladiator.  Her special skill involves a Captain America-like shield that players can either use to block attacks or swing to kill an enemy.  Wilhelm is the Enforcer.  He’s the character that I’ve played the lease but has a cool little drone that flies around and helps you kill bad guys.  Nisha is the Lawbringer, and she is the character that I have played the most.  Her skill involves an auto-lock firing sequence that is actually quite powerful.  Then there’s Claptrap.  He is by far the most fun character to play, especially when playing in a group.  His special skill basically is a malware program that could be one of many different skills, some good and some not so good.  If you are playing with others, the program can actually affect your friends as well.  It sounds annoying, but it’s actually hilariously delightful.  Sure, your teammates might moan and groan if they get affected, but at the end of the day, everyone’s laughing.  The Jack Doppelganger is a DLC-added character as well.  I have yet to play as this character, but will update what I think of him in another article.

The Pre Sequel has a group of really fun characters to play.  It was hard to choose which to play first.

The Pre Sequel has a group of really fun characters to play. It was hard to choose which to play first.

One of the things that makes the Borderlands franchise so special is the fact that the setting and characters are so memorable, especially some of the non-playable characters.  Although some favorites from the first two games make appearances (my personal favorite happens to be Torgue), the new characters on and around Elpis don’t seem to be as memorable in the Pre Sequel.  Sure, there is still wacky humor and some interesting satire, but it’s not quite up to the same level as Borderlands 1 or 2.  The feel of the game is even a bit different, since it’s on a moon instead of on Pandora.  The whole Firefly-like space western vibe that the other two games had going on is lost a bit with the change in setting.  However, I did enjoy the futuristic electronic soundtrack.  It felt a bit Tron Legacy like in sound, but to me, that made it enjoyable (also, speaking of Tron Legacy: there are two characters on Elpis that look like Daft Punk, and I thought it was quite amusing).

 Game Play

The game play has not changed too much from Borderlands 2.  Zainy missions, skills trees, Badass Rankings, and tons and tons of weapon choices and loot are still there.  There have been a few new game play elements that were added as well.  Laser guns were added because, you know, it’s the moon and why not?  Besides the usual elemental effects for guns, a freeze one has been added, though it’s probably my least favorite of all of them.  Due to Elpis’ low gravity, players can jump higher and do “Butt Slams” (no, I didn’t make that up), where the players smash down on enemies from above.  Also, since it’s a moon without an atmosphere, non-robotic characters must wear Oz kits in order to breathe.  Oz kits also generate effects for Butt Slams.  I played with one in particular that made farting sounds every time I did a butt slam.  It was quite hilarious.  All of these new elements were pretty good additions.  However, the one thing that I really did not like was the wacky level designs for many of the areas.  Because of the low gravity game play, a lot–and I mean A LOT–of vertical level designs were used.  That might sound fun, but it can be quite frustrating when where to go isn’t exactly clear.  I had to go to YouTube several times to figure out where I needed to be to complete a mission.  Also, there were too many cracks and crevices throughout some of the larger maps.  Those made it very hard to just goof around with friends when there is constant worry about jumping over places.

The cooperative is pretty much the same as Borderlands 2.  It’s four player co-op at its best.  I wish that there were other games like it, but at this point, it’s pretty unique since I can play by myself as much as I want, and then invite a group of people into my game without missing a beat.  One of the things that I love about Borderlands is that it really does encourage goofiness and fun among a team.  You really can’t take the game that seriously with how it presents itself, and that’s a good thing, since I can’t stand when people take online FPS games too seriously.  The game was a bit glitchy at launch and didn’t seem as polished as Borderlands 2.  Still, it wasn’t too bad, and I was able to play both by myself and with friends without any major issues.

The Pre Sequel isn't as polished as Borderlands 2, but it is still a blast to play.

The Pre Sequel isn’t as polished as Borderlands 2, but it is still a blast to play.

 Graphics

The graphics are pretty similar to Borderlands 2.  Obviously, if you are looking for a pretty game to play, choosing the cell-shaded Borderlands franchise and a last-gen game probably isn’t for you.  With the new group of games that have come out, the graphics do show their age a bit, but that’s okay.  You don’t play Borderlands for the graphics.  You play it for the game play and the goofiness.  You play it for the amazingly fun online cooperative.  In a way, the very original style that Borderlands creates with its cell shading is making waves in its own way.  It’s immediately distinguishable from other games, and it also lets the play know that the game doesn’t take itself too seriously.  I maintain that if it had been “pretty,” it wouldn’t have done as well.  Most fans would also argue that they wouldn’t want it any other way.

 Fun

At the end of the day, games are here for our enjoyment.  Borderlands: The Pre Sequel hits high marks under this category.  The zany story and characters are good enough to keep a player’s attention, the game play is a blast (even with a few issues), and the online cooperative is still probably the best in the industry.  It’s one of those games that you can get on with a good group of friends and have a blast and goof around.  The game will keep you laughing, regardless of whether it is something in the story, a silly character, or one of the crazy weapons.  For me though, the best part is the fact that I don’t have to be online to play if I don’t want to.  I don’t have to worry about if a server is working or not.  My game doesn’t become a paperweight if the Internet is out, which is one (of many) things I really don’t like about  Destiny.  Sometimes it’s just okay to play on your own.  However, if you want the awesome team experience, it’s right there for you.

The Pre Sequel is the most fun I've had in gaming all year.

The Pre Sequel is the most fun I’ve had in gaming all year.

 Overall

Unfortunately, the time frame that the Pre Sequel came out was a little too late.  Many people have moved on to a newer console and some have even sold their last-gen console.  I’m not seeing as many people playing, and there is a lot of steep competition from this fall’s slew of next-gen games.  The Pre Sequel probably could have done a lot better if it had game had come out in the summer when there was a dry spell in the industry for new games.  However, the game is definitely worth picking up if you are a fan of the franchise.  It’s actually been the most enjoyable game I’ve played this year.

 

Watch_Dogs_front

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Watch_Dogs is the much-anticipated blockbuster game from Ubisoft that makes hacking look cool.  While the game feels very GTA-inspired, it actually stands on its own as a unique game play experience.  The game is a lot of fun.  It will definitely sell a lot of copies and make Ubisoft a lot of money.  However, it does not feel like a game that is going to stand out as one that people will remember for years and years down the road.  There’s a lot to like about this game, but unfortunately, there’s not much to love.

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Note: This review is being done for PS4 without any added DLCs.  PC users have complained of issues about the game.  My colleagues have reported buggy problems with the game as well, point to the Conspiracy DLC as a possible culprit.  I personally did not have any of these issues, but it is good to be cautious. Watch_Dogs is a third-person/driving action adventure game that was released on May 27 this year.  It was developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft.  It is an open-world game that allows that player to explore the streets of a digital version of Chicago.  The game incorporates an online multiplayer element as well as several “mini games” throughout the main game. The story follows hacker Aiden Pearce, an anti-hero who skirts the law in order to bring about justice.  After a hacking heist that went bad, Aiden is bound and determined to go after the people responsible.  Known as “The Vigilante,” he is ready to bring down the people who messed up his life.  Overall, the story was pretty strong.  It’s actually a lot deeper than any GTA plot, and it definitely gives the player some things to think about.  Is it memorable for years to come?  Probably not.  But it is entertaining and does hold some value.

Aiden Pearce is a very cool character.

Aiden Pearce is a very cool character.

Game play is probably one of the game’s stronger points.  For one thing, there is a variety for the player.  Some of the game is car-oriented.  Other parts are solely on foot.  Most missions highlight Aidan’s hacking abilities, which are a nice added bonus to the game and can be quite fun.  The game play is often compared to a GTA game, but they are really only similar.  In Watch_Dogs, unless the player wants to go the “evil” route, killing pedestrians and police officers is a “no-no.”  Much of the game involves strategy and sneak skills.  It is very similar to a game like The Last of Us, where the player can go the sneaky route and not shoot a single round or go the more direct route and get into a fire-fight.  Having the option to do either adds to the game play variety.  There is also a skill point tree and a HP system.  Aidan learns new things as he gets more experience, making a ten minute police chase seem a lot less annoying when the player gets points after it.

The game may look like a GTA game, but it actually plays very differently.

The game may look like a GTA game, but it actually plays very differently.

The graphics in Watch_Dogs really demonstrates what the new next-gen consoles can handle.  The level of detail is amazing.  From the potholes in the street to the reflection of the rain to the dampness of Aidan’s coat when the player makes him take a plunge in a river, the graphics are definitely a highlight for the game.  Happily, though, the graphics are not the only good thing about the game.  The graphics could be horrible, and the game would still be a lot of fun to play. This game is a lot of fun.  Whether it be the smooth game play, the cool hacking abilities, the cute mini games, and the online play, the game can truly hold its own.  It is easy to blow thirty plus hours on the game without really even trying.  There’s a lot of game play variety as well, which helps to keep things fresh and the player still interested in the game.  Even buying it at full price, the player will get his or her money out of the game. Overall, there is a lot to like about Watch_Dogs.  It’s fun.  It’s hip.  It’s cool.  However, the biggest problem with the game is that it’s not exactly “epic.”  Even though Ubisoft will probably be making more sequels, the game doesn’t exactly feel memorable.  It’s not exactly “top video game of all time” material.  In fact, it’s not even close.  It doesn’t have the same feel as some other games that make you think about them even years after playing them.  Watch_Dogs is definitely a good game, but it’s not a great game.  That’s not exactly a problem, since most gamers don’t expect every game to be great.  But we can hope, right?  

By Sean Jacobs On 2 Jun, 2014 At 04:33 AM | Categorized As Indie Spotlight, Reviews, Uncategorized, Xbox 360/Xbox One | With 0 Comments
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One of many upcoming Unity engine games developed by independent studios. Press Play presents to us Max: The curse of brotherhood heads the way on Xbox One’s indie showcase 1st class. Just like the title infers this title is based on a tale of two brothers. One is a seemingly tween aged boy who is starting to outgrow his slightly younger sibling, just like the old story goes. Max the older brother decides to very early in the game (Actually, the beginning sequence) to go online to his worlds popular online search engine humorously named “Giggle” Max has one goal in mind, getting rid of his little brother. Max finds an odd website geared towards witchcraft he then recites the words to a spell on the sorcery site of ill will. Surprisingly to Max a portal opens up behind his brother and a creepy looking hairy armed beast snatches scrappy little brother Felix from their realm to another dimension. Max instantly understood his misdeed and goes after Felix right before thee portal closes.  

 

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Max: The curse of brotherhood is a solid puzzle/platformer, it is the best platformer available on Microsoft’s flagship console to date. This title is endowed with great puzzle solving elements and classic gameplay mechanics that made this genre the most go to genre to date. This title has its moments of difficulty and I probably at the time of writing this review have logged in 11 hours to beat the game. I have yet to 100% complete the game currently my completion is at 52% progress in game objectives and 82% XBL achievements.Max: The curse of brotherhood was perfect in mostly all areas, I will give you what I liked and what I didn’t. I will start with the worst elements of the game.

 

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STORY

The only part of the game that was lacking, while this title is littered with voice acting keep the game interesting and progressing the narrative of the game. My biggest gripe with the story element of Max is that the story is bare bones in terms of the epic journey Max is obviously on. The story progression is only pushed forward by in game animations and short game engine video sequences. The character progression is also leaving me wanting more, out of the five characters focused in on in this game zero characters backstory was moved forward if built up at all Max really did not impress. I must strongly say that’s while for me story in a platformer or any game is considered one of my four pillars of a solid game whereas Story, Gameplay, Controls & Art direction take precedence above anything else. Max’s other three pillars transfers the weight onto themselves helping you to forget the lack of story and focus in on everything that makes this game awesome!  

 

“…the best platformer available on Microsoft’s flagship console to date”

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  GAMEPLAY

One of the most premier pillars of this game, Max: The curse of brotherhood really shines. As Max you will utilize the power of your marker endowed with magic (pun not intended on my end) This “Magic” marker Max has will gain multiple powers which all are derived from nature. Earth, Trees, Vines, Water and Fire will all be at your disposal soon as you unlock them from their temples. Each power adds to your arsenal and can be used at anytime to traverse your way through each level. You will use Earth to create platforms to lift Max up to get past or trap enemies. You will be able to create bridges and platforms with the powers of the Tree,Max will also be able to create customized shapes of branches like steps, ramps, rafts and any weirdly shaped object to get you through the levels. You can snap off and drag your newly created objects across the stage for puzzle solving purposes. Vines can be used to cross chasms by swinging or by crossing over them hand over hand also, you can ascend or descend within the stage. One great thing about all of your powers is that you can combine them in inventive ways to Solve your way through the end. One such way is creating a tree branch then drawing a vine connecting it to the branch either helping you cross something or maybe you can find other ways to utilize this new object to further your goals. Water will allow you to draw custom shapes to ride the waves or direct them at molten lava to turn it temporarily into stone creating platforms to get out of a flaming hot situation. You finally get to have fun with Fire when you create projectiles to pummel some of your enemies into a powdery dust or use the projectiles to break down barriers. I’m sure with all of these powers available to you by this time in the game you will be able to find other tricks to barrel your way to the end.  

 

CONTROLS   

The key to saving your little brother Felix is you “Magic” infused marker this is how you will draw your way through each stage and you will find that when it comes to control this element is spot on. You as Max will start the drawing process by pressing RT+A buttons while using the left analog stick to draw the shape you want your select power to turn into. You can then cut/ erase your object by holding RT+X button and crossing the objects path using the left analog stick. While playing I have had zero experiences where these controls were anything less than superb while, you will understand the control scheme early on it will take more time for you to master them later on within the game. Later you will get more imaginative battling your way through each level creating strings of power combinations making you feel like you are ready for anything. Max: The curse of brotherhood animations moves smoothly with seemingly cruising at a steady frame rate. Press Play has created this puzzle/ platformer with speed runners in mind in my opinion.  

“…this is a pleasant platformer sure to please”

 

 

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ART DIRECTION

I love the pre-rendered design the character models have. Each stage has its own unique feel they reflect what powers you will use or obtain as you delve deeper into each environment. The dramatic camera angles immerses you into the game along with having background, mid & foreground activity happening all at once or separately. As small as Max is in scale to the world he is apart of the camera plays a large part in bringing you close into the excitement or show you the grandeur of the environment. The large, lush, beautiful environments coupled with bright visuals and particle effects Max: The curse of the brotherhood’s graphical fidelity and camera work is unbelievable for the measly $14.99 you will pay for this small and jam packed title.

 

I must admit that I am a newcomer to the XBL lifestyle I am typically drawn to Nintendo and Sony’s consoles yet I have kept an eye on on the games out, Last Xbox I owned was the original one two whole generations ago. This generation I have all three eighth generation consoles with that being said out of all three consoles Max: The curse of brotherhood is one of my top 5 puzzle/platformers so far available.This outer dimension out world that Max sent his brother into has a history I would like to sink my teeth into further. I only hope this game does well enough to garner yet another return to this franchise. If you have any apprehension about trying this games out I highly suggest you purchase this title right from the Xbox Store this is a pleasant platformer sure to please.

 


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Inspired by Adventure Time, Minecraft, and Legend of Zelda, May’s Loot Crate has to be my favorite so far! Loot Crate is a monthly subscription box filled with nerdy goodies – toys, stickers, t-shirts, etc. It’s like getting nerd Christmas every month! This month featured a Legend of Zelda t-shirt. If you look closely, it’s Link made out of words. My very favorite item in this Loot Crate was the Adventure Time tin. Not only do you get an awesome character tin, but you get a blind bag figure inside. My tin was Fionna and I got BMO inside! This was my favorite because those are two of my favorite Adventure Time characters.

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A very close second for favorite item is the Legend of Zelda key chain. It doubles as a bottle opener and it has a picture of the famous scene, “It’s dangerous to go alone…” I always love when Loot Crates come with practical items. Another item worth mentioning was a Minecraft blind bag “hanger,” which I guess works as a key chain because the ring on it is sturdy enough for one. I got a skeleton.

Other items in this month’s Crate are tons and tons of stickers from Polaris and Maker studios, as well as a soundtrack for the talk show The Friend Zone.

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One strange thing about this month’s Loot Crate, however, is that it didn’t come with the usual monthly magazine that explains what came in it and the occasional article. Maybe it was just a mistake and they forgot to put it in my Crate?

Either way, I would consider May’s Loot Crate to be my all-time favorite so far. If you like what you see, Loot Crate is $20 per month, including shipping. Go to LootCrate.com to sign up and be sure to follow Loot Crate on Facebook for discounts and contests.

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Sine Mora is a game developed by Hungarian and Japanese game developers Digital Reality and Grasshopper Manufacture. They have been well received and have been made available on PC, many consoles including the OUYA, as well as receiving mobile game releases. I can’t speak on the merit of the mobile adaptations of the game because I played the game on PC, so consider this a review of how the game plays on PC and consoles.

The game itself is a horizontal shooter where the gameplay involves controlling airplanes through a barrage of projectiles while attacking your opponents. In terms of bullet hell it isn’t as hellish as some other games I’ve played but challenging nonetheless. The challenge largely comes from the bosses, whom can be frustrating if your weapons aren’t leveled up enough. The game doesn’t involve skills as much as it involves strategy due to two factors: capsules and special attacks. Different capsules have different effect, which can save your life when dodging especially difficult bullet patterns or a barrage. Special attacks depend on the character you’re playing. Special attacks tremendously help when you’re trying to finish off bosses when used wisely. The game can be played either in story or arcade mode, with only arcade mode having the most difficult settings, hard and insane.

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I would highly recommend this game if it wasn’t for the life system and the game’s pace. You’re “alive” (your plane doesn’t randomly blow up) as long as your timer doesn’t run out. This would be perfect if the game was more rapid, or the landscape progressed along with the player, but no. The screen drags along to an almost unbearable snail pace. Your time gauge only get replenished if you get the appropriate powerups and kill enemies. This is extremely inconvenient when you’re in the hard or expert mode with less time in a part of the game with barely any enemies. In story mode they were obviously designed as exercises in control with cramped spaces and few enemies in the way, but they’re needless and frustrating when you’re praying the next giant slug comes out so you can replenish your time gauge seconds away from instant death when you haven’t even been hit by one thing! Even the great capsules you can’t use in story mode don’t make up for this major flaw.

Even in story mode this was frustrating.

Even in story mode this was frustrating.

Not only does it make it inconvenient to play in arcade mode, but the game itself feels dragged out when playing in story mode. The cut scenes even have a fast forward option if you don’t want to spend 5 minutes looking at footage of planes flying. Hell even when you play the game there are “cut scenes” with the plane flying by itself, but there are no different camera angles, transitions, or anything else that would prohibit the player from flying normally or continuing to play.

When you’re buying this game consider you’re only getting it for the story mode. The story itself is pretty good, although a bit confusing with anthro animals and planets and races and whatnot. This however did not keep me from enjoying the characters whom had good dialogue and made me more interested in the story. When story mode is finished you unlock an encyclopedia with all the info on the world of Sine Mora, which I’m halfway through and found pretty well done. A lot of thought went into this game; if it weren’t for its fatal flaws it would’ve been another memorable shooter, and what a shame. This is definitely a game made with love, considering how much planing went into a story where you only see the characters on the side of a dialogue box.

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I love Durak, she’s a badass!

Sine Mora is a good game, but you should only expect to kill a few hours with it since it has low replay value. Try it if you want to but, just don’t pay full price for it.

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South Park on TV can be a vulgar and shocking show. It can be crude yet hysterical, poking fun at celebrities, social trends and issues, anything and everything under the sun. When the released their movie in theaters back in 1999, having more freedom from censorship, the movie reached new levels of raunch and shocking their audience. Even now the show finds new ways to shock people. However, this game blows all of that out of the water! If you are someone who doesn’t like how far South Park pushes the limits, let me give you your review, stay away from this game. For all those who like South Park and RPGs and want to know if this game is any good, the answer is…

Yes, not only is this game fun, its hysterical and outright shocking at times. And I mean seriously shocking, I hesitate to mention to mention some of these moments as it would take away knowing what you will see. But there were a few instances where I had to pick my jaw up off the ground due to what I was looking at. But a game can’t survive on shock factor alone, how was the actual game?

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The game starts with you creating a silent protagonist who moves to South Park with a mysterious past. From there you meet the other kids who happen to be having a LARPing session. You can choose from one of four classes; Fighter, Mage, Thief, and Jew. Yes, Jew. They all play pretty similar aside from their special abilities and attacks. You play with Cartman’s faction of Humans and Kyle’s faction of Elves and eventually decide who’s side you want to join. From there you get involved in an adventure way bigger than you and meet just about all the colorful characters of South Park. From the goth kids, to Al Gore, just about every South Park Character is in this game. This game is also filled with tons of easter eggs long time and even short term fans of the show will be able to appreciate.

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The mechanics of the game is like Paper Mario. You and a single partner fight in turn based RPG style battles, Cartman remarks that it’s lame but that’s the way they are playing. In battle, you choose an attack, magic, buffs/debuffs, or super and either hit the on screen buttons or press the attack button when you character glimmers for adding attack power. There are some magic effects such as gross out and on fire that add strategy to your battles, overall it’s a pretty simple battle system just about anyone can pick up. Outside of battle you can explore a fully realized South Park. You can walk around, enter people’s houses and businesses and such for a plethora of collectables and surprises.

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This game looks just like an episode of the show. If someone walked in on you they might think you’re watching the show, if the FCC just decided not to care about them anymore. As mentioned before, if you dislike the show, you’ll hate the game. The vulgarity will turn someone people off, and that might be the only downside I could find about the game. It was reported some players experienced a lot of bugs and framerate drops. I can say that for me the game never crashed, though sometimes in exiting one part of the map and entering another there was a little drop in framerate.

South Park: The Stick of Truth is a fun RPG that took me roughly 15 hours to complete. With tons of collectibles and side missions, easter eggs, social commentary and even jokes on the video game industry itself, this game will having you either laughing on the floor or backing away in disgust. If you know this type of humor isn’t for you, stay away. However if you can get past that type of humor or enjoy it, you’ll be presented with a fun hysterical game.

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a crooked mile

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Have you ever wanted to see your favorite childhood fairytale characters as scumbags, liars, criminals, and prostitutes? The Wolf Among Us is a five part point and click game by Telltale Games letting you do just that. Based on the Fables comic book series, you play as Bigby – the human version of the Big Bad Wolf. You’re the sheriff in Fabletown – an underground community of fairytale characters who have lost their home world. For the past two episodes, Bigby has been investigating the murders of two prostitutes, with the help of Snow White.

In this episode, everything you thought to be true about the villains is wrong. By the end of episode three, you find out that there are bigger powers at play – not just Ichabod Crane acting out his sick and twisted fantasies. We find out about a new villain – The Crooked Man. He might be the real mastermind behind the crimes, but with the way the plot twists, you never know.

I think episode three has been the best so far because the plot is paced better than the other two episodes. I never felt like I was in a cut scene too long, or clicking on clues too long. There were just enough quick time events and dialogue woven throughout the game to keep it interesting. There was never a dull moment and I didn’t feel like the episode was too short, like I did with episode two. I never felt like the creators put all their eggs in one basket in one scene. Because of this, I say The Wolf Among Us – A Crooked Mile is a must buy.

The Wolf Among Us is available on PC, Mac, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.

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