In early January 2022 Danh Hoang loaned me a copy of Nintendo’s latest entry in the Metroid series. Metroid Dread is a direct sequel to the Metroid Fusion game originally released on the Gameboy Advance 20 years ago.
Nintendo seems to have kept the fire alive for linear 2D Metroid games. Which now features texture rich 3D backgrounds, challenging new enemies, and combat techniques not seen on those original entries. Mercury Steam continues to be a skilled caretaker of the software production tasks. They previously developed the 3Ds reimagining of the Gameboy title Metroid 2, Metroid: Samus Returns.
There is a lot more of Samus Returns in Dread than its “chronological” predecessor, Fusion, but the game emits the dreadful atmosphere from earlier entries. The parry combat ability first introduced in Samus Returns, is a huge component of the experience in Dread. You use it to thwart nearly all smaller aggressors and bosses alike.
If there is one criticism to be leveled at the shiny new title, it would be load time. Even with the speed of static memory cards, failure to escape a pursuing E.M.M.I., falling victim to other obstacles on planet ZDR, or taking a transport to one of the sectors will net you a fairly lengthy load time.
This does end up being a bit of a frustration with certain areas where one mistake will land you in the dreadful grasp of the game over screen.
Metroid Dread is not only a well designed, challenging edition to the series but it attempts to push the narrative arc of Samus in a new direction. If you are a long time fan of the series you may find some of the new choices in combat design frustrating. But if this is your first adventure with Samus, you will be thrown into a world with more developed lore than you are expecting and a host of secrets to be uncovered.
2017-2018 were years of plenty when it comes to open world, sandbox-y, AAA action adventure games. Amidst this sea of excellence, we were hit with Insomniac Game’s take on Spider-Man. A game I didn’t know how much I needed until I finally got my hands on it.
Much like the Arkham series before it, and from which many of it’s designs cues are taken, you are granted the experience of being Spider-Man. I mean, in the Arkham games you are Batman but in Marvel’s Spider-Man, you feel like New York’s friendly neighborhood do-gooder.
Spider-Man is a game that feels like something new, even though it’s filled with mechanics and set pieces that we have been playing with for a few years now. How it achieves this for me is through polish and pacing. Polish in the views of the city, the ease at which you can swing around building, toss bad-guys in combat, web darn near anything and transition from roof top to black top without breaking a sweat. Pacing in story beats, combat encounters, and character perspective swaps all working in concert to tie you the player to the great characters in Spider-Man’s world.
You feel like Spider-Man.
Swinging through Manhattan is fun and kinetic. Easy to pick up but takes some practice to master.
Unlock-able costumes add a real motivation to collect all of Peters junk.
Script, story, and voice cast/performance was amazingly top notch.
The music in the game feels so full and connected to your actions. Everything feels connected and cohesive.
Good re-writes or re-working of core characters to make them more believable and engaging.
What fell flat for me
In lower difficulty, the gadgets feel like insta-wins.
The DNA puzzles.
Based on my notes, the game earns a solid 3 out of 3 stars. Which means you should go and get it ASAP. As open-world games go, Spiderman synthesizes all the great things from its Arkham parents, and then adds a levity and charm that only one web head can. If you want to really enjoy yourself when sitting down to your PS4 you really can’t pass this adventure up.
Howdy friends, this is Zach, with a Single Player episode in which talk about my 10 glorious hours with the zipline, sandbox, explosion factory Just Cause 3. So let’s take a second to appreciate Rico Rodriguez’s talents as a wire-fu demo man of the people.
Avalanche Studios has been making Just Cause games since 2002, but JC3 I think marked a crucial turning point in the serie’s cycle where a form of stunting became the primary goal of the mechanics presented to you for getting around the islands of Medici.
Sandbox and or Open World games have, what I like to think of as, gift wrapping mechanics. They But unlike many games where you have to wait for story beats to have access to the full range of traversal tools that are available, Just Cause 3 suits you up right away. The only thing the game does, in terms of upgrades, is amplify the already absurd level of versatility that your movement possesses.
JC3 wants you to get into the action immediately. In fact it seemed like every story mission was just a whip lashing me to blow up more stuff. I’m surprised they hadn’t added a DMC style grading system to rank your destruction style. Oh wait, they did think of that. Destruction challenge modes let you revisit demolished enemy strongholds and start a fireworks show that ties time and destruction into a scoring system. Seeing how I ranked against my other destruct-ologists was fun and leads players to experiment with the options without the reprisal of enemy troops.
JC3 is only the second title in the series I have played, however, for 10 golden hours I was totally hooked. This game is a rollercoaster conducted by Michael Bay’s dreams. Even the driving outperformed my expectations, a feature that frequently slips past the hardworking teams of code machines spinning magic out of thin air.
Sadly this is the part of the review where I need to explain why there wasn’t an hour 11 or further. Avalanche made a truly entertaining and hilarious game. Unwrapping the carefully folded paper and peeling back the tape on this gift of a game was amazing.
The wind got pulled out of my sails around the chapter titled A Terrible Reaction started and the plot jumped into the driver’s seat. And to be fair, Just Cause games are not about the plot. The plot isn’t good or bad, it simply exists to tie things together and give you context for blowing things up.
Just Cause allows for ample amounts of freedom and creative problem solving, but this level asks you to be stealthy while you blow things up, and while I am not against stealth in games, it really doesn’t make any sense in a game where one of the primary movement mechanics is used offensively ( eg zip-lining into an enemy ). I honestly could have done without the interruptions and exposition about what this paper thin dictator was trying to pin on our heroes. Just let me get back to destroying bases ala your favorite 80’s era G.I. JOE.
One way I would have solved this, would have been to create a popularity meter. Rico can cause destruction, and if he blows up civilians his popularity plummets and the regime rises, however, as he destroys the dictator strongholds his renowned grows. And you could tie that into NPC aggression, so in less pro-Rico areas he gets the cops called on him more often for being a disturber of the peace.
At the end of my time, I really enjoyed JC3, for what I played of it.
Rico’s voice work was fun but he could have delivered even more 90’s era action quips.
The visuals are dialed in in such a way that I never felt lost navigating Rico or knowing the direction of incoming fire.
All the vehicles are intuitive, easy to learn, and met my expectations.
The enemy NPCs are appropriately bad at catching Rico, but on the hard difficulty they become excellent marksman which makes movement even more essential to survival.
The XTREME sports angle adds something fun to the traversal of Medici that really doesn’t exist in any other titles.
Story beats, other characters are all completely boring and border on annoying.
Most of the guns feel the same-y, the weapons either have exploding rounds or they don’t.
Based on my notes, the game earns a solid 1 out of 3 stars. If you are looking for a fun but shallow distraction and you see it on sale, pick it up. It is easily the best action movie you will play. But if you want to be “invested” in a title for longer than that you may want to look to a different sandbox.
So what do you think? Are you into the Just Cause series? Have I got it all wrong? Have I got it all right? Let me know but hitting me up on Twitter or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Howdy friends, this is Zach, with a Single Player episode in which I take you through a quick review of Ubisofts Hack-tivist Sandbox Adventure WatchDogs 2. I’ll give you my impressions of the gameplay mechanics, and story and how Marcus plus his band of digital pirates, made good on the promise of this franchise.
There is a pattern emerging in the sort of titles I have been consuming lately. I think I have an unspeakable addiction to open world exploration games. 2017 and 2018 were jam packed with adventures across sprawling spaces that imitated San Francisco, New York, New Orleans, Hyrule, and The Continent (in which Geralt of Rivia resides).
These titles share a lot of similarities. They each possess some new
set of tools to try to exploit. A system of scales to balance your
curiosity and aggression, with success. And Watch Dogs 2 is no
exception. I would say that it actually makes good on the promise that
Ubisoft made with the first Watchdogs. Great graphics, a world packed
with multiple ways to solve missions, aggression or subversion, are both
supported in fairly expressive ways.
Ubisoft Montreal created a version of San Francisco that is fun and
expressive. Filled with graffiti, tech bros, gangs, landmarks, bad
clothes, and the ability to wiretap passers by to steal money, sniff
dumb chat messages, listen in on peoples gossip, and blow their cell
phones up while they are in their pockets.
Not only cellphones, but it the developers have allowed you to
weaponize transformers, manhole covers, cars…as if the Bay were a giant
Rube Goldberg machine of destruction. Nearly every mission in the game
allows you to be as aggressive or sneaky as you want to be and the game
really expects the player to land somewhere in the middle.
And Marcus’ character is exactly the confident personality I love in a
prota-gonist. Marcus and his band of “hacktivists,” are working to
thwart a conniving egotistical tech billionaire whose master plan
actually reads like the terms and conditions to a iTunes contract. The
plot isn’t new or special, but the delivery seesaws between Mission
Impossible and Fast n the Furious in the best possible way.
The Magical Mystery Hacking Team (deadsec), is a colorful cast of
supporting characters that rally to the call of adventure. They each
represent a characitured but not repulsive image of software anarchists
cranked up to 11. Again, the character design and the world building
that Ubisoft has for us is keeping that tension between absurdity and
ONE REMAINING THOUGHT ABOUT THE STORY
Without spoiling anything there is a character in the game who dies, which is foreshadowed, but it was used as a tool to up the stakes for Marcus and Deadsec’s resolve. I don’t really like emotional manipulation that is as subtle as an earthquake. This inflection point, however well-meaning or sincere, fell flat for me.
Hacking and invasion, buttery smooth and full of hilarious moments of sheer delight. Shocking enemies through their phones is amazing.
Combat difficulty was pretty on point, Marcus’ tools are occasionally over powered, and the AI is not always equipped to react to your shenanigans.
Non-lethal weapons and evasion make you feel like a cool version of Solid Snake. Once you upgrade the taser it’s amazingly quick at sleeping people.
Visuals are excellent and what you would expect to see from the Ubisoft team.
Multiplayer invasions. Having random people jump into your game and mess with you adds some amazingly tense cat and mouse moments.
Solving environment room puzzles.
What fell flat for me
Chasing/Driving around the streets felt weak. Triggering little things like street explosions and stop light breakdowns, while fun aren’t as elegant or rewarding as the infiltration portions.
There is a main character that joins the team about half way through the game that I found to be nearly useless and uninteresting.
Based on my notes, the game earns a solid 2 out of 3 stars. If you are looking for a fun but shallow distraction and you see it on sale, pick it up. It is easily the best action movie you will play.
NieR Automata is a great game. The open-world is a well polished “End of Days,” theme-park filled with interesting combinations of realtime actions, RPG progressions, and a story that grabs your attention.
2B, 9S and A2 are designed to be sympathetic heroes attempting to prove to themselves, and you the player, that they are indeed alive. As they roam the killer robot filled husk of a battered earth, they uncover conspiracies about their nature and the other beings in the universe.
For all of it’s design aesthetic, the deeper questions being prodded at are somewhat obscured by mandatory repetition and cryptic in-game NPC dialogue. The vast and sometimes lonely feeling world, hides ideas about the self and consciousness that can be explored.
The clever folks at Wisecrack did an amazing video on the ideas that are buried in the game’s multiple endings and character experiences. Personally, these ideas would have been otherwise really interesting to me but I wasn’t as captured with the setting and characters enough to grind past three endings.
The game is worth your money, but not at full original asking price. If you don’t want to repeat yourself, you probably won’t make it through to the more compelling story elements.
1 out of 3 stars. While I enjoyed the mashup and mechanics, the repetitions required to un-earth the remaining ideas in the game proved too high a cost for me.
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