Marvel’s Spider-man

Marvel’s Spider-man

 
 
00:00 / 0:28:21
 
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Episode 014

A Review

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.

What rocks

  • 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.

This is Zach, keep playing.

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Special Thanks

GuestDanh Hoang

Original Score – Artist: John Paesano

Music & Audio ConsultingJosh Hunt

IllustrationEvan McIntyre

Just Cause 3

Just Cause 3

 
 
00:00 / 0:37:06
 
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Episode 013

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.

What rocks

  • 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.
  • Hijacking enemy missile turrets creates excellent chaos opportunities.
  • Parachute/grapple gun physics are amazing.

What fell flat for me

  • 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.
  • Forced “sneaking”

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 howdy@betweenplayers.com

Until then, this is Zach, keep playing.


Listen to the show on:

Spotify
iTunes Podcasts
Google Play Podcasts


Special Thanks

Guest – Robert Meyer

Original Score – Artist: Henry Jackman & Zach Abramson

Music & Audio ConsultingJosh Hunt

IllustrationEvan McIntyre

Watch Dogs 2

Watch Dogs 2

 
 
00:00 / 0:09:13
 
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Episode 012

Summary

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 amusement.

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.

What rocks

  • 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.

Thank you for listening to the podcast.


Tell us about your favorite Hacktivist Simulator or let us know how we can do to improve the show via electronic mail or on twitter @betweenplayers

You can also leave comments on our tracks on SoundCloud


SHOW NOTES:

Special Thanks

IllustrationEvan McIntyre

Music & Audio ConsultingJosh Hunt

Background Music – Artist: Hudson Mohawke

NieR Automata Hot Take

NieR Automata Hot Take

 
 
00:00 / 0:06:36
 
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Episode 010

Summary

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.


Tell us about your favorite cursed earth robot adventure RPG and let us know if you are enjoying the show or what we can do to improve it via electronic mail or on twitter @betweenplayers

You can also leave comments on our tracks on SoundCloud

Thank you for listening to the show.


SHOW NOTES:

Special Thanks

WisecrackVideo essay on The Philosophy of NieR: Automata

IllustrationEvan McIntyre

Music & Audio ConsultingJosh Hunt

Background Music – Artist: Belzifer
Track: NieR – Automata OST – Pascal (Instrumental)