Author - Judgeman

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants In Manhattan – A Review (Xbox One)

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Platinum Games and Activision have brought us video game’s latest attempt to bring the world of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to life in digital form with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:  Mutants in Manhattan.  I would like to preface this review by saying that I have been a massive Turtles fan since my first TMNT comic way back in 1986.  The cartoonization of the Turtles left me somewhat disliking that particular version, making me always see the comic version being the true version, and anything other than that not up to par.  The Turtles have starred in five different tv shows and five movies spanning two franchises, all based on the non comic versions of the Turtles.  The last tv show by Nickelodeon, I have to say, has been the best of the lot for me and I was extremely happy when I saw that this game would be based on that show.  That happiness did not last very long into the game.

Story

The story for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:  Mutants in Manhattan is your typical TMNT story line.  Shredder and the Foot clan have joined forces with General Kraang and the rest of the Kraang to unleash their next generic evil plot and the Turtles must rise up to stop them.  The story is pretty much taken right out of one of the Nickelodeon cartoon episodes, so it feels like I’ve seen this story a million times before.  There really isn’t anything special going on here at all.

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The good news is that the developers don’t take anytime at all rehashing the Turtles origin story, since they are assuming that you already know that by now and don’t need it retold again.  There isn’t any character development, no surprise endings or twists, and really nothing more here then a generic Turtles story from a kids cartoon network.  Which is why I wish a developer would one day do a comic version and allow for much more character development, especially in the area of the constant clash of power between Raphael and Leonardo.

Game Play

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:  Mutants in Manhattan sticks with a video game genre that fits the franchise quite well:  the beat ’em up.  You select one of four Turtles, outfit your turtle with a load out (more on that later), then head into the stage where you will bash in the heads of every enemy the game throws at you, until you reach the arbitrary amount of baddies to start a boss battle.  The buttons do exactly what they do in every beat ’em up in the universe:  light attack, heavy attack, dodge, and jump.  By pressing left trigger, you can summon your Ninjitsu Power to defeat the enemies as well.  Each turtle will have their own special power, along with a series of generic ones that can be switched out via the load out screen.  As you level up through the game, you unlock upgrades to your ninjitsu powers.

This is all a very good base for what good have been a very good game, however, it ends up just being bland and boring.  The combat, which is the heart of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:  Mutants in Manhattan feels lack luster.  Your blows never feel like they have any impact, in fact I was never sure I was hitting anything half of the time.  You can spend the entire game just spamming the regular light and heavy attacks and win all the battles, making the ninjitsu moves unnecessary.  Then there are your a.i. partners.  You see, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:  Mutants in Manhattan does not support local co-op, so either you play online or solo.  If you choose to go solo, your team mates are morons.  Sure, they will try to save you if you go down, but I witnessed my a.i. companions trying to diffuse a bomb in the middle of the railroad tracks and were continually run over by the subway train.  The a.i. just would not move them out of the way.  You can switch between turtles as you play, but that just means the a.i. is now in control of the turtle you just left.

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Aesthetic

Platinum Games did the right thing and did Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:  Mutants in Manhattan in a cell shaded style, but the turtles all look a little goofy to me.  I’m not sure exactly what it is, but there is a small detail gone awry here somewhere.  I like the looks for most of the game, but each individual turtle just looks….off.  The colors are nice and match the cartoon well.  The turtles do sport their iconic colors from the cartoon series, though I would love a game that has them in their standard comic red eye masks.  Again, wishing for more of the comic turtles then the cartoon ones.

Voice acting is solid and the turtles sound pretty darn close to the actual television show, though they did not get the actual actors for the game.  For instance, Nolan North is Leonardo instead of Seth Green.  North does an outstanding Leonardo, but fans of the television show will be able to tell the difference if they listen closely.

Level environments are boring and typical for a Turtles game.  You fight in the subway, the streets, sewers, etc.  I found it fascinating, of course, that the streets level was completely devoid of any human life.  While I have never been to New York, it is hard for me to be able to imagine a time at any point of the day where a neighborhood is completely devoid of any life at all; no traffic, no people, nothing.

Final Thoughts

As much as I wanted to, I just cannot like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:  Mutants in Manhattan.  The look and the base game play are solid, and you can see a very good game lies beneath all of the garbage that got piled on top.  The combat, the root of the entire game, is boring and has no punch at all.  The ninjitsu powers are pretty useless when you can beat all the enemies just by spamming your basic attacks.  The dodge/counter mechanics feel clunky at best.  The levels are lackluster and completely devoid of life and soul.  Finally, the story is nothing special, at all.  You have seen this story a million times in a million Turtles episodes over the years.  I just cannot recommend this game, even to a hardcore fan of the television show.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants In Manhattan Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com

Hard Reset Redux – A Review (Xbox One)

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Ah the classic first person shooter of my youth, how I remember you fondly.  Your ability to carry 50 guns for no explainable reason, non-regenerating health which forced me to explore the level to find the hidden health packs, and  the complete lack of any cover to hide behind to slow down the action, made you so much more difficult at heart then the shooters of today.  Even your lack of story really made the action felt fast paced and frenetic, compared to the Call of Duty or Battlefield of today.  But every once in a while, a developer remembers those tough, old first person shooters of their youth and sets out to remake then using today’s technology.  That’s how we get games like Hard Reset by Flying Wild Hog.  Hard Reset was released in 2011 on the PC and immediately received praise for being similar to games like Serious Sam or Painkiller, enough so that Flying Wild Hog decided to remake it to today’s graphical standards with Hard Reset Redux.

Story

Hard Reset Redux is the old style shooter from beginning to end, and that includes the game’s lack of commitment to fleshing out a solid narrative.  Cut scenes are fully voiced and presented in a graphic novel style, but really don’t give us any more glimpses into the overall story.  The story goes roughly like this, you play as a armed protector named Fletcher in the last city of Bezoar.  Bezoar is now constantly under attack from rogue robots that have gained autonomy through their advanced a.i.  The robots are trying to wipe out the last trace of humanity, and it is your job to prevent this by simply killing every mechanical being you see.

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Compared to other shooters today, Hard Reset Redux  has a very lack luster story that is told horribly.  There isn’t a clear narrative here at all.  Now, whether that is due to the developers not having a writer to put the story in a clearer format, the story was lost in translation, or simply wanted to be closer to the old school shooters of my youth isn’t clear.  The end result is that the story does not matter in Hard Reset Redux at all and will not add nor take away from your enjoyment.  In the long run, that makes Hard Reset Redux feel much closer to games like Quake or Serious Sam then Call of Duty.

Game Play

Hard Reset Redux goes back to the beginnings of the first person shooter genre for much of it’s game play mechanics.  To begin with, regenerating health is gone.  You much be able to find health packs in order to continue on in the game.  That means you will have to explore each level and find those secret areas in order to survive, and the enemy a.i. will make that a difficult task.  Hard Reset Redux focuses on fast paced action that is going to test your skills as a gamer.  This game is hard, but it isn’t unfair.  While the action will feel hectic, you will always feel like there is a glimmer of hope and that it is possible to get through a certain section alive.  I never played the first version of Hard Reset but from what I understand, Redux did re balance some of the game’s difficulty based on the negative comments of it being too hard.  Expect a challenge, but don’t expect it to feel impossible.

Hard Reset Redux does go against one of the old shooter conventions in terms of weaponry.  Characters used to act like pack mules and was able to carry 10 massive weapons at one time, but Hard Reset Redux will only give you two weapons; an energy weapon called the NRN and a projectile weapon called the CLN.  While Hard Reset Redux does limit the amount of weaponry you are given in the game, it allows you to modify these weapons in a great many different ways.  This includes boosting health, damage, ammo capacity or adding alternative fire modes to the weapons, like a shotgun or grenade launcher.

You pay for these upgraded at stations located around the city, using something called NANO as currency.  NANO is gathered from kills, or can be found just laying around the levels as you explore.  The secret areas will also contain huge stashes of NANO to help you purchase the modifications you are looking for.  NANO is plentiful enough to buy what you need to in order to progress in the game, and some of these upgrades feel absolutely necessary in later levels.  You also have a melee attack, that is a katana, but you will almost never use it.  It caused more hard to me then good.

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Aesthetics

Hard Reset Redux looks like it was cut from the same cloth as Blade Runner in terms of visuals.  The levels look dark and gritty, but with enough bright neon to light your way.  The robots looks suitable threatening, and you will have no problem in seeing what is an enemy that means to turn you into a soft pile of goo, and what is a vending machine.  The graphics have been upgraded from the original game, and look quite pretty on the Xbox One.  In fact, it compares nicely to many of the AAA game releases that have hit the console in the last six months, without the hefty price tag.

Voice acting is par for the course in a game like this, not great but not the worst I’ve heard either.  Since the story is almost non-existent, the voice acting wasn’t a big deal for me at all.  Sound design was quite good.  The sound effects and music adds to the gaming experience and makes the game feel even more hectic then it may actually be at that time.  The guns have a satisfying sound when fired, the robots sound convincingly menacing, and the city sounds like it should.

Final Thoughts

Hard Reset Redux is the classic first person shooter in a beautifully updated shell.  The action is fast paced, the a.i. is a serious threat, and the level design is an almost perfect marriage of exploration and keeping the action going.  Hard Reset Redux does everything right, and for the fraction of the cost of a AAA game.  Flying Wild Hog addressed the negatives of the original version of the game by re balancing the difficulty and by adding in extra content to keep the game from being to short.  All of this for $19.99.  What Flying Wild Hog have done is put out a serious contender for part of the market that the new Doom was aiming for.  For a third of the cost of Doom, you will get the same old school shooter action, the same great fight sequences, and the same gorgeous visuals.  Plus, you can order a pizza, some beverages, and still have some left over.  Hard Reset Redux is available now for the Xbox One.

Hard Reset Redux Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
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Bloody ML160 Commander Laser Gaming Mouse – A Review

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For about the last week, I have change out my normal mouse for the new Bloody ML160 Commander Laser Gaming Mouse from Bloody.  These types of reviews always take a little longer than a game review, since really for the first day or two you are just getting used to the configuration and the feel of the new mouse.  So, putting my Roccat Lua into the drawer of my desk, I connected the ML160 to my desktop and took it for a spin through a week of normal computer use, that featured some MMORPGs, FPS, and normal PC use such as web browsing and writing.

Features

The ML160 has a nice set of features.  The obvious feature right out of the box is the replacement of the right mouse button for a 9-key number pad for mmo games.  Out of all the features, this was the one that I had to work my brain around since I have never used a mouse like this before.  The 5 key acts as your right mouse for everyday use, but when played in an mmo game, the number pad really shines.  The key response for all the mouse buttons, not just the number pad, is measured at less then .2 ms.  Truth be told, I could really feel that response speed when clicking the buttons.  Games felt much more responsive when using the ML160 versus my old Roccat.

Other features of the Bloody ML160 include 17 buttons overall that perform different actions (two on the side, left mouse, middle mouse wheel, 9 key pad buttons,  and 4 profile buttons), metal pro mouse boots for smoother gliding on the desktop, an infrared mouse wheel, adjustable resolution, and 4 weapon profiles.  After my adjustment time with the ML160, I have to say it is the most responsive mouse I have ever used.  I never felt any type of delay between the button press on the mouse and the action in game.

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Aesthetic

The ML160 has a nice aesthetic to it.  The mouse is large enough to fit in my hands and I never feel like I struggle with the over all design of the mouse. The only design issue I had is with the lack of a right mouse button for every day computer use.  Even as I type this and need to make corrections, my brain has to register where my finger is on the number pad.  What would have been idealistic would have been a slightly more raised 5 key, or some sort of nodule on the 5 key for finger placement.

The ML160’s buttons are backlit in red, which really makes the Bloody hand print logo show up nicely on the mouse.  The mouse wheel is also red when using the first weapon profile, then will switch to green, yellow or blue depending on the next profile you use.  Through the software, you can adjust these colors if you like. The cord for the mouse is a nice braided cord that is a great length when connecting the mouse to the back of your computer.  I never feel like I have less cord then I need.

Performance and Specifications

The ML160 performed fantastically during my week of using it for all of my gaming and computing needs.  Overlooking the right mouse button I mentioned earlier, the 9 key pad set up was great for running my mmo games.  I was able to use abilities without key strokes, and the abilities would fire off almost immediately.  Bringing my middle finger back to the 5 key as the home position was still problematic in high stress situations, but one I can live with.

The weapon profiles were fun to play with.  Each profile is designed to be used with a particular style of gun, so if you have a 3-burst weapon you would want to set your mouse to profile 3.  This feature will help keep your shots accurate and on target.  The ML160 also had 6 sniper modes that also helps increase your accuracy by adjusting your mouse movements and sensitivity to your weapon.  I have no idea if the ML160 made me a better gamer in my fps games, but it felt better to play these games.  I felt that I had the drop on people when we would meet due to the responsiveness of the ML160.

Sensor AVAGO A9800 Laser
Buttons 17
Connector USB 2.0 / 3.0
Cable length 1.8 meters
Size 126 x 81 x 40 mm
Weight 153 grams
System requirements Windows (all versions)

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Final Thoughts

The Bloody ML160 is a great gaming mouse, not only for mmorpgs but also for fps games.  Excluding the minor issue of finding the home key on the number pad quickly when needed, the ML160 feels superior when it comes to responsiveness and accuracy for my game playing.  I found the ML160 light in my hands while I played and easy to move around the desk.  The mouse felt great and comfortable while I played, and even with just every day computer use.  If you solely play fps style games, then the ML160 may not be the perfect fit, but if you have any mmorpgs in your game rotation, then I highly recommend the Bloody ML160 as a great gaming mouse.  The Bloody ML160 is available now for $79.99.

Bloody ML160 Commander Gaming Mouse Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com

Corpse Party – A Review (PC)

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Independent games have always been hit or miss with me.  For everyone that I find just beautiful and fun to play, there are twenty that I could not ever see myself playing another minute and that is only thinking about what is released in the United States.  Japan’s independent game scene is a little bit different then ours, many dojin software creators make the games more for fun then profit.  The industry isn’t driven by profit or exposure, but more about making a fun game that the developer wanted to play.  Dojin software games, therefore, have a tendency to be more polished and more fun to play, since they are not rushed out to make a profit.  Developer Team GrisGris and publisher Marvelous USA have released one such product in Corpse Party, a Japanese role playing game that was originally released in 1996.  Corpse Party went on to be a big success for Team GrisGris, spawning six games in the series, multiple manga series, anime, and a live action film.  This version of Corpse Party is, follow me on this, is a re-release of the re-make of the original game.

Story

The story for Corpse Party begins in a high school in Japan, where Mayu Suzumoto is preparing to transfer to a new high school, away from a sizable group of friends.  On the eve of her last day, the group of friends are helping clean up after class, when Ayumi suggests performing a ritual called “Sachiko Ever After” to bind all of the friends together to keep them from growing apart.  Any fan of the horror genre already will know that this ritual does not go as planned, and the group of students finds themselves transported to the decrepit remains of the Heavenly Host Elementary school, a school that once stood where the high school is today.  Heavenly Host Elementary played host to a series of ghastly murders years earlier, before being demolished.  The only way for the students to survive is to uncover the details surrounding these murders and to help free the ghosts that still wander the halls of Heavenly Host Elementary, before the students themselves met an ugly end.

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The story for Corpse Party is, by far, the best thing about this game.  The story is gripping, intriguing, and makes you want to uncover what had happened years before to these poor students.  Corpse Party drips with atmosphere, which helps keep the story and the player on the edge of their seat.  The story is also broken up into five chapters, each with multiple endings and detailing different sections of the overall story.  Corpse Party also adds in four bonus chapters, including a retelling of “Tooth” from Corpse Party:  Book of Shadows.  I felt that the game did a great job in pacing the tension and balancing the overall feeling of the story, but that dialogue….

Japanese games have had a lot of issues in the past with translation over into English.  No one will forget just how popular “All your base are belong to us” became from Zero Wing.  Well, I think Corpse Party gives that one a run with “I’m gonna butter up my pooper with it real good!”.  No, seriously, that is a line from Chapter 1.  While lines like this do remove me from the tension that the game was building so expertly, I have to forgive it because I understand the tricks and traps of translating between the two languages.  However, yeah, I have to knock a few points off just for that line.

Game Play

Corpse Party plays like a very traditional Japanese role playing game, for the most part.  You begin the game with two students that travel around the elementary school in a line.  As you explore the Heavenly Host Elementary School, you will discover dead ends, hard to reach paths, and corpses, lots of corpses.  Your quest is to collect the information that is littered around the school to discover who these corpses were and what exactly had happened here decades before.

What isn’t so traditional about Corpse Party is that there is no combat, no stats, and no inventory per se.  Sure, you collect names tags and pieces of lumber to help you explore, but no inventory in the sense we are used to for a jrpg.  Since there isn’t any combat, death will usually come as a surprise to you, and usually because you did something out of order, or turned down the wrong hall, or explored a dead end that you were not supposed to explore.  This will lead to a lot of reloading of a previous save.  As a friend of mine put it, “the story is fantastic, but the game is a total dick”.

Your actions and choices will help determine what story ending you get.  There are multiple ways and paths to explore the Heavenly Host Elementary School, so you never feel railroaded into a particular path, but unless you are a veteran at this type of game, it can feel a wee bit overwhelming.  Corpse Party will not hold your hand through the story, nor does it really particularly like you.  If you can live with this uncertainty and dislike, you are in for a treat.

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Aesthetics

Corpse Party is rendered in a retro 2D graphic style that helps recreate the original game from 1996.  From an aesthetic point of view, this is a fantastic design decision, however, I did have a hard time in telling what items were.  It took my almost a half an hour just to discover a plank of wood that I could use to get over a whole in the floor to get out of the first classroom.  Many items you will never guess what they are until you interact with them and get a description from the game.  I am always for retro gaming aesthetics, but with the technology we have today, designers should at least make the items look like they are supposed to.  Still, I felt that the overall visual aesthetic worked real well for Corpse Party.

The original Japanese voice cast is used for Corpse Party.  With over 5,000 lines of spoken dialogue in the original Japanese, Corpse Party delivers the original gaming experience that was released in 1996.  Since the acting is in Japanese, it is impossible for me to tell how well the dialogue is performed.  I mean, it sounds good and all, but I can’t tell if they are over-acting, under-acting, or just giving us a shopping list.

Final Thoughts

Corpse Party is a great retro-style Japanese role playing game story that is almost completely ruined by the game play.  I love the story, the atmosphere, and the tension that Corpse Party delivers to the player, but the game play is one that almost borders on frustrating due to the absolute lack of any direction.  In some cases, I love this freedom, but for some reason it was a negative for me in Corpse Party.  By no means negative enough for me not to recommend Corpse Party, but one that I feel I need to mention.  Corpse Party is a great game, and a great example of what the Japanese independent game industry is capable of.  If you are a fan of creepy Japanese rpgs, then Corpse Party is an absolute must for you.  For everyone else, this is a solid game to pick up and play for about ten hours.  Corpse Party is available now on Steam.

Corpse Party Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com

Dark Souls 3 – A Review (Xbox One)

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There are some video games out there that just finishing the game is a huge accomplishment.  These games go down in history of being the hardest games to complete, and to finish one was a badge of honor.  Being of the older generation of gamers (not saying how old mind you), my earliest accomplishments of beating NES classics such as Mega Man, Contra, Battletoads, and Ninja Gaiden still fill me with pride.  However, we lost some of this pride as games progressed.  Developers started putting in multiple lives, save points, or just made the games easier to beat in order to reach a wider audience.  That was, until From Software and Namco Bandai released their version of pain and suffering in the form of Demon Souls.  Demon Souls, and the Dark Souls games that followed, turned up the heat on gamers everywhere.  I have friends that either love or are absolutely afraid of these games, there isn’t an in-between.  When I beat Dark Souls, I felt the same pride at that accomplishment that I felt as a kid beating those super hard NES games, and that just made me want more.

So, here we are with the release of Dark Souls 3, what very well could be the last in the line from From Software.  While I feel that the game is still harder then most of the games on the market today, I also feel that this game is the easiest on the new player to the series, the most accessible to the average gamer.  Now, I know that “accessible” is a bad word to many gamers, just look at the Starfox controversy lately if you want to see that in action, however there is still plenty of challenge in Dark Souls 3 for the veteran player to work through.  Is Dark Souls 3 the ending that the series so richly deserves, or does it fall flat by trying to reach out to a wider audience?  Let’s take a deeper look.

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Story

Unfortunately, the overall Dark Souls plot is still a little muddled for me.  I catch glimpses of clarity when I understand where the games fit in sequence and the overall story that wraps the games together, but that usually gets tied up at the end of each game, not while I am playing it.  I will stay away from spoilers here, and just give you the overall story of the game.  If you are a veteran of the Dark Souls franchise, you will know that the story goes much deeper then what I have here, but part of the fun of playing the game is discovery.

Dark Souls 3 story begins during an Age of Ash, where the First Flame is just about to go out.  No one has tried to link the First Flame, to rekindle the fire and prevent the coming darkness.  As the world succumbs to the darkness, a bell rings out from Firelink Shrine.  This bell awakens the Lords of Cinder and you, the player, as the last hope to link the First Flame and push back the darkness.  You begin the game as one of the Unkindled, an undead that is unfit to even become a Hollow.  This difference in terminology has different game play effects, which I will talk about later, but in terms of story it means you are the lowest of the low.  You are not even fit to become a cinder in this world, but you are the last hope to rekindle the First Flame.  You set out, seeking the four Lords of Cinder, then must decide on whether to fulfill your purpose and link the flame, or let the world finally plunge into darkness.

The tone of Dark Souls 3’s story is similar to the other games of the series.  There is always the present feeling of desperation as the world decays around you.  But with Dark Souls 3, you get a different feeling to your character, based on how the game deals with your death.  Since you do not Hollow like in previous games, there isn’t such a feeling of desperation when you die.  You never quite feel like you are climbing up a steeper hill with each death, like you do in Dark Souls 2.  This does affect the overall tone of Dark Souls 3, especially in comparison to the previous two games in the series.  This isn’t a bad thing, not at all, but it does change how you play the game.  I’ll expand more on this in the next section.

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Game Play

In Dark Souls 2, your death meant you were cut off from your humanity.  Every time you died you lost a little bit more of your maximum health, until your humanity was restored.  With being Unkindled in Dark Souls 3, this mechanic was removed.  While Embered, you will have your maximum health raised quite a bit, then will lose that when you die.  You can restore this health by using an Ember, which replaced Humanity in Dark Souls 3.  For me, this changed how I played the game versus how I played it in Dark Souls 2.  I was much more willing to run into an unknown place to grab items, or tackle a new boss without reading a guide online, because I no longer truly feared death.  Sure, you could still loose your souls, but all you loose really is the bonus health, and some of the bosses just didn’t require that much to begin with to beat.

The other biggest change in the franchise is the addition of Focus Points.  You now have a blue bar that sits underneath you health bar, that will affect your fighting arts and magic use.  Magic is no longer limited by a certain number, now you are limited by the amount of Focus you have, and that can be restored by using your Ashen Estus Flask.  You can even talk to the blacksmith in Firelink Shrine to alter how much of which Estus you carry.  If you are not using much Focus, you can carry more Health Estus, and vice versa.  Focus Points are not limited to magic, but also affect how much you can use a fighting art.  Fighting arts are determined by the type of weapon you are using, some will allow you to shout for an area of effect attack, others will let you flip through the are or sharpen your blade to give yourself life drain.  Weapons are no longer chosen by their stats, but also the move sets you get with your fighting art.

The rest of the game play is very much old Dark Souls.  You will still progress through the world, searching for souls, bonfires, and bosses.  There are plenty of NPCs to interact with, many being recurring characters from older Dark Souls games.  The controls and mechanics, aside from the Focus Point system, feels like the older Dark Souls games.  The enemies range from tough, to maddening and that can happen in just a few steps from each other.  The boss fights feel all over the place though in terms of difficulty.  For instance, I was able to one shot High Lord Wolnir but was crushed on a consistent basis by the demon that was guarding the path to the Smoldering Lake.

Online play and interaction still works the same as previous games, as well.  While Embered, you run the risk of being invaded by another player.  You can also summon players to your world to help you conquer an area’s boss, or summon an NPC to also help you and to further that character’s story line.  Factions return again in Dark Souls 3, and many work well with the online play.  You have factions that focus on killing other players, while others focus on protecting the helpless players in the world from those that will hunt them down.

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Aesthetic

Dark Souls 3 is beautiful, from an aesthetic point of view.  The world is old, and looks to be entering it’s last days.  The environments also look to have a thin film of ash on everything, which works well in terms of the story.  The design of the world is well done, and it an absolute joy to explore, if you didn’t have hundreds of enemies looking to have your guts for garters.  Boss fights are visually stunning as well, and I found myself on more then one occasion focusing on some aspect of aesthetic instead of what was killing me.  Dark Souls 3 is easily the best looking game in the series.

The biggest issue with Dark Souls 3 in terms of aesthetic, comes in performance.  On the Xbox One, Dark Souls 3 will experience nasty frame rate drops, especially during some of the boss battles.  This is incredibly frustrating, especially when dodging and speed are so vital to your ability to survive encounters.  I have seen Dark Souls 3 played on PC, and this frame rate does not occur there.  I have no idea how the PlayStation 4 fares, but the Xbox One does suffer from this frame rate drop, so be warned.

Final Thoughts

Dark Souls 3 is, thus far, my 2016 game of the year.  It isn’t just a great game for fans of the series, but also the best game to play if you have never experienced a Dark Souls game before.  Dark Souls 3 is the most accessible game of the franchise, and that isn’t a bad thing.  The challenge is still there for the veteran player, but newer players will find it easier to get used to the game, but it is in no sense of the word, easy!  This game will still kick you in the shin, steal your pudding, and strut away laughing at your pain and sorrow if you underestimate it.  If this is truly From Software’s last Dark Souls game, then the series ends on a very high note.

Product Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com

 

Turtle Beach Ear Force Stealth 420X Headset – A Review (Xbox One)

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Turtle Beach, one of the premier video game headset manufacturers, has just released a new wireless headset for the Xbox One, the Ear Force Stealth 420X Headset (shortened to the 420X for the rest of this review).  The 420X might just be one of the best headsets I have ever owned, and most definitely the best one I’ve had for a console.  The headset fits quite nicely, never pinching nor feeling to small for my head, and is incredibly comfortable to wear for hours of gaming.

Features

The 420X is completely wireless while in use, the only cord that comes in the package is used to connect the headset to the Xbox One for charging.  Using a USB wireless connector, the 420X stays connected for up to 30ft, which is perfect for me to grab a soda from the garage and still be able to talk between online games.  All the controls for the 420X are on the headset, including game and voice volume, bass boost, mute, and a button for presets.  The power button is on the right ear cup, dead center so you can easily feel for it and turn it on or off while the headset is being worn.  The 420X also features a removable omni-directional boom mic, so you can use your headset for music or mobile gaming.

I love the fit of the 420X on my head.  Comfort for me is pretty high on my must have list for gaming headsets, if the headset hurts after a few hours of gaming, then it just isn’t a good quality headset.  The 420x has synthetic leather ear cups that fit over the ear, keeping outside noise to a minimum while keeping your ears from sweating.  I also love how the ear cups swivel to match the shape of your head.

Aesthetic

The 420X is a very clean looking headset, which is pretty typical of Turtle Beach.  Most of the headset is set in a matte black color, with some green highlights around the ear cups.  The Turtle Beach logos are also green, and glow green when the headset is on.  This is just your clean looking, basic design for a gaming headset, which I love.

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Performance

I was able to use the 420X extensively over my testing period, focusing on a few different types of games.  Games like Dark Souls 2, The Division, Black Ops 3, Far Cry Primal, and Borderlands 2 sounded fantastic through the headset.  During multiplayer, I was able to hear footstep directions to give me a better indication of where my opponents were.  With single player games like Dark Souls 2, the music and sound effects really came through nicely and added to my immersion into the game.  Voice communication was clear with no issues at all, though finding the mute button was somewhat difficult at times.  I guess my only complaint with the 420X really is that it was hard to find the controls while the headset was on.  Feeling for the mute button was difficult, and I had a hard time remembering which volume control wheel controlled which volume.

Specifications

  • Digital Signal Processor: Digital Signal Processor for independently controlled chat, game and mic signals
  • Audio mute: Audio mutes automatically when carrier signal is lost
  • Battery: Rechargeable Lithium Polymer
  • Shut down: Automatic shut down after approx 10 minutes of carrier loss or silence to conserve battery power
  • Weight: 8.6oz
  • Speaker Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20kHz
  • Battery life: >15 Hours
  • Speakers: 50mm with Neodymium Magnets
  • Digital Wireless RF wireless carrier reception.: 2.4GHz
  • Speaker Impedance: 32 ohms
  • Microphone Design: Removable Omni-Directional Microphone
  • Earcup Design: Around-Ear (Closed)
  • Headband/Earpad Material: Perforated Synthetic Leather (Black) with Foam Cushioning

Final Thoughts

The Ear Force Stealth 420X Headset by Turtle Beach is the best headset I have ever used for the Xbox One or Xbox 360.  The wireless connectivity is a must with my current living room set up, the voice communication was clear, and the headset was incredibly comfortable to wear over long periods of time.  I do wish the controls on the ear cups were a little easier to use or the buttons and wheels separated over both ears, but that is a fairly minor issue unless you are adjusting these items constantly during game play.  The price is set to be around $150 MSRP, which could be considered a little steep, but worth it if you are looking for a quality wireless headset.

Turtle Beach Ear Force Stealth 420X Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com

Sheltered – A Review (Xbox One)

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Ah, how it’s good to be back in the saddle again.  With my life becoming a little more stable, I get to celebrate with a game review.  So, here is my review of Sheltered for the Xbox One by Unicube and Team 17 Software.  Sheltered began life as a Kickstarter game, gathering over 3,300 backers and making just over $42,000.  Originally only slated for a PC release, Sheltered hit the stretch goals, allowing the game to be ported over to the PS4 and the Xbox One.  Let’s delve deeper into this game to see if it’s worth your time, or just another bad Kickstarter game.

Story

Your family of four has survived the nightmare of a nuclear holocaust, and now must face the future together in a underground bomb shelter.  Each day, you will have to make many decisions that could either lead your family to live another day, or perish within an instant.  As stories go, Sheltered does lean to the “bare bones” side of writing styles.  You begin the game with four individuals and a family pet, living inside the bomb shelter.  You are then told to survive as long as you can, and that’s it.  The story is made to be inherent, as the game progresses you are telling your own story by how you react to adversity or how you set up your shelter.  There will be events that occur, but nothing that truly defines a story line as such.

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Now, this way of story telling isn’t all bad, don’t get me wrong.  Some of the best games just don’t have any stories built into them and it is up to you to define what your story is.  Sheltered takes the same path as The Sims, you are in charge of the family, and what you do defines your story.  While I personally love to have a driving narrative with much more of a goal then to just survive, this method works in Sheltered.  I wouldn’t know how to incorporate a driving narrative in this style of game, so I believe this was the right choice by Unicube.

Game Play

Unicube allows you to design the four people and pet you begin the game with.  You can create any combination of four people to make up your family.  This includes sex, clothing styles, hair, facial features, and skin color.  This level of customization really allows you to invest into your starting family.

From there, you have to keep them alive.  There is a brief tutorial that shows you how things work, but other than that the game play is very much trial and error.  As your characters live their lives, they will require certain things.  Food, water, sleep, and air are just some of the things you will need to be concerned with.  Sanity and fun are also important to handle as well.  You will also have to maintain the items in your shelter, and create new ones to better help your family live better lives.  Your children are not just idle passengers in this game either, send them topside to fix the water filtration unit, get them to work making sleeping bags, or have them maintain the generator.  Child labor is alive and well in Sheltered!

As the game progresses, if you are maintaining your family’s health, they will get better at what they do.  Members can become faster, stronger, and heartier if they live a good, clean life.  This will help out as you send your members topside to explore and gather resources.  You can’t send them out without weapons, though.  Sheltered offers up a strong crafting system that allows you to create various weapons to keep your members alive, as well as create items that will make their lives nicer.  Eventually, you may be able to create a vehicle to really explore the world above.

Through game play, your family will eventually meet other survivors.  These survivors may be friendly to your family, or might just see you as easy targets.  Combat is turn based in Sheltered, which works out quite well.  You can also recruit some of the friendlier folk you meet, and have them join your bunker.  This will help maintain your bunker, but may also put some strain on your resources.  Another mouth to feed will do that.  Well, you could just wait until someone dies and cook that person.  Sure it will cost you a little sanity, but it’s better with a full belly.

I liked the game play mechanics and feel that Sheltered does a great job in handling these items all at once.  My issues with Sheltered steam from the aesthetics that affect game play (more on that later) and the utter lack of any clue as to what I am doing at first.  This style of game play does make it feel like you really are trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, but it may frustrate some gamers out there.

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Aesthetics

This is where the game takes a big hit form me, the aesthetics department.  Unicube went the route of using bit style graphics, so everything looks blocky and it is more then hard to tell certain items from each other.  I could not find my dog’s dish for the life of me during my first run through.  Sure, Sheltered was developed on a budget and, sure, graphics don’t make the game but I do wish things were much clearer then they are.  I have never been a proponent of making everything look realistic and shiny, but I do wish developers would stop going back to really blocky bit graphics just to save some money.  Other than that, the aesthetics works fine, and it really comes down to your own personal feeling about developers using retro graphics these days.

Final Thoughts

Sheltered is a solid, post-apocalyptic survival game for the Xbox One that does a great job in making you feel like you are trapped in a shelter and that your life could end at any moment.  This game will really speak to the micro manager in you, and especially if you ever enjoyed any of The Sims games.  The crafting system is solid and deep, the game is full of atmosphere and the amount of customization will allow you to create the family of your dreams.  I did have trouble with the aesthetics of the game, mainly in just telling items apart from each other.  Sheltered will also not hold your hand at all, you are expected to handle stuff on your own, right away.  If you are looking for a post-apocalyptic human management game, I really think Sheltered is the best of the bunch for the Xbox One and would recommend giving it a shot.  Sheltered is available now for the Xbox One.

Sheltered Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com

Punch Club – A Review (PC)

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Unlike that other fighting club, we are not breaking any rules by reviewing and discussing Lazy Bear Games’ newest creation, Punch Club.  Punch Club is a life management role playing game, where you take control of every aspect of your fighter’s life, from what he eats to how much he trains.  The only time you don’t control your fighter’s every action is when he actually has to fight.  The fights are completely run by the game’s artificial intelligence, based on the tactics pre-selected by the player and the stats that your fighter possesses.  Is Punch Club any good?  Let’s take a closer look.

Story

Punch Club’s story line begins as many stories do, with the brutal murder of your father before your eyes.  In order to discover your father’s killer, you must rise in the ranks of fighters, choosing different paths that are open to you along the way.  Along the way, you will have to juggle all of life’s varied obstacles, including friendships, love life, training, work, and recreation.  Finding that fine balance in Punch Club is what the game is all about.

Punch Club is full of 80’s and 90’s nostalgia bits, and the story line fits that feel perfectly.  Punch Club feels like a martial arts movie from the late 80’s:  murdered father, training montages, working your way up through the ranks of generic bad guys, finding love along the way and finally ending with a boss fight to gain vengeance.  Lazy Bear Games went for a nostalgia piece, and it works just fine.  While it’s not perfect in any sense of the word, with some of the humor just feeling forced or off a bit, Punch Club’s story line is great and fits the feeling that the developers were aiming for.

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Game Play

I called Punch Club a “life management role playing game” in the intro, and that description fits the game perfectly.  In Punch Club, you have to manage your fighter’s daily life and choose what to focus on during the time you have each day.  In the beginning, that’s fairly simple.  If you hungry, eat.  If you don’t have any money, go to work.  However, just like life, the game gets more complicated when you have more obligations to manage.  Do you spend time with your friends or your love?  You need money to go out, but you haven’t eaten in a while.  To make these choices even more crucial, your states will deplete if you are not training enough, so you constantly have to maintain what you have worked on.

When you train, you will get to focus on one of three stats:  strength, stamina, or agility.  Some exercises will increase small amounts of two stats, but it isn’t very efficient when you factor in your time management.  You pretty much need to focus on one stat as a primary then one as a secondary, leaving the third stat almost untouched.  So you have to decide what type of fighter will you be?  Punches rely on strength, defense rely on agility, and stamina keeps you up and moving longer.

You have total control of your fighter, that is until it is fight time.  You get to select a few fight tactics that your fighter can use before the match begins, but once those are in place and you start the fight, then the a.i. takes over completely.  Whether you win or lose will be dependent on your tactics and your stats that you have trained in.  As you fail, and you will, then you have to decide what other stat or tactic would work better in that situation.

For the first few hours, I really enjoyed Punch Club’s game play.  I thought the life management game play was fun, and it was satisfying to see my hard work pay off.  The problem with Punch Club comes a little later, when you find yourself grinding for hours on end just to win one fight.  This makes the game absolutely no fun to play anymore and can lead to feelings of frustration and bitterness as you loose time and time again.  The shine and enjoyment that I felt in the beginning of Punch Club did not last throughout my time with the game.

Aesthetics

Because the developers were going for a retro style 80’s nostalgia piece, the game looks like it came out of that era as well, though much more defined graphically.  Punch Club has pixelated graphics that reinforce the feeling of nostalgia, without actually looking like an 80’s game.  I felt that the aesthetics of Punch Club fit the vibe of the game perfectly and did everything right, even down to the small little nods to popular culture you will find throughout the game.

Final Thoughts

Punch Club is a great game for the first few hours, then it turns into a complete grind fest that will try even the most die hard gamer.  In the beginning, your fighter’s life is easy to manage, and the fights are easy to train for.  As the game progresses, your life becomes a chaotic mess and the fights are brutal slug-fests that you are not prepared for.  My life is complicated as it is, I don’t really need to play a game that replicates that complexity.  I would still recommend the game for anyone who is looking for a game like Punch Club, because what is there is really well done.  Just be prepared to grind through the middle of the game.  Punch Club is available now through Steam for your PC.

 

Punch Club Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com

Mad Catz C.T.R.L. R Mobile Gamepad – A Review

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The C.T.R.L. R Mobile Game Pad by Mad Catz is a fitting way to complete my trilogy of mobile gaming reviews. Unlike my other two mobile gaming reviews, the C.T.R.L. R took a little more convincing for me to see the positives that it brings to mobile gaming. The C.T.R.L. R is not a bad product by any stretch, but just does not feel necessary, or even helpful at times when it comes to mobile gaming.

Design

The design of the C.T.R.L. R is much like your standard Xbox 360 controller. The game pad has a pair of analog sticks, four main face buttons, and a direction pad on the face. There are two shoulder pads and two triggers in the same places as they are on the standard Xbox 360 controller, with a Start, Select, and power buttons in the center of the face. The placement of all of these features are precisely in the same positions and spots as they are on the Xbox 360 controller, so those of you that are used to Microsoft’s controller layout will feel right at home.

The differences that the C.T.R.L. R has over the Xbox 360 controller are significant. First, this is a strictly wireless controller. The small, micro USB port on the front is only used to update the game pad’s firmware, not to connect the game pad to a device. The C.T.R.L. R connects via Blue Tooth to your mobile or pc devices. The biggest difference in design between the C.T.R.L. R and the Xbox 360 controller is the mobile device holder. This holder screws into the controller between the shoulder bumpers, and holds your mobile device in place. The calipers slide open and then closed by using a spring for tension, to hold your device in place securely. The mobile device mount unscrews with ease, to return the C.T.R.L. R back to the standard controller configuration.

The C.T.R.L. R also features a few more buttons that are not found on your standard controller. A row of media remote buttons sit above the power button, which includes Play/Pause, Fast Forward, Rewind, Volume Up, and Volume Down. There is also a three-way switch on the bottom edge of the controller that switches the C.T.R.L. R to work with different devices, such as your mobile device or your PC.

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Performance

The C.T.R.L. R Gamepad can be used in three different ways; as a mobile game pad, as a mouse controller, or as a PC game pad. Most of my testing was done as a mobile game pad with my Samsung Galaxy S4 device, but I did test it on my Windows Laptop as a mouse controller and a game pad.

As a mobile game pad, the C.T.R.L. R worked wonderfully well. The phone fit into the mount well with no fear of slippage or droppage at all. The C.T.R.L. R paired right up with my phone in a matter of seconds and was very responsive in game. I don’t have too many games that the C.T.R.L. R would work with on my phone, but the ones that it would work with played just like I was on my Xbox.

As a PC game pad controller, the C.T.R.L. R didn’t fare as well in my testing. First, since it will only connect via blue tooth and cannot be wired, I could not use the C.T.R.L. R with my desktop. I did not have the capability to connect blue tooth devices, so the C.T.R.L. R would have been useless in that department, except that I have a new laptop that is blue tooth capable. Again, connecting the C.T.R.L. R was a piece of cake, and the mouse mode of the C.T.R.L. R worked great. However, the game pad mode did not work as well as it could, and I experienced connection issues with many games that I tried to use the C.T.R.L. R with. Using the free Mad Catz app, unfortunately, did not fix the issue. I feel that too many developers out there are expecting PC users to just use a 360 controller these days, and have programmed their games to work just fine with that particular one.

Final Thoughts

The C.T.R.L. R Gamepad is a solid controller that works very well with your mobile device. The functionality and performance of the C.T.R.L. R met and exceeded any expectations I had for a mobile game pad. My issue with the C.T.R.L. R isn’t with its design or performance, it’s with the necessity of the game pad. For me, having a controller for my phone just does not make sense. The types of games that I play on my phone are designed to be played in small increments, and without having to lug a full size controller around. Mobile gaming has to be just that, mobile. The C.T.R.L. R game pad is just too large and unwieldy to be mobile. For the C.T.R.L. R to really become necessary in my life, it would have to double as a PC controller, and it could not do that. If the C.T.R.L. R could hook up to my desktop and play my games without issue, then I would love this product. But since it cannot connect to my desktop, nor even work well enough with my laptop games, the C.T.R.L. R just becomes a well-working novelty piece that I cannot see myself using in the future. If you need a mobile gaming device controller, then I can recommend the C.T.R.L. R, but at the price of roughly $40 the game pad is a little expensive for what it can be used for effectively. Otherwise, I would steer clear of the device, especially if you were looking for a universal game pad to use with multiple devices.

Official Store Page

Mad Catz C.T.R.L. R Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com

H1Z1 – A Preview (PC)

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The video game industry has a tendency to get into trends when it comes to video game themes or choosing a default bad guy. The industry has seen massive waves of games that featured aliens, vampires, mutants, and Nazis. Well, we are currently seeing this trend again, but this time it is with zombies. Zombies have become the default bad guy of recent years, with many games being released that features the walking dead. Games like Left 4 Dead, Dead Island, DayZ, 7 Days to Die, and Call of Duty have shown the industry that zombie games sell, and now everyone wants a bite of the action. Today, I look at yet another zombie game by Daybreak Games (formerly Sony Online Entertainment) that is currently on Early Access on Steam called H1Z1.

H1Z1 is set in a post-zombie-apocalyptic world where you play as a survivor, trying to make it through a changed world. The story of H1Z1 is mostly created by the players. There isn’t any dialogue, quests, or city hubs. You are placed with just the clothes on your back, into the middle of a zombie rich environment and set out to survive. It would be very hard to play H1Z1 without making comparisons to DayZ, since they both have very similar styles. You will spend the first part of any game running from everything that might cause you harm, while searching for weapons, ammo, and other supplies so you can survive your first night.

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There are no safe zones in H1Z1, your life is constantly being threatened. It’s not only the zombies that are out to get you either, it’s the other players that are on the server. H1Z1 is an open world PvP game. Everyone you meet could possibly kill you at any moment, or help you if you approach them nicely. But let’s be real here, this is the internet. Just assume EVERY player is out to kill you and you might actually live a day or two in H1Z1. The only people that band together are the ones that set out to play together. I have yet to meet another player that didn’t try to kill me at first sight.

H1Z1 is heavy on items. Weapons, clothing, equipment, crafting materials, and vehicles can be found throughout the open world. There will also be air drops that will appear during game play, but these end up being huge kill zones for PvP action, where “to the winner goes the spoils” is the only rule. The crafting system is pretty deep and you can make a ton of items that will help you increase your ability to stay alive. Anything from tools, weapons, animal traps, even water collectors can be crafted to help make your stay in the zombie apocalypse a comfortable one. H1Z1 also features base building, so if you do happen to find some people that don’t immediately rip your face clean off, you can work together towards building a base that you can barricade yourself inside of. Don’t get your hopes up though, the face ripping community of H1Z1 is much stronger and more numerous than the base building community.

Currently, there is one other game mode that can be played in H1Z1, and that is Battle Royale. Battle Royale is very similar to the game mode that was introduced in Arma 3, where a large group of players are placed into the environment via parachute and commence to kill each other until only one remains. Prizes are given out to the top ten competitors, and this game mode is extremely popular with the streaming community. There is also now a Hardcore Battle Royale mode that includes environment dangers, such as bears and zombies. This game mode removes all pretense of working together that the normal version of H1Z1 tries to have. Throughout the game, gas will be dropped that makes the playable area smaller and smaller, so players must stay within the game zone in order to continue fighting. Staying in the gas for too long means you will die and your game will be cut short. This is a one death type of game, so be prepared to have many games cut short if you can’t get the right drops early on.

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H1Z1 is still in Early Access, so there are still bugs that the developers are dealing with. Frame rate issues, hackers, and glitches can be plentiful at times, but the core game is solid. The real questions comes down to whether H1Z1 is better than DayZ in the end, and that’s going to be a tough one to call at this point. I see positives and negatives to both titles. DayZ has a better aesthetic and visuals to it right now, but I like H1Z1’s crafting system. Zombies, for both games, are an ancillary threat compared to the player community. The player community is out for your head in both games, so that’s a tie. H1Z1 does have the Battle Royale game mode, but if you have Arma 3 then you have already played the hell out of that mode.

H1Z1 will be free to play once released, but is currently $19.99 for the Early Access privilege. H1Z1 will be released on the PC and the PlayStation 4 once it is all done and looks extremely promising. While I am personally over the whole zombie genre in video games, H1Z1 and DayZ have both been my go to games for my zombie fix. It will be great to see how both these products turn out at their full release.