Author - Judgeman

Shadow Heroes: Vengeance in Flames – A Review (PC)

Allied Games have released a new style of real time strategy game that is designed to be fun, regardless of your skill level or game style.  Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames began life on Kickstarter, where the campaign was canceled then moved over to Steam Greenlight.  Designed to be a fast paced, episodic rts game, Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames reduces the need for micromanagement of forces and puts the focus more on combat that is fun and engaging.  Was Allied Games successful in their goals or does Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames fall short?

Story

Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames is set in the fantasy land of Hendrika.  You play as the new lord of the land, after a costly battle against a faction of magic users.  You begin the game being attacked in your fortress by this faction, who are trying to create an uprising against your regime.  The campaign follows a series of tasks, quests, or objectives that pretty much boil down to you trying to prevent the enemy from gaining any ground and taking power back from you.

Ok, so honesty time here.  I played Shadows Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames last about a week or so ago, and the above paragraph was all I could remember of the story.  I couldn’t tell you the character’s name that you play as if you held a gun to my head.  What could have been a great story line that could have dipped into the new oppressive regime that was now banning all magic in the kingdom and hunting anyone that showed any signs of magic ability, forcing the player to make some serious ethically questionable decisions and wonder if he or she is on the right side, pretty much boiled down to “you are in charge now, screw the other guys”.

The story is presented in static shots of characters as they talk to each other before missions, or as voice overs during missions.  There is also an opening cinematic that tries to set the story up, but I couldn’t remember a single detail of it.  The names all sound silly, like some sort of fan fiction gone horribly wrong.  It is better then having no story at all, but not by much.  Shadows Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames pretty much will live or die by it’s game play alone, as the story and the aesthetics just are not enough to save it.

Game Play

Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames is an rts game without much strategy.  The game plays more like a real time tactics game, then your traditional rts style game.  You begin the game with a set amount of leadership points to buy troops.  Troops will then spawn from these beginning zones and attack your enemies, while also generating more leadership points.  With more points, you can buy more troops or upgrade your troops by purchasing items.  Troops are categorized into 3 main groups:  Core, Air, and Assault.  These 3 groups are further broken down into 3 sub groups:  Light, Heavy and Support.  What this really means is you have 12 different troops to choose from, all with their own strengths, weaknesses, and abilities.

Abilities and items come in two flavors as well, being passive or active.  Abilities are attached to the particular troop you have purchased, while items can be purchased at any time.  I was surprised at the amount of items that were available to purchase for my troops, but found it difficult to really understand what each item did.  Part of that is not knowing the system at first, but also due to the action continuing in the background as I was shopping.  You do not have time to peruse your items if your troops are being attacked.

Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames offers quite a few options for game play, which is quite nice.  The campaign will be episodic, and more will be released as time goes on.  The first episode can be finished in about an hour or so, but there are other options to play with while you wait for the next episode to be released.  Assault is the standard rts type game where you set out to destroy the enemy base, Onslaught tests to see how long you can survive your opponent who has superior numbers, and Commander targets the enemies commanders instead of their base.  You can also play these mode in either single or multi player settings.

Allied Games tried to come up with a stream lined version of a real time strategy game.  Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames is just that, but whether it works or not is based on what you want out of a game.  I am a horrible rts player, always have been and pretty much always will be, so Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames should have been right up my ally.  It isn’t and here’s why.  Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames just feels unfinished to me.  It feels like half a game anytime I play it.  Sure, I have less to stress about and I don’t have to worry about resource management and all that, but in the end all of that is part of what makes an rts game an rts.  I’m not saying that Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames isn’t fun, but it doesn’t not feel like a full experience when compared to other games on the market.

Aesthetics

The visuals of Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames is completely influenced by Japanese anime, so everyone has a very anime feeling to them.  It is a decent aesthetic to work with, but in the same vein that some games feel too generically fantasy like, this one feels like a generic anime style game.  There really isn’t anything here that pops up and feel unique in terms of design or art.  Everything pretty much feels like I’ve seen it somewhere before.

Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames is fully voiced, which is a positive, but the actors sound so bored that it really took me out of the experience.  Bad acting is sometimes even better then bored acting, at least you can enjoy just how bad it is.  The actors here, at times, just sound like they are just reading their lines without emotion nor context.  The soundtrack is completely forgettable, which is a shame.

Final Thoughts

Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames is a bargain at the $2.99 price tag it is set at on Steam, it really is.  However, the old adage “you get what you pay for” is absolutely true in this case.  You can a great amount of content for the price, but you will not get the polish nor the excitement of game play that you would from a AAA rts game.  Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames does feel like part of a rts game that is missing an significant chunk of what makes rts games fun to play.  To compare Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames to something like Starcraft II would be unfair, and to be honest, criminal.  Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames has an audience out there, and that audience just isn’t me.  I think if the aesthetic and story had been far more polished, Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames would be a much easier game for me to recommend.  As it stands now, Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames is an interesting diversion, especially for $2.99.  Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames is available now on Steam.


Shadow Heroes: Vengeance in Flames Review Score:

(3 out of 5 Stars)


 

Watch Dogs 2 – A Review (PC)

Watch Dogs by Ubisoft had tons of hype leading up to its release in 2014.  However, what ended up in our hands was something less then perfect.  The main protagonist, Aiden Pierce, was uninteresting, the driving was horrid, and the story takes way to long to kick in.  With all of these negatives, I still finished the game and enjoyed most of my time with what made up Watch Dogs.  When Watch Dogs 2 came my way for this review, I was filled with equal parts excitement and trepidation.  Did Ubisoft learn their lessons from the critiques of Watch Dogs?  Will a change of protagonist and setting help gamers forget the original game?  Or is this just more of the same?  If you want the short answer, it is better and worth your time.  For the long answer, keep reading!

Story

Watch Dogs 2 technically is a sequel to the original, but so much has changed in terms of the plot, setting and character, you do not need to play Watch Dogs before you play Watch Dogs 2.  Watch Dogs 2 shifts the story to the city of San Francisco and the emergence of ctOS 2.0.  Blume has learned the lessons of what made the system faulty in Watch Dogs, and has ramped up the security and the invasiveness in this new version of their city wide operating system.  Along with a shift in city, we also get a new protagonist, Marcus Holloway.  Marcus is, in every way, a better protagonist, then Aiden Pierce ever thought of being.  Marcus is motivated by what he believes in instead of simple revenge, much more likable in character, and doesn’t take himself too seriously when he screws up.

Watch Dogs 2 begins with Marcus’s “interview” with Deadsec, the hacktivist group that was introduced in the first game.  The first mission has Marcus infiltrating a ctOS2.0 server farm to wipe out all traces of his profile in the system.  With Marcus successful in his “interview”, he becomes the catalyst for Deadsec to become much more then just some hackers with a dream, they begin to work towards proving that Blume is invading the privacy of every person living in San Francisco and how Deadsec will be the ones to take them down.  Deadsec in Watch Dogs 2 is represented by a few more characters then the first game was, and these characters will be the ones that you will interact with the most.  The members are Wrench, Horatio, Josh and Sitara, each with their own specialties and character nuisances.  For the most part, the members of Deadsec are interesting, if just a little bit annoying at times.  The members are all young, and are obviously made to resonant with the younger audience out there.  Raymond Kenney, the first person to work against Blume in Watch Dogs, does make a comeback to help out Deadsec in the sequel.  His appearance in Deadsec brings about an older view, which I can identify with, while also making that connection so player who did play the first game feels like this is part of a bigger story.

Overall, the story of Watch Dogs 2 is more engrossing, more interesting, and just more fun then Watch Dogs.  Marcus makes for a far better protagonist then Aiden did, and I cared much more for the development of Marcus’s character then I ever could for Aiden Pierce.  The main story will take you about 13 hours to complete, but with Watch Dogs 2 being more of an open world game, there are plenty of side quests and multi-player quests to keep the story going further.  The side quests keep the story interesting, with quests that range from spreading the Deadsec logo all over the city, to teaching Sitara’s younger sister a lesson on internet safety.  The multi-player quests delve a bit more deeply into the rivalry between Deadsec and another hacker group, Prime Eight, but don’t expect much narration here.

Game Play

Ubisoft also tweaked the game play for Watch Dogs 2 based on the critiques of the original game.  At it’s core, Watch Dogs 2 is an open world game where the player travels all over the city, completing quests.  These missions can be completed in multiple different ways, but stealth and hacking is still the best method to get through with your skin in tact.  I also see this as being in character with Marcus, I never saw Marcus as the type of person who would gleefully gun down a group of security guards, unlike Aiden.  Sticking to the stealth approach, though, has it’s issues as well as it’s rewards.  You are not durable in this game, at all.  Just a few shots and you will go down like the Titanic.  That means, you will have to rely on your tech and stealth to get through some of the hairier missions, and you have plenty of that at your disposal.

In addition to the standard hacks from the original game, Marcus also has a jumper and a drone that can be used to extend his reach, in addition to using the camera system that is all over the city.  You also have access to a tech tree that will grant you more abilities depending on your choice and resources.  Some of my favorites is being able to control cars remotely, flagging individuals for arrest by the police department, or having rival gangs show up to cause trouble.  These all work great as stealth options, as it draws massive amounts of attention away from where  you need to be.

Hacking is still done in the same way as the original Watch Dogs, which uses gates to control the flow of the system until you can unlock all of the areas needed to access the system.  You see these through the use of your “hacker vision”, which highlights important things you can interact with.  Stealing money, information, or energy is done by the click of a button.  Targeting these systems, though, while traveling at high speed is a bit touchy.  You still get some prompts to blow up gas mains while being chased, but hitting the right car with the right hack can be tricky while boosting over the Golden Gate Bridge at 100 mph.

Watch Dogs 2 is great when it is trying to be Watch Dogs 2, it only fails when it tries to be Grand Theft Auto.  Driving has been improved over the original, and shooting while driving has been added to Marcus’s repertoire of skills, but it still pales in comparison to the cleanliness of the mechanics found in GTA.  Overall, Watch Dogs 2 is a vast improvement over the original game, but still ends up feeling not as polished when compared to other open world crime games, like GTA.

Aesthetics

Watch Dogs 2 is a great looking game, as well as a great sounding game.  I was able to play the game at the Ultra settings with everything turned up and found that that everything looked great and only suffered some frame rate drops while in a vehicle, in a denser area.  The city feels as lived in as the last city, which is to say well enough.  I found that the city in Watch Dogs 2 felt more like San Francisco, but that might only be because I am more familiar with the city in the sequel then I am with Chicago from the original.  The aesthetics follow the similiar design to Watch Dogs, even down to the idea that Marcus does wear a bandana as a mask.  Clothes can be purchased to change the looks of the main character, and you will visit different locals during game play.  Overall, good looking game that doesn’t really make a huge impression.

Sound design for Watch Dogs 2 is also well done.  The voice acting was impressive, to me.  I enjoyed the way the characters delivered their lines and interacted with each other.  I especially thought the character, Wrench, was interested and well voiced.  The soundtrack for Watch Dogs 2 uses licensed music, with more songs that can be found in the world through using the song app on your phone.  Artists like the Dead Kennedys, Sublime, Naughty by Nature, N.E.R.D., and Bob Marley all make appearances on different radio stations throughout the game.  Once a song is found, you can create your own playlists on your phone and listen to them while outside of vehicles.  It’s a neat touch that adds an extra layer to the game.

Final Thoughts

Watch Dogs 2 is what the first game should have been.  If Watch Dogs 2 was released instead of the original, the franchise would have been a bigger hit then it is today.  Instead, the reaction to the sequel has been mostly “well, it’s better then the first”.  And that is true, Watch Dogs 2 is better then the first, but then again it absolutely had to be.  If you played through the first game, you will play through this second game, and you will enjoy it much more.  People who didn’t play the first game, should absolutely play the sequel, and don’t worry about getting the original.  You don’t need it to understand what is going on in Watch Dogs 2.  It’s those of you that didn’t finish the first game that need to be convince to try your luck with Watch Dogs 2,  and the best I can tell you is that I truly think you will like this game more.  Watch Dogs 2 is hands down the better game, the more interesting game, and the more polished game.  While still not perfect, it is indeed worth your time.


Watch Dogs 2 Review Score:

(3 out of 5 Stars)


 

Dishonored 2 – A Review (PC)

I am a big fan of Arkane Studio’s 2012 Dishonored, so when the 2016 sequel became available for the PC, I quickly jumped on it.  Dishonored gave me everything I wanted in an assassin style game:  multiple ways to carry out the assignment, multiple paths through the level, and an up-gradable character that changes depending on how you want to play the game.  Dishonored 2 is that much, plus more.  Arkane Studios took the safe route in developing their sequel, and I am fine with that.  Dishonored 2 gives us more of the same, but with some small differences that makes Dishonored 2 better then the original, but not earth shattering.

Story

Set fifteen years after the original story, Dishonored 2 sees the Empire of the Isles being led by an adult Emily Kaldwin.  Emily is still protected by Corvo Attano, who is also training her in the way of the blade and assassination.  However, not all is well within the Empire, as there is an individual who has been dubbed the “Crown Killer” roaming the streets and eliminating Emily’s most outspoken critics.  The population of the Empire have begun to talk and distrust the Empress, fearing that she is using the “Crown Killer” to silence her enemies.

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The game opens with Emily and Corvo preparing to commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of Jessamine Kaldwin’s assassination.  During the ceremony, the Duke of Serkonos, Luca Abele, interrupts the proceedings by offering Emily a gift, the gift of family.  Duke Abele produces Jessamine’s long lost sister, and claims that the sister is the true Empress of the Isle now.  The long lost sister is none other then Delilah Copperspoon, somehow making her way back from the void that Daud had imprisoned her.  This revelation immediately begins the coup in earnest, and you are forced to chose who you will play for the rest of the game; either Corvo or Emily.  The character you do not choose becomes imprisoned and you escape your own fate in order to set out and to take back your throne from Delilah.

Ok, so the story isn’t that much different from the first game, when you really boil it down.  You are forced out of Dunwall, hunted by your former soldiers, and are trying to recover something that was lost to you, this time being the character you didn’t choose in the throne room and leadership of the Empire.  I don’t know where Dunwall finds their soldiers at, but they have the absolute worst idea of what loyalty is.  The story progresses the same no matter who you choose, but the game will change up the small details depending on whether you play as Corvo or Emily.  I do love how Arkane Studios made this choice a thing, that way anyone can play this game as a protagonist that speaks to them.  Each character has different game play mechanics as well, but we will talk about that later.

The story to Dishonored 2 is very well done, but it does make the assumption that you played through both The Knife of Dunwall and The Brigmore Witches dlcs of the original game.  This makes the story of Dishonored 2 feel much more a part of a larger story, but you may need to accept a few things on faith story wise if you didn’t finish either of the dlc.  Like the last game, the choices you make affect the story in terms of low or high chaos.  The more you kill, the more chaotic the world becomes and the darker the ending you will get.  While you get to choose how you want to go through the game, there is definitely a lean on the non-killing approach being the “nicer” way of doing things.

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Game Play

Dishonored 2 is more of the same from Dishonored, with some minor changes that makes the sequel feel much more complete then the original.  First, each character is completely upgrade-able to fit your desired play style, just like before.  However, each character has separate abilities and skills that makes each one play just a little differently.  Emily’s Far Reach works in a similar fashion to Corvo’s Blink ability, but Emily’s Domino ability is far more fun to use for me then Corov’s Bend Time ability.  Domino allows you to connect individuals together, so the fate that befalls one will be felt by the others.  This is great in subduing multiple enemies at once, and can be really fun if you chain it’s use with Emily’s clone ability as well.

Dishonored 2 also adds in a non-lethal combat ability that literally saved me hours of time.  I played through Dishonored trying to do the non-lethal pathway, and would constantly have to restart if I became discovered and cornered and was out of sleep darts.  This new ability allows you to block and counter, just like the original, but with a choice of whether you stab your enemy or choke them out.  Discovery and lack of sleep darts no longer meant a restart for me, I could just block and choke then continue on with my journey.

The other big change is the type of plague you are dealing with in Karnaca.  The plague is no longer a threat and the weepers and the rats won’t bother you like before.  However, you now have to deal with the blood flies, which I think I hate more then the rats.  Blood flies gather around hives, and become very aggressive the closer you get to the hive.  You can take these out quickly and easily using explosive bolts, but they become a huge pain if you don’t see them quickly enough, or are out of bolts.

The rest of the game play for Dishonored 2 is pretty much the same from Dishonored.  Sure, the levels are designed differently, especially the Clockwork Mansion mission, but really the point is to move through the level the way you chose how to play, collect bone charms and runes, and finish off the target character.  The game play experience vastly changes depending on your own choices with the stealthy option being the more rewarding, in my own opinion.  I found myself restarting levels or checkpoints, just because the game did not go the way I wanted it, because I got caught sneaking around.  The estimated length of Dishonored 2 is between 12-16 hours in length, but I can see that being extended  by restarts if you are going for the Ghost or Clean Hands achievements.

This game does what it needed to do in terms of game play, which is give me more of what I got in Dishonored but make some improvements in the areas that I felt were lacking in the original.  Dishonored 2 does nothing ground breaking here, but does what it needs to do correctly in order to feel like Dishonored, but still has its own soul.

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Aesthetics

For those of you that have read my PC game reviews in the past know that my system was lackluster at best.  Well, that has all changed now that I was able to purchase a brand new gaming PC, and Dishonored 2 was it’s first test.  Let’s start the conversation by talking about the elephant in the room, the frame rate performance.  I had read about this issue prior to running Dishonored 2 for the first time, and was very worried about it.  However, I can honestly say that my experience in game was absolutely flawless, and that I experienced little to no frame rate drops during my time with the game.  I ran Dishonored 2 on a PC that had a Core i7-6700K Quad Core 4.0 – 4.2GHz, GeForce GTX 1070, and 16GB of Ram and it ran extremely smooth and looked great.  Arkane Studios is fully aware of the performance issue, and have released one patch already trying to fix it for everyone.  If you are worried about performance, my advice is to follow this story and wait until it is confirmed that Arkane has fixed it.

As for the rest of the aesthetics of Dishonored 2, the game is great looking in Ultra thought the textures, while still being above standard, didn’t match up to other games on the market.  The cities feel much more alive to me then they did in the original game, which is fantastic.  The new plague, the blood flies, apparently didn’t scare the residents of Karnaca off like the Weepers did to Dunwall.  The lighting is top notch, giving the city and locals a mood that I felt added to the story telling.  The voice acting works, but can feel stilted in some cases.  I am not sure if this was due to the actor’s performance, or the actor having issues with the chosen dialogue, but it isn’t that big of a deal for me.  The production is top notch, with just a few hitches along the way.

Final Thoughts

Dishonored 2 is a fantastic game that truly allows you to play the game your way.  You get to chose your protagonist, your style of play, and your pathway through the missions.  This is flexible game play at it’s best.  The worst part of Dishonored 2 is that it may not feel different enough from the original to really give you a unique gaming experience.  It ultimately is more of the same, but with a few tweaks and changes to make the game play better.  As a fan of Dishonored, this was enough for me to enjoy my time revisiting the Empire of the Isles.  The game is beautiful on the PC, and the music and voice acting worked great, most of the time.  Your biggest concern should be the performance issues that have hounded Dishonored 2 from the beginning.  While I did not run into these issues personally, they are out there and you should be informed before you buy.  Arkane is working on a fix, but last I heard people are still having issues getting the game to a playable state on their PCs.  Dishonored 2 is available now on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.


Dishonored 2 Review Score:

(4 out of 5)


 

Razer Ornata Chroma Keyboard – A Review (PC)

When it comes to my keyboards and mice for my PC, I am a creature of habit. I find a good quality keyboard or mouse that fits my hand, feels good to use, and performs well and I stick with it.  It’s a pretty rare occasion that a review item replaces one of my standard items for daily use.  Well, the Razer Ornata Chroma keyboard is one such item.  From day 1, I fell in love with the way the Ornata Chroma felt in my hand, and just how satisfying it was to use, both in gaming and for daily use.  I loved my Thermaltake Poseidon Z keyboard, but just after a few hours of using the Ornata Chroma, I knew that the Thermaltake was going to go onto the backup PC.  And the Ornata Chroma gets released just in time for the holidays?  I see what you did there, Razer….

Features

The Ornata Chroma is being described as a mecha-membrane keyboard.  The mecha-membrane system combines the best of both mechanical and membrane keyboards, into one hybrid system.  I have always been partial to mechanical keyboards, I never liked the tactile feedback that I received from a membrane keyboard.  One of the worst typing experiences of my life is using the touch keyboard that came with the Surface Pro 2 that I use for book projects.  The Ornata Chroma has all of the tactile feedback of a mechanical keyboard, but without the fatigue that you experience from long hours of typing or gaming.  That’s thanks to the membrane section of the keys, the membrane helps soften the amount of pressure needed for a response, keeping that old mechanical fatigue to a minimum without loosing the tactile feedback. Razer promises an “typing experience unlike anything before” and they deliver.  I have never used a keyboard that felt like this in my hands, and immediately fell in love with the Ornata Chroma.

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Another fantastic feature of the Ornata Chroma is the use of mid-height keys on the keyboard.  The use of a mid-height key is brilliant with this design, it gives the Ornata Chroma a faster response time to the pressing of these keys.  A higher key height will delay that time, even if it’s measured in milliseconds and most people would never feel the difference.  PC gamers do and that’s what’s important here.  I have never liked the feeling of the chiclet style keyboards either, so the mid-height key design is perfect.

There are two more features which make the Ornata Chroma my new “go to” keyboard, customizable lighting effects and the wrist rest.  I’ll speak more about the lighting effects in the Aesthetics section of this review, so let’s look closer into the wrist rest that comes with the Ornata Chroma.  I usually hate wrist rests, I never got used to using them.  They always feel like they get into the way of my typing for some reason.  The Ornata Chroma comes with a detachable wrist rest, so if you feel the same way you can just not use it.  The wrist rest attaches to the main keyboard by what using what feels like low strength magnets.  When attached, the wrist rest does not move or shift, even under some intense gaming.  I never use these things, but I found myself using the wrist rest for the Ornata Chroma and felt that it added to my comfort level when using my PC.  Even if you don’t like using these wrist rests on other keyboards, give this one a shot.  It might be a different experience then you are used to.

Aesthetics

The Ornata Chroma looks like a pretty standard keyboard, design wise.  In comparison to the Black Widow Chroma, the Ornata Chroma does not have the row of keys on the far left side.  The Ornata Chroma is roughly 18 inches long, 6 inches wide and about 1.5 inches tall, so pretty standard in size also.  What makes the Ornata Chroma come alive is the customizable lighting effects, which sets the Chroma line apart for Razer.  When active, the Ornata Chroma can produce over 16 million different types of color combinations and is customizable for personalization.   The standard effects that the keyboard comes with are beautiful in their own right.  These effects include fire, full spectrum cycling, starlight, breathing, static, reactive, wave, and ripple.  Using the Razer software is easy also to program these lighting effects, and these effects can be applied to other Chroma devices you may have.  Chroma will also react differently depending on the game you are playing if the game is on the list for Chroma effects.  For instance, playing Overwatch will cause the WASD keys to glow yellow and your ability keys will glow in different colors depending on the status of those abilities.

Performance

Ok, in case you haven’t figured it out by now, I love the Ornata Chroma.  For this last week or so, I have put it through the ringer to see what it can do.  I played H1Z1, World of Warcraft, Overwatch, and Dishonored 2 (review pending!) and felt that playing on the Ornata Chroma was a vastly superior experience then playing these games on my old Poseidon Z.  The response time felt shorter from key press to on screen action, I felt that I could move faster or use items faster, and I noticed a serious drop of on keyboard fatigue because of the mecha-membrane keys and the wrist rest.  I felt better after hours of playing then I had in a while.  The Ornata Chroma feels good, performs well, and looks great doing it.

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Tech Specifications

  • Razer™ Mecha-Membrane Technology
  • Mid-height keycaps
  • Razer Chroma backlighting
  • Ergonomic wrist rest
  • Razer Synapse enabled
  • Fully programmable keys with on the fly macro recording
  • 10-key roll over
  • Dedicated Gaming Mode
  • Anti-ghosting capability for up to 10 simultaneous key presses

Final Thoughts

The Razer Ornata Chroma is my new keyboard for my main PC.  This is the keyboard that I will be doing all of my gaming and writing on in the future.  I can quote you all the specs and features in the product manual (which I guess I did during the review…) but at the end of the day, the Ornata Chroma feels and performs the way I want a keyboard to feel and perform.  The new mecha-membrane keys feels fantastic and is precisely what I would want in the perfect keyboard.  I feel like I can type faster, play faster, and react faster to changing situations with this Ornata Chroma keyboard, due to the fast response and tactile feedback I get.  Price wise, the Razer Ornata Chroma keyboard is on the higher end, but not as expensive as the Black Widow Chroma.  The Ornata Chroma will set you back about a $100, but I feel you are getting every penny’s worth.  The Razer Ornata Chroma is available now, and it’s fantastic.


Razer Ornata Chroma Review Score:

(5 out of 5)


Kaliber Gaming Retikal Pro FPS Gaming Mouse Review

About a month ago, I reviewed IOGear’s Symmetre mouse, and was somewhat not impressed.  I wasn’t a fan of the design nor the feel of the mouse, even though the performance was pretty good.  Today, I get another crack at a mouse from IOGear, this time it’s the Retikal Pro FPS Gaming Mouse.  Will the Retikal fare better then the Symmetre in my hands, or will it earn the same fate of being banished to the bottom of the “Extras” drawer?  Let’s find out with my full review.

Features

The Retikal is designed to be a much more traditional mouse then the Symmetre, which means it feels proper in your right hand (as long as you are right handed).  The Retikal comes with 9 programmable buttons, one of which is featured as a sniper mode button.  Essentially, this button will slow down the mouse speed to allow you to focus in, but it doesn’t slow down the game so unless you are already in the vicinity of the head, slowing the mouse down won’t do you much good.  The Retikal can hit up to 5000 dpi (1000 more than the Symmetre) and can switch dpi on the fly, as well as profiles with just a button press.  The Retikal also features a USB 2.0 braided cable, which I do love.

So, my biggest negative with the Symmetre was the feel of the mouse, and unfortunatly that is also my biggest negative with the Retikal.  While the Retikal feels initially better in my hands then the Symmetre did, it never once matched the feeling of some of the higher end mice that I have owned over the years.  I literally felt like I could snap the Retikal in two with one hand.  The Retikal is light and flimsy feeling, has almost no weight to it, and does not feel sturdy enough to handle some rough gaming hours.  This is all based on my own preferences when it comes to the feeling of a mouse, but there it is.

  • USB 2.0 eSports professional optical gaming mouse
  • 9 programmable buttons with custom programming software
  • Non-slip rubber coated click wheel and thumb rest
  • Up to 5000dpi with shift-on-the-fly adjustment
  • Sniper button- instantly increases aim accuracy
  • Instantly switch between 5 profiles
  • Adjustable weight system for precision tuning
  • Sculptured housing designed for FPS gaming
  • LED backlighting with “breathing” effect
  • Pixart 3310 optical sensor
  • 128K built-in memory
  • 125/500/1000Hz adjustable report rate
  • 6400 fps frame rate
  • 130 ips speed

Aesthetics

The Retikal looks slick, with the logo glowing blue on the palm rest and the wider frame of the mouse to fit your hand.  There is a nice pad near where your thumb rests that’s made out of a slip proof material, which increases your grip on the mouse.  Right above your thumb is where the sniper button is located.  While I didn’t really like that button as a feature, it is placed in the best place possible.  Just don’t accidentally hit it while you are playing, you will get a nasty surprise.  Overall, the Retikal is a clean looking mouse, but does not do anything special either.

Performance and Specifications

So I took the Retikal out on few gaming dates with my new PC, and saw what it could do.  The last week saw some increased play time in H1Z1:  King of the Kill, World of Warcraft, and some Battlefield 1.  While the performance was decent, I could not get rid of the feeling that I was going to break the mouse, and absolutely hated the weight of the Retikal.  Maybe I’ve gotten too use to my Bloody mouse, but the Retikal did not feel natural in my hands, though it performed pretty well.  I was never happy with the mouse sensitivity that I set it to, and would switch dpi on the fly a few times more then I’m used too.  I tried out the sniper button, but did not like the immediate slow down of my mouse.  It’s a good idea, just one that I would never use.

Final Thoughts

I know it sounds like I’ve been rough on IOGear these last couple of reviews, but the market is a tough place and there are a lot of mice out there.  Finding one that truly fits your play style and sense of touch can be tough, and once you found your range then anything outside of that just feels off.  The Retikal is an entry level gaming mouse, priced at roughly $26.00, so the investment isn’t high if you are looking to use it.  The Retikal is a decent mouse for the price tag and will perform well enough.  There are better mice out on the market, though not many under $30.  This one’s a toss up for me, the Retikal is pretty much the definition of an average mouse, so if you need one for under $30 I would say check it out.


Kaliber Gaming Retikal Pro Gaming Mouse Review Score:

(3 out of 5)


 

Symmetre Mouse – A Review

Today I look at the Symmetre mouse, an ambidextrous PC gaming mouse from Kaliber Gaming.  Reviewing mice and keyboards is always a little tricky for me, it’s like trying to review a brand new pair of shoes after  you’ve been wearing Converse your whole life.  I get used to the feel of a particular mouse or keyboard, then switch it all up with a new product.  The trick is trying to be objective and reviewing the product as fair as possible, but sometimes you just prefer your current mouse or keyboard, and that taints your view.  Yeah, you guessed it, the Symmetre didn’t fair too well this week.  Let’s find out why.

Features

Let’s begin by saying that Symmetre is a truly ambidextrous mouse.  The design is perfectly symmetrical, hence the Symmetre name, with two thumb buttons on either side of a standard mouse configuration.  Standard left and right mouse buttons are exactly where you would expect them, plus a scroll wheel third button, and two switches that allow you to switch dpi profiles on the fly.  The Symmetre mouse ranges from 500-4000 dpi depending on the setting you have it at and features a USB 2.0 braided cable which is always appreciated.

The main feature of the Symmetre is its ambidextrous design, so let’s really discuss this feature.  As a right handed individual, I found the design of the Symmetre mouse to feel clunky in my hand.  It never molded to the shape of my hand like my other mice do, so from second one the Symmetre mouse never felt natural.  One of the flaws in a universal design, is that it never feels like it’s shaped to your particular hand since it needs to be universal, and that is truly where Symmetre failed for me.  I never once felt comfortable using the mouse, and looked forward to going by to my old stand by.

  • USB 2.0 Full speed gaming mouse
  • Fully ambidextrous design for right- or left-handed gamers
  • 9 buttons with custom programming software
  • Avago 3050 optical sensor
  • Adjust on-the-fly up to 4000 dpi
  • 64K built-in memory
  • 125/500/1000Hz adjustable report rate
  • 6600 fps frame rate
  • LED backlighting with “breathing” effect

Aesthetics

The Symmetre mouse is a very clean design.  Designed to be completely symmetrical, Symmetra is the type of mouse that Death the Kid from Soul Eater would prefer (see how many of you get that reference, ha!).  Symmetre is back lit blue out of the box, which is always an appreciated feature from an aesthetic stand point.  The Kaliber Gaming is placed on the mouse in a non lit version.  Overall, the aesthetic is something that has become understood as the norm in mice these days.

Performance and Specifications

The Symmetre and I went through some good games together this last week, including being used in my two reviews of The Final Station and Zombie Night Terror.  The Symmetre worked fine, for the most part, but never felt just right in my hands.  Plus, missing the extra buttons that are a feature on my Bloody ML160 mouse hurt in my mmorpg time this week.  The Symmetre never felt like it fit in my hand, mostly due to the symmetrical design, and I hated the weight of the mouse.  The Symmetre was way to light for me, and never felt comfortable because of it.  I prefer heavy mice when I play, not sure why.  I prefer heavier hockey sticks when I play hockey, and that has carried over to my gaming habits.  While the Symmetre performed well, I never got comfortable with it, and could not wait until I could go back to my old mouse.

Specifications
PART NUMBER
GME630
WARRANTY INFORMATION
3-year Limited Warranty
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS
Windows Vista®, Windows® 7, Windows® 8, Windows® 8.1, Windows® 10
Mac OS X 10.3+ (user interface software not supported)
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
Housing
Case: ABS, Polycarbonite, Rubber
Resolution
up to 4000 dpi
Operation Temperature
0 to 40 degrees (Celsius)
Final Thoughts
In the end, I did not enjoy using the Symmetre mouse from Kaliber Gaming.  This is solely based on my own comfort level using the mouse and how it felt in my hand.  The Symmetre performed well in most game genres (not so much in mmorpgs, but again I went from my mmorpg Bloody mouse to the Symmetre), so the performance is there.  Priced at around $25 USD, the Symmetre mouse is an entry level gaming mouse that won’t break the bank, but you will get what you pay for.  Kaliber Gaming also has software that allows you to set your own macros and programs the Symmetre to do more, but unless the mouse feels right in your hands while you are using it, all of these features just won’t win over your heart.  Unless you are in absolute need for an ambidextrous mouse, I would have to not recommend the Symmetre mouse from Kaliber Gaming.
[easyreview title=”Symmetre Gaming Mouse Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”2″ ]

Zombie Night Terror – A Review (PC)

Today, I review Zombie Night Terror, the second zombie themed PC game this month.  Yes, I can hear you saying it, “not another zombie game”.  One thing that can be said about the video gaming industry is, like the movie industry, when a theme or a genre is popular, even for a moment, then we get tons and tons of content from that idea.  Zombies have become the new World War II shooter in today’s market, so it takes something different or fresh to really get me to take notice.  While Zombie Night Terror isn’t the greatest zombie game in the world, in reminded me of another game from the early nineties that I used to play a lot of, Lemmings.  This connection alone made Zombie Night Terror, by NoClip, much more interesting and worth my time then I originally thought it would be.

Story

Zombie Night Terror centers around a mad scientist who has created a new street drug called Romero (as in George).  This new street drug has a horrible side effect on the user, and by horrible I mean it kills the user and they return as one of the walking dead.  Apparently, the mad scientist didn’t concern himself with returning customers that were still breathing.  You are the hive mind behind this newly created horde, and you are out for blood.  And brains, brains too.

The story for Zombie Night Terror gives you a framework for why you are doing the things you are doing in the game, but it doesn’t really drive the overall game play.  The story is told through in game cut scenes, or through dialogue boxes that come in the shape of news reports.  Usually, these news reports are telling you about a new ability or feature that you can do, but more on that in the Game Play section.  Each level gives you a certain amount of humans you must eat and convert to move onto the next level, but there are also challenge objectives that can be done, like find the secret drug stash or kill every last human on a level.  Ultimately, the story is pretty simple to follow with nothing substantial or ground breaking, but it is a zombie game so what did  you expect.

zombie-night-terror-1

Game Play

Zombie Night Terror plays a lot like Lemmings, a lot.  For those of you that are on the young side and don’t know what Lemmings was all about, let me describe the game play style.  You are placed in charge of a horde of creatures that have no mind of their own.  This horde will walk right into dangers and perils, without any thought of their own safety.  Your job as overlord, is to complete the task set in front of you, by commanding your horde in a way to preserve the most numbers.  As you loose members, you become less efficient, and it becomes harder and harder to complete the level.  That perfectly describes what Lemmings and Zombie Night Terror are at their core.

So, how does Zombie Night Terror differ from Lemmings?  Mostly in theme, but you have a few other things you need to worry about.  First, you can get a certain amount of syringes filled with Romero to infect humans anywhere in the level.  This could give you a tactical advantage, or help you kill off hard to reach humans.  You can find more Romero in the level as you play, but it is always a limited amount so what you you stick.  You will also have access to special zombie types that will help organize your horde.  Like the Overlord, who will block a path and tell your zombies to walk the other direction, or the Exploder, who can destroy certain walls on the level.  You also only have a certain amount of DNA to use, and you need this DNA to create special zombie types.  You can burn your own zombies to get more DNA, but must watch because the less zombies you have, the less effective your horde is.

As you kill humans, your horde becomes stronger and stronger.  The humans, however, won’t stand idly by and let you just eat their brains, oh no!  You will encounter tougher enemies, like bat wielding tough guys, or even SWAT officers, who could easily decimate your entire horde if you are not thinking ahead.  Controls are fairly simple, once you get used to them.  You use the arrow keys to move around the camera around the level. The HUD has a dashboard on it that allows you to choose your zombie type or use certain powers.  The rest is pretty much point and click, then watch humanity die.

Zombie Night Terror plays extremely well and is a great take on this genre.  Yes, it’s another zombie game, but it’s a zombie game based on Lemmings!  That’s something we haven’t seen at all yet. It will take some tactics to complete each level, you just can barrel through the game without thinking, but it will take some real planning to hit all of the challenges.  Zombie Night Terror allows you to pause the game by using the space bar, and this will allow you to think ahead and plan.  You can also use this time to see each route through the level.  There will be doors you need to break down or stairs you need to climb, and you will need to tell your horde to do just that by clicking on the icons near each feature.  These icons can be switched at any time, and doing so will help guide your horde or keep them locked in the attic until you have figured out your next move.

zombie-night-terror-2

Aesthetics

Like The Final Station last time, Zombie Night Terror uses outdated graphics to both help keep costs down on development, but to also make the aesthetic fit the game.  Zombie Night Terror looks like the old Lemmings game visually, using pixelated graphics that won’t win any prizes this year.  With that being said, Zombie Night Terror isn’t a bad looking game, not in the slightest.  NoClip chose to use these graphics with a monochromatic color pallete.  The game is almost entirely done in black and white, with the only two major colors being green and red.  Green shows the player where more Romero is, and red is, well, it’s the blood.  Lot’s of blood.

The sound design follows the visuals in aesthetics.  The characters all talk like they are rejects from a Sims game, speaking mostly the same type of gibberish, with all dialogue being shown in subtitles.  Again, a smart design decision that helps keep costs down for a small developer, while feeling like a conscience design thought.  If you are a graphics hound and only play games for the shiny, just skip Zombie Night Terror.  For those of you that are willing to look past the aging exterior, you will find a really, really fun game.

Final Thoughts

Zombie Night Terror is flat out fun and challenging.  This is a new take on a tired genre, and helped relive my high school years by bringing back memories of Lemmings.  Is it possible that I’ve been seduced because of my memory of another great game, sure.  I recommend this game anyway.  The theme and aesthetic work perfectly together, the game play and mechanics are finely tuned, and the game is just flat out fun.  What else do you need from a game that costs $12.99?  Zombie Night Terror is available now on Steam.

[easyreview title=”Zombie Night Terror Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”4″ ]

The Final Station – A Review (PC)

Do My Best Games and tinyBuild Games have just released a side scrolling action game by the name of The Final Station.  The Final Station is a zombie-like apocalypse game set in the future, with you playing as a train conductor, traveling through the vast forsaken lands, always trying to reach your next destination.  Is The Final Station worth the train ticket, or should you just stay on the platform and wait for the next rain.  Let’s find out!

Story

When it comes to the story, The Final Station borrows heavy from the typical zombie-apocalypse tropes that everyone knows, except it’s never clear as to whether or not you are really fighting zombies, or maybe an alien life form.  You begin the game as a train conductor, working a freight train on a normal, beautiful day.  As you travel with your supervisor to the next station, you begin to hear reports about an occurrence in the north.  This occurrence has the locals baffled and scared, and talks of the “second visitation” begins to circulate.  For much of the game, what this exactly means is up to interpretation, but as you progress to the north, a black substance begins to infect humans.  These infected humans then begin to exhibit zombie-like traits, and attack you on sight.  Your job is to continue hauling important materials for the government through infected lands, and look for survivors at each stop along the way.

the-final-station-2

The story for The Final Station is interesting enough, but I feel that is suffers a little bit from translation issues.  The story always feels like it’s just out of reach with the dialogue, and not from just bad script writing.  It feels more like the writers tried to convey a sense of mystery, but due to a lack of knowledge with the English language, the mystery just comes off more confusing then mysterious.  I tried to find out where Do My Best Games is located to see if this is actually correct, but couldn’t find any information of where the developer is based.  The story is helped along by forcing you to make a stop at each station on the route for access codes.  It would be too easy for the train to just be able to leave one city and reach it’s destination, so you are forced to stop at each station and find an access code that will unlock the train and allow you to continue.   The story hold up all right, save for the translation bit, so if you are ok with a little bit of muddled story, then you will get through The Final Station just fine.

Game Play

The game play for The Final Station is broken down into two segments:  train and station.  On the train, you have to keep the train moving.  This means keeping an eye on certain components as your train speeds along.  These components each have a small mini game that allows you to keep them in working order.  If you don’t then the train runs the risk of taking longer to reach the next station, or breaking down entirely.  You also have access to an instant messenger station that allows you to talk to other conductors to find out more about what is going on in the world.

the-final-station

You also have to manage your passengers that you find along the way.  Your passengers will get hungry or have injuries that need tending.  The only way to solve this is by having food and medical kits on the train, then choose which passenger gets which.  This becomes a resource management game, seeing what the pas
senger will give you if you delivery him or her safely to the next town, to determine if they are worth the med kit or food.  Worst yet, the med kits are the same ones you take with you when you venture into each station, so if you have a bad time at it in a station you may not have med kits to give the passengers on the train ridge to the next stop.

The other segment is the station.  Here, you get off of your train and venture forth in search of the access code, survivors and information in that order.  The access code is vital to continue along your trek, while the other items will make the trek easier and more interesting.  You have a limited amount of ammunition for your guns, and need to find more along the way, or purchase supplies whenever you are in towns.  You can also use parts of the environment to help defend yourself, but I found that aiming these items was touchy at best, so make sure you have plenty of time.  You will run into the zombie-like townsfolk in the stations, and they will be your biggest threat.  Each type has it’s own strengths and can be dealt with differently.  The standard enemy can easily be punched to death, while the armored type needs to be punched once to remove the helmet then can be shot int he head, and the shortest enemy is the fastest and the most deadly.

The Final Station is a fun game to play, until the repetitiveness of the actual game play comes into effect.  You only ride the train, then explore stations, that’s it.  It’s really fun in the beginning, and suspenseful and you play the first 10 or so levels, but then it just becomes repetitive and tedious.  On the good side, the repetitiveness of The Final Station wasn’t enough for me to stop playing the game nor not recommend it, I just have to caution that there really isn’t much more to the game then what I’ve mentioned above.  If you are fine with that, the The Final Station will work great for you.

the-final-station-3

Aesthetics

The Final Station is a 2D video game that uses 8-bit style graphics, so even some of the oldest machines that are still functioning should be able to run this game.  It’s a good aesthetic for the game, and I know it helped keep the costs down.  The graphics do a good job in setting forth the aesthetic of the world, and the zombie-like creatures are particularly unsettling with just being black bodies with white eyes.  The music design for The Final Station is the real winner for setting the game’s aesthetic.  The music is moody and dark, and really helps keep the game feeling very much apocalyptic in nature.  Sound design works as well, and is much more realistic in nature then the visuals would imply.  No 8-bit gun shots here.

Final Thoughts

The Final Station delivers the goods on some solid game play for PCs out there that cannot run many games.  While the story line may be a little bit confusing and the game itself may fall into repetitiveness with the train-station-train-station level design, I still had a lot of fun with The Final Station. The controls were mostly responsive to get myself out of some sticky situations, and once you learn which zombie-like creatures you can punch, then ammo conservancy becomes a little easier.   Really, the choice to get this game comes down to what you are looking for.  The Final Station is a nice little, challenging, 2D shooter with some resource management mini games built in, and I was fine with that.  The Final Station is available now on Steam for $14.

[easyreview title=”The Final Station Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”3″ ]

Kerbal Space Program – A Review (Xbox One)

Kerbal Space Program is the very first game produced by Squad, an interactive entertainment company based in Mexico City.  Kerbal Space Program (KSP) is the dream of Felipe Falanghe, who was prepared to quit Squad to work on this game.   Adrian Goya and Ezequiel Ayarza, owners of Squad, told Felipe that he could keep his job and work on this game once his assignment was completed.  The final product is probably the nerdiest game I have ever had the pleasure of playing, allowing me to toy with both the science of space flight and the insignificant lives of the little green Kerbals that foolishly volunteered for my space program.

Story

Kerbal Space Program does not have a story line in the conventional sense, but it does have a narrative depending on the game type you pick.  KSP has three game modes:  Career, Scientific, and Free Flight.  In Career, you have to manage everything for your space program, from funding to reputation to research and development.  This mode is the most story like, since you have to research new items and run the risk of ruining your space program.  Scientific mode does not have the funding or the reputation stakes that Career mode has, but you will still need to have successful launches in order to earn points to unlock more items for your space crafts.  Free Flight mode is just that, everything is unlocked and there are no stakes.  Just build your ship and let it fly.

kerbal-2

I am usually one that feels when a game is lacking in story, the game is lesser for it.  KSP does not have a story line, nor any type of character development or plot, but I never once missed it.  I was so focused on keeping the reputation of my space program up, while developing space craft that would not burst into flames the second I hit the launch button.  The lack of a story here will not impede your joy with KSP, that is, as long as you get a kick out of playing as a rocket scientist.

Game Play

Kerbal Space Program is one of those games that is easy to get into, but hard to master.  There is some deep mathematics and physics going on here, but it never feels academic.  The tutorials do a great job in getting even the worst of us into understanding orbit and escape velocity.  Starting off in Free Flight mode allows you to really mess with the different ways you can build a space craft, and the ways it all can go wrong.  You will have access to quite a number of different options, from hull designs to engines to fuel storage and wings.  You can build the classic rocket or a shuttle type craft that can use a landing strip to launch and land.

I spent most of my time in Career mode, where you begin with a small amount of items based on an entry level space program and develop from there.  Building your first rocket is easy.  KSP gives you a cabin, parachute, and engine.  As long as the engine and the parachute fire off on different stages, then there really isn’t a way you can kill your first Kerbal.  A safe landing increases your science points for more items, and your reputation to keep the facility open.  On my second try, I was able to get my Kerbal into orbit, which really impressed me.  Then it hit me, how do I get him down?  Well, that particular Kerbal may still be orbiting the planet to this day, but the knowledge I learned from that flight was vital.  Being able to reset a flight immediately without penalty helps to, especially for the weak at heart who can’t stand to see their little Kerbals fall back to the planet.

Just escaping the planet is a task, but when you factor in the many planets and moons you can launch your Kerbal to, or what your Kerbal can do during a E.V.A., you will be busy for hours.  KSP is like having a Lego set that will occasionally explode into a fireball of debris and little green people.  For me, either Career mode or Free Flight mode are the way to go.  Science mode felt pretty much useless to me, and didn’t offer anything that the other two modes didn’t.

kerbal-3

Aesthetic

Kerbal Space Program will not win any awards for aesthetic, sound design, or voice acting.  The graphics and visuals are basic, but do the job that they are intended to do.  Sound design is exactly the same, you get the sound of the engines but I wouldn’t expect much more.  Voice acting is all but non-existent.  Beyond a few grunts or groans, the Kerbals are mute.  I couldn’t even get one to scream as the rocket plummeted head first into the mountain ranges that surround the space facility.  None of these lack of visual or audio polish should deter you from playing Kerbal Space Program.  The game is solid and fun to play, even without cutting edge graphics or a Hollywood celebrity voicing the Kerbals.

Final Thoughts

Kerbal Space Program is a blast to play.  Period.  It is a challenging, scientific, space simulator that feels just about right and realistic, without pushing it too far.  The physics in KSP behaves almost perfectly without being frustrating.  The sense of accomplishment one gets from a successful launch and recovery, will only push  you and your Kerbals to expand  your space empire further and further.  Having the three different modes means you will find a mode that is perfect for the type of game you are looking for.  Kerbal Space Program is a great game for those that are looking for a challenge and to be able to see if their creations can fly.  This one is a must own for anyone interested in a challenge.  Kerbal Space Program is available now for the Xbox One.

[easyreview title=”Product Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”5″ ]

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

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.

TMNT_Screen-1

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.

TMNT_Screen-3

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.

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