Author - JonAutopsy

World War Z Game of the Year Edition Review (PlayStation 4)

I don’t know a gamer that doesn’t have fond memories of Left 4 Dead. An incredible, intense game that gave up hours of incredibly fun gameplay and camaraderie. Thankfully, like its predecessor, World War Z Game of the Year Edition definitely has that magic, as long as your teammates are live human beings as opposed to the dreaded AI intelligence that comes with the single-player experience…

World War Z Game of the Year Edition, first off, is a great looking game. The music, sounds, and graphics all look and feel fresh and the world looks lived in, or died in depending on how you look at it. There’s a ton of characters to choose from, all with individual skills and specialties. As well, there’s a decent amount of customizable options for reskinning your character’s looks.

The world itself is definitely solid looking and the multitude of locations from around the world, as well as the variances of each location’s missions like being out in the city, inside a traffic tunnel, or wandering the wilderness. Though there are a few non-linear paths you can take during each mission, the levels keep you on a pre-determined path with little to drive you to explore down each alley knowing that no matter what, you’re going to end up in the right place without having to double back. There’s little reason to go exploring though so it doesn’t matter which paths you take, they’ll still have the same ammo boxes, weapons, and first aid along the way.

Speaking of weapons, one of World War Z Game of the Year Edition’s weakest points is the absolute vanilla variety of weapons. Granted, World War Z Game of the Year Edition has a much more serious tone. The music is dark and intense, the characters speak with urgency, and the setting really gives you a sense that “this could really happen” so the lack of weapon customization or any sort of armament that makes you feel like you picked up something better than you were already carrying is lacking. Only a couple weapons are definitely worth picking up if you come across them (like the crossbow) but with so many ammo boxes along the way, there’s really no reason to pick up something new once you get used to a weapon you like.

The “special” zombies as well definitely lack imagination and more often than not feel like they actually belong in a different, more campy zombie shooter. Some don’t even make any sense like zombies wearing suicide vests or undead in construction outfits who have a megaphone wrapped up around them and they “scream” into said megaphone, attracting more zombies to your location. The tacked on feel of the more aggressive zombies like these kind of takes you out of the serious tone World War Z Game of the Year Edition tries to convey and makes you wonder why a little extra time wasn’t put into these guys to make them more special to World War Z Game of the Year Edition as opposed to ones you’d see in any generic undead title.

The real experience of World War Z Game of the Year Edition relies on the actual co-op of the four person team. Playing online with a team that communicates is always going to be easier than jumping into a co-op of three AI players but World War Z Game of the Year Edition almost makes it dismal to play the game on your own. Being that zombies can literally come from all sides, the AI doesn’t warn you where you’re being attacked from so while you’re making your way forward to an objective, your entire team may stop and open a fire fight with zombies approaching from behind. Unfortunately none of the AI actually communicates where you’re being attacked from or that you’re even being attacked at all. As well, the AI has different names for the special zombies so starting out, you may have a difficult time learning and honing in on what zombies have special abilities and their particular names because while the AI does refer to some by their given name in the game (for instance, the Bull), they will never refer to others by their actual title (like always calling the Gasbag zombies “Hazmats”). That can be a bit frustrating early on when you’re still learning the ropes and have your head on a swivel because the AI seems to be mute when they’ve got a zombie on their back.

Hit detection is another issue that seems to be off, more often when you’re dealing with large hordes. It usually becomes just an ammo dump into a massive group, spraying and praying that you’re getting more kills than your teammates. Handling a handful of zombies at once isn’t an issue and the aiming is concise and you’re definitely able to tell who you’re hitting and where. But you get a horde of zombies, which happens at least once in every mission, just start throwing and hope you’re a better shot than your teammates. The one difference is explosive weapons catapult zombies from the explosion, you can definitely tell you’re doing actual damage there.

World War Z Game of the Year Edition is a fun throwback to the Left 4 Dead days as long as you have your friends with you. The missions to offer some but not variety. From holding a point to collecting a group of held down humans, to objective escorts, it’s the standard fare of missions you’d expect from a co-op title. Having your friends or actual online humans playing with you make World War Z Game of the Year Edition and its missions a lot more fun and definitely help curve the lack of variety in each level. Playing by yourself with AI can be a much more frustrating and troublesome experience as it definitely feels like the character you’re controlling has all the intelligence of the entire group with a total lack of communication from your bot teammates. Still, it’s a fun and exciting game that looks fantastic and though it doesn’t really follow the movie storyline (and don’t even ask about how the World War Z Game of the Year Edition novel fits into this), there’s a lot of classic co-op fun to be had here in a very pretty package.

Street Fighter V Champion Edition Review

It is crazy to think how far Street Fighter has come since it’s arcade days. I still remember the lines of people waiting to play, their quarters up in a row on the machine, it was incredible how popular a single game could be and it’s really no surprise to see it still alive and well in 2020.

Street Fighter V Champion Edition hits the ground running with an insane amount of fighters to choose from; 40 scattered over multiple Street Fighter and other Capcom titles, most notably the Final Fight series with many heroes and villains from Metro City. Along with the incredible amount of character choices are the amount of skins that come with them. There are literally hundreds of varieties of character skins for each fighter with varying choices, some as simple as basic costume color changes, seasonal skins from Halloween and Christmas, to complete character alterations like the fantastic Mega Man skins buried in some of the characters. And all the characters look incredible, regardless of what skin you put them in. The character select screen really shows off the work put into each fighter and their skins and the in-game reactions look really sharp and coincide with varying emotions depending on whether they’re winning or getting stomped out.

The ‘Arcade Mode’ is somewhat of a filler nostalgia trip, updating the art for each Street Fighter title, from the original Street Fighter, Street Fight II, Street Fighter Alpha, Street Fighter III, IV, and V. Each version of Arcade Mode simply adds characters from those timelines, adding more fights to each version as more fighters are added to each games respective rosters. It’s a fun little trip, especially Street Fighter II, as the fighters get progressively harder and harder as you fight your way to M.Bison. That was definitely a blast from the past for me, back to the days I was playing Street Fighter II on Super NES.

The character story lines that make up the bulk of the ‘Story Mode’ takes you on a small two to three fight journey, giving somewhat of a backstory to each fighter. Having played through each fighter’s story, I can say that unless you want to try and decipher the absolutely nuts storyline, you can pretty much skip this part of the game. Though it’s fun to knock out your few favorite fighters’ stories, I grew tired of having to fight the same characters over and over again (mainly F.A.N.G., Vega, and Bison whom you sometimes will fight twice with the same fighter). I expected a lot more variety in who you’d be fighting in each storyline, especially across forty different fighters to choose from. And speaking of characters, though there is a huge variety, I still missed fighters like T. Hawk and Fei Long, the latter whom is referenced in background art and various places in the story, but doesn’t actually appear currently as a playable character in SFVCE. I definitely would have taken them over a few of the fighters that simply seem like clones of more popular characters like Ryu, Guile, and Chun-Li. I’m not really sure if there’s anyone who actually knows all forty of the fighters in this game without having to look it up but there were some characters who I really have no clue if anyone actually knows who they are.

Though I didn’t play online since I really don’t need to play ranked matches to know how terrible I am at fighting games, the couch player-versus-player is still an absolute blast. Though it can sometimes take a bit for every character and their skins to load up when at the fighter select screen, it’s still a lot of fun going head-to-head, especially with the huge amount of maps to choose from, all of which also have a ton of skins to choose from (the Halloween maps were of course my absolute favorite). The characters are seamless and incredibly smooth and responsive to controls and looking up how to do each character’s moves is very easy to understand and accomplish in-game without being overloaded by too many moves and combinations that can overweigh some fighting games.

The loading times on SFVCE definitely need some patience and getting used to. At times, especially if there’s a new license to be applied in-game, it can take up to five minutes just to start playing. Loading times between fights can also be a pain after a while, especially when having to look at the same ad for upgrading to the Champion Edition, a game I obviously already own. Why the game doesn’t pick up on that licensing within the system is either a misstep or just one that was overlooked. Either way, even if it’s a loading screen, I’d rather look at fancy artwork than the same ad over and over for a game I already have.

Still, SFVCE is a great time and as much fun as Street Fighter has always been. The amount of characters can be a bit staggering and some seem to be clones of previous SF characters, the loading times and ads can put you to sleep, but when you’re in there fighting, SFVCE is a fantastic game. Everything in this game looks fantastic and sharp, from the character select screens to in-game fights. I’d love to have all my friends back together with a huge TV and battle it out tournament style with this one. It’s a lot of fun to play, and the characters and their variety of skins will definitely have you playing again and again.

Frostpunk Console Edition Review

I’m a huge fan of post-apocalyptic scenarios. Be it Mad Max, Demolition Man, The Stand; I’m absolutely invested. When I first heard about Frostpunk coming to PCs a while back, and the fact that not only was that type of aftermath title, and being that I’m not a PC guy, I never expected to get the chance to play it. But now that it’s hit consoles, I jumped at the chance to see if I could save as many as I could from a rather chilly alternate future.

When someone asks me to describe Frostpunk, I say it’s Tropico and Snowpiercer put together with a big helping of The Road in there for good measure. And don’t get too invested in the fun, tongue-in-cheek humor that is Tropico because that’s definitely nowhere to be found in the Frostpunk world. It’s a cold, dark setting where a lot of bad thing happen and often. To almost a fault, Frostpunk is a bleak world-builder, accompanied with a soundtrack that strikes grief into the heart of the player, especially when your world begins to turn on you, the “captain”, as the bitter colds take hold with temperature drops randomly throughout the scenario.

Not to say that Frostpunk isn’t an addictive game to play. All sadness and darkness aside, Frostpunk can be a lot of fun to dive into, especially as you get the hang of constructing your civilization around the center-point generator, a towering monolith powered by the coal your workers mine and harvest from points scattered around the radius of your surroundings. I use the word radius because Frostpunk’s building schemes are all curved in a circular fashion, in order to be as close as possible to the warmth of the generator. The closer you are to the generator, the warmer your structures will be, especially with housing, medical buildings, and operations which involve the crating of raw food into edible sustenance, something which you will also need to keep up with as, just like the player, all your workers and villagers have to eat and sleep on the regular.

Keeping a balance between your workers, engineers (which are needed specifically to run a lot of the more technical structures like hospitals, workshops, etc), as well as the children in your civilization is always a constant juggling act, keeping everyone fed, along with harvesting crafting materials like the before mention coal, as well as wood, and steel, with more crafting options being opened up as you progress through the days and nights. These workers are also the ones who build structures as well as various researchable options like steam generators which can be use to keep structures farther away from your generator warm, like preventing frostbite from your workers in the coal mines, and such. If you don’t keep your workers warm, you’ll have to deal with their injuries, which could lead to amputations, quite literally cutting your work staff down. Like I said, Frostpunk can be rather dark at times.

Always being on your toes is essential to keeping order within your civilization. While you can control the speed of time that goes by, you need to keep an eye on the time, your materials, food, your ill citizens, as well as ones who are in need of proper shelter, the ‘Hope’ and ‘Discontent’ meters at the bottom of the screen are always moving based on the decisions you make, the laws you put forth to keep order, health and safety, work habits, along with spiritual or police-state options to keep your civilization and its people in order. Decisions might drop discontent but it also might cause hope to go along with it. Do you put the children to work in order to harvest and store enough coal to keep the generator warm? Do you start cutting off frostbitten limbs or care for the gravely ill until the right sort of treatment can be researched to keep them both alive and in working order? It’s completely up to the player to climb the various progression trees based on how they specifically want their citizens to follow their daily lives to survive in the cold. With these come the possibility that some of your population may band together to defy you, creating their own group with the intent to leave your civilization on their own, gaining followers with each passing day if you fail to keep up with the ever-changing needs of both your generator and the lives and structures that surround it. Along with that threat, not keeping your end of promises you have the option of making to your people could eventually lead to your own banishment from the safety and warmth of the generator by the very people you tried to keep safe. It does help that you can send groups of scouts out to search for other points of interest which come with their own various rewards but it does come at the risk of pulling workers from your various structures in order to make these scouting missions possible and they do of course take time the farther away they are from your settlement.

Frostpunk has a bit of a learning curve. While the world-building mechanics and controls for what seems like a game much easier to play with mouse and keyboard, is very inspired and easy to use. However, not all of the buildings, research options, and their specific uses are very well explained which can easily lead to researching or building something you really don’t need at the moment, hence wasting valuable mats, which at times can be hard to come by, especially when dealing with extremely cold days which can sometimes last for half a week or more. It took a lot of trial and error for me really knowing what to build when and where. I do recommend saving often and to also make sure that auto-save is turned on because it’s set to off when you first start the game. Be sure to check your settings and enable that to your specific setting as it gives you the options of once an in-game day, every 3 days, and so on. If not, you risk making what can be critical mistakes in-game leading to a mass exodus of your population, or even worse, game crashes which happened a couple times to me and when that first crash hit, my auto-save wasn’t on and you all know how that went.

There’s also not too much replay value here, unfortunately. Until there’s a DLC option or patches that vary the various temperature drops, citizen needs, incoming outsiders, and other in-game actions, everything seems to always happen in the same order at the same time. While there are progression trees, the options are limited and aside from differently structured starting maps, there isn’t much variety to keep a player invested in more than a couple play-throughs which can easily be knocked out in a matter of days if one were so dedicated.

While Frostpunk can be not only depressing but also frustrating when figuring out what everything does while trying to keep your citizens alive and well – Once you get that angle down on how to really juggle the various needs and wants of your civilization, Frostpunk can be very rewarding and can keep you locked in trying to keep your people alive as the world grows darker around you. I wish there was more substance to keep me invested past two play-throughs but I did have fun with initial world-building and survival experience and keeping my citizens alive, though difficult at times, kept me trying multiple options building my world until I could get that near-perfect balance of life and living in the bitter cold world of Frostpunk.

Wreckfest Console Edition Review

It’s always kind of a bummer when you don’t see total destruction damage when getting into massive collisions in racing games. When damage is minimal from a crash that should’ve maimed both drivers, it takes some of the realism out of a generic racing title. This is why I’ve always gravitated towards more objective or power-up style racing like Wipeout, Mario Kart, and the like. However, ever since Destruction Derby back in the 90s, I’ve always loved some demolition derby games and Wreckfest definitely hits most of the marks.

Focusing on the career mode, there are various styles of races to choose from as you work your way up from the Juniors across the multiple unlockable leagues as you complete the point-limit for each one. Within each league are the races which range from demolition racing around an oval track, figure-8s, and many other variations as well as wide open arenas, there’s also riding lawn mower demolition derby, school bus races, pure survival, and many others. The variety of each league and their stages, all stages of which are unlockable as you progress within each league and though it’s easy to unlock all of them, you don’t necessarily have to compete in every single race of each league in order to progress to the next level, you just need to score enough points within each race all of which contain their own bonus objectives like spinning cars three times or causing a certain amount of damage to other racers.

The driving and action is fantastic with a real feel for speed in some of those long stretches where you know you’re going to have to use that E-brake at the next turn. The crashes are great looking and with up to 24 vehicles racing at a time, things can look incredibly visceral on some of those massive crashes on the more intense tracks. It definitely kept me interested with how great everything kept up, especially for the amount of action going on the screen with dozen car pile-ups occurring. It’s easy to translate the bonus you may receive along the way for wrecking other cars, hitting them in specific ways, or getting caught up with a “Rival Driver” which includes bonus points if you focus damage on them during the course of the race.

There’s a good amount of vehicles to unlock and choose from within the store, each with their own car class ranging from C, which is the class of the vehicle you start your career with, to B, and of course A which are the highest styles and strengths to purchase from the prize money you receive, each race. Each vehicle also has its own internal upgrades to purchase including engine and exhaust, wheels and armor, just to name a few. Though all custom paint styling to every vehicle you purchase is free, unfortunately the paint style choices, though fully customizable as far as whatever colors you want the art to be, are incredibly limited, usually only to about four or five different styles per vehicle. Along with that, there’s no customizing spray paint or words on your vehicle, nor can you assign your own number! That’s right, you’re locked into the number each art style comes with, along with spray painted words on the vehicle which aren’t in any way moveable or changeable, aside from what color they are. I’ve played demolition derby games years or even decades old where everything on the demo cars are customizable since that’s one of the fun things about real demolition derby is the custom spray paint jobs the drivers and crew take to their vehicles. It was definitely a let down not being able to have full control of what my vehicles looked like aside from a few preset selections.

One big problem in between matches is the load times. Loading up a course can sometimes take minutes of sitting there, watching a loading screen. A friend of mine who purchased the game recently mentioned the same issue so I know it wasn’t just something I was experiencing alone. As well, if the race involves a series of races where you need to finish within the top 8 to continue on, the loading in between races is so long and with no on-screen visual to inform you it’s loading, it literally seems as if the game has froze and you’re waiting for your system to blue-screen. I even went to the main PS4 menu the first time this happened and shut down Wreckfest thinking the game had locked up and I wanted to prevent my system from crashing entirely (just in case).

You really need to be conservative with in-game prize winning from races when spending it in the store. Don’t dump all your money into your starting vehicle (or a single vehicle) because you’ll need higher class cars (B and A classes) in order to access future races as you progress through the leagues. As each stages are previously locked, you cant see what each race needs as far as prerequisites and you could find yourself stuck behind races you cant race because you don’t have the cash to buy a new vehicle. A linked problem with that is you can only have one career mode going at a time so it auto-saves and instantly loads you back in each time you select career mode. The problem there is that for as long as I searched, I could not find a way to start a new career, even if it meant overriding the one I was currently in. The only way to start a new career is to manually go into your PS4 settings and delete the career save file. Until it gets patched, there’s currently no other way to start a new career.

The music is great. It definitely had a ring of modern day nu-metal which I felt was totally suitable for a game like this.  Still, no mention of the artists or their tracks playing was disappointing. As always, I will say every sports game, especially one involving a league where you’re going to put multiple hours into it, should have a TON more songs as well as easy ways to skip tracks. The EA FIFA series has always been great about their music and I’ve always used them as a great example of how lots of music choices and easy selection can make a game that much better.

Aside from it’s short-falls, Wreckfest is a lot of fun and if you’re a demolition derby racing fan, you will absolutely enjoy your time with this game. If there’s a sequel, I would definitely like to see a ton more custom paint options for every vehicle and an easier way to get around the leagues so you know what you have to prepare for within the game, financially. Still, I’ve enjoyed my time so far with Wreckfest.

Redout Lightspeed Edition Review

Future racing has been popular since the F-Zero days and WipeOut closely followed suit with the space race hovering vehicles achieving speeds unheard of in more grounded vehicles titles. RedOut is a new addition to this league, closely resembling WipeOut with it’s slick looking vehicles on tight, hilly tracks with lots of turns and jumps.

The vehicles in RedOut take a lot of getting used to with handling, using both sticks, constant brakes, and a power-up which can be used during certain matches. The speed of the matches is what has a bit of a learning curve since you really need to be able to keep up with your opponents, not only while keeping your vehicle going as fast as possible while maneuvering through turns, but also keeping an eye on the pitch. Not only can dragging the walls take a toll on your ride but so can drag say if you were to be going uphill and not adjust the nose, as well as slow you down.

RedOut is definitely a pretty game to look at but it’s visuals are somewhat dated. The menu screens for picking your vehicles, colors, next race, etc, are rather dark and ugly with standard text font that look like it was accidentally leftover from testing, The vehicles look somewhat slick but not as clean cut as you’d expect a WipeOut challenger to be and the standard paintjobs that your locked to really don’t do much aesthetically.
The tracks are pretty but sometimes less is more. I found myself early on getting lost between what was oncoming turns and what was background, especially on tracks that have transparent roadways. It makes learning the tracks even harder when you’re trying to keep up with the competition and you mistake an off-to-the-side bit of graphic for turn and bury yourself into a wall losing energy and places / time.

The music during the races is actually pretty entertaining and fitting for the speed at which you’re traveling. Skipping the all-standard low beat techno that plague games like Rocket League, RedOut opts for a more heavy metal affair with pounding guitars the faster you speed down the track.

While fun, RedOut seems a bit old. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before and if you enjoy WipeOut, there’s really nothing new here at all. If anything, it might be a step backwards for those diehard future speed racing titles. It can be entertaining at times but I felt overly frustrated with the races and the mean looking menus. Perhaps with a little more polish, this could have set a new level in these types of racing games but you wont find anything new here, unfortunately.


Redout Lightspeed Edition Review Score

[mks_icon icon=”fa-star” color=”#1e73be” type=”fa”][mks_icon icon=”fa-star” color=”#1e73be” type=”fa”][mks_icon icon=”fa-star-o” color=”#1e73be” type=”fa”][mks_icon icon=”fa-star-o” color=”#1e73be” type=”fa”][mks_icon icon=”fa-star-o” color=”#1e73be” type=”fa”] (2 out of 5 Stars)


 

Attack on Titan Review (PS4)

You cant help but watch Attack On Titan and think “This needs to be a game!”. The Omni-directional gear alone screams from Bionic Commando’s past and the swordplay and aerial assaults across a walled-in, fortified city are begging for a videogame. And a relatively decent title is what it got!

Attack On Titan follows the characters from the series as the follow the story line from season 1. You start off as Eren but eventually cycle through Armin, Mikasa, and Levi as well. The cut scenes that go along with the gameplay are wonderfully animated and are very easy to get lost in as you begin to feel for the characters (as bad as some of their personal choices seem to be at times).

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The Omni-directional gear in the game is near flawless, really giving you the feeling that you’re careening through the city. However, it can at times be difficult to judge where exactly you’re locking onto when going from building to building and can at times drop you at the foot of a building, completely ruining your momentum, so the ODG takes a lot of practice. Once you get the hang of it, navigating the map becomes a lot more fluid and quick. You also need to keep an eye on your gas meter for those extra boosts when subjugating Titans or traversing the city. You can purchase more gas if you run out or pick it up from fallen comrades or by doing small sub-missions during your battles.

Using the ODG is imperative to managing your way across the city and battling Titans. It can be a test of patience though when attacking multiple Titans within an enclosed space. Attacking Titans in alleyways or between two close buildings can be a pain at times as you attempt to lock on to the correct Titan, the correct body part, and be in a position to do so. It’s tough to not accidentally catch a wall or the wrong body part of a Titan simply because there’s so much going on in such a little space, especially if the Titans you’re going after are moving quickly. And sometimes going after body parts before going for the kill can be incredibly important since some Titans carry supplies attached to legs or arms so being on target becomes an act of futility. It’s best to take them on in wider areas but sometimes, it’s just not possible to get them where you want them to go.

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The amount of button combinations when attacking Titans can be a handful to remember. Along with that, you’re getting orders and communique from your fellow guards and teammates but since all the game is in subtitles with Japanese voiceovers, it can be easy to miss an important instruction or available power-up, simply because if you don’t speak Japanese, you may not have a moment to take your eyes off the action to read the subtitles. Though they’re usually not directly affecting your current mission, I kinda felt like I was blowing through the story without doing any side missions which is something I like to do instead of finishing a game as fast as possible (this is why I’m still playing Fallout 4’s main storyline). Along with that, important pop-ups are displayed, pausing the game for you to read. But if you’re in an assault-frenzy, it’s very easy to accidentally skip through these simply by hitting a button you were smashing just before the message popped. Once again, it gives you the feeling that you may be missing more of the gaming experience that was intended.

At times, your teammates can die on the battlefield which can lead to them dropping valuable gear which you can collect for your characters. The downside to this is the items aren’t very well highlighted so they can be easy to miss laying on top of the small human body amongst the towering buildings and Titans. Along with that, you can’t just run over the items to retrieve them. You have to press an action button to pick them up which, since all pick-ups in the game are valuable, has no relevancy anymore in choosing to pick things up. This should be an automatic thing when your character walks over them since stopping to hit a button to pick-up yet again slows down the intense pacing of the game.

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Subjugating Titans can be a lot of fun however there’s not much more to the meat of this game. You’re pretty much doing the same thing with each character (aside from when you’re in control of a Titan, of course). It may be an excellent game for those who are fans of the series, getting to walk in the shoes of the main characters. However, Attack On Titan can become rather tedious after a while as you continue to subjugate Titans, pick up items, help out teammates, and the like, again and again. There’s just not enough in the game to really make it special for the casual gamer looking for something new in an adventure title. Still, Attack On Titan is a very fun game and for as insane as ODG and catapulting yourself across a city to fight giant human-like creatures pent on destroying your city can be, it is incredibly smooth and seamless and taking down Titans feels as triumphant as it should. If you’re a fan of the anime, you’re not going to want to miss this by any means. You will not be sorry!

[easyreview title=”Attack on Titan Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”3″ ]

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HITMAN Season 1 Review (PS4)

“Enter a world of assassination”. That’s the tagline for the long-awaited and much-delayed Hitman reboot. A tagline very worthy of its claim. This is definitely what Hitman fans have been waiting for and this world is one you can definitely find yourself lost in.

Admittedly, I was not a fan of 2012’s Hitman Absolution, the fifth Hitman title which turned the contract style stealth series into an almost linear, story-driven campaign that could have been any other title. But a Hitman game it was not.

The brand new title in the series, simply called Hitman, is an incredibly well done game that definitely calls back to the “Contracts / Blood Money” days of Hitman, when the game was all about replayability and how many different fashions you could eliminate targets as the suit-and-tie clad Agent 47.

Hitman is being released in monthly installments from release date March 11th until the end of the year and its first season opens with a prologue, taking us back 20 years in the past to Agent 47’s training. Diana Burnwood welcomes 47 onto the hidden training site high up in snow-clad mountains and goes over the details of what he’ll be expecting. You can expect her along for the ride once again as 47’s handler.

The cinematic cut scenes which introduce 47, as well as throughout the rest of the first season are amazingly detailed and incredible to watch. With seasonal increments, they will definitely need to be re-watched throughout the year as new contracts are released to keep you up to date with the storyline but they are very easily accessible in the main menu where you can replay any cinematics or past contracts with the simple scroll down the story timeline.

The first gameplay is the guided training tutorial, taking you onto a large yacht, which is clearly built deep within what looks to be an old missle silo to mock a full training exercise in taking out a target. Complete with a fake sky backdrop and a built-to-scale cardboard model of a helicopter, the attention to detail is incredible and almost comical at times when you stop and look around and think “Ha, they really did think of everything” when the developers created the scene. Full of actors, the yacht and dock grounds, along with the weapons, are simulated so 47 can take full control of his surroundings.

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One thing IO Interactive promised when creating the new Hitman was maps of immense size, vastly overtaking past title maps which have included traversing crowds at Mardi Gras, plotting through a Las Vegas hotel and casino, and sneaking into The White House. The yacht is definitely a small map, but don’t get concerned with that. This is after all just training.

After you run through the guided tutorial, you’re brought back to the main start point of the yacht contract with free-reign to get inside and eliminate your target as you deem fit. You are also given multiple achievements to attempt which uncover the multitude of ways to perform the contract, showing the vast scope of detail on even just this small map.

The final test is next, taking you to another mock up, this time of an airplane hangar. This mission, set during the timeline of the cold war, requires 47 to sneak inside and eliminate a single target who is under heavy guard. Once again, the set design is fantastic, showing detail in the plywood built set within the same missle silo the yacht was constructed. This map is about 50% larger than the yacht map so there’s more options leading to contract elimination.

Since some of you may have played the Beta, you may have recognized these as what you played during that time. So yes, it is a bit of a pain in the ass to have to play these missions AGAIN but you do earn console achievements in doing so so it’s worth the time.

Next comes the main course of season one: The Showstopper. This contract centers around a fashion show in Paris. Your mission is to eliminate Viktor Novikov, the fashion mogul holding the show, and his partner-in-crime Dahlia Margolis, an ex-super model who saw much more profitability in the world of black market deals. Margolis is currently holding an illegal, multi-million dollar auction of government secrets to the highest bidders on the grounds while Novikov glad-hands his admirers and discusses shady business dealings with a few specific show guests around the grounds of a huge mansion.

The Showstopper map is, by far, the biggest Hitman map I have ever seen. It’s incredible how huge the map is and if you really don’t take your time and go searching, there’s no way you’ll see everything. Even going to the edge of the map at some points and looking out past iron gates shows a normal public street, complete with parked cars and pedestrians. It is absolutely incredible and you get the feeling that the cause of delays in bringing Hitman back may have been because IO really wanted to make this something special. But that’s the whole point, here. With the incredible variety that the Paris mission brings to the table, you’ll be playing this over and over if you are truly as big a Hitman fan as I am. It’s almost like a dungeon crawler with the laundry list of ways to complete your mission.

Now there in lies the rub. If you’re not a massive fan of past Hitman titles, and I mean a big enough fan where you went back and constantly played missions over and over just to see the variety, this might not be where you want to board the Hitman train just yet. The seasonal releases may grow tiresome on the gamer who may be looking for an immediate, long-term challenge. It does seem rather obvious that IO knew they had an incomplete game which is why they decided to switch to a seasonal release instead of trying to ship out an incomplete game. While I absolutely applaud them for taking that hard road, it may sting to those who don’t want to wait month to month for new contracts to be released. Sure there are other contracts than just the main Novikov/Margolis storyline that come with The Showstopper but they aren’t as intense. And the January 2017 release date of the full game may be too far away for someone to have to wait for their complete new Hitman game if you enjoyed the gameplay but aren’t a “repeat customer”.

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Still, The Showstopper mission in Paris shows HUGE promise for those Hitman fans who walked away from Absolution displeased. Not all who wander are lost, though. For those Absolution fans, Instinct mode is back but used in a way to identify targets, non-targets, and objects of interest (the latter of which are EVERYWHERE so you cant always rely on Instinct to point out that glowing item you’ve been hunting for all over).

I am very happy with where this is going and can not wait for the next contracts to drop over the season. Season one shows that this was a Hitman game created by Hitman fans as it shows IO listened to its customers. One thing I’m hoping will be included in future contracts are competing assassins on the same contract, much like the Black Widow in “You Better Watch Out…” or the Red Priest in “A Dance With The Devil”, both missions in Hitman: Blood Money. I still have yet to see if any innocent bystanders kick into hero mode by picking up weapons and firing rounds off at 47 but I’m almost about ready to simply walk in the front door with a fully automatic weapon and see how well that goes.

This is the Hitman game I truly believe fans have wanted since Blood Money and though the seasonal release date is kind of a drag, the incredible size of The Showstopper has me thinking about the mission even when I’m not playing and I can not wait to see what the extra time allowed to IO over the course of this year will bring. If the seasons go on and the contracts are just as immersive with maps that are so massive they become puzzles, I am down for the long haul and can not wait to see what IO has in store as the year progresses.

[easyreview title=”HITMAN Episode 1 Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”4″ ]

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Star Wars Battlefront Review (PS4)

Star Wars Battlefront Beta

Before we begin, let’s get the Death Star-sized elephant in the room addressed prior to anything else: No, Star Wars Battlefront does not have a single-player campaign – and there’s nothing wrong with that! If you haven’t been paying attention over pretty much the last decade, the single-player campaigns tacked on to online First Person Shooters have declined more and more over the years with regards to content and actual story. The good news is that we got Star Wars Battlefront, a game that’s current Luke Skywalker vs Darth Vader timeline puts us smack dab in the middle of the Return of The Jedi backdrop. A campaign was never really promised anyways and there is nothing to say that this game wouldn’t have been a lot less fun had a campaign been focused on instead of the amazing multiplayer experience that this title is. We’ll hope for a future title for a Star Wars campaign for now.

Star Wars Battlefront is a full-fledged multiplayer FPS experience in the Star Wars galaxy, putting you at the controls (normally) of a member of the Rebel Alliance or a Stormtrooper for the Imperials. Along the way, certain game modes allow you to become something far greater than you ever imagined: Star Wars Heroes. The opportunity to wield a Lightsaber as Darth Vader or shoot first with the gunslinger abilities of Han Solo, Star Wars Battlefront has what any Star Wars fan would be looking for in a multiplayer FPS. As well, you also have a chance to pilot iconic space crafts like the Millennium Falcon which is an experience in itself.

But enough with what the fans expect to hear. Let’s get down to it! Star Wars Battlefront is hands down one of the most beautiful games I have ever played. When I think next-gen consoles, this is what I expect them to do. The Forest Moon of Endor is hands down one of the more picturesque maps in the game and even if you’re not a Star Wars fan per se, you cant ignore the fact that it looks like you’re standing in the middle of a forest when you’re charging through. It’s amazing how impressive some of these maps look and it’s hard to ignore that, aside from the galactic battle waging 50 yards away, you can get lost looking at the environments. Even far off hills, as long as you’re not paying attention to Jabba’s Palace off to the side, look like ones you’d see while road tripping through the desert. Though the map selection for game modes are limited, they are immense and can be easy to get lost in without the option of viewing a full area map, relying only on your limited personal radar in the corner of you’re screen. More maps are promised in future free DLC so there’s that.

Weapon selection is rather limited for Star Wars Battlefront, and needs to be unlocked at a price once their according level is reached. With limited weapon selection, it’s easy to pick out which is going to be the crowd favorites. Within days, I found myself on the usual rotation of 3 different weapons and it was hard not to notice most everyone else using one of the three for their load-out as well. Star Cards add an addition power up option, giving you the chance of three per hand: two being a secondary weapon while the third being a personal-use power up. Thermo Detonators were by far the popular choice with the Jump Pack being the only real game changing device through the again limited use of Star Card options. Again, more to come in future DLC I’m sure but that’s getting near the point of title that didn’t have enough to begin with at launch and with 20 v 20 modes, it’s not hard to see entire armies favoring a handful of Blasters and Star Card hands

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Another option fault comes in place of character customization. Storm Troopers and Rebels all look the same… and that’s pretty much it. If you’d like, you can purchase a pre-made character head for your Imperial Troop, but then you just look like a Storm Trooper missing his or her helmet. As well, the heads are the same for the Rebels. You can’t currently modify their outfits at all, nor can their weapons be designed in any fashion other than the standard galactic issued “Ass-End-Of-Space Black” color option. Now I’m not looking for a neon pink Storm Trooper but simple changes in armor hear and there, modifications to the helmets or chest pieces, little things that could have been done to make your individual soldier their own personal look would have been awesome. Instead, everyone wants to either get the Biker Scout or the Shadow Trooper, or the alien Rebel characters and that’s it. The game definitely fails there, especially in comparison to how customizable characters can be with custom emblems and armor can be in other current and past FPS games. There’s just no real custom option whatsoever in this game.

Other missing things you’d come to know and love in FPS multiplayer games is a final kill cam, or anything that shows big highlights of the previous match. And believe me, game changing moments happen every other moment in this game and there’s really nothing to highlight those outstanding moments or players, other than a basic naming of three players for their outstanding skills. Seems rather cookie cutter especially in a game this big and heroic where literally anything can happen.

The game modes are plentiful but very few stand out as ones you’d really go back to, time and again. My favorites by far were ‘Supremacy’, a massive 20 on 20 tug-of-war death match, with the opportunities to fly X-Wings, Tie-Fighters, and become Heroes like Luke Skywalker and Emperor Palpatine, are what make this game mode by far the most intense. The objective-based ‘Walker Assault’ was as well as standout. Though it was tough communicate the team-play issues that plagued this version during the beta, it has quickly caught on as a non-stop action game mode with again vehicles and Heroes in-game. As well, fighting off AT-AT and player-piloted AT-ST walkers are what make this game an unpredictable and insanely addictive 20 v 20 mode. Though getting used to controlling Heroes can take a few goes, the chance of picking up the Hero Token that are randomly placed in the battlefield are amazing. My favorite by far is Luke Skywalker with his speed and jumping abilities, he can carve up entire platoons of enemies with his lightsaber. Heroes on both sides of the Force are available including Boba Fett and Princess Leia. ‘Blast’ was a game mod that also a lot of fun for those looking for your typical 8 on 8 team deathmatch, pure and simple. The weapon limitations without the option to add attachments do level the playing field for pretty much everyone out there so all game modes are accessible one the basics are grasped. Other games like Droid Hunt and Cargo can at times be fun but turn more into GTA Online after a while; everywhere dropping the objective and blasting on whoever walks around the corner. I suppose smaller maps just eventually lead to battlefield-wide shootouts after a while.

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Fighter Squadron however takes a step away from the norm and puts you at the controls of Tie-Fighters and Rebel craft like X-Wings as well as the chance to fly Boba Fett’s Slave-1. This game mode was incredible if you enjoy combat flight simulators. I personally would love to see EA and Dice do a standalone Star Wars combat flight sim game in the future because Fighter Squadron was so good that it just didn’t have enough. I found myself flying an A-Wing through canyons for no other purpose than just to see how tight I could make corners around cliff faces. Though they can seem incredibly overpowered when flying against them, being behind the controls of the Millennium Falcon or the Slave-1 are amazingly fluid and fantastically brutal when dog-fighting opposing craft. Each fighter craft does have it’s own 1st-person cockpit flight view. Though they are neat to look at once or twice, they are difficult to use while in a match and they really do not serve any more purpose than the once-given “Ooohs” and “Ahhhs”. Still, this needs to have it’s own game, EA. Bigger maps, a lot more vehicles, and a campaign. I need more Fighter Squadron!

I’m lucky enough to have multiple friends who are massive Star Wars fans / PS4 owners so I had a lot of fun playing Star Wars Battlefront. However, if you’re not a huge fan of the franchise (I like it but you wouldn’t call me a “fan” necessarily), and don’t really have a group to enjoy the game with, Star Wars Battlefront may not be the game for you. It just doesn’t have the customization and weapon options to keep you on target long enough to really get the full enjoyment of this game. Even with it’s looks alone, Star Wars Battlefront is not a game I’d recommend to the casual gamer who doesn’t have time to sit down and enjoy it with friends. However, if you’ve got friends and are ready to throwback to throwing laser blasts down steel-girded hallways, facing off against the likes of Darth Vader and hordes of Storm Troopers; if you’re ready to turn your back to the Imperials and stand in rebellion with Luke Skywalker, Star Wars Battlefront is where you want to be. This game will have you entertained for hours.

[easyreview title=”Star Wars Battlefront Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”3″ ]

The 17th Door Haunted Experience Review

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Interactivity – That’s the word of the day for haunted attractions and The 17th Door Haunted Experience, based at the Tustin Market Place in Tustin, CA has taken it as one of its core concepts. As The 17th Door is a newcomer to the haunted attraction game here in Southern California, and we love checking out haunted houses during the scary season, we rushed to attend a recent media event and experience it, first-hand!

The 17th Door haunted attraction is an immersive experience to say the least. Right when you walk in the door, you already feel as if you’re taken to dilapidated college campus, the theme behind The 17th Door’s inaugural season. The collegiate backdrop holds a story of a troubled student whose nightmares are coming to life and you are thrown right into the mix to experience the terror, first-hand along with her – a trip through her messed up mind, as it were.

The seventeen interactive rooms within the attraction hold multiple hands-on scares from exploring the troubled student’s dorm room, venturing through a dank drug lab, a classroom with a paddle-happy instructor, or even being tossed into a cramped asylum cell – all the while, the monsters outside are laughing and toying with you as you await the inevitable end.

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Along with The 17th Door’s amazing visuals and set design, the attraction also contains a lot of veteran monster talent from other Southern California haunted attractions who now call The 17th Door home. This means you won’t be walking away unscathed when it comes to who’s behind the mask, driving the in-your-face scares. These guys are absolute professionals and I have no worries whatsoever that they are delivering powerhouse scares each night. Speaking of masks, multiple scare actors in pig masks are creeping through the halls and rooms as pigs are the main source of fear for our main character’s nightmarish romp. The silicone mask making geniuses at Immortal Masks get a lot of time to show off their amazing handy work through many of the masks and characters in The 17th Door, and their commitment to quality definitely shows through in the monsters at the attraction.

One thing to keep in mind when heading to The 17th Door is that it’s not your typical walk-through haunted house. It is much more interactive than what you may be used to from Knott’s Scary Farm or The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor and you really have to keep up with what’s going on around you to get the full effect of the attraction. With this being its very first year, The 17th Door is still working out the kinks but they are off to a hell of a start. Visually, their haunted attraction resembles the amazing set design you’d see at a multi-million dollar theme park, not something you would expect to see at a local, freshman haunted house.  The attention to the little set design details that the team has crafted is absolutely stunning, not just in their interior arrangement but also in their characters, each having their own specific look.

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Beware, there is a chance you may get a little wet while wandering the halls of The 17th Door and if you’re afraid of closed-in spaces, this attraction may not be for you. While it might not be the typical haunted house walk-through you’d come to expect, where your experience is based on the scares the talent alone delivers, the immersive interactivity of The 17th Door is what makes it stand out from other attractions in the area. If you’re up for something wildly original from a team who is very passionate about making an impact on the Halloween season in Southern California, The 17th Door Haunted Experience is not to be missed. Right out of the starting gate, they are running hard and it’s going to be exciting to see how this attraction evolves over the next coming years. The passion for a great haunt experience driving this team is what makes The 17th Door an up and coming powerhouse in the local Halloween market. Best wishes to the entire team as they power through the first Halloween season!

The 17th Door Haunted Experience
2856 El Camino Real
Tustin, CA 92782

[easyreview title=”The 17th Door Haunted Experience Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”4″ ]

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Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 Review (PS4)

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One of the very first games I owned for the PlayStation 2 was Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 and, WOW, did I play the hell out of that game. Massive and fully interactive maps along with a fantastic and fun user interface made that game as addictive as could be. That being my last experience with a skateboard title, I was all ears when Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 got announced earlier this year. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t live up to anything more than a slightly higher definition version of what could almost be a last-gen console game.

The games mechanics for THPS5 are just as you’d expect from a Tony Hawk skateboard game. Grinding, manuals, basic skating, ramps and what not – they’re all back in the same working format that you’ve come to know and love. The low gravity is also as it was from previous titles, making for some amazing tricks when hitting ramps, verts, and the like. This can also lead to some rather hilarious bugs when missing a trick at the wrong time, literally catapulting your rag-doll character across the map or soaring into the air minus their board.

Though THPS5 is what you’d come to believe a Tony Hawk title to be, it doesn’t feel like a brand new game. In fact, it feels like a step backwards for the title in almost every way. With a next-gen console release, I expected much more massive and in-depth maps, a higher variety of tricks and abilities, and much more customization options when creating a your own skater, and so on and so forth compared to what next-gen consoles have been visually able to pull off over the past few years since their initial release.

Instead, custom skaters do not start out with many custom options at all and unlocking them comes slowly and with minimal reward. Even then, unlocking a custom head or outfit during a skating session doesn’t actually show you what you’ve unlocked until you go to the custom skater window and scroll all the way to where the unlocked card is, flipping it to show what you actually received. Not only can this be a pain since there are a ton of unlockables, but it’s also not very rewarding when you take all that time just to find out you unlocked an outfit or an item that you could really care less about. Along with that, all custom skaters are based on original character templates (Tony Hawk, Chris Cole, David Gonzalez, etc) so even if you fully customize your character, it’s still the template wearing different outfits, faces, and the like. There’s no real option to play as a completely original skater.

The soundtrack, while fitting for a Tony Hawk title, can be rather repetitive. Why sports titles have not expanded their tracklist along with their expansion of options and gameplay is completely baffling to me. While understanding that licensing is always going to be an issue, a true fan of sports titles is going to be playing them for a year solid before the following year’s title releases and a small soundtrack (like MLB The Show 2015 or NHL 14) is going to become an annoyance after the first solid week of gameplay. Along with that, THPS5 doesn’t really give you the option to turn off specific songs and let me tell you, some of them are catchy while others are downright annoying. Being an independent artist myself and knowing the currently horrid state of the music industry, it would be nice to see more original music as well as more choices as far as soundtracks go. That would help a lot in keeping things lively and exciting. Instead, after only a few hours of gameplay, I was getting repeat tracks since starting a mission or a new skate session will start a new song from the beginning and there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to the order of tracks being played.

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Speaking of missions, these are the only way to open up new levels in THPS5. While Free Skate can be an absolute blast, there’s really nothing that can be gained as far as game advancement and jumping into the missions is the main way of progression aside from acquiring points for character customization unlocks. While some missions can be fun (grinding distances and exploding heads are my personal favorites), they also become repetitive and more of a “collect these” and “return them here”, taking away from the whole point of skateboarding where you want to be doing tricks and attempting death-defying skateboard acrobatics. Another downside is that the missions are the same, level-to-level, simply with different names according to the theme of the map you’re on leading to a lot of repetitiveness, especially when you just want to free skate all the maps.

The whole interface of the game seems like it took a step back to the PlayStation 2 days, both graphically and texture wise. Doing awesome tricks does not feel as satisfying without the big blowup text or anything fancy happening other than the trick you did being high-lighted as a different color at the bottom of the screen. Along with that, there are company logos EVERYWHERE. It almost seems like THPS5 was created just to be a brand showcase cash grab and not necessarily a well-rounded follow-up to what has been some amazing skateboard games over the past years. The maps themselves look tiled together and done have that beautiful, clean look to them you’d expect from a next-gen console (I could be playing this on the PS2 and wouldn’t know the difference to be honest).

While Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 is still fun to play just as you’d remember the previous titles to be, there’s really nothing new or exciting in it. Because of that, the game wears thin rather quickly as there isn’t much to really keep you playing in what is supposed to be a brand new, 5th title in the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series. Limited and unimaginative missions, small and sometimes basic maps, and graphical bugs that can be a pain – it’s sad to see that this feels more like “Tony Hawk Takes Your Money” than a brand new Pro Skater title. Maybe I expected too much but even a brand new player to the Pro Skater series will see 5 as a game that could have had potential but seemed more rushed out in its final product and lacking a lot of the basic polish you expect from a game released in 2015.

[easyreview title=”Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”2″ ]

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