Gears of War: Ultimate Edition Review

Gears ReviewGears of War: Ultimate Edition (Available exclusively on Xbox One)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1 to 8
Genre: Action
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: The Coalition
Release Date: August 25th, 2015

Parent Talk: Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is rated M for mature because of strong language, intense violence, and blood and gore. This is a game that features an assault rifle with a chainsaw attached to it. That chainsaw isn’t for looks, it’s used to literally cut your enemies in half. So naturally this isn’t the type of game you should let your kids play.

Plays Like: The original Gears of War was responsible for really bringing the cover and shoot gameplay the series is now known for to the forefront of gaming. It works much like it sounds, you run from one cover to the next, taking out enemies as quickly as possible so you don’t get flanked. The game features an excellent two-player co-op mode that is an absolute blast to play.

Review Basis: Having finished the original game multiple times, I played enough of this one to see what improvements had been made.

Gears of War is one of my favorite Xbox 360 titles. It was the first game on the 360 that really made me go wow this is next-gen. It was a stunning look at a dystopian future and I had some of the best moments of my gaming life in this game with Steven, that other wacky COEr. We still talk about a few classic moments from our hours-long play sessions via Xbox Live. So returning to this classic almost a decade later was both entertaining and nostalgic.

Gears1The Great:

I have to admit I was shocked at just how well Gears of War has aged. The cover gameplay still feels fresh and exciting. The co-op mode is just as excellent as you remember, and the overall experience is just as powerful today as it was when the game first was released back in 2006. There’s something special about revisiting the game that started it all. Breaking Fenix out of his prison cell, seeing the world all tattered and decayed again for the first time, is just an amazing experience and depending on your level of enjoyment with the original title, you may very well find yourself smitten with Gears of War all over again.

Gears2The Good:

  • Respect and devotion went into this remaster. The graphics have all been given fresh coat of paint, to a blistering 1080p resolution and 60 frames-per-second gameplay. The Coalition didn’t go crazy though, and there are plenty of rough edges here and there to harken back to the Xbox 360, and therefore preserve your nostalgia. I really appreciated that. Overall textures, models, and even the cutscenes have all been redone, but with care, and it shows. The game has never looked this good.
  • Remembering the past, but embracing the future. One of the best aspects of Ultimate Edition is that modern day features have made their way into the game. Take the co-op mode for example, it now supports drop-in and out gameplay. Your friends can join you mid-chapter, and both players can play on separate difficulty levels.
  • The five additional segments from the PC version have been added, which chronicle Dom and Marcus’ journey to a train station through an assortment of abandoned factories. It’s a fantastic addition that many, myself included, didn’t even know existed beforehand.
  • Horror roots. I completely forgot how much the original game was based on the horror genre. When the second game in the series hit, it was all out war, but here you’re just a small group, making your way through dimly lit hallways with scary monsters around every corner. This really makes me wish Gears of War 4 will return to this style because it’s much more personal and in your face.
  • Multiplayer feels much fresher and faster than ever before, likely thanks to that 60 fps boost. There are a few new modes, and a new map, but classics like Gridlock, Tyro Station, and Depot all hit that nostalgia sweet spot.

Gears3The So-So:

+/- It’s understandable that there wouldn’t be a lot of gameplay variety in the first entry in the series, but because you’re playing this today, I found myself wanting to do a bit more than just kill every enemy in one section before moving on to the next to repeat the exact same situation all over again.

Gears4The Bad:

  • As amazing of a job the developer did, there is one area that truly hasn’t aged well whatsoever, and that’s the AI. I can’t tell you how many times my partner character would purposely veer off to an area where just moments before he said not to go, thereby instantly killing himself. There were also a few instances where the AI character wouldn’t trigger a scene, such as pressing a button or opening a door, which led to me having to restart a checkpoint.

Gears5The Lowdown:

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is a great remaster. The fact that the initial release of the game also included digital downloads of the four Xbox 360 Gears games was a special treat. I can’t tell you how many times I smiled or laughed at key scenes because of all the nostalgia I have for this game. If you even remotely enjoyed the original, I highly recommend you give this one a go.

Final Score: 8/10

Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection Review

Uncharted ReviewUncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection (Available exclusively on PlayStation 4)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Bluepoint Games
Release Date: October 7th, 2015

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates the Uncharted Collection T for teen because of blood, language, suggestive themes, use of tobacco, and violence. While there are certainly mature themes throughout the series, it’s not ultra-violent. Think of it like going to see a PG-13 action movie and you know more or less what to expect.

Plays Like: Let’s see here, there’s stealth, cover mechanics, gunplay, platforming, and puzzle solving to be had. The action takes place in third person, and personally I’ve called the Uncharted series the franchise that Tomb Raider should have been since the beginning. It’s kind of ironic that now the Tomb Raider series is a derivative of the Uncharted series, but that’s a topic for another day. This is as close as you will likely ever get to playing an Indiana Jones movie.

Review Basis: The Uncharted franchise is my favorite franchise established during the PlayStation 3 generation, so I know these games well. I played enough of each game in this collection to compare the remasters to their original counterparts and report back.

Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection is a remarkable collection of games. People tend to forget but the original Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune shipped back in 2007 from a developer mostly known for their mascot characters such as Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter. To see them branch out into a more realistic action adventure was shocking. Nathan Drake had to prove himself, and prove himself he did. Today the Uncharted series is the jewel in Sony’s first party developed crown. With the forth entry in the series gearing up for release early next year, having a set like this hit now is fitting. Not only does it remind us of how far the series has come, but also where things are going.

Uncharted2The Great:

The fact this collection exists gives me an excuse to go back and play through all three of these games back-to-back-to-back one more time before the next installment is released. I consider that the very best feature of the game, giving me one more chance to experience these absolutely incredible games.

Uncharted3The Good:

  • Evolving gameplay. The cover mechanics of the first game get better and better as the series evolved, and that’s highlighted in this collection. The gunplay also got tighter the further the series went. Regardless of the improvements made, the series was fun from the very beginning. The mix of action and puzzle solving, and phenomenal storytelling make this a series you will want to play through again and the gameplay evolves at a natural pace, meaning you don’t ever feel completely restricted.
  • The incredible action set pieces are just as memorable today as they were when you first played through these games. If you never experienced these games from the previous generation, then you’re in for a real treat. From the dilapidated train wreck in Uncharted 2 to the incredible desert in Uncharted 3, it’s just amazing to behold in 1080p.
  • The amazing story flows from one game to the next in such a way that you really have to play the games one after another in order to tie the themes together and get the most out of the trilogy. This marks the first time I’ve ever played the games one after another, and I enjoyed the story more now than I did when the games were new. The first game is by far the weakest of the bunch in terms of the narrative, but it sets the stage for things to come.
  • The advances in motion capture technology came a long way from Drake’s Fortune to Drake’s Deception, and so too did the Naughty Dog’s cinematography skills. I find it interesting how a game based so much on the past, has itself a little history lesson in technological advancements. Naughty Dog became more and more comfortable in their newfound skills as the games progressed, and that’s evident as you play through them.
  • The 1080p resolution and smooth 60 fps gameplay are the way these games were meant to be played. I actually had to connect my PS3 because I never remembered these games looking this good, but to my surprise they were quite impressive even on the PlayStation 3.

+The soundtrack is also just as incredible as I remembered. The game also supports 7.1 surround sound, and it sounds superb. These games have never sounded better than they do here. The voice acting is also a highlight.

  • New features and modes make these games better than ever. For beginners there’s a new super easy mode called Explorer Mode, and then there’s the Brutal difficulty which makes Crushing look like child’s play. There’s also a Speed Run mode which keeps track of your progression versus your friend’s times, which is nice. There’s even a photo mode, and all new trophies. Finally there’s a render mode, which unlocks new skins allowing you to play as some of your favorite characters from the series.

Uncharted5The So-So:

+/- One element this series has always struggled with is the disconnect between the protagonists that are so rich and lively, and the mass murdering they perform throughout the three adventures. These games are filled with deep storylines and complex characters that are emotionally charged, yet none of them have any problems killing thousands of people.

Uncharted4The Bad:

  • Sadly all multiplayer modes have not been carried over from the original games, which will surely disappoint some fans of the series.

Uncharted1The Lowdown:

Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection proves Drake’s motto is true, Sic Parvus Magna or, Greatness from small Beginnings. This set is an absolute must buy.

Final Score: 8.5/10


Tearaway Unfolded Review

Tearaway Unfolded ReviewTearaway Unfolded (Available exclusively on PlayStation 4)
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action Platformer
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Tarsier Studios and Media Molecule

Parent Talk: Tearaway Unfolded is the perfect game for children of all ages. It has been rated E for everyone by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board and the only disclaimer is mild cartoon violence and that sums it up. You take on the role of Iota, or Atoi, a little paper crafted messenger trying to deliver your special message to the real world.

Plays Like: Tearaway makes full use of the DualShock 4 controller, which is no surprise considering the original version on the Vita made use of that system’s unique capabilities. There’s also a companion app you can use in order to have even more control over the game’s environments and creative tools. The PlayStation Vita itself can also act as an input device, which is fantastic for those of us who experienced the original. Your objective is to make it to the real world by traversing countless action platforming stages until you reach your destination. Combined with intelligent puzzles, terrific action and platforming, Tearaway is a fantastic game that everyone in the house can enjoy.

Review Basis: Sony sent us a review copy two weeks before release. I went back and played through the Vita version to compare and contrast Tearaway Unfolded with the original version and to get a better feel for how the new controls work.

When Sony announced Tearaway would be coming to the PlayStation 4, I would a little disheartened. It meant that the Vita version likely didn’t sell as well as Sony had hoped, which is really a shame. I was also perplexed because how could they take a game that was created from the ground up for the Vita and port it over to a console where you’re using a controller instead of a system with a touch screen, track pad, built in camera, microphone, etc. The answer is the developers got creative, and that’s what the true spirit of Tearaway was always about, being creative. I’m happy to the report the end result is a game that remains just as charming and fun to play on the PlayStation 4 as it was on the Vita.

TU_4The Great:

This is the Tearaway you remember, but with a twist. Sony didn’t just take the Vita version of Tearaway and quickly port it to the PS4. It’s clear that love and devotion went into the development of Tearaway Unfolded. For one thing huge sections of the game have been added in order to flesh out the storyline, which is now more focused on the journey of Iota or Atoi reaching the You, as in the real you, the one reading this review. In the Vita version, which I thought was excellent (, the game did a fantastic job of bridging the gap between the game world and the real world, and that translates well to the PS4. It’s better if you own the PlayStation Camera because you can take pictures of yourself or even short clips. Even without it though you can make use of the companion app which works on tablets and smartphones, and serves the same purpose. If you own a Vita you can also use that to help further enhance the game’s features.

The focus has been changed somewhat this time around because the level of interaction isn’t as native to the PS4 hardware as it was with the Vita. For example all the touch screen elements have largely been replaced with either light-focused elements, which are done by holding down the R2 button on the controller and the light from the controller magically appears on-screen to assist your little paper messenger. With the Vita version you would likely have had to touch the screen to move a platform out of your way. I will give the developers credit though, they did a good job of making use of the DualShock 4’s track pad. You can click it in to cause large drums to bounce, or sweep your finger along the trackpad in order to change the direction of the wind. While not quite as natural as the Vita’s gesture features, it does work fairly well thanks to the motion controls and built-in features of the DualShock 4.

TU_2The Good:

  • Solid gameplay. I love the interactive concept Tearaway plays with, but it really wouldn’t mean much if the core gameplay was lacking, but it certainly isn’t. Behind the unique exterior lies a very fun and addicting action platformer. As you progress in the game you unlock more and more abilities, and you can return to previously visited areas in order to unlock a wide assortment of goodies from real world paper crafts, in-game confetti which is used to purchase additional customizable items for your avatar, to trophies and more.
  • The fantastic customization options from the original game are back. You can change every aspect of Iota and Atoi. There are sections of the game where you have to create wonderful pieces of art, and admittingly it can be a bit difficult with the small surface area of the DualShock 4’s trackpad, but thankfully the companion app works very well if you’re using it on a tablet. You can even get a second person to help you out with the app, which I found to be quite useful.
  • Creative world never looked so good. Featuring lush 1080p visuals at a smooth 60 frames-per-second. It was a true sight to behold on the Vita, the way the levels peeled back, the way every object was made of paper and reacted realistically to wind and your interactions, and now on the PS4 the details are sharper than ever. While I wouldn’t say this game is pushing the PS4 to its limits, it looks and runs perfectly. The world feels more alive on the big screen, and the audio is just incredible. The soundtrack is fantastic, with melodies that help bring this special world to life. There’s also some great voice acting and perfectly matched sound effects.

TU_3The Bad:

  • No matter how much effort was put into this version of Tearaway, it could never fully match the original if only because the game was conceptualized for a system with specific features. While this version works great, and is indeed fun, it doesn’t come across quite as revolutionary as the original. It also puts the final nail in the Vita’s coffin as its single best reason for owning is no longer exclusive.

TU_1The Ugly:

While not frequent, I did run into a few areas where some bizarre graphical glitches occurred whereby a small piece of paper from the environment wouldn’t float away as scripted, it would instead stay floating in front of a characters face or other really minor anomalies like that.

TU_5The Lowdown:

Tearaway Unfolded is a really fun game to play, it’s creative, original, and makes perfect use of the DualShock 4’s features. It’s even better if you own the PlayStation Camera or download the companion app for your smartphone or tablet. The problem is that it also destroys the best exclusive Sony had for the Vita as now you can pick the game up on the PS4. I don’t blame Sony as it makes perfect financial sense, so do yourself a favor and since the odds are you skipped out on the Vita, pick this one up instead. You won’t regret it.

Final Score: 8/10

Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven Review

510932_frontLord of Magna: Maiden Heaven (Available exclusively on 3DS)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Role Playing
Publisher: XSeed
Developer: Marvelous
Release Date: June 2nd, 2015

Hey everyone! My name is Cranberry; here with a guest review! Well, let’s get right to it!

Lord of Magna ReviewParent Talk: The Entertainment Software Rating Board has rated this game T for Teen, citing the following: Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Partial Nudity, & Suggestive Themes. While it’s not excessive, there is some blatant “fan-service” in this game that involves some up-skirt pictures and some unnecessarily skimpy outfits. They aren’t kidding about the suggestive dialogue either; it definitely gets pretty suggestive at times. Of particular note, there is an animated bathing scene that you probably would not want to get caught watching at work.

The battles are not bloody or gory and are pretty tame, although some cut scenes imply some pretty harsh violence at times.

The teen rating seems to be appropriate for this one; I wouldn’t recommend this one for young children.

Plays Like:  This game plays like a cross between a turn based RPG, a strategy game, and a visual novel. The main emphasis of the game is definitely the plot and the interactions between the characters. It features a lot of cut scenes and dialogue reading, much of it voice acted.

Combat plays a part as well, and is played out in a strategic turn-based system. You field a party of up to four characters, each with different attributes and attack ranges. Combat takes place on a large field where you can see all of the enemy units. Both you and the enemies take turns moving and attacking, however the field is not a grid. Each character has a circle that appears around them, showing their move range for that turn. You can move freely anywhere within this circle provided there isn’t anything to block your path. When you’re ready to attack, you’ll see a red space that designates the area you can hit.

Lord of Magna1Lord of Magna also features an experience point leveling system as well as a crafting system, which adds some RPG elements into its strategy styled combat system.

The Good:

  • The presentation  is quite beautiful. The graphics have a cartoonish feel to them, which is pretty normal for a 3DS game, but they get the job done wonderfully. The 3D effects are not mind blowing, but they supplement the setting well without feeling too “busy” or disorienting. The characters are likable and full of personality. The story is also pretty well written and engaging. You take the role of an inn keeper, whom you can choose a name for. He runs an inn on the outskirts of town, and is patiently awaiting the day when his inn at long last receives a guest. The guests soon arrive in the form of characters that will join your party; seven in all over the course of the game. There is a reason this game is called “Maiden Heaven”, every playable character except for the main character is female. But each girl has a distinct personality and it is quite enjoyable to watch their stories unfold and see their character development over the course of the tale. These cut scenes are sometimes supplemented by some lovely artwork too.

Lord of Magna2+ There are also “heart events” you can access, which are essentially quests that dwell deeper into an individual girl and reveal more about her. There are 21 such heart events, and it will take several play-throughs to see them all; which fleshes out the story further and gives the game some replay value too.

  • The music is top-notch. The songs fit the context well and are pleasant to listen to. I received the original soundtrack with my purchase, and I frequently pop the CD in and listen to it. I really enjoy the music.
  • I also enjoy the combat system in this game. Each character has different roles they can contribute in a battle, and you need to think about how they can complement one another on the battle field. Some characters hit for a wide area in front of them, others hit an area at a distance, some hit an enemy multiple times, and others specialize in support skills. There are a lot of possibilities even before the battle begins. Once in combat, the strategy-game like field system allows for a lot of tactics that just wouldn’t work in a traditional turn-based RPG. You gain an action point each turn, and you spend this action point to perform your chosen action. There’s also an interesting “bowling” mechanic in battle, where enemies you hit can knock down and take out other enemies. If you manage to take down ten or more enemies with one attack, you get a free turn. It’s quite an interesting and creative mechanic.
  • If you choose not to take an action, you’ll keep your action point and when your next turn comes, you’ll have two action points. This allows you to save up points for special skills. This makes combat more complex and engaging than simple “hurt and heal”. You need to carefully consider how best to place your characters, and what action is best for the situation at hand. Do you send one character ahead as a decoy to try and form an opening for the rest of your party to slip through? Do you try and surround the enemy to limit their attack options? Do you fall back and regroup? All of these and more are decisions you’ll be making in battle, which makes for a very engaging battle system.
  • There’s also an elemental “Rock, Paper, Scissors” style vulnerabilities system that is similar to the typing system used in Pokémon. This further adds to the strategic combat decisions you make in battle.
  • An enjoyable story and an engaging well-designed battle system make for quite a good presentation.

The So-So:

+/- The story is both it’s strength and it’s weakness. While the story is engaging, it’s also very drawn out and you’re frequently watching long scenes in which you do nothing but hit the A button to advance through pages upon pages of text. This can be pretty frustrating if you are itching to get to the action, or if you don’t particularly care about the conversation the characters are having at the time. This is especially noticeable at the very start of the game where you read a huge amount of dialogue before you even gain access to your character. While there is a fast-forward feature, it doesn’t actually skip the cut scenes, but rather speeds through them much more quickly. Doing this does help speed things up, but there’s no “rewind” feature so if you accidentally skip ahead too far, you can’t go back to read what you missed.

The massive amounts of dialogue and the frequent lengthy cut-scenes often make this feel more like reading a book than playing a game; which can be a big put-off for a lot of people. Simply put, playing this game is going to involve reading a LOT of text.

Lord of Magna3+/- There is a crafting system, and while it adds some interesting customization options by allowing you to create skills for the characters, there’s little else you can make other than skills. There is also very little in-game clues as to what you can craft. You can at least see what the item your chosen ingredients will create before you make it, but there are no recipe books or listings of what can be made. No clues or hints from other characters as to what you should make. Unless you look up a guide online, it’s entirely trial and error based. The game really needs a recipe list.

+/- Sadly there’s no equipment to put on your characters. No new weapons, no new armor, no special accessories. Just skills, although some of the skills are passive skills that give you stat bonuses or special attributes, which is similar to what accessory-like items do in many other RPGs. But it still feels like a real missed opportunity to not include equip-able items in the game.

+/- There are a number of free missions, which allow you to field a team into battle in a variety of settings that you’ll unlock as you go through the story. These missions have some interesting flavor text, but that’s all it ends up being. It’s nothing but a battle against enemies that serves as a grinding or item farming opportunity. The good thing is that these free battles allow you to immediately enter a battle without having to wade through a mountain of text, but it’s disappointing for the missions to be given such interesting descriptions only to have nothing special happen in any of them.

The Bad:

As was already mentioned, the lengthy cut scenes can be pretty jarring, which depending on your tastes can be a real negative. But perhaps the biggest negative is the complete lack of exploration this game allows.

  • Except for a camp-site that you get to very briefly walk around in, the Inn is the only area you get to explore. Every other area, the only interaction you get with the environment is through battle. No exploring the territory, no searching for treasure, no searching for hidden secrets, no chatting with NPCs in town. There is a town in this game, and your visits to it are entirely scripted. For an RPG title, this is a glaring flaw. Nothing is more frustrating than setting foot on these beautiful maps, and not being able to explore them.
  • 99% of the battles mandate that you have the main character in them, even in free battles. This unnecessarily restricts your party selection, and can be frustrating when you start getting more characters available and want to experiment with a variety of character combinations. In a game that is already quite linear with no exploration, the last thing you want is even more limitations.

The Lowdown:

This is almost a love it or hate it game. The story is an engaging tale full of mystery, drama, and suspense.

Lord of Magna4There’s a fair amount of customization you can do with the character’s skills, and the combat system is magnificent but, the frequent extremely lengthy cut scenes, the lack of exploration, and the lack of equip-able items are pretty significant flaws that are quite noticeable and glaring during play.

If you’re looking for an engaging tale full of lovable characters, I recommend this game wholeheartedly. But if you’re looking for action and adventure, or your traditional RPG experience, this game won’t satisfy you.

That’s why my final rating for this game is a 7/10.

Until Dawn Review

Until Dawn Box ArtUntil Dawn (Available exclusively on the PlayStation 4)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action Adventure
Developer: Supermassive Games
Publisher: SCEA
Release Date: August 25th, 2015

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Until Dawn M for mature players aged 17 and up because of blood and gore, intense violence, sexual themes, and strong language. Ever watch a movie franchise like Saw, well if so you know what to expect here. If you haven’t, this is a horror videogame where you see people get ripped apart, decapitated, and much more. Under no circumstances should children be anywhere near this game.

Plays Like: The best way I can describe Until Dawn is if someone were to take the episodic nature of Alan Wake and apply that to a horror-themed version of Heavy Rain. The game plays almost exactly like that mash up. For those that don’t know either or those games, you are largely interacting with a seven to nine hour movie. You can move one of eight characters around a limited environment, correctly hit the right buttons during quick-time events, and study various objects in the environment. This isn’t your typical third-person shooter, no here it’s all about immersing the player in a highly disturbing world. The big twist is that your choices literally affect everything in the game from the storyline to segments of the game you’ll actually play through.

Review Basis: Sony Computer Entertainment Canada sent us a review copy a week in advance, and I played non-stop until I had not only completed the game, but went through it several times to see how I could affect the storyline.

I really enjoyed the heavy narrative of Heavy Rain. It was a tremendously unique experience. It didn’t play like your typical third-person action game, instead making you interact with the environment in bold ways uncommon for the genre. Until Dawn is very similar in-style to Heavy Rain, but instead of trying to solve the riddle of the origami killer, here you’re wrapped up in a terrifying tale of murder, suspense and dread, where your every action changes not only the storyline, but the entire game. Until Dawn is the butterfly effect realized in videogame form, and it will absolutely blow you away.

Until Dawn1The Great:

The one element that really makes Until Dawn standout from its peers is its incredible use of the butterfly effect. In reality the butterfly effect amounts to the smallest choices we make could have dire consequences in the future. Step on a blade of grass and that could bring about the apocalypse sometime down the road. Until Dawn excels at this because during any given moment there are literally dozens of choices you will have to make. Do you get angry at one character for something they did or said? Do you take the left path instead of the right path? Do you ignore the quick-time event and see what happens, or do you try your hardest to keep up with the ever increasing prompts? Some of these choices may seem trivial, but their consequences can be felt as you progress through the game.

There’s an extremely helpful butterfly effect menu system where you can see how each choice you made affected the outcome of the game. On one wing you’ll see the initial choice you made, and then you can swipe to the right using the DualShock 4’s trackpad to see the next outcome. This is extremely useful to keep track of where branches were made, especially if you want to experience the game again by going down a different path.

I should also mention the choices you make are permanent. There are no checkpoints here, no do-overs. Once you’re make a decision you have to stick with it throughout the entire game. If that choice leads to a character dying, there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. This means there’s no Game Over screen, and that allows you to get extremely experimental during your future play-throughs.

Until Dawn2The Good:

  • You will be afraid, count on it. The first six chapters of the game are genuinely scary. You have no idea what’s going on, you know there’s a presence out there, something that’s hunting your friends down, but you don’t know exactly what. There are countless jump scares where I almost dropped my controller out of fright, and then there’s the genuine dread that starts to creep in as you’re all alone making your way to some foreboding area. I can tell you I actually had my hands start to shake at one part because I really didn’t know what was going to happen next. The tension slowly eases off towards the end of the game as more and more is revealed about what’s actually going on, but let me tell you, the first half is absolutely petrifying. That’s not to say the latter half isn’t scary, it’s just that you start to acclimatize to the jump scares, and the game really wants to flesh out the story so you get the complete package.
  • Speaking of the story, it’s great. A very traumatic event occurred a year ago in a cabin in the woods on a mountain side. Now everyone who was present is back to pay their respects, but all is not what it seems and now each of the eight friends are systematically being taken out. What is going on? Who is doing this? Will anyone make it until dawn? There are quite a few horror tropes featured and many clichés, but what separates the game from your run-of-the-mill teen horror story are the deep and fleshed out characters. By the end of the game you will absolutely hate some of them, and feel true pain when you let others die because of your poor decisions that led to them being massacred.
  • Core gameplay works perfectly. This is the one area that won’t be for everyone. Gameplay is broken down into several sections, each specifically designed to draw you further into the narrative. There are areas where you play in third-person, usually at times where you have to explore dark and scary places, then there are decision bubbles where you have to move the right analog stick to select one of two decisions, which will completely change the course of the game. There are also quick-time events that play out during key cinematic scenes, and finally there are targeting sections where you have to aim a reticle at a target very quickly or something awful usually happens.

Until Dawn3+ A surprising amount of replay is featured. There are quite a few collectable goodies you should be on the lookout for as these flesh out the storyline, and some can only be found in sections of the game that are unlocked by making certain choices. You can also go back and create new branches in the storyline that affect relationships between characters by changing the choices you make in each chapter. So while the game consists of only 10 chapters which last for at most around seven to nine hours, you could be playing for much longer if you decide you want to experiment with all the different story branches.

  • Fantastic cast of characters. Like Beyond Two Souls, Until Dawn features Hollywood actors such as Hayden Panettiere), Peter Stormare, Brett Dalton, Rami Malek, Meaghan Martin, Nichole Bloom, Galadriel Stineman, Noah Fleiss and Larry Fessenden. Each actor does a superb job of capturing the essence of the characters they play.
  • The audio visual presentation as a whole is absolutely incredible. From the dynamic camera angles that heighten the tension and suspense, to the sublime particle effects used to highlight snow and fog, it’s just a stunning game to look at and admire. Because of the limited interactivity, Supermassive Games were able to push the PS4 to its limits by creating breathtaking environments and one wonderful setting after another. This very well could be the nicest looking game of this current generation thus far.

Until Dawn4The Bad:

  • For someone like me, not having the option to use inverted aiming controls really hurts, and there’s one scene in particular where the only way to save a character is to very quickly aim at a specific spot, and because I’m so used to inverted controls my brain told my thumb to move the stick down, instead of up, thereby causing the character to die. That was very annoying to me as I was so close to saving him. I can only hope this gets patched into the game ASAP if it isn’t a day-one update.

Until Dawn5The Ugly:

I have to mention this because it occurred once, yet never again. During my very first gameplay session with the game I went through eight of the game’s 10 chapters, and since there’s no exit to main menu option I quit the game from the dashboard using the ‘Close Application’ command. When I tried to resume my game I got the following message: “Recovering partially installed data. This may take up to twenty minutes.” It took about seven minutes for the file to get recovered and then I was back where I left off, but it was odd just the same.

The Lowdown:      

Until Dawn truly surprised me as I had no expectations for it. I remember it being announced for the PlayStation 3 as a Move game (thankfully that decision was scrapped and the game now features either motion controls or traditional controls), but it really flew under my radar. So imagine my surprise when the game arrives and it absolutely blows me away. If you enjoy a good scare, close the lights, raise the volume on the TV and prepare yourself for one hell of a good time. Until Dawn might just be the very best PlayStation 4 exclusive of 2015. Don’t miss it!

Final Score: 9.2/10


God of War III Remastered Review

GoW3God of War III Remastered (Exclusively available on PlayStation 4)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Sony Santa Monica Studios, and Wholesale Algorithms
Release Date: July 14th, 2015

Parent Talk: I think it goes without saying that the ESRB rates God of War III Remastered M for mature. There’s gratuitous violence and gore at every turn, there’s nudity, and strong sexual themes. Honestly, there’s no way this game should be played by anyone other than an adult.

Plays Like: There have been a lot of God of War games over the years, and they all share the same theme of destroying everything that moves, and solving puzzles to progress to your next killing spree. The same is true here. Along the way you earn powerful weapons and spells that can be upgraded to make Kratos a more efficient killing machine.

Review Basis: I played through the original God of War III back in 2010, wow I can’t believe it has already been five years since the original version was released. Sony provided us a physical copy of the game to review, which I played through in order to see all the changes.

God of War 3 was a phenomenal game. The opening alone is one of the absolute best openings in a videogame ever. Yes, I found it even more impressive than the colossus battle from God of War II’s opening, or the beginning of the original God of War where Kratos battles a Hydra. Here you ride Gaia, a titan, who’s climbing Mount Olympus, as you face off against the Water God himself, Poseidon. I mean really, how can you possibly top that? The scale, the sheer ferocity, it’s absolutely fantastic, and while the rest of the game is fun, it’s never able to surpass this moment of pure gaming bliss. Being able to relive that moment in 1080p, 60 frames-per-second is amazing, but I did find myself asking if this was worth the $40 asking price, especially considering the PS3 version is still readily available, and remains technically impressive to this very day.

GoW3_1The Great:

Reliving all your favorite God of War III moments. Let’s be honest, God of War III has a lot of great scenes, excellent combat and a conclusion to a story that was originally spun on the PlayStation 2. It’s an all-around great game, and having another chance to play through it in all its 1080p HD glory is great. Not only do you get 1080p resolution and 60 frames-per-second, but you also get some get character skins and arenas thrown in for good measure, and a new camera mode to take pictures of you dominating the forces of Zeus.

GoW3_2The Good:

  • Combat is just as you remember it.  With the previous entries in the series there were only a few great weapons, but this time around Kratos’ arsenal is perfect.  Just about every weapon has a purpose, and some enemies require switching between them to be eliminated.  Simply use the D-pad to transition between your trusty blades, power gloves, and others.  Certain weapons even have an influence on the environment.  Even the magic system has been overhauled, so arcane attacks completely change depending on the current active weapon.  There are four primary attacking weapons, and a slew of secondary toys and abilities.  These range from Apollo’s bow to Hermes’ boots.  No matter what’s equipped though, a good time is guaranteed.
  • All of the classic clichés return.  There are tons of quick-time events, a sex scene, and about everything else you expect from the series, both good and bad.  The big difference lies in the slight modifications, which amount to a lot.  No longer does a random button icon appear on screen.  They instead appear in the order they appear on the controller.  Even the sex scene has been refined, but I won’t spoil it.  All I’ll say is play through twice.  Even the puzzles, which many complained about in God of War II, are more logical in the scope of the game.
  • This remastered version features better graphics to be sure, but it’s the audio that really surprised me. Something about the PS4’s audio output always floors me, and the same is true here. The game sounds absolutely incredible, from the amazing music and themes that play out during combat and exploration, to the power behind each and every swing Kratos makes of his awesome blades. If you have a powerful surround sound system, you’re going to be in audio bliss with this one.

GoW3_5The Bad:

+/- Sadly the pre-rendered cutscenes have not been upscaled to 1080p, and there are very little other additions to the game, making the $40 price tag a little steep.

GoW3_3The Lowdown:

Who is the target audience? I still can’t answer that question. It’s true that a lot of people who own a PS4 didn’t own a PS3, but then wouldn’t it make more sense to have packaged God of War 1 to 3 together, in order to get the whole story? Longtime fans of the series likely won’t be interested as they’ve already played the game on the PS3 and there’s very little incentive to pick this version up especially if you still have a PS3 lying around. For newcomers though, this is a superb action game that is well worth looking into, although it does feel somewhat incomplete without the first two parts.

Final Score: 8/10

Batman: Arkham Knight – Batgirl: A Matter of Family DLC Review

BatgirlBatman: Arkham Knight – Batgirl: A Matter of Family DLC (Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Warner Bros. Games Montreal
Release Date: July 14th, 2015

ESRB Rating: The DLC itself has not been rated by the ESRB, however Arkham Knight was rated M for mature because of mature themes, violence, and blood. The same is true for this downloadable content.

Plays Like: The core gameplay stays true to Arkham Knight, except this time around you play as Batgirl on her mission to rescue her father from the Joker. There is more emphasis on hacking various objects in order to take down enemies or solve puzzles, but the combat feels exactly the same as when Batman engages enemies. The game doesn’t take place in the same area as Arkham Knight, which is both interesting and refreshing.

Review Basis: I downloaded the DLC as part of the Season Pass on July 14th, and finished it an hour later. I spent another hour locating all of the hidden chattering teeth, jack-in-the-box, and balloons.

For the first time ever players can experience the breathtaking environments and tight combat system of the Arkham series as Batgirl. She’s joined by Robin as they try and rescue Jim Gordon from the Joker. It’s surprisingly fresh to play as Batgirl, even though her move-set and skills mimic those of Batman. The new location is interesting and fits the Joker’s personality perfectly. The ultimate question isn’t whether the DLC pack is fun, but rather is it worth the asking price.

Batgirl1The Great:

Being Batgirl. It might sound cheesy, but Batgirl was and remains one of the more interesting characters in the Batman family. She’s intelligent, powerful, and has a fantastic backstory. Just being able to play as Barbara Gordon is special, and the setup here allows her to shine. You get to see glimpses of the character she’ll become as Oracle after the Joker paralyzes her during the events of The Killing Joke. It’s just a shame we don’t have more time with Babs as there’s a lot more to her character, and an additional hour or two of content could have really bridged the gap between the DLC and the character she would eventually become. Either way, it’s still great being able to play as Batgirl.

Batgirl5The Good:

  • The setting is fantastic. An old abandoned amusement park makes this DLC feel distinctly different than Arkham Knight and is the absolute perfect setting for a Joker tale. It might not be the largest location set piece in the Arkham universe, but it feels self-contained and special, which is what you want from a DLC pack. Once the story progresses to the point where Batgirl has to rescue a series of hostages, it’s left up to the player which of the three locations to tackle first. While not fully open-world, it doesn’t break up the linearity of the DLC pack.
  • The same excellent combat you’ve come to expect from the series is featured here. While Batgirl has all unique animations, which look incredibly bad ass, the core gameplay is exactly the same as what you’ve experienced with Arkham Knight and the previous games in the series.

  • Barbara’s hacking skills are put to the test here, and her remote hacking device can be used from much farther away compared to Batman’s, but ultimately it does the exact same thing. To spice things up, the developers introduce several new elements that can be hacked so Babs can take down several enemies at once via an electrified floor panel, or maybe she can lure several enemies into a trap by hacking a terminal which will make lots of noise.

  • Harley Quinn in her Animated Series costume. That’s all sorts of win!

Batgirl2The So-So:

+/- If there’s one element that kind of disappointed me, more so than the length of the DLC, it’s the fact that there were so many missed opportunities. First off Tim Drake is Robin, I think it would have been really special to have had Jason Todd as Robin in this DLC because it would have allowed us to explore the character a little more. It could have also been interesting to have Dick Grayson as Robin, but alas no. I’m ok with Tim Drake, but they could have fleshed out the story of Babs and his budding romance. Instead we get awkward dialogue that doesn’t come through well at all. The other big missed opportunity is not being able to take the excellent looking Batgirl model out in any other portion of the game. There is no replay value here whatsoever so once you’re done locating the few collectables and max out all the easy-to-acquire trophies, you will never use Batgirl again, and that’s a real shame. If you could at least use her in the AR challenges that would be something, but sadly you can’t.

Batgirl3The Bad:

  • I’ll be honest with you all, seven dollars for 45 minutes to an hour of gameplay is a hefty asking price. Considering the Season Pass is a staggering $40, and only comes with three story packs, some AR challenges and a few skins, and we know that one of the story packs is only 45-minutes, it sure seems to me like the Season Pass will be outrageously overpriced. To make matters worse the Red Hood and Harley Quinn DLC packs which were included as retailer pre-order exclusives are not included in the Season Pass and are about the same length as A Matter of Family. That makes this feel DLC even harder to swallow since the others were free.

Batgirl4The Lowdown:

I’m not a huge fan of DLC packs when they’re done like this. When a free pre-order incentive is as long as a $7 piece of DLC there’s something wrong. It’s a real shame as this could have been so much more if it were twice as long and if Batgirl could have been used elsewhere in the game. As it is now, as much as I enjoyed playing as Batgirl, I cannot in good faith recommend this until the price drops.

Final Score: 5/10  

Batman: Arkham Knight Review

Arkham KnightBatman: Arkham Knight (Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Release Date: June 23, 2015

Parent Talk: Arkham Knight is rated M for mature because of blood, suggestive themes, strong language, and violence. Like the previous games in the series, Batman doesn’t use lethal force, however his enemies do. This isn’t an overlay graphic videogame, however it does indeed deal with mature subject matter and young kids would be advised against playing this.

Plays Like: If you have played Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, or Arkham Origins you have a very good idea of what to expect with Arkham Knight. You take on the role of Batman, and have all of Gotham City to explore. Your mission is to stop Scarecrow and figure out who the Arkham Knight is. You’ll use stealth, some fantastic gadgets, and Batman’s brute force to bring justice back to Gotham City.

Review Basis: I finished the PS4 version of the game with 96% overall completion rating, and if I have the time I plan to go back and collect all of the Riddler trophies so that I can see the game’s true ending.

Batman: Arkham Knight is the final chapter in Rocksteady’s incredible Arkham Trilogy. While I have very little doubt Warner Bros. will continue the series moving forward, this was an incredible way for Rocksteady to say good-bye to the series they popularized. After having completed the game, I sat back for a few moments to take it all in. This really is the end, and what an incredible journey it has been. Comic book videogames aren’t supposed to be this good.

This is MY city!
This is MY city!

The Great:

This is the end. With those words begins one of the most dramatic and best ending sequences I have ever seen in a videogame. What started with Arkham Asylum is now truly over. Arkham Knight takes everything I loved about that game, its incredible combo system, great detective mode, and deep story, and expands upon it in such a way that makes you feel as though Batman couldn’t possibly get any more powerful, and that his tale has finally reached its climax. The open world city from Arkham City is here, but it has been greatly fleshed out, and Batman’s rogue gallery has never been more interesting. Add in a wide assortment of new moves, expanded gadgets, and the Batmobile, and you have yourself the best comic book videogame I have ever had the honor of playing. It all comes together perfectly.

Just look at all the special effects.
Just look at all the special effects.

The Good:

  • The story manages to recognize what came before in both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City and expands on the mythos by introducing a new element, the Arkham Knight. A mysterious figure that seems to know an awful lot about Batman. Throw in a masterplan of the Scarecrow, and the return of an old enemy, and you have a tale woven so perfectly that it will be hard for another action game to top this for a long time to come. I wish I could go on and on about the story, but I truly want you all to experience it for yourself.
  • Gadgets galore. While most of the gadgets return from the previous games, you can put them to great use here in new and interesting ways. All gadgets can be upgraded as well making something that was once an ok solution to taking out certain enemies or elements in the battlefield like the Disruptor to a gadget that you will whip out every chance you get because of how powerful and diverse it can become.
  • Detective Mode. Scan bodies for clues, look through walls to see how best to take out certain enemies, everything that makes Batman the world’s greatest detective is at your fingertips. There is one series of missions in particular that really nails the detective in Batman. During story missions Batman will frequently have to put clues together by looking at recorded footage, or and locating key items. I felt Rocksteady did a wonderful job of really making the player feel as though Batman isn’t just all muscle.
Races are challenging, but a blast.
Races are challenging, but a blast.
  • Speaking of muscle, Batman has a wide assortment of new moves, and all of them can be upgraded via the level system. As you complete each side mission or story mission Batman acquires skill points which can be allocated to several key areas, combat being one of them. With enough practice you’ll get good at the counter and attack system and with upgrades, you’ll become an unstoppable Dark Knight. The combo system is just as fresh and fluid as it has ever been.
  • The Batmobile! I was a little afraid it may be overused when I first started learning how to use it, as it appeared every new mission type revealed would make use of the Batmobile, but very soon afterwards the game starts spicing things up and breaks the game down into two sections, Batmobile and combat. The Batmobile has two modes, a standard card mode which allows you to zip around Gotham’s streets with ease, and then the tank mode which you’ll be using a lot during combat sections. Here you face off against unmanned drones and you take them out with your 6MM cannon and machine guns. The Batmobile takes only a few minutes to get the hang of, and after that you’ll be blasting away even the most challenging foes. It too can be upgraded much like the gadgets and your combat skills.

­+ The City. I’ve got to hand it to Rocksteady, they really nailed the city this time. There are three islands you get to explore, but you never feel overwhelmed. Traversing from one area to the next is quick and easy either through the air, via grappling or on-ground with the Batmobile. Each area is distinct with color and flavor, such as Wayne Tower, ACE Chemicals, and more. I also enjoyed that you didn’t have to go to the Batcave in this game, considering we spent so much time there in the previous games.

  • Riddler’s trophies and challenges return, but thanks to the inclusion of the Batmobile, you really have to think outside the box. There are over 240 items to collect in the game, which will take a very long time to complete, and will put your brain to the test as some of these challenges are extremely complicated to figure out.
  • The voice cast is back. One of the biggest disappointments from Origins was some of the key missing voice actors like Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, but they’re here. The entire voice cast is phenomenal and brings these characters to life, but I’ve got to single out John Noble as Scarecrow, wow what a fantastic job he did. This is by far the creepiest Scarecrow we’ve ever received, and I can’t ever go back to someone else voicing him again. The soundtrack is equally as powerful and rich.
  • Graphically Arkham Knight is a gorgeous game and Gotham City has never looked so detailed. The framerate remains constant for the vast majority of the game, only slowing down a bit when too much action is going on, typically during tank battle portions of the game. I was extremely impressed by the sheer size of the city, the amount of enemies on the streets, and the fact that there is always some sort of particle effect going on either rain or something else. It all comes together to make one impressive package.
The combat is just as excellent as in all the other games.
The combat is just as excellent as in all the other games.

The Ugly:

Since I can’t be sure everyone reading this will have the chance to play through the PlayStation 4 version of the game, I need to mention that the PC version was wrought with problems and Warner Bros. did the unthinkable, they pulled it from retail until the game can be fixed. It was riddled with bugs, glitches, and was barely unplayable. I experienced no such problems with the PS4 version.

The excellent detective mode makes you truly feel like the world's best detective.
The excellent detective mode makes you truly feel like the world’s best detective.

The Lowdown:

Sometimes a game will come along that strikes a chord with me, and this is one such game. I absolutely loved it from the first cinematic to the last mission. It may have been a little obvious who the Arkham Knight was, and yes it might seem a little odd that a man who doesn’t kill anyone would even own a tank capable to demolishing an entire city block, but at the end of the day I felt like Batman playing this game. I felt like I was the world’s greatest detective that I had the best and most colorful enemies in comic book history, and that at the end of it all, this is a very special chapter in the life of Batman that has come to a close. This is one you need to experience.

Final Score: 9.8/10

Batman: Arkham Knight Initial Impressions

I haven’t updated the site in quite some time because we’ve been focusing on videos on YouTube, however I think I’m going to post a story or two here from time to time just to keep things interesting.

Last night I got Batman: Arkham Knight and have been enjoying the heck out of it.  It’s one of those games where I put in three hours without even realizing it.  I meant to play for around an hour or so, but before you knew it, bam, three hours had passed.

Thus far I’m rally enjoying the Batmobile and the huge city.  I like how the missions aren’t overwhelming.  You can easily select a mission, get to the objective point and have fun.  I’m not sure why some people said they were overwhelmed or that the Batmobile wasn’t fun to use.  Thus far I’m extremely impressed!

Have you purchased Arkham Knight, and if so, what do you think of it?

LittleBigPlanet 3 Review

LBP3LittleBigPlanet 3 (Available exclusively on PlayStation 4)
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1 to 4
Genre: Platformer
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Sumo Entertainment
Release Date: November 18th, 2014

Parent Talk: LittleBigPlanet 3 has been rated E for everyone, meaning absolutely anyone can play this charming game. There’s really not much here anyone could find offensive, although there are a few cutscene that the really young might be frightened to see. Characters are all made out of cloth, or other real-world materials, but the action is so charming and harmless that I think this makes a perfect game for both children, and the young at heart.

Plays Like: Much like the rest of the series, the game is a platformer at heart. You move between three distinct plains, running and jumping all over the place. To make things even more interesting, you also have access to a wide assortment of powerful editing tools where you can create your own levels.

Review Basis: Finished the game, and tried my hand at creating a masterpiece of a level. That last part didn’t turn out so well.

When LittleBigPlanet first hit the PlayStation 3 it ushered in Sony’s unique marketing strategy of Play, Create, and Share. This simple concept applied to quite a few games over the years, but it all started with LittleBigPlanet. You could make your own levels, share them with others, and play through a wonderfully crafted campaign. The same holds true with LBP3, except everything has been enhanced and tweaked to a near pitch perfect level. If only a few nasty bugs would have been squashed prior to release, and some of the gameplay choices been a little different, this likely would have been one of the best games on the PS4, but as it is now, it’s just a damn fun one.

LBP3_4The Great:

The three new characters introduced in LittleBigPlanet 3 are a sheer delight to use. Oddsock is quick, and can be used to wall-jump, which makes him particularly useful. Toggle can switch between large and tiny versions of himself, which make him perfect for getting to hard to reach places, and finally Swoop can fly and carry objects. You have full access to all three new characters in the creation mode, however a major omission is that they’re not all playable in the main campaign for some reason. Instead you’re limited to where and how you can use the characters, but outside that limitation I love all of their new abilities and how they allow you to get truly creative when creating or trying to create your own masterpiece.

LBP3_1The Good:

  • I really enjoyed the cheerful story in LBP3. Sure it’s the similar to what we’ve seen before, but it’s still charming. You can on the role of Sackboy, who has been whisked away to Bunkum by a lightbulb named Newton. Newton tells the story of ancient Titans who sucked all the creativity out of Bunkum, but were thwarted by three unlikely heroes, Oddsock, Toggle, and Swoop. Sure enough, the Titans returns, and Sackboy has to locate these three heroes and save the kingdom. It’s simple, cute, and charming, which is perfect for this kind of game.
  • The campaign is divided into four main areas, one for the prologue, and then one for each of the three hero characters. Each new area has a series of levels, and then a boss fight in the last. There are countless hours of platforming goodness is each level, and once special items are introduced you’re rewarded for revisiting previously completed levels. There are secret challenges which require two or more players to attain, and you’ll almost always have a reason to come back and play because of missed stickers or other goodies you skipped on your first play through.
  • Speaking of creativity, as with all the other LittleBigPlanet games, this one features an incredibly robust level editor. I say level editor, but it’s so much more than that. You can build your own levels, an entire map, mini-games, and just about everything else you can possibly imagine, and then share those creations with the rest of the community.
  • Popit Puzzles are featured on their own planet, and act as a giant tutorial. Each level introduces one new tool, and forces you to understand how said tool works within the context of creation. So while technically you’re being challenged to overcome puzzles, in the back of your mind you’re also learning how and where to place traps, the best way to conceal a certain danger, and more. For lack of a better term, it’s brilliant.
  • There’s so much to do in this game that you feel like you’re truly getting your money’s worth. There are tons of NPCs in every hub world that offer mini-games, stickers for you to collect, and so much more. Then there are all the community aspects, such as playing through levels other players have built, of which there are literally hundreds if not thousands.
  • Coop has always been one of the game’s strengths and that holds true here. While most levels have two-player areas to them, only a fraction were designed for up to four players. That said, every level can be completed with four players, and it’s a blast doing so.
  • Environments are all extremely creative. One minute you’re in a Hollywood-inspired world filled with the frights, and excitement that come with the movies these levels are based upon, and the next you’re underwater in an area that doesn’t look anything like where you just were. That’s the creative genius of this series, and it’s still impressive. Everything is made up of real world materials such as wool, wood, or steel, yet everything is overly cute and cuddly. It’s a beautiful game to look at.

LBP3_2The Bad:

  • I really was sad to learn that you can’t switch characters at a moment’s notice during the campaign. You’re only allowed to do so at key spots, and even then you’re typically only allowed to switch to one of the characters, whichever one you happened to unlock in that area’s hub world. That’s very disappointing as it could have unlocked a wealth of options, almost making the game have a Metroid-like essence to it. Technically it already does with the in-game items you acquire such as a weapon that allows you to push certain items out of the way, or a teleporter that only works at certain spots.

The Ugly:

  • As with just about every modern videogame, LittleBigPlanet 3 is littered with bugs. Thankfully most of these have been patched, however while I played through the game I had frequent issues whereby I would fall through the floor of a level, would appear in the background, or would get stuck unable to explode myself or restart at the desired checkpoint.

LBP3_3The Lowdown:

LittleBigPlanet 3 is a really fun game, although it would have been so much better had the new characters been utilized a little better. I would have loved to have been able to switch to whichever character I wanted, whenever I wanted within the stages. This would have increased the replay factor by about a hundred percent, and really would have helped make this feel like the ultimate LittleBigPlanet. I loved all the new creation tools, the Popit Puzzles, but the bugs were annoying. Overall this is a fun game and fans of the series should most certainly check it out. It’s also a good jump on point for those curious to see what the series is all about.

Final Score: 7/10

The Order: 1886 Review

The Order 1886The Order: 1886 (Available exclusively on PlayStation 4)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action
Publisher: SECA
Developer: Ready at Dawn
Release Date: February 20th, 2015

Parent Talk: The Order 1886 is rated M for mature because of blood and gore, intense violence, nudity sexual content, and strong language. There’s lots of very mature content featured in the game, making it a no-brainer that children should not be allowed to play. You visit a brothel and see full frontal male nudity, there are half-breeds that rip people apart, and then there’s the action, which has you cutting down enemies, setting them on fire, or otherwise killing them in very graphic ways.

Plays Like: The Order 1886 is a game that hand holds you through most of the adventure. It’s filled with quick-time events, cover-based action like you’d find in Gears of War, and third-person shoot outs as in many other games. The game is closed off and very linear, meaning the replay factor is quite limited since there’s also no multiplayer. It’s a graphically rich game, which falls a tad short when it comes to gameplay.

Review Basis: Sony sent us a review copy, and I polished off the campaign.

The Order 1886 is without a doubt the nicest looking game currently available on the PlayStation 4. It often feels like a glorified tech demo because of little touches like being able to zoom in on certain objects, and turn them around to look at all sides. It adds to the overall realism, and you’ll be floored by the game’s beauty, but when you’re given control, things don’t shine nearly as bright.

The Order 1886_1The Great:

Victorian London never looked so good. Honestly, this is a beautiful game, and it’s kind of a shame Ready at Dawn felt the need to remind players of that every few seconds. It’s gorgeous, and anyone with eyes can easily see that. Personally I loved how everything from the way the characters look to the environments all fit together perfectly. You’ve got zeppelins, beautiful iron bridge, carriages and just about everything else you can imagine. When I saw the old bar in one of the early characters I just couldn’t believe how much attention to detail went into the creation of the environments. They’re absolutely spectacular. If there’s one element Ready at Dawn can be proud of it’s that their game engine is amazing, and will hopefully be put to use in a more interactive game later on.

The Order 1886_2The Good:

  • The music, sound effects and voice acting are all superb. The actors do a phenomenal job with their dialogue, and the sweeping soundtrack is absolutely fantastic, and acts as a perfect balance to the incredible setting and graphics.
  • When action segments do break out, they’re fun to experience and play. Most of these areas play out similar to Gears of War, whereby you use cover to protect yourself, take out enemies, and then move on to the next cover. Weapons are creative, although you don’t get to use them nearly as often as I would have liked.

The Order 1886_3The So-So:

+/- The story somehow mixes steampunk, King Arthur, and 1886 London into a cohesive and highly interesting setting. Players take on the role of Grayson, A.K.A. Galahad, one of the Knights of the Round Table. You’re trying to figure out why rebels have sided with half-breeds or Lycans (werewolves), and what the Order has to do with everything that’s going on. Are the rebels truly sided with the half-breeds or is there more going on here than you know of. I was hooked from the very beginning, however like most of the game, you never really get to explore much of the backstory of the game. Where do the Lycans come from, what’s the focus of the supernatural elements? You’ve never told, and it’s a shame. Instead the majority of the story focuses on the Round Table Knights and everything that’s going on within the political side of the story, which admittingly isn’t anywhere near as interesting as the world in which these Knights exist.

The Order 1886_4The Bad:

  • While some might enjoy the overall experience, I found the pacing to be extremely tedious at times. The game is essentially broken down into four segments, cutscenes, quick-time events, extremely slow walk and talk sequences, and action set-pieces. Entire chapters may be nothing more than lengthy cutscenes, and yet others will feature a handful of action segments, and lots and lots of walking. More often than not, I simply wanted to break free of the constraints and explore the world, but was never given the chance to do so. Instead I was handheld over the course of the entire game.
  • An incredible amount of filler is featured that easily could have been cut. While I enjoyed being able to pick up and look at certain objects in the environment, I really started to dislike being forced to do so. What ends up happening is you spend a good 20 minutes or so just walking around an area doing nothing but picking up and looking at three of four objects, and flipping them around, only to have to press the triangle afterwards to trigger a brief dialogue scene. These could have all been cut out, or left up to the player to discover on their own.

The Ugly:

I can’t recall being teased as often in a videogame as I felt with this one. From being given an excellent weapon, only to have it get ripped away moments later, to the thought of facing off against menacing half-breeds, just to polish them off with a few rolls and some QTEs, this game promised so much excitement and adventure and ultimately falls short because it simply does not deliver on those promises.

The Order 1886_5The Lowdown:

The Order 1886 is a game I think all PS4 owners should play. You might not believe it from what I’ve said in this review, but it’s the truth. I feel this is an exclusive that people who own a PS4 would do well in experiencing. It’s beautiful and I think with some major changes the sequel could actually be great. I’d suggest two or three friends purchase one copy, play through the seven hour game, share it amongst the group and then do what you want with the game after that. I have a feeling this is going to be a game that people will fall in love with for its cinematic qualities, and others will feel as I did, as if the game promises me the world, and simply didn’t deliver.

Final Score: 6/10

Citizens of Earth Review

medium_coverCitizens of Earth (Available on PC, PS4, PS Vita, 3DS, and Wii U)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1
Genre: RPG
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Eden Industries
Release Date: January 20th, 2015

Parent Talk: Citizens of Earth has been rated E10+ for everyone ten and up. It features animated violence, tobacco references, and simulated gambling. If you’ve ever played Earthbound you know what to expect here. The game’s world is animated with cartoony flare, and the setting is a modern day, over the top city. It’s very goofy, which means that even players who are ten shouldn’t have a problem with any of the material showcased in the game.

Plays Like: At first glance one might be inclined to say this is the next entry in the Earthbound series. Citizens of Earth features many elements inspired by that classic SNES game, however it has a few other elements that separate it. Gameplay is broken down into typical RPG fair, where you move around an overworld, get new quests by talking to people you see, complete quests to get more members on your team, and battles take place via turn-based gameplay.

Review Basis: Finished the PC version of the game, which Atlus sent us.

Earthbound is considered a lost classic. For whatever reason the game bombed upon its original release, however it has developed a massive cult following since then. There was something special about it, the modern setting, the charm and awesome characters were also so unlike everything else on the market. Citizens of Earth tries so desperately to be the unofficial sequel, but never manages to capture the same spirits.

COE1The Great:

If there’s one elements that I absolutely loved with Citizens of Earth it has to be the presentation. I loved how all the characters looked, and the game’s setting. This often felt like a modern day Earthbound. The art style is beautiful and also very humorous. I laughed out loud on more than one occasion. The voice acting of the character is also another area that I really enjoyed because each has their own unique charm to them.

The Good:

  • The story can also be quite humorous at times. You take on the role of…you. You’ve just become the Vice President of the World, and after a day on the job you’re tired and decide to go on a much deserved vacation. The game picks up with you waking up at your mother’s house, and as soon as you leave said house you see protestors everywhere. Eventually the plot takes a turn to the bizarre with some strange brewed coffee affecting the citizens, and well, there’s much more going on behind the scenes. Sadly the story does get a little jumbled with the abundant amount of side-quests thrown in.
  • Characters galore. There are over a dozen recruits you can find in the game, and each one has their own unique ability. Your brother can allow you to acquire items from anywhere, a mascot character can change the game’s difficulty on the fly, and so on. These abilities also transfer over into battle, where your mother might be able to heal an ally, and another character might be able to protect other characters. Mixing and matching your team is a powerful strategy to ensure you’re always ready for whatever lies ahead.

COE2The So-So:

+/- Most of the game’s objectives are a little too vague for their own good. I understand this was done to be humorous, but in the end it means you have to play through the game in a few sittings or you might have trouble remembering exactly what it was you were supposed to do. A very simple case from the beginning of the game is you try and recruit the conspiracy guy. He requires three pieces of evidence, but you’re not told what the evidence is. The log simply tells you to ‘Collect the Evidence’. What does that mean? It’s simple enough if you play right away, and explore, but if you put the game down for any lengthy period of time you may wonder what it is you’re supposed to do next. This issue pops up constantly throughout the game.

+/- The battle system starts off quite enjoyable, but after a while it becomes tiresome and repetitive. The concept works like this. Every attack either gains or depletes an energy orb. There are also items you can use to restore energy, as you would imagine. That sounds simple enough right, well good because it is. The thing is that after a while you find yourself always cycling through the exact same attacks. You’ll use two physical attacks to build energy, one powerful attack which depletes said energy, another to heal your party, etc. Repeat this countless times and there you have it. Over time it almost feels like you’re not playing at all. Thankfully the auto-defeat feature from Earthbound is featured here so when you visit older areas with weaker enemies you can easily navigate the area without having to defeat countless enemies.

The Bad:

  • At first you won’t mind all the new characters being added to the game, but in time you start to realize that none of these characters has any soul. There’s just nothing special about them. I really enjoyed the banter from a handful, but the rest felt almost like cut and paste clichés. I would have much rather had a solid group of say six or eight characters, but with more fleshed out and humorous storylines than what we got.

COE3The Lowdown:

I think with some tweaking this could have been something special. It’s not a bad game by any means, it’s just that it needed some more time in the oven and the battle system needed some more diversity. I also would have really loved to have seen less characters, but more of a focused backstory on some of these wacky people. As is right now, Citizens of Earth is a decent game that might tickle your fancy if you’ve enjoyed seeing the footage in the video review.

Final Score: 6.5/10

Halo: The Master Chief Collection Review

Halo MCCHalo: The Master Chief Collection (Available exclusively on Xbox One)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1 to 16
Genre: FPS
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: 343 Industries
Release Date: November 11th, 2014

Parent Talk: The Master Chief Collection has been rated M for mature by the ESRB because of blood and gore, language, and violence. Unlike something like Call of Duty, the blood isn’t over-the-top realistic. Yes this is definitely not a game for the really young because of scary enemies like the Flood, but honestly it’s not the worst FPS out there, not even by a longshot. Halo is Halo, it has its own distinct style and flare, and by now you should know exactly what you’re getting into if you’re considering purchasing this game.

Plays Like: The Halo series has evolved from a fun single player experience to a worldwide online phenomenon. The original Halo set the bar for single player first-person shooters on home consoles, and the Live-enabled sequel raised it exponentially higher. Today players all over the world know what they’re getting with Halo, a top tier campaign, and addictive multiplayer. Since this is a compilation game, naturally the games progressed with each iteration, but at its heart and core it was always this balance of an awesome campaign and killer online multiplayer that put Halo where it is today, as one of the world’s leading FPS franchises.

Review Basis: I tried my hand at all four Halo games to see how they compared to the originals, and tried my hardest to play a wide assortment of online multiplayer matches, but I’ll touch on that later on in the review.

Note: Microsoft has promised and delivered updates almost non-stop since the game’s release to fix the broken multiplayer, and the company will even be giving ODST’s campaign away for free as an apology to fans.

I was extremely excited to get my hands on The Master Chief Collection. I’m a big fan of the Halo series after all, and the thought of having beautiful 1080p 60 fps versions of all four games in the core series was incredibly exciting. Sure I was a little disappointed that Halo: Reach wasn’t included, as that’s actually my second favorite Halo game ever, after the original, but I figured I could live without it as I would be so busy checking out all the other games. What I didn’t expect was for this compilation to be a really great campaign compilation, and a complete disaster when it comes to the multiplayer. To understand how huge of a deal this is, it would be like making it to world 8-4 in Super Mario Bros. only to have a black screen pop up saying ‘sorry…err..hay_98*’ Yup, that makes no sense whatsoever, and to be quite honest, neither does the incredibly broken multiplayer.

Halo MCC1The Great:

The campaigns are absolutely incredible. If there’s one aspect that really floored me it’s with the four core campaigns. The original Halo is based on the Anniversary Edition, but has been upscaled and looks extremely sexy. Halo 2 has been completely reworked and looks amazing, and Halo 3 and 4 have also been upscaled. The four games run so silky smooth that you’ll be immediately impressed. What I especially appreciated was that you can select any chapter you want right from the get-go. This allows you to enjoy these games any way you want, from beginning to end, or that one level you remember so fondly from way back when. It’s all incredibly fun, so long as you always enjoyed these campaigns, if not well then this most likely isn’t the compilation for you.

It’s also really fun to be able to turn on and off the alterations of the original two Halo games, because you can appreciate just how much work went into these remasters. For Halo 2, it’s especially amazing to see the drastic improvements Blur Studios made to the cutscenes. The whole world feels so much more fleshed out now. The new lighting system also makes Halo 2 on the Xbox One look so much better than it did on the original Xbox. There’s even new musical arrangements and sound effects, although some of the sound effects sounded better in the original in my opinion.

Halo 3 and 4 are not Anniversary editions, and it’s obvious, however both have been updated to run at 1080p 60fps, so they’re the best versions to play. The gameplay in both games is also top notch, and help round out this superb package of excellent campaigns. Playing through Halo 4 after playing the others shows this is a clear new beginning for Master Chief. The gameplay is radically altered from giving Master Chief the ability to run, to new enemies and a story which paints Master Chief in a totally different light. No longer is he the warrior god that everyone looks up to, and it’s quite jarring to play all four games back to back and see this. It’s a sign that the series is changing, and it’s clear that when Halo 5 hits next year the evolution of the series that started in 4 will continue.

Halo MCC2The Good:

  • One aspect that I was really worried about that turned out quite well is the user interface. It’s quite easy going through each game, selecting the chapter, mode, or gameplay alterations you want. It takes a little getting used to, but after a very short time you’ll be playing through whatever chapter you want in any way you want.

Halo MCC3The So-So:

+/- I’m probably going to get a lot of flak for saying this, but while it’s really awesome that you can select a playlist that’s made up of multiplayer maps from all four Halo games, your memory of each game will heavily determine your enjoyment for the first few hours with the game. Here’s why. If you don’t remember that you can’t run or dual wield in the original Halo and you try to, odds are you’re going to get killed by those that do remember, and the same is true for all the other games. You really need to relearn your Halo history because gameplay changes with each new map you play. This can be highly frustrating at first, but you will overcome it in time.

Halo MCC4The Ugly:

By far the worst aspect, and one that completely ruins the package, is the matchmaking. To say it’s broken would be an understatement. When I played Halo 2 on the original Xbox I could get into a match within seconds. Here, you can wait for minutes, hours, or forever and never get into a match. Even worse once you finally do manage to get into a match, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to during the next session. Considering so many people buy this franchise for the multiplayer, I consider this a huge disservice to the fans. 343 Industries promises fixes will be coming, but as of launch the online component is severely lacking and that’s inexcusable for a game of this caliber.

Halo MCC5The Lowdown:

Halo: The Master Chief Collection is a brilliant collection of four excellent games, however it feels only half complete as of launch. Will patches get released to fix the problems, I have no doubt, and the odds are that by the time you watch or read this review those changes may already be here, but I can only review what I had access to and during that time it’s clear this game needed far more time in the oven. It was rushed to market for the holiday shopping season, and that’s a real unacceptable. If you’re in this for the online component, you’re better off waiting until the game has been patched to perfection. If you want to experience the four campaigns again, then go ahead and give this one a purchase as it’s an easy recommend for the campaigns alone. As a complete package though, I can’t help but feel highly let down. I can’t believe this game was allowed to go out the door in the state it did.

Final Score: 6.5/10


Sunset Overdrive Review

Sunset OverdriveSunset Overdrive (Available exclusively on Xbox One)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1 to 8
Genre: Action
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Insomniac Games
Release Date: October 28th, 2014

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Sunset Overdrive M for mature because of blood and gore, sexual themes, strong language, and drug and alcohol use. I know what you’re thinking, this is another one of those Grand Theft Auto clones that is super realistic, but it’s actually not at all. Sure it’s a bit vulgar, but the blood is cartoonish, and the whole game doesn’t take itself seriously whatsoever. In fact this is a game that looks like it would have come from SEGA back when they were still in the hardware race. It’s a mix of GTA meets Jet Grind Radio. It’s silly, insane, and damn fun, but it also features enough mature content that I can easily recommend you don’t allow children near the game, no matter how colorful its exterior might be.

Plays Like: Imagine an open world that’s bright and colorful like a Mario or Sonic game, features the maturity of a Ratchet and Clank game, and is just about as fun as you can imagine, and you have yourself Sunset Overdrive. The game is broken up like GTA, so you can expect a wide assortment of missions, however the world in which the game takes place is completely silly and ridiculous. You can grind on rails all over the city, scale buildings with ease, and perform all kinds of insane acrobatic maneuvers which almost always propel you into the air, or keep you moving. That’s what makes Sunset Overdrive so unique, it wants you to always stay moving, and will do everything in its power to ensure you do just that. It’s a hell of a good time.

Review Basis: Finished the single player campaign, and tried my hand at the cooperative online multiplayer mode.

When Insomniac Games first announced Sunset Overdrive I didn’t really know what to expect. These are the guys behind the now legendary Ratchet and Clank series, but haven’t worked on a brand new IP in a long time. Would this be another game people would flock to, or would it end up being like Resistance, a good game that just never really took off for whatever reason. Looking back I can firmly say this is going to be one of those Xbox One titles that people are going to talk about ten years from now because of just how much fun it is to play. The humor the studio is known for remains razor sharp, and the incredible weapons Insomniac developed for the Ratchet and Clank series are actually improved upon in some fashion here. I never expected to enjoy Sunset Overdrive as much as I did, and because of that it has ended up becoming one of my absolute best games of 2014, and a very good reason why you should own an Xbox One.

Sunset Overdrive1The Great:

Sunset City rules! One of the biggest problems I have with most open world videogames is that they’re far too realistic. The colors are almost always muted, or shades of browns and greys, but here everything is brimming with color. The graphics are also exceptional, making Sunset Overdrive one of the absolute best looking games currently available on the Xbox One. The fact that the city is so interactive is also a blessing because you can use the city as a massive jungle gym, taking out hundreds of thousands of monsters, all while grinding, flipping, and jumping to and from buildings, cars, electrical wires, and everything else you can imagine. All of this while rocking a constant framerate. The city is so inviting that you’ll be coming back to play another hour whenever you have a chance.

Sunset Overdrive2The Good:

  • The upgrade system is also enjoyable to mess around with. There are these special Amps which allow you to grant special powers to not only your body, but weapons as well. The more stylish you zip around the city, the quicker you’ll increase your special meter. This is what allows you to use those powerful Amp attacks. If you want to find new ones, you’ll have to head out into the open city and locate a wide assortment of goodies which can then be used to create new Amps. This is made much easier if you purchase in-game maps which show you where all the items are hidden.
  • Speaking of weapons, they’re awesome. Think Ratchet and Clank awesome! These things are completely ridiculous. You have access to a wide assortment of makeshift weapons like the bowling ball cannon, or the explosive teddy bear launcher, and so much more. This is insomniac so you know you’re in for a real treat in the weapons department.
  • The boss fights are great, and offer up some of the best moments in the entire game, but you’ll have to discover those for yourself.
  • Chaos Squad is an 8-player cooperative horde-like mode that offers up hours of fun because you all have the freedom offered in the single player version. The one downside, and it’s quite a big one, is that this mode doesn’t scale with the number of players in your group. So if you’re only four, you’ll find the challenges almost impossible.
  • What holds this wild and crazy universe together, is an equally ridiculous story, and to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Fizzco, an energy drink maker, has accidently poisoned all the citizens of Sunset City with their latest beverage. One minute you’re taking out the trash, being totally disrespected, the next you’re a one-man war-machine destroying everything in your path.
  • One of the best features that I didn’t even think I would like is having the ability to recreate your character whenever you want. Normally the character you create when the game begins is the one you finish the game with, but here you can customize your sex, size, and features whenever you feel like a change. It works perfectly with the theme that anything goes in this open world.
  • Cast of characters are fantastic. While you make your escape from the city, you stumble onto a wide assortment of support characters who are all part of factions. Each faction has a specific theme, like the preps, the nerds, etc. Sure these groups are stereotypical, however key characters will often call out these stereotypes during cutscenes, which I found absolutely hilarious. The voice actors who voice all these support characters clearly had a fun time with the dialogue as they’re all immediately likeable.

Sunset Overdrive3The So-So:

+/- While Sunset City beckons you to scale its largest buildings, and to jump on every single car and object you can see, when you do stand still you’re punished for it. You see enemies are all over the place and so long as you keep moving you’ll easily be able to pick them off one at a time, or a dozen at a time. The thing is, sometimes you’re ‘regular game’ instincts kick in, where you’re surrounded by enemies and you feel you should stand your ground and fight. Doing so will cut your life short, as the whole game was built around the concept of action in motion. Some might not enjoy being forced to keep moving, although to be fair I’d be really surprised to hear that because of how much fun it is to use the city as a mean’s of transportation.

+/- When you first start the game out, don’t be put off by the limited mission variety. As you progress the missions start to get diverse, but it does take time. Be warned!

Sunset Overdrive4The Bad:

  • One of the only gripes I have with Sunset Overdrive is that there isn’t a standard co-op mode. I know at least one friend that would have had an absolute blast playing through this game with me, but sadly only Chaos Squad is open for cooperative play.

Sunset Overdrive5The Lowdown:

Sunset Overdrive is a fantastic game, one of the best of 2014, and probably the best on the Xbox One right now. It’s an exclusive to be proud of, it’s a brand new IP, features great single player action, has an addictive cooperative horde mode, and isn’t afraid to be over the top. If you enjoy ridiculous games, great weapons, and clever stage design, I would highly recommend you give this one a go.

Final Score: 9/10

Disney Infinity 2.0 Giveaway!

Update (December 26th, 2014 – SegaCDUniverse was the lucky winner!

If you want to be entered in the contest, just let us know what your favorite thing Disney is, and you’ll automatically have a chance to win this stunning Disney Infinity 2.0 Toy Box Starter Pack, which was kindly sent to us from Disney Interactive.

Good luck everyone!

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