Tag Archives: Sony

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


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

Einhänder Review

_-Einhander-PlayStation-_Einhänder (Available exclusively on the Sony PlayStation)
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Shooter
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Square
Release Date: May 6th, 1998

Parent Talk:Einhänder is rated E for everyone because it doesn’t feature any graphic violence or offensive language. This is the perfect game for everyone in the family, even young kids that are interested in spaceship shooters.

Plays Like: Virtually all shmups play the same except for a few variations here and there, and that’s absolutely correct with Einhänder. You select one of several crafts, and destroy everything on-screen. Along the way you’ll find enemy weapons you can steal, which increase your power, and if you’re really lucky you just might perform well enough to find some unlockable goodies.

Review Basis: I finished the game dozens of times over the years.

During the arcade heyday shooters, shoot ‘em ups, or shmups were the cream of the crop. Virtually every arcade game was a shooter of some sort. Some of the very earliest hits on the Famicom were also shooters, like Gradius, which was one of its first million sellers. The problem is, like all good things, there is such a thing as too much. The entire genre was over-saturated, and ultimately shooters fell out of the spotlight. Today they’re a genre dedicated to only the most hardcore fans. Bullet hell shooters tried to spice things up, but for the most part the genre is long past its prime. The same could be said in 1998, when Square took a chance and developed a shooter that was really unique. While it didn’t spark a revolution, it did prove that even in markets where almost everything has been tried multiple times before, it’s still possible to do something unique.

Ein2The Great:

Perhaps the best feature of Einhänder is its incredible use of moving camera angles. The entire game is fully rendered in 3D, but the action plays on a 2D playing field, and the camera is on rails. Often the camera will swoop in and out around your ship, sometimes even behind, and all the while you have complete control. It’s great because it makes for some really interesting boss battles, and gives the game a really unique flavor.

Ein3The Good:

+ At the game’s onset you have access to three unique ships, with another two waiting to be discovered. At any point you can adjust your ship’s velocity, which is a great touch. The game’s ‘gimmick,’ if you will, is that you have the ability to snatch over a dozen enemy weapons by destroying incoming enemies. Let’s say there’s a powerful enemy ahead that has a wicked looking rocket launcher, well as long as you destroy its body and not the gun itself, you can then steal that weapon for yourself! These unique weapons only have a limited amount of ammo, but it is great fun experimenting and finding the best one for your current situation.

+ The various ships also differ in the way they can hold different weapons. All ships can pivot their secondary weapons either over or below the craft. Some can only hold one secondary weapon, while others can hold three. Selecting the ship you feel most comfortable with is critical as you’ll need all the help you can get. This isn’t an easy shooter, and one hit sends you back to the previous checkpoint. Thankfully the adjustable difficulty levels make the game enjoyable to all.

+ Most PS1-era polygon-based videogame haven’t aged well, but Einhänder is different. It still holds up really well, with enemies nice and detailed, and the environments, while simplistic, still very much looking as they should.

+ Fantastic audio package. Not only is the soundtrack utterly fantastic, but the sound effects themselves pack a punch. This is one of those games where you’re going to want to get your hands on the soundtrack.

Ein4The Lowdown:

I’ve always enjoyed shooters, even though as I get older I find I’m getting worse and worse at them. My hand-eye coordination just isn’t what it used to be. That said, I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed Einhänder today, revisiting it for this review. It’s just creative enough to help separate it from the pack, but retains that classic risk versus reward the genre is known for. If you’re looking for a great shooter, look no further than Einhänder, although do be warned that it’s not cheap and is currently only available on the original PlayStation. Sorry PS3 owners, no PSN version for you.

Final Score: 8/10

E3 2014 Press Conference Impressions

Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo all held press conferences in LA…well ok Nintendo held a digital event, but whatever.  The point is that tons of new games were revealed, and we now have a much better idea what to expect from the next 12 months for each of the big three console manufacturers.  Here are my reactions to the press events.

Microsoft Press Conference:

Sony Press Conference:

Nintendo Digital Event:

What are your thoughts on the big three?

Castlevania Chronicles Review

CCCastlevania Chronicles (Available exclusively on PlayStation)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami
Release Date: October 8th, 2001
PlayStation Network Release Date: December 18th, 2004

Parent Talk: Skeletons, bats, minor blood, and gothic imagery are what made the ESRB give Castlevania Chronicles a T for teen rating. It doesn’t feature over the top gore and blood, but the sprites are large and detailed. As such very young children might be freighted, although when I was a youngster I played games like this all the time and I turned out perfectly fine.  

Plays Like: Being released after Castlevania: Symphony of the Night everyone thought this would follow in its footsteps as being another Metroidvania game, but it’s actually a reworking of the Sharp X68000 Castlevania game from 1993. Needless to say, it’s all action, and is actually a reimagining of the original Castlevania game on the NES.

Review Basis: I finished both the original and arranged versions of the game.

If you were a fan of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night on the original PlayStation, chances are you were hoping for a sequel. When Konami announced they were going to release a brand new Castlevania game on the PlayStation millions of fans were hoping for a follow-up to SotN. What we got wasn’t actually a new game at all, but rather a reworked or enhanced version of a very old Castlevania game for the Sharp X68000, which had never been released outside Japan. So while technically a new release for the world market, it wasn’t what fans were expecting and therefore many fans couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed as a result. The question is, is it actually disappointing?

CC1The Great:

Two games for the price of one. Ok that might be a bit of a stretch, but included in Chronicles are both the original unaltered X68000 version, and a new arranged mode which changes Simon’s sprite and a few other graphical tweaks, reworks the game’s difficulty, and adds an entirely new soundtrack. Outside that, you’re essentially getting a reworked version of the original NES Castlevania game. Interestingly Konami released this version to the X68000 during the same year they released Rondo of Blood on the PC Engine. Instead of incorporating the new changes being made to the series like branching paths, the multi-directional whip from Super Castlevania IV and other improvements, Konami decided to only update the audio visual presentation from the original game. That means Simon can’t jump on and off stairs, still gets pushed back when he is hit, and only has very limited mobility overall.

CC2The Good:

+ Same tight controls from the NES version. Simon can easily jump around and whip enemies to his heart’s content. Secondary weapons are available like the holy water, cross, axe, and knife.

+ Having the option to play through the original game completely untouched is a nice touch, especially since the original soundtrack is fantastic. The reworked tunes are good, but I much prefer the originals.

CC3The So-So:

+/- Graphics are nice and detailed, but certainly they aren’t pushing the PlayStation’s capabilities whatsoever. There’s a new FMV intro that’s a nice touch, but a lot more work could have been put into this in order for it to truly feel like a remastered version of the original.

The Bad:

– It feels dated. Simon doesn’t have the same move set as Richter from Rondo of Blood, nor as he did in Super Castlevania IV.

CC4The Lowdown:

Given the low entry price this is a great game for fans of Castlevania to jump into, but there are so many other, and better games in the series that are equally easy to find and purchase. I’d say if you only own PlayStation hardware than by all means pick this one up, but otherwise I’d highly recommend you go for the original classics, Rondo, and the more modern portable releases.

Final Score: 7.5/10

The Last of Us: Left Behind Review

Left BehindThe Last of Us: Left Behind (Available exclusively on PlayStation 3)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Naughty Dog
Release Date: February 14th, 2014

Parent Talk: This is an M game if there ever was one.  You cut people’s throats open, crazed lunatics race after you looking for blood, and all other sorts of mature themes are present.  This isn’t a game for children, period.

Plays Like: While the core gameplay remains largely unchanged from The Last of Us, playing as Ellie feels different here.  She’s inexperienced, and virtually everything poses a major threat.  While not in combat Ellie and her friend explore a vast mall.

Review Basis: Sony sent us a review code, and I completed the story DLC within two hours.

One of the best, if not the best game from last generation returns with story-focused DLC that almost everyone needs to play.  Left Behind focuses on Ellie, and the events leading up to the beginning of The Last of Us.  The tale is split in two portions, one being the prologue, and the other when Ellie was protecting Joel when he was injured during The Last of Us.  This heartbreaking tale may be over within two or three hours, but it’s well worth embarking on because of just how incredible this universe is.  Do yourself a favor and read through my review of the full game to get a better understanding of the core gameplay mechanics (http://www.projectcoe.com/2013/06/05/the-last-of-us-review/).

LB1The Great:

Facing off against infected and normal humans at the same time was a breath of fresh air.  It dynamically changes the core combat you’re used to from the main game.  Now it’s possible to throw a bottle, make some noise, and then attract the infected to the humans who are trying to hunt you down.  Wait a few minutes, and watch as the two kill each other off.  Then you can go and finish off whoever’s left, or slowly help one side attack the other.  It’s fantastic fun, and I sort of wish more elements like this were in the original game.

LB3The Good:

+ The story between Ellie and Riley is amazing.  You really come to understand why Ellie acts the way she does at the beginning of The Last of Us.  Even though the story is only a few hours long, it’s pretty shocking.

+ The bulk of the DLC takes place within a mall, and nothing could be more normal than two girls hanging out at the mall, right?  I loved how Naughty Dog played on this simple idea, and yet this is set in a post-apocalyptic world, so it’s an entirely new experience for both Ellie and Riley.

+ Playing as Ellie is nothing new, but it’s interesting nonetheless.  The sense of danger is far greater because she doesn’t have all the skills that Joel learned throughout the years.  As such you really have to keep your distance and play smart.  Stealth kills are important because it’s very easy to get overrun by the infected.

LB2The So-So:

– I can’t help but say that $15 is a bit too expensive for this DLC.  Yes it’s incredible, but $15 is a lot of money for literally two hours.  I’m being generous too.  I finished the entire add-on in under two hours.

LB4The Lowdown:

Being able to play The Last of Us for even two more hours is a true joy.  It was one of the best games I’ve ever played, and this new prologue is spectacular.  Sure it’s over in a flash, but it tells a story that needed to be told.  You’ll look at Ellie in an entirely new way when you revisit The Last of Us at some point in the future, and that’s about the biggest compliment I can give this DLC.  Go download it right away.

Final Score: 9/10

TearAway Review

TearAwayTearAway (Available exclusively on PlayStation Vita)
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action Platformer
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Media Molecule
Release Date: November 22nd, 2013

Parent Talk: TearAway is rated E for everyone and is the perfect game to give your children because there’s virtually nothing damaging in here at all.  There is some extremely minor violence when you’re forced to take out paper enemies, but that’s it.  I’d call it comic mischief myself.  Some young kids may have a hard time holding the Vita and making full use of the rear track pad and front touch screen though, so that’s a call you’ll have to make.  The Vita is also an expensive piece of hardware to let little kids use, but this is certainly a game they’d enjoy.

Plays Like: At its core TearAway is a 3D action platformer.  It features many interactive areas where players use the Vita’s various features in order to blur the lines between the real world and the digital one.  In total the game can be completed relatively quickly, in only a few hours, but there are plenty of collectables to keep you coming back afterwards.

Review Basis: Finished the game in around four and a half hours.

Every once and a while a game comes along that defines a platform.  Sometimes it’s because the game was so good it defied expectations, other times it changed the future of a particular genre forever, and then there are those games that define a platform because they highlight all the best features of the console they’re released on.  The latter is the case with TearAway, it defines the Vita because it makes perfect use of all the unique features the Vita has to offer without ever coming off as gimmicky or forced.  It’s the Vita’s first true killer app, and is easy the best game on the system.

TearAway1The Great:

Conceptually TearAway is brilliant.  Players take on the role of either a male envelope named Iota, or a female one called Atoi.  Both characters have the same goal, make it to the sun.  What’s unique is that you, as in the real you, are located in the sun.  This is thanks to the front facing camera frequently showing video of your face as you play the game.  Iota is on a mission to tell an exciting story about how he managed to reach you.  He’s not in this alone though, being an outsider partaking in his journey you have the ability to constantly alter Iota’s world by using the back track pad to pop your fingers through the paper and help him make his way through various obstacles.  It’s a genius way of seamlessly brining the real world and the game world together.  There will be times where you have to record snippets of your voice, other times where you’ll have to take pictures of your surroundings and so much more.  Each time you do this, the lines between the two “worlds” blur just a little bit more.  It’s incredibly good fun that justifies each and every feature on the Vita.

TearAway3The Good:

+ The link between the real world and the digital one is further enhanced by the stunning graphics.  Instead of going for the ultra-realistic, Media Molecule went for something that could actually take part in the real world.  This is because the digital world is entirely made up of paper.  With a stick of glue, some crayons and a good imagination, you could actually build TearAway’s entire universe out in the real world.  As you move Iota from one location to the next, levels peel back, or tear open to reveal something new and exciting.  It’s often breathtaking because of how charming the visuals look, and also how much detail was put into them.

+ If that weren’t enough, virtually everything in the game can be customized.  If you don’t like the way Iota looks at any given time, just touch him for a second or two and you can enter a customization menu that allows you to draw on his face, add objects to his body, and more.  Often you can even add different elements to the stages and other characters you meet.  There’s even a paper crafting mechanic built right into the game, whereby you can select from a wide variety of color paper, and draw whatever you want, cut it out, add unique items to it, and bring it to life within the game.  It’s pretty amazing.

+ Another area that is sensational is the interactivity of the game.  Most Vita games force touch screen inputs or the rear track pad in often bizarre ways that a button press could easily have emulated.  In this case though, each and every use of the Vita’s unique functions couldn’t be replicated with a button press.  From extending paper paths using the touch screen, to the already mentioned popping your fingers through the screen using the rear track pad, each feature proves useful, fun and highly creative.  This is how you make a Vita game!

+ The platforming is also top notch.  While all of these other features are great, they wouldn’t really do much if the core gameplay was lacking, but it isn’t.  Each of these interactive areas only enhance what was already there to begin with, a rock solid action platformer.  The first half of the game blends simple platforming and action, but later on the difficulty ramps up and your jumps have to be extremely precise.

+ One area that a lot of Vita games suffer from is their lack of portability.  Most games on the Vita are simply watered down console games, and it shows.  Their levels or missions are far too long to be of any use while gaming on the go.  That can’t be said for TearAway.  Here levels take maybe 15 to 20 minutes, however the game auto-saves every 15 to 20 seconds or so, meaning you can close the game at a moment’s notice.  Load times aren’t very long at all either, in essence there’s one load time upon boot up and that’s the only one you’re ever going to notice.  The entire game can be completed in only a few hours, but if you want to locate all the enemies, all the gift boxes, and all the confetti, it’ll take at least a dozen hours or so.

+ Finally, the lines between the digital world and real world come full circle with the inclusion of printable origami templates you can find in-game.  As you traverse the 3D world Iota will locate white-shaped objects that when he takes a picture of will come to life.  Doing this rewards Iota with an origami template of whatever it was he just snapped a photo of.  It’s the perfect way to wrap up the link between both worlds.

TearAway2The Lowdown:

TearAway is hands down the very best game on the PlayStation Vita right now.  I absolutely adored it.  The way it blends the lines between real world and digital world was spectacular.  I also loved all the different ways the Vita’s features were put to good use.  It never felt like a gimmick, and almost always brought a smile to my face.  The printable origami templates is another great touch.  Media Molecule is quickly becoming one of my favorite exclusive developers in Sony’s arsenal.  I love how they’re willing to think outside the box and take chances.  While this is a super easy recommend for anyone with a Vita, it’s hard to say whether players should race out and pick the system up for just this game.  While it’s fantastic, it is only a few hours long and I’d recommend players check out the rest of the system library to see if there are a few other games that tickle your fancy before taking the plunge.  That said, this is certainly a game everyone should at least experience.

Final Score: 9.5/10

Resogun Review

ResogunResogun (Available exclusively on PlayStation 4)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Shoot ‘em up
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Housemarque
Release Date: November 15th, 2013

Parent Talk: I’ve got no idea how this game scored an E10+ rating as it’s a spaceship shooter based on Defender.  Children have been playing 2D arcade shooters since the creation of the genre way back in the early 70s.  I would easily allow my children to play this game.

Plays Like: Resogun takes its inspiration from the classic Williams Electronics hit from 1980, Defender.  You fly left or right around a cylindrical world, trying to rescue the last humans while taking out all the aliens around you.  Simple as that…if only it were simple.

Review Basis: Finished all levels, and played through the game a second time in co-op mode.

When Sony announced the PlayStation 4 they went to great lengths to talk about how they’re going back to basics and focusing on the games.  They spent a lot of time talking about indie developer because that’s where all the innovation will come from.  It’s true too, as AAA titles have a budget in the tens of millions, whereas indie developers often make their games for a fraction of the cost, and are willing to take chances.  Housemarque might not be an indie developer anymore, but they surely aren’t in the same league as the big boys with operating budgets in the millions, but that doesn’t mean their games can’t stand on their own.  Incredibly, Resogun is my favorite PlayStation 4 game on the market right now, including all the big AAA releases from third parties and Sony itself.  That speaks volumes to the talent at the studio, and how much of a sucker I am for arcade classics.

Resogun1The Great:

Ridiculously simple gameplay that’s insanely challenging to master.  Based on the arcade hit Defender, players move their craft around a large cylinder trying to take out the alien armada.  Once keepers drop, destroying them will free a human.  Your goal is to “save the last humans,” while trying to stay alive yourself.  Each stage is broken up into three phases, ending with a boss fight.  Rescuing the humans is essential if you want a high score, or if you plan to make it to the end of the stage.  When you defeat the keepers a human is released from their cell and you only have a limited amount of time to pick them up before an enemy will take them out.  Returning a human to the base nets you either points or an upgrade, such as an extra life, a shield bonus, etc.

Chasing high scores is a large part of the fun and the risk and reward system is always on your mind.  If you activate a bomb, which clears the entire screen of enemies you take a good chance at losing your score multiplier since you need to continuously shoot down enemy ships in order to keep the multiplier going.  So often bombs are only used as a last resort.

Overdrive is a special blast attack that consumes a tiny green meter located around your ship.  As you defeat enemies they explode into hundreds of tiny cubes, and if you collect enough of them you’ll fill your Overdrive meter.  The trade-off is that you can’t control the length of the overdrive, in other words once you activate it it’s gone until you fill the meter back up.  Another move, the boost is far more important to master as it uses a similar meter, although you can control how long you wish to boost for.  While technically a defensive move used for when you’re about to get overrun, the boost actually releases a small explosion once you stop.  A good technique is to boost right into oncoming enemies, and watch as they all explode.

Add extremely powerful bosses into the mix, especially in the later levels, and you have one of the very best arcade shooters released in a long time.  There’s always a constant risk and reward factor to each element of the gameplay.  Do you sacrifice a human so you don’t lose an extra life, or do you take the chance and perhaps get a weapon upgrade in the process?

Things only get more intense when you add a co-op partner to the mix, which I highly recommend you do.

Resogun2The Good:

+ By using voxel (also known as 3D cubes) graphics gives the game its own unique look.  When you destroy an enemy ship it explodes into millions of tiny cubes.  On top of that the particle effects are spectacular whenever enemy ships fire at you, which is all the time.  When you combine everything together, from the enemy ships exploding, to bombs being set off, to the particular effects, you’re left with the nicest looking arcade game I’ve ever played.

+ The soundtrack is techno-infused, and fits the setting perfectly.  All voice samples play out through the DualShock 4’s internal microphone for a little extra flare.  Ship explosions also sound great and there’s lots of bass for those with a good surround sound system.

+ Fun trophy list.  Can you rescue two humans within a second of one another?  Can you kill 50 enemies using only one boost?  I love when developers put time and effort into their trophies because it gives you an incentive to actually try and collect them.

The So-So:

+/- Having only five levels, and three different ships might grate on some people’s nerves.  The three ships play quite differently from one another in terms of the weapons they have available, but the limited levels will eventually start to feel similar to one another after a while.

Resogun3The Lowdown:

Resogun is my favorite PlayStation 4 game right now.  When I purchased my PS4 at launch Resogun, like Contrast was free for PlayStation Plus members.  This is an outstanding game for free, and a great game for the asking price of $10.  If you own a PS4, this is one you really need to play.

Final Score: 9/10

Killzone: Shadow Fall Review

Killzone Shadow FallKillzone: Shadow Fall (Available exclusively on PlayStation 4)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1 to 24
Genre: FPS
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Release Date: November 15th, 2013

Parent Talk: Killzone: Shadow Fall is rated M for mature because of blood, intense violence, and strong language.  You can sneak up on someone and slit their throat with a hunting knife, so yes, this is very much a well-deserved M rated game.  The interesting thing is that the series, while brutal, has actually been getting less and less graphic with each new installment.  There’s no question children should stay far away, but squeamish adults may actually be able to play through this one without too many problems, just be sure not to stealth kill too many enemies.

Plays Like: Imagine any modern day first-person shooter, and you know what to expect.  While the Killzone series has always felt unique in that the characters feel heavier than they do in something like Halo or Call of Duty, it’s pretty much your standard FPS fair.  You explore a massive alien world, take out thousands of enemies, spice things up with zero-g sections and non-linear missions variety, and away you go.  Shadow Fall is a bit different in that your main character isn’t quite as heavy as those featured in the rest of the series, but the core gameplay mechanics remain largely unchanged, albeit far more refined.

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

Sony has tried very hard to position Killzone as the PlayStation’s Halo, and while that has never really happened, the series has matured into a very fun, and serious FPS.  It may not sell tens of millions of units, but I’m pleased Sony put enough faith in the brand to make it the poster child for the PlayStation 4.  What fans are left with is without a doubt the single most technically impressive game of the system’s entire launch line-up, however a few odd development choices keep it from achieving true greatness.

Killzone Shadow Fall2The Great:

Welcome to the next gen.  This game looks absolutely breathtaking.  From trillions of particle effect, to wonderful lighting, animations, and spectacular environments, Killzone: Shadow Fall shows the early processing power of the PlayStation 4.  What games will look like in another year or so is beyond imagination.  I also really enjoyed the variety offered in the environments.  One minute you’re in space, the next you’re in a lush and beautiful mountainside.  It’s spectacularly well done, and brings the series already impressive technical presentation to an entirely new level.  For years the series has relied on grays and browns, but with Shadow Fall there’s color!

Killzone Shadow Fall1The Good:

+ The story is well done, even though it’s very cliché.  It’s great seeing both sides of the Vektan-versus-Helghast war.  Typically we treat the Helghast as some sort of menacing evil, but when you spend time seeing the regular people, you realize just how devastating the effects of the end of Killzone 3 have been on everyone.  The story dares to challenge your knowledge of the past games, and because of that is one of my favorite stories in the series thus far.  If you haven’t experienced the other games, fear not as there’s a wonderful intro that brings you up to speed.

+ Nice amount of mission variety.  You might have to disarm bombs on futuristic trains, or break into a spacecraft floating somewhere in space, or you just might be in the wrong place at the wrong time and have to prevent further damage from an ongoing terrorist attack.  Whatever it is you do, virtually every individual element is fun to play.

+ Fun and effective weapons.  All your typical FPS weapon-types are here from hand guns to shotguns and everything in-between.  Some even have secondary fire options.  The grenades, C4, and other explosives also feel much more powerful than their PS3 counterparts, which was a welcome surprise.

+ OWL, your companion-of-sorts proves to be extremely useful.  You use the track-pad on the DualShock 4 in order to command him to put up a shield, hack or disrupt a computer or turret, attack all enemies, or create a zip line for you to rappel off of.  It works perfectly.

+ You can also emit a sonar scan, which pulsates a light beam all around you.  This goes through walls and pinpoints where enemies are in the environment, but can also be used to locate other goodies, and often helps you figure out where to go next.

+ Most chapters feature one giant map, which allows you to use non-linear attack patterns.  This is a first in the series, as you can decide to take out enemies from ground level, from above, or try and get around them to take them out silently one at a time.  Unfortunately not every chapter allows this freedom though.

+ Speaking of great fun, the online multiplayer modes are great.  Warzone randomizes classic multiplayer modes like deathmatch, capture and hold, and more.  There are ten maps to choose from with some standouts including Penthouse and the Remains.  There are three classes, scout, assault, and support, each with their own unique abilities.  By far the coolest aspect of the multiplayer mode is the sheer amount of options you can customize within the Warzone.  You can limit weapons, classes, and typical stuff like that, but it goes a step further and allows you to change the location of capture beacons, alter your hold times, and pretty much anything else you can think of.  I also love the fact that bots are present to fill up maps, or to use as you see fit.

+ While the graphics steal the show, the audio is also extremely well done.  From great sound effects, to interesting use of the microphone in the DualShock 4 (audio logs play out exclusively through the controller), it all comes together to bring you deeper into the experience.  The soundtrack is also wonderful, featuring fantastic Vangelis-like tracks, to more in-your-face heavy music.

Killzone Shadow Fall5The So-So:

This is minor nitpick, but the lip syncing is off for many of the characters during cutscenes for some reason.

The Bad:

– No online co-op…really?!?  This has been a pet peeve of mine for a while now.  I don’t really care if it doesn’t make sense to the story, I just want to be able to play with a friend of mine through the campaign.  Is that truly too much to ask for?  (An online co-op pack is being released as DLC, but it acts more like a Horde mode than anything else).

– The pacing is completely off.  One minute you’re taking on what feels like an entire armada, the next you don’t see a single enemy for ages.  The zero-g missions can also be tedious as they feel like they go on for a little too long.  There’s a free-fall section that will have you ripping your hair out, it’s so frustrating.  I get that the developer wanted to spice things up with variety, but in the end the game feels really unbalanced as a result.

– Where’s all the fighting?  There are a few large scale battles, and they’re absolutely great, but far too often you spend your time simply moving from one location to the next, or trying to activate or hack a specific computer terminal with only a few enemies in along your path.

Killzone Shadow Fall3The Ugly:

The absolute worst aspects of Shadow Fall has to be the lack of a true map system or what I call intelligent nav points.  The vast majority of the time when you hit up on the d-pad, the nav point only shows you where your next true destination is, however it doesn’t lead to you said point.  That means in certain areas, especially those with long twisting corridors or other areas that are vast in size and scope, it’s super easy to get lost.  There was one section in particular that forced me to walk away from the game for a bit because I was getting so frustrated.  I just couldn’t see where I was supposed to go next.  Eventually I realized there was a small crevice I could fit under and away I went, but getting stuck like that is highly annoying.

Killzone Shadow Fall4The Lowdown:

Killzone: Shadow Fall is the perfect technical showpiece for the PlayStation 4, however it does suffer from a few glaring faults.  At times it can be extremely frustrating, annoying, and confusing.  Other times its rip-roaring good fun.  Thankfully the good outweighs the bad, but why certain designs choices were made to break up the pacing so much is beyond me.  I also can’t understand why they didn’t include a better mapping system.  Thankfully everything else came together well, especially the online multiplayer mode.  It’s a very fun game, but the few issues it has do bring down the experience.  If you have a PS4, this is one you really should experience if only for its pure technical impressiveness.

Final Score: 7.5/10 

Contrast Review

ContrastContrast (Available on PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Puzzle Platformer
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Compulsion Games
Release Date: November 15th, 2013

Parent Talk: Contrast is a noir-based puzzle platformer that features some mild suggestive themes, violence, and the use of tobacco.  It has been rated T for teen from the ESRB, and the rating fits perfectly.  This game is all about style, and anyone that enjoys the 1930s to 50s, or noir film will absolutely adore it.  Players only see Didi, a young girl, everyone else is represented by shadows, so while there is violence, there is no details in the actions.

Plays Like: This is an interesting game to describe, as it’s rather original.  You take on the role of Dawn, Didi’s friend that cannot be seen, and who cannot see others herself.  She can only see the shapes of other people via the shadows they cast.  While she can interact with objects in the real world, her true skill is being able to cross over to the shadow world and move to areas otherwise impossible to traverse.  Puzzles are cleverly wrapped around this gameplay mechanic.  Sometimes it’s as simple as finding an exit to an area, while other times you need to move a block on a switch.  Whatever the case may be, the gameplay remains fresh and exciting throughout the four hour adventure.

Review Basis: Contrast is currently available for free, at the time of writing this review, to all PS+ members.  I completed the PS4 versions of the game, and enjoyed it so much that I went back and got all the trophies for it.

Of all the PlayStation 4 launch titles I’ve played, this has to be the most unique.  Solving puzzles while switching from the real world to the shadow world is both creative and just plain fun.  If you want something off the beaten path for your shiny new console, this is one I highly recommend you check out, even though it has a few glaring issues.

Contrast2The Great:

The core gameplay is excellent.  Your goal is to try to solve puzzles, while switching between two dimensions.  There are lots of creative platforming sections wrapped around this mechanic, and lots, and lots of clever puzzles.  As you progress you unlock more and more powers, but it never becomes bothersome or overbearing.  Some of my favorite scenes in the entire game simply involve seeking out secret areas and figuring out how to reach your reward.

Contrast5The Good:

+ Highly stylized.  If you enjoy noir film, or stories set in the 1930s to 50s, this is a game for you.  Occasionally Dawn will locate floating icons that, when touched, will activate special mini-games whereby a story plays out in shadow form, and you have to act quickly in order to reach your desired goal.  Not only does it push the story forward, but some of these are extremely challenging, and all of them look sensational.

+ The entire world feels alive, yet desolate at the same time.  You can hear jazz playing off in a club somewhere, there’s an old circus left there waiting for you to explore, and so much more. Graphically everything is perfectly detailed, and I love the style of both Didi and Dawn.  The shadow forms look nice too.  Speaking of which, the lighting as a whole is extremely well done, which is crucial since it’s so important to the rest of the game.

+ The audio features tunes from the time period, and the voice acting is about what you’d expect.  Some actors are better than others, although whomever voiced Didi did a sensational job.

+ Surprisingly deep story.  Didi is a young girl who simply wants to keep her family together, and while you take on the role of Dawn, her close friend that can travel between the shadow realm and the real one, you’re the one that’s going to do all the work to ensure this family gets past their current troubles.

+ Nice amount of variety.  While there are a few sequences that require you to move a box to a switch, most of the puzzles are out and about in the city.  These areas sometimes challenge you with reaching your goal within a set amount of time, others have you adjusting light sources to get the platforms just where you need them.  There even a puppet show you have to take part in.  It’s all good fun.

Contrast1The So-So:

+/- Dawn often feels much lighter than she should.  One of her special abilities allows her to dash through small shadows, but I found she flies a little too far occasionally causing her to miss another platform.  I also found her jump to be extremely high and light, but you might not have a problem with that.

The Bad:

– Bugs, and oddball glitches.  Sometimes you’ll jump to an area and fall right through the floor, even though you made sure you landed on what appeared to be a platform.  Other times you will try to drop off a box on a switch, only to have Dawn float in mid-air.  At one point I was able to lock up the entire game and had to restart the chapter.  Most glitches and bugs can be worked through, but having to restart an entire chapter is ridiculous.

– Controls aren’t as tight as they should be.  When you jump from a platform to an open wall and want to enter the shadow world, many times Dawn will simply stay in the real world and fall to her death.  This happens around thirty percent of the time, and can get very frustrating at times.

Contrast3The Lowdown:

If the controls were just a bit tighter, and the bugs cleaned up this could have been one of my favorite launch titles on the PS4, as I’m a sucker for anything noir-related.  As it stand now, this is a game that shines with potential, but falls a little short.  If you’re ok with a game that has a few issues, this is one I wholeheartedly recommend you try out, and hey it’s free for PS+ members, and with a PS4 that’s pretty much mandatory so you really don’t have anything to lose by giving this one a go.

Overall: 7/10

PlayStation 3 Launch Memories

Here’s a very quick video I made talking about my PS3 launch memories.  I’m sure you guys have lots of memories yourself, so feel free to share them.

It’s fun to discuss our PS3 launch memories now that the PS4 is right around the corner. Only two more weeks to go!

Sony’s Pre-TGS Conference Reveals New Hardware, and Much More

Sony made quite a big splash on their home turf this morning with a wide assortment of announcements. Here’s a quick round-down of everything they revealed and my thoughts on the news.

The first big reveal was the announcement of a remodeled PS Vita. It’s 20% thinner, and 15% lighter than the previous model. It replaces the OLED screen with a LCD screen, and increases the battery life by one hour. It also includes one gigabyte of on-board storage, although there’s not very much you can do with that, but one would assume this would allow the system to use this storage in lieu of memory cards, but this hasn’t been confirmed as of yet. If it does remove the need for memory cards that will certainly be a selling factor for a lot of people.

Vita SlimSpeaking of memory cards, Sony announced price drops for the Vita memory cards in Japan, and also announced a 64GB model, which will retail for 9.980 yen or about $100 USD. Personally I still think the pricing is way too high. A 64GB SDXC card can be easily found for $60.

The new Vita will go on sale in Japan on October 10th, and will retail for 18,980 yen or around $190 USD. It will be available in six colors, and as of writing this there has been no confirmation on when this new Vita will be made available outside Japan.

The next big news was the announcement of several big Vita exclusives including a remastered or deluxe version of Soul Sacrifice called Soul Sacrifice Delta. Details are scarce at the moment, but we know it will include new content and a more fleshed out storyline. Sony also announced Soul Sacrifice 2, but didn’t say anything about it.

SEGA announced Phantasy Star Nova, which takes place in the popular Phantasy Star Online 2‘s universe. Shame PSO2 has yet to make its way outside Japan as of yet, but this new one just might as it’s more of a traditional RPG, which just so happens to be featured in this rich universe. Up to four players can team up online should they choose, but the emphasis is on single-player this time around. Much like Soul Sacrifice Delta, Phantasy Star Nova is set for release in 2014.

In a somewhat surprising move Sony announced the PlayStation 4 will be available in Japan on February 22nd. There will be several SKUs available, but the core model will retail for 39.980 yen or about $400 USD. Since the system is region free I’m fairly certain a lot of Japanese die-hard Sony fans will import it from North America or Europe. Never thought I’d say that before. Sony says the reason for pushing the platform into 2014 is to strengthen the Japanese software for launch.

SEGA announced Yakuza Ishin will debut not only on PS3, but on PS4 as well. It will retail on February 22nd, making it the biggest named franchise for the Japanese launch of the new PlayStation.

During a sizzle reel several other Japanese developers showcased short teasers of upcoming games, but not much was revealed. The list of titles highlighted include Natural Doctrine, Guilty Gear Xrd, Deep Down, Lily Bergamo, Wonder Flick, and more.

The last piece of news Sony announced was something called PS Vita TV, which could be a fantastic device for the site, because it might allow me to capture footage of Vita games. That’s assuming Sony doesn’t include High Definition Copy Protection (HDCP) over HDMI like they did with the PlayStation 3. Ok, I’m getting ahead of myself. This is the PS Vita TV.


PS Vita TV2

PS Vita TV3This device allows over one hundred Vita games to be played directly on your HDTV, while using a DualShock 3. The system reads Vita game cards, and memory cards, but no word yet on how digital downloads will work. We know it has access to Hulu and Netflix though. Why do I say “over 100 Vita games” you might be asking, well any games that require specific use of the Vita’s unique features like the touch screen or back track pad obviously wouldn’t be able to be used. The device will also allow remote play with the PS4, meaning you could have your PS4 in one room and play it on another TV in the house with a DualShock 4. This functionality will be added via a firmware update later next year. The PS Vita TV will be available in Japan on November 14th and will retail for 9.480 yen or around $95 USD. Once again, no word on if and when it will be released outside Japan.

All in all that’s a pretty decent amount of information from Sony’s pre-TGS conference. What do you guys think of this? I, for one, am really hoping Sony does away with the copy protection on their HDMI-enabled devices such as the PS Vita TV and PS4. The only way to record PS3 footage right now is to use component cables in order to bypass the HDCP. If they don’t include that on the Vita TV than I will most certainly pick that up for future video content. As for everything else, it’s nice to see them announce a remodeled Vita, although a savings of only $10 is hardly worthwhile in my opinion. Would have been nicer to see this one debut at say $150 or so. That way not only would there be an obvious savings right away, but if the device doesn’t require memory cards because of the internal storage there would have been great word of mouth post-launch as well. I’m also shocked the PS4 won’t be hitting Japan until early next year. It’s amazing how times have changed, no?