Supermassive Games once again excels in its strengths and doesn’t learn from its weaknesses or mistakes. Man of Medan was a great start to a horror series, and Little Hope could have learned a lot from the fumblings of the past game but didn’t learn a single thing. You play as a crew of five this time who end up in a bus crash on their way to a school field trip to the Northeast town of Little Hope. A ghost town.
The game starts out very strong. You are in the 70s stuck in the middle of a dysfunctional family. The prologue quickly introduces what the series is good at. Death. You then end up in a bus crash and are stuck in a rural town in the Northeast in the middle of nowhere. I was excited about this one. It has a great Silent Hill feel to it. Endless fog, creatures creeping around in the distance, and a ghost mystery. Sadly, the game quickly devolves into walking around what seems like random houses, forest paths, and buildings. The same issues plague this game such as the lives of the characters dwindling down to succeeding in QTE events. The traits between characters that are strengthened or weakened through dialogue choices will determine how hard these QTEs will be. You can also explore and find secrets and a few hidden weapons to make these scenes easier as well.
The game feels less cohesive than Man of Medan. The story itself doesn’t feel as exciting or interesting as the previous game either. The story just never seems to go anywhere and doesn’t make any sense until the very end which is really annoying. I kept hoping that there would be a twist or something, but the story just drags out as it has nothing to really tell. The characters themselves are more compelling than in the previous game and I felt a little more attached to them, but they are still walking stereotypes and cliches. The facial animations are slightly improved, but the voice acting can still be spotty.
There is still no gameplay here. Outside of the walking scenes and looking for secrets and QTEs this is just an interactive four-hour movie. We still get cuts to The Curator who can give you occasional hints and I’m sad that his backstory isn’t told and we still no nothing about this character. That seems to just be a running theme with this series. We just get characters thrown into some B-grade horror mystery for four hours with nothing else to show for it. There’s nothing memorable about this series or insanely interesting. The monster designs are still well down. Supermassive still does a great job slowly revealing these monsters as there are only a few of them. However, it’s not enough to make up for the lack of everything else.
The game is visually impressive. It looks fantastic on PS5 and PC, but is also poorly optimized on PC with insane slowdown and requires way too high of a setup for what it is. The textures, models, and lighting are top-notch, but the janky animations just bring it down some. The game still suffers from mannequin-like facial animations sometimes. Overall, it’s a very impressive game visually.
In the end, Little Hope does little to advance the series and instead sets it back a bit further. With a less than compelling story, stereotypical characters with no depth, wonky facial animations, and spotty voice acting, plus the lack of gameplay makes this a four-hour B-grade horror movie that’s interactive. You won’t miss much by skipping this one as there is no overarching story over the entire Dark Pictures Anthology.
Until Dawn was a visually impressive game. It was also very atmospheric and had some memorable scenes. Supermassive Games has a talent for world-building and giving you the fine details. The downside is that Until Dawn didn’t have any memorable characters. They were B-grade actors with stereotypical college student personalities and they never stood out. The same is present for Man of Medan. This is an ongoing horror series full of short stories with the overarching narrative being kept together by The Narrator. He gives you hints and a couple of tips to help keep everyone alive in the game.
Man of Medan is also visually impressive. Great textures, detailed character models, impressive lighting effects, and great camera work. The game suffers from Supermassive’s previous weaknesses. Forgettable stereotypical characters that you see in B-grade horror movies. The acting is spotty and all over the place and includes facial animations. Sometimes it looks great and other times they look like stiff mannequins. You play as four college-age people who take a boat trip to go scuba diving to find an unmarked airplane that was downed during World War II. Things take a turn for the worse when they get kidnapped and brought onto a World War II ship to look for Manchurian Gold. They meet supernatural beings and must escape. Your job is to keep them alive.
While the overall tale is interesting and I really wanted to know what happened to this ship and the things going on, the game is so short that the characters get zero back stories and it’s just jump scare after chase scene after QTE event. You keep the characters alive by mainly being successful with QTE events. These are when the characters’ lives are in danger. If you played any cinematic adventure game in the last 20 years you know what to expect. There are various ways you can make the game easier or more difficult by walking around and searching for objects. This is the only gameplay here. Walking around small hallways and looking at objects. If you see a sparkle it means you can interact with it. Picking up objects and turning them overlooks cool and the objects are insanely detailed, but it doesn’t add anything to the experience. You can easily just go straight to the end of every scene.
That’s another problem with this game and these types of games as a whole. There’s almost no gameplay. Most gameplay is just an excuse to keep the player engaged. Thankfully Man of Medan never gets dull and is always moving at a good pace. When creepy stuff happens it’s done very well. I was wigged out by some of the creatures on screen. Supermassive’s camera work is superb here. I felt like I was playing a movie which is more than I can say for most games. The only excitement in the game is the quick decisions needed before timers run out. You can get premonitions from finding pictures hidden around that show 3-second clips of what might happen in the future. Sometimes these helped and sometimes I realized what was happening too late. I managed to only lose one character and it was at the very end of the game. I have to say that the whole bearing and trait system makes no sense to me. During conversations, you can pick one of two answers and this will unlock traits or increase others. It’s never explained well. Finding certain objects and adding to bearings, but I have no idea what this does. Again, there’s no explanation.
Overall, Man of Medan is an interesting first outing into this new series and I look forward to seeing more. While I don’t doubt Supermassive can supply an entertaining ride, the characters need to be more interesting, the facial animations need more work, and the bearing and trait system needs more explanation. The 4-5 hour runtime is over before you know it
Horizon: Zero Dawn is a game I have struggled to finish for 5 years now. It’s not that it’s a bad game or a boring one, it just has a lot of promise in the beginning third of the game and you quickly learn it has shown everything it has to offer by then. I got frustrated with the game more often than I wanted to. I found the game had felt bloated with too many activities and very little reward for them. However, it’s the game’s less-than-stellar combat that made me continue to turn the game off many times over the last five years.
I even repurchased the game on PC and thought the higher fidelity would get me to finish the game. I even tried it on the Steam Deck, but it wasn’t until I bought my PS5 and wanted to dive into Forbidden West that made me finally complete the game. I did complete most of the side quests and explore the world for various collectibles, but in the end, the in-game economy is so small and restricted that there’s no reward worth the effort. You can buy the strongest weapons and armor about 1/3 through the game and you can’t find more powerful weapons or acquire them. The same goes for armor. There are merchants spread throughout the game, but they mostly offer stuff you can craft, but it’s imperative that you buy and save for the most powerful stuff early on.
I saw all of this because the combat while interesting is frustrating and fairly uninteresting. The entire game’s premise focuses on these machines that made humanity go extinct. While I don’t want to discuss too much of the story as it will spoil it (the story is really good) I will say that the entire idea of weak points breaks the combat. You can use your Focus, which is a device Aloy has on her ear that can scan the world, and this will show breakable weak points on machines. Each weak point might have different elemental weaknesses. It’s essential to break these down to attack the machine and kill it faster. Otherwise, you will only chip health away. While this sounds fine on paper, the execution is poorly done. A lot of the game wants to focus on stealth by sneaking around tall grass and using your tripcaster to shoot out trip lines for machines to walk across. Early on this is fine as single wires can take down enemies. Later on, the bigger ones won’t fall for this, and the entire tripcaster weapon becomes useless. The ropcaster is used to tie down machines, but it is useless against humans. There is a sling that throws out bombs, and then a heavy bow and a bow for elemental arrows. That is it. The only difference in price for each weapon is how many augmentation slots you get, now so much power, and different elemental ammo types it can use.
The flaw stems from combat being too chaotic to accurately break down weak points. When multiple machines are coming at you the instinct is to just throw everything you have at them. Forget melee attacks as these only work against smaller machines that are maybe twice your size. Attacking massive Deathbringers up close will result in instant death. The bigger the machine the more you have to roll and dodge around and shoot elemental arrows and really have the ammo for that weakness. The second big flaw comes into account with the crafting system. You have to either buy or craft everything and it’s imperative that you have plenty of material on hand or you are left hanging. You can’t ever hold more than what you can craft and crafting bigger ammo pouches doesn’t help much. You always feel like nothing is enough. Health upgrades with each level up aren’t enough, the skill tree takes way too long to get to more useless skills and it always feels like it’s not enough. You can’t upgrade your base power as weapons rely on augmentations to make them more powerful. It just never feels like what you do is good enough and can’t get better no matter how much you level up. I was always dying easily, guzzling health potions, and relying on cheap exploits to get through tougher battles.
It’s sad that the combat is so flawed as the rest of the game is fine. The open world is beautiful and I have fun climbing mountains Tomb Raider style and wanted to explore more, but there’s no reward for any of this. In combat, you can control smaller machines and you learn to control new ones by finding Cauldrons throughout the game. Think tombs in Tomb Raider. These require taking down bosses to learn a new ability, but I never needed to ride an animal once. It felt pointless and the reward wasn’t justified. Why would I go through all this trouble for a new skill I will never use? Side quests in this game are fine for the most part. The other big flaw in the game is the lifeless and boring characters. Sylens and Aloy are the only characters I had any interest in outside of discovering the mystery of what caused the human apocalypse. Most of the side characters feel like mannequins and the voice acting is spotty for them.
Some other gripes are the healing system. You have to run around picking up every little flower you see to keep filling your medicine pouch. This is a health system separate from potions. However, if you want to keep potions stocked you need to hunt animals which is really tedious and gets old fast. The same five animals are spread throughout the game and you need different meat types to make potions. Some pouch upgrades require animal skins which require hunting multiple times before they drop one. It’s a very tedious system and there’s no relief. After the 100,000 flower I picked up I wanted to scream. The medicine pouch is annoying because combat is flawed. If I didn’t have to guzzle health items so often and actually felt like I was getting stronger it wouldn’t be an issue. Each system feeds off of itself and it brings the whole game down quite a bit.
The visuals are actually quite impressive. While the base PS4 model is pretty rough the game looks great on PS4 Pro and even better on PC and PS5. The character models look a bit plastic-like, but overall the entire game just looks good and colorful. I didn’t run into any slowdown or glitches at all. It runs really solid, however, the game isn’t well-optimized on PC. It requires more powerful hardware than is really needed.
Overall, Horizon: Zero Dawn has a fantastic story, and world-building is done well, but the game has many systems that feed off of each other and each one is severely flawed. Combat is hectic and requires breaking machine parts to take them down, and that type of precise combat isn’t fun here. Stealth is flawed as it requires trial and error and you don’t get powerful enough weapons to ever feel like you can get any job done right. The weapons are mostly uninteresting and the skill tree is a grind. Side quests and NPCs are a bore and there are no worthwhile rewards for getting collectibles and doing said side quests. It sounds like I hated this game, but I didn’t. The story and world are interesting enough to keep playing, and Aloy is a great character herself. I just felt like the first third of the game builds everything up too much and you’re let down when you realize that’s all the game has to offer and you keep playing expecting things to change and they don’t.
A Plague Tale: Innocencewas a massive surprise hit for me. I didn’t expect much from it coming from an unknown indie studio. It seemed pretty and that’s about it. I was shocked at the fantastic acting, gripping story, well-designed enemy encounters, and unique combat system. Requiem does what sequels normally do. Improve in some areas and step backward in others. While it’s not as shockingly impressive as the first game it does deliver an even better story with insanely good acting and a couple of new characters. Amelia, Hugo, Beatrice, and Lucas are still trying to cure Hugo’s Macula and stop the plague from spreading further. A lot more details arise and we learn the true origin of the Macula and Hugo’s fate.
The first third of the game takes place in the new town that Amelia and co. have settled down in. One thing I love about this series is there’s one thing that always lingers in your mind when playing. Lose all hope. Hope is something that doesn’t exist in this world. Amelia and Hugo are constantly betrayed in this game and it isn’t always apparent. You might think they finally settled down into a nice town or met nice people who will keep them safe and love them, but nope. Not in the world of A Plague Tale. There’s constant dread, pain, and death and it’s wonderfully portrayed thanks to the amazing acting on screen. I do want to mention that while the acting is amazing the facial animations are really lacking including lip-syncing being stiff. That’s a minor complaint, but overall the story is awesome and it has a satisfying ending.
That’s the game’s strongest point outside of its amazing visual presentation. The first game was well-loved for its well-crafted enemy encounters. Each area felt like a puzzle and it was the perfect difficulty. Not too hard, but not so easy that you would just run straight through. I always felt like I could figure out where to go and how to get around each enemy. It was so good that I played that game twice. Requiem adds a lot of new layers to the slingshot and alchemy that makes it a bit over-complicated. There are more elements added in such as being able to hold pots and a crossbow. The crossbow is obtained shortly after the halfway point, but you can add four different alchemic elements. Tar, fire, and rat-attracting crystals. This can make fumbling around to change your weapon and add the right alchemical property cumbersome on the fly. The tar can be used in pots to slow down enemies, but also set on fire with the slingshot fire. So this requires switching to the pot, and then tar, and then switching to the slingshot and equipping fire. I died a lot trying to fumble around and figure out what to do on the fly. This becomes infuriating during open combat events in which I had to restart one section nearly two dozen times because I ran out of materials and had to figure out how to preserve everything in the right order.
Guards come in more variety this time. There are helmeted guards which can’t be killed with the slingshot. These need to be avoided or taken out from behind which causes a lot of noise and the animation is very long. You will more than likely always be seen. You get to hold knives that are disposable and used to get you out in a pinch. There are guards with shields now that require being blinded with powder which is another element to flip through. Fire is still a big gameplay element here and you have rat sections that are also mixed with guards as well. I found these sections with rats more fun in this game because I could be more creative. You can put the guard’s flames out with the powder and watch the rats each them. Then there are puzzle sections with just the rats and these were the most fun I really enjoyed these sections, but there aren’t enough of them. Thankfully combat in the game is spread pretty far apart with entire chapters of just storytelling is thrown in between to give you a break.
It’s a shame the combat went from perfectly balanced to overly difficult and cumbersome. The puzzle sections use the new elements as well. There are now different types of fire you can start from haystacks that only last a few seconds to fire bolts that stick to wood objects. You have unique partner abilities such as Arnaud’s shield that bolts can stick to and Sophia’s crystal that can refract light. These are new changes I really liked and fit in. You can throw tar on flames to increase their brightness for a bit and spread light out more to solve puzzles and reach extra chests. This was the stuff I really enjoyed. Flipping through all these items and alchemy stuff during combat was just too much and hurt the already perfect flow from the previous game.
The last thing I want to touch on is the upgrade system. It’s been simplified and almost seems pointless now. You need tools and parts to upgrade, but they’re so rare and hard to come by that I barely upgraded a single skill to the max by the end of the game and this is a 15-hour game. It takes a new game plus to continue maxing out your skills, which can really help if you can get to them, but it takes so long that I never relied on these. Even if you found every hidden chest you wouldn’t be able to upgrade much.
With that said the pacing of the game is all over the place. Going from entire chapters of combat to entire chapters of walking around and letting the story play out. An hour or two would go by with no combat or puzzles, or you would get an entire hour of puzzle-solving with 10 minutes of combat. I also didn’t care for the open combat sections. This combat system isn’t designed for running around and taking enemies out in droves. The first game did this well by just letting you slingshot enemies. You now have to run around and fumble with the weapons and elements to decide which enemy needs what thing to take it down. It’s incredibly frustrating.
The game looks fantastic at least. This is the first “next-gen” game I think that’s been released so far. It’s not on previous generation consoles and sure as hell wouldn’t run on them. My 3080ti struggled at 1440p with maxed-out settings with DLSS turned on. It did dip down into the 40s at times. While it’s not perfectly optimized anyone outside of an RTX GPU won’t have a great time running this game. It really is a next-generation-looking game. I can’t stress enough how amazing the game looks. Beautiful vistas, lots of color, and tons of dark visuals as well. It’s a sight to behold.
With all that said, Requiem does a lot of good in the story and visuals department but falters when it comes to combat and pacing. I enjoyed the puzzles, and sections where you had to get through rats, but the open combat is infuriating, and fumbling through all the elements and weapons is too much for a stealth-focused game.
The Yakuza series had massive success with its spinoff Like a Dragon. While it had flaws it was entertaining and had great characters and a detailed story. The entire Yakuza franchise excels in the storytelling and character development department. Judgment is no different. You play as the lawyer turned-detective Tavo Kagami trying to rid of his demons and upturn a bunch of corrupt politicians. An Alzheimer’s cure and a murder mystery are at the center of this. The story is well constructed and kept me on the edge of my seat at every turn. The entire story has chapters ending on cliffhangers like addictive binge-worthy TV shows. I always wanted to know what was going to come next. At many points, it felt that Yagami and co. were backed into a corner and I didn’t see any way out only for the story to twist and turn in crazy ways.
I don’t want to say too much about the story as any small detail can spoil it. Just know that this is the strongest point of the game and what makes it worth sticking through the 30+ hour game for. The second reason is the characters. There are many and they are well-acted and have great backstories. They are slowly introduced throughout the game and by the end, I either loved them or hated them. Tavo himself is a well-rounded character that’s stubborn and unwilling to back down from anything. I really liked the personalities of each character. They were unique and interesting and they all stood out in their own way. For such a large cast this is usually hard to pull off or not done well enough.
As for the gameplay, this is where Judgment falters and the entire Yakuza series lacks here in every entry in some way. You get to run around in this open…map called Kamarucho. I don’t want to say open world because it’s just a small city that can be run across in about 2-3 minutes. It’s a city full of crime and underground misdeeds. What’s the point of the open city? I don’t really know. Mostly for side quests, but I always found these to be underwhelming and repetitive in the Yakuza series. There are a few types. First off are actual side cases which net you more SP and cash. That’s bout it. They are mostly uninteresting and don’t advance the story or characters at all. There are friend events spread throughout which net you skills that can be unlocked, SP, and cash. These are the two main types of side quests you can partake in and I did finish most side cases just for the SP and cash. You really need cash to buy healing items and stay stocked up.
There are taxis spread throughout to help with fast travel. With such a small area you would think it’s pointless but it’s great to avoid fights on the streets. These are randomly occurring and you can usually run from them and you should. I felt it hindered progress and after the third chapter, it didn’t net enough SP to be worth bothering with. Eventually, you will be wanted by street gangs and your threat level will increase unless you stop a boss-type enemy. This never goes away and will always go back to 100% so I just ignored them. There are also side activities that are mostly used for dating. That’s another side quest that I didn’t find interesting. You can meet girls through friend events or side cases and later date them by presenting presents. Side mini-games like batting, darts, and gambling can be fun to an extent, but when are mini-games like this ever fun to go back to? It’s just filler content and for achievement hunters really. It doesn’t advance the story or add to it in any way I just felt like all of these side activities/missions were chores to complete.
Let’s get into combat. It’s flawed for sure. While it looks cool and it’s simple to understand it suffers from unresponsive controls and animations that don’t interrupt when you input a command. I always felt like my button presses were delayed. There are two fighting stances. Tiger for one-to-one fights and Crane for multiple enemies. You can pick up objects and hit people with them and there’s a special EX finishing move that you can perform which is key to winning tougher fights. You also have an EX boost which unlocks more powerful combos and increases your defense. Again, a key thing to use to win fights. I just felt like no matter what I did I couldn’t master the system. There is a block and dodge button, but it seems that the enemies are magnetized to you because no matter how much I dodge or run away they always follow me and connect their attacks. It makes boss fights especially infuriating. While I had plenty of items I could use at my disposal to help I wish I could rely more on my skill, but the fighting system just doesn’t allow it.
There are other small annoyances such as mortal wounds. These lockout parts of your health bar and the only thing in the game that can fix this are med-kits which are rare and cost a lot of money. There’s only one person that can heal you and they’re sold underground in a sewer. Of course, you have to go through the animation of opening the sewer great, sliding down a ladder, running down the sewer, and then the same thing going back up. Just cut all of this out! I also found the game way too long. It’s padded with a ton of fights throughout the main story and I wish a lot of this was cut out. There are easily 10 hours of fights just in the main story. Nothing breaks this up, however. There are repetitive detective events like searching for objects in first-person, chase scenes and tailing people. My god, do these get old quickly. Tailing missions are never fun in games and these are dragged out for sometimes over five minutes. You can hide behind objects and that’s about it. Just don’t fill the suspicion meter. All of these mini-games are just incredibly repetitive and could have been cut out.
The game at least looks decent. It’s a PS4 port so some parts look rough. There are some textures that look like PS3-era stuff, but at least the facial animations and character models are really good. There’s lots of detail everywhere, but don’t expect this to push your hardware to its limits. It mostly looks very realistic and sterile with not much in the way of artistic flair. It looks like a modern-day Japanese city.
Overall, Judgment excels in storytelling and character development but falters in gameplay. The fighting is stiff and unresponsive, the mini-games are repetitive and pad out the hours, and I felt the detective work in the courtroom was a missed opportunity. The open city is an excuse to throw side cases and missions at you that are meaningless and just pad gameplay. Random city fights are annoying and get in the way of progress, and the visuals aren’t much of an upgrade. What’s here works, but I mostly stayed for the story. If it had a bad story this game would be barely above average, however, it’s one of the best and most detailed video game stories I’ve seen in recent years.
Scorn is a game that’s been in the making for a long time despite my only knowledge of it being shown at E3 earlier this year. I’ve been hyped for this game since and stayed up until 3AM on launch day to play it. The gameplay videos were misleading. It looked like a very atmospheric and macabre FPS, however, nothing was said about the heavy puzzles, short length, and complete lack of story or context.
The opening is similar to God of War. The menu is in real-time and when you start a new game you awaken from the main menu. I didn’t suspect anything during the first hour of the game. I expected the game to open up slowly and thought the slow pace, long hallways, and lack of any story, voice acting, or context was just the beginning. Sadly, this is the entire game. There are five main acts in the game and each one is just a giant level full of puzzles, backtracking, and terrible combat. Combat isn’t actually introduced until act 3, but I digress.
The game doesn’t start out well with an incredibly frustrating slider puzzle. You must move pods around a wall and I had to look up how to try and solve it right away. The first act took an hour to complete because of all the backtracking and trying to explore the level and see what parts of this puzzle I should tackle first. This quickly takes your focus away from the fantastic art design, infrastructure, and alien mystery of the game. I was running around pulling switches, pushing carts, and sliding puzzles for an entire hour. There was no reward to this except an incredibly disturbing and gory cut scene of a poor creature pleading for help only to be sacrificed to progress to the next level. I thought during the E3 videos that this is what Scorn was full of. Incredibly gory scenes, but there were only a few of them spread throughout.
As you progress on to act 3 to pick up your first weapon you realize that this is all the game is. Puzzle after puzzle, endless rooms, and hallways, no exploration, no side quests, nothing. The first weapon is some sort of jabber thing that give you two hits before it needs to charge. This is where combat falls apart. The enemies are fine. There are three or four different kinds ranging from weak two-hitters to massive dog-like ones that need projectile fire. The combat is just so slow. You need to aim, jab the creatures, then run away and let it recharge just to turn around and do it again. It’s clunky, I died way more than I wanted to, and health is way too scarce for this type of combat. Later on, you get a pistol and then a shotgun, but ammo is so scarce for them that I often just had to run from enemies. You eventually have to take out everyone as there is a lot of backtracking needed to find keys, go back and insert them into the correct spot, then go back and do something else.
Reloading is really slow and you’re vulnerable. If you thought Killzone’s reloading animations were long this is worse. There’s no jump button, no crouch, but there is a sprint button. You can just run away, turn around shoot, and hope your shots don’t miss. If you’re caught with an unloaded weapon you’re dead. Normally this would be forgivable, but there’s no reward for doing anything. The occasional gory torture scene doesn’t cut it and they are short and spread very far apart. I actually enjoyed the smaller puzzles more than the large level-size main puzzle, but some were just way too complicated and difficult. I frequently got lost in maze-like hallways and act four was excruciatingly difficult due to all the enemies around and scarce ammo. I had to strategize what ammo to use on what enemy.
There is a final boss fight which was more annoying than frustrating, and I did find several bugs in which I couldn’t activate switches, and my game crashed my whole PC once. Checkpoints are unfairly spread apart and you are forced to restart entire sections, and go through the same animations, and small scenes, just to die again. Even the ending didn’t save this game at all. There’s no satisfying conclusion. I kept telling myself, “Okay this is the moment! This is it! We’re going to see why you’re in this alien world trying to survive!” Only to get nothing. The game pretty much just ends without spoiling it.
I did enjoy seeing this game though. Playing it another story. The game has some of the best art design, technical visuals, and sound design I’ve ever seen. The late H.R. Giger (Alien) inspired architecture is fascinating to look at and I wanted to stop and look at every new thing I came across. This game is a work of art, and I feel if they either went all-out with the combat Quake style or cut it out completely it would have helped this game immensely. The combat doesn’t add anything to the game at all. It just hinders puzzle-solving and backtracking and makes the game take longer to finish.
Overall, Scorn is a pretty big disappointment with many shortcomings. The complete lack of story or context, awful and sluggish combat, scarce gory scenes, and maze-like levels hinder the game at every turn. The game’s only saving grace is the amazing sound and art design. It’s a visual masterpiece. The game’s short length is in its favor because of these issues. Clocking in at around 6 hours to finish the story makes it less painful of a pill to swallow.
I really like the Persona and Shin Megami Tensei series, but they are insanely long and challenging. These are hardcore JRPGs not meant for casual players. Most won’t have the stamina needed to sit through 150+ hour games and the PlayStation trophy data shows that. Less than half of all Persona 5 players finished the game. Thankfully, for people like me, Atlus put me in an extra easy mode called Safety that let me finish my first-ever Persona game. I tried the third and fourth games several times and just couldn’t do it. While I eventually did well in battles, the games were too long. The story in Persona 5 is fantastic and there are plenty of great things about this game, but a few key issues may drive most players away even more casual JRPG fans.
The story is insanely deep and detailed. There are plenty of mysteries and twists and turns that kept me trucking on because I wanted to see what happened next. The characters are compelling, well-written, and very likable, however, you still need to like anime to enjoy the characters in this game. There are some typical anime tropes that leak in, but I think people who play JRPGs are already aware of this. Your character is Joker, a teenage boy wrongfully convicted of assaulting a high-profile individual for just trying to save a woman from harassment on the street. You end up living with someone who volunteered to take in a convict and watch over you so you can get rehabilitated. This game plays just like previous Persona games with a time limit, days going by, social rankings, and acquiring personas.
The game will introduce things to you throughout the entire game, and I mean throughout. 40 hours in I was still getting tutorial messages. The game is an incredibly slow burn. I didn’t get to do any battling until the fifth or sixth hour. This was all story and world-building, introducing the idea of personas, your purpose, and your back story, and showing you how to go about the day-to-day. The game is mostly dialog, to be honest. Out of the 80 hours, it took me to finish the game maybe 25 of that was actually exploring the dungeons and fighting. There is a lot of character-building and slice-of-life stuff in here. You also have a time limit to finish every palace which is the main dungeon in the game.
When you’re not battling you are living your everyday life. You need to go to school and the day is broken up into sections such as early morning which is reserved for dialog you hear on the train going to school, talking to friends at the train station, etc. Morning and afternoon are reserved for things happening at school during the week or random quizzes that you can answer to increase your social stats. These stats are knowledge, proficiency, charm, kindness, and guts. These are needed to finish confidant arcs and max out that persona category so you can get stat boosts when using that type of persona. These stats can be increased by doing certain activities like watching movies, playing games, doing chores, and other everyday activities. It’s important to use your downtime for increasing these stats as the game is balanced by not just level grinding, but having these extra stats for each persona type.
After school time is reserved for doing things around the city such as said activities and getting together to enter Momentos which is a secondary dungeon with a few dozen levels that you need to descend to complete requests from people. In the end, it’s required to descend fully for the final dungeon, but before that it’s optional. I recommend doing these late-game so you can just barrel through the levels by the end. The evening is reserved for nighttime activities and jobs even to earn more money. After the activity, the evening is done you advance to the next day and do this all over. Some days are interrupted by story elements, scripted scenes, and other events. It’s important to hang out with confidants when you get texts from them to advance their persona ranking. These are where the side stories for each character are held. They can be long-cut scenes too. Usually, you get 30 odd days between each major palace to fill the time. This time period can take hours to finish.
When you do actually battle Persona is based on finding the weaknesses of enemies. This can be both good and bad. If you find the weakness you get one more turn. This can be elemental or physical. The downside is that the entire game can be over if you don’t find these quickly. It’s trial and error as to finding the weakness and some just don’t have one. You waste precious turns trying to figure this out and it can make some boss fights grueling. You can save within these palaces and return to the real world to buy items and increase your persona rankings more, but if you don’t find the treasure and beat the boss by the deadline it’s game over. I’ve always hated this about the series and it makes the game more difficult and frustrating than it needs to be. You can capture personas by talking to them when they’re weak in battle. If successful they will join your ranks. It’s important to keep a good variety of personas leveled up and acquire new ones with better skills. You can fuse and itemize them in the Velvet Room as well as sacrifice weaker ones to strengthen others.
While you can use multiple personas your party members are stuck with one. Every few levels they will gain new abilities for their personas and you have a limited number of slots so it’s important to keep them balanced. Inside these palaces, you can acquire items, treasures to sell, and powerful equipment that you can buy in the airsoft shop. These palaces are huge with multiple levels and can take hours to complete. I played the game on safety difficulty so I could beat each palace in a single sitting, but if you need to level grind and fuse personas you could take the entire time limit. Each palace is a different theme and they look cool, but the weak puzzles and labyrinthine halls of some of them are really annoying. Enemies walk around in real-time and because you are thieves you can get behind cover and dash around them stealthily or take them head-on. Some palaces are a really confusing mess and I found some just went on for too long.
Those are your two main parts of the game. Battling in Momentos or palaces and living your everyday life to increase social stats and play mini-games. I personally don’t like the trial and error of exploiting weaknesses to win each fight. The graphics are decent, while stylistically they look great with lots of flash and color, but technically it looks like a typical JRPG and borderline last generation and not too much of a step up from the PS3 version. While it seems there is a lot to do in the game there actually isn’t. You’re so focused on visiting confidants and maxing out social stats in the real world that it feels like a chore after a while. You have to realize there are nearly 250 in-game days you have to get through on top of the palaces and momentos. The game just feels like it never ends. 80 hours to finish safety difficulties and it can take 150-200 hours for higher difficulties. I had to dedicate every free minute I had over the last three weeks to finishing this game and not playing any other games in between. I wish there was a warning at the beginning of the game letting players know how long the game can take on average or even put it somewhere on an official source of info for the game. I have played and bought many JRPGs not realizing just how long they take to beat.
Overall, I don’t want to talk too much about the story because I can easily spoil something. The Phantom Thieves and trying to change the hearts of criminals is a great story. It can be very dark at times talking bout child exploitation, abuse, murder, money laundering, and many other crimes. It’s a dark game and I felt it had a very memorable story, but it takes way too long to tell it. Many will balk at the trial and error of weakness exploitation to win battles, insane amounts of grinding, and the constant need to micro-manage your personas to get a well-balanced always leveled-up arsenal might seem like too much. That doesn’t include dozens upon dozens of hours of reading dialog and watching cut scenes. I recommend this only to the hardest-core of JRPG fans. This game is not to be taken lightly. While I complain about some of these things fans of this genre embrace it and that’s okay, but for only around 40% of players to have finished the game says something about the length.
Ratchet & Clank was a series I never got into growing up. My youngest sister was a diehard R&C fan and played every game as they came out, but they seemed “kiddie” for me at the time. While I knew they were good they seemed too easy and straightforward. Fast forward nearly twenty years later and I wish I had played them. R&C is a complete “from the ground up” a remake of the first game with fancy next-generation visuals and polish. If you didn’t know anything about the series you would think this was a brand new series. I say brand new as this isn’t just a 1:1 remake, but a complete redo of the first game. Characters were added and taken away, Quark’s story is redone, and so is the entire story. A couple of enemies are missing and even a couple of levels. However, what’s left looks amazing and is still a blast to play.
You play as Ratchet and Clank. Ratchet is a Lombax obsessed with glory and Clank is a defective robot that escapes Dr. Nefarious’ factory. Together you gather weapons and explore planets to help the Galactic Rangers and Quark take down Chairman Drek and Dr. Nefarious’ planet-killing device. The story is simple and not very memorable, but the characters are and they were iconic staples back in the day. Quark is a dimwitted superhero and all the other characters have sharp and witty writing. You will definitely chuckle a few times throughout. The character and enemies are well designed with fun animations and lots of variety on each planet. Most of the game is mostly just completing objectives in linear levels and then moving to the next one. There are a few planets with optional objectives such as a trading card collecting game, collecting 90 brains, and exploring certain parts of levels. These will award the player with new gadgets, weapons, and of course, trophies.
Shooting in the game is fun and one of the series’ unique mainstays. The weapons are what make R&C so unique and stand out among other shooters outside of the tame presentation. The Groovitron is a weapon that shoots disco balls and makes the enemies dance so you can get some breathing room. The Pixelater (my favorite weapon) turns the enemies into 8-bit sprites for a short time and acts as a shotgun. Mr. Zurkon is a shield and satellite weapon, the Glove of Doom releases a bunch of angry robots, and the Photon Drum is a bomb that pulses and causes damage. While the weapons are cool I did find them unbalanced. I felt there were too many of them and a lot just never saw any use such as the Sheepinator and various others. I wanted more weapons that shot projectiles that weren’t just missiles, maybe more rapid fire, and more close-quarter weapons. While these weapons are cool and unique I just didn’t find many uses for many of them.
You can buy new weapons as the Gadgetron vendors and upgrade weapons with Raritanium. Upgrading is a must for getting max damage, more ammo, and extra bonuses. I recommend you upgrade all the weapons you mainly use first as one play-through will let you upgrade maybe 2-3 weapons to 100%. Outside of weapons, there are a few passive gadgets that let you progress through levels such as the Trespasser which involves solving puzzles that can get rather tricky. There are a few hoverboard race sections, and of course, you need to acquire bolts in the game by smashing boxes, defeating enemies, and completing objectives. I do want to mention one aspect of R&C that’s fun and unique is seeing hundreds of bolts on screen fly around as enemies explode and boxes blow up and going around and collecting all of these. It’s something in the game I’ve always thought was fun.
Despite the simple design of the game it never gets boring. Each planet is beautifully crafted and a huge graphical upgrade over the first game. There’s just so much more detail two console generations later that couldn’t be done before. Each level is completely different and all have great pacing. You will never get bored or tired of playing at all. If you really want to keep going you can collect all 28 gold bolts and all the trading cards in the game. Don’t worry, towards the end of the game you can get a Map-O-Matic that displays all collectibles on every level. It can add a good 5 more hours of fun if you want.
Overall, Ratchet & Clank is a fine remake of the first game, and only diehard fans will notice the changes to the story and characters and missing levels. The game is unique and helped define the PS2 and has that PlayStation DNA that stands up today. It’s a fantastic series and I hope future games get remade in the same fashion in the future. The game is a bit on the easy side and only offers a challenge during the boss fights, but it’s a fun dozen hours that you can’t get on any other system.
We all love a good scare, right? Horror games are some of gaming’s greatest past times. Usually booming in October, horror games from the past and present are played all around the world. The problem is, there just aren’t a lot of them made, and the best ones are far and few between. Usually, this is a great time to dig up old classics rather than trudge through recent crap. While the PS1/PS2 era was the golden age of horror games, the HD era, or the seventh generation of consoles, struggled and was probably the most anemic when it came to horror games, especially the good ones. There’s a reason why some of the rarest and most coveted physical games are horror. It’s the genre that’s been the least explored and not done well enough most of the time. If you can look past clunky controls and awkward gameplay most retro horror games do provide good scares, atmosphere, creepy monsters, and good visuals. I’ve compiled a list of the best and the worst.
American McGee is well known for his dark interpretation of the Alice in Wonderland series. The first game, American McGee’s Alice, was clunky mechanically but was a visual treat. The same goes for the sequel. It’s a gorgeous game with a lot of dark themes dealing with mental illness. The enemies are fantastically designed and the levels themselves are living art. Despite the incredibly repetitive gameplay, this one is a blast to play through.
A lot of people didn’t like Homecoming due to its more action-oriented combat, but I actually quite liked it. I feel it was the last good Silent Hill game in the series and it still retains the creepy atmosphere and insane creature design. The haunting music is still present as well. While it’s not as tense as the original trilogy, Homecoming does have better combat despite it being the wrong focus here. This was the first game in the series that was part of the jump to the next generation. The next game in the series, Downpour, would be considered the worst in the series, and I personally hated it. These would be the last games in the series to date.
Metro 2033 and Last Light, these were some of the best horror games to grace the seventh generation of consoles. While they played and looked best on PC, the console versions still looked great and did a good job giving us scares. The post-apocalyptic horror series had an intriguing story and tense atmosphere along with crazy creature designs. The final game in the trilogy, Exodus, would be on the next-generation systems and receive mixed reviews.
While not inherently designed to give you nightmares, Shadows has a lot of horror elements in its design such as creepy enemies and an overall atmosphere of dread. It’s more of a comedy horror title, but it has tons of style that help make swallowing the shallow substance a bit easier. It’s also not very good-looking, on a technical basis, but the art is awesome. Most of Suda 51’s games were one-shots and never saw sequels. SotD never saw high enough sales even if he wanted to do a sequel. To date, it hasn’t seen a remaster, remake, or port.
Condemned: Criminal Origins really showed us what next-generation visuals could look like. The E3 2006 demo blew me away and it was one of the reasons I got an Xbox 360. This was one of the few games that looked the part and really pushed the industry into a new era of HD visuals. It’s a game that can be replayed many times and you will always have a fun experience. It’s too bad the series is dead because Monolith nailed the atmosphere here. The game is intense with crazy melee combat and incredibly dark and haunting levels. Crazy bums coming out of nowhere breathing and panting and trying to attack you in dark hallways is something else. The sequel, Bloodshot, was great but focused more on combat and less on the atmosphere, so it’s not quite as scary. It was also the nail in the coffin as due to the poor sales of the sequel Sega shuttered the series for good. To date, the series hasn’t seen a remaster, remake, or port of any kind.
Dante’s Inferno is one of the best hack and slash games ever made, but EA was bound to make sure you didn’t know that. It didn’t get much attention or was considered just another God of War rip-off. While the game was short, it had incredibly responsive and fun combat, an interesting protagonist, and insanely gory and adult-themed levels. It’s just too bad the story wasn’t fleshed out enough. What’s here is a fun 4-5 hour game that you won’t find anywhere else. Sadly, the game’s low sales sealed its fate to have no sequel, caused Visceral to shutter, and hasn’t seen a port, remaster, or remake to date.
Specifically speaking about the first two games, BioShock had a crazy dark atmosphere and some creepy enemies and horror that kind of just oozed everywhere. There was no jump scares or downright frightening scenes, but you always had a sense of dread and fear and that’s really hard to pull off in games. The game was more about psychological horror and isolation and it sure pulled it off mostly the best in the first game. Surprisingly, the entire trilogy was released during this generation and would receive barely passable ports later on as the BioShock Collection.
While Dead Space 3 was mostly about the action and less about horror, the first two games were damn scary. I would consider them one of the scariest games I have ever played. Jump scares aside, there was a constant foreboding presence of something lurking around every corner and the Necromorphs are some of the greatest video game enemies of all time. This was peak horror during the HD era. Another trilogy that saw its ending in the same generation cycle. The series would stall here and the first game would receive a remake two generation cycles later.
Deadly Premonition is the perfect game of it’s so bad it’s good. The gameplay is dated and feels like a PS1 game, the graphics are terrible, and the voice acting is awful, but the writing and overall atmosphere the game presents are well done and memorable. It really feels like a PS2 game that was quickly ported over to next-gen consoles without any improvements in mind. It can be scary in the sense that its trippy Japanese horror weirdness will freak you out more than scare you. This is one of the few games you should stomach the terrible design for the weirdness. It’s worth it. It would get a sequel in the next generation, but not look like it and would be poorly received
Oh man, this one brings me back. The first game was very scary with crazy The Ring girl vibes that were all the rage in the early 2000s. The gunplay was genuinely solid and you needed a NASA PC to run it back in the day, but forget about understanding the story. The second game had some really scary elements, but was more action-oriented and had less of a mid-2000s PC shooter Half-Life 2 style vibe to it. The third game, well, just isn’t scary at all. Another trilogy that was released all in the same console cycle. While the first game was a port and was released during the PS2/Xbox era, the entire trilogy would never see a remake or remaster.
The Resident Evil series really took off after the previous generation. This generation would see the most action-focused games yet. Resident Evil 5, 6, and Operation Raccoon City were the main releases. There was also an HD port of the 3DS exclusive Revelations as well as Revelations 2 as a sequel. Some would consider this the weakest run the series had only to go back to its roots in the next generation cycle starting with Resident Evil VII. The games also weren’t very scary around this time. They were just too action-focused and didn’t have the nuanced scares and puzzles as before. Revelations would be the only sub-series to feel scary or have any tension at all. Operation Raccoon City would be lauded as the worst game in the series.
The Last of Us would be considered one of the best horror games ever made. It was wildly praised and made waves throughout the gaming industry receiving awards and praise from all angles. The tense stealth scenes with the Clickers were awesome. These monsters are some of the creepiest and eerie creatures ever made for a horror game. This wasn’t just another zombie game. It would receive a sequel in the following generation as well as some of the most controversial decisions ever for a game. It would also receive a full remake and remaster.
Released at the tale end of the HD era of gaming, Outlast never saw a port to consoles until the next generation. It was damn scary. This small indie game made waves and became one of the top streaming games of all time. The tense atmosphere and overall great design, in general, made Outlast terrifying. The sequel would be released several years later on PC and consoles as well as a port of the first game released about a year later.
Amnesia was probably the top-streamed video game of the year in 2010. Game streaming was new and scare reactions reached the charts on YouTube. There hadn’t been many really scary games during this generation. It was all action-focused and multiplayer-focused to generate sales. That’s why this indie game was released on PC only at the time. It had interesting puzzles and enemies you couldn’t fight. It wouldn’t receive a port until many years later and two-generation cycles later. The sequels A Machine for Pigs and Rebirth would be poorly received, and I personally didn’t like them that much either.
The STALKER series wouldn’t sell well at first but would gain a huge cult following. The entire trilogy was released around the mid-life of the HD era and was exclusive to PC. It’s rough around the edges, but a huge following of modders would improve the game and it wouldn’t be until two generations later when a true sequel would be released. The game never saw a port to consoles and for a reason. The engine is already poorly optimized on PC and wouldn’t do well on consoles. It would be a huge undertaking to port the entire trilogy and it would be hard to market.
Alien Isolation wasn’t technically developed for HD consoles, but mostly for PC and next-generation systems. It came out right as the next generation was coming in and the HD versions were quickly forgotten. Isolation is considered the best game in the Alien series and one of the best horror games of the last couple of decades. It captures the 80s aesthetic of the movies and tells a great story while being terrifying. I still haven’t completed it to this day because of how scary it actually is.
The original horror trilogy, Penumbra, was developed by Frictional Games who would later go on to make the Amnesia series. This was released for PC only and never received a console port. It was a less talked about indie series that was loved among horror fans, but indie PC games didn’t receive the same spotlight that they do now. Console gamers didn’t care unless they were ported. Penumbra is a slow-paced, puzzle-focused horror series all about adventure and discovery. It’s creepy, full of psychological horror, and is a must-play for any horror fan.
While this is stretching it a bit, The Evil Within was mostly meant for next-generation consoles and PC. It played and looked nice on PS3 and Xbox 360, but those weren’t the intended systems. This was Shinji Mikami’s next opus and was definitely creepy and had some good elements, but was too action focused and unbalanced and the story made no sense. Some say that’s the charm of survival horror games. There’s a bit of jank that’s needed. I personally just thought this game was okay despite the amazing monster designs. A sequel would later come out, but not sell as well.
This is one of my favorite horror games of all time. It has a great story, memorable characters, and a great combat system that plays off of light and darkness. I’ve replayed this game many times and it wasn’t an instant hit for Microsoft. The sales were slow and it wasn’t appreciated until much later. It received a PC port and a recent remaster. It’s a must-play for any horror fan.
Siren: Blood Curse
It was a surprise to see a niche and obscure horror title return to PS3. Siren didn’t sell or review well but is considered a cult classic and part of the classic survival horror era. Blood Curse was a digital-only episodic release that had some great scares and an overall fun adventure. Sadly, only Japan received a physical release.
Oh man, where do I start? My favorite horror series was butchered with this release. I rented this from GameFly and had to follow a guide through most of the game. It was a confusing convoluted mess and felt like a chore to play. It wasn’t scary, wasn’t fun, and was the worst game in the whole series.
While the movies were quite enjoyable despite their flaws, the games were just awful. They weren’t as gruesome as the movies and played it too safe. Pretty much every bad conventional video game flaw was present here. Awful voice acting, terrible graphics, bad puzzles, and poor level design.
Easily considered one of the worst games of the HD era there was no redeeming value in this game. There was nothing you could overlook. There wasn’t any “it’s so bad it’s kind of charming” to this game either. It was just a disaster and an unplayable mess. It wasn’t scary, it felt like it was trying to be several games at once, it looked bad, it played even worse, and wasn’t any fun despite all the hype leading up to release.
Aliens: Colonial Marines
This game needs no introduction. It’s been covered by every “worst of” and “most controversial” video game on YouTube out there. Its history has been extensively documented. From broken AI to awful visuals, and just a completely unfinished and broken game. It’s also considered one of the worst games ever made. It’s a stark contrast to Alien Isolation.
I had the displeasure of actually finishing this game when it came out. I was hoping it was going to be a great reboot of a classic horror series. I followed the developer’s diaries all the way through the release and played it without reading any reviews. The game is pretty bad. It’s one of the worst games of the HD era. It was just an awful chore and a mess of a game. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t scary. It was just plain bad.
Probably one of the worst games ever made. This was a small indie game that was supposed to be full of suspense and horror, but instead, it’s a chore of a game with awful controls and graphics. The game was also poorly optimized and suffered terrible framerate issues. The story made no sense, and overall, it was just a stupid and lazy game.
I was so excited about this game, and every time I think about or have to write about it break’s my heart. I absolutely love Clive Barker’s work and had it since I was a young teen. I fawned after the figures from Todd McFarlane and loved the characters in his movies. Undying was also a cult classic. The game was just trying to do too much at once. It had cramped level design, awful performance, dated visuals, and just felt like a chore. The only thing it had going for it was the art design. It’s one of the worst games I’ve ever played and one of the saddest scars of the HD era.
The stories within are probably the most real and hard-hitting yet. Most of this issue is about death, specifically the end of life either from suicide or old age. The first issue however gives us a bit more about how ICM works. It’s a superhero-styled comic with ICM being a superhero himself and a reporter who wants the big scoop on him. He invites her to his base and we get to see a lot of references to most of the issues thus far which is really cool and it’s not to get more of ICM on paper.
The second issue is back to reality. We get the thoughts of a dying man who is recollecting his life and the way he raised his two kids. As both, his son and daughter visit we see their flaws and how much life isn’t perfect after all. It’s really sad. Hits home in certain ways. And makes you question your own life. Of course, ICM’s antics are at play like always. Our third issue is experimental, but it actually tells a good and dark story. It’s told in black and white and is like a step-by-step how-to book. It’s interesting and tells the story of a man through his three stages of life. A trauma he experienced as a boy and how it affected him his whole life but also delves into your last thoughts as you die from old age.
Now the last issue is a little weak. It’s basically a one-shot type of comic that has ICM kidnapping a family and making them listen to his sick and twisted versions of kids’ stories such as Green Eggs and Ham, Goodnight Moon, and The Giving Tree. The pages are drawn in the same style as the books which is cool, but there’s no advancement of ICM’s story or a telling of anything that hits home. It’s pretty weird and sick, but that’s about it. Not even really gory or anything.
By issue 20 and five volumes in I really like Ice Cream Man. The sick and twisted individual stories tell real down-to-Earth problems that humanity faces daily and that some of us may have faced, and nothing ever has a happy and fun ending. I just want more of ICM’s story. All of these individual people he’s messing with tell great stories, but I want to know why.