Little Nightmares was a creepy platformer with a minimal story and narrative. The game was mostly all about atmosphere and puzzle-solving. These games cropped up after Limbo was a smash-hit and games like Inside also followed. The only downside to these games is that they tend to not shape any kind of narrative or world-building. There’s a lot of interesting things to look at, and clearly, the setting you are in is a curious thing to want to know about. Little Nightmares II puts you in the shoes of a paper bag-wearing kid who is running from something, but you never know what. Throughout the entire game, you go from location to location not knowing what your end goal is, and even after finishing the game, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of everything.
The game starts out giving you simple controls such as jumping and picking up objects using the physics engine. You won’t be doing this very often except to use weapons occasionally and throw an object at a button to open a door. The atmosphere sets in right away with your character running through a forest and trying to avoid bear traps and traverse fallen bridges. Once you get to a certain area you meet your first main monster and then you are introduced to combat. I really don’t want to call it that as all you do is pick up an ax and swing it, but it’s completely based on physics. Usually, you will use an ax to break down walls, but you will use it to fight enemies at the school level and it’s all about timing. The ax is very heavy and your character can’t move it very fast, but it works.
The first area is rather short but pretty cinematic, and things will slow down greatly as the game goes on. After a few areas, you will notice the game adds a lot of puzzle-solving, most of which don’t require much thinking, there are a few physics-based puzzles, and halfway through you meet a companion that requires some puzzle solving with two people, but the ease of the puzzles is to keep the pace going. You don’t want to spend too long in any one area. I felt the chase from enemies and puzzle-solving was well balanced. Several screens will go by of just platforming, maybe just empty screens of scene-setting, but I do want to talk about these monsters. The game is very creepy and the main monsters basically chase you throughout the entire area you are in. The school has a teacher that can stretch her neck out and chase you through vents and under tables. The hospital has a doctor that can walk on ceilings. They show up in some scenes, but not every area has you killing this main villain, the most important part for you is escape.
There is some frustration with the game and that’s a lot of trial and error. Some scenes wanted to get across the screen via a certain path, but I got caught by the villain numerous times before figuring out how to do it. There were also control issues climbing things in which my character got stuck or I didn’t understand that jumping across a ravine to hang on to my character’s hand was going to be an issue. In several areas, I had to restart the screen over and over until I walked across that beam just right, or didn’t get caught. Thankfully you just restart that screen and it helps keep the pace going. I just wish there was more story to be told or something else to hold on to rather than the next creepy monster or setting.
The game looks great visually with a lot of nice art, but technically it’s not super impressive. Textures look muddy up close and some objects aren’t the highest poly count. The animations are great, however, and the controls are good, there’s just that annoyance with the game’s physics. It’s also pretty short as it can be finished in about 5 hours, and I honestly wanted more. The creature designs are so fantastically creepy and unique, and the game skims the line between gory and just plain dark and creepy. It’s never a gorefest, but it feels like it could be. There are animal guts, but not human, there are body parts everywhere, but they’re mannequins. It’s a fun line to walk down and it’s done just right here.
You play as Ichiban Kasuga. A naive young yakuza member who ends up in politics of his yakuza family and then later the entire country of Japan’s government. The story is incredibly well written and directed, and I was hooked from beginning to end, at least the story and characters. I love the characters here as they have tons of heart, soul, and personality that make you want to see them through to the end of their journey. The first three chapters of the game are pretty much story and character building. In fact, I didn’t really get to do anything outside of watching cut scenes for the first three hours of the game. I just ran to spots that triggered them and I watched this complex web of characters build their story up, and I wasn’t upset as I was glued to my screen the whole time.
This is the first time I’ve finished a Yakuza game and a rare completion of a JRPG. Usually, JRPGs have great stories and characters, but something within the game keeps me from finishing it. Be it unfair and insane difficulty, too much grinding or late-game issues pop up like needing to quest for something very specific and it makes the progression grind to a halt. Like a Dragon is the first in the series to play like a JRPG and not an action game. The story is fantastic and the characters are well written and memorable, but that’s probably the strongest thing going for the game, and it’s the reason why I slumped through the late game issues to see it through to the end.
Once you get past a certain point in the story, honestly I can’t say anything as every little detail could be a major spoiler, you finally get let loose in the world. However, with this being a JRPG let’s talk about combat first. The game is played in a turned-based style, but characters move around on their own in the arenas. Depending on your job you have various skills that can cause major damage, and this is super important and the core of the entire game. While base attacks are fine early on in the game, they don’t do much later on and you start relying on skills that all use MP whether they’re physical or magic-based. Each attack has a type such as magic, slashing, piercing (guns), bashing, or blunt (physical) attacks. Some attacks might have elemental attributes attached to them, but you really must balance your team. You need characters that can heal, do large AoE damage, and lots of damage to single enemies. It’s important you have a class that can do one of each of those things as it’s key to winning battles.
Early on in the game, the difficulty feels perfect. There were some challenges, I had to use strategy, and really focus on ranking up my character’s jobs and learn enemy weaknesses. This is also a key point in the battle system. Like a Dragon mocks or makes fun of other games like Pokemon. Early on you come across someone similar to Professor Oak and the entire scene plays out like the beginning of every Pokemon game. It’s pretty funny. The point of this is you acquire a bestiary of each enemy type and when you fight in battle and discover a weakness it will appear over the character when you select that attack. This is vital to winning boss fights and harder battles late game or just in general.
Ranking up your job is more important than leveling up your character honestly. This determines your max health, how powerful your attacks are, and learning new attacks. You get more powerful attacks as you rank up, but the downside is once you change a job you start from the bottom on that job. So you have to grind that job to level it up, and late-game this is incredibly tedious, but more on the late-game problems later. There are thankfully no random battles, but enemies walk around outside that can be avoided. When you fight enemies the environment is also important as smaller areas are great for attacks that do AoE damage and it allows you to wipe out enemies faster in bigger groups.
Outside of combat, there are a ton of mini-games like in every Yakuza game. Karaoke, classic Sega arcade games in Club Sega, crane games, driving ranges, go-karts, and many others. They’re fun at first, but there’s not really any reason to do these mini-games outside of acquiring items. Items are also an important part to combat as the most powerful armor and weapons are almost unobtainable until you can start raking in serious cash at the Battle Arena in chapter 12 and fighting the more powerful enemies late game. You can also upgrade Ichiban’s weapons (only his weapons can be upgraded) and well as craft new items, but honestly, this is only needed if you can’t afford to buy them. There are no unique weapons or armor that can be crafted exclusively, at least that I noticed, and once I started raking in serious cash in the millions I just bought everything and crafting became pointless towards the end of the game.
There are shops and restaurants scattered everywhere and I didn’t pay attention to these too much until late game. Restaurants can fully restore your health and MP, and bulking up on recovery items become super important late game as well. I didn’t really use many of these until then as the game felt perfectly balanced, and the right strategies can keep you alive. There are a couple of pawnshops that allow you to sell items, and this is how you make most of your money early on in the game. You start out digging for Yen under vending machines and eventually start earning a small amount of money to buy recovery items and cheap gear. There are also sub-stories like in every Yakuza game that is shown as chat icons on the map. These give you items and cash and are mostly pointless once you get the late game, and the stories aren’t interesting at all. You also have extra side missions that can get you larger amounts of cash called Hero Quests. This is mostly for completionists in the end, but the entire reason this is a JRPG is that Ichiban can see enemies as monsters with different uniforms. It’s “in his head because he feels life is like Dragon Quest“. It’s super silly and a lame excuse to make a realistic game have a fantasy twist, but what other excuse were the developers going to use?
As you progress through the first eleven chapters hopping around taxis to fast travel to spots, unraveling the story, ranking up your jobs, leveling characters, acquiring new armor and weapons and items, and all this sounds like a normal JRPG affair, but then chapter twelve comes and knocks you on your ass. This is when most people will probably quit the game as it turns into a completely different beast and the way you play must change. This is the worst part about the game, and I don’t see how this was necessary. The game had a perfect flow and difficulty level leading up to this chapter. The first sign hits you when you must acquire 3 million Yen for a specific reason in the story. By now you probably have a couple hundred thousand yen at the most. How am I going to get this much money as street thugs don’t really payout and I can only sell so much? Well, the first stupid idea was that there are specific things you need to do to get this money and they don’t tell you. First, you have a watch in your inventory that’s worth one million yen. You need to sell that and then there is a specific Hero Quest you must complete that gives you two million yen. You need to take ten photos of a statue hidden throughout the city. What a serious pain in the ass. I knew right here that the game was going to be a chore from here on out. Then to make matters worse, the last statue is hidden behind insanely difficult enemies out of nowhere. They were many 8 levels above me, but that wasn’t a problem before. I had to grind for a couple of hours just to beat them to take that photo. Such nonsense!
It just gets worse from here. Chapter seven had you complete one of two long dungeons in the game. It was challenging, but not impossible. This dungeon is the only way to grind up until now. However, once you get to a new small city you unlock the battle arena, and this is your main way to level grind by climbing floors and beating waves of enemies. You will be here for probably 6-8 hours minimum. At this point in chapter twelve, you come across a boss fight that cranks the difficulty up to nearly unfair and impossible. I had to grind 15 levels just to get a fair advantage. This boss just absorbs so much damage and throwing all my powerful attacks at him still kicked my ass. I died and retried nearly a dozen times before I almost gave up. I’d grind five or six levels and try again until I could finally do it. I chewed through recovery items like crazy trying to get through this chokepoint in the game. Sadly, it never lets up after this. From here on out every single boss is a serious chore and does massive damage no matter what you do. This is what I have in JRPGs and why I rarely ever finish them.
So, you will then need to grind consistently before each major story point which you are warned about. You need to be at least level 65 by the final boss and man is it a serious pain. You shouldn’t have to want to quit a game because the developers decided the game needs more playtime by chapter twelve. Let’s make you do over a dozen hours of grinding just to finish the game? It’s stupid and insane and completely unfair. They had the difficulty balanced out perfectly before and I was happily enjoying the game. The only reason I kept going is I wanted to see the ending and how everything comes together. The story is that good, but if it weren’t I would have quit at this point. You’re basically grinding the battle arena and the one dungeon trying to acquire new gear and rank up your job to get more powerful attacks. I highly recommend being around level 70-75 before tackling the final boss, but at that point your 25 levels away from maxing out your character.
The game at least has amazing voice acting (in Japanese of course), and the graphics are pretty good technically, but pretty boring on an artistic level. These are hyper-realistic graphics and the only artistic flair is the enemy designs. I enjoyed the music as well, but in the end, the last few chapters will test your patience. The mini-games are fun, the sub-stories are boring and repetitive, and the post-chapter twelve grinding is an absolute chore and really hurts the game. However, if you can prevail, get through the grinding, and learn the strategy of balancing your parties jobs you will get through an incredible and memorable story with great characters.
You play as a woman named Marianne who is a psychic medium. You start out the game in your foster father’s funeral home, and this is where the game introduces basic mechanics that you will use throughout the rest of the game. It starts out very confusing at first, and honestly, the story is just barely coherent enough to keep up with but it constantly loses you in spots then plays catch up again. The game clearly relies more on characters and atmosphere than storytelling as there’s no context to keep you engaged, no really long opening scene, just some dialogue that explains what Marianne is and what she can do. Within the first 10 minutes of the game, you will start to experience the scary stuff. Shadows on walls, strange sounds, and the “other side” looks very reminiscent of Silent Hill in both concept and design.
This is an adventure game with very little action. It’s mostly basic puzzle solving and object finding. You walk around areas reading notes, signs, listening to spirit echos in objects, and picking up objects that will be used at a later point. Thankfully none of this was overbearing or focused too much on. It all felt pretty balanced and was light enough to where the exploration and atmosphere mostly stayed center stage. The various locales are fantastically designed and beautiful to look at. The “other side” was mostly created for puzzle-solving scenarios as you end up going back and forth between the two but at the same time. See, this is Bloober Team’s biggest project and something that’s been in development since 2012. They needed the hardware to render two worlds at once via split-screen. This really does tax your system as frames can drop by almost half in some areas even with DLSS enabled.
As you play the game these main elements are switched up constantly, and to be honest, it’s really well-paced and feels just right. Some areas I was mostly exploring in the real world then I would split off into the other side, and then there are some areas that have mirrors that allow you to go back and forth at will. These areas are the most puzzle intensive, but never difficult. With that being said, the game is very easy and only one small section in the game has any form of combat. The horror elements in the game are well done and I love the monster designs. There is a creature that does stalk you throughout the entire game in certain areas and these result in having to sneak around areas with barriers and hold your breath. The voice acting is superb and the performances are great. Everything in the game just sucks you in and I honestly didn’t stop playing until I finished the game.
I also never got lost or couldn’t ever figure something out on my own. The game is very linear and as long as you wander around examining everything that has a white dot on it you will find your way around. Since the game mostly focuses on the story there are times I got confused, but you get caught up with the cryptic stuff during main cut-scenes and in the end, the game was satisfying and had a nice conclusion. The game can be finished in about 6-8 hours, and there’s no replay value sadly. Sure, there are items to collect throughout the game, but I found pretty much everything in my first run-through. There are also no multiple endings so the game will end the exact same no matter what you do.
The game really has to be praised in the sound department as well. There are a lot of creepy ambient sounds and noises, and the voice acting for the monsters is just amazing. Despite the game being just about exploration and object hunting, and basic puzzle-solving, I never felt bored or wished the game gave me more. If the story and characters weren’t so interesting I’d probably complain about this as I’d want more gameplay, but we don’t always need complicated combat systems or deep RPG elements in every game. Bloober Team’s games tend to be a bit rough around the edges, but The Medium is rock-solid and shows they can make AAA titles with the best of them. I wish the game was optimized a little better, but with a fantastic story and characters, and gameplay that feels just right, as well as great pacing, I can’t complain much.
This is by far one of the most anticipated games in modern gaming history. I know I have been excited since its poorly chosen announcement date in 2012. Sadly, CDPR kind of dug its own grave from that date onward. The game is nothing like how it looked in its early concept videos and a lot of content is cut. Even if you look past all the bugs and launch woes, this is what’s going to stay long after the game has been patched up to a more playable state like it currently is as of this review.
However, if you look underneath all the hype, hate, and sometimes unfair controversy there’s a great game here. The story and the atmosphere are the main reason why I stayed. You play as V. A vigilante/mercenary for hire who ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time and gets involved in a corporate terror plot that changes his/her life forever. The entire story revolves around a device you end up acquiring on a job and this device is the key to immortality. This device also has Johnny Silverhands, played by Keanu Reeves, and one of the reasons why the game got so much hype, who is a digital construct that is trying to take over your mind. I don’t want to spoil too much of the main story, but my favorite parts of the game were the side missions with the other characters like Panam, Judy, and Claire. These missions really develop a relationship and strong personality and are one of the shining points in Cyberpunk.
One of the first problems sets in early is with character customization. Ignore all the sexist homophobes who were mad about being able to make your characters transgender. The anatomy is off, first off, and doesn’t look right, and what’s the point? You can only see the genitalia in the player menu, it’s censored in mirrors, and the “sex scenes” are awkward and pointless. One of the core gameplay elements of the game is Brain Dances which are virtual scenes that you can manipulate during missions, or basically a half-assed detective mode. Some Brain Dances are “sex scenes” but I just think these were added to add controversy. On top of all this, you can’t change your character’s looks after the initial start of the game…just why?
The way to get around the game and various missions can be a bit messy, but the open world of Night City is gorgeous and has a fantastic atmosphere. There’s the main city itself, the outskirts which are like a desert-type environment, there are suburbs, and various other locales to actually make it feel like Los Angeles. You can walk, run, hijack cars, and fast travel at certain points once you discover them. Missions are found via random encounters on the street, phone calls, texts, and other means. I never got around to finishing all of them as the ones revolving around the side characters are the most interesting and the rest get kind of repetitive. Driving the actual cars is not my favorite as before the 1.2 patch they were just broken. They look absolutely amazing and have some insanely cool designs, but sadly they just don’t drive very well.
With this being a CDPR game there are RPG elements involved. There’s a skill tree, cyberware implants, and stats on weapons and armor. It’s pretty detailed, especially with all the wearable armor parts on every part of your body, but it’s also one of the most flawed areas. The skill tree is nice with many paths you can take such as melee, various gun types, stealth, and so on, but I felt a lot of abilities were useless and I just got them to unlock an area I needed. Skill trees tend to be very useless in many games these days, and sadly they aren’t any better here. When it comes to weapons they are incredibly unbalanced with sniper rifles doing one-shot kills no matter where you hit the target early on in the game and at low levels. Then you will get a pistol that will barely do any damage at a much higher level even if you have the skills that boost pistols. It’s improved in patches but still remains a problem. The bottom line is Cyberpunk 2077 is incredibly easy. While stealth is fun and is a good option for most missions, blasting through the game isn’t that hard. I rarely ever died as health items are everywhere and so is ammo. While shooting is fun and satisfying and the weapons feel good, the game is just way too easy.
You can then visit Ripper Docs to install implants that add bonuses and unique weapons to your body, but in the end, I rarely ever visited these and never filled all my slots as what’s the point? The game is so easy I never really needed much. Just a shotgun, sniper rifle, and an assault rifle or sub-machine gun of some kind. You can add mods to these weapons like sights, silencers, and various others that modify the stats, but the combat is so unbalanced and easy there’s really no point. Stealth missions mostly rely on your stealth skill tree stats and you can also hack stuff, but I also found this rarely useful as the game is just so easy you don’t need these small advantages that would turn the tide of a battle like in say something like Deus Ex. If I got busted I could easily wipe everyone out with my one-shit kill sniper rifle and hold onto this gun through the entire game.
That brings me to the other side of Cyberpunk’s gameplay loop. After about 10 hours you will have seen everything the game can do, and you will know whether you want to complete every single side mission and gig call or just plow through the storyline and call it a day. While I love Night City, there’s nothing to do inside of it. Sure, there are various shops, you can visit, and you can look at dildos and sex toys inside of windows, but that’s it. There are no side activities like mini-games, no property you can purchase for player homes, nothing like that. I felt like this large gorgeous city was wasted away as it’s just a conduit between missions. This is not a cyberpunk playground like many of the early trailers suggested.
In the end, don’t go into this game expecting a true “next-gen” title that raises the bar and changes games for how we play them today. A lot of people went into this game expecting some unreal level of detail, and not to mention in the visuals. While the game looks amazing it’s poorly optimized even on the latest PC hardware. Ray-tracing is pretty much pointless even on my 2080 the game would dip well below 30 FPS. The only saving grace for PC gamers is the DLSS option or playing on 1080p resolutions. On my i7 10700 and 1660ti setup, the game played fine in 1080p, but I still got dips here and there. It’s one of the most poorly optimized games I have played in recent years, and while recent patches made the game more stable, it doesn’t fix the crazy dips all over the game. It’s even worse on PS4 and Xbox One base models. So, go in expecting a fun story, fun, albeit easy, combat, interesting vehicles, and a cool cyberpunk city to run around in. Don’t go in expecting something revolutionary.
Well, well, well, here we are a year later with Treyarch’s installment of the series once again after a decent hiatus. Black Ops is back on the table with an entirely new reboot just like Modern Warfare was last year, but does it make as big of an impact? Well, most people will jump straight into the campaign first which is one of four modes that flesh out Cold War’s myriad of gameplay variations.
The campaign is set during the Cold War as if the title hasn’t clued you in at all. The game is specifically set in the early ’80s as you play as a band of special operatives ordered directly by U.S. President Ronald Reagan to stop a Russian terrorist from setting off a bunch of American nukes. The story is well-paced and the characters have potential, but here’s the main problem with Cold War – the story is only a few hours long and is probably the shortest Call of Duty campaign to date. It was over way before I wanted it to be as the slow burn was a nice pace over Modern Warfare’s fast-paced action, but that game had a much longer campaign and stronger characters that were, dare I say, pretty memorable and stood out. Cold War is set up differently and takes a different approach to the campaign in an almost 80’s spy type of way and I enjoyed those brief moments. You walk about a hideout and on the evidence board is your next mission, but also two of them that require you to solve decoding puzzles which were rather fun and neat. You need to find all the evidence pieces in the campaign to solve these and they were quite challenging. Once you do, you get a short side missions, nothing special, but those puzzles are one of many things that didn’t get enough time to mature.
There are bombastic scripted events like in every Call of Duty, but the quieter more subtle moments are just as enjoyable. There’s an intense open-ended level in a KGB base in Russia that has you playing as a double agent. It’s very tense as you have to decide how to plant evidence to get access to a vault. You can do it in many ways by sneaking around restricted areas and planting things, opening things, and the various cat and mouse of everyone being on to you, but not quite knowing it’s you yet. You have to stay one step ahead and the script is well written for this. I loved this level and that was the only one like it. The final level is a repetitive mess and feels too much like previous Black Ops campaigns that made no sense, but the campaign is enjoyable albeit just way too short and underdeveloped.
When it’s all said and done you’re going to uninstall the campaign and move on to Zombies and multiplayer. Let’s get into multiplayer first. I can’t stress enough that Cold War is more arcadey than Modern Warfare. Even in the campaign, the guns don’t have the same realistic weight, quick scoping is faster, and everything feels like it’s on fast-forward. The movement is about three times as fast, there are health bars above everyone’s heads, and there are scorestreaks instead of killstreaks. It seems like chaos coming from Modern Warfare, but it’s a nice alternative to a more serious and realistic game. The UI and menu are pretty much identical to Modern Warfare with a few tweaks so you can jump right in without having to relearn where everything is. Blueprints, attachments, load-outs, and all that are still here. It just feels a bit more streamlined and maybe some fat has been shaved off. Some will like it and some will hate it.
The actual playing of the multiplayer is standard Black Ops affair. The same modes from Modern Warfare carry over like Team Deathmatch, Domination, Kill Confirmed, etc. The maps are also just as hit or miss as Modern Warfare and take some getting used to. Not everyone will be fans of these maps as they were with Modern Warfare’s launch maps. The game is faster paced and more arcade like than Modern Warfare with enemies darting across the map at an alarming and almost too hard to target speed. Sliding is extended, shooting feels less weighty, and the overall scope of the game is just faster and lighter. This isn’t something I prefer. I like the more realistic physics and weight of Modern Warfare as it makes the game a bit more tactical and slower paced, but not necessarily easier mind you. I do like the era specific weapons like the M-16, M-79, M-60, and various other weapons that have been discontinued in today’s military practices.
Most people will probably come to Black Ops for its Zombies mode though. That’s the bread and butter of this series and it doesn’t disappoint here. I won’t delve too far into this mode, but the newest features are larger maps and a weapon rarity system similar to RPGs. You’re allowed to bring in your multiplayer loadouts the first time and I liked the larger areas with the many hidden secrets. I feel like this mode needs to broken off and expanded into its own game honestly. There is also the Dead Ops top down shooter mode which is a complete waste of time. It’s boring, repetitive, and feels half-baked. At this point Black Ops is running into the ridiculous amount of modes and heading into Mortal Kombat territory for half-baked mini-games and too many ideas at once.
With that said, Cold War isn’t as good as Modern Warfare. It doesn’t feel as polished or as well thought out and honestly feels rushed. I think another year and the game could have been better if not just as good, but as it stands, Modern Warfare is still the best game in the series to date. I love the faster-paced multiplayer, it was fun and exciting, but the maps are lackluster and left me wanting more. I also got bored of the multiplayer much faster than Modern Warfare. I honestly haven’t touched the game since the week of the game’s launch. I didn’t get that excited addictive feeling of wanting more. The campaign was actually a lot of fun and really interesting, but it felt rushed and half-finished and just wasn’t long enough. There are a lot of good ideas here that didn’t get a chance to flourish and that’s quite a shame.