Tomb Raider (2012) was a revolutionary game for the franchise and genre as a whole. It took the game industry by storm with its cinematic gameplay, fantastic visuals, huge open world, and realism. What could Crystal Dynamics do to top this you ask? It’s pretty hard to top that and they didn’t quite top it this time around. Rise of the Tomb Raider is more of what we got before and not much else but that’s not a bad thing.
The game doesn’t focus so much on Lara’s survival to get back home but more on her treasure hunting. There’s an item called the Divine Source that grants people immortality. It’s something that her father obsessed on and ultimately got him killed. A mercenary group called Trinity wants this source so it’s Lara’s job to go and retrieve it before anyone gets their hands on it. The story is a little predictable and cheesy. It’s the typical generic mercenary bad guy plot which I found uninteresting as Lara’s character development was the center of the story in the last game. It’s disappointing, but entertaining nonetheless.
The opening scene in RotTR is fantastic set in Tibet where you get to feel just how dangerous Lara’s treks are and the environment around you. It’s probably the best scene in the whole game as the developers slowly forgot what made Tomb Raider…Tomb Raider towards the end of the game like they were running out of ideas. You will notice right away the huge visual upgrade over the last game. Fantastic lighting effects, tessellation, gorgeous textures, and the character modeling is some of the best I have ever seen. The individual pores can be seen on Lara’s face which is 10x more detail than the last game.
After the opening scene I realize not too much has changed from the last game control wise and the gameplay elements are nearly untouched just fine tuned. After I start trekking along in the first area I divert by exploring and finding all the hidden stuff. TR has a lot of hidden secrets to find and it’s all about using your Instincts around you to find all the secrets that glow gold and finding the maps to reveal them on your map. I spent a majority of the game finding these secrets which are a blast to find however there’s a Metroidvania feeling to this game. I had to acquire new equipment before I could enter certain areas especially the tombs.
While just playing the game in general I realized a few disappointing things about this game. Leveling up completely, upgrading all your guns, just like in the last game, means less this time around. The game is fairly easy, the mix between exploration, combat, and stealth are very random and spread out. I could honestly play the entire game with the pistol and I would be fine. The last game had enemies that required different weapons, but this time around Crystal didn’t think about that. All the enemies are generic and there’s no need to switch weapons. This is a huge blow to the games strategy that was so great in the last game. Ultimately this meant that all the side quests, gathering, and exploring could ultimately be skipped and it wouldn’t make a difference. That’s a really bad thing here.
Thankfully all the gameplay holds up to redeem this issue. Mainly this is here for completionists or anyone who wants to explore this gorgeous world. I think the developers forgot what was so great about TR between development cycles and it really shows here. The world was focused on so much that the stuff to fill it was pretty much forgotten. I have all these awesome weapons and upgrades, but…what do I do with them? I can craft special ammo for each weapon, but it didn’t make a lick of a difference in combat. The only ammo that did was the new arrow types such as poison, explosive, and flame. Using them to take out a large group of enemies helped but that was it.
Lara also doesn’t really develop more in this game. I thought the psychological stress on her from the last game would affect her here, but it’s like it never happened at all. Her character is awesome as usual, but there’s no more development and I feel the next game really needs to pick up on what made the first one so great. Franchise fatigue is going to set in quick here and many players may not be so excited for the next game if this keeps up.
In the end, RotTR is a fantastic game with a huge world to explore, a generic yet entertaining story, and more Lara Croft which is what we want. The biggest disappointment is there’s no more character development for Lara and all these great upgrades and weapons feel useless due to the combat and enemies that didn’t get any attention. The game is really easy and lacks a good challenge. The game is gorgeous, one of the best looking games ever made and continues to push PCs to their limits just like back in 2012.
The first person shooter genre hasn’t really advance over the years. I feel this is one genre that is de-evolving over time. No longer do we have the clever and memorable shooters from the mid to late 90’s and early 2000’s. Every shooter these days is all about killing as much stuff as you can as fast as you can and Hardline is no exception. The game tries to take a more cerebral approach with the addition of stealth. Remember, through half the game you are a cop and the other half a criminal. You play as a man named Nick Mendoza who is a good cop that gets framed while taking down a drug cartel in Miami. Your partner is a female cop, there are few plot twists, a lot of unrealistic stuff happens, there’s some cheesy dialog, blah blah you get the rest. While I was interested in the story enough to keep playing I forgot about the whole thing once I shut the game off.
Hardline’s stealth gameplay actually isn’t half bad, but it feels pointless in some ways. Sure, you’re rewarded for using stealth and arresting criminals, but I feel this could have been done in a different way. As you sneak around levels you can make people freeze, up to three, and take them down. This rewards weapon and attachment unlocks obviously, what else? It’s fun at first, but after the first level I just wanted to shoot stuff up, but I couldn’t because of the unlocks. Each level pretty much plays out exactly the same: Navigate the extremely linear level, get lost a few times, use the annoying scanner to find evidence for more unlocks, and kill more bad guys. Hardline is literally a leapfrog game from stealth to action and it gets a little tiring after awhile. Thankfully the game only lasts about 5 hours and then it’s on to multiplayer. Some levels I was able to take down all the bad guys and that felt satisfying, but some areas you had to enter at the right area or take them down in a certain order to not get spotted and this was so irritating. One level had me trying to sneak out of a prison ground while trying to hide from cops, but for some reason, they constantly spotted me no matter where I hid and it was all about reloading the game 500 times to exploit the mechanics — not fun.
One thing I do like a lot about Hardline, and Battlefield in general, is the overall handling and feel of weapons. They have weight, they feel real, and there’s a lot of feedback and skill required to aim the gun and with this, you will find your favorites. Hardline is more urban cops vs robbers so you won’t see the military weapons you’re used to. Most missions I went through with a pistol as my main weapon and then a shotgun or SMG as a backup, that’s it. No grenades, no rocket launchers, nothing like that. It’s an interesting change-up for the series, but it just wasn’t done right.
Multiplayer is interesting but still doesn’t top Battlefield3. Most modes consist of variations of capture the flag with small maps, but the most interesting is hotwiring. This is a car heist mission where you drive around on maps, but the vehicle handling is some of the worst. Even during the campaign, the car chases felt fake and ridiculous and completely unbelievable. The janky and over exaggerated handling doesn’t help either. While the multiplayer is a nice change of urban maps over large military fields, it’s not something to write home about. I got bored after getting to around level 15 and just kind of stopped and went on to better games.
The visuals are quite impressive though, some of the best out there right now with fantastic lighting and extremely high-res textures. While the PC version does look the best, but he PS4 and Xbox One versions are nothing to scoff at. However, you will need a fairly new system to run this on PC, nothing over 18 months old.
With that said, Hardline is a nice change of pace for the series, but it just wasn’t executed right. The story is decent albeit cheesy and fake, the levels are more linear than you can imagine, and the leap frog from stealth to action is just a little nauseating and causes poor pacing issues. The car chases are terribly done and are completely fake feeling and unbelievable. The multiplayer, while interesting, feels too similar to other shooters and doesn’t top Battlefield 3‘s excellent maps and balancing; the visuals are also stunning, but this won’t help the game much. What we have here is a slightly above average shooter and a below average Battlefield game. I really felt this is the series’ low point, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want a sequel that’s more fine-tuned.
The Batman Arkham games are some of the greatest things to grace the video game industry in the past decade. With the most advanced combat system since God of War; and not to mention the best super hero video games series ever made; Arkham Knight continues this trend. While Origins was a bit of a snag, I don’t count it as part of the Arkham trilogy. Arkham Knight is another masterpiece that any Batman fan will love.
Scarecrow and the new Arkham Knight are the main villains in this game but don’t worry, there’s plenty of Joker as well despite being dead. Joker is a manifestation in Bruce’s mind and he constantly appears everywhere putting his two sense into everything Batman does; it’s great to hear him again. Arkham Knight is also probably the best structured Arkham game yet. Instead of a hodgepodge of little repetitive missions everywhere, the game has a Most Wanted mission wheel. Known Batman villains are to be stopped and captured through missions branches that are a blast. Firefly, Penguin, Two Face, and various other villains have their own little sub-plot. This brings Arkham Knight to a meaty and well-balanced missions structure that the game desperately needed. The only other side things you can perform are AR missions that include fight and Batmobile challenges and Riddler trophies. Oh yeah, I said Batmobile.
It’s finally here! The one and only Batmobile. It plays just like you think, controls like you think and is as bad ass as you think. The Batmobile can transform into a tank allowing you to engage in battles with enemy tanks, but the best use of the Batmobile are puzzles. Sadly, the tank battles are probably the worst thing in the game. While they work, they are the same thing over and over and over again; nothing changes. Enemy tanks will have a white line go across the screen showing the trajectory of their shot. This allows you to dodge enemy missiles and shots. That’s great and all, but why does combat have to be this slow? Towards the end the battles just get bigger with 50+ tanks in one area, that’s not exactly fun in my book. While the tank battles aren’t very frequent, they are happening often enough for you to sigh and wish it was over. As for the puzzle solving, the Batmobile fits better here. Using the power wench to crawl down sides of buildings, using the wench to power things up, ejecting out of the Batmobile to glide into a tunnel. All of this feels just like in the movies and comics; no disappointment there.
Combat has been perfected in Arkham Knight with added moves to make an extremely complex fight system that is so simple to learn. Outside of the counter system that we are all used to, knew knock-out moves are introduced. Using your gadgets it much easier as the button combos for them are easier to remember. LT for Batarang, LT+B for an electric shock to enemies with taser sticks, LT+Y for Batclaw, RT+RT for Freeze Blast. Very easy to remember and the controls pop up on the screen to help you out when the option is available. Same goes for the knock out moves, as well as fighting heavy enemies. These guys have their own system all to themselves. Do a fast punch combo, parry a guy behind you, a red exclamation pops up at a guy with a taser stick, LT+B, he’s down, continue pummeling the heavy, three more counters, then knock the heavy out. All of this is one big combo and it’s so fluid and fast and one of my favorite fighting systems I have ever used.
The second combat system in Arkham is the stealth part. This has been expanded exponentially in Arkham Knight. There are more gadgets introduced which allow more ways to take down opponents. The stealth areas are much larger and allow for multiple ways of taking people down. We’re used to stealth takedowns in various ways from hanging, grates, and gliding behind people. Multi-level grate combat is introduced as well as enemies being able to destroy grates so you can no longer use them. Using a voice synthesizer allows you to give commands to enemies and set up traps with your electric gun or disruptor. The disruptor allows you to sabotage weapons and drones to knock out enemies (yeah, can’t say kill since Batman doesn’t do that). The stealth combat is fantastic and so much fun and allows for strategy over beating everyone up.
Outside of these new gameplay elements is the story. Arkham Knight has a long and well-told story that you actually care about. There are some great moments in the game that really gets you hooked and the ending is satisfying. I really felt the strengths and weaknesses of Batman come out through the story several times as well as the other characters. My favorite part of the game is the ending with Scarecrow, but I can’t give it away except it’s a first-person shooter sequence. WHAT?! Play it to find out!
Let’s talk about visuals. I know that the entire world knows how terribly optimized the game was for PC, however, if you have a powerful rig it is very playable. Not perfect, but enough to not be really noticeable. This requires tweaks (there a tool available on the Steam forums) to the game settings to get it to work. Out of the box, the game won’t run very well at all. There are some nice new effects like RainWorks, Interactive Smoke and Fog, and various other effects. They look amazing and Arkham Knight is one of the most detailed and good looking games in a long time. However, a game should ship working and this is just unacceptable. Most people don’t know how to tweak a PC game and will get frustrated and demand their money back (which happened and suspended the sales on Steam). The other issue is you need a very new and powerful system to get the game to run well. I tried and a GTX 670 and while I got 60 FPS when I was above the city it dropped below 30 on the ground. Interactive Smoke and Fog dropped the game to 5 FPS, however on a GTX 970 there were few issues. The frame rate will vary constantly. You will jump between 60 and 30 a lot, but the tweaks available make it less noticeable. Anyone running a GPU older than a year will have issues for sure and should play the game on a console for now.
As it stands, Arkham Knight is a fantastic game and the pinnacle of the Batman video game franchise and superhero games in general. Taking all of what made the series great and optimizing and compiling the best of what everyone loves. More villains, more story, more Batman. That’s what we came to see and we got what we want.
The New Order was a fantastic game. It oozed atmosphere, excellent action, weighty guns, and a decent story. It was the best Wolfenstein since Return to Castle Wolfenstein on PC which was released over 10 years ago. The Old Blood returns to give us a little extra snack with a nice prequel leading up to the beginning cutscene of The New Order. The Old Blood is all about finding the documents to Death Head’s compound while also fighting one of Nazi Germany’s many paranormal agenda’s…zombies. Yes, thankfully they don’t overstay their welcome. They only appear in the final chapter, but it is a nice pace from the broken stealth and gunfights.
While The Old Blood’s story isn’t as fleshed out as The New Order, it’s not bad or awful at least. The same storytelling mechanics are used here such as BJ’s narration in his head and some excellent voice acting all around. The game is literally the same outside of a couple of new guns. All the action from the previous game is here and it just feels great. It shows why Wolfenstein is one of the better shooters in recent times. It’s satisfying to shoot everything and it’s also extremely challenging which most shooters don’t offer. You have to use strategy and actually use cover or you will die, quickly.
There are a few boss fights in the game, some of which are the hardest I have fought in a shooter in ages. The challenge alone is enough to bring hardcore shooters fans smiles even if they don’t like Wolfenstein. Despite the game’s short length (about 4-5 hours), there are a lot of different locales so things change up constantly. My biggest gripe about the game is the stealth. It never really worked in the last game either. You know you are in a stealth area when commander’s location shows up on the screen. You are supposed to sneak around to silence them or waves of enemies keep coming until you kill them. Most of the time the areas are set up in a way in which you just can’t sneak around. This drove me nuts in The New Order and I’m saddened to see it returns here. I don’t know why stealth would be put into such an action-heavy game, it ruins the flow and pace of the game.
Outside of the gameplay, the graphics are pretty good except the textures. Even on PC with all the bells and whistles of DirectX 11 graphics, the textures look muddy and ugly up close. I don’t know if this was to squeeze them onto consoles, but I don’t like it. This game requires a monster rig to run at full settings, some of which are questionable. 32x anti-aliasing, really? It makes the game run at 8 FPS and under 30 even with a Titan X. Some other settings such as 8196 shadow map just slow things down with no noticeable upgrade. I honestly think this is just crap to make PC gamers feel happy and to shut them up. The game isn’t optimized too well with texture pop-in either. Yes, I know there’s a setting for texture fade in but it doesn’t work. Outside of that, the game looks decent, but with all these options available it should look better.
The Old Blood is well worth the $20 price tag. We get a lot of quality game for that, and hopefully, this isn’t the end of Wolfenstein.
I firstly want to say that Ryse isn’t as bad as critics made the game out to be. However, I can see why it was bashed so much. It was the most anticipated Xbox One launch title. When you throw down $500 on a new console plus $60 for a game you expect to get your money’s worth. Ryse would have pissed me off if that was the only game I picked up for the console. It the game awful? No, just very repetitive and feels like a typical rushed console launch game.
The story and characters in Ryse are fantastic. You follow a Roman Centurion named Marius Titus who is fighting the barbarian tribe known as Britain’s. Marius’ family gets murdered by the barbarians, however, there are quite a few plot twists that left me wanting more of the story. I actually love how the story and characters play out. It felt very authentic to the Roman Empire era, I felt like I was playing a piece of history and you can’t say that often about games. The architecture to the way the characters dressed just sucked me in. Even the fighting styles are brutal and authentic to Roman culture. The excellent facial animations and voice acting help drive the story even further, but it’s just so sad that the story was taken down by the repetitive and bland gameplay.
The game actually seems really awesome during the first chapter. You get to order soldiers to fire volleys at enemies and control a Scorpio, but you don’t get that much control. You literally pick where your soldiers go to make the scenario easier or harder for you. There are several instances where this happens and I felt like it was a wasted potential. Swordplay is just so boring by the end of the game. I actually avoided execution moves because they made me nauseous just looking at them (from repetition, not the gore). When you execute an enemy the camera sweeps around in a cinematic frenzy. This is just so cool at first, but then you realize the quick time events don’t do shit. The enemies will glow yellow, blue, red, or green corresponding to the face buttons on the controller. This quick time event concept is actually great because it’s non-intrusive, but if you miss the quick time event there are zero penalties. The animations don’t stop, the enemy doesn’t get the upper hand, no loss of health, nothing. It doesn’t even interrupt your combo which is pretty much blasphemy in the action/adventure genre. Imagine playing God of War and failing a quick time event, after that the kill continues and nothing happens. What’s the point of the QTE then right?
There is one interesting mechanic that forces you to do QTE’s which isn’t too bad. There are four different things you can acquire from these QTEs and that’s health, XP, strength, and focus. I used the health drain and XP the most. I never even used my focus except for a couple of fights in the entire game. That’s not a good sign. To top it all off the boss fights are just boring and awful. Each boss uses the same two move sets through the whole fight and it becomes just a yawn-inducing repetitive hit-and-dodge game. What makes the combat the worst of all, out of everything, is the same 10 execution animations are used on top of the same 5 enemy types that are just reskinned. It’s a lazy move that cost the game its legs and character that it got from the story and characters.
Don’t get me wrong, the game is worth a weekend rental and it’s quite enjoyable thanks to the frequent locale change and fast-moving story. Thankfully the game doesn’t overstay its welcome by clocking in at about 4-5 completion time. I was able to get nearly all the upgrades before the end of the game, but this game is not worth a second playthrough, not one bit.
Let’s talk about visuals. Ryse is actually one of the best next-gen console game to be released…looks wise. On PC there are some enhancements like AA and SSAA as well as better shadows and higher resolution textures. However, this game requires a monster rig (GTX Titan) or SLI 8xx-9xx cards to run at 60 FPS maxed out. My i7 4770 and GTX 670 dropped down to the teens in some areas. Ryse uses the CryEngine 3 which looks freaking amazing and next-gen consoles finally have the power to use it. If you don’t have a rig that was built in the last 18 months you should probably play it on Xbox One. There’s even an option to use Insane textures for 4GB VRAM GPUs. Ryse is one of the few games out that really pushes new rigs to their limits, so this is a good thing for PC gamers.
Topping it all off, Ryse isn’t an awful game. It’s a game that has strong legs that are weakened by the repetitive combat and awful boss fights. Many of the locales are just awesome, like the Colosseum, but it doesn’t overstay its welcome which can balance this out a bit. If the game was pushed back another year we could have had the best gladiator type game ever made (Shadow of Rome and Spartan: Total Warrior still remain at the top). It’s a great weekend rental or bargain bin purchase but nothing more.
Bioware has a knack for creating D&D style games that are memorable years down the road. Dragon Age is one such series. Origins helped push forward the way stories are told in Western RPGs. This was with dialog choices that would impact your relationship with fellow party members and the overall story. The game was also well known for its huge amount of lore that filled hundreds of Wiki pages online. Inquisition helps to mainly wash the sour taste of Dragon Age II out of our mouths by bringing back the original feeling of Origins.
Inquisition has a lot of politics involved in its story, more so than the previous two. I say this because the entirety of Thedas is on the brink of being wiped out due to a powerful ancient being ripping a hole in the fade and unleashing chaos. You play as a brand new character (your choices don’t carry over here from DA2 it’s set several years into the future). You play as a nobody, just some guard serving Divine Justinia when all of a sudden you walk into this ancient being, Corypheus, attacking the Divine. You try to help stop him but something terrible happens to you. You take on part of the powers he is trying to acquire. This foils his plans and also weakens him leaving then entire land accusing you of killing the Divine.
This is where the story starts off with several of your companions. Many dialog choices are brought to you to ease you into how this is done. It’s actually quite easier to understand over the last two games. Symbols will easily tell you what your choice will do. A heart will advance a romance, branching arrows could lead to anything, a question mark is an investigation, etc. While dialog and story is a huge part of Dragon Age so is combat and exploration.
Inquisition is huge. Twice the size of Origins and DA2 combined. There are several areas you can explore but these are large maps that take hours to completely explore. There are hundreds of side quests on top of the dozen story missions. The meat of the game is actually the side quests. If you skip these you are missing 80% of the game. Of course, not all side missions can be blown through. Some require accessing new areas which require being cleared or accessed through the War Table missions. The War Table allows you to send either Josyphene, Cullen, or Liliana on missions to open up new areas in maps or acquire items.
There are two major hub areas you will have with Skyhold being the main one. Here you advance relationships with a character through dialog, upgrade your castle, and try prisoners that you captured throughout the game. Inquisition has so much going on that it will take you a good 100 hours to complete every mission and see everything. I can’t do this game’s sheer size justice just by explaining it. Outside of exploration is the combat. It is a mix of DA1 and 2 with more control over companions by freezing time like DA1 but it’s completely optional. You can also just wail on people like DA2 but this time you aren’t just standing in one spot while fighting. However, despite this change, I felt something was missing from combat. There wasn’t much strategy to it and it was just a button mashing fest outside of learning what each skills cooldown times are and planning accordingly.
I do commend BioWare for the interesting enemy designs and wildlife. The game just has so much detail and is one of the best looking games available right now. I mainly love the lighting in this game and foliage placement, it’s just so beautiful, however, there are issues with pathfinding. Many missions are hard to get to and some maps are just poorly laid out. The Forbidden Oasis is the worst offender with huge cliffs and gaps and hidden caves to everything in the map. It’s a chore to navigate and most maps are pretty barren with not much to do besides these fetch quests.
And that’s where I will wrap this up at. Inquisition is a fine game, it looks amazing, has extremely deep dialog choices and there’s so much to do here from creating armor and weapons from blueprints, to deciding what kind of drapes you want in your castle. However, it is all filler content. By hour 80, I really started getting annoyed with the game and bored. I said screw it to the rest of the romance options and any companion quests that were becoming a chore to complete and just did the final story mission. Will I come back to Inquisition to complete it 100%? Sure, but not for a while. Inquisition overstays its welcome by about 30 hours with fetch quests and item gathering. If you loved the previous games you will love Inquisition, but haters from the past will find even more to hate here.
If you haven’t already read the novel, Metro 2033 is probably one of the best post-apocalyptic novels ever written. The novel really gets into your head and takes the whole post-apocalyptic Russian lore and myths and brings it to life. Metro 2033 was ahead of its time in 2010. While the game looked decent on Xbox 360 is really pushed systems on PC. The game was one of the first to fully utilize DirectX 11. As a game itself it had many issues such as huge AI problems and a somewhat incohesive story, but underneath it all, it oozed atmosphere that no other game could provide at the time. This is all tidied up and wrapped up in one big next-gen ribbon. The game is worth a replay for vets and well worth any newcomers’ time.
You play as Artyom, a “chosen one” who must stop the Dark Ones that have invaded his home station in the underground Moscow metro. While his station was overrun, he is trying to make his way to Polis to get help to fight off the Dark Ones. Instead, he must find a mysterious and once forgotten nuclear missile silo called D6. His journey is terrifying, even humans can be as horrible as mutated beasts.
Most of the game sees you either fight your way through monsters or stealthily pushing through Communist or Nazi frontlines. Back when the game was originally released these stealth sections were nearly broken due to the AI being able to detect in the oddest circumstances. The AI has been tweaked but can sometimes still show a bit of awkwardness. While some areas have been completely reworked with even new enemy placement, I still found myself confused as to whether I could sneak through the area or shoot the place up. The stealth path would be too well hidden or in an odd place. However, this was pretty rare and I really love how these areas were given attention. The atmosphere is just so incredible. When you get into populated areas you actually feel “safe” and enjoy every minute of light and peace. One area that became extremely scary was the Library. Mutated gorillas called Librarians that stalk is just downright scary.
The shooting mechanics themselves are fantastic. Each gun has its own personality and you will easily find your favorite three or will experiment. There is a wide variety of gun types ranging from revolvers, assault rifles, bolt guns, pneumatic guns, and even shotguns. However, they all feel unique to the setting. Each gun looks beat up and worn and somehow piecemealed together to just kind of work. There are also a variable amount of throwables such as knives, firebombs, shrapnel grenades, and various others.
It wasn’t just the gameplay parts that were reworked. Entire outdoor areas were rebuilt to look more next-gen. Compared to the original Xbox 360 version, Metro 2033 Redux looks like a whole new game. Incredible attention to detail was taken when combing back over this game. Thankfully, due to the power of next-gen consoles, we get all the fancy DirectX 11 graphics that the PC version got plus some. Despite being a remade game, Metro 2033 Redux is one of the best looking games out on consoles right now.
With that said, the game is a little on the short side and it feels a little too linear for its own good. Yes, you are in a cramped metro, but I feel like it would have been a good idea to explore this place more. The game is extremely scary, the monsters are freaky but awesome, and there are some pretty fun scripted events. For a 4-year-old game, it has held up so well to recent games and just shows how far ahead the game was back in the day. If you are a fan of Fallout, STALKER, or any other post-apocalyptic game you should give this a spin.
Watch Dogs is supposed to be the next Grand Theft Auto III! The next-gen revolutionary open world game! Well, there’s one big flaw in all that hype. Watch Dogs was developed for last-gen consoles. We will never get a truly next-gen experience until a game is made specifically for next-gen consoles and is no longer ported to last-gen or has those consoles in mind. With that said, Watch Dogs is a solid open world game, but it feels limited due to the scope that it tried to create.
You are Aiden Pearce. A vigilante hacker who is trying to exact revenge on his niece’s death. You get involved in a huge blackmail hacking/drug ring while operating Chicago’s own connected grid. This online grid is called CTOS or Citizen Operating System. Chicago has cameras everywhere (even in places they aren’t supposed to) and is storing all the data on servers. Hacker groups are battling for the data while some have blackmail on city officials. It makes for a pretty twisty story, but that falls flat due to the story being dragged out for too long. One thing that an open world needs are strong characters and Watch Dogs is lacking that. Each character has potential but they are missing that certain something to makes them more than generic or they don’t get enough screen time.
Outside of the so-so story is the so-so gameplay. Now the gunplay is solid with a great cover mechanic and weapon wheel. You also get the electronics on your side such as the gimmicky “camera hopping” ability. You can hack cameras around an area to stealthily blow up stuff and distract enemies. It kind of felt like something similar to the Batman Arkham games. Some enemies have grenades that you can explode remotely that are on them, disrupt their comms, disable reinforcements etc. This stealthy way of combat is actually pretty fun, but gets old in the end because it becomes predictable and almost to easy. Gunning it all the way is tough because you die so quickly. A few shots and you’re dead.
Most GTAlike games have wanted levels and cops that come after you. Watch Dogs does something rather unique in a sense that you can use the city against the cops. With the push of a button, you can raise bridges, activate blockers, blow up underground pipes, change traffic lights to block intersections etc. I just found that the cops can find you way too easily. You are able to craft gadgets to stop enemies. One such item is the Jam Comms. This is used when police are trying to find you. When this happens yellow circles will appear on your map and you much avoid them until the search is called off. I only ever avoided this once in the whole game. My only option was to be found and then escape the police.
Another gameplay element that open world games have are mini-games. Watch Dogs is full of them but neither of them is interesting, including the side missions. Being able to prevent crimes, AR time trials, online contract hunts etc. These are all interesting the first time, but after that, I lost interest. I have yet to talk about what caused Watch Dogs to get such hype and that is the profiler. When you pull out your phone every citizen’s info is displayed. Their job, income, what they currently do/dark secret, and sometimes you can hack their phone conversations or steal money from them. Now this may seem like a big deal but it’s all randomized and after a few minutes exploring this you just won’t care anymore.
That’s the main problem with Watch Dogs at the end of the day. You just stop caring about more and more things as you play. When you start off you’re completely confused on how to use this new hacking/profiling ability. It all seems overwhelming. Once you play for a few hours you start checking off what’s interesting and what’s not in your head. That’s usually not a good thing for a game. Watch Dogs brings a lot to the table but none of it is outstanding or memorable. The graphics are also decent, but even for PC and next-gen consoles there are some ugly spots, the character models are dated, and it all just feels like a last-gen game with a next-gen coating of polish slapped on top.
The Good: Tight gunplay, a strong cast of characters (mostly), hacking is occasionally satisfying and done well, stealth is great, tons of upgrades, clever and fun online modes, open world driving is fun, gang-hideout side quests are tricky and enjoyable, phone apps are entertaining, graphics look pretty good
The Bad: At other times hacking feels forced and gimmicky, not much creativity in puzzle solutions, forced stealth and forced gunplay sections, pointless and annoying reputation system, most side quests are repetitive, the difficulty is random
Watch_Dogs feels tremendously like another one of Ubisoft’s games, the first Assassin’s Creed, in that it sets up the fundamentals and roots of a franchise but it is still incredibly flawed. This time around it’s a lot more inexcusable however because Ubisoft has had a ton of experience with open world games. Nevertheless, it is still a fun and meaty game which I enjoyed for the most part.
It tells the story of Aiden Pearce (otherwise known as “The Vigilante”, possibly the most unoriginal name ever), a hacker who lost his niece Lena Pearce in a car accident staged by a hitman. It’s a revenge story, with Aiden setting out to discover who called for his death and why. Aiden is, for the most part, the typical grumbly mostly-emotionless remorseful killer supposed “badass” protagonist that has been far overused in this medium, but he still has his moments and his journey to seek out revenge is certainly endearing. It’s mostly the side characters which carry the story out in this game, particularly Clara Lille and T-Bone, who both seem to have more depth to them than Aiden himself. There are also standout characters like “Bedbug”, an oddly likable and friendly gangster, and Lucky Quinn, an incredibly unnerving villain.
The story starts off pretty slowly, but picks up by the middle and was overall pretty entertaining. It wasn’t fantastic or super memorable or anything, but it did do a good enough job at progressing the game while still engaging me. The gameplay is Watch_Dog‘s real meat, and it is a mixed bag. Hacking was fun at first, but eventually, the novelty wore off and I came to realize it felt all too scripted and didn’t actually allow for as much freedom as it pretends to. Using hacking to escape from the cops felt pointless once I discovered that if I got into the water I was practically safe because the police have no watercraft, and using hacks during missions didn’t feel like I was coming up with my own solution but instead choosing through a few predetermined ones the developers left for me. In fact, in a majority of the missions, it’d probably be easier and quicker to play without using hacks, whether playing stealthily or guns blazing. The only missions which feel like they take full advantage of hacking are the gang hideout sidequests, which allow you to play through any style that you want, however, these eventually run thin as well because of how similar they all are.
The gunplay feels good (unlike another well-known open-world franchise) but isn’t all too original. The worst missions in this game force you to play a certain style. Having stealth forced makes it a hell of a lot less satisfying, and when gunplay is forced it can get too difficult for someone who had played the rest of the game stealthily. Throughout the game, you’ll get skill points to upgrade your hacking, weapons, driving, and more. However, I unlocked pretty much all the important upgrades early on in the game due to how many skill points you get (both from sidequests and missions).
Driving, like much else in the game, is a mixed bag. Driving controls are more arcade-y than realistic, and you can easily create your own shortcut to destinations by smashing through fences and phone lines. At the same time though, tailing missions and online races control poorly and aren’t fun at all. Also, it’s pretty jarring to smash through a humongous pole just to inexplicably be stopped by a bush you can’t drive through. Motorcycles control poorly, with it being too easy to be flung out of them. Also, NPC’s inexplicably are never ever on motorcycles, you can only find parked ones. And that is just an example of what I find to be ones of Watch_Dogs biggest issues: it’s missing out on the small details.
No, I don’t mean in terms of graphics, or at least the quality of the graphics- the game looks pretty enough (however nowhere near as good as its first E3 demo). What I mean is that unlike GTA V (which is a much better game), Watch_Dogs struggles to create a believable setting and environment. It replicates Chicago well enough, keeping its major landmarks, but doesn’t have any spirit or passion or incredible detail to it unlike, say, Los Santos (and by detail, I don’t mean accuracy to the real-life version). Just like the whole game itself, it feels unsure of what it wants to represent; is it a modern-day version of Chicago, a semi-cyberpunk version of Chicago, or a satire of Chicago? And it’d be okay (maybe even great) if the game could masterfully combine these three different takes on Chicago but it fails at that and instead feels like three different creative directions were taken with designing the setting and feeling of this game.
The water, despite being beautiful, doesn’t react at all if you shoot a bullet at it. Building window’s reflections are fake. And most importantly, NPC’s rarely do anything of interest (and their AI is terrible). The text and phone conversations which are supposed to give them personality repeat far too often, and the name and trait system which are intended to make us care for them instead comes off as a shoddy way to try an inject personality in those characters when in reality the traits change absolutely nothing about them and are merely cosmetic. It’d be better if it was trying to teach us a lesson or make a point (for example, if we could use those traits to say, blackmail them) about the dangers of technology and our online lives, but the game is too confused about what type of message it wants to send out. For example, Aiden is presented as a good guy (and I could tell the game wanted me to believe that), but he consistently does horrible things both inside of gameplay and as part of the story. In many ways, Watch_Dogs feels like it is a game going through its teenage years, unsure of what it wants to be.
On a positive note, the online in this game is pretty great ignoring online races. Hacking other player’s games is an exhilarating and nerve-wracking experience, hampered only by the fact that should your opponent choose to exit the game you are the one punished for it AND if you leave the game on pause to go get a drink or have a snack you may still get hacked which really sucks. Decryption is a fun competitive mode which gets better the more people who play it in which you must work as a team (or individually) to hold a hacking point for a certain amount of time. It, like the gang hideout missions, is one of the few examples of the hacking and gunplay coming together to form a cohesive and fun whole.
Also fun is the somewhat out of place yet hilarious AR games. Everyone should at the very least give the Spider-Tank game a try once. The soundtrack is fine, with only a few standout tracks (particularly the one that plays on the skill tree upgrade menu), but the in-game radio is awful. I put it on mute most of the time, the songs that play are mostly crap.
So, what do I have to say about Watch_Dogs as a whole? It’s fun, sure, but it also feels like it is trying to appeal to far too many audiences without nailing down any single one in particular. It’s a game that has been dragged down by its corporate influences and was hyped to an extreme amount. Yes, it ultimately is an enjoyable and well-crafted experience but it doesn’t have much heart nor soul behind it. However, I’m excited about what Ubisoft has in mind with the sequel that will inevitably come because there is so much potential for this franchise. Just keep in mind most of it hasn’t been met yet, this game is just the baby steps.
The biggest competitor against Call of Duty has always been Battlefield. While both games have drastically changed over the years they both still compete for the most action-packed single-player campaign and an addictive multiplayer suite. Battlefield has been the superior game for the past few years for many reasons. Not only does the game look better but the campaign actually has a decent story and feels more organic and better paced. The multiplayer is actually challenging and requires a lot of skill rather than who can quick scope the fastest.
While many fanboys may disagree and send me angry emails about that statement one thing is for certain. Battlefield is a huge game, but did anyone even want BF4? BF3 was a fantastic game and was well balanced. BF4 feels very similar to the last game without much changes besides a new campaign and maps. The campaign is actually rather disappointing and not nearly as fun as BF3’s campaign. It’s short, typical, and feels very generic compared. The story is forgettable despite having some ground. A civil war in China has broken out and the US government is involved but you never really know why. There’s a lot of loose ends and loopholes and by the time the credits roll you just won’t care.
Multiplayer is as fun as ever but doesn’t have as memorable maps as BF3. I loved having all the same modes and an easy to navigate server browser on the console. The game feels just as balanced as BF3 but there’s just a little bit of that magic missing. I didn’t have the same long play sessions I used to have with BF3.
The graphics are fantastic and they make BF4 one of the best looking next-gen games out right now. The textures are superb, the lighting is gorgeous, and the sound and physics are top notch. I’m not kidding about the sound. Battlefield has had some of the best sounding guns and explosions since Bad Company and that still hasn’t changed.Overall Battlefield 4 just doesn’t do enough that’s new like BF3 did. I honestly felt the game could never have been released and fans would still be happy with an HD upgrade of BF3 for consoles. As it is, if you can find it cheap enough, BF4 is well worth the purchase and play through. Just don’t expect anything as groundbreaking as BF3.
Overall Battlefield 4 just doesn’t do enough that’s new like BF3 did. I honestly felt the game could never have been released and fans would still be happy with an HD upgrade of BF3 for consoles. As it is, if you can find it cheap enough, BF4 is well worth the purchase and play through. Just don’t expect anything as groundbreaking as BF3.
Episode Two takes place right after Episode One, but this time we play strictly as Elizabeth. I love this move in perspective because Liz can’t fight like Booker can and its noticeable right off the bat. Liz has to sneak her way around using crossbows, Vigors that turn her invisible, and ones that add extra armor. She only carries a shotgun and pistol but very little ammo. The new weapon is one that microwaves enemies but I was only able to use it a couple of times in the whole episode.
The story still doesn’t make much sense unless you played both BioShock games. This DLC is really for the fans of those games. Elizabeth is on a mission to save Sally, the little sister you were trying to find in Episode One. With Booker dead, it’s up to you to run from everything bad in Rapture to find her. This includes Atlas, Andrew Ryan, and even Suchong. These characters won’t mean anything to anyone who hasn’t played the first games. I loved the setting and the brief trip back to Columbia, but the atmosphere is really great in this episode along with less backtracking. Sure Liz can’t fight off Big Daddies in this episode, but it makes everything more intense. The game is about twice as long as the first episode but can still be finished in a few hours.
I really appreciated how the stealth sections were interspersed with just exploring and cinematic events, it felt balanced. Sneaking isn’t just as simple as ducking and hiding from enemies. They now have an alert meter above their head while a new lockpicking mini-game has been added but is mostly lackluster and just filler. You can even use this mini-game to hack turrets to fight against you but there were maybe only two opportunities to do this in the whole game. The new crossbow weapon with gas, alarm, and sleeping darts comes in handy and the shotgun does a lot of damage. I felt the revolver was nearly useless though.
With all that said Episode Two really feels like an extension and slight evolution of Infinite in a good way, but anyone who hasn’t played previous games will be completely lost.