Video Game Review: Resident Evil: Resistance

It is hard to beat a unique game that gets packaged for free with another. Capcom did this probably because Resident Evil 3 Remake was short as hell, but a solid experience. Resistance, a four-against-one online title, has great ideas with the right execution but needs time to bake a little longer before being a worthy component to Jill Valentine’s nightmarish battle with Nemesis.

The premise is laid out like this, four players must go around a map to find pieces to a puzzle to unlock a door to the next area while a mastermind plants zombies and traps to stop the survivors from escaping. I love the idea, it is like Saw meets Resident Evil meets Dead by Daylight. It is thrilling yet frustrating, and I still find myself going back to it because I like the concept more than the actual experience.

Survivors need to race against the clock and add up time by killing the undead and placing puzzle pieces. Once I got the hang of it, my friends and I got slowly better at getting to the next area but never enough to win a match as it feels unfair in different ways.

The critique is partially based on my lack of skill, but some things are in favor of the mastermind who can drop your time by injuring and killing survivors. The level design is too tight, making it too easy to get overwhelmed by hordes of the undead.

Another issue comes from not being able to tell how close tougher enemies are to death. Damage numbers pop up on the screen when you bash, shoot, or explode the infected. For bosses like Mr. X and other of the higher tiered undead, it does deliver a good signal for how close they are to dying, unlike a health bar that would be more direct.

Plus, it is a pet peeve of mine when I see arcadey styled damage numbers come to the screen when I hit an enemy. It feels out of place for the art style of the latest RE titles.

Both masterminds and survivors all feel unique. Each character has their own abilities. Skills can be purchased and swapped out in the lobby as everyone prepares to escape or prevent escapees. Even though I got mad when another player took my main, I got to try someone else out as a survivor and enjoyed trying out new playstyles.

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The controls for survivors match how it is when playing RE 3 or 2 Remake. The exception is that it does not have a dodge button like the third installment. With the tight levels, it would be helpful to have a way to get away when being overwhelmed by incoming zombies or Mr. X, who is going to bash my skull into pieces.

Other than that, it felt fluid and as satisfying when shooting as it does in both remakes. The only issue I found was trying to hold F (I am playing on PC) to perform certain actions like picking up teammates, it did not always respond appropriately.

The survivors did get a helping hand with healing items and credits placed throughout the map at a consistent rate. Credits are used to shop in the safe zone for new weapons and equipment to arm yourself before heading out. It was a limited variety but had a positive impact on my survival. I do wish I got a different selection between areas as by the final are before escaping, it has the same offerings as the previous section.

Playing with friends in a lobby is not user friendly. Wanting to go into the shop for cosmetics, customize your loadout, or do anything means you have to leave and start up a new setup for your friends to join you in a match.

If you can play the mastermind right, you can crush survivors. That said, the controls felt less responsive and intuitive. Switching between cameras and my arsenal of traps and zombies was frustrating as I tried to do specific actions. Clicking on a trap or lifeless minion to spawn would get stuck if I was aiming at a spot that cannot place it in certain areas to close to objects, leading me to cancel then try it again on another spot.

I am certain I will play more after I write this review because it is irresistibly fun with friends. That said, I will go into my options to turn off the dialogue, mostly because the constant taunts from the masterminds are annoying beyond belief. Kill me or don’t, just shut up.

The AI problems must be an issue with the RE engine as both of the latest remakes and Resistance have the problem with zombies being unbelievably dumb by walking into objects and getting stuck. If you are a mastermind and the survivors are good, then you are at a big disadvantage if your minions decide to stumble into a chair for 10 seconds while someone opens up the door to escape.

Challenges and completing matches will grant you points to unlock equipment and cosmetic chests. The loot boxes are fair as the loot is not that bad, and getting enough credits to unlock gear is easy. I play two or three matches and can get some goodies.

The main technical issue I had was my audio stuttered in and out, then completely cut out. That was only for one or two games, and it did not completely crash my experience.

Resistance needs some quality of life improvements as little things pile on to hurt the game. Plus, I think some work needs to be done to find matches quicker as finding one as a survivor takes a couple of minutes, a mastermind can take up to five or more minutes. With some content updates and polish, I am sure this will be a great game to hop on with friends who love Resident Evil.

Score: 7/10

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Video Game Review: Resident Evil 3 Remake

NOTE: I will review the online title that came packaged with Resident Evil 3, Resident Evil: Resistance, in a separate review. This is purely for the remake of RE 3.

Capcom has brought Resident Evil back from the grave to its former glory since its seventh main installment in 2017 and last year’s excellent Resident Evil 2 Remake. One year later, bringing the third entry of the ridiculous zombie franchise to the modern age seemed like the right move. In many ways, it was, but so closely related to 2019’s hit and a lack of innovation on the original game’s mechanics brings this highly anticipated action-horror title down a notch.

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Happening before and during RE 2, Jill Valentine (Nicole Tompkins) wakes up to Raccoon City on fire with a horrifying monster named Nemesis and the undead flooding the streets. In typical RE fashion, she and new-found friends like Carlos Oliveira (Jeff Schine) must try to save the city and get to the bottom of what is happening. I never played the original game, similar to my experience when playing last year’s remake. Still, despite having knowledge of what will most likely happen due to the many sequels that came since 1999, I felt the thrill of trying to save an already doomed metropolis.

The acting is a great improvement, especially as the franchise tends to suffer from that end, the dialogue is written better. I know it changed from the initial release in the late 90s’, yet what makes it more enjoyable is that it does not have nearly the same amount of awkwardness as RE 2. I hate to overly compare the two, but it is impossible not to in this situation and hell, the flirting between Leon (Nick Apostolides) and Claire (Stephanie Panisello) was laughably cringy, despite their best efforts when delivering great performances.

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The live-action introduction was a stylish way to start that immediately got diminished with a jarring first-person section with Jill before heading into the standard third-person view. Even in the normal perspective, the field of view was too close, even at maxed settings. My eyes got used to it, but at times it was painful.

The new RE engine introduced a few years back with Biohazard continues to satisfy with its enhanced gameplay. The guns feel gratifying as chunks of zombies get blown to bits, and moving around feels better than ever with an added dodge mechanic.

I know it is a staple for Capcom’s Fast and Furious styled zombie games, but inventory management and crafting is so fun, yet stressful. Finding gun powder when I need ammo with full pockets got my brain going as I try to figure out how to stuff everything and not leave one little item behind.

Despite being in the city, the level design keeps it tight like its predecessor’s police department. While I did not feel scared at all unlike my time with RE 2, I was stressed enough in a sadistically thrilling way. I do adore exploring to find little hidden gems, and backtracking never feels punishing in the best of the RE games, like this 2020 remake.

A gameplay staple in the franchise that it mostly omitted comes from the puzzles. One or two pop up which are decent but the lack of obstacles for my mind, even if at an elementary level, takes away from the variety in what I was doing throughout. I found myself mostly gathering things to unlock a new area and fight off whatever zombies came my way.

Nemesis is essentially a faster, stronger Mr. X. Despite that, I felt he was underutilized. Popping up here and there only to push you forward as you run away without posing any real threat.

The boss battles felt very 90s’ in the worst way possible. Even the lesser of the Resident Evil games manage to have some epic fights that feel deserved. Here, these showdowns are easy and repetitive without much to impress.

Collectibles only consist of bobbleheads to find, sadly, but the documents still match the quality I expect. It is a good relaxing time to read a file about people’s misery or uncovering a piece of paper that expands the universe.

The AI matches the level of intelligence found in RE 2. Zombies walking into walls with their heads turned to me. They know I am there, yet they will get stuck on an object or really want to rub their cheek against a wall.

The coldness of the undead populated Raccoon City does not hinder its beauty. A destroyed city with breathtaking lighting and graphical fidelity makes for one gorgeous game that enhances the horrors that surrounded me on my adventure.

I played on PC, which ran like butter on my 144Hz monitor and at a steady 200+ FPS. One issue I found is seeing enemies in the distance, they tend to look like they were stuttering a little.

After beating, there are not second playthroughs or much to entice going back in. A shop unlocks and gives you points based on the challenges you completed. It had basic items along with unique weaponry like a heated blade to burst zombies and monsters on fire and a select few guns with infinite ammo, but even those fun toys did not make me want to jump back in anytime soon.

I completed my playthrough in four hours and 43 minutes. The quality of it does not match the $60 price tag for me, even with the amount of fun I had, so go buy it on a discount in a few weeks or months. Resident Evil 3 is a flashy remake that falls short due to its younger sibling’s success and lackluster mechanics that do not bring anything to the table.

Score: 7/10

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Video Game Review: Doom Eternal

I adore the 2016 reboot of Doom in all of its blood-soaked heavy metal glory. While Eternal falls short in some areas that its predecessor shined in, it is still a sequel that manages to go above and beyond on the core elements that made the previous entry so special.

Coming off the last title, the mission failed, and Hell rules most of Earth. The Doom Slayer must go through the hierarchy of Hell to stop the demonic army from destroying the last of humanity. It layers in thicker layers of lore and stronger storytelling, making for a much more engaging experience than last time.

The gameplay is so much more refined than Doom 2016. While the guns were great, some felt more tuning would have done them justice. Eternal evolves some familiar weaponry with introductions to brand new toys. Killing hellish monsters has never felt this good.

Glory kills on stunned enemies, and chainsawing through flesh highlights how much more gruesome things have gotten. The over-the-top violence never gets old, and I crave to get back in as soon as I can for more blood-soaked fun.

Mods return for each gun, two for almost everything except for the Super Shotgun and BFG. I felt I was switching between different firing modes more so this time around, mostly due to the new enemy types. It gave more meaning to what I had selected, making fighting that much more strategic and overall improved from four years ago.

Moving is fluid as ever, for the most part. Platforming is a nice touch when you aren’t massacring endless hordes of demons, sometimes getting woven into battles, but at times the Slayer did not grab onto things I was trying to climb. Swinging around, felt satisfying, but the climbable walls felt too stiff.

Puzzles act as a way to breathe in between fights. However, I found it to be lackluster and nothing too impressive. Mostly punch this thing in time to punch another to unlock a door. It was all elementary and not elaborate. Also, I found some to be not so clear on how to go about it despite the classic signals, but I can be dumb too.

Encounters and Slayer Gates are challenges that replace the rune trials from before. The upgrades rewarded make it worthwhile, especially since many of these can take some time as I did die on some a lot. Seriously, fuck Marauders.

Exploring gets deeper with more depth to the level design. It leans linear with nooks and crannies that have goodies to find. Upgrades, toys, vinyl records, and files to expand the lore make me want to go out a collect it all, which you bet I will after writing this review.

Also, if anyone works at id Software or Bethesda, please make these toys and albums, I will buy them all in a heartbeat.

Another cool collectible comes from the cheat codes. Bringing back the old days when games had god mode and infinite ammo. What makes it better, you can use them and not lose progress, making a 100 percent run-through less painful and more fun.

While trying to navigate these worlds, I still found the map to be awkward, like in the reboot. I got used to it, but I still think id Software could dial it in.

Everything can get upgraded from guns, your abilities, and the selection of three runes that have various attributes. It goes into an RPG realm, and while it is on the thinner side, it is a brilliant addition to powerup the most badass protagonist around.

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Speaking of badass, I never felt more empowered in a video game in my life. Once I got the rhythm down of the combat and movement down, it made every kill that much more satisfying. That said, it is a must to go on a harder difficulty. I got put on my ass to keep my ego in check as it is insanely hard but fair at all times.

The bosses get depth with multiple phases and some more exciting move sets. I feel more games these days have lost the art of making an excellent baddie to face. Eternal matches up with FromSoftware when it comes to having an epic battle with a giant monster.

Bones are thrown to you with extra lives that can be found or knowing enemy weak points, a great new addition to get the leg up on these goddamn demons. Keeping up with that fairness, I just mentioned.

The demon variety is about doubled in size. Familiar faces, retro enemies return from the past, and new monsters all are coming after the Doom Slayer. To make it all better, enemy damage shows off armor and flesh getting blown off. It gives a signal to when you are about to kill off a pesty creature while looking so incredibly brutal.

A hub world has been placed with the most metal name imaginable, the Fortress of Doom. Unlock new upgrades, and cosmetic armors (which needed more than the three in there) will prepare you for the next mission, or get you diving into the battlefield in style. Plus, instead of looking at what I collected in a menu,  all of the collectibles with shelves full of toys or being able to play your vinyl collection as I got to relax in the Doom Slayer’s awesome man cave.

One thing found in the basement of the Slayer’s lair is a practice arena called the Demon Prison or its other more brutal name, Ripatorium. I had no use for it as no reward came out of going into fighting down there. I feel honing in on skill is best playing the game normally.

Master Levels is a bonus mode to play specifically selected missions with an added difficulty. Enemies who may not spawn until later in the game will show themselves to you with more abundant spawns. It is not my jam like the Ripatorium, but it does add some additional replayability.

The environments are better than ever. More variety from Hell on Earth, new planets, and ancient cities flesh out this universe. Each new place kept things fresh.

Everything in this game is so devilishly, disgustingly beautiful. Higher-end textures and details pop, especially in the advanced lighting effects.

The online is devastatingly disappointing. While the reboot had an in-depth customization option and various game modes, this has one mode plus a small number of skins to unlock rather than making a character look like an individual. Battlemode is two v.s. one, two demons and one Slayer, to battle it out in three rounds. It is a ton of fun, but that being the only option is a huge letdown as I really enjoyed Doom 2016’s competitive multiplayer.

It is annoying that in Battlemode, you do have to do a tutorial to play the demons without a way to skip it. I wanted to play with my buddies on night one and had to go through a rather unhelpful mission to learn how to play.

Singleplayer missions, weekly challenges, and multiplayer give out experience to unlock more cosmetic skins for guns and playable characters. I wish there was more, and I have a feeling additions will be made, but it was a weak lineup. What was available did look awesome, if that makes up for the lackluster amount.

The shining star outside of the combat is the music. Mick Gordon reprises his role as the game’s composer and elevates this heavy metal soundscape. Outside of battles, an electric atmosphere keeps the vibes going while when the demons come out, so does the brutal tunes. As a lifelong metalhead, Gordon gets the seal of approval.

The elephant in the room is the technical difficulties. On the lighter side, enemies would occasionally freeze in place until I attacked, and a brief lost save made me go back a few checkpoints. The killer was the crashes, which got to a point the game was unplayable for a few days before miraculously fixing itself, even then I had two or three shutdowns while playing.

If Doom Eternal gets an award this year, then it is for the most intoxicating experience of the year as the brutal soundscape mixed with its ridiculous gameplay. It breaks my heart that I have to rate it lower than I want to, but the technical difficulties and online bring it down a peg. That said, the campaign alone with its storytelling, level design, and overall experience beats out Doom 2016, making this sequel more superior in the end.

Score: 8/10

 

 

Video Game Review: Bloodroots

Bloodroots offers cartoony action that lives to its name with bloodsoaked violence that is satisfying through every level. As my first new game of 2020, this is a strong start to the year.

Left for dead by his fellow criminals, Mister Wolf seeks out revenge upon the ones who betrayed him. The story has its twists and turns that make for a surprisingly well-written ride that guides me through the game. I did have points of not caring as it fell short with its cryptic storytelling that should have gotten to the point faster, but its quirky characters made up for some of its faults.

The platforming action indie mixes a style of combat that works as a puzzle. Observe the environment, see what weapons that only have one to three hits before breaking are available, and the enemies standing in the way. It delivers a challenge that did not usually meet infuriating peaks as respawning went to hyperspeed to get me back in action.

Okay, I did get pretty angry at some points.

The controls feel tight with the fast movement when navigating the world and its fighting mechanics. I did have issues of picking up weapons when they lay on top of one another, leaving me to juggle through guns and swords to get what I wanted. Another problem I found was sometimes I felt jumping or attacking was unresponsive, but it did not ruin my experience.

The variety of murderous utensils sprinkled through each level was an astonishing amount. Many of which had their own abilities with little crossover, or at least have a special quality to set one item from another. It could range from a silly killing tool like a giant boot or a Final Fantasy styled sword.

A little cherry on top when defeating the final foe delivers a quick execution that is unique for every weapon.

The enemies match the weaponry variety. Each new threat gets introduced slowly yet consistently to keep the gameplay fresh.

A highlight comes from the identifiable bosses. Each having a personable approach to dueling it out. While the first two had a balance of fun and challenge, the final battle felt cheap with it relying on luck more than skill in some phases.

Another way things never got boring was the level design. Constant new platforming obstacles rose up along with some light destructible environments to add to the chaotic nature of Bloodroots.

Random bonus levels would come in between the main missions. These time trials were fun with no reward and got in the way of the progress of the story.

One reward comes from hats, which are modifiers when replaying levels. It can enhance your chances of survival like a new ability or flips the controls for a greater challenge. I had no motive to go in to redo any level as the points and leaderboard aspects that heavily embedded itself into the end of each objective felt hollow.

The camera adds an extra depth to Paper Cults’ Western adventure. Going from a top-down perspective to a side scroller kept surprising me with its clever uses to give a different feel to various parts of my time killing endless hordes of people. Only once and a while, it did interfere with my vision, making certain spots unnecessarily tricky.

The Saturday morning cartoon style of the graphics brings me back to my childhood. Its nostalgic visuals lend to a show that would be great for adults as Mr. Wolf goes on massacre after massacre with each episode.

The music might be my favorite quality outside of the graphics. A wild amount of influence slides into the Western theme like electronic and rock music. It fits the tone and the high tempo gameplay.

Bloodroots is an endlessly fun adventure with amusing characters and thrilling gameplay. Though the humor falls flat and the story dips here and there, it has more to offer than just its platforming and bloodthirsty action. The price sits right when looking at its relatively short length, depending on how long it takes you to get through it compared to me, a guy who sucks at video games.

Score: 8/10

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Video Game Review: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

EA has had a license to publish Star Wars games for 10 years, and a lot of that decade has been wasted. Now it gave Respawn Entertainment a shot to make a singleplayer game without the microtransactions and other elements that have gotten a bad taste in my mouth from the depressingly disappointing Battlefront reboots. Jedi: Fallen Order defies expectations by delivering the experience that I always wanted from a game in this beautiful franchise.

In classic SW fashion, the developers do take a reasonably safe path in its story. Set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, Cal Kestis (Cameron Monoghan) finds himself working on a desolate planet to scrap whatever he can find to make a living. After a run-in with Second Sister (Elizabeth Grullon) and her elite Jedi hunting squad in which they are called the Inquisitors, he must go on the run, which leads him to his saviors and new friends, Greez (Daniel Roebuck) and Cere (Debra Wilson). The trio must find an ancient artifact that has a list of force-sensitive children who can get hunted down by Sith forces if gotten into the wrong hands.

The narrative sticks to many of the formulas that have been set by the films; it is still one of the best stories from any format that Star Wars has delved into, mostly because of its cast. Not only are the characters and their bonds strong, but the performances by Monoghan, Grullon, Wilson, and Roebuck can also rival anyone in the films. Although, I wish to see more of Grullon’s villain as she was compelling enough to be one of the best villains in this universe if utilized enough.

I was impressed by how well the writing is with both dialogue, the story, and creating these new characters. I instantly connected to Cal and his friends by how well they interacted and were able to stand as individuals. The best of all is the redhead Jedi’s little buddy, BD-1, my new favorite droid in Lucas’ sci-fi epic galaxy.

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Cal with his beautiful hair and his little buddy

Little details in the writing like stormtroopers trying to pump themselves up to take on Cal or being frightened gave that extra depth to the world around me. From protagonists to generic baddies, everyone felt like a person, or in some cases, an alien.

Of course, the minds behind Titanfall made maneuvering necessary in the core mechanics. Wall running, jumping, swinging are just some things that can be done, and it feels so good, mostly. I enjoyed the hell out of moving around environments and dodging enemy lasers, but sometimes Cal did not do what I commanded. Grabbing onto a vine/wire and some other obstacles can be infuriating as he does not reach for the thing to keep him alive.

Thank you, Respawn, for setting Cal back on the last ledge to make this less annoying, but still, this Jedi needs to get it together to grab a damn rock or rope.

Combat is both intuitive and challenging. It takes skill on any difficulty other than the easiest setting, with each level affecting parry time, damage, and enemy aggression. The lightsaber and force powers feel amazing when mastered, I truly felt like a padawan who would eventually rise up to be a Jedi knight like what I have seen on the big screen my whole life.

I did not find too many bosses, but the right amount that completed the overall experience. Combat has its difficulties, especially with these significant fights. The patterns of big creatures or when fighting Inquisitors strikes a cord in classic boss design that did get me angry when I died, but triumphant when defeating my foe.

Enemy variety is small yet mighty. The right amount of soldiers and animals get thrown into the mix to diversify the experience when fighting while making me think twice about my strategies.

Puzzles complete the trifecta of combat and platforming. This third piece of gameplay can get tricky while not overcomplicating itself. Most of the time, it was quite clever, at least to me, because I am a moron who gets confused when these mind obstacles occur.

Leveling up does make it easier to survive while making fighting more complex. Skills can be earned in a survival, force, and lightsaber categories. It is a straightforward system that does not overwhelm; instead, it streamlines the whole system to become the ultimate Jedi.

The Mantis is your ship and hub to travel to various planets, rest up, and customize on your lightsaber (more on that fun later). It lacks from other safety nets you tend to see with only those essentials waiting to prepare before going into new territory. The ship cannot even be explored with only three rooms for travel, chit chat, and the maintenance that I mentioned.

Customization has plenty of options, but sadly not all of it is exciting. BD-1 and Mantis get fancy paint jobs, especially for my adorable number one buddy. The lightsaber has plenty of parts and colors to swap out, leaving me continually wanting to unlock more options. Things are not so lovely for Cal as he has a few outfits, most of them are boring with lame ponchos that have variety, but I don’t want a goddamn poncho for my hero, who is taking on scary ladies working for the Empire, come on Respawn.

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Level designs balance complexity and simplicity. Each world has its own personality by its environment and wildlife, though that number of creatures is small. The paths do open up with areas that can be unlocked later on or found by looking hard enough. Nothing here is groundbreaking, just satisfactory, and gets the job done to elevate gameplay when needing a break from going straight down Cal’s adventure.

BD-1 can do a lot for Cal like healing, scanning items to uncover additional lore, and unlocking new areas in the map. This little boi gets better with each mechanic that gets introduced.

The one complaint about my robotic friends is when bringing up the map, it was hard to navigate where I needed to go. It needed to be clearer to distinguish parts of the world for an easier time to get from point A to point B.

Exploring does give rewards like upgrades, expanding the universe with interesting details, and finding new cosmetics. I may not be the biggest fan of most of the customization options I discussed, but it is beyond addicting finding crates or old ruins for Cal’s droid to scan. I am not a completionist, but it is easy to do it at the endgame that I feel tempted to grab everything.

Checkpoints allow for a nice reset after death while allowing for a place to rest up to restore health and gain new skills. It clearly mimics other similar titles, and that is perfectly okay with me as it makes things so much easier. I just wish some of these spots were closer to bosses since enemies between Cal and that headache of an opponent will be even more frustrating.

Death has meaning, which surprised me big time. You lose all of your experience, and that is regained when hitting the one that killed you. That extra motivation makes it even better when getting revenge.

The music and visuals tie everything together with an authentic Star Wars experience. The combination of beautiful graphics and the already brilliant style of this franchise is breathtaking. The cherry on top comes from the score crafted by Stephen Barton, Gordy Haab, and Nick Laviers, who all created something that sounds like John Williams and manages to be a unique piece to the puzzle that wraps up this wonderful game.

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The sceneries and Cal’s incredible hair made my jaw drop, I had some graphical issues. Light pop-in textures and objects in the world would occur. Also, I had seen a lot of flickering from lights and shadows. None of this took away from the gorgeous work of art that is Fallen Order, but it did distract me.

Respawn Entertainment’s Star Wars title is the experience I always wanted to make me feel like a padawan growing into a powerful Jedi. The game does play it too safe in its overly familiar structure for the action-adventure genre with mild RPG elements in its skill trees. Slight frame rate drops, in the beginning, did worry me too, but thankfully that went away so I could embrace this enjoyable experience.

Score: 9/10

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Video Game Review: Borderlands 3

After years of waiting for a third title, Borderlands 3 has arrived. Gearbox’s stylized looter shooter has been one of my favorites ever since I played the second game. The latest entry is worth the wait in every aspect that makes up the DNA of this cel-shaded universe.

Like many of the stories, the Crimson Raiders need help from a Vault Hunter, yes that is you who carries that responsibility. It becomes a race between them and a new cult called Children of the Vault, run by two psychopathic twins, Tyreen and Troy, who want to not only conquer vaults around the galax, especially the mysterious Great Vault. It is the most apocalyptic, high stakes story to date along with twists and turns that made my jaw drop too many times to count.

The writing kept me laughing for all 30 to 40 hours. No matter how small or big a character is in the campaign, they will not be forgotten. The Calypso twins are worthy enemies who take a Millennial approach to destroy the universe, but they cannot touch the bar set by Handsome Jack.

The Vault Hunters available continue to show the creativity behind Borderlands. Fl4K (Flak) is the beastmaster who controls various creatures for support, Amara is the siren that has become a necessity to have as an option, Zane as the operative with all of his fancy gadgets, and Moze as the gunner, a character with the Iron Bear, a heavy-duty robot to help her in battle. It is the most diverse group with equally essential abilities.

Skill trees for each character have been heavily overhauled. The overall system looks quite familiar, but each of the three branches to choose from radically change playstyle for each of the monster slayers. I played Fl4k who ranged from having more reserved playstyle, an elemental damage focus, and pure aggressive attacks. It leads to far more playability to each Vault Hunter as individuals or when going for a new playthrough as someone different.

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Besides the art, Borderlands is all about its guns and loot. Gear is as rewarding as ever and more abundant than previous titles. A billion weapons was a bold claim, and it kinda works. More of what I found seemed too similar, but the variety of possible additions to your arsenal towers over past entries.

Main and side quests always have a unique spin to make it enjoyable. Even tasks that have a pesky objective make up for it with the wacky dialogue and sharp turns for the moments of laughing and asking, “What the fuck is going on?” I will surely spend plenty of more hours racking up the rest of the optional missions.

The overall feel of combat has improved with new systems like alternative fires, better gunplay, and ragdoll physics that had me laughing every step of the way. Shooting kicks better with improved sounds and animations. Having a staggering amount of different enemy types help make the never-ending killing not get boring.

The psychos and monsters to kill never get old, but bosses give combat that grand scale. These unique foes with better attack sets bring back classic boss battles; however, the series flaw of bullet spongey behemoths will turn an epic fight into a tedious shooting range.

The movement goes faster and smoother. Sliding does not get old while parkour makes for deeper levels as you climb various buildings and mountains. The physics hit the right balance between light and nimble, and heavy enough to not seem like a piece of paper running around killing bandits.

Vehicles have more weight, creating tighter handling. Not many more types of modes of transportation are added, but finding new parts for weapon, armor, and wheel upgrades make for refreshing experiences while still having the same car.

Customization to character colors, skins for both Vault Hunter and weapons, along with advanced vehicle options go above expectations on personalizing your experience. Plus, you get your own room to deck out in the spaceship Sanctuary, the new hub world for trading, missions, and traveling around the universe. Sadly, the bedroom gets a lack of action with only a few spots to put a decoration on the wall.

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Traveling around the cosmos is a fresh idea that works mostly in favor of the game’s scenery and narrative. One or two planets are quite small while others are massive, so that inconsistency disappointed me a little. However, each world has a unique environment, creatures, and eccentric personalities to remember.

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Coop is the ultimate way to play a Borderlands game. Shooting hordes of bloodthirsty opponents is as fun as ever. Four-way duels can show who is the best of your friend group as you step away from the baddies that lurk around every corner. Plus a new instanced loot system does not cause tension when someone grabs that gun you wanted, but old school fans can have the shared option if you would like.

Other online modes are available with Proving Grounds to fight bosses and Circle of Slaughter lets you and others fight hordes of enemies. Both give great rewards, as expected from the gear obsessed series. The problem comes from the lack of interest from the community because it takes a long time to find a match if you are lucky to get put into one.

The endgame will keep me coming back for many more hours. True Vault Hunter is back to replay missions with harder difficulty and better gear possibilities along with a new mode called Mayhem, a three-tiered modifier that makes for crazy stat enhancements to give the robots, bandits, and aliens that edge above you. On top of that goodness, Badass Ranks get replaced by Guardian Ranks to further that empowering feeling that should be felt after defeating the Calypsos.

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Collectibles add to the already stunning amount of replayability. Collecting goods give backstory or funny dialogue from the character it is associated with. Many miss the mark on finding hidden items, but this is one of the best I have found this year.

Initial trailers had me worried for the graphics as the cel-shaded style that makes Gearbox’s megahit series iconic looked out of date. Once I got my hands on the product, I could see I was wrong. The art mesmerized me like it did back in 2012 with enhanced lighting and neon colors to make the world pop out of my screen.

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Technical issues were worse from reports on social media, but I had my fair share. Falling through objects, connectivity problems, friends crashing (thankfully I was spared with one or two exceptions), and my pet would get stuck and not be able to aide me when fighting an army of Calypso fanatics.

The most annoying blemish on the surface came from the audio. Gunfire going quiet and characters talking sounded like they were at a far distance if my back gets turned to them. Usually, radio communication comes up when getting too much space between you and the NPC, but this seemed too inconsistent, so make sure subtitles are turned on.

The debut had the idea while the Sophomore release cemented its legacy by standing out from the vast array of shooters like it. Borderlands 3 does not radically change the formula, it sticks to it like glue. A lack of innovation proves to not always be detrimental as the new edition does not defy expectations, but headshots every target in sight.

Score: 9/10

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Video Game Review: Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan

Supermassive Games created one of the greatest horror games of all time, Until Dawn. The PS4 exclusive’s ideas went on to the first entry of their anthology series, Man of Medan, which takes everything from the 2015 hit and delivers it in a more condensed version. While plenty of ideas transfer over well, this is not quite the same quality I had hoped for, but it is a small treat that is worth every second.

A group of friends rents out a boat to enjoy a weekend of diving and drinking beer. After a run-in with some mysterious men, they come back at night to take the whole group captive. Things turn for the worse as another sinister threat approaches that put the hostages and their captors in danger. However, while it tries to explain these events, a lot of details get tossed to the side for some small and larger holes in the plot.

The voice cast is stellar while the dialogue is a hit or a miss. Shawn Ashmore (The Following, Quantum Break) as Conrad, Arielle Palik (Deus Ex: Mankind Divided) as Conrad’s sister Julia, Chris Sandiford (Jack Ryan) as Brad, Kareem Tristan Alleyne (Watch Dogs 2) as Julia’s significant other and Brad’s older brother Alex, and Ayisha Issa (Polar, Far Cry Primal) as Fliss, the boat driver who takes the group on their vacation. Each character has a memorable personality from Conrad’s laidback attitude to Brad being the smart, good-hearted younger brother to Alex. I cared for everyone, except Fliss who did not bring much to the group dynamic.

Tieing in each part of Dark Pictures Anthology comes from the Curator (Pip Torrens from Preacher, The Danish Girl, and Star Wars Episode VII). He brings up a story in which you are the one to finish writing by your choices during gameplay. It is a great idea to set up every title with this eccentric host.

Unlike Until Dawn, the option to play with one other person is available. Playing alone or passing along to other people is another way to play. Playing alone or with someone else goes either way of having plenty of surprises. Playing with my friend allowed for incredible moments that were equally hilarious and scary.

When having another person, the character they control experiences things differently. If my friend was in another room, I had him telling me what was happening as I had something else occurring on my side. It creates an eerier atmosphere and leaves me wanting to play more to see what he got to play.

Selecting dialogue or actions effects everything. Not as many drastic changes as Supermassive’s windigo invasion, but the things I did experience had weight to hit me in ways I did not expect. Not all outcomes work, especially when it comes to the endings which can not fit with the narrative or feel underwhelming.

Walking around is brutal as camera changes and tight areas make it frustrating to navigate. At times I had no idea which key to hit to go in the right direction or trying to not get stuck in a part of the environment.

Finding pictures give a premonition to what is happening, similar to totem poles in Until Dawn. Some of those collectibles that gave insight to possible scenarios were more helpful than Man of Medan. Seconds long visions do not provide much information on events that can occur, making it fairly useless.

Quick time events were expected due to its predecessor. It does not drown out other gameplay mechanics and usually was not difficult to hit the right keys. Since I felt less in danger, I did not have any issues trying to survive in my playthrough, for the most part.

Realistic animations and graphics look superb. The constant darkness does not wash away the beauty here, which makes the horror that much more traumatic.

Technical problems popped up only a few times. My friend’s game disconnected once, I had a connection error, and my buddy’s game froze at one point. Other than that, things went fairly smoothly, even on the highest settings on our PCs.

Man of Medan has plenty of great ideas, but not everything is appropriately executed. Its mechanics from Until Dawn are not as satisfying. For $30 and a coop experience in a horror game, it is still worth the money, I just hope next year’s Little Hope can nail the premise better to put Dark Pictures Anthology on the right track.

Score: 7/10

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