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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Video Game Review: Control

Remedy Entertainment has built a reputation for making some weird games. Their latest project, Control, is no exception, maybe even the oddest creation from the studio to date. 2019 has disappointed me a lot with its releases, so I had some hype and skepticism going in, and I am blown away by what could be game of the year.

Jesse Faden is the new director of the agency Federal Beuruae of Control. Her first day is utter hell as an alternate dimensional entity, The Hiss, has taken over the building infecting most of its occupants and altering everything inside. Jesse must tackle this mystery, kill everything in her path, and deal with her own personal agenda that brought her to the FBC. It is a condensed 10 to 15-hour experience that is worth the $60.

The only weapon to combat creatures and FBC agents under the spell of The Hiss is the standard issue pistol, yet it is not as simple as it seems. The gun has transformative abilities, which leads to upgrades that can turn it into a shotgun or even a grenade launcher. Most unique and coolest gun in gaming for 2019 goes to Control, congratulations Remedy.

The other way to defend yourself against the onslaught of enemies comes from telekinetic powers. This new reality gives Jesse various skills which reveal themselves as you progress through primary and side missions. It keeps everything simple while building upon these mechanics for freshness, plus nothing is more satisfying than grabbing almost any object to smash infected agents.

RPG elements creep in to add more depth to the already satisfying gameplay. Finding materials allows to craft new gear for your shapeshifting handgun and to make Jesse more powerful. Adding onto this comes from the skill trees which have a wide variety of uses for health, energy for her superpowers, and other necessities.

Mods for the new director and her arsenal add buffs to various attributes. Like everything else to the RPG-esque aspects gets love by being fleshed out entirely. Nothing feels slapped on in an attempt to give more life to the gameplay.

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Moving around with Jesse feels excellent. She is not too light or heavy. Some weight is felt to make her not weigh like a toy, yet not too much since she is a tiny lady.

Enemies have a wide variety of classes. Some are general types to expect like snipers or suicide bombers, while others are more personalized with similar power sets to Jesse. The diversity allows for strategy along with preventing the endless shooting from getting dull.

Boss battles usually are meant to introduce a new enemy with a rare, unique creature to take down. Using an overly difficult fight to showcase a new monster feels tacky, but the rest of the fights are much more fulfilling. The difficulty really shows in these moments, so prepare to get mad when dying and euphoric when overcoming that obstacle.

Outside of killing, the gameplay does get some extra elements to not become a game where you just hold down the trigger and kill what pops up on the screen. Platforming and puzzles add more complexity for a refreshing change of pace. I wish these mechanics got more balance as parkour sections and tricky mind games could use extra work.

Random events come up for Jesse to clear an overrun area. These have goods that make it worth doing but usually feels out of the way as I am too focused on doing something story related.

The developers give everything a purpose, unlike anything I have played in recent memory. Exploration has plenty of rewards to uncover, hidden side missions, and collectibles that elevate the world’s lore. Nothing goes to waste to expand the narrative or give Jesse an edge under challenging battles.

Cleansing infected areas allow fast traveling, upgrading, and taking on Board Countermeasures, which are challenges for that provide new mods after completion. The issue comes from the often time horrendous checkpoint system as dying often leads to a frustrating setback.

Finishing the narrative opens up for postgame content. Wrap up side missions, discover hidden areas, and level up fully to become an unstoppable hero. The gratifying expeditions of the various sectors and rich optional objectives make this irresistible.

Environmental damage does not involve tearing down the whole building, but it is enough to give an extra punch to explosions. Telekinetically controlling nearly object is freeing, it gives me more satisfaction as I see the damage caused by my actions along with the delightful physics to ragdolls and items.

Remedy crafted a gorgeous game with its brutalism style and world bending effects. It gives Control its own personality that stands out from anything else. Camera work during cutscenes boost the already stunning graphics with close-ups to Jesse to see her realistic character model in greater detail.  However, some of the facial animations could use work as certain emotions do not translate well.

Full of personalities, everyone I came across had a memorable identity. Jesse in particular reigns as one of my favorite heroines to come up in a video game in years, mostly due to Courtney Hope’s (Quantum Break) raw performance.

Control toes the line of artsy and accessible. It runs into issues like not always being clear on what to do or where to go with its map. The flaws found are more irritating, not breaking this beautifully, confusing experience.

Score: 9/10

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Video Game Review: Remnant: From the Ashes

A genre defines the experience for a game then the developers can build on top of those expectations. Remnant: From the Ashes is a weird game as it is a looter shooter without a lot of loot. The core comes from playing with friends to fight through hordes of enemies and defeat daunting bosses. It gets plenty wrong, but with one or two friends, it becomes harder to deny the addictiveness of this apocalyptic adventure.

An alternate dimension has thrown ancient creatures into the modern world, tearing humanity apart. As you go on your underwhelming and confusing adventure, your nameless protagonist gets a whiff of answers along with plenty of more questions. Like any game with RPG elements, you, a random person in this world with no credibility, gets tasked with saving it from an evil force, The Root. That trope never makes a ton of sense, but it is more logical than the rest of the

After a brief tutorial, you finally get to choose between three classes, perfectly suited for three people to play together. Scrapper is the tank with melee focus attacks, Hunter has long-range capabilities, and Ex-Cultist (who I chose) is the support member with mid-range guns. Each of the options has a lot to offer with their abilities and weapon sets when my friend decided with the Hunter along with my healing ability, we made for a killer team against the monsters.

More RPG elements get added with Trait Ranks. A series of skills that get points dispensed into for stat upgrades like the essential endurance and some more unique to the world of Remnant as you make progress. It becomes slightly overwhelming as more traits get piled on, yet that goes away as I grew stronger and feeling like a savior rather than some random person who gets thrust into the position.

Customizing your hero is rudimentary with all of the basics like hairstyles and color along with some voices and pre-set faces. It did not feel limiting even though it lacked much depth. I was able to quickly create someone then move on, feeling satisfied with my character.

Combat has a punch that lands semi-hard on enemies. The guns feel right while the melee is a little overly simplified. Guns have mods for an alternate fire with some that are universal and others being character-specific. Whether hacking away at a group of small charging creatures or shooting down a behemoth, it has a rewarding vibe to kill without having to deliver much loot.

The meat of the experience comes from big boss battles. Most of them are just beefed up versions of regular enemies, making them pretty bland except for main story bosses that have a fresh face. Too many times these fights would either be too easy (one of which got glitched and couldn’t move to make for an easy target) or overwhelmingly hard with swarms of minions to back up the monstrous foe or their moveset would be unfair.

The balance for the challenges continues to struggle in other areas. Healing or taking any consumable goes too slowly. Inevitably you die for no good reason because the hero needed to take in his/her time drinking a potion or refilling ammo.

Finding, buying, or grabbing dropped goods is hard oddly hard to come by. For a looter shooter, this is more of a shooter that tosses a bone your way for exploring or progressing through the story. I played for three or four hours before finding a gun in the ruins of a city with a few accessories here and there that boost my stats.

Selling or crafting to NPCs is the best bet for upgrades or new gear. Finding materials or gathering enough scrap for trade is balanced without having to grind at all for what I need. When I saved my piggy bank to splurge, I gained plenty of rewards that made me feel stronger than before. The odd choice that I cannot get my head around is that selling for extra cash come from only materials or consumables, so excess weapons or armor sit in your inventory taking up space and irritating my organizational tendencies.

Gathering the loot is even more comfortable with an ally. Shared loot makes covering landscapes more accessible without fearing on losing out on supplies or potential gear.

A staggering amount of variety comes from the invading creatures. Every area has specific sets of foes to face to keep the gameplay fresh. The designs are just as interesting as their different combative properties, but some of the textures need some work to give more life to the flood of ancient monsters.

The safe haven from the utter hell that is the outside world comes from Ward 13. Resupplying, upgrades, and interact with vendors as you catch your breath. A generic hub world that makes up for its lack of life by its worthwhile upgrade and trading system.

The level design comes to blend together as each new area has a theme that becomes boring. The structure of diverging paths that balance openness and a linear road kept me on track while having fun exploring. The hopes of finding something great moved me, but not finding better equipment ran dry. The procedurally generated mechanic does not work for these reasons.

A lot of familiar elements rise to the surface as I played through more of Remnant. Fog walls and resting at checkpoints to restore items all seem similar to one fantasy RPG that is known for extreme difficulty. Remnant does not live up to the quality as its influences, mostly due to its inconsistent difficulty that can be unfair with the waves of enemies or ridiculous bosses.

At best, visually, this game gets a pass, but at worst, it is hard to look at. A lot of the textures, especially with certain enemy types, look watered down. Stylistically nothing works together.

The animations are a mess. The worst of which comes from cutscenes, which look worse than gameplay. The mouth sync with dialogue is laughable by how robotic everyone seems.

Even though your protagonist has a voice, it is never used except for random quips during a battle. Selective dialogue with NPCs is pointless as no decision matters, and you don’t hear your voice. This mechanic should just be thrown out and let other parts of the game get more treatment.

The music has every ingredient to make it epic, yet it is halfbaked. The orchestral style fits perfectly during important battles, but it is too quiet, and the music comes off underdone in many sequences.

On paper, Remnant: From the Ashes has a lot to offer, except it somehow falls on its face. A few glitches appear, ranging from annoying issues like not being able to talk to an NPC to stock up for a fight or the unkillable final boss who turned his God mode on before my friend and I got to him. The lowered price of $40 is not worth it unless you have a buddy who is willing to go down with you to save the world.

Score: 4/10

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Video Game Review: Vicious Circle

Disclaimer: Since I am a Rooster Teeth First member, the company’s paid membership for exclusive content and other incentives, I did get the game for free. I went in with an open, objective mindset, but I thought anyone reading should know this before going into the review.

Rooster Teeth, the internet production company known for Achievement Hunter, animated shows like Red vs. Blue, and a variety of podcasts, has released the first developed game from their Rooster Teeth Games division. Vicious Circle has a unique premise along with some other nice touches, but it lacks enough depth for extended play sessions.

The idea is simple, a group of mercenaries must collect nuggets, a cosmic good, to escape from the level from a deadly monster. Only one can survive, so everyone must work together then stab each other in the back to escape through the evac zone, just don’t die by the rooster alien. The high-speed rounds lack any tension and do not incentivize any teamwork, just push others in the way and live.

Nuggets can be obtained from pods found around the map or stealing from other players. You can’t harm your fellow soon to be enemies, but using gadgets can not only take from them, but it can also ensure survival against any lurking creatures. Devices have a variety of uses that feel unique along with rarity to indicate usefulness.

Each character has a particular playstyle as each merc has one weapon and ability. They all stand out by their looks and powers. The guns, on the other hand, prove to be bland, useless BB guns as fighting off the giant monster proved to be pointless. Slay tiny creatures and run for those shiny goodies to escape without anyone else.

Playing as a dangerous rendition of the rooster in Rooster Teeth’s logo has a lot of power behind its abilities. The overpowered behemoth changes the pace and gameplay radically. While balancing issues are present between the two sides, I would rather play the monstrous bird.

Death has an interesting twist as it is one of the best mechanics found here. You turn into a small alien that must kill anyone to become that player’s chosen character and go on to collect those nuggets. If everyone has turned into those slimy, not very cute creatures, then the big boy monster wins.

Movement is key, yet does not always feel right. Running around has a fun speed to it, yet jumping on the other hand, weirdly feels heavy, especially the double jump. If an award went to the worst jump in gaming history, it would be Vicious Circle.

Lacking levels hurts, but the ones available have a neat, simple design. Each map sets itself apart by its layout and personality. Nothing too fancy, but a delightful touch.

Colors explode onto the screen with neon lights and bright character costumes. While the palette is gorgeous, not everything matches that level due to some watered down textures. Only once I observed this, but items in the world had some obvious pop-ins that distracted from the beauty of the scenery.

Customization hits the basic requirements with character skins, emotes, and anything else one would expect. The basket of cosmetics holds plenty to bring all four mercs to life. It might seem setting the bar low, but it does a job well done.

A wide variety of challenges under gameplay, character, event, and special categories make leveling up easier. Going through the ranks unlocks more cosmetic items, but nothing too tasteful that made me want to go through each weekly.

The developers have promised more content updates, and it seems the plans can bring more life to this somewhat lifeless multiplayer title. Lacking in content, a good feel for the gameplay, and not hitting the mark for its premise makes this a dud. A $20 price tag is tempting, so read up on updates until it is safe to put in your credit card information.

Score: 4/10

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Header image via Rooster Teeth

Video Game Review: Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Taking a step away from a franchise’s formula can be healthy to ensure nothing in the future gets too stale for fans. In this case, the collaboration between Machine Games and Dishonored creators Arkane ended up being the wrong choice. Youngblood has plenty of great ideas that are not compatible with Wolfenstein’s DNA.

Taking place in the 80s, Soph and Jess, twin daughters of series protagonist B.J., go off to Nazi-infested Paris with their friend Abbey in hopes to find their missing father. The girls discover the current plans of the Fourth Reich and take action to stop it. This story happens to be one of the only redeeming qualities as it sets up the future of this world.

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One of the many collectibles found in the world.

The coop experience is the only way to go on this one. Selecting either sister only makes a cosmetic and starting weapon difference, other than that it does not matter. While it is built for two friends, or random people, to join together to kill Nazis, the servers prevent a consistent playthrough. My friend disconnected continuously randomly or had his game freeze. Thankfully my end was steady with a glorious 100+ FPS.

When playing you can pep signal your sister, giving the AI/player a boost. Like the upgrades, use coins to purchase new signs. Each one has a life-saving purpose, making it one of the few additions that feels welcome.

Double trouble for Nazis is good and bad. If your companion is down, a revive or sacrificing a shared-life brings them back. Shared-lives allow for a freebee to avoid death and continue the fight. Losing all of the extra lives and dying leads to a major setback in a mission as checkpoints are almost nonexistent.

A disconnect for a cooperative experience comes from not picking up loot for both players. I find a chest with money, and my friend needs to open it too, or he misses out. I understand separately collecting certain items like ammo if one needs it and the other does not, but at times it felt frustrating as one person gained things the other missed.

Playing with an AI sister will be painful, trust me as I had to finish by myself. The intelligence is low as its response time to enemies or me needing a revive is erratic. At times, it helped me right away while other dangerous situations my robot of a twin felt like standing in the middle of gunfire enjoying the sun. The slightly redeeming quality is that she can teleport to you, which is also inconsistent.

Missions given need to be transported to and from with metro maps. The fast traveling system is required to get from one activity to another, making this experience loading screen hell. If enemies are nearby -even though they cannot reach you- leads to the inability to get to the destination. This system needed to be more streamlined to avoid unnecessary loading screens and walking around a map to find the fast travel station.

Actions are random side activities that pop up from Abbey notifying about something happening in the area. These are overly repetitive and lack of reward. Just the press of a button or kill a few Nazis then it is over.

The RPG system of leveling up is a mixed bag. On the one hand, the skill trees and upgrades to weapons using experience (for skill tree) or coins (money for weapons) is empowering and meaningful. The other hand, the enemies feel to overpowered if they are a higher level, forcing upon side missions and activities rather than moving forward with the narrative.

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Enemies have a variety of weakness depending on the ammo your gun uses. The idea gives extra strategy, yet feels offputting in a Wolfenstein game. It gets in the way of the flow of combat as I frantically switch weapons for certain foes. Some tougher Nazis and robots, especially bosses, are sponges soaking in damage without a care in the world.

Despite the annoying to kill Nazis, it is a blast using the variety of weapons. Machine Games manages to continue its excellent combat even if it is fumbled by the new mechanics.

Exploration for collectibles and supplies is worth the time spent. Finding gear certainly helps during the fight. Collectibles can be fun like some concept art or discovering documents or audio logs to flesh out the lore of this world can be fascinating.

Music lacks substance, especially when the 80s has so much to offer. The styled disco tunes play lightly and add nothing during the action.

Microtransactions are in this narrative-driven game, for some reason. If you wish to not complete daily/weekly challenges, that are weirdly placed, or kill Nazis while completing other objectives, then using real money can earn gold to upgrade. I can let it slide as I felt it was never necessary to spend extra cash for a cosmetic item or to better my power of slaughtering racists.

Superb gunplay, eccentric characters, and an exciting story remain strong; however, Youngblood adds a lot of new elements take away from its core traits. The gameplay loop has always been repetitive for the series, but this manages to spoil it with halfbaked ideas. Not a terrible game, especially for $29.99 (US) price, but not worth the money, so go play the previous three titles and ignore this weird cooperative spin-off.

Score: 5/10

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Video Game Review: My Friend Pedro

Devolver Digital has a distinctive personality to their games, unlike most companies in the industry. Their latest side-scrolling shooter, My Friend Pedro, highlights the brains behind the studio. This action-packed title is a little treat that went above and beyond my expectations, which will rival everything else coming out for the rest of the year.

The unnamed protagonist wakes up in a basement of a building owned by Mitch the Butcher, a high ranking man in a dangerous crime organization. A magical banana named Pedro guides the masked killing machine to help him through his journey to eliminate this organization from the city. A psychedelic, delightful narrative that flies by without staying around longer than it needs.

This 2D side scroller seems straightforward enough until I got deeper into the depths of its campaign. Initially starting with parkour and shooting, more mechanics get introduced after a chunk of progression. Once it began to feel repetitive with its massive waves of enemies, a new trick was thrown in for more complex gameplay with vehicles, traps, and plenty of new enemies.

To enhance the gameplay. Focus puts the game into slow motion for any situation. Along with dodging, a lot of tactics get piled on for a challenging experience. I only played on average, the easiest difficulty, and I had my fair share of moments where I had to rethink how I played to get past an obstacle.

The movement is fluid and feels right with every jump, roll, and swing. Wall jumping and some other moves took time to feel settled, but I enjoyed the journey of learning how to maneuver within the world.

Boss battles are far and few between the many levels, yet when they arrive, it is a blast to tackle. Each principal opponent to fight has something new to the table that feels different from the rest.

Finishing any level grants you a score based on time completion, enemies killed, and other bonuses. Depending on the number of points earned, a rank appears. Nothing really happens, but for players who are hungry to improve upon their score, then this is for you, but I was not a fan of this arcade-esque system.

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Level design is tight to flow with each step without any confusion. I am dumb, so I got lost on what to do for brief moments, but that rarely happened. The linear direction enhanced the intense gunfights while feeling lacking in any optional activities. Collectibles or other optional activities would give a lot more substance to the experience.

The best aspect of the levels is the length. Pacing here hits perfectly to never have a lull in the gameplay. I could easily hop in and out for short bursts of fun or can go on a binge with large chunks of my day flying by as I shot criminals for my magical banana friend.

A particular style makes this a standout title from anything else in years. The aesthetic and colors pop to make every moment enjoyable. A lot of the characters and environments repeat too much, but the graphics and shortly lived story makes these issues less annoying.

The music never stops in the best way possible. The beats are straight out of a nightclub that goes strangely well with the brutal violence. The flow is already flawless, but the neverending tunes make it all that much more fun as I went around gunning down every baddie in sight.

This $20 adventure is full of surprises to keep itself from getting stale. While it lacks in content in the game and no endgame at all, the price and amount of joy, I had made up its flaws. A well-written story with plenty of twists, yet I felt voice acting would have made the humor land harder, but the tongue-in-cheek writing still put a smile on my face.

Score: 9/10

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