Video Game Review: Rage 2

The unlikely sequel to Rage got my interest due to its surprising announcement and the collaboration between id Software and developers of Just Cause, Avalanche Studios. Having Avalanche’s experience in open world chaos and the minds over at id software which created the first person shooter genre, it sounded like the perfect combination of developers. Instead, Rage 2 delivers on the gunplay and not much else.

Set 30 years later, the world has slightly rebuilt itself, but still struggles against various bandit factions and the powerful Authority who want their power back. Walker, the last ranger, joins the remaining resistance to defeat the Authority and their leader General Cross. A typical story of fighting back an evil powerhouse with some interesting characters, and not much substance.

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While the narrative leaves plenty to be desired, the amount of context was given to help people like myself who never played the original title is impressively well done.

The first thing you do when starting up the game is to select a male or female Walker, which is utterly pointless in a game with no dialog choices, no customization, and no third person option.

The characters have some interesting characteristics, but due to dull writing and passable voice acting, I could not find anything in my heart to care for these people. When there should be humor or dramatic beats, I felt nothing seeing this adventure play out between the heroes and villains.

While the open world offers a variety of environments with a generous amount of space, not much substance can be found. Bandit camps, races, bounties, and other activities are available everywhere, but everything feels so bland and lifeless. Yes, this a post-apocalyptic universe, some liveliness to the side missions to allow for more motivation to complete them. The one benefit to exploring the wasteland is to find gear, materials, and money to upgrade Walker.

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Gunplay remains excellent, which is no surprise. After my run through, I only unlocked a handful of guns because most weapons can be opened by exploring to find ARKS that will give new abilities or weapons. The alternate fires and different feels to each new piece to my arsenal felt perfect as I gunned down every enemy in my path.

Abilities have a wide variety that makes a significant impact on the gameplay. Powers like overdrive which enhance your damage and healing capabilities or shatter which kinetically blasts foes not only assist greatly in combat but makes the game that much more fun.

Upgrading weapons, vehicles, and abilities can be done with feltrite, a crystal that can heal and be used as a form of currency to unlock ways to make Walker more powerful. Other attributes must be unlocked by completing objectives for key allies, who each have their own skill trees. Every time I unlocked anything, it felt meaningful by how much it can alter gameplay to enhance my enjoyment and survival out in the wasteland.

Getting around can be done by fast traveling to major cities or driving. The driving is horrendously clunky and can be worse depending on the vehicle. Too many of the cars feel either too light or heavy. On top of the transportation that gets stale quickly, the camera often times freaks out and makes everything that much more awkward while trying to traverse this massive landscape.

Moving on foot feels much more fluid and comfortable. Think of DOOM in its speed and mobility. If the map were not so big, then I would have a lot more fun running to each point.

Using a GPS to track a location or objective is the most basic mechanic in vast open worlds, yet most of the time the purple line did not follow until I had to turn it off and on to start moving towards my destination.

The gameplay is quite accessible with tutorials that come up briefly to show the ropes on how to use specific guns or abilities. While this is useful and does not get in the way of the overall flow, other tips that pop up to deliver information on new found activities feel excessive at times while disrupting the game.

Enemies have little variety, but the few types do require altering strategies slightly, making them more attractive than generic bandits. When a lot of opponents come up in larger battles, then the combat gets much more engaging. The best comes during the boss fights, which feel inconsistent in their difficulty, but I had plenty of enjoyment with these challenging foes. Setting the game to hard hits perfectly between challenging and fair.

The AI is also inconsistent with their behavior. Sometimes I saw smart strategies play out, other times they would charge until someone died, while the last percentage of the population would stand there, allowing me to shoot them in the head.

Interacting with NPCs to trade or for missions can get tedious. Traders and Walker have the same exchange every time the two come in contact. Other times I have found trying to talk to a supporting character to advance the story, and they will not respond for a short, yet annoying amount of time.

The color palette is vibrant with neon colors but gets pulled down by the dreary world of copy and pasted buildings and the mediocre graphics. At times the game looks gorgeous, while other times objects look muddy and not appropriately textured.

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While the visuals are a letdown, the animations are far worse. Lip syncing and facial animations are painful to look at, especially since so many interactions are so close to people’s faces.

Technical problems weigh the experience down even further. Persistent stuttering comes in and out throughout my entire time playing. Objects popping in too late happened a handful of times. The biggest occurrence was a constant glitch of characters speaking, but no dialog could be heard. If you decide to pick this title up, turn on subtitles. Other times the audio would just come in late when I was lucky.

The idea of Rage 2 sounds amazing with id Software and Avalanche’s portfolios being so reputable, yet none of the brilliant ideas were exercised enough to make this the colorful, charismatic shooter that it had claimed. By the first game’s unenthusiastic reception, that should have been a warning sign for everyone that this sequel would not be worthy either.

Score: 5/10

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Video Game Review: Days Gone

E3 can have its moments where a developer showcases their project, and it happens to be nothing like the product shown. Days Gone happens to be that title. This was my most anticipated game for 2019, and I have been let down by this miserable experience with a cookie cutter open world game that has little to no substance.

The world has become overrun by an infection that turns people into zombies, sorry, BendStudio has coined the term “Freakers.” Deacon and his biker club buddy William “Boozer” plan on heading up North for a fresh start away from other people and the Freaker infestation, along the way they get sidetracked and must prepare for a more extended amount of time than initially planned. This sets them on a path of conflict with rival factions and having to work with allies to survive. On top of that, Deacon has an unbearable journey to find out what happened to his wife that takes far too long to get to the point.

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The narrative stumbles every step of the way with overly dramatic moments with characters that nobody playing will know right away or have objectives that waste time. The game starts off with a long-winded cut scene that does not make any impact because everyone has had zero time to develop, but I guess drama needs to happen at some point, so let us jump head first into the chaos. Instead of a 30 or so hour campaign, this should be cut in half due to the amount of filler and overabundant amount of plot points.

Transitions between cutscenes to gameplay are rough. The editing does not feel seamless, and loading screens appear for no apparent reason. Sometimes in the middle of a scene, a loading screen will appear to disrupt the flow of what is happening. Most of the loading does not take a long time, but on some occasions, a long wait must be endured.

The personalities are abundant and feel like individuals without feeling cluttered with too many people to interact with. Sadly, nobody is that compelling, especially the protagonist. Deacon is an illogical man who is way too inconsistent and contradictory with his actions and words. Sam Witwer who plays Deacon overacts too often, and the rest of the cast have their acting issues but are much more stable in delivering their lines. Some of the acting problems could occur from poor writing and possibly just as poor directing since some people yell or speak softly at the wrong moments. If freakers are nearby and Deacon says everyone needs to stay quiet, then he is the one who ends up screaming always.

The tone feels like a day time soap opera with its overly dramatic beats that never stop. Even the music feels out of place by being too over the top or giving weird vibes in areas that should not have any music.

Much of the gameplay relies on riding a motorcycle to get around the vast environment. The bike is fun to drift with, but riding feels off with the bike’s physics and mobility.

The bike is like another character who is your child that needs taking care of at all times. Finding fuel or parts repair the bike to keep the engine running. Getting upgrades feels worthwhile, but any cosmetics purchased will feel like a waste of resources.

Deacon can get new abilities by three skill trees or finding a shot that injects him with either better health, stamina, or survival vision. The skills varied from melee, ranged, and survival. New attributes significantly turn the tables when situations get difficult. Out of everything done in Days Gone, upgrading the protagonist is one that is not ruined.

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Combat can either be ranged or melee. The guns have a weight that feels nice to shoot, especially some of the heavier weapons like shotguns. Using melee may come in handy, but it is painful to use. Trying to guide Deacon with the left analog stick and smash R2 to hit any Freaker or crazed survivor is unnecessarily clunky with some terrible animations.

Enemies can be taken down using stealth. Just like most other games, hiding behind tall bushes and other methods of staying out of sight might seem generic, but it works well. Going around with a silent weapon or takedowns will bring anyone down immediately. The only issue runs into the inconsistently moronic AI who either cannot spot you even if you are crouched directly in front of them or they spot you instantly, but this won’t be the only issue with the dumb foes you will meet in this world.

To spot materials for crafting or other supplies, you can use your survival vision. Think of every other game post-Assassin’s Creed, and that is what you get. A magical sight that highlights what you need for objectives or survival. The overly used mechanic goes away too quickly unless you take your time to find upgrades, but that will take up many hours to get this ability to become efficient.

In the beginning, the world feels full of interactive items and mechanics that can make for an exciting survival experience. After a few hours, everything starts to show its true colors with how repetitive every task and obstacle is out in this North Pacific landscape.

Activities from doing jobs for camp members, clearing out infestations, and other side tasks have their rewards, but everything is a slow burn to gain much out of these optional objectives. Camps build trust levels to unlock new gear, but that takes a lot of time to build and then you need credits which can be earned by completing missions or turning in items that these bases can use.

Enemies have plenty of different types from various humans with varying levels of armor or weaponry to the kinds of freakers that are waiting to eat your flesh. The diversity does not get utilized well with new freakers getting introduced out of nowhere and feeling forced rather than an organic evolution of tougher threats. Other survivors wanting to kill Deacon take too many bullets to die unless they are shot in the head. I understand if an undead creature takes a lot of bullets, but a regular dude with no shirt should not take that much damage to kill.

Weather and time of day make a huge difference in anyone’s ability to see or hear Deacon while also radically changing the behavior of the living and infected. Snow and rain storms come in and out naturally while changing the look of the environment in refreshing ways.

Visually, Oregon looked pretty in this post-apocalyptic scenery. Nothing took my breath away with the graphics, but it did ease some of the misery down a notch.

Completing the story has some endgame objectives for other conclusions to people’s individual stories while still having room to complete any side activities that were missed. The post-game gives an extra boost in playability, sadly any urge I have has been beaten out due to this wretched journey.

Technical issues here do not generally ruin the experience, but make it that much more painful to play through. Sometimes the game would slow down, not significant frame drops, but enough to be noticeable especially on a PS4 PRO. The most consistent issue comes from lip and audio syncing. Eventually, every cutscene became people’s mouths moving then the dialog coming in later.

Audio comes in at many different levels. Sometimes characters sound too loud or too quiet when they are talking normally. This along with Deacon’s need to comment on everything happening makes it impossible to hear what anyone is saying without subtitles, a requirement to understand what is happening in this occasionally incoherent narrative.

PlayStation had a ride of successfully compelling singleplayer titles, and this is their biggest dud of the current generation. Full of uninspiring ideas from the bland collectibles, dull story, and inconsistent animations. Days Gone fails its premise that was shown during E3 all those years ago and goes beyond with its painful narrative with the worst protagonist I have had to play in recent memory.

Score: 3/10

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Video Game Review: Mortal Kombat 11

Yet another giant franchise that never dies, but unlike most, Mortal Kombat continues to outdo previous titles with a consistent experience. Accessible for new players or people who suck at fighting games like myself, I was able to enter without playing much of the last few games and enjoy my time. While 2019 is only a few months in, NetherRealm’s latest entry in this fighting series makes it into my top tier of favorite games.

Taking place after the last release, Raiden’s time manipulation has dire consequences. The Keeper of Time, Kronika, wants revenge and a plan to restore time, but the protector of the Earthrealm along with its occupants will defend history by defeating the time controlling antagonist. A short, sweet, and cinematic experience that gave me time with most of the roster of fighters to get a handle on their different playstyles. While I was lost in what was happening during the first hour plus, due to smart writing and context, I was able to get a grip on the narrative where I was able to appreciate this world. The characters all felt alive with their rich history and dynamic chemistry with one another which extended my experience with this cheesy, yet compelling story.

Much of the voice acting hit the tone perfectly and made each of the diverse personalities come alive. Ronda Rousey as Sonya Blade was one of the few downsides. Ideally, she fit perfectly for the character, but her acting was at times mediocre or at her worst moments felt flat with a lack of emotion. Everyone else had much more consistent line delivery.

Each fighter’s gameplay feels distinctive that separates everyone from the other. The move lists were a mix of complicated and straightforward allowing for someone as bad as me to play while having room for veterans to grow their skill set. I had to do homework to find the most accessible characters to use when fighting my friends, but that extra leg work made it worth it as I started to learn more.

Some adjustments have been made compared to previous iterations. The defense and offensive bars have been moved separately and get used by specific attacks or interactions with the map. These UI changes make the game much more intuitive when facing friends or random players.

The most significant change steps away from X-ray moves towards fatal blows. When on your last legs, a special move unlocks to deal extreme damage to your opponent and giving a chance to win the fight. The special moves take aspects of the old X-rays while maintaining the brutality. X-rays happen at random with critical blows so anyone missing those will have plenty of moments to see bones snapping into organs.

Fatalities never disappoint as always with creatively gruesome deaths to all of the iconic characters along with the newer faces that have been added. Each character has two, one of which must be unlocked. I wish the variety increased compared to other Mortal Kombats. I still feel they always give a low amount when so much more can be done with this iconic mechanic.

Similar to fatalities, the brutalities are powerful ways to finish your foe. The biggest difference is that these moves happen as the last hit of the match which instantly kills the enemy. Since I am terrible at the fighting genre, having this alternative grants me the ultimate way to finish off my friends.

Each stage has its own identity and works perfectly when fighting. Some intractable objects can be used to maneuver across the map or use as a weapon. However, the number of interactions within the arena should have a lot more variety. Rather than a game-changing feature, it feels more like a gimmick at times. Some of the weapons used for special attacks are worth it like taking a jackhammer into someone’s skull is never a problem in the world’s most brutal fighter.

Both Klassic Tower, yes everything in the world of Mortal Kombat starts with a “k,” and Towers of Time are modes to unlock plenty of rewards while fighting through a tower full of enemies. The AI increasingly get more difficult after each win, but succeeding in the challenge is worth the time and effort. Compared to other game types that involve fighting AI, this is one of the most fun, especially when it means avoiding replaying the story a countless amount of times.

Multiplayer involves regular fights or King of the Hill, which consists of a line of players battling to become king. The king fights the next person in the queue and continues until that person is dethroned. A cycle of trying to maintain a streak of wins is fun, but if you are in line, then you have to wait and watch until your turn comes up. I found myself waiting more than playing and would rather face people in a standard match.

Rewards are given with any task from campaign progress, winning any type of match, daily challenges, and discovering items in the Krypt, an elaborate maze full of danger and puzzles with plenty of chests to unlock using koins. While many of the unlocks take a long time, especially cosmetic items, the time flies with all of these diverse ways of gaining money and other materials needed to get that new skin or unlock the second fatality.

Microtransactions can be used, but have never felt restricting. Anything that involves real money only circles around something cosmetic. As long as nobody gets an advantage, studios can monetize away for all I care.

Kustomization offers several presets for each fighter or the option to make a new loadout is up to the player. I stuck with the presets by modifying them myself. Alterations to a character include costumes, weapons, augments for upgrades, and move sets to personalize anyone to your liking. The kustomization settings may seem basic, but for what it is, this mode has plenty to offer.

While I found NetherRealm to continue their impressive upgrades to the visual aspect, I did find one inconsistency. Hair often rendered poorly into a blurry mess; however, this would only last for a short time, but enough to make it noticeable. Besides that issue, the rest of the game manages to balance stunning masterpiece and horrifyingly violent with its diverse settings and plentiful ways to murder others.

Mortal Kombat 11 has its issues with not being able to stretch itself out into a more in-depth game but makes up for its flaws in almost every way. A generous story with multiple endings and selections of characters in certain fights allow for some replayability. Combat continues to improve with an intuitive system while having room for more advanced players to rip the noobs in half. NetherRealm prove themselves to be the kings of the genre yet again.

Score: 9/10

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Video Game Review: World War Z

Cooperative zombie games seem impossible to beat. Gathering friends to take on hordes of the undead makes for a fun task while blowing away the hundreds of bodies that charge you to eat your flesh. World War Z is another in that genre, but instead of being outstanding like other titles, the game delivered is a generic shooter with a lot of elements that fall flat.

Rather than basing itself off of the excellent book by Max Brooks, the studio decided to take after the horrendous movie with Brad Pitt. Yes, the film that had the zombies run together like water to pile on any victims that get in the way. The game goes further towards a style similar to other titles like it by having special infected enemies. Think of the average chargers and hunter-like undead from Left 4 Dead, just fewer types.

The only similarity to the novel is that each campaign takes place in a different location on Earth with new protagonists. Each of the four stories has three chapters, except for Japan which will get added at a later date. A variety of tasks from defending points and escorting survivors carry through each section until the next phase, or escape occurs. The missions become repetitive, but with a few friends, it becomes a lot more enjoyable.

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The voice acting and writing for the narrative is not only useless, but it is also painful to endure. While most of the game is average, this aspect truly is atrocious. The voice acting ranges from terrible to bearable, while the writing is consistently poor. The tone does not do the narrative any justice since the drama is not compelling and the comedy is embarrassing and out of place.

Before loading into a campaign, first, each of the four players can choose a character and class. The classes seem to not make a massive difference besides their starting loadout of weapons and equipment, but leveling them up for new skills is empowering while requiring currency that is earned after each chapter. Oddly enough, when selecting a character, you can steal other people’s role chosen. If someone is picked, you can snag that character, and the game swaps the two, so you now have your friend’s chosen person.

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Combat feels bland, especially with the guns. However, shooting a massive horde of flesh-eaters never gets old, only when there are a lot of them. The explosions feel like firecrackers besides using the rocket launcher. Other than that nothing feels satisfying when shooting or blowing up.

Guns can get leveled up like classes do as each weapon gets more use. The upgrades consist of classes of each firearm. Take a basic assault rifle, with enough experience, a new variation with upgrades stats and attachments unlocks for purchase. Rather than customizing, the gun will have a preset that can be bought. While I wish for personalizing my weapons, this system is easy and rewarding.

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PVP is an option, full of the typical game types you find on any other shooter like deathmatch and king of the hill. Every mode pits two teams against one another with zombies in the mix, minus the special infected. Different classes with new loadouts can be selected that differ from the story mode. Other than some differences, this is something I dived into for a taste then went back with friends to play through any of the campaigns.

Updates will benefit the experience since private matches need to be added for parties under four players. Patching up the potholes and placing more content on top of the filled gaps. In a year, this could be much better, I am rooting for the developers to turn it around.

Saber Interactive’s World War Z is a generic option for people needing to scratch that itch for a cooperative zombie adventure that costs less than the average $60 title. While it has plenty of issues, it is easy to pick up and makes up for its flaws with its teamwork based gameplay. Turn on a harder difficulty and grab some friends to have the right amount of relaxation and strategy. If you don’t have friends to play with, then pass on this one.

Score: 5/10

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Video Game Review: Metro: Exodus

4A Games brings an anticlimactic conclusion to their Metro trilogy. Artyom’s latest adventure was something I looked forward to; instead, I am beyond disappointed in what has been delivered. While the first title had its issues, it still managed to be a thrilling experience, Last Light launched itself into the sky with its massive improvements, and Exodus plummets into the ground, smashing its face as a mediocre game.

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A glimpse at the game’s photo mode

Artyom’s dream of heading out of the Metro, out of Moscow, and into the great beyond to find a place that he, his wife Anna, and his band of misfit survivors can live in peace away from radiation, monsters, and bandits. A ride of predictable twists and moments that should have made me cry, but I found myself rolling my eyes until I could move forward into the next chapter.

The series has always had Artyom as a silent protagonist, who worked in 2010 original and reasonably well in the 2013 sequel, but in 2019, I felt his tacky silence hindered interactions with the other characters and the overall drive of the narrative. Impactful moments feel awkward when people speak to Artyom and respond like he said something snarky or insightful.

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One of the many glitches

The writing and some of the voice acting treated me like I was dumb with its reveals and twists throughout the narrative. Characters being surprised over new issues despite the apparent foreshadowing that nobody in The Order, Artyom’s gang of survivors, could see coming. Either these people are dumb, or the game thinks its players will be too moronic to understand what is happening.

Survival gets revamped in the Metro series by including a customization system that allows for guns to not only be upgraded but to change their class like pistols transforming into sniper rifles. The mechanic allowed for plenty of freedom and made me feel stronger as I progressed through the story, especially when I found the items myself when exploring.

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Weapons have each unique qualities that shoot differently while needing some management to stay in perfect condition for the time to kill some bandits or creatures. Water, dust, and other elements in the scenery jam guns and decrease the stats. Having to clean guns only at specific workbenches adds to the survival experience. I felt worried plenty of times when trying to unjam a machine gun when enemies have swarmed me.

Exploration has plenty to offer for crafting supplies, upgrades, and diaries from strangers who had died. Each major area of the game has a dense open environment to explore for side quests and camps to raid; this is the first in the series that lets itself give the player some variety in gameplay. The freedom given in these segments feels more shallow than freeing with its lack of activity and lack of side quests. Those optional objectives are a waste of time by feeling more like an errand rather than an adventure.

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Each primary environment has unique qualities like dynamic weather, enemies, and vehicles to traverse the landscapes. Cars and boats were limited to a few but were enjoyable using rather than running everywhere like previous titles. The weather did make a significant impact on gameplay but served to make the world feel alive compared to its predecessors.

Some tacked on additions leave Exodus as an empty shell. A new resting mechanic to change the time of day and heal Artyom to full health never gets utilized. Changing the day sounds brilliant due to enemy behavior differs at night vs. day, but I never got many chances to utilize resting outside of the tutorial that introduced how it works.

The AI worked inconsistently with their strategies and intelligence. Bandits would stand still or out of nowhere become surprisingly intelligent. I never knew when the enemies would attack with a plan or with a death sentence on their mind.

Random occurrences were possible for surprise attacks or interesting interactions with various NPCs in the open sections. Like most of the game, too little was done, so these events happened rarely. The few times I did see something interesting, it was worthwhile with survivors having their own motives and goals.

Like everything in my time with the latest Metro, something was inconsistent or could have been done much better, in this case, it was the animations and graphics. Many times the forests or ruined cities looked incredible by their scale and beautiful attention to detail. Plenty of times, especially with interactions with people in this world, they appeared robotic by their poor facial features or the odd ways they would interact with the world.

Endings could differ from good or bad depending on moral decisions. Instead of impacting choices, the only option given is whether or not you killed surrendering enemies or innocent people. No interactions were allowed other than ignoring or killing them. Of course, I got the bad conclusion for being a psychopathic murderer which lead me to a satisfying ending, even if it was “bad.”

Exodus was one of my top anticipated games, and it will leave 2019 as one of the most disappointing — a dull narrative with braindead supporting characters with a silent protagonist with technical issues and flat additions. Despite the many glitches that occurred were minor, they happened too frequently that hurt my experience, especially the many failed launches and frame drops.

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If you need a survival experience, play the other Metro entries and ignore Exodus.

Score: 5/10

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All screenshots and videos taken on PC

Video Game Review: Resident Evil 2 Remake

Capcom digs in deep to recreate the classic that brought the undead franchise to life, Resident Evil 2. I was too young to play the original, which made going into this reimagining of the iconic game gave me the Resident Evil experience I have always known while providing something refreshing compared to the previous games in the series I have been able to get my hands on. A must buy for both newcomers and veterans of the ’98 release.

Split between two narratives, Claire Redfield and Leon Kennedy go through Racoon City during a zombie outbreak to uncover the mystery and survive. Two separate campaigns that weave in and out of each other on a thrilling journey. Both had plenty of differences to give a fresh playthrough despite having to play the game multiple times. With the second runs and going through the game to get every goodie waiting to award players for completing various challenges, this is Resident Evil 2 at its finest with its storytelling.

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While both stories filled themselves with intensity and intriguing mysteries, some issues were present. A continuity problem occurred when zombies would die from one bullet to the head, but in gameplay, they die after many shots into their brains, it drove me insane despite being so small. The other, more significant, involved the few scenes with Leon and Claire. Awkward chemistry that felt misplaced making for some unnecessarily cringy moments.

Improved dialog and voice acting benefits both the main playthroughs and the B scenarios, however sometimes things fall flat. If you played any RE title then you know how goofy, campy, and odd it can get. Some of which works here, but not all of it with some dull line delivery and confusing dialog choices that the writers made. Most of the cast works consistently, but I found Edward Badaluta (Leon Kennedy) to give some weak lines, granted some of which were pretty painful lines.

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An engine change is not the only difference for old school players. Map layouts, voice acting, dialog, and content all bring a refreshing take while maintaining the main narrative beats and moments that fans remember fondly. While I cannot compare the two versions, but many of the alterations made for a perfect modernization that makes for one of the best remakes that have come out in this wave of recreating favorites from people’s childhoods.

Navigation remains an important facet that continues to be confusing in typical RE fashion, but a user-friendly user-interface makes for a tedious and fun experience. Along with key items displaying a checkmark to discard allows for easier inventory management while not losing the special aspect that organized people adore so much.

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Combat feels better than ever with plenty of weapons to utilize to fight off rotting zombies and mutated monsters. A balance of challenge makes the survival feel fair but gives those worrying emotions to save enough ammo to make it into the next area. Enemies, especially those shambling corpses, take plenty of hits to die, but each bullet landing does not get boring.

Battling bosses may seem like any other game in the franchise but continue their irresistible design. Nightmarish monsters with all of the puss and veins that I remember so fondly from other entries.

Plenty of options allow anyone to play the game they want, but being passive or aggressive has their pros and cons. Either running away to leave any unwanted threats to come back later or gunning down every flesh-eater will be enjoyable, but excruciating when that plan backfires. A blend that gives some freedom in a linear game.

Puzzles manage to not over complicate things while delivering a different taste of gameplay in the middle of all the chaos. Creative obstacles that blend trickiness and being clever.

So much detail got put in to make my head spin. The way zombies get shot or stabbed makes for the juiciest and disturbing body deterioration animations I have seen. Every nook and cranny has something to find to flesh out the world or find a new item to help survive against any creature lurking in the dark. Survival horror at its best should reward a player for taking the wrong route to stare down danger in the face and discover potential caches, a staple in the franchise that never gets old.

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New survival elements have been added to give a new challenge that needs some adapting towards. Knives used can fight enemies, but better yet, can help shove away anything off of you when grabbed. The life-saving blades deplete in quality before finally breaking, so use wisely. Adding up the organization of the inventory, boarding up windows, and wisely using ammo, makes for one of the best survival-horror games I have ever played.

Two timed minigames, 4th Survivor and Tofu Survivor, give the most elite players a challenge after completing Claire and Leon’s nightmare of an adventure. 4th Survivor puts the player in the shoes of a member of Umbrella’s security team who must go through the entire map as fast as possible to escape. A strenuous test of speed, inventory management, and navigation, the perfect minigame for the hardcore players. The tofu minigame parodies the other minigame by having knife-wielding oversized tofu. Both standing as excellent additions to the already compelling narrative.

While nothing groundbreaking gets done, Resident Evil 2 makes for the perfect love letter to any type of fan of the series in this stunningly beautiful remake that was built from the ground up. With different situations, heart pumping minigames, and plenty of unlockable gear and costumes, this is the definitive experience that anyone would want out of this series.  While any mode played can be completed in minutes to a few hours, Capcom crafted a flawless way to get me coming back for more in this faithful recreation.

Score: 9/10

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Images and videos captured on a PS4 Pro

Anthem Demo Impressions: A Hit or Miss?

Bioware announced Anthem, and I immediately turned sour with my thoughts on their new project, mostly because of its relation to games like Destiny and The Division. Seeing gameplay I thought the Iron Man-like flying looked awesome and the graphics looked stunning, but still was not sold on the idea. After playing the open demo this past weekend, I can say that Anthem is a worthy purchase, but I still have my doubts despite these positive feelings.

The demo took me three missions with some talking to NPCs around the hub world, Fort Tarsis. The Fort offers a market, a storage area, and places to talk to NPCs for expeditions, the term the game uses for missions/quests. A bland area that requires a painfully slow walk to speak with a few people then get into the Javelin, the exosuit used in the core gameplay, to start off on some adventures, the real meat of Anthem.

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To give Bioware credit, Fort Tarsis as the center hub will be different in the full release. I hope they take consideration in its purpose and usefulness to players by letting other plays be apart of this experience and give some activities in the area. Also, please allow sprinting here.

A glimpse into the story was shown within these three quests, but the story felt confusing by being thrown into this world with no context. An intriguing narrative about retrieving an artifact that distorts reality. Some dialog was chosen, but those choices were pointless. Hopefully the characters, decisions, and narrative can reach the heights that these developers have achieved in the past and not another Andromeda.

Before starting a mission, a screen pops up to allow choosing an expedition, getting friends in your squad, and setting up your suit for combat. The UI needs some maintenance but is easy enough to navigate. The invite system for friends needs some attention due to some struggle my friends and I had trying to get everyone, but it was a brief struggle.

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The Javelin class everyone starts off with is the Ranger, the balanced exosuit that lends itself as the introduction to how the game works. At level 12 you get to choose one additional suit, I decided on the heavy class titled Colossus. The unlocking system might change in full release, but obtaining one every few levels seems to work well since leveling up feels fair as of now.

Customizing the loadout and Javelin has plenty of depth to explore. Javelins can be altered with their plating, style, and colors. Some of which can be bought, crafted, or found in missions, same goes for weapons and equipment. Before getting into the action, this is one of the best elements that Anthem has to offer, I hope the extension of the customization does not feel too limited on release.

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Once in a mission, a lot has to be taken in from combat to traversing the world. Initially, I hated the flying due to how clunky it felt, but after a while, I fell in love. The mechanic takes time to get used to and does need some improvement, especially when using a mouse, but a skill that can be mastered to fully enjoy it. Combat feels balanced with excellent gunplay, powerful equipment, and the right amount of challenge without feeling overwhelming.

Enemies found in the world range from alien creatures to robots. Every enemy felt unique in their looks and strategies. I hope this diversity is seen throughout my journey with Bioware’s sci-fi adventure because I am floored by the little I have seen already.

While playing this sci-fi RPG alone is an option, playing with two to three other friends makes the adventure that much better. Everyone using different Javelins and using teamwork to defeat giant enemies with smaller minions makes for epic battles that give satisfying rewards by the end.

Strongholds, Anthem‘s version of a raid, hold as a challenging, yet rewarding option outside of main story quests. Meant for end game content, the one featured here gave me a positive impression that makes me excited to go through each stronghold with my friends.

Expeditions have enough variety for a story that will not get old. From puzzles, only one was shown within the three missions, to boss battles, I found something to scratch every itch I felt for my time in this breathtaking world. Once completed, your squad earns medals for experience points and obtain any equipment or weapons found in combat that can be used or scrapped for resources to utilized for crafting.

Crafting is an in-depth, but simple system. Use resources to make different rarity levels of items from Common, Uncommon, Rare, Epic, and Masterwork. Each level requires more assets to create but delivers a better weapon or piece of equipment. Consumables can also be made to enhance specific attributes during a mission. An easy to use mechanic that dramatically benefits those times where finding things does not work out as well as creating.

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The economy will work on coins to buy new gear or players can use shards, the money that can be purchased as a microtransaction. Whether purchasing items with or without microtransactions will be unfair cannot be determined from the demo. In this time with the game, everything was marked 25 coins to buy. Thankfully any microtransactions sold will only contain a cosmetic item.

While many people complained about technical issues during the closed demo and some of those seeping into this weekend, I had little to no problems. Besides one crash and a few times, my frames dropped significantly, an overall smooth ride.

Bioware’s latest creation has a lot of promise and plenty of surprises up its sleeve. However, my worries still remain due to other titles similar to Anthem. Hopefully, the gameplay stays balanced enough for a challenge that does not punish players. If the loot system can continue its worthiness along with a compelling story, then this could be one of the best games of the year or one of the most disappointing. As of now, I am sold on one of the most beautiful and fun games I have played cooperatively with my friends.

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Anthem launches Feb. 22 and you can pre-order it below:

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