Video Game Review: South Park: The Fractured But Whole

One of the biggest comedic giants out there is “South Park”. If you have a vulgar sense of humor then you are probably a big fan of the show. In terms of gaming, it has had its fair share of games in the past. In 2014, Ubisoft teamed up with Trey Parker and Matt Stone to create “South Park: The Stick of Truth”. The game was a huge success that made every fan of the show so happy. It felt like the player was inside of an episode of the show. Full of the same satirical humor and the art style, it fit so perfectly. After many delays, we finally got the sequel, “South Park: The Fractured But Whole”. Does this game meet the hype and reach the high bar as did its predecessor? Well, it gets a bit complicated with the games pros and cons.

The story takes place right after the first game. The first game had the main kids including your character playing a fantasy style game. Cartman is sick of it and wants to play superheroes. So, the game stops making fun of “Lord of the Rings” and then turns to making fun of the big superhero cinematic universes that we have currently. He convinces his friends to join him to save the town from the increased crime rate in which a cat is missing. The reward for this missing cat is $100, so in any child’s mind, that is enough to start their own billion-dollar superhero movie franchise. You later discover a giant conspiracy that is set up to create a crime increase and to replace the mayor. Only you, your friends, and your farts can save the town of South Park. I love the story. There are so many things that happen that will surprise you. Personally, I enjoyed the story of the first game more, but that does not take away the writing of this game. I felt that the jokes were better in the first title. Some jokes did not work as well and even felt like it was too much. Even then, those jokes that did not work so well were only a few times. The amount of time spent to complete the story and side missions only took about 20-22 hours roughly. The story felt slower and I was waiting for things to pick up a bit more. A bit short for a $60 game, but I felt satisfied enough that I got my money’s worth.

The biggest difference in this game is the gameplay. Exploring South Park is the same as the first with even more to do. There are side quests to complete and items to collect. Side missions were weak. After finishing the game it felt good, but I wish there were more variety in side missions. Most of them just introduced the collectibles around the map to get a reward. I wish this aspect were fleshed out a lot more. The most significant change is the combat and loot system. Combat takes place with a playing field divided up by squares, while still being a turn-based style. You get to move your character to where you would like to strategically place them then choose which of three moves you would want to use. Pressing the indicated button when being hit will build up a meter for a special move. Each character has a unique move that is unique to them. Some are more useful than others, but it is fun seeing the different kinds of abilities. Each fight you get three companions so you can switch them out each battle to decide who you like the most. Most of your choices are great with only a few characters I did not enjoy playing as. If you play right, you can be tactical to stack effects to make enemies bleed or be grossed out to cause extra damage. Summoning has made a return to having a character come in to heal your whole team or deal damage to all enemies. These supportive characters that come in to be summoned are far less exciting and helpful than the first game’s summons. For some reason, there are way fewer characters to summon. “Stick of Truth” had 11, while this has only 4. I wish there were way more characters to summon to add more variety than the same couple of people. This combat is fun, but something about the simplicity of the first game made it more enjoyable. I will get into what played into making the combat less fun in a moment, but it felt like a chore sometimes. Depending on the difficulty will change your view towards the combat. I recommend playing on the medium difficulty, but you may find that to be too easy. Maybe try the hardest difficulty to give yourself a good challenge. The final act does get much harder which I enjoyed a lot. The easy portions can get a little boring. For the player, you can choose between three classes at the beginning which determines a play style and particular move set for that class. Later on, you will get more to choose from that allows you to swap out different powers. This aspect is great. Taking the class idea from the first game and expanding it.

The loot system is different. There is a linear, but useful crafting system to make items for gear, healing, and other supplements for battle. Getting the supplies to craft will take looking through openable containers, destroying objects, and buying them. I like this system, it is easy but works well. Getting gear is my biggest issue. There are artifacts that are unique that will make you and your team more powerful. This felt so unrewarding, which goes into battles becoming a chore and less fun. You can go into a big battle and get an artifact to help you. The problem is that it is not as satisfying. The first game you could have a new piece of armor or a weapon that is unique looking and to build you up. This variety of gear made it much more interesting to see what you were getting and would make you feel like you got a greater reward. I felt more powerful with getting this better gear. The artifact system did not make me excited or even feel like I was getting that much stronger.

The town has expanded overall, but still quite small. Exploring throughout South Park to find characters to interact with, take selfies with to make them a follower on social media, to find collectibles, find artifacts, and to find more costumes for your character. Like said before, all gear is useless except for certain supplements and artifacts. So, changing your costume is purely cosmetic to make yourself look cooler or funnier. While exploring the world and doing missions you will find these little puzzles in which you can have a companion to push over an object or help you over an object to get to a new room or uncover a hidden item. This is used heavily in both exploration and story missions. I got bored of this after a while. It got so annoying seeing the same animations and hearing the same little phrases after doing these puzzles so many times. The added fast traveling makes it easy to get around the map instead of walking around everywhere which can get so tedious.

Character customization is well developed and can change the game slightly. A variety of costumes with colors to change to give yourself a unique look. A character sheet that will have your religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender. Sadly, there is not a huge difference in how you identify. This can cause some battles to occur with rednecks who hate you for identifying one way or another. I wish there was more variety on this, but I still love it. Hearing them go on about wanting to hurt me for a long list of reasons. You can be a gender neutral, black, Canadian, Jew that they feel does not belong in the USA. Even if you are a white, heterosexual, American, Christian, those characters will react the same way pretty much. That is what we expect out of South Park, being as offensive as possible and I love it.

I do love this game, but it falls so short of the previous title. Lack of rewards makes it feel meaningless when you explore and win a battle. Jokes that fall flat and even dragged on made the writing feel worse than the first game. Combat can feel annoying with little enemy variety. The variety you get is not even worth it most of the time. The story is so much slower and does not have enough pay off in the end. I managed to feel satisfied, but in some aspects, I wanted more out of the game. Poor side quests that could have made the game longer and more interesting, but felt more like a chore than anything. More interesting loot that was more meaningful would be motivating to go and explore. Almost every quality is weaker than “The Stick of Truth”. “South Park: The Fractured But Whole” is fun, but was a big disappointment despite my positive feelings.

Score: 7/10

Buy the game through the link below:

Image via Ubisoft

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Video Game Review: The Evil Within 2

Better late than never to finally put out my review for “The Evil Within 2”. In 2014 the horror action shooter released the first title. The first game was fairly successful in which earned a sequel. I personally liked the first game despite its flaws in cheesy characters and clunky gameplay. What has given these games the amount of attention they have received is because of Shinji Mikami, who has directed many “Resident Evil” titles which launched one of the most popular gaming franchises around. Now let’s give a quick summary of “The Evil Within” to recap before going into the sequel. There will be spoilers, and for this game, you will need to play the first title to fully grasp the story.

Three detectives from Krimson City, Sebastian Castellanos, Joseph Oda, and Juli Kidman receive a call of a crime at Beacon Memorial Hospital. After discovering on a monitor that a ghostly man killing people, the three detectives are taken into another world. It looks like the hospital, but not quite. Sebastian, the protagonist, goes through to find out what is happening and to find his partners. Turns out he has put into STEM, an experiment run by the corporation Mobius with the mastermind behind being Ruvik, who is the main villain of the first game. STEM is meant to unify the minds of everyone in the machine. This process takes everyone connected to another world that can be manipulated by the main mind controlling everything, this is called the Core. A powerful and psychotic mind can delve everyone inside into horrors unlike anything imaginable. Ruvik takes control of the core and must be defeated for Sebastian, Joseph, and Kidman can escape. Now let’s look into the story of the sequel.

Overall, the storyline is much more simple. The first game has an ambiguous ending and the details on STEM is confusing. The story here focuses on the past of Sebastian. The first game gives some details on his past in which his daughter Lily is killed after a fire occurs in their home. Determined that there is foul play, Myra, Sebastian’s wife and a police detective too, goes missing after discovering details about their daughter’s death. The game starts with you being fired from the police department due to everyone you have gone crazy after trying to tell your coworkers the events that occurred during the first game. Kidman meets with you to reveal she has always worked for Mobius. They need Sebastian’s help to save Lily. Lily was never killed, but it turns out she was taken by Mobius to be taken into STEM. Her purity would be the perfect core in order to unify all human life into her world which would be the perfect utopia. This utopia is called Union, a small town that looks like your typical small town in the United States. Since the first game goes horribly wrong and this is a horror game, it does not turn out all that well. Somehow Lily is lost, so Sebastian goes into STEM again in order to save his child. He discovers that some force is destroying Union and creating monsters. This is Beacon all over again with this time having more weight to it since it is not only Sebastian’s life on the line. The story has a great pacing overall. The first hour starts a little slow but works so well that it does not get boring. Characters are not the strength of these games. The voice actors have changed for all recurring characters which bothered me greatly for my first few hours. After a while, I grew to appreciate the new actors. The original game had horribly cheesy acting and dialog. That does not go away in this sequel but is still a lot better. To be fair, it is expected out of the mastermind behind “Resident Evil” which is the kind of cheesy horror in the gaming industry. The villains were a lot less interesting. Some recurring monsters did not have really any background to their origins or have anything interesting to provide except for tense battles or scares. Stefano is the first major villain, a photographer who can manipulate the world around him. Easily the cheesiest character who feels like a placeholder for tension and drama. When you get to fight him later on, just like all other boss battles, it is painfully simple. I won’t dive into specific enemies later on for spoiler sakes, but there are not really any great villains. Ruvik was not an amazing villain but served a good purpose in the first game. The story has a satisfying amount of time with clocking around 15 hours. It could be more, but with how this game turns out with the story, it ends up feeling like a great amount of time to spend. Much of the story gets deeper as you find collectibles. Just like the first game they give you rich details about the Mobius, STEM, and characters. It makes you want to look around every corner to find more information. Overall, the story is the strongest point of this series. The characters and dialog can be pretty weak but does its job. Let’s transition to the most important part of any game, which is the gameplay.

I was worried about this aspect. I was hoping for something new and some fixes from the first game. Surprisingly there was a lot delivered. Union is a linear, but a somewhat open world. Some chapters of the game will lead you into very linear paths, but the first act is quite open. For the early few hours, this is awesome. Exploring is very rewarding with upgrades and supplies to help you fight. Some side missions are in the game, but there are so few that it feels almost tacked on. These side missions are nice, but I wish there were a lot more things to do in Union. Shooting has improved slightly. It feels a lot better from the previous game. Movement and the camera still suck. It just does not feel that great moving around and can be frustrating especially during intense battles. The camera is so close that it can be more annoying than adding any more horror to the game. The scares to me are just like the first game. It is intense, but not scary at all. More creepy than anything, but if you are bad at horror games, you should do fine with these games. Also, there is a crafting system in the game. You can craft ammunition and healing supplies. You do use more resources if you are not at a workbench. If you find a workbench, then you can even upgrade your weapons which has a high variety that helps make you feel more powerful. Most of these areas are in safe houses that are scattered across the map. Running across the map for objectives or safe houses do not take any time since the map is so small and linear. The difficulty should be set at casual just to get the hang of everything. These games can get tough quickly especially if you start to run low on resources. The balance of difficulty felt off to me with some parts feeling too hard or too easy, but mostly on an easy side. Now to look at how the game looks and sounds.

The sound in this game is overall great. Hearing doors slam behind you and other noises that happen when you aren’t looking are placed so well to create atmosphere and horror. The game is usually beautiful, but I did see a few textures that looked washed out and not appealing. These bad textures are few and not distracting. Plenty of moments will look stunningly beautiful and at the same time disturbing. Violent games that look great can create beauty while being in a room full of mutilated bodies. A lot more attention to detail was placed to make Union more immersive. The blend of gameplay, sound, and graphics really made me feel like this dystopian town could be a place that I could visit if STEM were real. Let’s move to conclude.

“Evil Within 2” is a beautiful, suspenseful, and dramatic game. The story of Mobius, STEM, and Sebastian’s journey are powerful. I love this world that was created and find it just as interesting as the first game. Improvements on dialog and voice acting were made. Improvements on gameplay along with some additions that made the game feel like a true sequel. Sadly, the characters are still fairly bland or even generic. The pacing felt good, but too much cat and mouse type moments. You are about to get your daughter then something happens to prevent it. This would happen so many times that it wasn’t that original and made the game longer. Some of the dialogs that were written feel weird or not directed at the actors on how to say it properly. Gameplay is still a bit clunky with some annoying moments of running or walking. The open world needs a lot more to make it feel worth it regarding side storylines and activities to make it more fun. Some touch ups on the graphics here and there would benefit the game, but this was only a few moments in which I saw that a texture looked wrong. If you liked the first game, then you will like this one. If psychological horror games that are primarily action oriented like “Resident Evil” are your desire, then you must pick these games up.

Score: 7/10

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Image via Bethesda Softworks

Star Wars Battlefront 2 Beta Impressions: Buy or no?

The original Star Wars Battlefront games are some of my all-time favorite games. Mixing various eras of Star Wars to create incredible battles. You can have Darth Vader fight Mace Windu and so many more awesome battles. In 2015, DICE had made a reboot of the series. This made me very excited because I love Star Wars and the Battlefield series. Sadly, DICE delivered a poor game that had very little content. Battlefront 2 is coming and this weekend was the beta. Is it better than the first game? Sorta, but I will dive into all that I got to experience in the beta. I did not play everything available due to time restraints on other things in my life this will not be perfect.

Regarding my subjective perspective of having fun, I will say I did have fun in the beta. I did not have any fun playing the beta or full release of the 2015 reboot. This game added a class system much like a lot of other shooter games. You have a heavy, specialist, assault, and an officer class. I wish there were more to the support classes like the officer. I did not feel like I was able to really give my team that much support in battle. I played a little bit of the specialist who is more of a sniper class, but this map on Naboo wasn’t ideal for sniping. I still liked the abilities and loadout that I was given. My main go-to were either the heavy or the regular assault which is more focused on delivering some brute force. Each class gets 3 upgrades which I was not a fan of. The ones in the beta were not the most useful, but I am sure there will be more variety in the full release. The class system does help a lot in organizing on how to play and playing as a team. There are points rewarded when you get kills or complete objectives. You can spend these points on different characters or vehicles. I  prefer games to have vehicles laying around that I can jump in. I am too used to the original Battlefronts that had dozens of tanks and aircrafts that players can dive right in. The system they have works overall. Each team gets four additional characters. Two will be heavier and powerful such as a wookie or a Clone Jumptrooper. These special characters are fun and be a powerful force on the field. Then, of course, there are the heroes and villains. The beta has Han Solo and Rey as heroes, while the villains are Darth Maul and Boba Fett. Playing as these characters is a lot of fun. You do feel that power on the field, but you can get destroyed quickly if not careful enough. Unlocking these characters with points instead of a random pick up on the field is much better of a mechanic.  Now to move onto the two game modes.

The beta has a space combat game mode called Starfighter Assault and a large scale battle mode that is objective based called Galactic Assault which is, similar to what we see in Battlefield games. Space combat was surprisingly fun with pretty decent controls. It wasn’t entirely different from the first game, but having an actual space game mode makes it easier to move around instead of flying on the planets which were harder. The objectives on defending or destroying certain ships to help your team win were not satisfying to me. Even in the other game mode, the objectives did not make me feel like I was doing much, especially when I was defending. I compare the two modes so closely because they are so similar besides one being more of a grand scale battle and the other being a space oriented game mode. Also in, space battles are that it is not what it used to be in the original Battlefront 2. I miss going inside of the enemy’s main ship to go inside on foot to destroy it from the inside, or to shoot it with my fighter ships to kill the enemy from the outside. Instead, the game just has you shoot specified ships that lead you to win. There are fewer ships for the player to use too. The beta only had three ships, so hopefully, there are more in the full release. I mostly focused on Galactic Assault which was a 20v20 game type. The same problem with Galactic Assault is the same as Starfighter, the objectives are not fun. Most people were just fighting until the game ended. Even when we were all playing the objective to destroy or defend, it did not have a lot to it. The simplicity of the objective and the feeling that it was too easy killed the fun. If the defending team are on top of it, then they can quickly destroy the enemy MTT. Since most people ignore that, then you go into the other two phases in which the attackers, which are droids, will then win. All because the clones team are idiots who want to kill. If played right, it is a ton of fun if you like that Battlefield style gameplay.

The Strike which is 8v8 and Arcade 2vAI game mode I did not touch at all. I got distracted so I will wrap up saying that I did not entirely play the beta, but enough to know my opinions. It is not for me. If you like the 2015 reboot, then you will like this. It is improved in many ways. Just as stunningly beautiful and with incredible sound, which is what is expected out of DICE. I could stare at this game all day because it is that beautiful. The game has a loot box issue which is common to every game now. There is still the possibility of a lack of content, but we will see when the game is fully released. Story mode will be a great addition and it will be canon which will make any Star Wars fan excited. I will say, not to buy it, but do your research before spending your money to see if this is the game for you. We are not far from seeing the full product of this game. Star Wars Battlefront 2 releases November 17 of this year.

Image via Electronic Arts