Video Game Review: Call of Duty WW2

Another year means another Call of Duty. Every year they sell 20+ million copies and is always successful. I have not been a fan since the release of Black Ops in 2010. The games were always far from perfect, but they became more dull, less creative, and got more ridiculous with the sci-fi evolution that the last few games have made. Now, they are back in their “roots” to be in World War 2. I put roots in quotes for a reason because going back is not entirely true. The theme is, yes, but a lot of aspects are different enough to make the game feel unique, but fails to do so. Don’t get me wrong, I really like this game, but falls short from greatness.

The story focuses towards the end of the war when America sends soldiers over to Europe. The game starts with the invasion of Normandy. You and your squad must push forward deep into Europe to fight off the Germans. You play as Ronald “Red” Daniels, a young Private in the United States Army. Daniels and his squad will team up with a French and United Kingdom resistance forces to achieve victory.

This short campaign has a lot of good qualities but falls short in many ways. Starting with the positives first to get them out of the way. Gameplay is full of different mechanics such as having a health bar for your character. You need to find health packs or get some from a teammate in order to heal. Your squad will have a few other support actions too besides giving health. Characters can spot enemies and give you extra ammunition when needed. The game feels more tactical and team-based with these mechanics. You can lean over cover to take a few shots while still remaining relatively safe. There are some missions that give some variety such as driving sections and stealth missions. The graphics in the game are pretty, but sometimes look a bit inconsistent. Still, it is the prettiest game yet in the series. The cut scenes look incredible and will stun players by the detail. These are all great ideas, but almost all fall short in some capacity.

Needing a health pack can be tricky since there is a cooldown on your teammate. Once the cooldown is complete, then he can give you a few more health packs. I was caught a few times with no health and no way to heal which left me getting killed multiple times. The variety of the missions is not enough and when it gives it to you, the mechanic will feel off in some way. Driving feels silly on how loose the steering is. The game is so linear that it makes it feel pointless to try to steer. You can hold the gas and scrape against the wall, but keep moving forward towards your objective. Stealth missions sometimes work well but feel off on how enemies can spot you. Overall, these sections are not that fun. You usually can just fight off everyone or follow a path in order to walk around all of the enemies. My favorite is a stealth mission in which you play as a spy for the French resistance. I wish there was more to that mission because it had a lot of potentials to go to a really cool direction. The game’s AI is painfully bad. They either miss every shot and are unable to notice you being in front of them or are magically able to kill you right away. Nothing has changed in terms of AI and game difficulty in this franchise at all.

Characters and story development are pretty weak. The story feels sometimes disconnected in its pacing. The overall tone is bizarre and unnatural. The game starts off as a serious take on World War 2 in a Saving Private Ryan style. Showing the brotherhood the men feel for one another and the brutality they must face. To demonstrate the horrors of the war, it is only done a few times, and most of the time it is hard to take it that seriously. There are moments of over the top action sequences that are cool but do not feel right for this story. I am not sure on what type of story the developers really wanted to tell. A heroic, compelling story about World War 2, or an over the top action story with the theme being World War 2.  When promoting the game, the developers prided on how accurate this experience will be, but none of what they said about this campaign is correct. The accuracy is pretty weak at times. More on the inaccurate side of the game when I get to the multiplayer. For the characters, they are all pretty bland. I feel like these characters have been made before in World War movies and games. The most rememberable character is Sergeant Pierson, who plays such a stereotypical character that I remember the same type of guy in Call of Duty 3. The chemistry between these men is inconsistent. There are times with great dialog that makes it feel they have a real connection. These moments are too far and few that make everyone feel unimportant. The story is fun but has a lot of issues. It is the first time since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare that I actually enjoyed playing the single player.

Now to the meat of the game, multiplayer. A lot of the cool mechanics that you see in the campaign are not in multiplayer at all. This is common for many games to do, but always disappoints me when I like something from the campaign that is not implemented into the online. It is the standard Call of Duty online as usual with some great new mechanics added. As with the single player, let us talk about the good parts of the online then get into the bad. There are a few divisions to select from that are your classes. You can use any weapon for any division, but the game leans you to use specific guns for particular divisions due to certain perks attached to them. They are all pretty standard, but let’s do a rundown of each one. Infantry is based on rifles, both semi-automatic and automatic. You get a bayonet to instantly kill enemies. This is my personal goto class to play. Airborne is focused on submachine guns in which they get a suppressor that you can attach or detach at any time with the press of a button. Armored is centered around with a heavy machine gun that has a bipod attached to it. Expeditionary uses a shotgun that can use incendiary rounds to light enemies on fire. Finally, the mountain class is the sniper class has an assist to focus on while sniping. This is the first in the franchise that I actually like using the sniper rifles. Some maps are a lot of fun to snipe on. Each class is fun and allows for more tactical gameplay, as tactical as a Call of Duty game will get at least. You can prestige a class to gain rewards. You don’t lose anything out of it. Prestiging a gun will reset all equipment on it, but you earn rewards. Prestiging your level, class or gun does not really give you much incentive, but for the players that like it then they will enjoy. The best aspect of multiplayer is one of the new game modes which is War. Mostly like the rush game mode from Battlefield, players on one team have objectives to complete while the other team tries to stop them. This can range from destroying machines, escort tanks, and reaching specific points. The other team will build walls, slow down tanks, and push back the enemy as much as possible until time runs out. There are no score streaks, which allow the player to accumulate enough points before dying to have a special attack with artillery, plane support, or other methods just like the other Call of Duty games. Sadly, there are only three maps, but this is a lot of fun overall. I wish the maps were bigger. The lack of players and the size of maps makes it feel less like a real war. Despite these issues, it is my favorite part of the entire game.

The negatives of the multiplayer for the most part are not too significant. Basic training replaces perks. Instead of taking multiple perks to give you specific advantages, you get one. I like this idea a lot, but most of these new perks are not that useful. I find myself getting nothing out of the ones that I played with. There is a hub world in which players can play minigames, interact with other players, take up challenges to gain rewards and more. This was an interesting idea that is boring. None of the games to play are really that fun. Just tacked on to give the players something to do. It is just a copy of what Destiny has. As someone who is not a fan of Destiny, I do not like this hub world idea at all. You can open loot boxes here to gain cosmetic rewards for your character and guns. There is no reward at all. You feel like you gain nothing interesting at all. The least they could do is give you cool costumes, but it is just like every other game that comes out right now. Another part of customization is swapping your character to make him a female or different ethnicity. That does not work if you are playing as Americans since women did not fight in World War 2. Also, how does it make sense to allow black soldiers on the Nazi side? I understand letting the player choose who they want to be and look like when playing but make some restrictions to allow some historical accuracy. The immersion is taken away on a lot of levels, but these small details pile on in a significant way if you want to make a good World War 2 game. A criticism this franchise always got is how unoriginal it is, and they excel big time with some of these decisions. Just following the herd to have game mechanics that every other AAA game has these days. The worst decision that could have worked is the second new game mode. Gridiron is painfully bad but could have been a great idea. There is a ball that players must score on the enemy goal. Just like the Halo game mode, GrifballWhat made this work for Halo is that there are no guns, only melee weapons. When people can call airstrikes and shoot you down, it becomes a chaotic, messy, and straight up annoyance of a game. Having more creative and less traditional game modes would be healthy for the game, but they fail to make it work.

The final piece of any Call of Duty game is the zombies game type. As usual, there is a story to it if you follow along with puzzles that are difficult, but rewarding. The horror aspects that Sledgehammer talked so much about are nonexistent. Sometimes zombies pop up at you and they look creepier, but that is it.They could have made something totally different but decided to just make another zombies game like all the others. Fighting waves of zombies or deciding to do the story related puzzles are your options. If you love this like me, then you will not have a problem at all. It is a lot of fun, especially with friends. You can now choose a class that will have special perks and abilities to give you an advantage. Selecting a few different starting weapons as you level up more give the player an upper hand during early waves when zombies are weak. Each class has a special ability such as going invisible and special attacks. A lot of promises went into the zombies this year that did not come true, but overall the game is a ton of fun.

Despite how much I want to like this game, there is no denying the plethora of problems. As of writing, I still have issues with crashing, glitches, server issues, and more technical problems. On top of that are poor decisions with multiplayer and yet another lackluster campaign. At least I was able to have fun with the campaign unlike every other game in the franchise, but it still fell flat in many ways. I do think people should buy Call of Duty WW2 if they love these games and can accept its flaws. Just know that there are a lot of problems on all levels, but it is insanely fun. War and zombies save this game. What kills the Call of Duty games is the fact that they can not be that creative at all. I hope they can branch out more and that this is a turning point for the Call of Duty juggernaut.

Score: 6/10

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Image via Activision and Sledgehammer Games

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Movie Review: Lazer Team 2

Over the years Rooster Teeth has grown exponentially, especially in just the last two to three years. Shows have gotten more ambitious and bigger in scope. In 2015 the company crowdfunded their first movie, Lazer Team. Despite mixed reviews from fans and negative reviews from critics, the success was good enough for Rooster Teeth to create a sequel. The first was directed by their CEO Matt Hullum and written by  Burnie Burns, Chris Demarais, Josh Flanagan. and Matt Hullum. This latest film is directed by Matt and Daniel Fabelo while being written by them and Burnie. The first had its flaws, but it was enjoyable. Many of these flaws are fixed in the latest movie.

The story takes place a few years after the events of the first movie. The team has disbanded and gone their separate ways. Woody (Gavin Free) becomes a part of a research team for the government in which they discover a way to create a wormhole to another dimension. The team is recruited by Maggie (Nichole Bloom), a scientist who was working with Woody.  Fighting off aliens and the obstacles that are created from Kilborne (Victoria Pratt) who is given the power to dismantle this government-funded project.

Burnie Burns, who plays as Hagan, described the movie as a focus on the comedy because the first movie was able to establish the characters and the world. This rings quite true. The story is strong overall, but the main focus is to make the audience laugh. The comedic element is more of a consistent focus throughout the movie. Plenty of jokes that anyone can get, but plenty of jokes that are meant for Rooster Teeth fans. This blend of focus on story and making jokes is a great blend that works better than the first movie. What might throw fans off, just like the first Lazer Team, the humor is not quite the style that Rooster Teeth is known for. Their adult style of humor is not really present, but it is more so in Lazer Team 2. As a long time fan who appreciates their adult side more, I wish they went all out with an R rating to make something that feels like more of their style. I am sure we will be getting that in future movies such as the next movie, Blood Fest.

Characters are generally quite great. If you liked the characters from the first movie then you get to enjoy them even more here. Besides the return of the main team, two more characters return from the first movie. Officer Vandenbloom (Kirk Johnson) makes a wonderful return. Just as funny as ever, and given a more significant role. Joel Heyman’s small cameo as a reporter returns in multiple scenes. The range of cameos from Rooster Teeth personnel and other related people are throughout the entirety of the movie. Some scenes you may have to pause to catch all of the different people in it. The weakest character who plays a big role in the story is Kilborne. Her motivations on various levels feel off and confusing at times. I feel that movies tend to have a great time with heroes and side characters, but so many times it is common to have a failed villain. Overall, characters are well done with excellent casting choices which have always been a staple in Rooster Teeth content.

Being a smaller budget movie the special effects are just as poor as the first movie. Despite the style, it still bothered me to look at spaceships and lasers. The practical effects are quite well made and even better than the first movie. The use of sets instead of locations worked in their favor to create interesting places that the team would have to navigate through. I understand they want to make sci-fi movies as their start in making movies, but should have waited to get the right budget as they develop their movie side of the company.

If you liked the first Lazer Team, then you will like the sequel even more. People who hated the first movie will absolutely not like this one either. Overall it is stronger than the last. As the company makes more movies, the quality will increase. They are used to making excellent shows, but not at this level of length and production size. It has poor special effects, given that it is so low budget that it makes sense. A villain that has odd choices and a motivation that is hard to understand hurts major plot points. These problems are few but major. What holds it up is the comedy that is spread consistently and is able to land well most of the time. Colorful characters that have an excellent chemistry feels genuine. This universe they made is interesting with some great ideas that flesh it all out. If you are not a fan of the company, you may still enjoy this movie. There are plenty of references that will not change how you feel about the movie. If you are a fan then you may enjoy it more than the typical moviegoer with great cameos and jokes that only the most hardened of fans will understand. The company made a great effort and will only continue to grow better as they move forward.

Score: 7/10

Image via Rooster Teeth

 

Movie Review: Thor Ragnarok

When the next big Marvel movie releases a brand new trailer, everyone seems to go nuts for it. I have not gotten onto the Marvel hype train yet. I love some of the movies such as Spider-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, and from the Fox-owned films, Deadpool. Despite there being great movies in the superhero genre, I still have not been able to get into it because of some less favorable movies. I heard a lot of people who were excited about Thor Ragnarok. When I saw the trailer, I groaned and thought it looked terrible. Just cheesy as a cheese quesadilla and looked like other movies to me. I have never seen any of the Thor movies before, and I hear not great things about the first two films. That left me with a feeling that this will be a more comedic Thor movie that will fall flat like the other two.

The movie finally came out, and everyone is raving about it. When my friends, my favorite internet personalities from Rooster Teeth, and all the reviewers are saying how great this movie is, then I had to try it for myself. I went to the theater with the most comfortable seats just in case I was bored. I would rather be comfortable and bored rather than bored and uncomfortable. After the first few minutes, I was already in love. My reaction became the exact same as the first Guardians of the Galaxy. That is a movie I thought would be terrible, but after my best friend dragged me to see Guardians, I fell in love with everything about it.

Thor Ragnarok is about Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) find out about a sister named Hela (Cate Blanchett) who is the goddess of death. In a fight with between the two brothers and their sister, she destroys Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer and they must retreat back to Asgard. After their attempt has failed, they find themselves on the planet Sakaar. He is imprisoned by a man named Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) in which he is forced into a battle arena to earn his freedom. He discovers that the champion he must defeat is his old friend from the Avengers, the Hulk. Thor must team up with the Hulk, Scrapper 142, and his brother to attempt to save Asgard.

The story goes back and forth between Hela’s quest to take over then destroy Asgard and Thor’s mission to escape Sakaar to save his home. Thor’s side of the story is the stronger side of the story. There is a lot more humor that brings the audience along and more interesting character interactions. Hela as a character felt like a lot of the other MCU villains that have been defeated before. Absolutely powerful and evil, but falls flat in many areas. Cate Blanchett did a job well done regarding acting but was not given the best role to be playing.  See her arc did not feel that unique overall.

Of the vast array of characters that hold the movie up, one of my personal favorites is the Grandmaster. Jeff Goldblum does a fantastic job as always as this goofy and theatrical character. The interaction between Thor and other characters such as Hulk, Bruce Banner, and Loki are all enjoyable throughout the entire film. If you saw Doctor Strange and stayed for the ending credit scene, then you would know him, and Thor meet. Their brief interaction was funny and transitioned Thor onto this adventure worked so well. I was hoping to see more of Doctor Strange, partially because Benedict Cumberbatch is great, but I just expected that he would be providing more to the story. Seeing how their chemistry works is an excellent insight to see how things will play out in Avengers: Infinity War which comes out spring of 2018.

For a while, the Marvel Cinematic Universe got complaints about the lack of color. Visually these movies may not have been the best to look at. With films such as Doctor Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy, the visuals got better both from practical effects to the special effects. Thor Ragnarok might be the most beautiful movie out of every film that has been released so far in the MCU. It vomits out colors in almost every scene and is beautifully crafted in every detail. Each movie is getting prettier and prettier, and Thor is excellently showing this progression.

Most of the film is centered around the comedy, which is one of the standard complaints. I can do with or without a lot of comedy in a Marvel movie, it depends on how it is done. Out of this side of the Marvel movies, I have loved the most comedic side such as ThorGuardians, and Spider-Man.  The more serious of the MCU movies I have seen, I did not like. I thought Captain America: Civil War was average at best. I have loved the other side of Marvel that is owned by Fox when it comes to Logan, a depressing side of the superhero movie genre. It all depends on how it is done, and to me, Thor nailed it comedy on all levels.

Besides the dull character arc with Hela, I have no real complaints about this film. If there was a great villain and I felt that the stakes were higher, then maybe this would be a perfect movie for me. There are far more positives that lift this film up so high. Beautifully crafted visuals from both costumes to the worlds that we see that satisfy anyone looking for a pretty movie. Clever writing to create funny moments and excellent chemistry between characters. Action scenes that are well choreographed and are well spread out throughout the entire film. It is difficult to say anything negative about this one. As someone who is not a fan of most of the MCU, Thor Ragnarok did an excellent job of selling me on going see more of the future movies coming in the years to come. If you love Guardians of the Galaxy, then you will love this film. Refreshing, but familiar with all the best ways for any fan of the Marvel movies.

Score: 9/10

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Image via Marvel Studios

Movie Review: Jigsaw

The Saw franchise has taken a long break. Seven years since the last movie and many rumors later, we have been delivered Jigsaw. Directed by Michael and Peter Spierig and written by Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg. None of them have a ton of experience with some of the most notable movie being from Pete and Josh such as Piranha 3D. That lack of experience is concerning, but it is always great to see that people are getting the opportunity to work on a bigger franchise like Saw. For me, I am a huge fan of the Saw franchise, which will make anyone reading this cringe or cheer. I love the first four movies despite their flaws. The last few became monotonous and got trapped in a cycle that generates money but decreases quality. When Jigsaw got an official trailer, it got me excited. My expectations were kept low, but when I got into the theater, my excitement level maintained. Did this long break save this sinking franchise? Not at all.

The story starts ten years after John Kramer’s death, introducing us to a group of people in one of Jigsaw’s traps. As usual, they must complete the game to survive. The four people—Anna (Laura Vandervoot), Ryan (Paul Braunstein), Mitch (Mandela Van Peebles), and Carly (Brittany Allen). None of them were perfect as actors or had good characters to play. The worst was Ryan, the most generic and annoying of the group who I was hoping would have a creative death. The other side of the story shows two detectives, Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie) and Keith Hunt (Cle Bennet). Both are generic detectives, especially Halloran who is painful to see this cheesy, crooked, and utterly bizarre detective. They are working together with Logan Nelson and Eleanor Bonneville who are two medical examiners. These two are the closest to interesting characters but are still relatively bland. On this search for the people in Jigsaw’s trap, there is the question whether John Kramer aka Jigsaw is alive or not. Of course, just like every movie, Tobin Bell reprises his role as John, despite being dead in several films now. The usual twist ending gives somewhat of a satisfying end. The main problem is that this has been done so many times before in the Saw series. Nothing new is done to the story or characters.

The traps and brutal deaths help keep this franchise afloat. Despite the last couple of movies declining in quality, at least they had some good death scenes. There may have been only one or two deaths in the entire movie that was rememberable. Most of which felt less creative, which is expected after making so many movies. You would have thought that such a long break could have given the writers some time to come up with a more creative story and traps, but just like many horror movie franchises, they burn themselves out. If only we were given creative enough deaths and traps then that could have potentially helped lift this movie up even in the slightest.

There is not a whole lot to say about this movie. It blends in with the past couple of Saw movies and goes to show that the franchise is dead, sadly. I wish this could have been a revival of the series. I was rooting for this movie to be good.  Sadly with bland characters, poor creativity, and a generic story made this into another Saw movie meant to get money and keep a sinking franchise afloat. There were different things done early on to make the audience interested and captured by the tone of the film. Keeping a low budget and smaller stories to tell worked best. If the studio wants this series to be alive and make them money, they need to go back to their roots. If you love Saw, you may not like this. If you can be easily entertained by a violent horror movie, then you might have some level of fun. On the bright side of everything about this movie, we still have that great soundtrack that will live forever and give a redeeming quality to any Saw movie.

Score: 3/10

Image via Lionsgate

TV Show Review: Stranger Things season 2

Netflix has created some fantastic original content over the last few years, but nothing beats Stranger Things. Mixing so many sci-fi and horror elements from the 80s with a mix of originality to create one of the best shows out there. I can already say that I love it and it is a must watch. This show is so easy to binge to catch up with the first season being 8 episodes and the second season being 9 episodes. Let’s dive into all this goodness. No worries, I will keep any details limited on this season with a few minor things on my feelings towards specific directions, but there will be some spoilers from the first season.

Taking place one year after the events of the first season, we find our main group of friends all reunited and enjoying their time together. Weirdly enough, everything goes terribly again after one year of the events from the first season. Just seemed weird and did not fit right with me. Bad things only happen in Hawkins around Halloween I suppose. Anyway, Will is out of the upside down and with his friends and family. With some lingering visions that grow stronger, Will is still not fully himself. Everyone else has managed for the most part to move forward. As it turns out that the upside down still has some powerful forces that nobody knows about until things start to happen. As the last scene from the finale of the first season shows, Will coughs up a slug-like-creature that in this season plays a significant role. The CIA is still continuing their work which crosses over yet again with our protagonists. Everyone must come together once more to defeat more evil that has crawled out from the upside down.

The story and characters expand in so many directions. There is a lot more character growth for almost everyone. Since Will was gone most of the first season, we get to see more out of his actor Noah Schnapp who goes above and beyond with his talent. Questions and answers are given about characters and the universe as a whole. The balance between more questions and answers is not overwhelming. It is great to receive exciting information but to still have the mystery. They had to keep some answers hidden until the next season. One of the biggest issues to this season was early on. A few times some of the characters were too naive despite their previous experiences from the first season. Some of their actions are quite questionable for who they are as a character. This goes away as soon as each character gets situated with what is going on. As characters develop, you get a better appreciation for the actors and actresses on the show. Everyone is so talented, especially these kids. A few new characters are introduced. Maxine is a new girl who the main kids become interested in early on in the season. She is excellent, and as an audience, you will learn a lot about her. Another new character is her step-brother who falls flat in some ways. One of my other favorite additions to the cast is Bob, Joyce’s new boyfriend. He brings some great levity to the show but can be engaging in the more dramatic scenes. Overall, the new additions to the cast are excellent. It is hard for any show to have a cast of characters that are all excellent.

The pacing of the show is similar to the first season with only an extra episode. The show builds up mystery and suspension just as well as the first season. My only issue was one of the episodes towards the end fell flat. Some interesting things could have been done for a character, but it did not go anywhere. It is obvious that somethings were done just to build up to the next season. I understand where they may be coming from, but somethings should have been kept out of this season only to have it more fully developed in a later season to give it the proper attention instead of just throwing it in.

Visually the show is better than ever. More effects added during Will’s visions and scenes in the upside down. You can see this just even in the stylized posters that have been released. A blend of blue and reds with the mix of black to create impressive effects for the audience to digest. The use of the cinematography is excellent. Some fantastic shots of Hawkins to give you a better feel for the town. There are some shots recreated from the first season which was shown heavily in the trailers to provide the audience with some ideas on how things may turn out. One of the best shots to me was a foggy night in the junkyard that looked haunting and set the mood perfectly for the scene. The creators of the show know exactly how to properly set the right tone for any scene.

As you can tell, I am in love with this show. The universe, the characters, acting, cinematography, and just about every other quality. It pains me to wait another year for the next season. This season was just as good as the first, despite a few issues I had. A lot of build up for the next season regarding some directions with characters and the story that did not feel right to be putting in this early without proper development. Early on characters would do certain things that did not make much sense. People were naive about certain things happening when they should not have been. Also, it is too weird to have everything go to hell after one year from the original events. That is a bit hard to believe, but it is not too big of a deal. Even with all these problems, the positives outweigh it all. This show is phenomenal in every way. If you loved the first season, then you will love the second. Netflix has one fantastic show for sci-fi and horror fans.

Score: 9/10

Image via Netflix

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

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Image via Ubisoft

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