A King’s Tale: Final Fantasy XV (2016) PS4 Review

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This short little beat em, which is an exclusive bonus to people who buy Final Fantasy XV from particular stores, such as EB Games/Gamestop, surprised me with it’s quality. The experience is framed around Regis from the main game telling a young Noctis a bed time story based on events from his younger days.

The visuals are in retro beat em up style, think Streets of Rage and they have high quality sprites and animations, as well as audio. While the environments look excellent, there are only a few of them, but considering the short length of the main story, they avoid being repetitive.

The mechanics have a surprising amount of depth as well. Instead of just having basic quick attack and strong attack, there are on the ground combos, launches and air combos, dodge rolls and shield attacks, as well as summoning team mates by having unbroken combo chains. Certain monsters, such as the skeletons for example, require their own special tactics, like stunning them with a shield mid combo, otherwise they will break your combo chain with a block. The combat, while to some extent a button mashing affair at times still requires a decent amount of skill in chaining combos and dodging to be effective. The combat can also become very fast, especially as enemies fill the screen. Also the most difficult enemy is the cactuar. Seriously. A King’s Tale: Final Fantasy XV then, is a great little bonus with the main game and is a good way to spend some of the time waiting for Final Fantasy XV to install and update.

8/10

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Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (2016) PS4 Review

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Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune Remastered review

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Remastered Review

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception Remastered Review

This review is based on the single player portion of the game.

The final chapter of Nathan Drake’s story is an incredible ride. From an thrilling boat chase prologue, to prison escapes from a Panamanian jail or climbing a clocktower in Madagascar, the set pieces here are all incredible and one up the previous entries in the game. The story starts has Nathan Drake, who was hitherto living a drab domestic life with now wife Elena Fisher, set out on a new adventure looking for the lost treasure of infamous pirate Henry Avery, with his previously believed to be dead brother, Sam.

The storytelling here is Naughty Dog at their finest. There are no supernatural aspects at play here, the story is more focused on the relationships between the characters, mainly that of Nathan and Sam, as well as Nathan and Elena. While I won’t go too much into the details of the story as I don’t want to spoil the experience, but I will say here that the story hits a high emotional register through what is essentially a swashbuckling treasure hunt story, that also works through memory of previous entries in the series and a score that is as rousing as ever that never feels saccharine or cheesy. It’s well written and heart felt and provides a definitive and satisfactory conclusion to Nathan Drake and Elena Fisher’s story.

Before I talk about the mechanics of the game, I’d also like to sing the high praises of this game’s visuals. They are simply incredible, from Nathan Drake’s house, to the streets and marketplace in Madagascar, to the St. Dismas cathedral area and an auction at an Italian mansion every area impresses and are breathtaking. On show here is some of the finest visual artistry I have seen in a game. In fact, I’d say it is one of the best looking games currently available not only on the PS4, but anywhere. However, it does only run at 30fps with rare drops, but it is still highly responsive.A motion blur slider also exists, which allows you to control the intensity, which is nice for people who feel sick from it There’s also many unlockable render modes that you can obtain post game, which can add some novel visual experiences for repeat playthroughs. Other details also impress, such as the authentic,albeit stereotypical South African accents of the mercenary enemies that speak in believable mannerisms and lingo.

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One setpiece highlights just how incredible this game is. You’re in a jeep in Madagascar with your old pal Sully and you’re being chased by an APC firing at you and you go downhill through winding city streets, which all possess an amazing amount of detail. Then you jump off and use your rope attached to the crane of a convoy and pull yourself up and holding on, you slide in the mud meanwhile being fired at. You can shoot while sliding around or pull yourself up to in the truck and hop between vehicles. When back in the jeep, enemies will try and jump on your vehicle and you can shake them off by slamming through a shack. There are other aspects of this sequence that I am omitting but suffice it it to say that it is stunning.

Back in 2007, it was all about the conspicuously placed chest high walls. In 2016, it’s all about the conspicuously placed tall grass or bushes.  A Thief’s End makes a number of welcome improvements to the Uncharted formula. For one, whilst sneaking around and thinning out lots of enemies through melee attacks was often possible in previous entries into the series, it could often be vague and difficult to tell how close to detection you are. This fixes that by placing a detection meter that fills up and changes colour above enemies heads when you’re in their line of sight. Climbing sections also have multiple paths, which is good for speedrunners and those who like trying to find the most effective path up.

The biggest new feature is the appropriately swashbuckling rope, which is use effectively in platforming, adding a layer of skill to the admittedly simplistic platforming elements of the series, which is greatly appreciated. They’re also often put in some of  the well designed and varied combat sections allowing you to get between different areas quick whilst firing on your enemies or is even helpful in stealth. In one section late in the game, I was almost detected by a guard, but I swung around to the right of the cliff and hung off the edge, avoiding detection, only to climb up and take him out unawares after him turning around. It was highly satisfying. This rope mechanic on top of an already strong and mobile third person cover based shooter foundation makes this the peak of combat for the series.

I will close my review with saying this: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is Naughty Dog at their best and they have created a game that is thoroughly enjoyable to play from start to finish and is a definite must play for all PS4 owners.

9.5/10

 

 

Titanfall 2 (2016) PS4 Review-In-Progress

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This review in progress is based on the multiplayer portion of the game.

With Titanfall 2, I broke a few of my own rules in buying it. First, it’s the first EA published game I have purchased since Battlefield 3 and secondly, I don’t normally buy shooters on console (although I did play Black Ops 3 on PS4, but that was a gift). But so far, with about 10+ hours of the multiplayer, this feels like a superb shooter, perhaps one of the best in the past few years.

Titanfall 2’s mechanics should feel like putting on a comfortable pair of gloves, with it’s responsive controls and smooth frame rate that keeps a stable 60fps, anyone who has played any recent Call of Duty should be able to quickly get themselves accustomed to the feel of this. However, the movement system here is far better than any recent Call of Duty that has attempted a similar thing. Here, unlike last year’s Black Ops 3 whose wallrunning and added movement systems onto the standard CoD feel felt quite clunky and often superfluous, doubly so in the campaign, the movement system in Titanfall 2 is at the core of the experience. Skilled players, with the right loadouts (aka using the grapple hook) can jump, swing and wallrun their way across maps in seconds, which is quite exhilarating. The actual shooting is also tight and highly enjoyable with a good variety of weapons that aren’t excessive in number, each type feeling different and can be levelled up with perks and attachments and be granted skins from the levelling or completion of challenges, such as achieving a certain amount of headshots.

The other part of the experience are the titans, which are basically huge mechs with different abilities, such as one of my favourites, Ronin, who has a gigantic sword. These mechs are much slower to play, but not frustratingly so and provide a fun counterpoint to the zippy infantry play. These titans also have customizable loadouts and weapon skins. In matches, titans are obtained on a cool down, but by completing objectives or killing enemy players, the wait time is decreased.

The pace of the game is also very fast, perhaps one of the fastest multiplayer shooters available on consoles. The movement system, combined with low time to kill, keep things moving very fast.

In terms of maps and modes, there is a good variety and decent amount, with all the maps having a good blend of tight urban-like and interior interiors integrated with more open lanes for titan combat. While these maps are well designed, there currently aren’t piles of them, however the game will be receiving free maps and modes, so there is a good amount of potential longevity. One criticism I have with the maps is that since the standard player count is 6v6, they can feel a little barren. But on the flipside, that eliminates frustrations over being killed every few seconds. Some players might not like this, at least at first, but the breathing room is appreciated. There are also a good variety of modes, however, at least in my region, only two are really played. The first, Attrition is your standard team death match. The second is Bounty Hunt, which pits two teams against each other trying to rack up as much cash as possible through killing various types of AI infantry to rack up cash and to bank it at the end of each wave. Whichever team banks the most cash wins and killing enemy players means denying them half of their currently unbanked currency for each death, so there is good motivation to be on the hunt for AI and the lookout for other players.

There is also two major quality of life improvements over other shooters that I appreciate here. One is that you don’t have to wait until you’ve finished the match to use newly unlocked skins or attachments. Each class can be fully customised in the middle of a match, which is great for trying out different things but also going back to what you previously liked if that thing isn’t working for you. The other thing, which was added in a very recent patch was an FoV slider that allows you to increase from the default 70 degrees all the way up to 110 degrees, which in my experience is extremely uncommon on consoles. This is good for people who have various different needs and preferences and makes the console versions much more playable at various viewing distances, whether on a television at recommended viewing distances or sitting close to a monitor and will be especially appreciated by those who get motion sick from low FoV games.

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception Remastered (2015) PS4 Review

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Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune Remastered Review
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Remastered Review

The third entry into the Uncharted series starts off in a way that is somewhat more subdued compared to the previous entry. Nathan Drake does not start dangling off a train carriage on the precipice of a plateau in the Himalayas, but rather in a rather typical London pub, doing a trade of Sir Francis Drake’s ring for cash. Of course, it quickly goes awry, with Drake and Sully embroiled in a bar brawl, tutorialising the changes to the melee combat, which this time controls a little more like Batman: Arkham Asylum but still maintain the same general feel of Uncharted.

This is also a globe trotting adventure that takes through flashback’s to Drake’s childhood as a street urchin in Cartagena, Colombia which explains how him and Sully became friends, to a decayed and overgrown French Chateau which seems like a preview for The Last of Us. Then you’re whisked away to Syria and then Yemen, with full of exciting chases, platforming and setpieces along the way, such as escaping the  whale-like skeleton of a decrepit ship, to shooting and stealthing your way through a cruise line that capsizes necessitating a thrilling escape. Another has you, with the help of on again off again girlfriend Elena Fisher, trying to catch a cargo plane and jumping on to it reminded me of the last act of Toy Story 2. Every set piece sequence, some of which might feel like repetitions of those in Uncharted 2 are still nevertheless exciting.

The general forward motion of the plot is very similar to it’s predecessors to the point of being quite predictable, down to the exact moment the supernatural element comes into plays. Nevertheless, despite being repetitious, the filled out back stories of our core cast,the vocal performances of all characters and the little touches each character has, such as Cutter’s claustrophobia and the implied engagement between Drake and Elena make for a good humoured, yet still strong emotional core to a rather predictable plot that is a joy to experience.

In terms of mechanics, the cover shooting and platforming is much the same as it’s predecessors, except much better refined with more weapons, whose sound effects pack a surprisingly heft punch. The roll here is also much less weighty and thus faster, enabling much more mobility in combat. You can also throw grenades back now with a timed bar that work much like the active reloads in Gears of War.

Naughty Dog, with the remastering efforts again done by Bluepoint Games really show off their technical chops here, with volumetric lighting being used frequently, wonderfully detailed character models and animations and exquisite texture work and realistic art direction and brilliant visual design make this quite the artistic and technical achievement visually. Considering this was originally released on the PS3 about 5 years or so ago, it is all the more impressive. And now at consistent 1080p60fps, the detail is truly incredible, down to the finest grain of sand. The soundtrack of course, is as bombastic and rousing as ever.

8.5/10