Yakuza 0 (2017)PS4 Review

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Getting a copy of this game was a hassle. I intended to buy it the week it came out, but by the time I went to my local stores, it was sold out. I had to wait at least two weeks before I could find a copy, but when I eventually saw it in the shop, my eyes beamed and I bought it instantly,finally able to play the incredible game within.

Yakuza 0, a prequel to the long running Yakuza series, which is highly popular in Japan and East Asia more generally, but rather niche in the West, has finally graced our consoles with a localised version this year. Being a prequel and requiring little familiarity with the prior games in the series, this is the perfect entry point for those that yet to experience it.

The story in this game focuses around the two playable characters, Kazuma Kiryu, who starts off as just a low level yakuza doing debt collecting jobs and Goro Majima, an exile of the yakuza who wants to get back in, but is forced as being a money maker for his boss in the late 1980s. After Kiryu is framed for a murder in the Empty Lot in Kamurocho (a fictionalised version of the Kabuchiko district in Tokyo) and Majima is tasked with assassinating someone by the name of Makoto Makimura, they find themselves embroiled in different groups fighting and infighting over this tiny patch of land and punch,kick and stomp their way through and making their mark in the Tojo Clan.

The main storyline of Yakuza 0 is a gritty and compelling crime drama that is well written and the performances, whilst I cannot understand Japanese, are full of emotion so in my view they are as a whole, quite good.

There is another side to the writing Yakuza 0 and those are the wacky and often genuinely funny side quests. There is one where you have to assist a dominatrix in learning how to berate her clients better or another where you accidentally agree to buy a young kid a porno magazine, which turns it into a mini stealth mission. Or another where you pretend to be a producer or someone’s girlfriend, there is plenty of variety in the narratives of the side quests,which provide a nice counterbalance to the furrowed brows and tense stand offs in the main story.

As far as the actual mechanics of the game goes, there are two pillars: combat and mini games.

The combat here is of a more traditional brawler style, different to the current trend of making variations of Arkham Asylum combat. This means that you’ll usually have to counter manually, block using L1, strike with square and triangle, grab, pick up weapons or guard break with circle and dodge with x. There are also brutal special moves called HEAT moves that range from curb stomping someone’s face, ripping their teeth out with pliers,suplexing people on rails and pouring boiling water on the faces of goons, delinquents, yakuza and anyone else who gets wide with you. Generally trash mobs are quite easy, although later in the game they tend to have bigger health bars, draw weapons more often and get a few more moves under their belt but the biggest challenges tend to come from some exciting boss fights. It’s not at all a difficult system to get used to but it does have two issues worth noting. At times, it can feel a bit like I’m just button mashing as opposed to games with more finesse, like Devil May Cry 3 or Metal Gear Rising, but in spite of this it’s still lots of fun. The other is that the way lock on works is pure shit. You have to hold R1 to lock on, but most of the time, except for certain moves that require it, it’s pretty useless and not helpful when fighting large packs of guys seeing as there’s no reticle placed on your target, so who you’re actually targeting can be very vague and moving around in time can become a hassle.

There are also three fighting styles per character (4 if you do what’s required to unlock the last one). They are Brawler/Thug, Rush/Breaker and Beast/Slugger, being medium, fast and heavy respectively and you can switch between them in the middle of battle. As Kiryu, I mostly used the brawler and rush styles in combat, whereas with Majima, I tended to use his styles more evenly,as Kiryu’s beast style is best only in tight areas with lots of weapon pick ups, which are not always around. Majima’s breaker style is also very effective crowd control as he spins and kicks while woohooing as if he’s Mario. Each style also has it’s own upgrade tree that while they look like sphere grids, they function as regular old ability trees. You upgrade by ‘investing in yourself’ through Yen, which is the single currency used for everything in the game, from buying food and items, upgrading yourself, buying real estate, gambling and so on.

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There are a shitload of side activities in Yakuza 0. You can play Sega arcade classics, such as Space Harrier and Outrun, use the claw machine, go bowling, play pool, darts, mahjong and more. You can play shogi, which is like a Japanese version of chess that I am absolutely terrible at due to how it deviates from chess throwing me off entirely. There are rhythm games, such as karaoke that are lots of fun although I wish it had more songs.The dancing minigame is quite interesting as it takes a unique spin on rhythm games. There is a grid on the on the screen and each button press will appear at a square on the grid and you must traverse the grids to be able to press it in time, whilst traversing as many squares to get there in order to maximise your score. It’s counter intuitive at first, but once you get the hang of it, can be quite fun. You can also use the telephone club to hook up with girls and watch erotic soft-core videos for a bit of titillation and to recharge your heat bar. There are lots of others that I did not mention and you can easily spend a shit load of time on these, especially if you’re a completionist type. On that note, the game took me just under 61 hours to finish at ~45% total completion.

The other two major mini-games, which have their own quest-lines attached to them are the real estate management and cabaret club; both of which are necessary if you want to be able to upgrade all your fighting styles fully.

How the real estate management works is you use your money to buy property in an area to gain a greater share and run out the billionaire that monopolises it. Then, you get managers (which you obtain through the completion of substories usually) and security guards that you assign to an area when starting collection to maximize profit in addition to using advisors to upgrade the rank of each property. Then you wait, collect the profit.Sometimes you will have to do a money battle, which amounts to mindlessly mashing X, take on the area boss in a bet over 10% area share in a mini game and after you have 90% share, you take them on in combat. Rinse and repeat 5 times. It can feel quite tedious, to say the least, considering how you can only invest in upgrading a property once per collection round.

Majima’s mini game questline follows a similar premise of taking over turf to beat rivals, but it is far more engaging than real estate. The cabaret club has you manage hostesses by preparing the business for opening by choosing which girls you are going to have on per session, which area’s fans you are targeting and customizing the clothes, hair, facial features and accessories of your platinum rank hostesses, as well as training them through karaoke or disco dates and customer service training, which is a dialogue that helps you level them up. These dialogues are actually quite engaging as the lip syncing, voices and back stories of the girls all feel believable. Then when you open up, you must keep customers happy by assigning girls to guests trying to make as much profit as possible, and assisting the girls by reading their hand signs to know if they’re ordering a drink or want the menu or whatever. It’s a rather simple mini game but surprisingly addictive and the grind feels much less tedious than the real estate mini game.

Aesthetically, the late 80s rendition of Kamurocho and Sotenbori, with their neon lit streets and plenty of detail,rendered at full 1080p 60fps and despite some low quality texture and low poly models here and there, the game generally looks quite nice. Cutscenes look even better running in real time but 30FPS. The soundtrack is also varied and generally quite enjoyable too. However, there are many elements of the game that demonstrate it’s limitations as being developed with the PS3 in mind, like the difference in lighting models between certain cutscenes and dialogues (you will know when you see it) and how there is loading times between interiors and the overworld. Thankfully, these load times are quite short.

Yakuza 0 is a game that juggles so many elements, especially tonally, and manages to do it very, very well. You will laugh, cheer, feel hype, tense , sad and sometimes a little fuzzy and much more and just have a generally good time punching guys in the face.  If you’re the type of person who refuses to watch a foreign film out of stubborn refusal to read subtitles, then this is not the game for you, but for everyone else, definitely give it a look, for it is sure to please long time fans and newcomers alike.

8.5/10

 

The Last Guardian (2016) PS4 Review

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In 2016, the impossible was made possible. An outsider political candidate won an election with all odds stacked against him. The Doom reboot actually ended up being pretty awesome. The long awaited Final Fantasy XV (and ended up being pretty good) actually came out and so did The Last Guardian, just in the nick of time after being announced for the PS3 many years ago and suffering a troubled development. So did The Last Guardian turn out to be good? Let’s find out.

Coming from gen Design and Sony’s Japan Studio, The Last Guardian comes as the successor to Fumito Ueda’s PS2 classics Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, which I played and deeply enjoyed a few years back playing on the remastered editions for the PS3. This game is a mixture of both titles to some extent, although leaning heavily towards Ico.

The game starts out with you, a nameless boy finding himself with strange markings and inside a cavern with a chained beast named Trico, who looks like a mixture of a dog and a cat. With Trico laden with spears, the boy decides to remove them and unchain the beast, which begins a growing friendship between the two as they navigate these massive ancient ruins. So the premise is simple: the boy and the beast work together to escape this seemingly insurmountable prison. The story is very simple, but wonderfully presented with minimal dialogue of the sort of fictional but vaguely Japanese sounding language found in this game’s predecessors. It also features narration from the boy grown up and the overall presentation of the story is simple and manages to be very touching, working in tandem with the core mechanics and design of the game.

Most of what you will be doing throughout the game is solving platforming puzzles and other rather simple spatial puzzles sometimes by yourself and sometimes with the aid of Trico. This game does not hold your hand nor do you hold its. There’s no HUD (except for the occasional pop up early on reminding you of the controls in certain contexts) and hints are rare and occasionally a little bit opaque. Instead of holding Yorda’s hand and taking her to where you need to go, here you command Trico with R1 and pointing in a direction. You can also pet him, which gives him the extra go ahead. However, like any untrained animal, Trico will at times fail to heed your commands and just kind of stare at you confused. This helps sell the idea that Trico is an independent creature, but it can also lead to frustration in the course of playing the game. That said, Trico does get better, especially later in the game at knowing what to do in certain circumstances. He also does follow your commands most of the time but he doesn’t always do so instantly. I would say that this is all worth it for it is part of the emotional connection forged with the beast, but whether or not it will be worth it for you will depend on your patience for this sort of thing.

The way Trico looks is also absolutely incredible, the way the light shines through his many feathers and the purple like hues of his furry ears. The way he moves, the way his body gets soaked and many other little details are incredible to behold. Trico, whilst clearly a fictional creature, looks and behaves like something that could or could have at one time or another actually existed; as if the developers of the game had privileged access to a hitherto secret creature and observed it with many sharp eyes.

As for combat, well, there isn’t any. Sometimes you have a shield that you can aim and a lightning type bolt will explode and take out wooden platforms and such (this is of course also used in puzzle solving). Additionally, there are enemies that look kind of like teracotta samurai which function similarly to the shades that try to drag Yorda down to darkness in Ico. You can’t fight them, but you can wriggle free of their clutches and you can shove them. To take them out, you need Trico to be there and he tends to tends to go wild and really smash these animated suits of armour.

Visually, you wouldn’t think this game originated as a PS3 title. Whilst the textures aren’t always the highest res and the environments might seem repetitive looking to some, through excellent animation, cohesive and highly appealing art direction, combined with the incredible lighting and use of colour, the game manages to very frequently look quite stunning.

With all this praise, I must address the elephants in the room for this game because while I did enjoy the overall experience, these are technical issues I cannot ignore. First is the controls. Whilst the control scheme is fine, the controls were often quite fiddly, especially when climbing on and off Trico (which you will do a lot of) and dropping down didn’t always work the way I expected. There is also, even after patch 1.03, some very noticeable input latency on the camera.

The camera can also be a hassle. Sometimes you have to wrestle with it, especially in certain corners and it can spaz out and become quite the annoyance, especially combined with the input latency.

Perhaps the biggest technical issue with the game is the frame rate. The Last Guardian targets 30 fps and while it’s around there most of the time, the frame rate drops can be quite severe. One section, which was a collapsing bridge, the frame rate dropped tremendously. Even in less strenuous circumstances it could drop rather noticeably. This isn’t some minor 1 or 2 fps drops here and there. While not constant, these drops to levels that are Blighttown in Dark Souls level of slideshow or even more comparably, the 15 fps average during battles on the PS2 version of Shadow of the Colossus. It’s a very serious problem that might definitely be a deal breaker to some. It got so bad that at one point my eyes were feeling strained and I had to put stop playing that session.

After a long wait, The Last Guardian turned out to be a very simple game with wonderful visuals and storytelling that can be frustrating at times.For anyone who has enjoyed Ico or Shadow of the Colossus or both in the past, this is a must play and the type of game that rarely comes out from major publishers these days. It’s just a shame that it has serious technical issues that diminish it’s excellence.

8/10

Final Fantasy XV (2016) PS4 Review

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Final Fantasy XV had a long road getting here, originally being announced as Versus XIII and supposed to come out on the PS3, the game has had a troubled development. At one point, then game director Nomura even considered making the game a musical. There was plenty scepticism going around before the release of this game and there was every possibility of it being a disaster. I am pleased to report that after finishing the story mode, the game is far from a disaster.

The latest entry in this long running franchise has you playing as Prince Noctis who is on a road trip to get married to his betrothed, the Lady Lunafreya, as part of a peace deal. So he sets out with his retinue and friends. Prompto, Noctis’ happy go lucky and energetic school friend who is also the photographer of the group, the baritone voiced Gladiolus who is stern muscle and Ignis, who is the straight and narrow intellectual type. Noctis himself is also quite moody at times, but he is not without a sarcastic sense of humour.

Once you first get control in the game, it has Noctis and his party pushing down their broken down car and the crew are having banter and joking about it. Then, a Florence and the Machine cover of Stand By Me is played. It is a rather strange way to start the game, but an endearing one. Of course, things soon go awry and Noctis with the help of his friends are on an adventure that involves riding chocobos, hunting monsters and gaining the blessings of the deities so that Noctis can defeat Niflheim and reclaim his throne. This main plot, without spoiling anything isn’t terribly original but it is more often than not, incredibly well told and with it’s core cast of characters, aided by very good performances are elevated and the emotional payoff is tremendously executed. The pacing of the narrative is also quite tight as I completed it, without any real rushing, in about 26 and a half hours. This alleviates the typical bloatedness of campaign length that traditional JRPGs have a reputation for, but this by no means means I’ve done everything. There is plenty of post game content of difficult dungeons and bosses in typical Final Fantasy fashion.

As to the game itself, this is the first mainline entry to the series which has not used a turn based or pseudo turn based combat system. Instead, this is a real time hack n slash type system that includes a tactical menu for potions and issuing of commands for Noctis’ friends to perform special attacks that are unlocked through the levelling system called the Ascension grid. This grid is separated into multiple categories, such as exploration, combat, teamwork and so forth, so there is plenty of ways to choose how to build the party.

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Back to the combat itself, I have seen some reviewers compare this game’s combat to the Devil May Cry series. And whilst this game’s combat certainly is comparably flashy in appearance, it does not have the same depth. Landing attacks amounts to essentially locking on to and enemy and holding circle to combo and pressing triangle to warp strike, whilst also changing weapons with the d pad, holding R2 to open up the tactical menu to access potions or to command special moves from the party. You can also press square to dodge or block attacks. So it is much more simplistic and doesn’t have terribly much depth in terms of the mechanical mastery of combos and the like, but the game is presented and balanced in such a way that it somehow remains engaging and often challenging. Still, I would’ve preferred just a bit more depth to the combat and making it a bit more like Devil May Cry by opening up opportunities for juggles and other moves. Boss fights, especially towards the end are all parts challenging and lengthy, but never frustrating and feel constantly exciting and epic.

Each character also has their own speciality. Noctis, for example, has a rather simple but relaxing fishing minigame, Prompto acts as an automatic posed screenshotter for you, Gladio is a survivalist whose level is increased by resting at camp fires and levelling this up allows increased loot pick ups in the field. Ignis is the chef of the group, whose cooking from ingredients found (such as fish caught by Noctis) or bought create dishes which act as buffs. Characters also only level up once you find a place to rest.

As for the exploration, the game takes an open world approach, but not in a sandbox Grand Theft Auto kind of way. The first comparison that comes to my mind is The Witcher 3. You can go wherever you want when you want, but the open world acts as more of a framework and connective tissue for the narrative. Still, it is a very impressive world, with a tremendous sense of scale, such as the fight against the Hydraen or being in the centre of the Disc of Cauthess. However, the driving mechanic is rather on rails and restrictive, but the piloting of chocobos are fun.The day night cycle also plays into the game too, with night time giving rise to the daemons, which are more powerful monsters, so you don’t want to be too far from a rest location in the wilderness.

As to the side quests, most of them that I have done have fallen into either the categories of monster hunting, which are usually fun and a good challenge or fetch quests, which are usually quite routine. There are some that are base infiltration or optional high level dungeon crawls. These side quests aren’t terribly impressive and don’t typically have much in the way of narrative drama, so they don’t run the risk of overshadowing the main story like what occurs in some contemporary western action RPGs these days.

As for the aesthetics of the game, well this game is beautiful. The original soundtrack is excellent as always and while cruising in the regalia,you can play the music from old Final Fantasy games, which is an added bonus. The visuals are also quite tremendous in motion too, with excellent lighting at at all times, the glowing of the meteor and the gigantic geological arches in Duscae, the wetlands of the Vesperpool or the Venetian inspired Altissia and much more locations, the game has a nice variety of environments. It has an art direction that has an eclectic array of influences fused with the creatures and overall style of the Final Fantasy series, as well as being technically impressive too. On the technical side, there are aliasing issues sometimes and the texture filtering and LOD is not always the best. The game also runs at 30FPS, which is stable most of the time and never drops to a level that is persistently detrimental to the experience. On the whole, it is a pleasure to look at and I’d love to see how much further an eventual PC release could take it.

Every time you boot the game, a screen comes up saying ‘A Final Fantasy for fans and first timers.’ With this series, I would not consider myself either of those. But even with this game’s quirks and flaws, the legacy of it’s troubled development and the expectations that come from such a release; Final Fantasy XV is an absolute joy to experience and comes highly recommended.

9/10

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

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