Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (2017) PC Review

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The Resident Evil series has had it rough after the fourth entry in the main line series. It’s sequel, Resident Evil 5 is routinely laughed at for the ridiculousness of Chris Redfield punching the shit out of a boulder. It is also routinely and rightfully criticised for it’s poor partner AI that is forced on you if you don’t have a friend to play with. Resident Evil 6, while it’s combat mechanics are surprisingly quite good, every other aspect of it’s overall design is questionable. With Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, I am pleased to say that Capcom has put the series back on it’s feet.

One of the first things you will notice about this latest entry in the 20+ year old franchise is that it does not utilise the fixed camera angles of the original 3 games, nor the tight third person camera of 4, 5 and 6 but rather opts for a first person perspective that has become ubiquitous with contemporary horror games. This change in perspective is very effective in RE7. For example, in cinematics, such the dinner table scene, where the Baker family tried to make protagonist Ethan Winters eat some rancid looking human organs, which made me wince and recoil in disgust. Likewise in early sequences when Ethan suffers horrific bodily mutilations.

The storyline is also surprisingly good and well told. The set up is that the wife of Ethan, Mia, has been missing for three years but then receives a message from her in Dulvey, Louisiana, setting Ethan off on a mission to rescue Mia from the Baker’s estate. It all sounds very Silent Hill 2 and I was concerned before the game came out that the plot of this would just be a SH2 rip off. Thankfully, it’s not. Whilst the general trajectory of the story will be of little surprise to veteran Resident Evil fans, it is still skillfully executed and shows a positive level of restraint that never lets the game veer into a level of campiness that would put the game at odds with itself. Skulking around the decrepit houses on this plantation also reveal an incredible attention to detail that provides background information on the Baker’s life, which despite them being the primary antagonists of the game, had me feeling pity for them.

In terms of the mechanics and design of the game, everything from the shooting to the inventory management and sneaking around work really well. The shooting is tight and responsive, with weapons such as the shotgun feeling and sounding powerful, to the SMG’s high recoil or the kick of the 44 Magnum, every weapon feels different and satisfying to use. Even the knife is satisfying to use and can be quite effective, at least in one on one encounters with standard enemy types. Enemies are also threatening and can take quite a few pistol rounds before they can die, which is especially terrifying in the early game where ammo is scarce, so it’s often better to run away. One time after I had picked up the shotgun, I was in the boiler room and quite a few of the molded, which look like a more earthy and grotesque crossbreed of Regenerators and BOWs, had spawned and were giving chase, so I managed to headshot a few and kit the rest until they were all dead. It was tense and exciting. Boss fights, at least the early ones, are especially terrifying and thrilling at the same time. Enemies also telegraph their attacks, which gives you enough time to get a shot off, run away, or crouch to dodge, but you must still be quick about it if you don’t want to be hit. One disappointment is that there are very few different standard enemies.

Stealth mechanics, meanwhile, are very rudimentary, so there’s no lockers or closets to hide in to remind yourself of your high school days,  but it works well enough to be tense yet never frustrating.

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Save rooms and item boxes return and general inventory management return through an interface that is dark and minimalist, but still easily readable and intuitive to use. The save rooms are comfortable spaces which play a melancholic but relaxing tune that is incredibly comfy.

While inventory spaces and item combinations are much more streamlined and forgiving, you will still be making regular trips backtracking to item boxes. But since your movement speed is decent and the levels are designed quite tightly, the backtracking never becomes tedious. There is also a slight bit of handholding in that the map screen tells you what your objective is, but there’s no objective markers that trivialise the game and insult the player, but nor are you under threat of being regularly confused or forgetting what you had to do in case you returned to your game save after not playing for quite some time.

The game is also expertly paced and shows a lot of variety and influence from a variety of different horror titles. One minute you’ll be skulking through the guest house with nothing, the next you’ll be defending yourself against a crazed enemy and then skulking around the main Baker house, finding items and solving puzzles and playing a cat and mouse game with the patrolling Jack who functions much like the Xenomorph from Alien: Isolation, although thankfully frustration is avoided since he can’t one shot you, at least on normal. The best puzzle is a later game escape room, whereas the rest of the puzzles are things like rotating an abstract object in front of a light to match the silhouette of a painting. These puzzles are largely simple and while not entirely brain dead, they aren’t exactly head scratchers of old Resident Evil or the Silent Hill series. Speaking of Silent Hill, the overall progression is more like that than the first Resident Evil where instead of being singular location with shortcuts,loops, different pathways and so one, each area in RE7 is more like a discrete area and it works well here.

The campaign as a whole is quite lean, as I beat it in 7 hours and 42 minutes. Some online have complained about this length, but this length, for a decent player on a first  time playthrough is quite standard for games in the horror genre. The original 3 Silent Hill  games took me about this long, or a bit less to beat.Horror games as long as Alien: Isolation are quite an anomaly. Here is a good balance between quality and quantity. There is also replay value in the Madhouse difficulty mode, which is unlocked upon completing the game, which I will probably play on when I eventually revisit the campaign some day. But what it does is not only makes the enemies tougher or Jack faster, but item placement is changed, checkpoints are removed and saves are limited like how they were in classic Resident Evil.

In terms of the presentation, the game is near impeccable. Sound effects are all excellent and so is the voice acting and overall performances with the Baker’s Southern intonations that are both menacing and highly entertaining that deftly walks a fine line between serious horror and camp. The graphics too, as well as the attention to detail, with deep black shadows, excellent animation, texture work and extremely detailed character model. While there is occassionally a low res texture or two, the visuals as a whole are quite great. Enemy designs are creative and often highly grotesque.

The only downside to the visuals is that they can look blurry at times. When I first started playing I thought my eyes were going to shit since the game looked like a layer of vaseline had been smeared on the camera, but it turned out this was due to the anti aliasing setting it was on, which I promptly changed down to FXAA and all was well. Additionally, the motion blur effect here is quite good and I usually don’t like using it in games, but I recommend turning it on. It’s actually quite nice in this game at high framerates.

On a technical level, there is a high level of polish. On a GTX 970, running at 1440p on settings that were a mix of High and Very High, I had a mostly smooth experience running at 60fps or higher for the vast majority of the game. Although sometimes I would experience inexplicable and massive drops in areas that I shouldn’t have, these were few and far between. It also has a suitable amount of graphics options that allow you the game to be scalable on a variety of systems and tweak the visuals to your liking, such as turning off chromatic abberation or motion blur if you dislike those effects. It’s an excellent PC port all round.

Resident Evil 7Biohazard is a game that as you can see, I enjoyed very much. It has a well told story, excellent presentation and will spook you good, especially if you play with headphones on and lights off; the way horror is meant to be played. This is a Resident Evil game that should be enjoyable for anyone of varying levels of familiarity with the series. A great horror game and great Resident Evil game. This is the best the series has been since Resident Evil 4 and is well worth picking up.

9.5/10

 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review (2016)

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When I first heard about Rogue One, I have to be honest with you: I wasn’t particularly interested at first. ‘How could a movie about the retrieval of the death star plans be any good?’ and ‘it won’t expand the universe in any meaningful way’ were among my thoughts at first. But I finally saw the film recently, being fashionably late to the party and boy were my initial thoughts wrong.

The plot of this film is essentially what is described in the first paragraph of the opening title crawl in the first Star Wars. But there is a bit more to it than that. We are first shown a desolate, cold planet with black sands shot in Iceland. It kicks off with the Empire coming to this planet and Galen Orso (Mads Mikkelsen), the Empire’s top scientist who went into self exile, is being forced back into the clutches of the Empire to help complete the death star. His young daughter, Jyn Orso (Felicity Jones) then escapes with Saw Gerrera (Forrest Whitaker). Flash forward and we see Jyn in prison and after being broken out during a transfer to an Empire labour camp. From there, she is thrust into the midst of the rebellion.

The plot as a whole isn’t exactly deep or surprising, but it’s got a solid emotional throughline that is easy to follow. Performances from the core cast are also generally quite solid and do a pretty good job given the material, although I felt that the overall characterisation of our core cast of characters was not as strong as it was in The Force Awakens but it’s decent enough considering the purposes and inevitable conclusion of this film. Still, the core cast was as a whole likeable, especially K2, a droid who takes the role of comic relief, providing a much needed levity and excellent bants. Donnie Yen’s blind mystic character is rather one note, but his performance in the action scenes is strong as per usual.

So enough about the plot.

In terms of how the film looks and sounds, it is incredible, with incredible cinematography in a variety of locations, from the bazzar of the mesa city of Jedha, a repurposed Jedi temple, the familiar Yavin 4 base all the way to the conclusion on the tropical Imperial base on Scariff, which is home to the last act of the film.This last act is an exciting and visually stunning long action sequence that like the film as a whole uses a combination of practical sets and effects combined with state of the art CGI. There are some seriously impressive and awesome set pieces here and throughout the rest of the film where the action is generally quite good and visually interesting. The more emotional death sequences here also feel a tad rushed, considering there are quite a few to get through and it just misses that higher emotional mark.

We also see Darth Vader kick some ass, which is pretty damn awesome and through just that short sequence, really adds to the overall character. The only bad thing I have to say about the visuals is that the CGI rendition of Tarkin (Peter Cushing) looks really unnatural and jarring during dialogue that use plenty of close ups. It’s noticeable and distracting considering little effort is made through the lighting, shot or edit choices to hide this obvious flaw.

Some people say that this Gareth Edward’s directed Star Wars film is better than The Force Awakens, I wouldn’t say that’s exactly true. It does some things better, some things not as good. But, as a whole, this is a fun space adventure that is visually arresting and action packed. While it does have some problems that come as a result of being such a stringent tie in to the first film, it still manages to meaningfully expand the Star Wars universe. If you haven’t seen it already, check it out.

7.5/10

 

Pillars of Eternity (2015) PC Review

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Pillars of Eternity is just the type of RPG you don’t see made these days, at least from major studios and is only possible because of the advent of crowdfunding. And despite it’s kickstarter budget, Obsidian have developed a very high quality RPG in the vein of the classics.

In RPGs of this kind, the quality of the writing can make or break the game to a large degree, since you are going to be doing plenty of reading. I’m pleased to say the writing is, while not earth shattering, is quite solid. In terms of the plot, the premise is that your player character is settling in a place known as the Dyrwood,when after your caravan is ambushed, you escape and come across a ritual and survive a deadly, supernatural weather. This causes you to become what is known as a Watcher, who is someone who can see into the souls of others, as well as see fragments of one’s previous lives. So the main thrust of the narrative is a personal quest to find out how this happened and who caused so that you have a hope of finding some kind of eternal peace. Through this main quest and some of the side quests, concepts such as past lives, mental illess and existentialism that just screams Nietzsche, at least a little bit. All these things are presented in a way that is engaging and interesting. The worldbuilding, through dialogue and lore books is mostly well done, although there can be a bit of lore dumping at times, but this wasn’t terribly indigestible and through pretty much just playing the game normally I had a pretty decent understanding of what was going on.

Another strength of the writing is that it is suitably descriptive, yet never being too verbose for it’s own good. And it also avoids the fantasy racism type of side narratives that is often poorly done and hamfisted in the fantasy genre. Although the game does claim that the race of your character can impact how NPCs or party members interact with you, I had never experienced something like this happening.

As for other parts of the presentation, the sound effects are by and large quite good and the music is quite nice. Voice acting however is a mixed bag with some of it being decent to being laughably bad and while the game isn’t fully voice acted, you will still be hearing it quite a bit. Still, it’s decent more often than it is bad.

The game utilises the unity engine with a mixture of 2D and 3D graphics, with players, NPCs, creatures and so on being 3D with the backgrounds being stunningly prerendered. Many sections, from the first dungeon, to the towers (as pictured in the header image) and all the interiors, everything looked very nice. The only thing that looks kind of shit are the faces on characters, but you’ll rarely be seeing them anyway so it’s not too annoying.

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As for the game itself, being a game harkening back to classic computer RPGs, it plays very much like them. It’s in an isometric view and you control a party of characters, levelling up your stats, specialising them.Levelling up can take a while since the base game only has 10 levels. You cannot grind since enemies don’t respawn, which is wonderful for backtracking through a zone. You can also put characters on double speed which makes backtracking far less tedious. The inventory system is quite nice too since you have a stash which you can store infinite amounts of items, which is great for getting easy money just by looting enemies and selling all your shit.

As far as classes go, there are your usual fighter, ranger (which i played), wizard, rogue and so on and your party will follow the usual tank, support and dps type of arrangements. The game doesn’t exactly move the genre forward, but it doesn’t intend to. Pillars of Eternity however does have a couple of it’s own interesting classes amongst the usual. One of these is the chanter, which is much like a bard but with the twist that they’re quite capable in combat. Indeed, I had one of these as my main tanks and it’s support abilities are very useful. They can be specced out to support a more melee or ranged playstyle. There’s more classes, such as monk or barbarian but I never had them in my party so I don’t know how well they play. Another nice touch is that you can reroll your characters if you want and also hire other party members that you have full control over them if the given companions don’t tickle your fancy or suit your desired party composition.

Combat in Pillars of Eternity , instead of being turn based like other recent classic RPG revivals like Divinity: Original Sin or Shadowrun: Dragonfall, is a real time with pause combat system where you control your party actions and can pause the game to survey the situation and to queue orders for each character. Combat encounters can take minutes or seconds depending on your characters and how well you begin the encounter. Good planning is favoured over improvisation, although you can get away with a little bit of that. As an aside, i found the wedge formation to  be the most useful. I found this combat system generally quite enjoyable and rewarding. Anyone who has played a game like this in the past will likely find this enjoyable too. When you pull off a quick victory against odds that at first appear insurmountable or winning battles by a hair, it’s very satisfying.

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As for the difficulty, I played the game on normal and it was quite a decent challenge most of the time. Starting out as a ranger can be quite tricky but once you’ve got at least a wizard and a fighter, the game starts becoming manageable for competent players. The difficulty is up and down, with some parts kicking your ass or at least being quite intense and requiring you to use your brain. At one point however, combat encounter became trivial and I was on autopilot for a while until I got to the last third of the game where the combat became challenging again. The difficulty for the most part is fair, although sometimes the game will fuck you up and ruin your day, such as running into a mob of pretty powerful ogres that will grind you into dust.Boss  type encounters, which are few but still present, can also feel quite cheap at times. The main boss itself will be quite difficult enough on it’s own, such as the dragon at the Hylea temple but the game insists on throwing a posse of smaller enemies that aren’t trivial, which will likely cause you to have fuck all magic or ability uses by the time you’ve got your whole party focusing on the main enemy.

As a whole, Pillars of Eternity is a successful classic computer RPG with modern polish. It’s presentation is mostly great, it’s combat challenging, fun and intellectually stimulating and it’s writing solid. The game will take you about 30 hours or more depending on how many side quests you do, at least on a first playthrough and there is plenty possible replay value here through having different character builds and party compositions and making different dialogue and narrative choices. For anyone who has ever enjoyed this kind of RPG ,it is well worth checking out.

8.5/10

Superhot (2016) PC Review

 

Superhot is a very simple, yet innovative first person shooter. It’s mechanics involve having time slowed down to almost a standstill when you are not moving. And it moves at normal speed when you do. Enemies and yourself are one shot kills if you shoot them or smack them with a melee weapon. You can stagger them by throwing your weapons at them, or other items placed throughout the levels to make them drop their gun which you grab in mid air and shoot them in the face. Then, once you’ve cleared the level of enemies, you get a replay of you clearing the level at full speed and it truly makes you feel like some kind of action hero because it looks really, really cool. Essentially, it plays like almost like how a first person version of Hotline Miami would play.

The aesthetic of the game is a very minimalist one. Levels are white and untextured,weapons are black and very obviously lower poly than models from your typical modern FPS and enemies are red and also low poly. It is a striking visual style that aids the game by making all information the player needs all the information it prevents, with no clutter.

The levels themselves, which are typically quite small (and there are about 32 of them) are largely interesting and well designed, with excellent enemy and weapon placements (with the elevator pitch level a particularly good example.) However, if you’re in any way decent at the game, the game is quite short. You might be able to beat it in 2 hours or less. But the last level feels as if they ramped up the difficulty astronomically to the point of it being genuinely frustrating and seemingly unfair, with bullet that appear to be going past you actually hitting. It’s as if the developers of the game knew they made something really short so they just made the last level so much harder than the rest of the game to pad it’s length so as to reduce the amount of steam refunds it gets.

In terms of story, the game has a sort of amusing tongue in cheek metanarrative that frames the game which I didn’t mind. There’s not much else to say about that however. One thing I was disappointed with was it’s lack of music. And considering the length of the game, I think including a basic level editor would’ve helped to justify the price of the game since it’s standard price is USD $24.99. I got it for USD $16.74 and I’d say it’s worth it at the price or less, but even that might be a stretch for some. Still, if you complete it in 2 hours or less, you can just refund it. There are challenge modes and an endless mode, but they don’t add much worthwhile longevity to the game, with some of the challenge modes just being stuff like a permadeath mode or a mode that makes every punch a one hit kill, kind of like the Tony mask in Hotline Miami. 

All in all, Superhot has a bold visual style and is a total blast to play (up until the final level) with a highly focused and expertly executed and highly original premise. Completing each level and watching your normal speed replay is incredibly satisfying. However, it has a lack of any meaningful longevity that something like an easy to use level editor would do for a game like this. All these aspects makes this a game that troubles me in the sense that it’s hard to recommend yet hard not to recommend, especially considering the asking price. If you can get it cheaply, especially at a price lower than what I purchased it at, go for it.

8/10

Final Fantasy X: HD Remaster (2016) PC Review

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Final Fantasy X is definitely a blast from the past, coming from a time in which the traditional styled of JRPG was still popular and had big budgets (for the time) behind them as opposed to the relatively niche position to occupy today. This HD remaster, which comes bundled with it’s sequel, Final Fantasy X-2, the latter of which will be reviewed separately because these games are pretty long.

The job Square Enix have done with this remaster are incredible. The models are higher poly than the original and the pre rendered backgrounds look astonishing, as you can see with the image at the top of this review. The CGI FMVs of which Square was known for back in the day return here at a surprisingly high quality looking very nice on my 1440p monitor. The quality of these remastered FMVs surpass those of many modern FMVs, such as the few in Deus Ex: Human Revolution or Metro: Last Light, which often look blurry and blocky at higher resolutions. It comes with a decent set of graphics options, which I maxed out easy. There are also two soundtrack options, original and arranged and the choice between the two will come largely down to personal preference, but I gravitated towards the original. There are only two real drawbacks to the remaster: the models on Tidus and Yuna can at times look a bit doll like as supposedly the original facial animations aren’t properly synced up at all times. The second is that the game has a frame rate limit of 30 FPS, which is not a deal breaker considering this is essentially a spruced up version of a game from 2001.

Another good additions to the remaster is toggle able cheat codes, such as turbo walking which is handy if you ever need to backtrack, or the ability to increase or disable random encounters.

Now to the game itself. The story of the game has you, Tidus, star blitzball player survive an attack on his city, Zanarkand. After the attack, Tidus finds himself 1000 years in the future in the land of Spira. It’s a classic fish out of water set up that persists throughout. The game even takes this literally with Tidus actually being fished out of water. Soon, Tidus finds himself with a varied cast of characters, from the pious but friendly Wakka, the level headed and pragmatic Auron and the upbeat Al-Bhed, Rikku just to name a few. Soon you find yourself attached to the pilgrimage of a summoner named Yuna (who is the real protagonist of this story).

In regards to the voice acting, it’s definitely a bit hokey and a bit cringeworthy with the infamous Tidus Laughing scene being a prime example even when viewed in full context. But for the most part, it’s not too bad although the line delivery is sometimes a bit rushed or not terribly great. Still, at it’s worst it’s a bit cringeworthy but still tolerable.

As for the combat of the game, it is a classic turn based system. You have three characters on the field at a time,which can be switched easily for others, creating a good flow. There’s your classic buffs and debuffs, magic and so on. One thing that is different about the combat compared is the overdrive system, which is a meter that fills up for each character during combat, allowing special attacks. Then when you use these attacks, they usually require a button combination or a timed press in a small yellow bar, which enables higher damage.

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The levelling system here is quite unique. It is a system called the sphere grid and it looks daunting at first but it’s really quite intuitive. How it works is each character starts at a point on the grid and when they level up are granted movement points to move along the grid so that you can then use attribute spheres (eg; power spheres for health and strength upgrades, mana spheres for magic, ability spheres to learn new abilities, etc.) to improve your characters. You also don’t have to be right on an ability or attribute node to enable them, you must at least be adjacent. You can also move back on your grid fast as previously used pathways can be traversed quickly if you want specific abilities or to multi class. The multi classing is also quite intuitive as characters tend to cross over on other grids once they’re done with their sphere. As a whole, it’s a very enjoyable and intuitive system to use.

As for the pacing of the game, well it’s incredibly linear. The type of linear that Final Fantasy XIII gets shit for. However here it doesn’t take 30+ hours for it to open up as you’ll be very close to the end of the game by that time. Plus, different times have different expectations. FFXIII was released years after the more open XII. Plus, back in 2001 when the original version released on the Playstation 2, open world games were far less common as they are now. Grand Theft Auto III had yet to release and the world was still a year out from Morrowind. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that this is a very linear game but in my view not painfully so.There are also occasional puzzle sections which can be a bit trial and error and a tad frustrating, but only on a few of them.

The biggest problem of for the game’s pacing comes in the last third where, if you’re an absolute purist, requires grinding. The end game bosses for example have one shot kill moves and very high health that no matter how good you are with your formations and buffs and debuffs, will destroy you if you’re not properly levelled. Some of the side quest bosses, like the Dark Aeons, have absurdly high health and immunities that they are impossible to beat unless you have weapons that break the damage limit (which is a hell of an annoying mechanic) in addition to having grinded for many hours. If you’re like me who just played through and did most random encounters without searching for them, then you’ll be underlevelled towards the end. The grinding here involves nothing interesting except for the reward, but that just turns the game into tedious busywork. Thankfully the cheat codes help get you over that last stretch to the finish line, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that the grinding is a chore that exists as padding.

This HD Remaster of Final Fantasy X on PC, despite a couple issues, is currently the best way to experience the game. And while the game itself was generally enjoyable with wonderful music, likeable characters, touching story moments and wonderful visuals, the game is held back by archaic technical design (ie; the reasons why it can’t go beyond 30fps without the game breaking) and a padded with grinding third act. The game is definitely dated, but it’s still by and large and enjoyable experience.

7.5/10

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

Angry Goy: The Ethnic Cleansing Video Game (PC) 2017 Review

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Wew lads. This game is bound to be one hell of a controversial free release when the mainstream news press catch wind of it for it’s violence and political nature. Indeed, this is a political game, although meant to be more as catharsis and satire than deep and original political commentary. I cannot really say the political aspect of the game, which will be appealing to people who agree with the motifs in the game and horrifying to those who don’t, ruins the game since the political aspect is inherent. Indeed, for this type of game, the right wing politics makes a good framework for this kind of ultra violence.

But putting the politics aside, especially since there is likely to be no shortage of kvetching about from mainstream news press, we should focus on the game itself.

So, what is Angry Goy all about? It’s a very simple set up: a young man gets angry at the state of his country and goes out to massacre every black, arab, jew and leftist he sees.  The creator of the game describes it as “one big shitpost”. Simple stuff. The actual gameplay is a very simple 2D sidescroller in the vein of Streets of Rage type beat em ups. However, the melee combat here is banal tapping of space until the enemy dies. The shooting is similarly basic and consists of holding space at the enemy until they die and occassionally reloading. This simplicity, whilst repetitive could be fine if not for sudden difficulty spikes,most notably when AK 47s start appearing. The levels around this point have unpredictable health kiosk placement and the game starts to swarm you with enemies to the point where it becomes very frustrating and trial and error. I almost feel like as if the game was balanced around a control scheme that the game does not possess, like say, mouse aimed shooting . You can also crouch but it seems random since there is no control over when it happens. Enemies can crouch too. The animation is also there. Why it’s not a part of the mechanics of the game I have no idea.

Also, when you die, the game plays clips, such as the infamous Barbara Spectre clip where she talks about jews being at the forefront of Europe’s “multicultural transformation.” Clips like these explain the 1GB file size of the game. Thankfully for those that have already seen these videos, they can be skipped.

There are a good variety of enemy types, at least in terms of sprites and sound bites. But their variety of behaviours is limited to: guy with melee weapon that whacks you repeatedly, guy with gun that stands and shoots you and guy who crouches and shoots you. Considering the game’s use of ethnic stereotypes, not having more enemy types, such as the stereotypical suicide bomber that should function like those AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH guys from the Serious Sam games, is a seriously missed opportunity that could heighten the type of offensive, humorous tone the game is going for, as well as the variety and overall fun factor.

In terms of the aesthetics of the game, it rocks a simple retro 2D aesthetic that looks a little like Hotline Miami as far characters are concerned. On the whole, it’s a clean look with good animations for the most part and fairly solid sprite work, as well as gore effects. There is also a good soundtrack in the synthwave style layered on top which falls short of elevating the carthatic feeling of the moment to moment play, not through any fault of the soundtrack, but because of the rigidity of the controls. As for the voice acting, the protagonist sounds like a discount version of the Postal Dude, but it’s fairly consistent. The humour of the game is also hit and miss. The backgrounds are often funny plays on jokes prevalent in the alt right, but the jokes in the dialogue fall flat more often then not; whether due to the script or delivery I do not know.

Overall then, Angry Goy is a political game that is fairly certain to gain it’s share of controversy, but when all is said and done, it is at best a competent release that could become a much more enjoyable one with mouse aim, more polished controls overall and a re balance in difficulty. For now, you’re better off playing the Postal games.

5/10