This is the second part of the games I've beaten thus far this year. If you haven't read the first portion, I recommend checking it out here before continuing on!
- X-Com: Enemy Unknown – Publisher: 2K Games. Developer: Firaxis Games. Released in: 2012. Console played on: PS3. (Completed on: May 1st)
I had heard great things about X-Com, but believe it or not I had no idea really what it was about other than fighting off an extraterrestrial threat. Yes, I was aware of the classic original, but again I didn’t know what was in store for me. I wish I had researched it sooner, because the game gave me one of the best turn based strategy experiences I’ve ever had. I loved the concept of juggling missions based on keeping areas of the world safe and happy. Should you neglect the region of Asia, for example, they will pull their support from the X-Com initiative, causing the player to forfeit that place’s bonuses. The class system is balanced, simple, yet highly effective. Your squad will level up, gaining a special skill up to level 10, but otherwise their stats are the same as their level 1 comrades. This makes the permadeath system much more forgiving than say Fire Emblem, but still devastating when it’s a team member you rely so much on. My only gripes with the game is that so many maps seem to be rehashed, making the late game a bit repetitive. I also found some of the randomly generated missions to seem almost impossibly difficult on more than one occasion based on the types of enemies I was placed up against, killing the games otherwise perfect pacing.
My Score: 4.5/5
- Wolfenstein: The Old Blood – Bethesda Softworks. MachineGames. 2015, PS4. (May 3rd)
When I played Wolfenstein: The New Order late last year, I was completely surprised by how gritty and fun it was. Somehow MachineGames crafted a gaming experience so over the top that it was reminiscent of 80’s action movies, and yet as stark and tenacious as modern masterpieces such as Spec Ops: The Line or The Hurt Locker. Plus, the present day shooter mechanics coupled with the mowing down hordes of enemies as seen in the original game is a match made in heaven. This standalone prequel DLC contains all the above, though in less quantities. The game has some grit, but the story is a little more absurd and less focused than the previous entry, making the serious moments have a softer impact. The action is intense, but suffers from some pacing issues. The stealth sequences that make up much of the first hour of the game are frustrating, and caused me to almost forgo the rest of the experience. Still, the more traditional shooter levels are loads of fun, filled with the crazed Nazis, high powered weapons, and extreme gore one expects from the series. It’s certainly worth a look for fans of The New Order.
- MGS 5: Ground Zeroes – Konami. Kojima Productions. 2014, PS4. (May 5th)
The Metal Gear Solid franchise is one of my favorites, but by the time the fourth game rolled around in 2008, the story had gotten so far off the rails that even I, a player of all previous entries, had no idea what was going on. Shockingly, that game tied up most of the loose ends and capped off the series in the best way I thought imaginable, and from there I thought I was finally done with the missions of Solid Snake and Big Boss. But just like Michael Corleone said, just when I thought I was out they pull me back in. I had held off on jumping back into the Metal Gear Solid games until I picked up Ground Zeroes on a sale. I knew that the game was an odd demo of sorts, consisting of essentially a single mission with some side quests based upon a small, yet open, area. I also knew that Ground Zeroes was designed as a launching pad for the base game, The Phantom Pain, which released about a year-and-a-half later (September, 2015). In that regard, it succeeds. Ground Zeroes does well to introduce the player to the updates in the gameplay and welcome audiences to a brand new adventure; the cliffhanger ending is only icing on a cake baked specifically to entice players for a larger second helping. Unfortunately, everything else about the game falls flat. Despite being such an open area, I could only find two efficient ways of accomplishing the mission of rescuing two prisoners from the enemy base. There are some collectibles, but what they unlock seems to only be bonuses for The Phantom Pain and some window dressing for the current game. As for the side missions, some are enjoyable, especially tracking down targets to assassinate in the base, but once you’ve played them once there’s really no reason to return unless you want to beat a high score. Overall, I spent 88 minutes on the core mission, and maybe an hour on side quests. That’s it. For a game that originally retailed for $40, that’s a huge letdown. For now, I think I can postpone jumping back into the boots of Snake for a little while longer.
- Prototype 2 – Activision. Radical Entertainment. 2012, PS3. (May 10th)
Prototype 2 isn’t a bad game, it just doesn’t do anything that I haven’t experienced before, or better, in other games. The super hero-like simulator, similar to Crackdown or inFamous, casts players as James Heller, a soldier hell-bent on killing the protagonist of the first game, Alex Mercer, as he blames Mercer for causing the viral outbreak and the mass destruction that the game revolves around. Having never played the first entry, I wasn’t ever really confused during the proceeds of the game’s plot, and I found it refreshing that the very early parts of the game focuses on a revenge plot to kill the former protagonist. Once Heller encounters Mercer, Mercer gifts the soldier with his abilities, allowing Heller to adopt super speed, strength, and the shapeshifting abilities of the former. This is when the game truly begins, and unfortunately the revenge plot is all but dropped until the late chapters. Heller begins following Mercer’s orders almost immediately while at the same time condemning him for all the bad in the world, which really conflicts with the plot. Furthermore, the plot is made worse by the bad writing. The game contains an absurd amount of curse words, with nearly every sentence containing the word “fuck.” I’m not really offended by the harsh language, but it did make the game unintentionally hilarious at points. The core of Prototype 2 comes from the gameplay, which is enjoyable but not great. I like that Heller can quickly run up the sides of buildings rather than slowly climbing them as in Assassin’s Creed. I also liked the idea of shapeshifting into different characters, but this isn’t taken full advantage of. Instead of turning into a terrifying monster a character with cool abilities, shapeshifting primarily takes the form of stealth, as Heller disguises himself as soldiers to maneuver areas. Stealth areas are stupidly easy as a result. Prototype 2 is fun for the 10 or so hours I had with it, but once the credits roll it’s largely forgettable.
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Square Enix. Eidos. 2011, PS3. (May 16)
I love this game, despite some of its problems. Playing as cyborg Adam Jensen attempting to track down the terrorists that attacked his workplace and killed his girlfriend, the game is thrilling to watch unfold. The game has wonderful pacing, constantly building upon itself to an epic final. Each area offers many side areas to explore and quests to pick up. The most fun is leveling up Jensen and unlocking new abilities for him to use. The stealth route is the obvious best choice, as it allows players to turn invisible, see through walls, and hack terminals. Try as I might, I cannot complete a gun heavy, strength based build of my character in my playthrough as there just doesn’t seem to be enough abilities, and what’s there isn’t very exciting. I’d love to see a better variety of unlockable abilities in the soon to be released sequel. While the overall pacing is great, the obnoxious boss fights can bring the game to a grinding halt. The fights attempt to be like the terrific battles in the Metal Gear Solid franchise, but rely too heavily on gimmicks than on skill. Overall, the game’s style and sheer entertainment value make it worth a playthrough (or three).
- Bayonetta 2 – Nintendo. PlatinumGames. 2014, Wii U. (May 18th)
What can I say about Bayonetta 2? This game is a masterpiece. I don’t think I’ve ever played a game that excelled in style and substance so much as this title. The combat is fast, deadly, and exciting, with battles often taking place in epic locales and with breathtakingly beautiful backdrops of artistic action. Imagine two colossal giants trading swings at one another behind you while you face your foe on a rock surrounded by bubbling lava, sparks and bullets flying all around. The witch time mechanic, in which dodging at a precise moment causes time to come still and allowing for extra hits, keeps battles going a lightning pace while remaining hectic and strategic at the same time. It is in this way that Bayonetta forces players to master the multitude of combos with the skill of split-second dodging. The plot and humor are both a little absurd, yet this is purposeful, and never comes across in a way that leaves players too befuddled. There are numerous unlockables for players to reach for, too, from Nintendo inspired costumes (Princess Peach Bayonetta, anyone?) to weapon upgrades and bonus missions. I did find the game a lot easier than its predecessor, but this is a welcome change. Rather than struggling through a section with difficult enemies, I can win the fight with a poor grade, encouraging me to do better while not halting my progress. I really have no complaints with Bayonetta 2. This is one of the best action games I have ever played. Period.
- Back to the Future: The Game – Telltale Games. 2011, PS3. (May 28th)
Having loved Telltale’s The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and The Wolf Among Us, I wanted to experience a title that they made before they really exploded onto the scene of adventure games. Back to the Future is a beloved series, and the developers nailed many of the aspects that made the film franchise so special. The wit, the charm, the over-the-top action, and the time traveling antics of Marty and Doc Brown are all on display as finely as they have ever been. The plot picks up after the movies, when Doc Brown goes missing somewhere in time and Marty sets out in the DeLorean to find his eccentric mentor. The game plays much more like classic adventure games of the past such as Sam and Max as opposed to the more dialogue heavy Telltale games that most modern releases consist of. Instead of the game being a plot that is shaped by the character’s actions and things they say in conversations, the story here is well grounded, and players must guide Marty in finding clues and picking up items to solve puzzles along the way. Most of these puzzles are much simpler than in adventure games of old, but there are plenty enough of them that at least a few will have players stop and think. One thing Back to the Future doesn’t do well are Quick Time Event (QTE) sections, which in most games consist of action scenes. In nearly every one of the five episodes that make up the game, there is a segment that would be perfect for QTE but is relegated to a simple cutscene. I would enjoy hitting a few buttons to fight off Biff and escape on a hoverboard more than just watching it in a video game. While some episodes are better than others, the game is consistently fun and recommended for adventure fans young and old.
- Uncharted 4 – Sony. Naughty Dog. 2016, PS4. (May 30th)
Perhaps my most anticipated title of the year, Uncharted 4 didn’t disappoint. The plot is perhaps the best the series has presented thus far, as Nathan Drake is brought out of retirement to team-up with his estranged brother, once thought dead in a prison escape. Drake assembles his crew of treasure seekers for one last adventure as they attempt to uncover the lost pirate city of Libertalia. Uncharted 4 is one of the most gorgeous games I’ve ever played, with impressive locales, stunning viewpoints, and character animations that make Drake and co. come to life unlike ever before. I do have some minor complaints about the game’s overall pacing. Whereas the other titles in the series excelled in balancing high energy action with quieter story segments, Uncharted 4 is more concerned in weaving a great tale than a blockbuster action game This isn’t entirely bad, but portions in the game’s beginning and end are a little slow to get going. There also seemed to be far less gunfights than in previous games. Still, this is a must have for Playstation 4 owners everywhere. You won’t regret it.
- Axiom Verge – Thomas Happ Games. 2015, PS4. (June 8th)
This sci-fi adventure, which has players controlling a scientist in a strange alien world after an experiment goes wrong, perhaps borrows from the Metroid series more than any other, and it does so well at it that it isn’t even a bad thing. Axiom Verge has the 16-bit look and feel of Super Metroid, down to the neon colors and somber tunes, yet there is enough unique elements here that make this game seem much more than a simple copy-and-paste. While enemies and locales are varied and distinctive enough to feel special, the weapon selection is what’s most impressive. Accompanying a simple blaster are guns that freeze, guns that electrocute, and guns that explode after pulling the trigger a second time. The most enjoyable gadget in the game’s repertoire is a tiny drone that you can deploy to scout out dangerous areas ahead. There is even a tool that manipulates your environment, sometimes rendering enemies harmless or revealing secret paths. That’s not the say the game is perfect. While the themes of areas are different, when you get down to actually exploring them they all play out pretty much the same. There is also a much greater deal of backtracking than in other similar games, meaning that these repetitive environments become even more of a chore to maneuver through when you are simply trying to get from one place to another. Still, because the entirety of the game was created by a single person (Thomas Happ) you can’t help but be in awe of all the things Axiom Verge does right.
- Ogre Battle 64 – Atlus. Quest. 1999, N64/Wii. (June 10)
That’s right, another strategy RPG. I think after this one, I’m done for awhile, but we’ll see. Ogre Battle 64 was one of my favorite rental games on the 64, but because of its length I could never beat it. So, after buying it on my Wii after catching that strategy RPG fever from Final Fantasy Tactics, I am happy to say I can cross this off my list. The plot is interesting enough, with a knight defecting to a rebel alliance due to a wicked and corrupt king. It is all a troupe that’s pretty familiar in the genre. The battle system is what is really stands out. Instead of controlling characters individually, players only order leaders of small groups, giving them battle tactics but otherwise having little control other than where they should move. Consider this: you tell your squad to take control of a city, send them out marching, and they encounter a battle. You tell the team to assault the leader of the enemy squad, and they do their best to do so. This works for and against the game, unfortunately. When it works, you can walk away feeling like a masterful tactician. When it goes wrong though, players may feel more like an inexperienced coach watching helplessly from the sidelines as his team struggles against the champs. Although you may tell your squad to attack the opposing leader, they don’t always listen to direction, and often do what they want regardless of orders. This can lead to many aggravating defeats. Late in the game, when my squad was so powerful that I rarely needed to tell them what to do to win battles, the game became senselessly dull as it essentially ran on autopilot. I even surfed the internet and made something to eat while my virtual soldiers waged their campaign, and that should never happen in a game. Though it takes until the 50th hour to became that boring, it still occurred and made the ending experience a dud. There is a lot of enjoyment to be had with Ogre Battle 64, especially early on in the journey, but don’t expect to walk away without frustration.
- Ocarina of Time 3D– Nintendo. 2011, 3DS. (June 13th)
This is my favorite game, and arguably the greatest game ever made. Being the next game on my chronologic list of Zelda titles to complete, I rushed through the experience to finish it just in time for the reveal of Breath of the Wild. Not much can be said about Ocarina of Time: the story, the dungeons, the combat, the music, it’s al some of the best in the business. I will take a moment to say that the 3DS update, which I hadn’t played before this, improved the graphics while still maintaining the charm of the original. The added use of the touchscreen to place useful items, such as the heavy boots or a bottle, is most appreciated and makes some of the original’s most frustrating areas much more a breeze. Lastly, the addition of the Master Quest to play after the adventure is completed is an added bonus for fans. You can’t go wrong with this classic, no matter how hard you look.
- Battlefield 3 – EA. DICE. 2011, PS3. (June 15th)
Having sunk a dozen or so hours into Battlefield 3’s multiplayer years ago, I realized that I had never played the game’s single player campaign. Now, at least I can say I have. The plot revolves around a detained marine officer who has uncovered a plot by terrorists to nuke New York City. Try as it might, the story never really stays focused, with many of the twelve missions appearing to just meet obligatory quotas, such as the pointless jet flying level, and a confusing tank level. The campaign is also extremely hard, especially early on. Enemies seem to be expert marksmen, hitting you no matter what cover you are behind. This is also one of those games in which you have a large team that rarely kills anybody, and the enemy never seems to fire upon. Even being a veteran at these types of games, I almost turned the difficulty down to easy because I was dying so often. After around the fourth mission or so, the game lightened up considerably, and I don’t think it was because I was getting much better at the game. Mostly, Battlefield 3’s campaign is mediocre, though it does sport some pretty visuals despite being 5 years old.
- Beyond Good and Evil HD – Ubisoft. 2003/2011, PS3. (June 18th)
By now most of you have heard of this title, but when it was first released it mostly flew under the radar and into obscurity until its HD re-release. With chatter of the sequel maybe someday coming (possibly) I decided to give this stealth adventure game a go. In the game, players control Jade, a reporter and proprietor of an orphanage, as she uncovers an evil government plot insinuating that they are working with the vile aliens that consistently attack the planet of Hiliya. Much of the gameplay revolves around sneaking through soldier patrolled areas, collecting items, taking pictures, and solving the occasional puzzle. A lot of it reminded me of the Sly Cooper series in that it’s light hearted stealth action; the beautiful cell-shaded artwork helps, too. The game is bursting with character, especially from Jade’s uncle and partner Pey’j, an anthropic pig who handles the engineering and gadgetry. There are a few complaints I have with the game, however. For starters, the camera can really be a pain, especially when it can’t decide to give the player control or be fixed at an awkward angle. Combat is also very simplistic, consisting of simply a dodge and a single attack (you can also fire projectiles from afar when looking through your camera, but you won’t do that often). Also, while the areas you explore are varied, there aren’t many of them, making the 12 hour adventure feel much shorter. I’d love to see at least two more areas to sneak through and investigate. Still, the hefty amount of collectibles (photographing animals for extra cash is the perfect poor man’s Pokemon Snap) make exploration a joy, even when it is sort of limited.
These are games that I have invested a good deal of time on this year but haven't beaten, or games that can't really be beaten (mostly Simulation games). I don't have reviews of these, but can provide some if enough people want them.
Cities Skylines (PC)
Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS)
Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer (3DS)
Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
Super Smash Bros. (Wii U)
Civilization 5 (PC)
Pokemon Red (3DS)
Splatoon (Wii U)
Star Wars: Battlefront (PS4)
Elder Scrolls Online (PS4)
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