A Brief History of Resident Evil

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When the original Resident Evil game was released, Bill Clinton was the President of the United States of America, Prince Charles and Princess Diana decided it was the year to conclude their marriage, and the Germans were still using the Deutsche Mark. Almost 20 years into its prolonged journey through gaming history, the 10th installment of the franchise titled ‘Resident Evil Revelations 2’, made its way onto game-store shelves a few weeks ago and has already received acclaim on Metacritic. The new game sees Claire Redfield and Moira Burton kidnapped by masked assailants and taken to an island facility which is home to those "afflicted in waiting”. One of the elements that contributed to Resident Evil’s remarkable success is its availability on multi-platforms, from consoles, handheld devices and on mobile platforms such as Browsergamez, who also host a plethora of other bloodthirsty action shooters seen here.

Spawned by Shinji Mikami for the Japanese games-developer giants Capcom, Resident Evil created the benchmark for survival horror video games, offering players the chance to play through every cliché in the horror book. Despite the copious blood and jump scares seen in nearly every scary game or movie these days, the formula is adored by millions of gamers globally, and is one of the world’s most successful video games. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some important points in the Resident Evil timeline:


1996 Original Resident Evil released - originally intended as a remake of Capcom’s horror-themed ‘Sweet Home’, creator Mikami persuaded producers that RE packed enough punch to hold its own, and Capcom agreed to allow it to stand as an independent game. In its first year it became a best seller in the US and UK, shifting 5.5 million units, a figure which would climb to 11 million at the time of writing.


1997 Resident Evil: Director's cut- The shock of the game’s first success threw producers off guard, making it difficult to build a sequel in time to satisfy public demand, hence this title being released.


1998 Resident Evil 2- The much anticipated sequel hits shelves, backed by a huge advertisement budget, resulting in the game becoming the fastest selling game North America has seen.


1999 Resident Evil 3: Nemesis- As gaming evolved, Resident Evil evolved too, prompting critics to praise the improved graphics and the introduction of more action orientated game play. Three million copies were sold worldwide.


2002 Resident Evil (GameCube), Resident Evil Zero - As the Nintendo GameCube gathers momentum, Resident Evil releases two titles for the console.


2003 Resident Evil Dead Aim, Resident Evil Outbreak released- The franchise starts to experiment with different player perspectives, this is the year the original Call of Duty is released, marking a big year for the gaming world.


2005 Resident Evil 4- Widely regarded to be one of the best in the series, it was announced Game of the Year at the Spike Video Game Awards.


2007 Resident Evil the Umbrella Chronicles released for the Wii - 1.4 million copies sold worldwide.


2009 Resident Evil 5, Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles- After two years and their first break since the franchise began, two titles are released.


2011 Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D released for Nintendo 3DS.


2012 Resident Evil: Operation Racoon City, Resident Evil: Revelations and Resident Evil: 6 released.


2015 Resident Evil: Revelations 2 released in April this year- Resident Evil is back after two years away, releasing the sequel to 2012s Revelations.

Article by: Sophie Cooper

Comic-Con for Every Skill Level

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From its humble beginnings in 1970, Comic-Con has risen in popularity to become one of the most beloved and anticipated comic book, gaming and sci-fi conventions every year. Its first event in San Diego drew a modest 300 attendees and featured a handful of stars. But, it quickly exploded into the star-studded, costume-packed extravaganza it is today. With hundreds of events, dozens of presenters and attendance topping 130,000 fans in San Diego alone, regular Comic-Cons have sprung up all over the world.

But what makes this event so popular? Aside from the opportunity to meet your heroes and hear from the stars, writers, directors and creators themselves, comic book conventions give people the chance to jump into the life of their favorite character for a moment in time. So, if you're ready to be transported into your favorite world, here are a few suggestions for how to make your costume whether it's your first time or you're a Comic-Con expert:

For the Novice
Many novice attendees have a genuine love of the world of sci-fi and fantasy, but generally don't do anything in the way of costumes or character adoption. They just show up as themselves. They are there to see all of the amazing transformations that take place, to listen to their favorite stars and developers and to visit the booths and events. They prefer to fly in under the radar and observe rather than participate, and there's nothing wrong with that.

For the Intermediate Attendee
This group probably contains the most exuberant attendees. These are the people who show up not as themselves, but as their favorite characters. Whether they come as a hero or villain from their favorite comic book, a memorable person or species from a top-selling video game, a popular character from a movie or anime, or someone they made up entirely on their own, they are always dressed to the nines. And, today it’s easier than ever to fit into this group. If you fit into this category, you can either take some time and effort to make your own costume or take advantage of popular stores like MorphCostumes to buy the perfect outfit for you.

For the Experts
These are the die-hard, over-the-top, not-to-be-outdone pros of the convention world. They spend months or sometimes even years making the perfect costumes and completely delve into the persona of the character they are portraying. They often attend as many conventions as they can throughout the year, and, in many cases, have their own websites or blogs devoted to their Comic-Con lifestyle. When you see these conventioneers, be sure to approach them and appreciate the work they have done. They usually are willing to take pictures and love being a part of making your favorite fantasy creatures come to life.

In the end, one of the greatest things about attending Comic-Con is the acceptance of all attendees. Whether you show up in your everyday clothes and wander the booths or jump in 100 percent, you will be welcome. So, don't be afraid to have a little fun and you may end up attending every year.

Article by: Cherie Nelson

Age of Wonders III: Eternal Lords Review

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4X strategy games aren’t typically my area of expertise. I’m not particularly proficient at micro managing endless menus and stats, and to be honest, there are very few titles in the genre that pique my interest. So why is it then that I’m reviewing the Eternal Lords Expansion to Age of Wonders III? I was introduced to Age of Wonders III only a few weeks ago, and I immediately fell in love with it. In fact, it became the first 4X strategy game that I couldn’t turn away from (aside from Endless Legend). I’ve already invested dozens of hours into the single-player campaign, and while I’m still far from being an expert, I have to admit that my attitude towards this peculiar gameplay style has changed dramatically.

Where Age of Wonders III sets itself apart is in its pacing. The balance between managing cities, resources, raising armies and going into battle is unparalleled. 4X strategy games are notorious for convoluted menus and drawn out management logistics, but Age of Wonders never overwhelms players with unnecessary busy work. Instead, the game places emphasis on battling. No worries, there’s a good amount of tinkering required while exploring the map and expanding cities, so micromanagement aficionados have plenty of material to work with.


"While most AAA publishers charge absurd prices for meager weapon packs or useless skins, developer Triumph Studios has taken a more traditional approach by providing fans a true expansion."

The base game alone offers a tremendous amount of value, and now that the second expansion is released, Age of Wonders III can pride itself as one of the strongest 4x series on the PC. The Eternal Lords Expansion introduces 2 new races, a new class, a new campaign with different endings, new heroes, new units, new spells and an overall rebalancing of gameplay mechanics. If you own Age of Wonders III, this is an absolute must.

Age of Wonders III: Eternal Lords is an exemplary piece of DLC. While most AAA publishers charge absurd prices for meager weapon packs or useless skins, developer Triumph Studios has taken a more traditional approach by providing fans a true expansion at an incredibly generous asking price of only $19.99. In fact, for sixty bucks (at the time of this review), gamers can purchase the entire Age of Wonders III Collection on Steam. This includes the base game, the Golden Realms Expansion, as well as Eternal Lords. This puts most big budget releases to shame (Ehm...I’m looking at you Evolve). 

Eternal Lords is packed with features. Necromancers, Frostlings and Tigrans classes introduce various new gameplay dynamics, such as the Necromancers’ ability to capture cities and transform everyone into undead units, the Frosting's ability to freeze units during battle or the Tigran’s wall jumping skills. The story campaign revolves around Frostling Kingdom’s Arvik who awakens forbidden necromantic powers to reclaim his realm. From the onset, Eternal Lords is notably more challenging. The AI is more aggressive, and opposing units are sneakier when it comes to flanking and anticipating your moves. Even at its easy setting, Eternal Lords puts up a solid fight.


"There is so much more to Age of Wonders III: Eternal Lords, it’s impossible to cover all new intricacies and features with a single review. This is a remarkable expansion to an already superb game."

Cosmic happenings further enhance the experience. These events enrich gameplay with a  sense of unpredictability, and even the most well thought out plans can be affected by a sudden onset of mist or rampaging troll armies that unsettle the lands. New mysterious map locations make exploration more rewarding and intriguing. Aside from finding tucked away riches, there are now hidden castles that can be uncovered to benefit your empire. Race governance plays an imperative role in Eternal Lords. Occupying an elven kingdom, for example, generally leads to unhappy citizens. However, as relations improve, new perks become available and can boost your economy and army units.  

There is so much more to Age of Wonders III: Eternal Lords, it’s impossible to cover all new intricacies and features with a single review. This is a remarkable expansion to an already superb game. Eternal Lords is an absolute must for owners of the base game. And those who have yet to acquire Age of Wonders III, what are you waiting for? This is one of the finest 4X strategy titles on the PC.    

Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: PC

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State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition

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Note: This review focuses specifically on the “upgraded” elements of the State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition. While the article still takes the fundamental gameplay qualities in consideration, the score primarily reflects developer Undead Labs’ additions and refinements to the base game. You can read our original State of Decay Xbox 360 review here

When I reviewed the original State of Decay back in 2013, I praised it for its immersive world, creative gameplay mechanics and tremendous replay value. Despite the horrendous performance, State of Decay’s superb RPG elements overshadowed its technical shortcomings. While the PC port was a “slight” improvement, the announcement of a true next-gen HD update seemed like the developers were finally giving fans the definitive zombie sandbox experience. Sadly, State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition is one of the sloppiest HD remakes to date. If you thought the Xbox 360 version ran poorly, you have yet to experience the brokenness that is the Year-One Survival Edition. As with the original release, the FPS drops make the game barely playable. It’s a mess, and a technical embarrassment.


"Sadly, State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition is one of the sloppiest HD remakes to date."

And yet, the unparalleled RPG gameplay reigns supreme. Even when the FPS plummets to a mere slideshow, State of Decay is difficult to walk away from. In a way, I find myself re-experiencing the same combination of anger, frustration and utter joy as with the original. The Year-One Survival Editions comes with the base game, the Breakdown DLC, the Lifeline DLC, subtle cosmetic upgrades, new achievements, Game DVR, weapon add-ons and unlockable characters. As far as value goes, this is a fantastic package. In fact, if you’re new to the series and you own an Xbox One, State of Decay is definitely worth picking up despite its problems. Contrarily, fans hoping for a smoother experience are going to be devastated by developer Undead Labs’ inability to optimize their game.

Things look relatively promising during the opening minutes. The game performs smoothly, and the improved resolution, textures and lighting give the environments much needed depth and polish. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long before the game starts falling apart. Once the first vehicle is entered, the game engine goes berserk. It’s identical to the stuttery mess of the original, and it’s mind boggling that the frame rate has not improved the slightest. Undead Labs may be a small developer, but this doesn’t excuse the amateurish programming.


"Don’t bother with the Xbox One version. If you have a halfway decent PC, it won’t take long before the Year-One Edition hits the $5 or less bin on Steam."

The unlocked frame not only results in constant jumps in performance, but the screen tearing rears its ugly head far too often. If the FPS isn’t dropping to single digits, the display fills with ugly tearing, making this “remake” hardly an improvement over the last-gen release. There are a few positives, however. The increased resolution and higher definition textures make playing during nighttime much more enjoyable. Previously, nighttime resulted in surroundings transforming into blobs of pure black, but the improved lighting portrays a notably more realistic presentation of darkness.

Everything else remains the same. This is still the exact same game that was released two years ago. Out of all the recent remakes, State of Decay is the one title that could have benefited from next-gen hardware, but instead it feels like a poorly repackaged cash-grab, only worthy of your time if you haven’t played the original release. To make matters worse, owners of the original are offered a mere 33% off until June 30th. This should have been a free update, period! Luckily, underneath all the raggedness lies one of the greatest zombie games ever made. The brilliance of the original hasn’t changed, and some may even consider the roughness part of the charm. Don’t bother with the Xbox One version, however. If you have a halfway decent PC, it won’t take long before the Year-One Edition hits the $5 or less bin on Steam. At least the PC version can be tweaked to run incomparably smoother. 

Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Xbox One

6.5

Tower of Guns Review

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There was a time that Tower of Guns would have been par for first-person shooters. You begin on the ground floor of a tower and proceed to climb to the top, battling an army of murderous robots along the way. There are guns, but none of them are familiar to what we know a gun to be. You can jump not once, not twice, but as many times as you have been able to scrounge together jumping power ups. The story can literally be toggled on or off. It is all very Spartan in its design and very, very, hectic.

Tower of Guns by Terrible Posture Games brings together the double-jumping, strafing, gibbing, madness of classic shooters and the current roguelike craze to create something of a first-person bullet-hell nightmare. In many ways, the game feels almost like a toolbox given to the player by some strange god of chaos. You are not trying to rescue anyone, nor stop some great evil, but instead ascending the floors of a building that wants nothing so much as to kill you. Why are you doing this? Because you’ve been given the means to do it, I suppose. Because it’s fun.

Before each attempt at the top, you choose your gun and your perk. The guns vary, but none require ammo, which is a small gift. You begin with a choice between a pea-shooter and a disc-launcher, neither of which is great, but one of which tells you explicitly to pick the other unless you’re looking for a bad time. Similarly, you’re given a choice between two perks: triple-jump at the start, or immunity to fall damage. I went with the triple jump and wished almost immediately that I could have taken both. As is the case with all great things, Tower of Guns starts you off slow and ramps up quickly.


"Tower of Guns by Terrible Posture Games brings together the double-jumping, strafing, gibbing, madness of classic shooters and the current roguelike craze to create something of a first-person bullet-hell nightmare."

Through the course of playing the game you will unlock more guns and perks. Whether through surviving an exorbitant amount of damage, completing a stage under a set amount of time, or simply reaching the top alive, it’s rare to come away from a run without unlocking something new. I use the term “run” because the combination of permanent death and a short overall playtime means that the goal of the game is not so much to beat it as to show it who’s boss. Over and over again. Even when it tries to bring its own bosses to bear upon you.

The titular tower is broken up into stages, in which you will battle bots of myriad type, ranging from spikeball launching turrets, to hovering buzzsaws, similar to the manhacks in Half-Life 2. Rooms may be six simple walls forming a cube, they may also be a sea of giant bullets that you have to shoot a path through. Such is the nature of the randomize roguelike shooter: you never know what’s going to be in the next room, or what the next room will be itself. In the case of boss rooms, you’re like to find a lone arena, inside of which is some new machination of your demise. Usually covered in spikes. And spitting bullets.


"Rooms may be six simple walls forming a cube, they may also be a sea of giant bullets that you have to shoot a path through."

Tower of Guns offers three different modes to play the game in: Normal, Endless, and Dice Roll. While Normal is a fine introduction to the game, you will find most of your fun in Endless and Dice Roll. As is to be expected, Endless mode keeps going until you die, meaning the tower can essentially go on forever. With each stage offering the player several different power-ups - ranging from more health to actually increasing the overall difficulty of the game - Endless mode not only shows you how immensely frantic the game can become, but just how powerful you as the player can get. At one point I had so many extra-jump upgrades that I could basically fly. It still didn’t help much in a room filled with bullets.


"Despite what can be, at times, sluggish gameplay, Tower of Guns is a very entertaining game and worth picking up for the sole joy of carving a path through an airfield of giant, hateful, bullets."

While I enjoyed Endless mode, I feel that Dice Roll is where the most insane and often times fatal situations play out. When you choose Dice Roll at the beginning of a run, you are signing up for something strange to happen at the start of each room. This can range from the entire room being played in slow motion, to every enemy dropping upgrades of a various type. Joe Mirabello, the creator of Tower of Guns, refers to Dice Roll as “silly” mode and I don’t think I could say it better. There’s no real goal or endgame to Dice Roll mode, it’s just ridiculous. In many ways, it speaks directly Tower of Guns’s greatest strength: simple, silly, fun.

Despite what can be, at times, sluggish gameplay, Tower of Guns is a very entertaining game and worth picking up for the sole joy of carving a path through an airfield of giant, hateful, bullets. While the game’s intentionally repetitive design and lack of any solid narrative left me less than inspired to return to it after my first few hours, I can see myself picking it up from time to time when I’ve got an hour to kill. Unless you’ve never played an old-school shooter like Doom or Wolfenstein, or perhaps you’re looking for a bit of nostalgia, Tower of Guns isn’t for everyone. For those of you looking for silly chaos, however, there is much to be had here.

Review by: Jeff Ellis | Reviewed on: Playstation 4

6.5

Grand Theft Auto V PC Review

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Since this is my second time reviewing Grand Theft Auto V, and since I’ve already expressed my admiration for both console versions, let’s address Rockstar’s problems first before singing any further praises. When it comes to PC gaming, Rockstar doesn’t have the best track record. Bully and Grand Theft Auto IV are still one of the worst PC ports to date (even with all the mods), their recent San Andreas “HD update” was a horrid conversion of the mobile version, and while Max Payne 3 and L.A. Noir were tremendous improvements, Rockstar’s DRM (Rockstar Games Social Club) remains a nuisance that provides more problems than benefits. 

Grand Theft Auto V is one of the most expensive games ever made, and despite gaining record breaking profits, Rockstar has learned little from their past mistakes. I waited an entire week before I was finally able to launch my review copy, and according to the Steam and Rockstar forums, I wasn’t alone. Server problems and performance bugs are one thing, but being unable to even start the game due to Rockstar’s launcher conflicting with Windows Usernames (amongst other things) is an entirely different matter. Now that the game has finally been patched, does it live up to the hype?


"Dusk and dawn on rainy days look particularly jaw dropping, with wet surfaces reflecting surrounding lights with unparalleled realism."

If this is your first time journeying through GTA V and you’re unfamiliar with its characters and narrative, please refer to our original Grand Theft Auto V review where we discuss plot and gameplay mechanics in greater detail. This review focuses solely on technical improvements of the PC port, and whether gamers who enjoyed the console versions should revisit Los Santos one more time.

My hardware for testing GTA V consists of a GTX 780 3GD5, an i7 4770, 32GB of RAM, Windows 8.1 and an ASUS 1440p monitor. As far as graphics settings go, Rockstar has really gone out of their way to ensure gamers with varying hardware specs can run the game. Considering the sheer scope and stupendous amount of detail, GTA V operates remarkably well. Since the benchmark tool is bugged and crashes repeatedly, I’ve taken notes by playing through different parts of the map and analyzing frame rate stats by switching between different graphics options.

Improved lighting and higher resolution textures make the already gorgeous environments even more impressive. Dusk and dawn on rainy days look particularly jaw dropping, with wet surfaces reflecting surrounding lights with unparalleled realism. The shadows, on the other hand, are a bit of a mixed bag depending on which setting is used. The soft setting exhibits pixelated shadows that clip when examined up close (this is very noticeable during daytime cutscenes), and while Nvidia’s PCSS option is notably cleaner and more realistic, the frame rate takes a massive hit when driving down busy roads.


"Achieving a consistent frame rate at maxed settings isn’t easy, even with powerful hardware. After testing each section on the map, we had to turn most options to very high in order to avoid severe FPS drops."

One of the strangest settings is the 59hz display limitation. Being unable to set 60hz results in subtle motion stutter when panning the camera 360 degrees. Even after turning off the in-game Vsync and enabling it through Nvidia’s Control Panel, the stutter persists. Most gamers won’t be bothered by it, and it’s not especially distracting to be honest, but if you’re picky like me, the light judder may be a small nuisance. (Note: setting 60hz via the Windows Display Driver  may or may not remedy the situation for certain rigs).

FXAA and MSAA (TXAA is only available on newer Nvidia cards) are used for anti aliasing, with FXAA being the prefered option for lower end rigs. Surprisingly, setting reflection MSAA and reflection quality at their highest setting still yields favorable performance, at least with our GTX 780. At 1440p, FXAA doesn’t look nearly as blurry as in 1080p, so if you’re gaming at higher resolutions, FXAA is undoubtedly the way to go. 

Achieving a consistent frame rate at maxed settings isn’t easy, even with powerful hardware. After testing each section on the map, we had to turn most options to very high in order to avoid severe FPS drops. Grass density in particular has a hefty impact on performance when venturing outside the city. Keeping this setting at high in combination to turning down Post FX to normal produces drastic improvements.


"Grand Theft Auto V on the PC is unquestionably the definitive version. Even on mid range hardware, the overall quality blows its console counterparts out of the water."

Shader quality is another adjustment that takes a big hit on fps. Its visual impact between the normal and ultra settings isn’t as extreme as some of the other sliders, but running shader quality at max can cut down on more than 20 fps when compared to normal settings. Surprisingly, the texture quality setting between low and max is almost negligible. Rockstar has done a superb job of optimizing texture assets to allow even mid range rigs to exhibit the highest available quality. In most of the other settings, the performance differences are relatively minor. 

Grand Theft Auto V’s Online Mode remains the game’s biggest disappointment. Constant connection problems and long wait times affect nearly every session, and aside from the thrilling heists, the map without most of its inhabitants feels lifeless and sterile. Hopefully, the modding community will introduce more exciting gameplay elements to GTA’s online component, but at its current stage, it still feels like a great idea that’s just not quite there yet. 

Grand Theft Auto V on the PC is unquestionably the definitive version. Even on mid range hardware, the overall quality blows its console counterparts out of the water. Experiencing Los Santos in 60fps is immensely satisfying, and the ability to tweak nearly every imaginable graphics setting with such stable results is a welcoming change from Rockstar’s past PC ports. It’s still frustrating that Rockstar’s DRM has caused (and continues to cause) so many problems, but even with all the hiccups, the painfully long wait for the ultimate GTA experience has been worth it.   

Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: PC   

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