Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- Review

Posted On

I’ve always considered the Guilty Gear franchise the 2D fighting game savior. At a time when Capcom recycled Street Fighter games over and over, Guilty Gear crashed the party with a rock n’ roll attitude and refreshing gameplay. Over the years, however, Guilty Gear fell into a similar cycle of rehashing the same characters and moves. As a result, the Guilty Gear franchise faded, with only a few dedicated fans whispering its name. Fortunately, Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- is a return to the series's glory days. With a new look and smoother controls, Guilty Gear Xrd is not only the best entry in the series, it’s by far one of the finest 2D fighters in years.

Whether you’re a newcomer or expert, Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- offers something for everyone. An extremely useful tutorial mode walks players through the game’s fighting system, and it’s all presented with hilarious satirical dialogue. The mission and challenge modes are particularly useful for honing skills, and should be tackled before attempting to face more experienced gamers online. Fundamentally, Guilty Gear shares a lot of mechanics with Street Fighter, but its emphasis on offense makes it faster and more chaotic. Slowing down actually depletes the power gauge used for most special attacks, so players are encouraged to constantly keep attacking.


"With a new look and smoother controls, Guilty Gear Xrd is not only the best entry in the series, it’s by far one of the finest 2D fighters in years."

The five-button system is easy to pick up, but the game’s ferocious AI punishes those unwilling to learn each characters’ varying attack properties. The punch, kick, slash, heavy slash and dust combos vary in speed, attack reach and efficiency between characters, making each fighter feel unique and worth experimenting with. Anyone who’s ever played a 2D fighter will have a relatively easy time mastering the quick, medium and heavy attack combos, but it's the special and super move systems that require patience and the ability to twist your fingers like pretzels. If you can’t perform double quarter circle twists in your sleep, don’t even bother competing against expert players.   


"Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- is complicated once you start moving beyond the initial button mashing, but its challenge is balanced by providing players with enough training tools to master each intricacy."

Guilty Gear Xrd’s mechanics are much deeper beyond the combos and special attacks, but trying to explain the game’s complex fighting system is like teaching someone how to tie shoelaces with sign language. It has to be experienced firsthand to make any sense. There’s a gatling combo system, various types of cancels, different bursts and meter mechanics, instant blocking, parrying and the nearly impossible to achieve instant kills. Even after a full week of thoroughly experimenting with each fighter, I only feel like I’ve scratched the surface of what the gameplay has to offer. Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- is complicated once you start moving beyond the initial button mashing, but its challenge is balanced by providing players with enough training tools to master each intricacy. 

Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- has plenty of modes to keep gamers busy for weeks, if not months, but the non-interactive story mode feels like a waste. While the idea of just kicking back and watching Guilty Gear’s story play out in anime style cutscenes sounds great on paper, the actual plot and semi-animated clips are dreadful. The cutscenes are a combination of partially animated scenes with sliding and static images accompanied by nauseating dialogue. The style works in the arcade mode where the intro cutscene is brief, and only serves as padding between matches, but to have an entire movie play out in this style is a terrible decision. Luckily, it’s just an added bonus and doesn’t take away from the superb action. Some may like it for its cheesiness, but I doubt many will even get through all the story chapters a single time. 


"There is so much more to Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-, more than a review can possibly summarize. It’s a beautiful, fast, challenging, bizarre fighter than any fan of the genre must add to their collection."

Poor storytelling aside, the audio and visuals are top notch. The gorgeous, vibrant, 3D-esque cell shaded graphics are some of the best I’ve ever seen. The characters are fluidly animated and the over the top special moves are an absolute spectacle. Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- may be one of the prettiest 2D fighters ever made, and its visuals are accompanied by a spectacular rock n’ roll soundtrack and a super smooth 60 fps.

There is so much more to Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-, more than a review can possibly summarize. It’s a beautiful, fast, challenging, bizarre fighter than any fan of the genre must add to their collection. Whether you are a Guilty Gear veteran or never heard of the series before, Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- is the definitive next-gen 2D fighter and a serious contender for game of the year.  

Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Playstation 4

9.5
Read more

Princess Mononoke: The First Story

Posted On

Amidst Hayao Miyazaki’s retirement, honorary academy award and the troubling rumors regarding Studio Ghibli’s uncertain future, Viz Media expands their imprint this season with the English release of Princess Mononoke: The First Story. The large format book contains the animator’s original 1980 proposal for the legendary film, pairing text with storyboards that exude an air of completion despite their impressionistic quality. Despite Miyazaki’s qualms about the work being too derivative or undeveloped to be released on its own, The First Story reads as well as any illustrated children’s book. 

Overwhelming success in film may overshadow the fact that Miyazaki continually pursued his career as a manga artist. However, seasoned fans will immediately recognize his trademark style. The gestural and rich watercolor paintings reveal glimpses of future characters; this iteration of the mononoke clearly influenced both Totoro and Catbus. The narrative essentially sets Beauty and the Beast in feudal Japan, trading the merchant for a samurai. The samurai’s daughter shares more similarities with Spirited Away’s Chihiro in both appearance and demeanor than the fiercely protective and detached San. 


Setting and name are the only parallels between this reworked fairy tale and the film to follow. A brief afterword by Miyazaki is included, where he addresses some of these concerns. Studios did not pick up this rendition, which prompted Miyazaki to completely rework the story into the darker, culturally authentic, and wholly more original film we know today. Despite taking place after a devastating war, the violence is relatively subdued. There are no complex morality plays. The First Story is undoubtedly enjoyable, but targets a much younger audience with a more basic message. Miyazaki has a knack for creating likeable characters, and the transparent premise still retains personality. 

This hardcover edition features good construction and simple design. Lightly textured matte stock was chosen in lieu of the typical coated semi-gloss. And while the natural finish better complements the art, I wish the binding benefited from the same treatment. Removing the dust jacket reveals a faux photo-textured canvas cover. At best, it looks accidental and clashes with the otherwise clean aesthetic. Yes, it’s a minor complaint, but for what I consider a collector’s item, it’s a disappointing detail. 


Princess Mononoke arrives at just over 100 full-color pages, which is quite lengthy for an illustrated work. Unfortunately, aside from a one-page afterword from Miyazaki, there’s not any additional content included here. Ghibli fans seeking traditional behind-the-scenes extras in the form of interviews or character sketches, may be disappointed. On the other hand, The First Story does pack in an incredible amount of gorgeous artwork, allowing a unique glimpse into the creation process of a modern master. 

Review by: Ameenah Salamunic | Published by: VIZ Media

B-
Read more

Tennis in the Face Review

Posted On

With a title like “Tennis in the Face,” you know a game doesn’t want to be taken too seriously. With its cartoonish graphics and pick-up-and-play controls, Tennis in the Face is not going to fool you into thinking it’s anything more than it is: a simple, angle shooter game in the vein of “Angry Birds.” Its aim is to distract you, not consume you, and with that mission in mind, it is likely to succeed. 

You play as a disgraced tennis pro named Pete Pagassi, fresh out of rehab for an energy drink called Explodz and seeking revenge from the evil corporation peddling the carbonated, caffeinated toxin. In his quest, Pagassi will use his racket to serve a bunch of fuzzy yellow balls right at a variety of enemies: corporate suits, hipster, clowns—you know, lots of things with faces. As you advance though the games 100+ levels, you must manage your tennis balls and explosive energy drinks wisely, as you aim your serves through narrow passages and plan ahead  for elaborate ricochet shots to eliminate your targets and advance through the games different areas. As you do, you must navigate more obstacles, from vending machines that can take a beating but really improve your overall score, to glass and scrap heaps that end your balls’ bouncing too soon. 


The concept isn’t complicated, and you will soon be acing levels in no time—which is sort of a drawback of the game. While some of the later levels present a nominal challenge, even halfway through the game’s missions I found myself getting a one serve win by vaguely aiming at a group of opponents and counting on my weapon’s generous bounces to see me through. All of the levels are enclosed, which means it’s fairly easy to let your serves go for quite a while, ending the round on a lucky bounce. Earning that kind of photo finish with a single serve can be pretty cool if you work at it, but it happens often enough to make many levels feel like they were more cobbled together than painstakingly designed. 

Although I reviewed the PlayStation 4 version of Tennis in the Face, the hardware seems like enormous overkill. The game was clearly designed for touch and mobile devices, and booting up the black beauty to play on the big screen a game that looks more at home in a browser window is completely unnecessary—even if it does make excellent use of the touchpad on the DualShock 4. It’s possible I may have enjoyed the game more on another platform, as the levels were clearly designed for short bursts of entertainment. As reviewed, however, Tennis in the Face is a fairly forgettable and shallow distraction that’s neither very charming nor challenging. If you’re looking for a distraction while your latest AAA title downloads the newest update, there’s plenty of other more rewarding experiences in the PlayStation store. If you’re hosting your nephew for the holidays, on the other hand, and he wants to play your PS4 and all you have is Grand Theft Auto V and Dragon Age, then Tennis in the Face might be a good game to balance out the library. 

Review by: Nick Walge | Reviewed on: Playstation 4

6
Read more

Giana Sisters Director’s Cut Review

Posted On

I confess to never having heard of the original Great Giana Sisters for the original Nintendo Entertainment System. I suspect that I am not alone in this fact, given the series’ sordid history with its being pulled from the shelves for its similarity to Nintendo’s flagship Super Mario Bros. I will say that, regardless of its history, Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams should be toted as an excellent example of what side-scrolling platformers still have to offer gamers today.

The Director’s Cut, released to the PlayStation Store and the Xbox Marketplace in early December, features the original Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams as well as its stand-alone add-on Rise of the Owlverlord, additional holiday-themed levels, an optional, more agreeable, difficulty for the uninitiated, and all of it running in 1080p at a smooth 60 fps. 


"Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams should be toted as an excellent example of what side-scrolling platformers still have to offer gamers today."

There is a story here, of sisters and rescue, of dreamscapes and teenage rebellion, but it is more of a touchstone, included almost only because it is expected to be. Where Giana Sisters really shines is in its precise and engaging gameplay. What starts with jumping on monsters heads and collecting colorful diamonds, ends in elaborately choreographed combinations of dashes, spins, bounces, and dimension altering transformations from princess to punk and back again.

Twisted Dreams plays like an historical document, cataloging all of the highlights in side-scrolling games of yore. You have the jumps, bounces, and collectibles that make up the staples of the genre, but included with these are throwbacks to some of my favorite titles. You have the dashing madness of games like Rocket Knight, and the much-loved wall jumping of the Mega Man X titles, not to mention the occasional underwater excursion harkening back to Donkey Kong Country. All of this could fall flat in the hands of the wrong people, but Black Forest Games clearly know what they’re doing and use these tried and true mechanics to make for an exciting title that sets itself apart from the sources it is clearly drawing from.


"Black Forest Games clearly know what they’re doing and use these tried and true mechanics to make for an exciting title that sets itself apart from the sources it is clearly drawing from."

Most notable of Twisted Dreams’s game mechanics is the ability of its main character Giana to switch from “Cute” to “Punk,” essentially transforming herself and the entire level along with her. Certain things, like platforms, bumpers, and springs, may only exist in one realm or another. Similarly the collectible yellow and red diamonds that are the games score system may only be collected by either Cute Giana or Punk Giana respectively, meaning that as you progress through the game’s harrowing dance of traps and monsters you will need to be constantly switching between the two if you intend to collect all that each level has to offer. 

From the look and theme of the levels, to the music, even to the color of my DualShock 4’s light, everything in the game changes alongside Giana’s mood and it makes for an awesome challenge. The game’s puzzles were less of the “Push these things where they have to go” variety and more in figuring out when exactly you need to switch it up, often times having to do so mid-flight. Couple the already maddening experience with some enemies not being present in one dimension or another - or completely changing their behavior as you change moods - and Twisted Dreams presents a constantly engaging and fun ride.


"I found my time with the game incredibly enjoyable, in the way that rushing home from school to blow out my Super Mario Bros. cartridge and chug Mountain Dew always was."

A common downfall of side-scrolling platformers is how linear they can be. If you’ve played the game once, you’ve played it all. While Giana Sisters is no twisting and mesmerizing web of possibilities untold, it did surprise me with the openness of some of its levels. There’s much to explore here, from hidden rooms, to alternate routes to get to that final, waiting, door. It’s not the most dramatic factor in the game’s success, but it’s a nice touch that didn’t go unnoticed, nor unappreciated.

While Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams could be toted as “old hat,” it is certainly a damn fine hat. I found my time with the game incredibly enjoyable, in the way that rushing home from school to blow out my Super Mario Bros. cartridge and chug Mountain Dew always was. Playing through this colorful, ecstatic, world reminded me how long it’s been since I’ve played a video game, something that presents a challenge in bright colors and fanciful characters with no pretensions. It may not fit into the established paradigms of what we’ve come to expect from the medium in this new generation, but Twisted Dreams is a welcome reminder of the fun that can be had with a simple and well-executed premise.

Review by: Jeff Ellis | Reviewed on: Playstation 4

8
Read more

SteelSeries H Wireless Review

Posted On

Every gaming headphone manufacturer seems to boast about surround sound these days, but very few headsets actually deliver genuine spatial audio. SteelSeries’ Siberia Elite Prism (as well as the V3 Prism) are an exception, and are some of the best surround headphones we recently tested. However, nothing comes close to SteelSeries’ H Wireless gaming headphones. At $299.99, they aren’t cheap, but their auditory performance outshines every model in its class. Their Dolby capabilities are unparalleled, and come closest to replicating an actual surround speaker setup. For gamers looking to invest in a truly elite headset, it doesn’t get more premium than this. The SteelSeries H Wireless are the Ferrari of gaming headphones, and they support nearly every device on the market. 

Because of their diverse compatibility (Playstation, Xbox, PC, Mobile, iPhone and more), the SteelSeries H come with multiple cable hookups and interchangeable power adapter heads for different outlet types, as well as two rechargeable batteries to insure the headphones always remain charged. Depending on the cable type, the H Wireless provide a different Dolby surround sound. Dolby Digital is in effect when connecting via optical audio (best quality), and using USB audio delivers Dolby Pro Logic llx and Dolby Headphone. To get the full surround sound effect, it’s imperative to set the active device to the appropriate Dolby setting, and turn on Dolby Digital via the SteelSeries H transmitter.


"The SteelSeries H Wireless are the Ferrari of gaming headphones, and they support nearly every device on the market."

Setting up the headphones and transmitter is simple, and it’s even possible to use multiple consoles without switching cables if connecting the transmitter via a receiver. Since we have three consoles plugged into one entertainment set at our office, we decided to use the H Wireless via our receiver to easily switch back and forth between the devices. It’s as simple as plugging in the optical cable, turning off the TV speakers and turning on the headphones. The only downside to using a receiver is that the mic won’t work. However, users can keep the USB cable plugged into their desired console separately, and simply toggle the source with the active mic when chatting with friends.

The transmitter is used to tweak audio setting, select sources, and adjust the volume. It also tweaks Chatmix and Livemix settings. Chatmix is used for blending game and chat audio to achieve the best balance between the two, while Livemix automatically increases and decreases game audio when chatting is enabled. All of these functions can also be remotely configured via the headset’s radial dial, and the transmitter’s brightly lit OLED screen makes it easy to see the display when sitting far away.


"Don’t let the gaming label fool you, the H Wireless deliver remarkable sound across all media. The audio is crystal clear, with thunderous bass accentuating action-packed scenes in both movies and games."

The SteelSeries H are expertly designed and built to last. Both the headphones and the transmitter look stylish when sitting next to an entertainment system. Their beauty extends to unprecedented comfort. The leathery ear cushions are soft and don’t generate any heat after long usage. They also do a superb job of isolating exterior noise. The leathery headband provides comfort when gaming for long sessions, although the headset feels slightly stiff initially. This is probably due to the super sturdy build quality. After using the headphones for a week, they loosen up and become more flexible. 


"Words can’t do the SteelSeries H Wireless justice. Gaming headphones aren’t usually recommended for serious audio enthusiasts, but the H Wireless may very well change that trend."

Don’t let the “gaming” label fool you, the H Wireless deliver remarkable sound across all media. The audio is crystal clear, with thunderous bass accentuating action-packed scenes in both movies and games. The surround sound is shockingly accurate, especially when playing first person titles. Multiplayer matches are far more immersive with enhanced positional cues, giving competitive gamers an advantage. The only criticism, and this may not even really be a complaint, is the maximum volume level. But to be fair, that’s a common problem with modern headphones. The H Wireless are powerful, but just a few more notches beyond the current limit would have been beneficial. The mic is just as impressive. While it doesn’t provide anything close to studio grade clarity, it’s the most efficient mic we’ve ever used on a gaming headset.  

Words can’t do the SteelSeries H Wireless justice. Gaming headphones aren’t usually recommended for serious audio enthusiasts, but the H Wireless may very well change that trend. From their sturdy yet comfortable build quality to their diverse compatibility and incomparable audio performance, the H Wireless come highly recommended to gamers willing to invest in a pricier headset. 

Review by: Tin Salamunic

A+
Read more

Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire Review

Posted On

The Marhawa Desire was originally released in Japan’s Weekly Shonen Champion (2012-2013) as a prequel to Resident Evil 6. The serialized manga established backstory by introducing fans to supporting protagonist Piers Nivans, hoping to build anticipation for the upcoming title. The action shifts to the Far East branch of the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance, an organization founded to uncover and eliminate viral weaponry, spawned largely by the infamous Umbrella Corporation. An old friend enlists the help of Microbiology Professor Doug Wright to investigate a mysterious death and potential T-Virus outbreak at the Marhawa Academy in Singapore.

Judging by this first installment, the story is surprisingly accessible to newcomers. The plot doesn’t require extensive knowledge of the franchise; zombie survival horror is a pretty straightforward affair. And that’s not discounting its merit. The goal is escapism. Earlier events are referenced infrequently and explained succinctly when necessary. Granted, the comic is considerably more faithful to the games than the movie series, but I consider that a positive. 


"Serizawa also applies heavy toning, perfectly augmenting the bleak setting. Skillful panel composition relays his cinematography background and further solidifies the storytelling."

Mangaka Naoki Serizawa utilizes atypical techniques that distinguish The Marhawa Desire. His stylization leans towards a type of realism I wish I saw more often. Likenesses are consequently more recognizable, avoiding the same face plague so often seen in anime and manga. Facial expressions don’t have to rely on caricature, contributing to a fitting and believable atmosphere. Serizawa also applies heavy toning, perfectly augmenting the bleak setting. Skillful panel composition relays his cinematography background and further solidifies the storytelling.

Does the comic adaptation succumb to cliché? The Marhawa Academy is not-so-conveniently isolated from the outside world, nestled deep in the wilderness. It’s run by a former love-interest of the Professor, Mother Gracia. Despite the impending danger, her actions seem suspect. She appears to be motivated by nothing more than maintaining appearances, valuing reputation over safety. To top it off, Gracia looks more like a supermodel than a nun, sporting the same curves and pouty lips as her students. Gratuitous sexualization in comics is still common.


"This is a light yet worthwhile read, not only for Resident Evil fans, but for horror enthusiasts seeking a new series."

The Marhawa Desire isn’t markedly progressive, but how often is anything in the horror genre? Serizawa’s unique art style complements an interesting and well-paced narrative. I can’t grant the vast number of zombie flicks the same generosity. More specifically, the Resident Evil films manage to devolve further into abominable territory with each release. Stiff acting highlights flimsy dialogue, stringing together plot holes. Regardless of the target medium, licensed material is often less than mediocre. Thankfully, the comic avoids these egregious tendencies. Swap out poorly directed 3D action for hypnotic inkscapes, and it’s even easier to forgive any inconsistencies. Though at first glance, Marhawa Desire may seem to target a slim audience, it’s relation to the mega franchise is negligible. This is a light yet worthwhile read, not only for Resident Evil fans, but for horror enthusiasts seeking a new series.

Review by: Ameenah Salamunic | Published by: VIZ Media

A-
Read more

You Know What They Should Make? Welcome to Jurassic Park

Posted On

With Jurassic World now creeping onto the horizon, the Game Scouts imagine how to craft an adventure that captures the awe and terror of the film franchise 65 million years in the making. 

The Source: 
Jurassic Park is the first movie I can remember seeing in the theater. I had seen plenty of movies before it, I’m sure, but JP was the first one I truly remember. Every time I sit through it even now (and yes, it is definitely one of those movies I sit through whenever it comes on), I remember every moment from that theater in Myrtle Beach. I recall my parents assuring the usher that I was not too young to watch the movie, followed immediately by the terrifying opening sequence of a velociraptor ripping that worker out of Muldoon’s hands that made me think that maybe my parents had been wrong. And of course, I’ll never forget the awe I felt as the score hit its crescendo and the Brachiosaurs came down with a seat-shaking crash. 

Few other movies have ever matched the sense of wonder that Jurassic Park instilled in me at age six. So when I finally got my hands on the Jurassic Park video game for SNES, I was very excited to relive not just the movie, but an experience. Unfortunately, even though the game’s soundtrack was amazing, it would be the first of many lackluster Jurassic Park games that saw you as either a human who shot your way through hordes of mindless dinosaurs, or a dinosaur that ate your way through hordes of mindless humans. Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis tried to do something unique by offering an amusement park simulator, and although I was a huge fan of that title, it never quite rose to the heights that the film franchise had achieved. No matter what you might have thought of the trailer for Jurassic World, we can all agree that the time is right for an adventure game set on our favorite tropical dinosaur habitat: Isla Nublar. 

The Game: 
Our game’s story borrows slightly from the plot of The Lost World, and takes place after the first three films, but before the Park reopens in Jurassic World. You play as Nick Van Owen, Vince Vaughn’s character from the second film, a documentarian with a history of going into dangerous filming locations, who was originally hired by Hammond to document the behavior of the animals in the park in order to make it into a nature preserve. 


After the events in San Diego, a group of activists assembles in protests against InGen’s creation of genetic monsters. They have formed a private militia that is going to attempt to ripe out the remaining dinosaurs on the islands—something like Greenpeace if it hired private military contractors and sought to cause the extinction of an entire species. Van Owen is hired by a group of benefactors who hope to document the animals on the island of the original park, now overrun with dinosaurs in settled into a complex ecosystem. Their goal, they claim, is the preservation and isolation of the island, but their ulterior motive, of course, is to reopen Jurassic Park. 

Playing as Nick Van Owen, your goals are survival, exploration, and documentation—not extermination. This solves a lot the problem in other games that feature dinosaurs as antagonists. Anyone can stand thirty yards away and blast a pack of velociraptors away with a shotgun, but it would take some real skill to track and film the same pack of predators as they hunt and kill an Iguanodon—especially after you have to start avoiding the armed mercenaries that arrive on the island while you’re there in addition to the giant carnivores. 


Gameplay would be a mix between Assassin’s Creed, Metal Gear Solid, Far Cry, and Pokémon Snap. You are tasked with mapping the entire island, navigating climbing and other environmental puzzles in an attempt to get as much information as you can about each distinct region. As you explore the abandoned Visitors Center’s shops and restaurants, long-abandoned dinosaur enclosures, and abandoned garages full of those distinctively painted Jeeps, you can gain clues about where the different species of dinosaurs herd, feed, or nest. The dinosaurs themselves don’t hunt you down like heat-seeking missiles, but instead react naturally. Some choose to remain docile as you move around them, allowing you to get close-up footage of the creatures as they graze—until you get too close to their nesting ground or young, that is. Other species may have to be filmed using a more stealthy approach, or photographed on the run from the seat of a moving dirt bike. Velociraptors would hunt and stalk you, trying to follow your path and ambush you from stealth, while the T-Rex could be distracted with flares should you cross its path.

In order to advance through the game, you would have to collect footage for all of the known species on the island. You could simply take a few wide shots and call it a day, but like in Pokémon Snap, each photo or video is be rated based on how much of the animal was in the shot, or what it’s doing. A video of a charging triceratops will earn you more than one asleep in the distant tall grass, just as photos of a stegosaurus protecting its nest from an invading T-Rex are more valuable than a photo of the nest alone. There are many potential variables in scoring that keep players competing with each other to have the best shots—all of which can be ranked online both internationally and against your friend’s list.


Money earned can be used to call in air drops from your benefactors back on the mainland. Players use a variety of equipment, including gas grenades, flare guns, tranquilizers, tazers and other nonlethal weapons; everything from wide-angle and fisheye to night vision and thermal camera lenses; remote controlled drones, advanced climbing equipment, or scuba gear to help you overcome or circumvent obstacles; and medical supplies for both yourself and specimens found injured in the field. The game also takes a page out of Metal Gear Solid 3’s survival system, allowing you to collect plants and animals to help you keep up your stamina or bait dinosaurs into moving where you want them to be. Players have to be careful, though, for being directly responsible for a specimen’s death causes a penalty on any collected funds.

Once Van Owen begins to encounter the mercenaries on the island, even more objectives and gameplay mechanics are opened up. Now, not only do you have an obligation to map and catalog the animals on the island, you also have to defend them from the military-grade poachers that have come to destroy them. You can do this either by direct action, such as invading enemy encampments and using your nonlethal weaponry and their own restraints to neutralize them, or more interestingly, indirect action, such as unleashing an enraged dinosaur from one of their traps, or luring a group of hunters into the feeding grounds of a pack of hungry velociraptor. 

The Extra Mile: 
By making the dinosaurs less of an adversary and more of a resource, this version of a Jurassic Park adventure title elevates them above being simple bullet sponges and into the kind of creatures that inspired so much awe in a generation of movie-goers. Portraying locations from the original adds plenty of fan service, while utilizing the classic soundtrack at pivotal points in the game really sells the feeling of the film. As long we are dreaming, we might as well add in remastered orchestral versions of the original SNES soundtrack (seriously, I love those tunes), and bring in Vince Vaughn to provide the voice to his character. 


What else could a developer add into this title to really sell it? How about an opt in multiplayer in the vein of what was offered in Watchdogs. Players participating in multiplayer may choose to invade another player’s game as a dinosaur, and it’s their opponent’s job to capture, tranq, survive, or film the invading player. After all, let’s face it: getting ambushed and your having your face eaten by a velociraptor is one thing—but getting ambushed and having your face eaten by a velociraptor controlled by your friend, that’s some good time fun. 

Article by: Nick Walge

Nick Walge is a writer, gamer, and bartender who also works for a nonprofit in the Shenandoah Valley. You Know What They Should Make? appears on The Game Scouts every Monday. Have ideas for a dream game that you’d love to see made? Let us hear about it by contacting Nick on Twitter @nickwalge or by email at nwalge@gmail.com.
Read more

The Crew Review

Posted On

The Crew is the spiritual successor to Test Drive Unlimited 2, one of the most underrated racing games of the last generation. It’s a gargantuan open world playground, jampacked with more events and activities than any racer to date. Ubisoft promises a new social landscape that seamlessly connects racers across the globe. Racing MMOs aren’t a particularly new concept, but The Crew’s vast American landscape combined with solo, cooperative and pvp races is a big step above the likes of Need for Speed: World or Motor City Online. 

As far as social interactivity goes, The Crew doesn’t quite live up to its premise. The idea of forming a crew and dominating the racing landscape with your buddies is sound, but the end result is a somewhat reclusive experience. However, much like the Test Drive Unlimited series, the joy lies in exploration and discovery. There may be plenty of technical shortcomings holding The Crew back from perfection, but its alluring world is impossible to leave behind. For anyone who’s enjoyed the recent Forza Horizon 2, Need For Speed: Rivals or even Rockstar’s Midnight Club series, The Crew is a strong addition to the sandbox racing genre.


"For anyone who’s enjoyed the recent Forza Horizon 2, Need For Speed: Rivals or even Rockstar’s Midnight Club series, The Crew is a strong addition to the sandbox racing genre."

Ubisoft’s biggest mistake is the inclusion of a narrative. It’s awful. How many cliche revenge stories can they possibly throw at us? Even the talented Troy Baker can’t save this excuse for a storyline. The dialogue is juvenile at best. It makes The Fast and the Furious seem like a Shakespearean play. Fortunately, the plot is nothing more than background noise and only rears its ugly head during brief cutscenes while playing through story-missions. I never thought I’d say this, but Forza Horizon’s “racing event” premise would have worked much better here.

Embarrassing storytelling aside, The Crew is an incredibly ambitious title. The sheer scope of the map is mind boggling and it can take days, if not weeks, to uncover everything. The story missions guide players across the map regularly, but it still takes time and effort to discover all areas in between. In terms of progression, The Crew is less of a racing game and more of a traditional RPG. The car serves as the player’s avatar, and while there are multiple vehicles to buy throughout the game, the progression system encourages sticking to one or two rides and continually upgrading them with each race and mini-game.


"The sheer scope of the map is mind boggling and it can take days, if not weeks, to uncover everything."

The mini-games are scattered all over the map, and include challenges in precision, slalom, long jumps and more. Winning bronze, silver and gold medals unlocks parts of varying performance. These parts can’t be purchased at a car dealer, although they can be acquired with real world money. This may encourage some players to just buy all premium upgrades as soon as their car meets the level requirement, but unlocking them through winning the tough trophies is far more rewarding (and doesn’t cost anything). 

The Crew’s car classes are broken into five specs: Street, Dirt, Perf, Raid and Circuit. They are switchable on the fly via the game’s handy mobile-phone feature, and each spec handles differently and emphasizes a particular racing style. Story missions can be played either solo or cooperatively. The AI in these missions is ruthless, with some occasionally unfair rubberbanding that leads to frustrating trial and error scenarios. Events where players need to take down AI drivers or escape the police are particularly unforgiving. Anyone who remembers the last Midnight Club game knows what to expect. Despite the AI’s unfair speed and godly precision, the computer controlled racers follow a very specific pattern, and it doesn’t take long before the enemy’s vulnerable choke points are discovered. Having a buddy during these events can be particularly helpful and makes races notably less frustrating.


"The AI in these missions is ruthless, with some occasionally unfair rubberbanding that leads to frustrating trial and error scenarios."

PvP events can be found in each area of the United States, and each lobby provides dozens of tracks with varying disciplines. Connecting to fellow racers can sometimes take too long due to server problems, but things have improved dramatically since launch. We only had two major disconnects, but it took only seconds to get back into the action. PvP races can be tough on newcomers who haven’t acquired enough high-end upgrades, so it’s best to play through as many mini-games as possible before facing high-ranking racers.

As players gain new levels, they can join one of the five factions: The Wolves, The Eagles, The Snakes, The Crocodiles and The Bears. Joining factions introduces new rewards and activities, like the endurance races (some of which can take over 4hrs to complete). Unfortunately, faction missions scale to the player with the highest stats, making it hard to find a balanced event. This makes the whole “social” aspect seem pointless. Furthermore, there aren’t other social activities outside of PvP lobbies and story-missions races. Sure, you can take a road trip with your buddies, but it would have been nice to initiate a road trip with new players by mapping out a route on the map. As a result, The Crew feels like a single player game disguised as an MMO.

The handling in The Crew is reminiscent of Need for Speed and Midnight Club. Cars handle loosely early on, but each upgrades delivers a substantial performance boost. Once players reach level 8-10 (which is reachable in under an hour), the handling becomes tighter and smoother. This is where The Crew’s RPG foundation really comes into place. Gaining new parts feels like upgrading a character in a traditional RPG. Gamers expecting advanced tweaking options may be disappointed, but the more streamlined approach works in the game’s favor. There's less time spent tinkering, and more time spent racing and exploring.


"Yet despite all its problems, The Crew is a blast to play and difficult to put down."

Visually, The Crew doesn’t impress right away. Background elements like buildings and trees are simplistic, and other traffic vehicles look very archaic. On the other hand, the size and variety of The Crew’s world is unparalleled. Traveling across the entire United States can take hours, and each state feels aesthetically identical of their real life counterparts. When the sun sets and covers the Nevada desert in an orange glow, The Crew can look breathtaking. Car models are meticulously rendered, although the anti-aliasing exhibits an odd shimmering effect with certain background elements. The environmental diversity is masterful and a remarkable achievement.

The Crew isn’t perfect. It’s not the social experience Ubisoft initially presented, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The AI can be unfair, the progression system isn’t typical of most racing games, and the unbalanced matchmaking makes for some frustrating PvP events. Yet despite all its problems, The Crew is a blast to play and difficult to put down. It’s undoubtedly going to frustrate serious racing fans, but gamers who enjoyed Test Drive Unlimited 2 are going to love The Crew. Let’s just hope Ubisoft can iron out the rough edges with some future updates. With a little more polish, The Crew has the potential to be the definitive online racer. It’s just not quite there yet. 

Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Playstation 4

7.5
Read more

Dex RPG Launches on OUYA Early Access

Posted On

For those of you with the micro console, OUYA, your day just got that much better. OUYA is the latest home of the game Dex. Last December, Czech game development studio Dreadlocks ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to bring their steampunk style, 2D RPG to the masses. Dex has been available on Steam Early Access since August for PC, Mac and Linux and is bring its $14.99 introductory price over to OUYA. You can check our Dex preview here.

With nearly 97% positive feedback from the Steam community, Dex has already been featured in the Indie MEGABOOTH at Gamescon 2014 and the MIX Showcase at GDC Next 2014 in Los Angeles. The game’s complete version is slated to be released in the first quarter of 2015, so get it at the introductory price while you can. While you’re here, check out the game’s official trailer.

News by: Mike Ackerman
Read more

Game of Thrones: Iron From Ice Episode 1

Posted On

Telltale’s Game of Thrones epic is clearly enriched by familiarity with the franchise, in particular the HBO series. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The first chapter, Iron from Ice, opens directly on the eve of The Red Wedding and the upcoming five parts aim to span season four’s timeline. The developers have tapped into some kind of magic. Their sagas feature nearly identical gameplay mechanics, but still manage to feel simultaneously unique and accurate. Savvy direction distills the essence of every fandom they explore. And this drama-laden high medieval fantasy fits hand-in-hand with their approach to storytelling.

Telltale has not abandoned their use of original characters. After being treated to an awesome recreation of the miniature introduction, we enter the Seven Kingdoms through the eyes of the Forresters, a Northern family both loyal and similar to the Starks. The similarity is almost to a fault, and the new characters mirror their household dynamic in an almost formulaic manner. The honourable Lord Gregor and silently headstrong Lady Elissa bear a striking resemblance in both appearance and manner to Eddard and Catelyn. The eldest son, Rodrik, channels Robb’s bravery and military prowess. The eldest daughter, Mira, the newly assigned handmaiden to Maergary, is displaced among her enemies at King’s Landing, much like Sansa. Two characters somewhat represent Jon Snow, the exiled second-son Asher and squire Gared Tuttle. Young Ethan, like Bran, is left to practice hesitant and inexperienced rule over the Forrester household. His twin sister, Talia, vocally objects to the callousness that often overtakes rulers in Westeros. Granted, she’s more comparable to Sansa than Arya in her quiet actions. Ryon and Rickon are both minor enough that their sameness can be forgiven. 


"Savvy direction distills the essence of every fandom they explore. And this drama-laden high medieval fantasy fits hand-in-hand with their approach to storytelling."

We’re given effortless access to a rotational plot in the exact vein as the show without resorting to playing the main characters themselves. And the solution feels slightly contrived. No, the characters themselves are not really identical, but the parallels are far too convenient. If anything, the Forresters are undefined compared to their counterparts. However, that’s also the crutch of evaluating a larger story on a piecemeal basis. There’s also the argument that congruity is purposeful and indicative of feudal times, meant to relay that our players are part of a universal struggle. Though it not may be groundbreaking, Iron from Ice lays a solid foundation. 

The graphics take a painterly departure from Telltale’s signature cel-shaded style, and they’re every bit as gorgeous. Visible brush strokes not only add texture but cleverly disguise banding and pixelation. Navigating a scene felt like flipping through the pages of an illuminated manuscript. The sprawling interiors of King’s Landing are as beautiful as they are intimidating. 


"Playing through the introduction affirms wholeheartedly that it’s a direct television tie-in, but it’s not  just a welcome diversion until next year’s follow-up."

Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage, Natalie Dormer and Iwan Rheon lend their voice talents to their respective characters, making the world all the more convincing. Lena Headey brings Cersei’s indistinguishable cock-eyed grimace to life. Trying to allay her suspicions of handmaiden Mira Forrester’s treachery sparks as much anxiety as confronting the psychotically cruel Ramsay Snow. Peter Dinklage is equally excellent, and paves future redemption from his regrettable Destiny performance. Overall, the dialogue is in-line with the first-rate writing featured in the show and novels.  

Truthfully, my first glimpses of the game through trailers and promotional stills left me skeptical, with the seeming preponderance of Westeros A-listers dominating the screen. Yes, A Song of Ice and Fire fans seeking a reinterpretation of the novels may be disappointed. Playing through the introduction affirms wholeheartedly that it’s a direct television tie-in, but it’s not  just a welcome diversion until next year’s follow-up. At least, I think so. Perhaps that is my bias speaking. Maybe I have succumbed to HBOs shrewd marketing tactics; I won’t deny that I’m reeling in anticipation of seeing Daenerys and Jon Snow in the upcoming chapters. We love these characters because they’re multi-dimensional, believable and above all...likable. I like them, and am more than willing to spend time uncovering their idiosyncrasies. 

Review by: Ameenah Salamunic | Reviewed on: PC

7.5
Read more

Tales from the Borderlands - Ep. 1 Review

Posted On

Developer Telltale Games has a knack for enriching popular franchises. Whether it’s their comedic writing in Back to the Future or their dramatic representation of The Walking Dead universe, Telltale’s episodic releases aren’t mere spin-offs, they’re compelling expansions of the original creators’ visions. In their latest partnership with Gearbox Software and 2K, Telltale Games crafts yet another masterpiece that deepens an already vast universe. Tales from the Borderlands embodies the series's superb humor without the guns and obsessive looting. Expert writing and dialogue choices take precedence, but there are more action-packed quick time events than in most Telltale titles. As a result, the game captures Borderlands’ colorful chaos with a fresh perspective. This is a fantastic introduction to what may become one of Telltale’s strongest series yet.

While Tales from the Borderlands is an independent storyline, it takes place after Borderlands 2 with several characters and events referencing previous entries. As with most Telltale games, familiarity with the source material isn’t necessary, but makes the adventure more enjoyable. The story revolves around two protagonists, Hyperion employee Rhys (played by Troy Baker) and the con artist Fiona (played by Laura Bailey). After being demoted to custodial staff by his boss Hugo Vasquez (voiced by Patrick Warburton), Rhys and his friend and coworker Vaughn (Chris Hardwick) decide to leave the Hyperion corporation and intervene with their ex-boss’ plan to acquire a vault key. Fiona, on the other hand, has created a fake vault key with her sister Sasha (Erin Yvette) and her mentor Felix (Norman Hall) in hopes of conning Vasquez for a large sum of money. With Rhys and Vaughn unexpectedly showing up at the exchange, things quickly get out of hand.


"As a result, the game captures Borderlands’ colorful chaos with a fresh perspective. This is a fantastic introduction to what may become one of Telltale’s strongest series yet."

The Borderlands universe radiates with absurd characters, pop-culture references and gorgeous cel-shaded visuals, and Telltale Games have done a remarkable job of capturing the series’ tone. The humor and cartoony aesthetics are as vivid and charming as Borderlands 2, making this point-and-click adventure feel like an integral extension of Gearbox’s lore. Even without the sandbox world and exploration, Pandora’s immenseness is perfectly captured by guiding players through diverse environments and hilarious enemy encounters.  

The Hyperion corporation has always been painted as a super evil entity, but playing as one of the company’s defunct employees makes Hyperion more sympathetic and likeable. Its employees are not that different from Pandora’s citizens, and most of them unwillingly follow a corrupt leadership. Rhys is unaware of just how bad Hyperion’s influence is on Pandora until he lands on the planet and meets Fiona. Most Telltale Games have slow introductory chapters, but Tales from the Borderlands’ pacing is fast and energetic. The developer’s ability to portray action scenes with simple QTE’s is applaudable, even if some events rely too much on trial and error. 


"The two- and-a-half-hour episode delivers substantial content with narrative twists, making this the most immersive pilot to date."

Tales from the Borderlands pairs difficult decisions with branching narrative paths. In true Telltale Games fashion, a single line of dialogue can determine a character’s relationship with the player. Troy Baker and Laura Bailey have great chemistry, and their back and forth banter is both hilarious and heartfelt. Chris Hardwick as Vaughn and Erin Yvette as Sasha aren’t just mere side characters either, instead they feel as imperative to the narrative as Rhys and Fiona. The two- and-a-half-hour episode delivers substantial content with narrative twists, making this the most immersive pilot to date. While it’s hard to say where the series going at this point, the first episode makes a gripping impression. At only $5.99 per episode, Tales of the Borderlands is both a steal and an absolute must-buy.  

Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: PC

8.5
Read more

The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses Master Quest Touring in 2015

Posted On

There are few game franchises that have had more of global impact than The Legend of Zelda. For nearly three decades, Zelda fans have enjoyed traveling the lands of Hyrule with the young hero Link. Whether he was wheeling the Master Sword or riding Epona around Lon Lon Ranch, there is one element of the Zelda games that stands in a league of its own: the music. The music of Hyrule is globally recognized and it is time for you to get to experience it in a way you never have before!

The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses Master Quest tour 2015 is headed your way! Well, hopefully. The tour will include music from The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds for the 3DS and new music from the upcoming remake of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. Throughout the show, you will be presented with gameplay imagery right from your favorite Zelda games. If you are lucky enough to see one of these performances, you will not be disappointed. So take on the role of the hero and check out the site to sign up for their newsletter and view the tour’s schedule.

News by: Mike Ackerman
Read more