Also available on Xbox 360, Xbox One, OSX, and Windows
I'm going out of town after work tomorrow to spend Thanksgiving with family but really wanted to play something on my new, sexy, big-ass TV, so I found myself thinking last night "What's a current or last gen console game that I can beat in two nights?" A glance through my shelves and HLTB later, and I fired up Shadow Complex Remastered, one of my prized Limited Run games.
I never played the original release of Shadow Complex, so I can't speak as to how the remaster compares, but I have a pretty good time with the game. It's not very long - it only took me about five hours - but it's pretty good fun. It's a 2.5D shooter that takes place entirely in a massive interconnected subterranean terrorist base. You and your girlfriend are out hiking, and the dumb bitch gets herself kidnapped and drugged. Because of course she did. The story is kind of...meh. After she gets herself kidnapped, your character - an everyman - tries to rescue, miraculously becoming MacGyver in the process and taking down an entire terrorist organization.
Normally I'm pretty critical of games with stories and characters that do absolutely nothing to interest or engage me, but the gameplay here kept me moderately entertained. It's nothing that you have played before - it feels in some ways like a modern Contra (albeit much easier) - but it's done fairly well. There are some technical issues with ledge glitches, but nothing that interferes with the game for more than a couple of seconds. Unfortuately, that's really all I have to say about it. The game did nothing wrong, but it didn't do anything to make itself really stand out from the crowd, either. It's not a bad game by any means, but it's certainly in no way memorable. If you find it cheap on a PSN, Xbox Live, or Steam sale, I'd say pick it up, but I definitely wouldn't pay more than $5 or $10 for it (unless, of course, you're getting the Limited Run print for collecting purposes like I did).
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available on Xbox One and Windows
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is a game that I looked cautiously forward to. The past two Call of Duty titles - Advanced Warfare and Black Ops III - impressed me a lot with their campaigns (the only game mode I really care much about). Due to that budding streak of well written, well executed single players, I was optimistic about Infinite Warfare (despite the stupid name). I was, however, hesitant about the space setting. Don't get me wrong - I LOVE sci-fi FPS campaigns. My concern was whether or not Call of Duty would do it well.
I am, however, pleased to report that while not a flawless execution, Infinite Warfare is a fantastic game, and Call of Duty is definitely on a winning streak. It also looks absolutely AMAZING in 2160p with HDR on the PlayStation 4 Pro. I've played through the entire campaign, a couple games of zombies, and a handful of online matches on both regular and hardcore, so I'm going to address all three game modes starting with multiplayer. Multiplayer is definitely the weak link in this game. It doesn't do much wrong, per se, but it's just...me. If you've played Titanfall 2, imagine the Pilots Only game mode but not good. That's it feels like. On regular, the guns feel like pea shooters; on hardcore, the guns feel like every other Call of Duty's regular mode guns. The whole thing just feels rather watered down. None of the guns really "feel" good to me, and the reduced damage output just gives the game an awkward, foreign feel.
Zombies more than makes up for the lackluster multiplayer. As far as I'm concerned, this is the best zombies mode yet in a Call of Duty game. The whole thing has an over-the-top 80's theme, and it REALLY works. The gunplay feels solid in this game mode, and the 80's clichés give it just enough humor to break the tension. The character selection is nice as well, with each having his or her own personality. It really doesn't do anything to change the fundamental foundation of CoD zombies, but the stylistic changes and subtle adjustments are very nice. It has a card system that gives you some temporary power-ups, but I kept forgetting about them, so I can't really speak much about that specific feature.
The real star of the show with this game is the campaign story mode. The method of storytelling isn't as brilliantly executed as the first Black Ops, and the story itself isn't as well written as Black Ops III or Advanced Warfare, but the structure of the campaign is stellar and a VERY welcome departure from the traditional strictly linear campaign progression. Infinite Warfare's campaign introduces a map system similar to that seen in the Mass Effect series (though not nearly as detailed) where you can pick either the main mission or a series of side missions, each of which unlocks different perks and bonuses that help you in later missions and carry over into subsequent playthroughs.
The other feature that really keeps the game from feeling stale is that it's probably 30% or 40% space combat sim. While most of the game is your standard FPS, most main missions have some component that takes place in a Jackal, a small space fighter. There isn't a massive amount of customization you can do on the jackal, but you can choose from 15 or 20 nose paint jobs as well as three primary weapons, three secondary weapons, and three enhancements (either weapons, hull, or thrusters). In addition to the main missions, roughly half of the optional side missions are exclusively space combat. Add to that the free downloadable PlayStation VR Jackal combat game (it's only one mission), and it's clear that a lot of effort went into the single player experience for this entry.
I'm still holding Call of Duty 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops III as the best and second best games in the Call of Duty series, respectively, but Infinite Warfare definitely takes the #3 spot, and those three games are all VERY close in my book. Even if you never touch the online multiplayer, fans of sci-fi games and single player FPS games absolutely should not miss Infinite Warfare. The name is dumb, and the multiplayer is disappointing, but the zombies mode is great, and the campaign is absolutely phenomenal. Doom is definitely the best single player shooter of 2016, but Infinite Warfare may well be my pick for #2.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on Xbox 360 and Windows
I first tried State of Decay a few years ago back on Xbox 360. I thought it was okay, but I really wasn't impressed, and within half an hour, I'd gotten bored and quit. Since the PlayStation 4 is my console of choice for multiplats this gen (with the exception of the EXTREMELY few games that are also released on Wii U), my Xbox One is pretty much reserved for console exclusives. Since there are so few of those, the Xbox One section of my shelf always look pretty sad next to the gargantuan PlayStation 4 section. So the I was in Gamestop one day, browsing through the used Xbox One games in case one caught my eye with a particularly good price, and I saw State of Decay sitting there for about $25. I thought to myself "Well, I wasn't really impressed with it back then, but I didn't know it had gotten an Xbox One remaster, and I really didn't spend too much time with it, so I guess it's worth giving another shot for the sake of having another Xbox One game in my collection." And there, on my shelf, it sat for about a year, patiently awaiting the day I would give that "other shot."
Well, State of Decay, your patience has finally paid off. I popped that bad boy in my Xbox this past Saturday, and while I still found the game a bit slow to start, once I got into it, I was hooked. Since this is the "Year One Survival Edition," it included Breakdown and Lifeline, the game's two DLCs. The bulk of my experience, however, was with the base game, and while I'll touch on the DLC at the end, the base game is going to be the focus of my review. So for those of you who haven't played the game, what is State of Decay? It's basically a light RPG crossed with a survival sim. You have various skills in which you can level up each character - fighting, shooting, cardio, etc. - but those skills are mostly secondary, and the game never really highlights them except to notify you when you level up. The core of the gameplay is building up your base and completing missions throughout the map. Some of these missions are core story missions, some are side missions (like completing a quest for another group of survivors in the area), and some are bullshit randomly generated missions just for some variety and extra influence (a currently I'll explain later) like destroying a zombie hoard or going to save a member of your party who is perilously trapped in an empty house with no zombies for three blocks around.
The game's story is - much to my surprise, actually - pretty good. It's not a heart rending narrative that puts many novels to shame like The Last of Us, but the VERY few characters that are developed are relatively interesting, and while not fleshed out that much, the few little plot strands it has going are interesting. It's definitely not the focus of the game, but it does at leave have something in that department. The heart of the game is the survival aspect. It's not overly difficult, but you do have a few things to balance. Obviously not getting eaten by a ravenous hoard of the undead is a must, but you've also got five resources that you have to make sure your base has in enough supply - food, building materials, ammunition, fuel, and medical supplies. You can scavenge these in most buildings once you clear them of zombies, but you can only carry one rucksack of supplies at a time (although you can put them in the trunk of a vehicle and carry multiple back to your base that way). The vehicles are also well implemented. They're loud, so while a car is useful to get around quickly, carry supplies, and run over zombies, they can't take too much of a beating, and if you're driving to a mission location, you'll probably have a group of flesh munchers tailing you. Of course, you can usually run them over real quick before you hop out, but it's a consideration in some situations.
You also have to keep an eye on the durability of your melee weapons. They'll last a pretty good time, but they will eventually break, and while you have a default knife that you use when you don't have a melee weapon equipped, it's REALLY bad, so I made a habit of keeping two melee weapons with me at all times so I'd have a spare in case mine broke in the middle of a particularly intense fight. You also have to consider carefully how much ammo to keep with you. Stuff like .357 and 9 mm ammo are pretty plentiful, but stuff like .44 and .50 can be harder to find, so you need to use those bullets judiciously. You can also only carry stacks of 30 bullets, and your inventory space is painfully finite. I usually made sure I had a full magazine and then a full stack of 30 bullets with me before I left my base, but some guns - like the LMGs - left me burning through that in the blink of an eye while other guns - like shotguns and handguns - would see 30 bullets lasting me two hours. I usually used melee combat just to save bullets and cut down on the noise (so as not to attract more zombies), but some of the special zombies like the bloaters and juggernauts really call of guns, and the screamers and ferals are just a lot easier to take out with copious firepower.
While the remaster does look much better than the original Xbox 360 version and runs at full 1080p instead of 720p, it's still not a game that will knock your socks off graphically. It's not quite Resident Evil 2, but it's certainly no Halo 5. Now, addressing the DLC, I played a little bit with each of them, but I didn't put more than a couple hours into either DLCs. Breakdown is basically the core game sans story. It's pure sandbox survival, and there's no plot whatsoever and no endgame other than death. Truthfully, most gamers will probably enjoy this mode the most since the story, while decent, is fairly shallow and forgettable, and the survival is just so damn fun. Lifeline, on the other hand, is a story-driven DLC. In the main game, the military is painted as a brutal force with no regard for the surviving civilians and just as content to kill living humans as quickly as zombies. Lifeline has you play as the military, though, to show things from their perspective, and while I only played a couple hours of it (it's fun, but going back-to-back gets a bit stale after four or five days), it's a solid DLC with some decent storytelling, and it takes place outside the towns that the base game is set in, so you get some new scenery and battlegrounds.
State of Decay isn't going to win any Game of the Year awards from me, but it is quite a good survival experience. If you just limit the scope to zombie games, I'm still not willing to say it's "one of the best," but it's a DAMN good one that every zombie fan definitely needs to play. That bit of RPG in a sandbox survival skin works far better than I ever would have expected, and it's a treat to play once you get used to some of its quirks and mechanics. If this were JUST the base game, I'd be giving it a 3 Nep rating, but between how much fun the game is once you get into it and the fact that both DLC expansions are included on-disc, I think it deserves the bump up to 4.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, OSX, and Windows
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a game in which I'd always taken a passing interest, but it never piqued my interest enough to bother buying or playing it. When I saw that it had been ported to Wii U and was relatively cheap used, I picked it up for my Wii U collection. I finally decided this week to fire it up and give it a whirl given all of the good things I've heard about this game and its sequel.
(Note: not all images are from Wii U port)
Some of my friends sing the praises of this game from the highest mountains that they can find. While I wasn't THAT impressed with it, it was definitely quite a good game, and I intend to pick up the sequel at some point (either when it gets cheap used or when I'm not continuously burying myself under piles of debt). In terms of story - definitely the game's strongest point - it feels almost like a cyberpunk Mass Effect. The narrative and characters aren't as deep or well developed as those of Mass Effect, but the way the story is told feels quite similar as do the choices the game has you make. For almost every enemy counter, you can choose to take a lethal or a non-lethal route. Being the bloodthirsty fiend that I am, I opted to massacre everything in sight. You can also, in most situations, choose to implement stealth or go in guns blazing. Not being a punk ass bitch, I walked right up to those MFers and shoved my arm-sword into their throats (needless to say, I died a lot, but it was a lot of fun).
Graphically, the game looks a bit dated, but it's also a 2013 port of a 2011 game. It's not pushing the Wii U's graphical limits, but it looks fine, all things considered. I have two big complains with the game. The voice acting for Adam Jensen was monotone and boring af. More importantly, though, the controls are absolute garbage. That wouldn't be so bad if the game allowed for any degree of control customization whatsoever. You tap the L button to sprint; clicking the left stick crouches. You press ZL to hide behind cover; clicking the right stick aims. You press A to reload; pressing Y performs a takedown. You have to open a menu via the touchscreen or hold B to change weapons; X jumps. Just about the only thing that felt natural was using A to interact with objects, using R to throw grenades, and using ZR to fire. I know I'm nitpicking here, but the controls were so drastically different from any other similar game I've played in the past year or two that it took me a considerable amount of time to get used to them. Once I did get used to the controls, the game was great, but the controls add an unnecessarily steep learning curve in my opinion.
Despite my not insignificant gripes with the controls, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is definitely a good game, and I absolutely recommend it, especially if you're a fan of Western style RPGs and/or cyberpunk settings. The Director's Cut is definitely the version to play, but as much as I love the Wii U, I'd suggest playing on 360. From what I've seen, Square's inexperience with the Wii U's hardware shows through; despite being a significantly more powerful console, the Wii U version just doesn't look quite as refined as the 360 version. The colors are a bit washed out, the smoke effects are more pronounced and less subtle, and the bloom seems a bit overdone in places. The Wii U version is absolutely a competent game, but the 360 version is probably the better version if I'm being honest.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 3 and Windows
I don't remember who mentioned the sequel of this right before it came out (probably Exhuminator since it's a Vita RPG), but I decided I'd pick up the collector's edition of the second game (since it was a same price as a regular Vita game) and the first game at the same time. It looked neat, so why not? Jesus Christ, I did not realize what a time commitment I was making when I started playing this game, though. Don't get me wrong - the game is amazing - but holy god, this game is really long.
So I didn't know this when I first started playing, but apparently Legend of Heroes is apparently a fairly long-lived series (and one that I'm now going to start looking into), so I can say with confidence that you need absolutely zero prior experience with the Legend of Heroes series to enjoy Trails of Cold Steel. The game revolves around a group of students at Thors Military Academy, an academy broken into six classes. Classes I and II are for children of the nobility; Classes III, IV, and V are for commoners; and the newly-formed Class VII is an experimental class of sorts that puts nobles and commoners together in the same class
A lot of the game, it feels like a rather pointless slice of life sort of story; you play as Rean as he and his fellow members of Class VII go through their school lives and embark on field studies across the Erebonian Empire, solving problems for the townspeople and learning about the situations developing in the country. One common theme through every chapter that stays an enigmatic-but-probably-significant part of the story, however, is the monthly investigation of the mysterious old schoolhouse, a building that predates the 250 year old academy by at least several hundred years. You also begin to discover through your field studies that the empire is sitting on a veritable powder keg of civil unrest due to the growing political conflict between the Noble Faction and the Reformist Faction. Those two plot points serve as the core of the game's storyline.
The roughly 50 hour game familiarizes you with a whole cast of pretty memorable characters and places, and the optional "bonding events" you can do let you grow closer to and learn more about your favorite characters, culminating in a cute but underwhelming romance option at the end of the game. The end of the game, however, is legit rage-inducing. It's not that it's bad. On the contrary, the ending is fantastic. It is, however, a cliffhanger for the ages. Fortunately, I have the second game, so I can start it whenever I want (though I'm taking a break from the Vita to play Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse right now), but the wait for the third game (assuming it gets localized; my cursory Google search shows the Legend of Heroes series not to have a good track record in that regard) is going to kill me. X_x
In terms of gameplay, it's a pretty standard JRPG. The only big drawback, in my opinion, is the performance. The game chugs along at certain places - especially in cut scenes - and drops to 15 or 20 frames per second. I don't know how the Playstation 3 version compares, but the Vita version had some serious drops. It doesn't make it unplayable by any means, and it's not horribly bothersome, but it's definitely noticeable and casts a shadow on an otherwise incredible game. I also think the game drags out just a *little* too long. All in all, though, it's a fantastic JRPG experience that Vita and/or PS3 owners definitely shouldn't miss out on.
My Rating - 4 Neps
I've always been a bit of a junkie for flight combat sims, but oddly enough, I've not played many of them. The Sky Crawlers was one of the games I got as part of a Secret Santa exchange on the Racketboy forums back in July from my friend John, and given that it's a genre that I love on a console that I love, it's stayed pretty high on my "to play" list. I finally got around to playing it this week.
It took me probably half of the game just to figure out if I liked it or not. This isn't an immediate gem for me, although having now finished it, I would say it qualifies as a Wii hidden gem, even if right at the cusp. The first thing that reaaaaally takes some getting used to is the controls. It says that it supports the Wii Classic Controller and the Gamecube controller, but I couldn't figure out how to make either of those work (granted, I didn't spend too much time trying); it just kept telling me to plug a Nunchuk in. Anyway, with the standard Wiimote and Nunchuk control scheme, the first awkward bit (at least for us right handers) is that it tells you to hold the Wiimote in your left hand and the Nunchuk in your right hand. Which feels EXTREMELY awkward for me. I got used to that, though. The controls, while definitely requiring three or four missions before you really get a feel for them, do work (for the most part) once you figure it out. Your throttle is controlled by the Wiimote; keep it level to go at your middle cruising speed, point it up at the ceiling to go your max speed, and point it down at the ground (or hold B) to decelerate to your minimum speed (and eventually stall if you don't accelerate). The Nunchuk controls your direction, but you don't do so with the control stick; you pull the Nuncuk back to ascend, tilt it down to descend, and tilt it to the left and right to turn left and right, respectively. The biggest problem is that the tilt controls with the Nunchuk don't feel as precise or response as I would like, but - as I've mentioned - it DOES work once you get used to it. It's just not the most natural-feeling for intuitive control scheme they could have picked.
The story is where the game lost some points with me. It's based on an anime movie (which I've never seen), so perhaps the movie actually makes sense, but just getting the story from the game feels haphazard and as if there HAD to be translation errors. From what I could gather, Japan conquered Europe sometime after the second world war (because the whole game takes place in Europe, but literally every single location and character name is traditional Japanese), and people hated peace. So two private military companies - Rostock and Lautern - start hiring pilots to fly their planes and kill each other because...I have no clue. So you're part of Rostock's elite Black Cat squadron, and there are these people called Kildren that apparently never age and I guess regenerate or reincarnate or some shit because like half a dozen of them die over the course of the story, and then identical people show up later with a different name and no memory of any of the shit that killed the dude. Like, even the characters are like "Dafuq, you dead" and the guys are like "Na fam, I don't even know yall, I just got here." And then that's sort of it. It never really gets explained beyond that. Having played the entirely 5 or 6 hour story, I can confidently say that I have no idea what the fuck was going on.
The anime cut scenes between missions were nice, though. The voice acting was okay for the most part. The writing sucked ass, though, so that sort of canceled out the decent voice acting. It all played kind of like one of those anime that are trying really hard to be serious and make some philosophical point, and you really want to stick with it, but it's kind of boring but not QUITE boring enough to flat out drop it because you REALLY want to be good. The whole thing's just awkward. If you do decide to pick this game up, skip all of the cutscenes and dialogue. Stick to blowing shit up.
Graphically, the game looks pretty good. It's not pushing the Wii's hardware to its limit or anything, but it looks good as long as you're right at extremely low altitudes; then the shoddy ground textures become extremely apparent. You also have some neat customization feature for your plane. The better you do on missions, the more points you earn, and as the points accumulate throughout your playthrough, you'll start to unlock new planes and components. You can change the engine, the wings, the armor, the cockpit, etc., all of which have different effects on your plane's stats. You also unlock different secondary weapons for each plane, and choosing those wisely can have a dramatic impact on your success or failure in a mission. If your mission to take out all aerial targets, rockets - which are air-to-surface weapons and almost impossible to aim at airborne targets - are going to be useless. Likewise, if your objective is to destroy an enemy base, the heavy cannon - which is a semi-auto weapon that deals extreme damage to airborne enemies - is going to be practically worthless.
All in all, despite being made by the same team, The Sky Crawlers is NOT Ace Combat on the Wii. It has a similar feel when you're in combat, but it's not the same, and you shouldn't go into it expecting it to feel the same. The story is garbage, but if you can find it for less than $15, it's a good flight combat sim on the Wii, and I'd recommend picking it up (maybe wait until you can find it for less than $10 if you're not a particular fan of flight combat sims or of the Wii itself).
My Rating - 3 Neps
I'm Mr. Deck
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach history at a high school in central North Carolina; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.