Also available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Windows
Far Cry is a series that I’ve only played a bit of but always enjoyed when I did. I absolutely loved Far Cry 4, and it was Far Cry Primal that got me into the series. Far Cry: Blood Dragon is an absolute masterpiece of 80s parody, and I even enjoyed Far Cry: Vengeance on the Wii back when it came out. Far Cry 6 is no exception; the game is fantastic. My sole complaint is that I got burnt out about 2/3 of the way through and had to take a break. Some games are immersive enough to keep me hooked for 80 or 90 hours straight - Tears of the Kingdom, Fallout 4, Skyrim - but Far Cry 6 wasn’t one of them.
To be clear, Far Cry 6 is a great game with a good albeit familiar story. You play as a guerilla named Dani (regardless of whether you choose male or female) fighting to overthrow the dictatorial regime of Anton Castillo. It’s not at all subtle about basing the nation of Yara on Cuba, but for those familiar with the governmental history of Cuba and its relationship with the United States (the CIA plays a background role in the story), it’s an interesting basis. You go around Yara striking at Castillo’s army and centers of power while also convincing rival rebel groups to ally with you against the regime. There are side quests and a TON of collectibles. The collectibles are my biggest problem with the game; some are on the mini map and some are not. For someone with obsessive compulsive tendencies when it comes to objectives on maps, I have a compulsion to go after EVERYTHING on the map, but when that gets me to 87% complete in an area, the nearness to 100% bugs me. When all I have left are tiny collectibles hard to see in passing and not on the mini map, it frustrates me. 100% a me problem, but I know I’m not alone in that compulsion and frustration, so I figured it bears mentioning.
Visually, the game looks great. The big winner here is the sound design, though. Gun sound effects are satisfying, the squelch when you hit an enemy soldier in a car going 90 KPH is meaty and visceral, and most importantly, the sound track is BANGING. I played through a lot of the game with my BFF Grant, and we would routinely just be driving through Yara rocking out to this eclectic assortment of Latin Americans music. There’s one song that I’ve only heard a couple of times and have never been able to figure out the title or artist of that has part of the chorus that I swear to God sounds like Mexican Pinkie Pie. It remains my personal mission to figure out which song that is.
Another issue I had with the game - really more of a minor annoyance than anything else - is that while 99% of the game’s dialogue is English (unless you choose a different language in the settings menu, obviously), there are sporadic and seemingly random words that are consistently Spanish. The word guerilla, for example - I know the word is Spanish in origin, but it’s consistently the sole word pronounced as it is in Spanish in an otherwise fully English sentence. “Soldado” instead of soldier, “gasolina” instead of gasoline, “fascista” instead of fascist, and “comemierda” are the other ones that are consistent. It’s the juxtaposition that irks me; either have the dialogue be all Spanish and stick to subtitles for other languages, or have everything be in English. They’ve all got Latin American accents anyway, so it’s not like they sound like they’re from Chicago or something. Minor annoyance, I know, but I spent 84 hours being annoyed by it, so I had to mention it.
Far Cry 6 is a good game. A really good game, even. It’s just a little too long for what it is, in my opinion. There’s LOADS to do aside from the main quest line, but a lot of it feels like fluff, inconsequential padding. If you’re a fan of open world games where you shoot or mutilate with machete hundreds if not thousands of fascists, then absolutely check it out. Just be prepared for a 60+ hours experience.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars is one of the almost legendary Super Nintendo games, one of the games that always commands a high price and that every Super Nintendo enthusiast worth his salt would include on a Top 10 list. It’s been released on Virtual Console on Wii and Wii U as well as being included in the Super Nintendo Classic Edition, so even if you don’t have the fairly pricey Super Nintendo cartridge, it’s been pretty readily available. Still, fans have spent twenty years clamoring for a remake, and we finally got it in late 2023 - a full from-the-ground-up and extremely faithful remake for the Switch.
The premise is that Bowser kidnapped Peach (as usual), but as he was gloating his victory, a giant sword crashes into his castle. Mario, Peach, and Bowers are all ejected from the castle which is then overrun by minions of an unknown antagonist named Smithy. Mario begins to make his way through the world on his quest to find and then rescue Princess Peach. As he progresses, he assembles a team of four allies to help him - the cute and kind of pitiful Mallow, the iconic doll-possessed-by-a-star-spirit Geno, the Koopa king Bowser himself, and even Princess Peach. Over the course of Mario’s quest, the intention shifts from “rescue Peach” to “defeat Smithy and his army.” You’ll find enemies both familiar and foreign as you quest your way across the land.
Being an RPG, the purpose here is to win battles to get money to buy better equipment and to gain experience points to level up and improve your stats. There is some platforming, as it’s still Mario, but the platforming really takes a back seat to the RPG action. One of the cool aspects of the game that makes it a little more engaging than “press A to win” like a lot of turn based RPGs end up being is the chance to increase the damage of your attacks or totally nullify enemy attacks. If you press A just before your attack lands or just before an enemy attack lands, you’ll boost your damage or nullify any damage to you, respectively. The timing is different for each character, each weapon, and each enemy, but once you get a feel for it, you can really turn the tides of an otherwise difficult fight.
As far as RPGs go, Super Mario RPG is very short. The remake lets you choose between the normal difficulty and an easier difficulty, but even on normal, I cleared it in about 10 hours, and several of my friends have done it in 7 or 8 hours. Still, though, this game is a case of quality over quantity. It may not be the 40 to 60 hour JRPG a lot of us expect from the genre, but the hours it does last are endlessly charming and addictively fun. Another nice feature of the remake is the ability to switch on the fly between the original 16-bit music and the new modern renditions of the game’s music. I kept it on the modern music for the full remake feel, but it was definitely a nice nod to our collective nostalgia from the 1990s.
Super Mario RPG isn’t necessarily a perfect game, but it is devilishly fun, and I consider it a must-play for any Switch owner. If you’re not an RPG guy, this may be your exception to that rule, and if the family-friendly nature of the Mario franchise has never been your cup of tea, this might get you to reconsider. It’s not brutally difficult but still extremely engaging, and it’s just an all around fun and charming experience that’s uniquely ‘90s now brought into the 2020s with all of the care and polish you’d expect from a modern game.
My Rating - 4 Neps
As amazing as 3D Mario games are - and they are truly amazing - I’ve always been partial to the 2D Mario games. Some of that is definitely nostalgia for the Super Mario Bros and Super Mario Bros 3 I grew up with, but a good portion of it is that 2D platformers have a different feel to them than 3D platformers. When everyone was going “3D > 2D,” I was the voice of dissent. Fortunately, with the DS, Nintendo brought back classic 2D Mario with the “New Super Mario Bros” sub-series. While Super Mario Bros Wonder abandoned the “New” part of the naming convention (it’s been almost 20 years; it’s really not that “new” anymore), it definitely follows the spirit of that sub-series with a gloriously tight and responsive 2D Mario experience.
Wonder breaks from the norm of “Bowser kidnapped Peach.” This time, Bowser stole a neighboring kingdom’s entire castle. Then he fused his body with the castle. So now he is the castle. Even by Mario standards, this is kind of weird, but I applaud the novelty. Mario then adventures through the flower kingdom alongside its useless but likable enough prince. To free the castle from Bowser’s control, you have to collect six Royal Seeds, one of which in each of the kingdom’s realms. These are your six worlds. In each level, there are between one and three Wonder Seeds to collect, and you’ll need a certain number from each world to pass checkpoints in that world. Once you get all six Royal Seeds, you’ll play a few levels in a Bowser mini-world. There is also a special world with challenge levels.
In addition to the return of the classic Super Mushroom, Fire Flower, Power Star, and Ice Flower, there are a handful of really cool new power-ups in Wonder. You’ve got an Elephant Fruit which turns you into...a bipedal elephant. You’re a little slower, but you can swing your trunk as a powerful melee attack. There’s also a Bubble Flower that turns you purple and lets you throw bubbles that can encapsulate and kill enemies. Then there’s the Drill Mushroom that causes a drill to sprout from your head and lets you tunnel into the ceiling or the floor. Lastly - and not really a power up - is the Wonder Flower. If you find it, it totally transforms the world and sometimes your character and lets you find a hidden Wonder Seed in each stage.
Super Mario Bros games have always been known for excellent music and tight controls, and Wonder is no exception. The music is as amazing as ever, and the controls are some of the tightest and most responsive of the series. Visually, the game is absolutely outstanding. It’s got all the graphical prowess of Super Mario Odyssey in a 2D format. It’s stunning, genuinely. The best part of the game, though, are the multiplayer options. the array of characters has some character to suit most player’s preferences. Obviously, you can play as Mario and Luigi, but you can also choose Peach, Daisy, Yellow Toad, Blue Toad, Toadette, Yoshi, Red Yoshi, Yellow Yoshi, Light Blue Yoshi, or Nabbit. Mario, Peach, Daisy, and the Toads all play standard, but the Yoshis and Nabbit are like “easy” mode; Yoshis don’t take damage and flutter jump but do flinch when touching an enemy or obstacle, and Nabbit takes no damage and doesn’t flinch when touching an enemy or obstacle. Local multiplayer allows up to four players, and you can actually help each other somewhat instead of just hilariously hindering like the older New Super Mario Bros games; if you die, you’ll have five seconds as a ghost to find an ally, and if an ally touches you within those five seconds, you’ll respawn on them without losing a life. There’s also online functionality that can match you either with your friends privately or with random players from all over the world playing the same level as you. If you die, your online allies can revive you just like in local multiplayer. Players can also drop standees that can revive you if you touch them as a ghost.
Super Mario Bros Wonder is honestly my favorite 2D Mario game if I look past my rose-tinted nostalgia glasses for Super Mario Bros 3. It’s the perfect modern 2D platformer - seriously fun local multiplayer, seamless and useful online multiplayer, and flawless single player fun. Couple that with amazing music and stunning visuals, and this game is an absolute masterpiece. There’s no other way to describe it. This is an absolute must-play for Switch owners right alongside Super Mario Odyssey.
My Rating - 5 Neps
2023’s Modern Warfare III is a somewhat controversial entry in the series among fans. It concludes the Modern Warfare reboot trilogy (assuming they don’t make it a tetralogy), but a lot of us felt there was a lot left to be desired. It’s not so much that it does a lot wrong, per se, but there also isn’t a great deal that it does particularly right. It’s probably the most okay Call of Duty in recent years.
Activision initially announced that 2023 wouldn’t be getting a new Call of Duty game. Honestly, they should have stuck with that as Modern Warfare III just feels rushed all around. The campaign, my main focus, saw a steep drop in writing quality. Again, it’s not bad, but it’s definitely not good. It’s just meh. This is the most disappointed I’ve been in a main series Call of Duty campaign since Ghosts. Truthfully, it’s probably my third least second least favorite campaign of the massive series behind only Ghosts and Call of Duty 3.
That’s not to say the campaign does nothing right. There are a few “Open Combat” missions that give you a set of objectives in a large non-linear map, and those are a lot of fun. I definitely hope those come back in future entries. That’s honestly all the campaign does especially right, though, and those are only like a third of the campaign; the rest of the missions are traditional linear missions.
As for the multiplayer, it’s Call of Duty multiplayer. It hardly ever changes in any meaningful way. This one, though, does have some disappointing aspects that point to lazy development (or, more likely, a horrendously rushed deadline from Activision executives). There are no original maps; the only maps you have to play on are remastered maps with most being from the 2009 Modern Warfare 2. All of this starts to make sense when you consider that Sledgehammer only had a year and a half to make this game - half the normal Call of Duty development time. According to some reports I’ve seen floating around, part of the reason that it feels more like an expansion to Modern Warfare 2 is because that’s exactly what it was supposed to be; apparently even the development team thought they were working on a MW2 expansion until pretty far into development when they were told it was going to be a full release.
Modern Warfare 3 is, all around, a bit of a shit show. It’s not a bad game, but it’s a bad sequel, and it’s a rip off to the consumer to charge $70 for what should have been a $30 or $40 expansion. The game is fun, but it’s just not what fans deserved and not what would justify the price it commands. Hopefully Microsoft will bring to Activision the kind of quality control they’ve brought to Bethesda (although you can’t take the bugs out of Bugthesda) because this is Activision bullshit at its most egregious. I had high hopes with how impressed I was with the past few Call of Duty entries, but Modern Warfare 3 fails to live up to any of my expectations.
My Rating - 3 Neps
My first introduction to Insomniac’s Spiderman games wasn’t until I got the version of Miles Morales on PS5 that included the PS5 remaster of the PS4 game. I’m not a fan of Marvel or superhero stuff in general, so it was always a “eh, I’ll play it eventually” on PS4. When I did finally play it, though, I was immediately sucked in and felt compelled to 100% both Spiderman and Miles Morales. When Spiderman 2 was announced, I knew it would be an immediate pre-order; with how good the two previous games were, I knew I’d have to play this one at or near launch.
One of the coolest parts about this sequel is that you’ve got two protagonists; you switch between playing as Peter Parker and Miles Morales over the course of the game’s main story. They each have their own unique powers and skill trees in addition to a shared skill tree. There are also side quests that are unique to each character, although most side objectives can be completed by either. As someone who’s never read a single Marvel comic, cares absolutely nothing for the MCU, and had no experience with Spiderman since the Toby McGuire movies until these games, I absolutely loved the story of the game. I don’t know how much was common to the source material and how much was creative liberty, but it was enthralling regardless.
The combat feels very familiar but with the changes you’d expect from a sequel; there’s not as much emphasis on stealth this time outside of a couple missions, and you get an opportunity to parry enemy attacks and throw them off balance in addition to simply dodging out of the way. There are also new abilities and gadgets to make beating up bad guys more entertaining. The boss battles, too, felt more dramatic and in a couple of instances more challenging than in the previous games. You still have the option of stealth in a lot of cases, and with some enemies - which appear in a greater variety here than in the first game - that’s the smarter way to approach some fights. There are also a few missions where you play as MJ with a stun gun instead of superpowers. A lot of folks online seem to despise the MJ missions, but I, personally, loved them. They broke up the flow of the missions in a way that added variety but didn’t break the feel of the game.
There are two visual modes to choose from here - Fidelity and Performance. Fidelity keeps the traditional 30 fps cap in favor of dynamic resolution that sticks pretty close to 2160p as well as impressive shadow effects and ray tracing. Performance - my preferred way to play - ups the cap to 60 fps with very few dips below that and even then, only a few frames. To maintain this, the resolution drops from 2160p to 1440p, but ray tracing is still present in Performance albeit reduced from Fidelity.
I consider Spiderman 2 to be a perfect sequel. The story is better than the first game and on par with Miles Morales in my opinion, and the improvements to the Performance visual mode are fantastic. Combat is improved and diversified, and having two and a half protagonists to play as (I’m counting MJ as a half) ensures that you never get stuck in a rut. A massive variety to suits keeps cosmetics interesting, and the array of side missions and mini-game sequences give players a lot to do aside from the main missions.
My Rating - 5 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Windows
Devil in Me is the most recent of the Dark Pictures Anthology games and the end of their “season one” games. It actually introduces some minor gameplay changes over the previous three Dark Pictures Anthology games, but it’s still pretty much the same general gameplay as the others. That’s not necessarily a bad thing - “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” after all - but playing them back to back to back does start to feel a bit stale despite having totally different stories, settings, and characters. Still, though, Devil in Me offers an interesting story with some really compelling choices the player has to make. It’s the story I found least interesting of the Dark Pictures Anthology games, but it’s got the choices that left me second guessing myself the most.
You play as the film crew for a small production studio that’s making a TV series documentary episode about H. H. Holmes, often considered to be America’s first major serial killer. During a meeting to watch a cut of the episode, Charles, the owner of the studio, gets a phone call from a mysterious man who claims to have inherited from his uncle a recreation of Holmes’s infamous “murder castle” and a lot of original Holmes artifacts. Charles convinces the other four members of his team to spend the weekend at the man’s island hotel and shoot new footage to really improve the episode. When they get there, though, things go from odd to weird to downright suspicious when a figure dressed as Holmes starts appearing.
The big gameplay change here is that each character has an equipment ability that only that character can use. Charles can use a card to unlock drawers, Jamie can fix electrical equipment, Erin has a gizmo to hear distant sounds and conversations, etc. If a character dies too early, you may not be able to use the equipment needed to perform some task later on which could put other characters in peril. It’s a fantastic element that wasn’t present in the other games, but it unfortunately isn’t enough to keep the game itself feeling fresh. I can’t even put my finger on what specifically is holding it back. It looks great. Voice acting is fine. The story itself is interesting, and the premise’s roots in the 1893 World’s Fair is fascinating to an American history teacher like me. I guess the kicker for me is that there’s nothing supernatural about this story unlike the others, and the characters are less interesting to me than in the other three games. On paper, this should be a smash hit, but in execution, it just feels so-so.
Devil in Me wasn’t exactly a high note to end the first season of the Dark Pictures Anthology on, but by no means does that make it a bad game; it’s just the least good of the four. If it were the first Dark Pictures Anthology game you played, you’d probably leave with a much better opinion of it than I have. I’m glad I played it, I’m glad it’s on my PS5 shelf, and I can readily recommend it to those who enjoy choice-driven horror games and haven’t played this one before, but I’ll definitely not be going back to this for another playthrough any time soon if at all.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Windows
House of Ashes is the third game in Supermassive’s Dark Pictures Anthology series. It plays almost exactly like Until Dawn, Man in Medan, and Little Hope before it. It does make a couple of changes to the gameplay that makes it feel distinct from the previous two games, but it’s still solidly Dark Pictures Anthology.
House of Ashes takes place in 2003 in US occupied Iraq. After the fall of Baghdad and the defeat of Saddam Hussein’s army, the United States Marine Corps is combing the country in search of Saddam’s mythical chemical weapons that President Bush SWORE to the American people and to the world existed. Thinking that his fancy satellite system found an underground silo, Colonel Cucksworth or whatever his name is orders a Marine battle group to attack the village above the suspected silo and secure the weapons. After a firefight with the remnants of Saddam’s Republican Guard, it turns out that it wasn’t a silo but a massive subterranean ruin that the satellite detected, and now two US Marines, two CIA agents, and an Iraqi soldier are trapped there.
I’m rather torn on House of Ashes. On the one hand, the game is steeped in ancient Sumerian mythology, and as a history teacher, I absolutely love that. I also love the references to the political issues surrounding the American invasion and occupation of Iraq. On the other hand, having battle hardened soldiers be the protagonists of a horror game can be tough to pull off. It’s certainly not impossible, but it takes some careful world building and atmosphere maintenance to keep it scary knowing that you’re an elite trained soldier with an automatic assault rifle. That aspect does, however, introduce the mild gameplay change - there are numerous sequences where time slows and you have to aim the crosshair over an enemy to attack. Failing that can, like the regular quick time events, cause characters to die. It’s a nice change to the standard formula, but it doesn’t quite revolutionize the experience.
House of Ashes is a low point for Supermassive’s games in my opinion, but don’t take that to mean that it’s a bad game. I still enjoyed it quite a bit, but I must confess that it dragged a bit for me. I wouldn’t say I had to force myself to finish it, but it didn’t grasp me like Man in Medan or Little Hope did. It’s definitely worth a playthrough, but I’m not sure if I’ll do any subsequent playthroughs of this one.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available on Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Windows
If you’ve played any games by Supermassive, known most for their incredible work on Until Dawn, then you know basically how all of the games in their Dark Pictures Anthology series work. I played Man in Medan last October for Halloween, but I’ve since collected the other three games in the series, so this year, I decided I’d go through the remaining three starting with Little Hope.
Little Hope takes place in the northeastern ghost town of Little Hope, long abandoned after the closure of the textile factory that kept the town’s economy afloat. As is hinted at in the beginning and revealed bit by bit over the course of the game, the town has a dark history relating to witchcraft and the occult. You play as a group of five people - a college professor and his four students - as you find yourselves stranded in Little Hope after a bus crash. As you try to survive the night and the pursuit of supernatural creatures, you piece together the mystery of the strange goings on in the abandoned town. Its strongly character driven and choice based approach isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea when it comes to horror, but it perfectly fits what I look for in a horror experience.
The game’s atmosphere and general aesthetic is very reminiscent of Silent Hill as both towns are abandoned, haunted by supernatural monsters and bad memories, and blanketed in a thick layer of eerie fog. The character models are absolutely fantastic, and the game’s sound design adds to the creepy ambiance and the overall vibe of the experience. Compared to the previous Dark Pictures Anthology game, Man in Medan, I found the environment of the town to be a bit less ensnaring than the abandoned ship and the characters less interesting, but the overall story and ending was better in my opinion.
If you want a thrilling horror experience like Dino Crisis or Resident Evil 4, then Little Hope probably isn’t for you. If you liked TellTale’s games, though, especially their Walking Dead games, then this is definitely going to appeal to you. I adore Supermassive’s games, even the ones that most critics are lukewarm on, and this is one of those lukewarm ones; it’s got a 71 on Metacritic. It’s definitely not a masterpiece, but I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish and have no problem recommending it to others.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Windows
Supermassive Games is a studio of which I'm quite fond. Until Dawn is one of my favorite horror games because of its intensely character and choice driven cinematic focus matched only by TellTale's games. Their Dark Pictures Anthology tetralogy was met with mixed reviews although I enjoyed it, but they broke free from that label with The Quarry in an attempt to recapture the magic of Until Dawn. Did they succeed? Well...yes and no.
Critics have been pretty hard on The Quarry, but I quite enjoyed the game. The character models are extremely impressive, and the voice acting and sound design is excellent. I enjoyed the story, although it did feel a lot like "Until Dawn again." On the one hand, that's not necessarily a bad thing if you haven't played Until Dawn, but it can take a bit of the wind out of your sails if you have played Until Dawn. You play as some camp counselors on the night after the deep-in-the-woods camp ends. Sort of Friday 13th vibes minus the serial killer. Being a Supermassive game, the antagonist is obviously something supernatural, not just a serial killer, and as is par for the course for their games, your choices and response to quick time events determines which characters live, which characters die, and how the story ends.
The only real negative about the game is that the camera is complete garbage in a few places. Most of the time, it's perfectly fine, but there are a few angles where the camera adamantly refuses to cooperate. The quick time events are also much simpler here than in past games which makes them a little less tense. The story takes its sweet time really picking up after a prologue, but I personally didn't mind the slow build-up of tension.
There are a few minor glitches here and there, and the camera can be obnoxious, but overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the game. The models look fantastic, the story is fairly generic but nonetheless enjoyable, and the characters are a fun cast. It's not quite as good as Until Dawn, but it's probably my second favorite Supermassive game.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Gears of War was, alongside Halo and Forza, part of the holy trinity of Xbox IPs in the mid to late 2000s. It brought a level of visceral violence to which most gamers weren’t accustomed, and it coupled it with solid voice acting and an interesting storyline even if the world was almost completely desaturated. Gears of War started off rad, and Gears of War 2 kicked things into high gear. When Gears of War 3 dropped in 2011, Xbox fans were stoked.
Gears of War 3 is a direct sequel picking up after the events of the second game, and Epic really put some real emphasis on character and world development here. The fact that a game about roided up dudebros with chainsaw machine guns can make me cry is all you need to know about the writing and voice performance in Gears 3. The lore is really moved along in a meaningful way here, and while it serves as the end to this particular Gears saga, it thankfully left the door open to future installments, thus Gears 4 and 5.
Visually, Gears of War 3 takes the foundation of the previous two games and applies further polish and refinement. It’s not as big a graphical leap as Halo 3 to Halo 4, but it looks impressive nonetheless. As with the previous two games, the sound design is fantastic in terms of music, combat sound effects, and voice acting. No one can mistake the sound of a Lancer’s chainsaw revving up or the sound of a Boomer’s shouting “BOOM!” before firing a grenade at you. The addition of the Retro Lancer’s bayonet is my favorite new weapon in Gears 3.
Gears of War 3 was initially expected to be the end of a series, but it thankfully ended up being more of a turning point than an end. The story and character development arguably peaked for the series with Gears of War 3, but whether Gears 3 is your favorite or if you prefer Gears 5, this game is absolutely worth dusting off your Xbox 360 or popping that old disc into your Xbox Series X. It’s an exceptional sci-fi war shooter that reinforces the idea that a war shooter doesn’t have to be first person to be badass.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Activision used to have this habit of trying to include Call of Duty releases for weaker hardware. Call of Duty 3 was full on multigen, Call of Duty 4 got releases on Wii and DS (although the latter was a totally different game), and Call of Duty: World at War got the same treatment with a Wii port, a different DS version, and now a PS2 side game called World at War - Final Fronts. This is basically the precursor to the Vita side game, Call of Duty: Black Ops - Declassified. Fortunately, Final Fronts isn’t as bad as Declassified, but it still leaves you feeling like it was a bit of a fumble.
Like the main World at War on PC, PS3, 360, and Wii, Final Fronts has you fighting across different theaters of World War II. Unfortunately, it’s not just the visuals that took a big hit being on the PlayStation 2; it already felt like the B team did the writing for World at War, and Final Fronts’s script must have gotten the new hires’ unpaid interns. It’s just bland and uninspired, like eggs fried over hard with no salt or pepper; it’s not actively bad, but it’s definitely not especially good. If anything, the visuals actually are the highlight of the game as they look pretty impressive for the PlayStation 2. The controls are a bit clunky - odd considering that the PS2 controller is basically the PS3 controller plus a wire and minus the gyro controls - but they’re serviceable.
World at War - Final Fronts has no multiplayer whatsoever despite the fact that the PS2 was capable of online play as well as LAN plan. That exclusion isn’t terribly surprising as relatively few games outside of Dreamcast and Xbox featured online play that generation, but the absence of any local multiplayer is rather disappointing considering that local multiplayer with AI bots was pretty commonplace on PS2 and its competitors. In fairness, though, by 2008, the world had moved on to favoring online multiplayer, and the AI bot multiplayer features had largely died off. It’s a bummer, but it’s not wholly unexpected.
Call of Duty: World at War - Final Fronts is a cool piece of Call of Duty history in that it was an attempt to cater to the PS2 audience two years after its successor came out. Granted, the PS2 had some lingering third party support long into the PS3’s lifespan, but still, most of that was from sports games and shovelware; this was a major staple IP. It’s a shame, then, that it’s such a lackluster game. I definitely wouldn’t call it the worst game in the Call of Duty series - that dubious title goes to Black Ops - Declassified on Vita - but it probably is the second worst game in the series. It’s worth a play if you’re a World War II enthusiast, and it’s worth a purchase if you’re a PlayStation 2 enthusiast, but don’t go in expecting a blockbuster game.
My Rating - 2 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 3, Wii, and Windows
I first played Call of Duty: World at War when it originally came out a good 15 years ago, but back then, I played on Wii. To be clear, I unironically and genuinely love Call of Duty on Wii. With the 360 Call of Duty games being backwards compatible on Xbox Series X, though, I wanted to collect the old 360 games partly for nostalgia and partly to revisit them on a different system for fun. After all, they're dirt cheap these days.
Call of Duty: World at War was the last World War II Call of Duty game for a long while. It's usually looked at as the black sheep of the WW2 CoD games, at least from my experience, and while I don't disagree with the assessment that the other World War II games in the series are better, that's not to say that World at War is bad. You spend the campaign bouncing between playing as American Marines fighting against the Japanese and Soviet army fighting against the Nazis towards the end of the war. Because, as we all know, Russians are terrible, I used a historical loophole to comfort myself and insisted that I was actually a Ukrainian soldier in the Soviet army. Probably wasn't true, but the thought of playing as a Russian in a heroic role is just gross. Anyway, you do a couple missions as the Soviets, a couple missions as the Americans, then back to the Soviets, etc. The campaign culminates with the storming of Shuri Castle during the Battle of Okinawa for the Pacific theater and the storming of the Reichstag during the Battle of Berlin for the European theater.
The looks pretty damn good for a relatively early Xbox 360 game, and the action in the campaign is absolutely awesome. My main complaint with the campaign is simply that it feels a little disjoined, not with the content of the fighting itself. It's a bit jarring to jump back and forth between armies and theaters of war over the course of the game. That's not at all unusual for Call of Duty - the series still does that today - but it's not a method of presentation that I tend to prefer. Within the missions, though, there's a pretty solid amount of variety of action. In one mission, you clear out trenches and machine gun nests in the jungles of the Pacific with a flamethrower. In one, you play as a bomber gunner supporting American ships during a naval battle. Then you might be driving a Soviet tank through the German countryside, blasting German tanks and watchtowers along the way. In Shuri Castle, you get to pick up actual mortar shell and just yeet them at the enemies like gigantic grenades, and in the Reichstag, you have to contend with absolutely brutal combat against wave after wave of Nazi defenders. The storytelling and character presentation may have left a lot to be desired in my opinion, but the action was absolutely spot on.
If all you want is a good World War II experience, there are truthfully better choice than Call of Duty: World at War. That doesn't mean that this one's a bad choice, though. Whether it's on Wii, PS3, 360, or PC, just because it's not the best at what it does doesn't meant that it doesn't do it well (super confusing but somehow grammatically correct sentences for $800, please Alex). If you're wanting a good World War II story, I'd turn your attention to Call of Duty: Vanguard or Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. If all you really care about is Nazi and Japanese killing action, though, you can do a lot worse than World at War.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Gears of War 2 was Microsoft's and Epic's follow-up to the absolutely killer original game. It unfortunately never got a remaster for a stronger Xbox console like the original did, but it's still playable on modern Xbox consoles via backwards compatibility.
Since the Locust clearly weren't killed over the course of the first game, Marcus, Dom, Baird, and Cole are back to the battlefield against the reptilian horde, and you start off in the meat grinder almost from the get-go fighting off an attack on Jacinto, the last remaining human stronghold. From there, you launch into a massive counteroffensive to take the fight to the Locust. As you would expect, though, not everything does to plan; after all, no plan ever survives contact with the enemy. Over the course of the game, you finally get some solid character development for the Roid Boys and the glorious Cole Train.
The game looks rough by today's standards, but it's pretty damn good looking for the time period and the hardware it was released on. I'd love to see a remaster like the original game got, but even without that, it's absolutely playable. The frame rate is consistent even on original Xbox 360 hardware, and if you're playing on Xbox One or Xbox Series X, that frame rate consistency is only more stable. Gameplay wise, it's pretty much exactly the same as the first game with no major changes or additions. The Hammerburst is a single shot weapon now instead of a burst fire weapon, but aside from that and a couple of new guns like the mortar and flamethrower, the combat and game mechanics are pretty much the same.
Gears of War 2 is a great follow-up. The characters finally get some real development, the story and world get fleshed out a little, and the action gets a serious bump up. The game is still dreadfully drab with its desaturated color scheme, but that's just a product of being a gritty game made in the mid 2000s. The action still holds up extremely well today, and it's still a blast to play especially if you play co-op.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available on Xbox 360 and Windows
Gears of War was one of the flagship IPs for Microsoft in the Xbox 360 days. Unfortunately, it's been somewhat neglected lately, but the Xbox One days still held some love for Gears of War. While Gears 2, 3, and Judgement have been neglected, the original game got a nice Xbox One remaster. It's got some bug issues, but it's definitely the way to play these days, and it's totally a game worth playing.
The premise of the game is that humans on the planet Sera have, like the humans on Earth, been fighting each other for forever. That all changed on Emergence Day when the Locust, subterranean reptile people, burst from the ground and started ravaging the human cities. Clearly Hillary Clinton leads the Locust. You play as Marcus Fenix, a soldier for COG, the Coalition of Ordered Governments, as he works alongside Dom, Baird, and Cole (the best character in the entire series) to hit back at the Locust and win the war for humanity.
Gears of War is a third person shooter where almost all of the men are victims of chronic steroid abuse. The roided up bros tear through the Locust - literally since they have chainsaws on their rifles - as they dart from cover to cover. Since this was a mid 2000s Xbox 360 game originally, the game exists almost exclusively in shades of grey and brown save for the red of the blood. It originally turned me off of the game back in the day - I hate the desaturated aesthetic that was so prevalent back in those days - but the game itself and its gratuitous violence is undeniably awesome.
Gears of War was a trip down memory lane for me. Playing it co-operatively with my childhood friend Grant was a ton of fun and definitely more enjoyable than playing through solo. The original is available on Xbox 360, this remaster is available on Xbox One, and both versions are playable on Xbox Series X via backwards compatibility. It's also playable on Windows, so if you've never dived into Sera to battle the Locust, definitely give it a go.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Windows
When I played the 2019 Modern Warfare, I had some pretty high praise for it. It was significantly better written than the old school Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, and the voice acting was better, as well. Modern Warfare II from 2022 is a direct sequel to that reboot, and while I didn't think it was quite as good as Modern Warfare, it's a fantastic sequel and a much more engaging experience than the original Modern Warfare 2.
After the events of Modern Warfare, Captain Price's special task force along with some key allies are fighting against Hassan Zyani, an Iranian officer in the Quds Force, showing that the game was clearly inspired by the real-world assassination of Iranian Quds Force General Qasem Soleimani. That's the kind of touch really elevates a game for me. In addition to Iranians, you also fight a Mexican cartel smuggling drugs across the border and aiding terrorists. In other words, the Trump administration heavily influenced the storyline of this game. The game's overall story was less interesting to me than the previous Modern Warfare game (probably because Mexican gangsters and Iranian terrorists are a little - but only a little - less fun to shoot than Russians). There wasn't a "No Russian" level, but there was plenty of other brutality to make up for it.
The biggest advantage Modern Warfare II has is level variety. Sometimes you're shooting Iranians on a traditional battlefield, sometimes you're blasting Mexican gangsters in urban combat. Sometimes you're driving a truck through a chaotic highway battle, sometimes you're controlling the guns in an aerial gunboat. Sometimes you're using range and stealth to snipe enemies from afar, sometimes you're sneaking around incognito like James Bond. It never gets boring because you never know what the neve level will bring you.
When I first fired up this game, I was stunned. I seriously pulled out my phone and texted one of my friends and said "I've seriously never seen a FPS game with graphics this good." It's not necessarily THE prettiest game out there of all genres, but at least of the FPS games I've played, Modern Warfare II is definitely the most visually impressive. Sound design is fantastic and the voice acting is stellar. The level design is, for the part, excellent with a lot of variety in objectives to keep things interesting. If you're into modern military shooters, then this is an excellent one. I'm not one for Warzone, but the regular multiplayer is just as much fun as you'd expect. As with most of the Call of Duty series, it's not perfect, but it's a damn good time.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Final Fantasy is a series that I love, but it's always been a series I tend to like more in theory than in practice. They're such a massive time commitment, and since FF9, the games have seemed less and less interesting to me. From the time I first saw the reveal at the PS5 original reveal, though, I loved the look of Final Fantasy XVI. It looked dark, violent, and full of political intrigue, and that's completely my jam. I know there's been some criticism online for the complete exclusion of any non-white characters even as incidental NPCs, but all I'm going to focus on here is the game itself; I'll leave the arguments about social issues to Kotaku, Tumblr, and Twitter (although I guess it's just "X" now thanks to Elongated Muskrat).
The main character, Clive, is the elder son of the archduke of the Grand Duchy of Rosaria, a small but proud country in the west of the continent of Storm. Most people are just regular people, but a small number are born as bearers, people who an use magic without a crystal. These people are brutally discriminated against by the non-magical majority and enslaved with a tattoo brand on their cheek. A select few people are dominants, those who can not only use magic but can harness the power of an eikon associated with one of the seven element. Rosaria's archducal family has always had the power of the Pheonix, the eikon of fire, passed down in its family line. Clive did not awaken as the dominant of fire, but his younger brother, Joshua, did; as such, Clive instead trains as a soldier to be the First Shield, the knight whose primary duty is the protection of the dominant of fire.
Most recent Final Fantasy games used an active time combat system that's not truly turn based but not a true real time action RPG. Final Fantasy XVI is a full fledged action RPG, though. If you just stand there, you're not going to attack at all. You've got your basic attack with square and your basic ranged magic attack with triangle, but you can use magic abilities to chain attacks together. It takes some getting used to, but once you get a feel for your abilities and how to chain them together effectively, you can absolutely devastate your opponents. I still prefer classic turn based combat, but I do prefer this over the hybrid system that Final Fantasy has used for a lot of the past several entries.
It should come as no surprise given that it's the first current generation Final Fantasy game, but Final Fantasy XVI is a stunningly gorgeous game. You've got two visual settings, graphics and frame rate, as is usual, but the use of the two settings here is sadly minimal. The frame rate setting wavers a lot, especially when exploring. It will range anywhere from near 60 to low 40s and high 30s. The combat frame rate, at least, is a fairly consistent 60, but the inconsistency of frame rate is a real bummer. The graphics setting, on the other hand, looks much better with details, and while the frame rate is obviously much lower, it's fairly consistently 30 fps. I almost always go for frame rate when there are settings, but in this game, I opted for the graphics setting for the sake of the consistency.
Final Fantasy XVI is, potential social issues aside, a fantastic RPG. It's one of the shorter Final Fantasy games if you stick just to the main quest, but if you 100% the game like I did, it will take probably 80 hours for a playthrough. If you want the platinum trophy, you'll have to do a New Game+ playthrough on the Final Fantasy difficulty that is unlocked upon finishing the game once. It would be nice if they could fix the inconsistency with the frame rate visual mode, it would be an even better experience. Either way, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this game and may well do another playthrough on the Final Fantasy difficulty later on. Gotta give a shout out to my buddy, Gordan; his brother won a download code for Final Fantasy XVI from a contest, but as neither Gordan nor his brother have a PlayStation 5, they gave the code to me. As a result, I got to play this incredible (and $70) game for free.
My Rating - 5 Neps
Also available on Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Windows
As a brony since the first season of Friendship is Magic, I still mourn the end of gen 4, but I gotta admit, gen 5 ain't bad. This game had been on my radar for a while, but I never got around to actually ordering it. When I saw it was coming to PlayStation+. I was stoked. Most of my friends thought I was kidding when I said that I was going to play it as soon as it got added to the service. I have no idea why. This is literally the most in-character thing in the world for me to do.
You play as Sunny Starscout, gen 5 protagonist and all around best pony (Sunny/Izzy OTP), as you go around Maretime Bay helping your friends to set up for Maretime Bay Day and uncover a plot by the town's most virulently racist and Earth pony nationalist pony. I'm not kidding, that's seriously part of the game; if you've ever seen the My Little Pony: A New Generation movie, the Earth ponies are seriously just Trump supporters with hooves. As you'd expect from Outright Games, it's short, shallow, and simple, but it's cute, and for fans of the IP, and it's a pleasant little romp. It's not like there's a huge time commitment; it took me less than two hours to 100% the game and get the platinum trophy. It's absolutely a low-budget game, though, and it looks the part; the character models are nice enough, but it looks like a PS3 game.
As you go through the game, you'll have little puzzles to solve some of which involve using your Earth pony magic and some of which are just Baby's First Logic Task. There are a handful of minigames spread throughout which would be more fun if they were at all challenging, but it's a kids' game, so it makes sense. There are just shy of 2000 magic bits for your to collect in the game which unlock cosmetic items for Sunny to wear. About halfway through the game, you unlock her signature roller blades and discover that ponies in roller blades is absolutely peak aesthetic.
My Little Pony: A Maretime Bay Adventure is a stunningly short and easy game, and I absolutely do not recommend it to anyone who doesn't have small children or isn't otherwise a fan of My Little Pony. If you DO have little kids or like My Little Pony, however, give it a shot. Even brand new, it's only $20 these days, it's on ever platform, and as I mentioned, it's part of the PlayStation+ catalogue for the moment, so it's readily accessible. Go in with reasonable expectations, though; this is a little kids' game through and through, but what it sets out to do, it does fairly well.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, OSX, and Windows
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is a nice step up in narrative quality from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare in my opinion. It's not perfect - I feel like there are a few loose ends in the story that didn't get adequately addressed - but instead of the horribly written "unnamed desert country somewhere in the Middle East," you're fighting predominantly in named locations this time, primarily the United States and Russia. It still falls prey to "late 2000s/early 2010s bad Call of Duty writing," but it's a solid move in the right direction. A note that if you're playing the remastered version on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One like I did, it's just the campaign, no multiplayer. If you're playing the original release on PS3 or 360 (or PC), though, the multiplayer is still running, still being played, and still fun.
The story takes place after the events of Modern Warfare, and despite your efforts in the previous game, the ultranationalist faction still manages to take control of Russia. Control swaps between a few different characters over the course of the campaign, but you're mainly fighting on two fronts - to contain the ultranationalist Russians' plans, and to defend the United States after being invaded by Russia following a false flag terrorist attack. The stages where you play as an American soldier trying to fight back the Russian invasion are definitely the high point of the game for me, but that's probably because I love that sort of "fight back the invading horde" gameplay. As a side note, with a year and a half of war in Ukraine as context, I now find the notion that Russia could not only invade the United States but seriously push our defenses to the limit and occupy our capital to be downright laughable and absolutely hilarious; they couldn't even do that in a significantly weaker country with which they share a land border. We need a new boogeyman. One a bit less woefully incompetent.
I'm going to feel like a heretic when I say this, but Nintendo needs to be taking notes; this is how you do a remaster. This game mostly looks like it was made for the PS4, not a polished PS3 game, and it's only $20; Twilight Princess HD looked like a hastily upscaled Wii game with minimal actual remastering and sold for $50 digitally at launch. I adore Nintendo, but their remasters leave a lot to leave desired; I generally dislike Activision, but damn if they don't know how to remaster a game. Modern Warfare 2 Remastered really does look fantastic, and it plays even smoother than before. I know a lot of people play Call of Duty for the multiplayer, but they've got some seriously great campaign experiences. It's a bit rough from a writing standpoint, but for the gameplay experience, this is a pretty damn good time for $20. For those a bit more easily offended, you do get the option of skipping the infamous "No Russian" level.
While I've always been a bit prejudiced against Modern Warfare 2 as the only 7th gen Call of Duty game that never came to Wii (or, in the case of Black Ops 2, Wii U), but I can't deny that it's a fun game and a step up from Modern Warfare with regards to the writing. The characters still feel pretty bland in my opinion, but the larger narrative definitely has that action movie feeling of gravitas that makes for a fantastic war game. It's included with PlayStation+ and will probably come to Game Pass as soon as Microsoft's acquisition of Activision is finalized, so give it a go when you can.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Windows
It is no secret to anyone who's read any of my reviews here that I'm a huge fan of the Hyperdimension Neptunia series. There's a reason my rating system uses "Neps." While the games themselves are usually solidly in the "average" tier, it's the characters and premise of personified game consoles that keeps me coming back for more game after game after game, and Neptunia: Sisters vs Sisters did not disappoint. It didn't surpass my expectations, but it also didn't fail to meet them.
Idea Factory seems to have given the series a soft reboot of sorts for the 9th gen Playstation console. They remastered the remake of the first game with Neptunia ReVerse, and while this is not a remaster of the remake of the second game, it does take a cue from the second game by having the CPU Candidates, the little sisters of the main characters, taking the role of the main characters this time with Nepgear being the protagonist instead of Neptune. The story, however, is all new, and not only that, but this is, according to Gematsu, the first time that the CPU Candidates' models have been remade from scratch since the characters were first introduced. I'll be honest, I'm a big fan of Idea Factory, but that's more effort than I usually expect to see from them, especially from this series, so I was pleasantly surprised by that.
The premise of the game is that the CPUs of the four nations of Gamindustri - Planeptune, Lastation, Leanbox, and Lowee - go to help handle some crisis on the PC Continent, but that continent ends up being swallowed up in some kind of dimensional vortex. Unfortunately, Neptune disappears into the vortex, too, leaving Nepgear as Planeptune's sole goddess. Not only that, but something called the Trendi Phenomenon is breaking out across Gamindustri, causing massive outbreaks of monsters which has pushed Leanbox, Lastation, and Lowee to the brink and effectively destroyed Planeptune as a nation entirely. Now it's up to Nepgear along with Lastation's CPU Candidate, Uni, and Lowee's twin CPU candidates, Rom and Ram, to unravel the mystery and save Gamindustri.
Visually, the game looks really good for the series, and some of the enemy models are gorgeous, but it definitely doesn't even come close to pushing the PS5. It looks like a nice PS4 game. I haven't played it compare, but I bet if you put the PS4 version and the PS5 side by side, no one other than Digital Foundry would be able to tell the difference, and I'm not 100% sure even they would be able to notice. Still, though, Neptunia is a not a hardware-pushing or high-budget series, so for the price of the game ($50 MSRP if I remember correctly) and the precedent of the series, it's a pretty good looking game, and it runs at a pretty smooth and stable frame rate. Honestly, my only real complaint with the game is the side quests. Some of them are pretty reasonable, but others are insanely frustrating. Gather 15 of Item A. Okay, cool, that's fine, except that Item A only appears in crates. Crates only respawn when you leave and re-enter a dungeon, and there are only like 10 in each dungeon. You also only have a 3% chance of obtaining Item A when you break a crate in that dungeon. Or Slay 10 Monster As. Okay, well Monster A only appears in this part of this dungeon, and it only has a 10% chance to spawn. You have to kill everything in that part of the dungeon and then just wait for things to respawn (takes probably five minutes of waiting) and hope that one spawns. And then do that 10 times. Not hard, per se, but needlessly annoying.
Neptunia: Sisters vs Sisters is not going to win any Game of the Year awards, it won't be remembered as a groundbreaking RPG, and it won't be lauded for its stunning visuals or riveting storytelling. That said, it's fun time. Annoying side quests aside - and I only found around a quarter to be super annoying - it's a cute, fun little game, and it's longer than I expected with my playthrough clocking in around 40 hours. It'll probably get a price cut fairly quickly or be available cheaper used, so if you're into waifu fan service, give it a go.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 4 and Windows
I initially skipped Modern Warfare (which I typically call Moderner Warfare because I despise the trend of giving a reboot the exact same title as the original game) when it first came out because I mistakenly though that it was like Black Ops 4 and had no campaign. Once I realized that I was mistaken, I kept telling myself I'd pick it up, but I just...never got around to it. I finally rectified that, and I managed to snag a used copy complete for $10 online. Sounds like a win to me. How does it compare to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, though? Better in every way, in my opinion.
This game fixes every gripe I had with the original Modern Warfare. Keep in mind that this is a reboot, not a remake, so it's a completely different story in a different universe; don't let the reused character names and designs confuse you. The Captain Price here is not the Captain Price from the original Modern Warfare trilogy. My biggest grip with Call of Duty 4 was that you were fighting in....you never knew where. It was the Middle East, but the game adamantly refused to tell you where in the Middle East. What part of the Middle East? Arabia? The Levant? Closer to India? Asia Minor? What's the name of the country? Who knows? Bad writing. Modern Warfare 2019 does not do that. They tell you exactly where and whom you're fighting; you're in the fictional country of Urzikstan fighting against both occupying Russian forces as well as terrorists from the group Al-Qatala.
The other thing this game does infinitely better is character development. Yeah, most people remember Captain Price and Soap from Call of Duty 4, but that's because they were central to the plot, not because they were actually particularly memorable characters. They were fine, but they were generic. In this game, the characters actually have memorable personalities. Captain Price is fantastic, Alex is awesome, and Farah is probably my favorite character in the entire series. What the original game excelled in was the big picture story and the action, and this game absolutely lives up to the standard CoD 4 set in that regard.
I played on Series X using Xbox One backwards compatibility, so I can't speak to performance on base Xbox One or on Xbox One X, but the game ran at a pretty solid 60 fps and looked absolutely fantastic during my playthrough. Characters looked amazing, environments were detailed and rich, and the explosions would have made Michael Bay proud. As is standard for more recent Call of Duty games, motion capture and voice acting was stellar from start to finish. It's a real shame that I skipped this game initially because it really is a fantastic single player experience.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare  is a truly fantastic game. I have a very love-hate relationship with Call of Duty as a series, but that's honestly more because of how toxic the community is than the games themselves (except for Warzone and Black Ops 4; I genuinely dislike those at a foundational level). I'm a campaign player, so that's what I primarily judge a game on, and on that basis, Modern Warfare is exceptional. Call of Duty almost always has stellar multiplayer, so that was never an issue, but couple that with a fantastic single player campaign, and you've got a seriously good modern war shooter here. If I could change anything, it would only be to make the game a bit longer as it only took me about six hours to play through.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on Windows
Redfall is a game that that had a lot of hype to live up and, according to critical reviews, seems to lived up to almost none of it. Arkane has an impressive resume, so a lot of people had high expectations for this game, but there's one key factor people seem to forget that makes these expectations unreasonable in my opinion - Arkane's games are single player whereas Redfall is a (mostly) open world multiplayer game. Yeah, you can play it solo as I did, but it's definitely a multiplayer game. That's a big difference; a studio specializing in single player experiences is not going to hit it out of the park on their first big multiplayer experience, especially with the turnover and personnel issues that Arkane had with this game
The premise of the game is that you're trapped in the island town of Redfall, Massachusetts, a town that suddenly finds itself infested with vampires and cults worshipping them. You have a choice of playable characters each of whom have their own unique traits and skills. I chose to play as Devinder, a cryptozoologist with a gloriously British accent and a badass ultimate skill that sets up a tridirectional pulsating UV light that petrifies any vampires in range. As the vampires have somehow frozen (in time, not in ice) the ocean into massive walls of water preventing escape, the player(s) have no choice but to go on the offensive and hunt down the vampires if there's any hope of escape.
The game is divided into two halves with four "vampire gods" that have to be slain numerous sub-bosses, some optional and some mandatory. You start the game in Redfall Commons where your main goal is to slay The Hollow Man. In addition to the vampires serving as The Hollow Man's thralls, you'll have to deal with his army cultists and the Bellwether mercenary company, as well. None of the human enemies are particularly difficult to kill, but they WILL swarm and obliterate you if you give them the chance. The sniper rifle was my best friend. Humans die as they would in any game, but vampires are a little trickier. You can kill them either with fire, by meleeing them while they're petrified, by shooting them with a gun that has a special perk to let you kill them (I only found one in my playthrough), or by draining their HP and then meleeing them with a weapon that has a stake attached (that would be either your shotgun or assault rifle). Anyway, once you kill The Hollow Man, you're going to be thinking "That was way too short. That can't possibly be the whole game." And it's not; you then make your way to Burial Point, the second half of the town of Redfall at which point the game inexplicably locks you out of Redfall Commons forever. This is a bizarre design choice which serves no purpose that I can see and only limits player freedom. Needless to say, it irked me.
In Burial Point, you spent your missions hunting down two vampire gods - Bloody Tom and Miss Whisper. Once they're dead, you take on the game's final vampire god boss, The Black Sun. As you're doing all of this, there are numerous side quests, some "campaign side quests" that you take on at the mission table, and some miscellaneous side quests that you either pick up from the world or by talking to a certain NPC. You also have various safe houses across the world that you can secure. These safe houses have three steps to complete. First, you find the actual safe house and turn on the generator powering the UV lamps that protect it. Sometimes this involves just interacting with the generator, but sometimes the generator key is missing, so you have track down the key before you can turn on the generator and activate the safe house. Then you have to complete a random side quest. After that, you have to kill the vampire underboss of the neighborhood. Once all of that is done, you have secured the neighborhood (a misleading turn of phrase as there will still be vampires, mercenaries, and cultists skulking about).
Visually, the game looks very Arkane. I don't know a better way to describe it than that. It's definitely not a photorealistic art style but it's not cell shaded, either. Someone more educated in digital art design can probably give you a better description than that, but whatever it's called, I quite liked the art direction. Vampires looked cool, the human characters looked nice, and the world itself was extremely well designed. As for performance, I've heard from friends who tried the game that some of them hit a lot of bugs, but I think they just had bad luck; even with the day one version, my main bug encounters were weird physics glitches - objects floating an inch off the ground, dead enemies ragdolling a bit too much, etc. There was one fast travel point in Burial Point that would spawn me under the world where I'd fall to my death or in the air in front of a cliff instead of on it where I'd fall and take damage about one out of every three times, but that's it. I had one crash in nearly 30 hours of gameplay which I don't consider to be bad. The only performance issue I had was slow down. The game usually runs at 30 fps (they say a 60 fps performance mode is coming later; no clue why that couldn't have been implemented at launch), but I had numerous frame rate drops including some that briefly dropped to what looked to be sub-20 fps. These were all during busy fights, but still, I was playing on a Series X, and this game isn't exactly a showcase of graphical fidelity.
Overall, Redfall is okay. It's a fun little vampire romp, but the story is pretty standard and uninspired, the gameplay gets repetitive, and there are only a few truly unique places in an otherwise homogenous world to explore. It would probably be more fun with friends, but if you've got three other friends ready to play a co-op Xbox game, you're better off going with Halo Infinite or Back 4 Blood. There's just nothing that makes Redfall really stand out aside from having vampires instead of zombies, and that's not enough to make up for a bland world, mediocre story, and inexcusable performance drops.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Windows
As a lifelong Star Trek fan, I yearn for the days 20+ years ago when Star Trek games were plentiful and amazing. We've seen a renaissance of Star Trek shows in recent years, but the games haven't caught up yet. Hopefully that's changing, though, as Star Trek: Resurgence's May 2023 release brought a heavily cinematic and story-driven experience that FEELS like you're playing a season of Star Trek.
The story revolves around the ship's new first officer, Commander Jera Rydek, and engineer Petty Officer Carter Diaz board the Centaur class science vessel USS Resolute. Rydek struggles to slip into her new role after the unpopular decision to bring in a transfer as the new first officer after the tragic death of the previous first officer instead of promoting from within the crew. Meanwhile, Diaz is just content to be a dipshit grease monkey and fix the engines while his Vulcan department head glowers at him.
Taking place after Star Trek: Nemesis - specifically after William Riker becomes captain of the USS Titan but before the Hobus supernova - the story revolves around a diplomatic mission to escort a Federation ambassador to negotiations where they will serve as a neutral intermediary between the Hotari, a relatively primitive spacefaring race, and the Alydians, a race roughly on par with the Federation that has kept the Hotari in imperial bondage for centuries.
If you've ever played a TellTale game like Wolf Among Us, The Walking Dead, or Game of Thrones, then you pretty much know what you're getting here as Dramatic Labs has created a game that plays just like that. The focus is all narrative with some action thrown in for good measure. As is the case with TellTale's games, character choice is paramount, and your choices will have a direct impact on how the story plays out. Sometimes these choices are fairly minor, and sometimes they're major turning points; a lot of the time, you don't know what impact your choices will have until after you've made it. It's not as polished as TellTale's games with some visual glitches, one instance of a bug that forced me to reload my game, and a couple of bugged achievements; but for what, from what I can tell, is the studio's first release, it's pretty darn good. It makes sense, also, that it's so similar to TellTale's games as the studio is composed of former TellTale talent.
The game's flaws are entirely technical as the writing and acting are simply superb, and fortunately, those flaws are minor. Visually, the game looks last gen and feels like a backward compatibility game even running natively on Series X and PS5, but that's really not that important; Star Trek has always been about the stories and character choices, not the flashiest and most state-of-the-art visual effects. The story is broken in three acts each of which is composed of a number of chapters that have title displays exactly like you'd see in an episode of The Next Generation, Voyager, or Deep Space Nine. That helps more than you'd think to set the tone and feel as essentially a playable season of Star Trek.
Star Trek: Resurgence is not a perfect game, and those wanting an action packed space adventure will be disappointed, but for those wanting a genuine Star Trek experience, then look no further. This honestly feels more authentically Star Trek in my opinion than the legendary games of twenty years past like Elite Force and Bridge Commander. The element of choice really makes you feel like you're an active participant in the events rather than an outside observer. That said, the lack of checkpoints during chapters is irksome, and for a native Series X game rather than Xbox One game played via backwards compatibility, I would have hoped for some more impressive visuals. Still, the game looks completely fine, and outside of a few hiccups, runs well. I hope that Paramount allows Design Labs to keep the license because this is exactly the type of Star Trek game I want to see more of, and I'm sure that with future opportunities to make games, the team will only improve and deliver even better narrative experiences.
My Rating - 3 Neps
You remember that game I reviewed a few months ago called Hentai World? Well, for some reason, they made a sequel that nobody wanted. Hentai Girls. The game is as generic, bland, and forgettable as the title, and it's just as bad as the previous game.
It's literally exactly like the previous game. If anything, it's worse. It's still just a boring sliding square puzzle, but there are fewer levels here, and there's no dialogue whatsoever. Sure, the dialogue was dumb and pointless in the first game, but at least it was there. There's just...nothing here. I literally don't know what else to say about it. Oh boy, I get to do some easy and boring puzzles to see generic topless anime women. Whoopie.
The game sucks. It shouldn't exist. It doesn't have one single redeeming aspect. Boring puzzles, no dialogue, and less content than the previous game. Don't buy it. It's not even worth it as lol joke game.
My Rating - 1 Nep
Also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, and Windows
Resident Evil 4 is widely considered to be one of the best games if not the best game in the series. I don't personally agree with that assessment, but it's absolutely a fact that Resident Evil 4 is an exceptional game that manages to blend the horror experience that the series is known for with a more action focused experience that was becoming more popular in the mid 2000s. After the huge success of the recent remakes of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3, Capcom decided to neglect the only remaining main series game that didn't have a native version for modern hardware and remake Resident Evil 4, a game that has a competently upscaled version for PS4 and Xbox One. You'll get justice one day, Code Veronica...
For those unfamiliar with the story, six years after the events of Resident Evil 2, Leon Kennedy is working as an agent for the United States government. The president's college student daughter, Ashley, has been kidnapped by a weird cult in Spain, and Leon is sent in to find and rescue her. What he discovers is that this isn't just a cult; it's a violent murder peasant cult. They're not zombies in the T-virus sense, but for all intents and purposes, they're basically zombies in the Haitian voodoo sense.
While Resident Evil 4 didn't need a remake in my opinion, I'd be lying if I said that they didn't do a good job with this one. It looks absolutely fantastic, and the controls are every bit as modernized as you would expect. It's also got some good accessibility, too with an array of difficulties from "anyone should be able to finish this" to "no one should be able to finish this," and if you find that you've overestimated yourself a little bit, you have the option of lowering your difficulty once you've started instead of having to start over.
I played on PS5, but I would imagine that the PS4 version looks stunningly good as well considering how good the Resident Evil 2 and 3 remakes looked on that system. It's a shame that the game isn't available on Switch, but there's just no way that a game this graphically impressive could have run on Switch without downgrading the visuals intensely or making another stupid cloud version. For those who like cosmetic flairs, there are a variety of costume options for both Leon and Ashley. Speaking of Ashley, while the game is still a giant escort mission, Ashely's AI is INFINITELY better than it was in the original. You still have to keep your wits about you to make sure she isn't captured or killed, but you're not going to be tearing your hair out hearing "LEON!!" every four seconds anymore. I was ready to feed her to the monsters and just tell the president I was too late in the original game; I legitimately liked her in this game.
This Resident Evil 4 remake should have been a Code Veronica remake, but since it wasn't, I'm quite happy with what we got. This is absolutely the definitive way to experience the story, and it's an absolute blast to play. I can definitely see myself replaying this in the future because of how much fun I had this go around. This is a definite must-play for fans of survival horror games even if it did lean just a bit too heavily into the action side of things for my liking.
My Rating - 4 Neps
The Legend of Zelda is a series that has consistently reinvented itself in one way or another over its history. The first game was a top down adventure; the second game was a side scrolling RPG; the third game returned to the style of the first but with dramatic visual and mechanical improvements. When the series shifted to 3D, each game was distinct in both tone and art direction. That hasn't changed with Tears of the Kingdom, although of the few Zelda games that are direct sequels, it does appear to be the most similar to its predecessor. Don't let appearances fool you, though; this game is quite distinct from Breath of the Wild in a number of ways that keep it feeling fresh and prevent it from being, despite what some naysayers on the internet may tell you, "overpriced DLC."
Tears of the Kingdom takes place six years after the events of Breath of the Wild. Hyrule is recovering from the Calamity, and Princess Zelda (no clue why she's not Queen Zelda when she's the only surviving royal) is trying to lead her kingdom to a prosperous future and learn from the past accompanied and protected by her faithful knight, Link. When investigating a chamber discovered deep beneath Hyrule Castle, they discover a mummy with a hand stuck to its chest. As mummies are wont to do, it magically reanimates itself and attacks Link, wrecking the Master Sword and Link's arm in the process, and throwing Link and Zelda into a random chasm.
Upon regaining control of Link after the various opening cut scenes, you'd be forgiven for thinking that you're just playing more Breath of the Wild as the major differences do take some time to sink in. The two most significant gameplay differences are the fusion ability and the world itself. With the fusion ability, you can fuse together elements in the world to create a variety of tools to help you along the way. One of the tutorial elements early on has you make a raft. Half of the puzzles in the game (if not more) can be solved with the universal rule of Tears of the Kingdom - "When in doubt, build a bridge." Eventually, you'll be making cars, airplanes, and giant death mechs. It's at least 20% cooler than anything Breath of the Wild had to offer.
The big game changer for your average gameplay, though, is the ability to fuse damn near anything you find in the world to your weapons. Have a stick and a curved rock? Now you have an axe. Have a shield and an explosive barrel? Now you have a bomb shield that will explode and send an enemy flying when they hit it. Have a sword and an explosive barrel? You're about to commit a murder-suicide. These weapon fusions have some serious potential, though; you can take a 10 attack power sword and turn it into a 65 attack power sword with the right fusion material. Unfortunately, you can fuse anything to your bows, but you can fuse material in your inventory to your arrows to make bomb arrows, fire arrows, etc.
Tears of the Kingdom's other main difference is the massive scope of the world. The regular overworld is virtually identical to Breath of the Wild, but you also have a series of sky islands that you can (with a little frustration and creativity) explore and traverse as well as the depths, a realm the exact same size as the Hyrule overworld but mirrored. Wherever there's a valley in the overworld, there's a mountain in the depths; wherever there's a river in the overworld, there's a literally impassable rock wall in your way. I found the depths to be a little boring and same-y after a while, but there are definitely some wicked features to explore, and the combat gets a lot tougher in the depths than it usually is in the overworld.
The game gets its subtitle from the twelve Dragon's tears that you can find throughout the world. Every time you interact with a new Dragon's tear, you're shown a cutscene that reveals some of the story of what happened to Zelda who has been mysteriously missing after the magic mummy's attack. This is where the bulk of the game's story gets told, and it's a story that I honestly think puts the majority of the Zelda series to shame.
Tears of the Kingdom is a vast improvement over Breath of the Wild in every way. It's significantly larger in terms of the physical world, it's got more options to traverse the world and approach combat, the story is better, there are TONS of side quests, and the visuals and performance are both much improved. This is a virtually perfect game, and while it's not quite my favorite Zelda game - that title will probably always be with Link to the Past - it's a damn close second. I put in just shy of 180 hours in my playthrough, and the game said I was less than 60% complete. It may be the first Switch game to retail for $70 rather than $60, but trust me, you're getting your money's worth here and then some.
My Rating - 5 Neps
I'm a teacher.
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 high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.