Also available for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii, Nintendo DS, OSX, and Windows
Call of Duty 4 was the first game in the series that feels truly modern not just in setting but in overall design. Being one of the most popular games in the series, it's since been remastered for the current generation of consoles which is the version that I played most recently. Before I get into the actual review, since it has nothing to do with the game itself but rather the idiots who name these games and the dudebro fuckboys playing them, let me just vent for a moment. Everyone these days seems to assume that when I say "Modern Warfare," I mean Black Ops IIII. Like, bitch, no. If I meant Black Ops 4, I'd have said Black Ops 4. There's only game that was titled "Call of Duty 4." Don't blame me for the fact that you're too stupid to tell the difference between a title and a subtitle. Furthermore, does no one at Activision have any understanding of the most basic Roman numerals? "IIII" isn't a thing. Yes, symmetry for cover art, I get it. That doesn't make it any less stupid than saying that the number after ten is "zeroteen." The Roman numeral for "4" is "IV," not friggin' "IIII." Seriously guys, it's not that hard. It's one thing if you don't know Roman numerals for some number like 5372, but 4? Seriously? You can't even figure that one out? Sorry - actually, nevermind, I'm not sorry - but shit like that pisses me off.
Okay, so here's where the unpopular opinions come into play. I don't think Modern Warfare is the best campaign in the series, and I don't think it's even close to the best multiplayer in the series. It's a good campaign, but it falls way short of all three Black Ops games (since the Black Ops 4, in addition to screwing up basic Roman numerals, went the way of the fuckboi and omitted the campaign entirely in favor of just-another-Fortnite-slash-PUBG-rip-off battle royale), Advanced Warfare, Infinite Warfare, Call of Duty, and Call of Duty 2. As for the multiplayer, again, it's good, but doesn't come close to Black Ops III, Ghosts (oof, there's a really unpopular thing - saying literally anything positive about Ghosts), or WWII even with the modern remaster. The campaign, however, is definitely the part of the game with which I have the biggest issues since most of my issues with the multiplayer are super subjective and rather vague since I don't usually waste my time on FPS multiplayer.
Okay, let's dig into my plethora of problems with the campaign. First off, everyone knows (or should know) that the golden rule of writing is "Show, don't tell." That's not quite applicable to writing a script for a video game, at least not in the same way. When you're doing something as basic as establishing the setting for your game, yes, you need to show, but you also need to tell. Don't just have a map quickly zoom in on what geographically-savvy people know is Oaxaca, Mexico and then proceed to spend the entire game just calling it "Central America" and having every character be short, overweight, wear a massive sombrero, and eat tacos throughout every mission. That's basically what Modern Warfare does. They may zoom in on what some folks know is Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, or Iran in the second or two of world-map visible in the loading screens, but they never call the setting anything other than "Middle East," and every single enemy is a walking caricature of stereotypes that Americans hold about Arabs. And it's not like this was a stylistic choice - in the other part of the game, they not only say "Hey guys, the country you're fighting in is Russia," but they sometimes specify regions of Russia. Like, whose sales are you afraid of losing? Do you really have that many customers in Yemen, Iran, and Oman? I get it, we're all terrified of anger the desert boogymen (/s), but seriously, this is not acceptable when it's something as fundamental as your story's setting. And maybe I just missed something - I was drunk through a chunk of my playthrough - but I'm still not 100% sure why the Russian ultranationalists and the people from Nonamestan were allies. Did they just want to make the Russians and the Muslims work together for the sake of putting the two groups Americans are the most irrationally terrified of in the same game? Regardless of the "why," Modern Warfare is a prime example of bad narrative set-up.
So now that we've established I have absolutely zero respect for the writing here, I guess I can address the actual gameplay in the campaign. It's good. Honestly, the gameplay in the campaign mode is more than half the reason I'm giving this game a good score at all. For as suck as the writing was, the gameplay direction was spot on. Most of the game is your standard FPS affair, but there's enough variety to keep anything from getting stale. Sometimes you've got a whole squad to back you up, and you're gunning your way through a town. Sometimes it's just you and your homie on a stealth missions DEEP behind enemy lines. Sometimes you're trying to get to a specific point as quickly as possible. One mission has you control the guns on an AC-130 and turn enemies on the ground into meat paste from long range. Some missions are long whereas some are super short and serve only to show story progression. Honestly, I have complaints with almost every aspect of the campaign, but the one aspect for which I have nothing but praise is the mission design and variety. It's an exemplar of what a modern military shooter's design should be.
I don't know how much of an improvement the game's visuals will be for most folks, but consider that my first playthrough was on Wii at 480i over composite, and this second playthrough was at 2160p over HDMI, it scarcely even looked like the same game to me. I never played COD4 in HD, so going from SD straight UHD was like putting on glasses for the first time. Everything looked so crisp, clear, and photorealistic. I'm not an audiophile, so didn't really notice a big improvement in sound, but that's just not the type of thing I'd typically notice. Regardless, though, Modern Warfare Remastered holds up as a model template of what a remaster should be - keep the game itself as unchanged as possible while polishing every aspect of it that you can.
Call of Duty 4 - be it the original release or the remaster - is definitely not even close to the best game in the series, but it is an excellent FPS title nonetheless. If you're not a fan of the genre, there's not a whole lot here - the writing is questionable, the multiplayer gets really stale really fast due to the repetitive nature of the genre - but the level design and mechanics of the game are really polished and well designed. I'm on the edge here with the score I'm giving it, but I'm going to err on the side of a higher score because of how truly well designed the single player missions are. If you're into shooters, I definitely recommend checking this one out.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on Gamecube, Wii, Switch, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Windows
I first played Resident Evil 0 back on Gamecube, and it was actually one of my early Resident Evil experiences after the PlayStation original and Resident Evil 4 (which I played on Wii). Zero's release at the end of 2002 was the perfect accompaniment for the remake of Resident Evil that had come out in the beginning of 2002 as it takes place immediately before the first game not far from the infamous Umbrella mansion. It was originally a Gamecube exclusive before being ported to Wii and then remastered in HD for Microsoft's and Sony's 2000s HD systems, and while it does somewhat show its age as a 17 year old game, it still holds up as a pretty good game in 2019.
In Resident Evil Zero, a team of elite cops from Raccoon City - a sister squad to the STARS members that starred in the first game - is sent to investigate a series of cannibalistic murders in the forested mountains near Raccoon City. They quickly discover a crashed military police vehicle and two dead MPs who were apparently transporting a dangerous murderer named Billy Cohen. You start off playing as Rebecca, a rookie STARS medic, and are investigating a mysteriously stalled train while also searching for Cohen. Upon realizing that there's some cataclysmic outbreak going on, Rebecca realizes that the only hope for survival is to cooperate with Billy.
The game overall feels a lot like the original Resident Evil; most of it takes place in a mansion with zombies where you have to solve ridiculous puzzles that would never exist in the real world in order to proceed. It's really good overall, but there are a few stylistic choices that really kill it for me to some extent. The biggest issue is the inventory. Inventory space is extremely limited which, in and of itself, isn't a problem. The problem is that there's no item storage like in the original game, and some of the items take two spaces. The hookshot especially is a problem because it takes two slots, and you need it at various points through the game right up near the end, but it never tells you when you're done needing it. Like, I get it, scary horror spoopy games use limited inventory to make it spoopier, but this is just annoying.
Having gone from playing on Gamecube to playing PlayStation 4, the visuals were quite impressive given that it was just a simple upscale. The controls can feel a little archaic especially where the tank controls are concerned, but the game is much more playable in a modern context than 1, 2, 3, or Code Veronica are (although I still love those games). Resident Evil 0 does leave a bit to be desired in the details, but it's still. an extremely playable game. Whether you play it on the Gamecube, the Wii, or the PS4 or Xbox One, it's a fantastic experience.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Square has been on a real roll of putting out some high quality retro-styled JRPGs lately. After playing I am Setsuna and Lost Sphear, I was hyped for Octopath Traveler. I resisted the urge to buy it at launch in my brutal struggle to make not-stupid decisions with my money, but I only held out for a couple months. Then I sank around 100 hours into the game. I ALMOST 100% completed the game. I did all four chapters for all eight characters. I got all of the best equipment. I unlocked every job and completed every side quest. ALMOST was I was at 100% on the game....almost....
So before I go into the one single thing that stood between me and completionist glory, I'll explain the structure of the game. There are eight protagonists in the game, and when you start, you pick one as your "main" protag. Who you pick doesn't really affect anything other than whose Chapter 1 you start on, and you can't remove whomever you picked from your party until you finish all eight characters' stories. Other than that, it makes no impact on the story who you pick. You then go from town to town, starting new characters' Chapter 1 and then continuing their story. That's where the game's first shortcoming appears - the game is laid out to have eight separate stories that intersect, but those intersections are loose and sparse at best until you get to the very end. When you finished each character's Chapter 4, you start to see common strands linking them, but they don't really converge at all until you get to the post-game dungeon (after a solid 15 or 20 minutes of unskippable credits. Then you find out how they've all been connected all along, and that part is really cool, but they feel completely unrelated throughout the first 90% of the game. Why are these people randomly traveling together and helping each other? There's no interaction between the characters aside from unvoice "travel banter" that pops up infrequently and never contains any meaningful or significant dialogue. It all feels like a gigantic missed opportunity.
The one part of the game I didn't complete is the post-game dungeon. I finished almost all of it. There's a boss rush with eight boss rematches and then a two-phase fight with the true final boss. I got about the final boss's second phase down to about half health before I got rekt. After six tries and never making it past that point, I said screw it and gave up. It's post-game, the credit rolled. I count that as beat. What makes that post-game boss so damn frustrating is that he spawns souls that lock all of his weaknesses to keep you from breaking his defenses and stunning him in addition to making him completely invulnerable to any damage whatsoever. The only way to unlock his weaknesses and deal damage is to kill all of the minion souls. What makes it worse is that all but one of the souls' weaknesses are always locked, and the boss will respawn a soul within a turn or two, so you have one or two turns to kill all of the souls, stun the boss, and dish out as much damage as possible before the boss recovers and spawns more souls, starting the whole process over again. The boss rush isn't hard, but it's extremely time consuming. The boss's first phase, however, is tough, and the second phase is downright brutal, and the ridiculous invulnerability ends up making the difficulty spike from "stay on your toes, but you'll be alright" to "wtf balls to the wall" hard, and difficulty spikes like that are - in my opinion - a sign of a poorly made game and kill the fun for me. So screw it, I got close. As one of my college professors always said, good enough for government work.
Octopath Traveler's biggest problem is that it just falls short of its potential. It's not a bad game; it's just a disappointing game. The characters are all pretty interesting. Olberic is a noble knight setting out to find the truth about a painful betrayal. Therion is a master thief on a quest to redeem himself from a shame brought on him by his own pride. Tressa is a young merchant traveling the world to see what their is to see and gain experience from her journey. Ophelia is a cleric on a religious pilgrimage across the continent. Alfyn is a wandering apothecary who just wants to help those in need. Cyrus is a brilliant scholar seeking out an ancient and taboo tome that vanished from his university's archives mysteriously 15 years prior. H'aanit is a huntress on a quest to find and rescue her master. Primrose - Octopath waifu #1 - is on a quest to kill the trio of assassins who murdered her father and brought to ruin her family's once powerful noble house. Had these stories been written to intersect before the very end of the game, it would have been a fascinating experience. Instead it ends up feeling like eight extremely short, separate RPGs haphazardly pasted together. It's still a fun experience with a beautiful world - seriously, the background's visuals here are top notch - but it could have been so much better with a little more TLC in the writing department.
Octopath Traveler is a bit of a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, the gameplay is a lot of fun, and it feels a bit like Bravely Default. The multiple protagonists give it a fairly unique feel, but the writing connecting those characters' stories just doesn't feel cohesive enough to live up to its potential. The difficulty level also spikes from time to time especially if you're going for the "true" ending. You've got eight characters in a party with a maximum of four characters, and the inactive characters don't gain any experience. That necessitates a certain degree of grinding which is definitely NOT a welcome feature to a JRPG in 2018 or 2019 for me. Octopath Traveler is definitely a game worth owning and playing for Switch enthusiasts, but as a JRPG, it's kind of run-of-the-mill and not particularly outstanding in any area aside from "missed potential." It's good, but it's definitely not great.
My Rating - 3 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.