Also available on Xbox One and Windows
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is an iconic game not only for the Resident Evil franchise but for the survival horror genre as a whole. Even folks who haven't played it are usually familiar with the titular character's deep growl of "STARS!" With the smashing success of the previous remake of Resident Evil 2, it only makes sense that Capcom would have immediately begun work on remaking the third entry in the series especially considering that Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 take place at the same time in the same city.
I'm a huge fan of Resident Evil and the survival horror genre as a whole, so I'm a little biased, but this game really does feel like a nearly perfect package. The visuals are stunning, the voice acting it top notch, the motion capture is incredible, and the overall atmosphere of the game is nearly perfect. It's every bit Resident Evil 2's equal. At the game's beginning, you start in a first person perspective reminiscent of Resident Evil VII: Biohazard, and that's how they introduce Jill Valentine, badass supercop on the Raccoon City Police Department's Special Tactics and Rescue Service team and one of the few survivors of the Arklay mansion incident from the first game which took place two months earlier just outside of Raccoon City. In those two months, patients started showing up at the Raccoon City hospital with a mysterious illness that caused severe fever, rapid necrosis, and hyperphasia (or excessive hunger). At the same time, incidents of brutally violent murders were spiking. The city was facing an outbreak of the T-virus, a secret biological weapon developed by the multinational corporation, Umbrella. What's worse, though, is that a super bioweapon codenamed Nemesis has been dispatched by Umbrella to hunt down and permanently silence the few surviving members of S.T.A.R.S., the elite RCPD team that had investigated the Arklay mansion.
One thing that Resident Evil 3 gets perfect is the atmosphere that conjures a sense of foreboding from mere sight and sound. A lot of folks say that what makes a horror game scary is limited ammo and difficulty. That can certainly put you on edge and make you anxious. Others say that it's the jump scares that give a game its horror. That can certainly be an important element if executed properly. Resident Evil 3 nails true horror, though, beyond the shallow definitions of "difficulty" or "jump scares." I could be walking down a hallway in an abandoned apartment building with 30 rounds of ammunition and not a zombie in sight, and I still felt the fear. No zombie jumped out at me; Nemesis never burst through a wall to turn my skull into tomato paste, yet I still felt a linger terror deep inside my lizard brain. The darkness of the city. The fires still burning in the distance. The disheveled storefronts. The destroyed vehicles. The few odd zombies, slowly shambling through the street. The knowledge that at any moment, that perilous tranquility become a blood bath, and it wasn't a foregone conclusion whose blood would be bathed in and who would be doing the bathing. That's the atmosphere that can instill true horror in a game, and that's what Resident Evil 3 knocked out of the park.
True horror may be all about atmosphere and presentation, but it's absolutely true that other factors contribute or enhance that such as the aforementioned elements of ammo scarcity and jump scares. Resident Evil 3 has those, but what it also has going for it is incredible graphics. Playing Playstation 4 Pro, the game's presentation at 4K in HDR takes the realism of the presentation to a whole different level than its 32-bit original version; I can only imagine what the experience would be like on a high end gaming PC. I normally am the first person to dispute the game that good graphics equal a good game, but with how visceral Resident Evil's content is, the graphical fidelity is a massive enhancement. When you shoot a zombie, that damage is reflected on their body whether it's a chunk of meat blown out of the chest or a sheet of flesh ripped from the rotting face. The dismembered and disemboweled victims of the outbreak are on full display in the game's various locations, and unlike the original release, these are more than primitive polygons tinted red; these are detailed human beings, faces oftentimes visibly twisted in agony. That's not to say that the game's perfect - I vividly recall one instance of running through a donut shop to escape Nemesis and seeing him bug out and just walk through the wall of the shop as if he could phase shift - but it's damn near perfect, and Capcom's attention to detail with character models is truly impressive.
What will always make-or-break my immersion in a game is the voice acting, and Resident Evil's earlier entries are notorious for some of the worst voice acting of big budget games from the late 1990s; I'm sure everyone remembers (and cringes at the memory of) Barry's "Jill sandwich" line from the first game. As has been the case with most of the series after Resident Evil 4, that craptastic voice acting is gone. In its place is an incredible performance from a stellar cast of voice talent, and Jill's voice actor's line delivery as well as the quality of the motion capture - a critical element of game design often overlooked by gamers - kept me firmly immersed from start to finish. Beyond the voice acting, the sound design in general was extraordinarily well done. Most of the game is silent as far as background music goes. That not only enhances the feeling of dread and isolation that the game evokes, but it also heightens the anxiety players feel when there is music in the background as that only happens in high stress situations like being chased by Nemesis.
I spent a long time debating what score to give Resident Evil 3. On the one hand, it's one of the most effective games of the genre at making me feel terror, and the presentation is flawless. On the other hand, the game is really short - even with my backtracking, pausing to answer texts and walk the dogs, and being generally bad at video games, I finished in six hours - and there were a couple minor bugs I noticed. In the end, though, no game is ever going to be truly perfect, and this game definitely came close enough to perfection to earn a five out of five score. After all, as far as length goes, I prefer quality over quantity; the quantity of game here may be lacking for some folks, but the quality is undeniable. This is an S tier horror game. With the kind of name recognition and pedigree that an IP like Resident Evil has, I'm sure everyone reading this has either played the game already or firmly plans never to play it, but on the off chance that someone is still on the fence, don't be. Play the game. I can guarantee you won't be disappointed.
My Rating - 5 Neps
Also available on Xbox One, Switch, and Windows
In my household, Obsidian is a name you treat with reverence. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, Fallout: New Vegas, South Park: The Stick of Truth - Obsidian was the studio behind these games, and I give that studio the respect it deserves. When I saw that they were working on a sci-fi RPG that was clearly a spiritual successor to their work on the Fallout series, I was immediately sold. Yes, please, sign me up. Then my bank statement said, "Son, put your pants back on; you're too broke for this." So I had to wait until I could get a copy off of someone used for relatively cheap. Being a grown-up sucks.
Having secured my used copy of the game, I couldn't wait to jump into the world of the Halcyon colony and stand up to the corrupt and wicked corporate overlords ruling the system. By that point, though, it was 2020, and we all know how this year has been going...so life and mental health got in the way, and it sat on my shelf for about six months. Finally, however, October rolled around, and the impenetrable miasma of depression dissipated into a much more manageable Silent Hill-esque fog with a whole four inches of visibility! Yes, now I can finally dive into Halcyon to be the savior that no one asked for and few wanted.
Now that I've turned this review into an internet recipe with an unnecessary story about my life, let's talk about the game. You play as a colonist who's been cryogenically frozen aboard the colony ship Hope in Halcyon for 70 years until a mad scientist wakes you up in a move of bold defiance against the plutocratic corporate government of the system (eat your heart out, Mussolini). You're then put into an escape pod and launched towards the nearby planet of Terra 2 to meet up with a freelance ship captain who is supposed to get you to the aforementioned mad scientist's secret lair. Unfortunately, the freelance ship captain was an idiot and stood directly on the pod's landing beacon causing you to crush him to death accidentally. Oops. Guidance system error in your favor. Collect one starship. You're the freelance captain now!
There are a few ways you can play this game as is par for the course with these Western RPGs. You could be the selfless savior who acts for the good of the colony in all things. You could be thuggishly chaotic neutral who does whatever is best for himself without regard for effects on others. If you're a filthy capitalist pig, you could even play the role of the corporate stooge who works for the Board and turns in the bounty on the mad scientist who saved you although that's rather rude and cuts the game short by a significant margin. I, being a good comrade, chose to side the workers in all things and oppose the Board in almost everything. I'll admit that it took an hour or two for the game to hook me, but once I was hooked, I was hooked just as hard as I'd been with New Vegas.
The game's sound design is absolutely superb. The voice acting is (for the most part) top notch. The only exceptions to that are some of the random unnamed NPCs in the towns and some of the screams in battle. Some of those screams are REALLY over the top. One of my characters took an admittedly pretty hard hit from a wild creature and screamed for literally like fifteen straight seconds. Just one long, agonized, unholy scream of terror and agony. After ten seconds of it, it went from being annoying to just unsettling. Those are my only audio complaints, though. The soundtrack is phenomenal with calmer scenes and loading screens having some terrific orchestral background music.
The game's visual presentation is spot on, too. I played on PS4 Pro, and the game just looks beautiful. Some of the textures can take a second to pop in after you load into the world, and that's jarring, and there are some issues with characters just popping in and out of existence in the world (though this seemed mostly isolated to the Peril on Gorgon DLC from my experience), but I'd give it a solid 8 out of 10 on the graphics front. I did encounter a good number of bugs, but the vast majority were extremely minor bugs that affected gameplay in no meaningful way. I only had to reload a save due to a bug once or twice. I mean, compared to Bethesda's RPGs, this game was downright polished. The phrase "It just works" would actually be truthful if applied to The Outer Worlds. Sorry, Todd, but it looks like Obsidian does better work without you than with you. It might because they were using the glorious Unreal Engine 4 for this game as opposed to that wretched Gamebryo engine.
Obvious comparisons with Fallout aside, The Outer Worlds is a truly outstanding game that takes all of the good parts of its Fallout heritage while still standing on its own two feet as a unique and enjoyable experience. I do hate Obsidian's choice to use the "point of no return" mechanic meaning I'll have to reload an older save to play the unreleased DLC, but that's a relatively minor complaint all things considered. The Outer Worlds isn't perfect - it's still somewhat buggy, there aren't as many side areas and planets to explore as I might have hoped, and the unique weapons rarely feel especially unique - but it's clear from the get-go that a lot of care and effort went into the development of this game. If you're a fan of Western RPGs like Mass Effect, Fallout, Knights of the Old Republic, so on and so forth, you absolutely must give The Outer Worlds a spin. I hate that I slept on this one as long as I did, but there's still some DLC that's been announced but hasn't been released yet, so it's never too late to jump in and stick it to the Board.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Windows
I'm an absolute slut for turn based tactics games. It doesn't matter if they're fantasy settings like Fire Emblem, modern settings like Breach and Clear, or sci-fi settings like XCOM. I absolutely adore turn based tactics. When I saw Phantom Doctrine for sale on the Switch eShop, I figured I'd take a look. What I saw looked like XCOM, and much to my delight, that's basically what Phantom Doctrine is - a dollar store XCOM clone.
Phantom Doctrine takes place towards the end of the Cold War in 1983. You can choose to play as either a former American CIA agent, a former Soviet KGB agent, or a former Israeli Mossad agent. Since this is an epic Cold War struggle, I'm obviously not going to pick Mossad (sorry, Israel, but you're not as iconic a Cold War combatant), and the Soviet Union is the ultimate video game adversary after the Nazis, so I clearly can't choose to play AS a Soviet, so I was left with the CIA. Fortunately, you play as a FORMER agent of the organization you choose, not an active agent, and your interests start to split pretty early on. You lead a secret organization known as the Cabal as you try to thwart the machinations of the cryptic and malign Beholder Initiative.
The actual gameplay is VERY reminiscent of XCOM. You have a main base from which you manage your resources, both capital and human. Money is used to expand your base, upgrade your facilities, purchase weapons and armor, and hire new agents. It's also used to send your agents into the field and in some random events. Sometimes you'll get a random prompt that one of your agents has been arrested, and you can choose to either let them rot in jail, leave them in jail but send a care package for $200 (it's a random amount I just made up; I don't remember what it actually was), or bail them out for $1000. Your choice will have effects on your relationship with the character and their abilities, so choose carefully; sometimes the choice that feels right ends up having the most disastrous consequences. Throughout the world, possible enemy activity will show up in random cities, so you have to send your agents. Sometimes it's nothing. Sometimes it's an informant who will help you. Sometimes it's a beholder plot that you have to stop lest your base's Danger rating increase. If your base's Danger rating gets too high, you'll have to pay to move your base, and that is NOT cheap. If you keep your base where it is with a high danger rating, then you run the risk of being attacked by Beholder agents.
As is normally the case with any game that lets me name my characters, I found myself getting really attached to characters really easily. That's why I had to be extra careful when I deployed my characters on a combat mission. The gameplay is almost exactly like XCOM if it were a low budget game with about a tenth of the polish and refinement. It's an incredibly fun game, but it's definitely rough around the edges, it has some pretty noticeable bugs and glitches here and there, and the budget title nature of the game shows through. The mission objectives vary. Sometimes you have to disarm a certain number of bombs, sometimes you have to kill all of the enemies, sometimes you have to kill or capture a Beholder agent (I always went for capture so I could torture them for information at my base), and sometimes you have to rescue a captured Cabal agent who will join your team after the mission. If your agent is eliminated in combat, you have a few turns to stabilize them so they don't bleed out which allows you to carry them with you back to the extraction point. If you do that, they survive. If they bleed out or aren't carried to the extraction point, they're either dead forever or captured by Beholder. In the latter case, there's a chance they'll be brainwashed and become Beholder agents in future missions although you can unlock a base facility that allows you to remove that brainwashing if you incapacitate and recapture them down the line.
The visuals are...okay. I mean, they're not terrible, but they definitely look like they'd be more at home on a seventh generation console like the PS3, not an eight generation console like the Switch. It certainly doesn't affect the gameplay, and I got used to it pretty quickly, but it is rather jarring to go from Mario Kart 8 and Breath of the Wild and Wolfenstein II to this. The sound design is fairly good overall. The music is pretty well done, but the voice acting is...bad. I mean, wow, the voice acting is definitely the low point of this game. It's definitely not at the Sega CD and PS1 FMV game levels of terrible acting, but these are clearly not A list actors. Hell, I don't think most of them are even C list actors. Your CIA contact sounds like he's having a stroke throughout most of his lines. Fortunately, the voice acting you'll hear most often are the random little lines of dialogue from your agents when you have them take an action on your turn, so they're pretty easy to block out and ignore.
Phantom Doctrine is a fun little game if you can find it cheap. Personally, I wouldn't pay more than $15 for it - maybe $20 - but definitely not the normal price of $40. If you can find it on sale, though, then I definitely recommend it as it absolutely is a fun game with an interesting albeit not groundbreaking story. If you do find yourself hooked by the game's story and world, though, there's a New Game+ of sorts where you replay the game and get some extra gameplay and extra insight into Beholder Initiative's schemes. Just don't go into this game expecting it to be XCOM because, as I said in the beginning, it's definitely a dollar store XCOM clone. If XCOM is a two liter bottle of Sunkist, Phantom Doctrine is a two liter bottle of Omazing Orange; it's still really good, but it doesn't hold a candle to real deal.
My Rating - 3 Neps
I've got some great friends. Whenever I'm feeling down - and lately that's been lower than US stock prices on October 29, 1929 - they're always there to have my back. Let me tell you a story. One of my friends, TC, knows that I've been going through a hell of a rough patch. He also knows that I'm a filthy degenerate who loves waifus. He gifted me the other night a couple of silly dumb looking indie games on Steam one of which was The Last of Waifus. I was so excited to play this game. I figured this was exactly the kind of nonsense I needed to find a moment of up in my current world of despair. I was not incorrect in this assessment.
Let's be upfront about this game's quality. It's garbage. I mean, this game is pure, unadulterated garbage. This is kind of Unity engine indie game that one dude probably made in his basement over the course of a weekend. Does that mean it's not fun? If you answered "Yes" to that question, you should probably move along because this is not the blog for you, and I am not the reviewer for you. I played this game until I had unlocked all 15 achievements, and I tell you what, it was the most fun half hour I've had in a hot minute. Okay, so it was actually more like 20 minutes, not half an hour, but you get my point; the game's short.
You play as a big titty anime girl in a camo bikini carrying an entire arsenal of weaponry from a knife and a bow to a rocket launcher and what I assume is supposed to be a .50 caliber sniper rifle. Once you go through the gate separating the safe area from the actual game, you have to survive waves of identical shirtless zombies all of whom clearly didn't miss a single day at the gym. That's it. That's the whole game. As far as I've been able to tell, there's only one map, and the waves never end. You just keep shooting identical zombies until you inevitably die. There is no story. There are no bosses. There is no enemy variety. You just shoot and eventually die. Then you respawn at the safe area and do it again. That's The Last of Waifus. And why is she holding that rifle by the magazine when there's a grip literally an inch in front of it? These are the questions that keep me up at night.
Now clearly this game's title is referencing The Last of Us, but other than the main menu very vaguely resembling it and the ruined block of town you play in looking kind of sort of like a city area from The Last of Us maybe if you squint real hard and turn your head sideways, there aren't any similarities. I don't actually even know if these are technically zombies. Are they? Are they aliens? Are they Weyland-Yutani androids? Are they reclaimed Borg drones with all of their implants removed? Are they vampires who've developed an immunity to sunlight? Are they emo kids on steroids? I don't know. All I know is that they want to kill my unnamed waifu, and it's mildly entertaining to shoot at them.
The Last of Waifus is a mindless time waster and nothing more. As a mindless time waster, though, it does a pretty fair job in my opinion. There's more depth in a sidewalk puddle, but if you just want to spend ten or fifteen minutes shooting things as a cute anime waifu, this is the game for you, bro. It's $2 on Steam, and I can say with absolute certainty that this game brought me significantly more satisfaction than an Egg McMuffin (and that actually costs more than this game). It's repetitive, and it's as bare bones as it gets, but it's cute. At the end of the day, isn't that what the world really needs in 2020? Cute waifus killing things? As a video game, though, if I'm being objective, it's pants.
My Rating - 1 Nep
Also available on PlayStation 4 and Windows
I normally am not one to jump on Star Wars games on release day - I'm a much bigger Star Trek fan than I am a Star Wars fan - but this is one that I knew from the first reveal that I couldn't sleep on. John Linneman said in Digital Foundry's review that Star Wars Squadrons was a "perfect console game," and I couldn't agree more. He was able to test it on Xbox One, Xbox One X, Playstation 4, Playstation 4 Pro, and Playstation VR whereas I've only been able to play on the Xbox One X, but between my personal experience with the One X and his detailed analysis of how it runs on the other hardware, I've got to tip my had to EA - this really is a perfect console game.
Let's start with the reason I play games - the single player campaign. The story takes place between the end of Return of the Jedi and the start of The Force Awakens as the Galactic Empire continues to struggle against the infant New Republic while dealing with the fallout of Emperor Palpatine's death. The game tells a split narrative in which you play as both a New Republic pilot and an Imperial pilot depending on the mission. The campaign revolves around the New Republic's secret project to build its new Starhawk class capital ship, either running missions as a Republic pilot to help make that construction a reality or as an Imperial pilot to sabotage the project. The story itself is great, but what really sold it for me is the motion capture and voice acting. A lot of the cut scenes really felt like I was watching a Star Wars movie. It's a hell of a cinematic game.
The gameplay itself is, at its core, your average first person space dogfighter but polished to perfection. The game features four classes of ship the exact class of which naturally varies depending on whether you're playing as the Republic or the Empire - Fighter (X-Wing or TIE Fighter), Interceptor (A-Wing or TIE Interceptor), Bomber (Y-Wing or TIE Bomber), and Support (U-Wing or TIE Reaper). Each ship handles totally differently and plays a different role, so there's plenty of gameplay variety to be had here. The handling of the fighters makes it feel more authentic than I can adequately describe. I can only imagine how fantastic playing this VR must be (note to self: double dip on Playstation 4). By gaining experience and leveling up in multiplayer, you can unlock additional ship components each of which have their own pros and cons. Some lasers do more damage than others but overheat faster. Some shields have a higher capacity but slower recharge. Some hulls have more hit points but cut your maneuverability. Some engines have better boost but lower top speed. You can equip various secondary items - repair droid, proton torpedoes, seeker missiles, etc. In that regard, your ship loadouts are every bit as customizable as loadouts in a first person shooter, and can add an enormous amount of variety to the gameplay.
Despite the fact that I'm primarily a story mode gamer, it was actually the multiplayer that drove my purchase decision here. Normally I'd have gotten a game like this on Playstation 4 due to the VR support, but I got this one on Xbox One to play with college friends, and I absolutely do not regret that decision because the multiplayer here is absolutely fantastic. You've got your standard PVP dogfight mode - Imperial team vs Republic team - but you've also got two version of a fleet battle mode. In this game mode, each team has a capital ship, two frigates, and a bunch of fighters. Your goal is to destroy enough enemy fighters to gain the momentum advantage, then destroy the two frigates, then finally destroy the capital ship to attain victory. If enough of your ships get destroyed to give the enemy the momentum advantage, you have to go on the defensive until you can retake that advantage. It's a brilliant game mode that in my opinion is far more rewarding than the standard dogfight. There are two versions of this mode - PVP and PVE. The difference is pretty obvious; both teams are human players in one version whereas one team is entirely AI in the other.
Star Wars Squadrons just gets everything right. It really is a perfect console experience. The single player is a ton of fun, the multiplayer is virtually perfect, and the game looks absolutely beautiful in 4K. The detail on the huge battleships is stunning, and the frame rate is damn locked at 60 fps on the One X. The cherry on top is that the game is only $40 on day one. This is peak Star Wars action, folks, and it's a perfect swan song for the Frostbite 3 engine since I'd be willing to be that this will probably be the last major AAA game we see released before EA unveils Frostbite 4. No matter if you're an Xbox gamer, a Playstation gamer, or a PC gamer, between how damn good this game his, how well it runs, and its relatively low price point, this is one flight combat sim you can't afford to sleep on especially with the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X haveing backwards compatibility.
My Rating - 5 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 3 and Windows
I was super late to the game playing Battlefield 3. I've always been a fan of the Battlefield series in general ever since the glorious 1942. With Battlefield 3, though, I was always a little put off. This game came out in 2011 at the height of the gaming industry's inundation of brown, desaturated first person shooters featuring Americans killing brown people. After going through a bit of a mental health slump back in July, though, I found myself needing that very type of game - mindless nationalist violence. Like a faithful dog, Battlefield 3 was waiting on my shelf for me despite the years I'd spent neglecting it.
Considering the hardware and the fact that the game is nine years old, the visuals are outstanding. Sure, it's no Battlefield V, but it's running on hardware that's almost old enough to have a driver's license. DICE really did a phenomenal job of squeezing a tremendous amount of visual fidelity out of the Xbox 360. The Xbox 360 offers some optional texture packs that really show off the potential of the hardware and the Frostbite 2 engine. Battlefield games in general usually nail immersion, but the particle physics and lighting effects used here really double down on that strength.
The first thing I noticed about the core gameplay is that it's extremely similar to what I saw in the Bad Company games, and you know what? That's a good thing. Hell, that's a great thing. DICE pretty much perfected the feel and mechanics of infantry and vehicle combat in the Bad Company games, so all it really needed in Battlefield 3 were minor tweaks. Now I'm a single player oriented gamer, so that's how I primarily judge games, and unfortunately for Battlefield 3, single player isn't its main focus. The single player campaign is perfectly fine, but that's the thing - it's fine. It's not bad, but it's not outstanding or anything. It's fun while you're playing it, and there are definitely some likeable characters and awesome moments, but as an overall product, it's rather forgettable.
Where Battlefield 3 really shines is the multiplayer. Whether you're playing the traditional team based deathmatch or the conquest game mode, Battlefield 3 was clearly geared towards online multiplayer. When it released in 2011, Battlefield 3 had arguably the best online multiplayer on consoles. I fondly remember playing Battlefield 3 online with my full time BFF/part time secret husband, Grant, when we were in college. As great as Call of Duty is for online multiplayer, Battlefield 3 dethroned it for a while there in my book. Granted, that doesn't mean much in 2020 with multiple Battlefield games having released in the past nine years, but you can still find a game online every now and then.
Unfortunately for those of us who love revisiting games years (or decades) down the line, Battlefield 3's heyday has definitely come and gone. The multiplayer was always the focus for Battlefield, and unfortunately, given how old the game is, Battlefield 3's online community is pretty sparse these days. There's still a bit of a community on PC, but most console players have understandably moved on. I wish I could say that the campaign is a great experience, but while it's certainly not bad, it's nothing to write home about. It's a solidly competent and okay shooter, but it doesn't have the high octane energy of Doom or the emotional sucker punch of Spec Ops: The Line, but it's definitely worth playing through once if you're a fan of military shooters with modern settings.
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.