Also available on Xbox Series X and Windows
Hivebusters is a short story-based DLC for Gears 5 that tells the story of Scorpio Squad, a secret squad with the also secret Hivebuster program. Their mission is to destroy a Swarm hive underneath a fairly remote island. Success could mean saving not only the people of the island but Sera itself.
Let's start with the bad parts of Hivebusters to get it out of the way because I really did enjoy this DLC, and I want to end the review on a positive note. First and foremost, it's too expensive. If you have Game Pass, you're good to go, and if you buy Gears 5 as the Game of the Year edition, it's included, so you're solid there. If you've had Gears 5 since well before this DLC, though, you've got to cough up $20 for it, and that brings me to my second complaint; it's too short. Hivebusters is AWESOME, but it's only about three hours long, and I can't help but feel like $20 is too steep for that little content. The characters you play as are fantastic, and a bit more content could have really fleshed out who they are and their motivations and their relationships with one another really well not to mention actually justifying the $20 cost of entry. Granted, Gears 5 itself isn't a terribly long game, but even so, you got a roughly twelve hour campaign plus a handful of different multiplayer modes for $60 vs a three hour campaign here for $20. It's just a bit steep.
With that said, while there isn't a lot of content in terms of how long the campaign lasts, what content the DLC does give you is truly fantastic. It may not feature Del or JD or Marcus, but it's definitely pure Gears of War, and the characters that do feature in the game are written and acted beautifully. I know it's very unlikely to happen for Gears 5, but I'd love to see more of them maybe in Gears 6 or as a Gears 6 DLC. Not only does Hivebusters star characters for you to get to know, but it also sheds some light on a little of the politics within the COG beyond Chairman Prescott and First Minister Jinn. For someone who loves not only the action that Gears of War provides but also the lore and world that the series has built, this was a major selling point for me.
Gears 5: Hivebusters is an absolute must play if you have Game Pass since it's included, and if you have or are planning to get the GOTY edition of Gears 5, then obviously, you need to play it when you finish the main Gears 5 story. If you have Gears 5 normally, though, and would need to buy the DLC separately like I did, it's a tougher sell. It's definitely a fun experience, and if you're a big Gears fan like I am, then it's definitely worth the money. If you're just an average fan of the series but not super into, though, that $20 asking price is definitely kind of high for how short it is. Maybe throw it on a wishlist and wait for it to go on sale. If you do end up playing it, though, it's a hell of a good time.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Blood and Bacon is another dumb Steam indie game, but unlike The Last of Waifus and Simp Slayer Simulator 2K20, this one is legitimately good. It's not amazing, but it's a solidly fun game. It's only a dollar, supports up to six players, and has over a hundred levels full of achievements and secrets to find. This is in a whole different tier from most of the Steam indie crap I play.
Blood and Bacon is extremely simple. You work a farmer who's pinned to a barn wall by a pitchfork yet never bleeds to death, and every day, you take side arm and a main weapon and slaughter the hordes of demon pigs infesting the far. Do this 101 times. Every level is a bit tougher than the last, every ten levels is a boss, and there are the occasional "revenge" levels where you have infinite ammo to slaughter tons of evil pigs. There are a few "explore the tunnels" levels where you can explore tunnels beneath the farms after killing the pigs and find some secrets. They've added some stuff over time since the release, so it's a surprisingly fleshed out and content-rich game for the price point.
The visuals don't look great, and the sound design is solidly so-so, but for a dollar, you can't reasonably expect too too much. You've got six main weapons and four side arms you can choose from. There are characters to unlock as well as some cheats that can be activated from the pause menu and secrets that can be activated from the main menu. I haven't had a chance to play it online with anyone, but with how much fun it is to play solo, I can only imagine this would be a blast to play online with some friends.
Blood and Bacon is a pretty shallow game with no real story, one character, and a huge helping of "wash, rinse, repeat" gameplay, but it also proves that those things don't necessarily make a game bad. When coupled with the absurd premise and literal Dollar Tree price tag, it's actually a pretty damn good game for what you get and what you pay. I've sunk about three hours into the game, and I feel like getting three hours of entertainment out of a dollar is more than getting my money's worth. Hell, I get less entertainment time for fifteen times that price if I go see a movie at a theater. Breath of the Wild gave me thirty times as many hours of entertainment but for sixty times the price. That may be a bit of an apples and oranges comparison (okay, not may be; it definitely is), but when you look at it that way, this game is fantastic for its $0.99 price tag. It may not be an amazing game, but it's definitely a good one, and for a dollar, that's really all you need.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows
Contra was one of the defining games on the NES, and most of the subsequent sequels were really good. Alien Wars, Hard Corps, and Rebirth were all solid games. Surely Contra on the Switch would be solid, too, right? Right, guys? You wouldn't let me down, would you, Konami? You wouldn't release a game so ugly and awkward to control that it would have been bad even by the Wii's standards, would you?
Spoiler alert - they would, and they did. Contra: Rogue Corps is terrible. It looks terrible, it plays terrible, and it doesn't even sound that good. It doesn't even have the "so bad it's good" factor going for it because it was almost great. There's a good game buried deep, deep beneath the muck of low resolution textures, awful controls, terrible writing, and more rough edges than a 2000s numetal concert. Nintendo has never been one to embrace anti-aliasing in their games, but even by those standards, the jagged edges in Rogue Corps are abysmal.
The most immediately noticeable thing about Rogue Corps is how god awful everything looks. I can't stress that enough; this game looks like rubbish. There are numerous Dreamcast games that look better than this, and that console came out more than 20 years before this game. The character models looks hideous, the environments look bland, and the whole game looks like it was rendered in 480p and upscaled using nothing more than a budget TV's built-in upscaler. If you first showed me this game and told me you were showing off a new N64 HDMI output option, I'd believe you. My *only* source of skepticism would be that I didn't recognize the game from the N64's library. It really does look that muddy and terrible, and this is for a game that came out in 2019.
The visuals are bad enough, but the controls aren't any better. It's a run-and-gun with twin stick controls. That should be pretty easy to get right. Somehow, though, they manage to make the controls so bad that it's more frustrating than fun to play. The aiming is so jerky and finicky that it's a headache to actually hit an enemy, and your weapons overhead in a few seconds. Bad aim and quickly overheating weapons are not a good combination. Thankfully, the ammo is unlimited, but when you have to wait for the weapon to cool back down as enemies swarm you, it quickly becomes an exercise in masochism. A game's being hard isn't a bad thing, but when the sole reason that a game is hard is because the controls are terrible, that IS a bad thing, and that's how Rogue Corps is.
The one and only redeeming thing this game has is the upgrade system. Well, and the character line-up, but those are hilariously designed characters with atrocious voice acting, so it's a toss-up. The game allows you not only to upgrade your main and sub weapons for each character by swapping out modifications and parts, but you can also utilize the surgical bay to have your characters' internal organs replaced to upgrade the characters themselves. It's an EXTREMELY interesting and deep upgrade mechanic; it's just a shame that it was wasted on such a terrible game. There are five characters in the game, four playable and one support NPC. The support NPC is a cute kid who flies your VTOL because her parents were killed in the Alien War. The other characters are a standard dudebro with a machine, a badass chick who has an alien parasite or something trying to take over her body that she keeps at bay by keeping a sword plunged into her gut, a giant murder panda with the brain of a human, and a mutated bug thing with the brain of a human scientist. The characters are actually super awesome in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way, but again, they're wasted on a terrible game.
Contra: Rogue Corps was never going to be an amazing game, but it was so close to being good. The characters are funny, the concept of a cursed city filled to the brim with monstrous alien hordes is perfect, and the upgrade system is fantastic. Unfortunately, none of that can redeem the truly craptastic graphics, the bad writing, and the downright unforgiveable controls. It offers side missions as well as local and online co-op in addition to the single player campaign, but when the core of your game is so rotted, it really doesn't matter what nice features and details you tack on the sides. This is just a bad game. It may look less bad on Playstation or Xbox, but it never looks good, and the controls are just inherently awful.
My Rating - 2 Neps
Also available on Xbox One and Windows
Gears Tactics is what I always wanted Gears of War to be - over the top violence against aliens in a turn based strategy format. Honestly, it's what I wish Halo Wars had been. I got this game with my Series X, and I couldn't wait to dig into it. At first I was afraid that this would feel like an afterthought spin-off, and in some ways, it does, but by an large, the production quality here is a lot better than I had expected.
Gears Tactics takes place during the Locust War, falling after Judgement but before the original game in the timeline. Despite that, it's still relevant to recent Gears games as one of the main characters is Gabe Diaz, so we get some backstory on Kait's father. The game follows him and Sid Redburn on a mission from Chairman Prescott to kill a Locust scientist named Ukkon. Along the way, you meet up with a band of civilian survivors led by Mikayla Dorn, the most badass character in the entire Gears universe (other than Cole, of course). You convince/conscript these folks to join you on your mission. Gears Tactics doesn't include a multiplayer mode, and while I think that's a bit of a missed opportunity, the campaign is so much fun and tells such a solid story with such good character development that it really isn't hindered by the lack of multiplayer.
Another aspect helping Tactics feel right at home in the Gears series is that the game's genre really isn't a huge departure despite initial appearances. The developers, Splash Damage, pointed out that there were already a lot of similarities between turn based tactics games and the third person squad based gameplay of the previous six Gears games. Both include squads of two to four characters, both are played from a third person perspective, and both involve controlling different characters at certain points in the game. According to the game's executive producer, they "just took existing Gears and just moved the camera up" and made it turn based. It's a total genre shift for sure, but it doesn't feel quite as radically different as, say, Halo 4 to Halo Wars 2 with the jump from a first person shooter to a real time strategy game (another fantastic game, by the way).
Gears Tactics makes a point of being extremely approachable by offering a variety of difficulty settings. A lot of big Gears fans I know do great with cover based shooters and first person shooters but flounder when it comes to tactics games; for those folks, the lower difficulty settings allow you to experience the story told in Gears Tactics, get some practice and hone your skills, and then up the difficulty when you feel ready. Likewise, if you're confident but find out that the game puts up a bit more of a fight than you expected halfway through, you can just lower the difficulty down a peg to have the game meet you at your skill level instead of wasting time trying to "git gud." After all, most of us are adults; we don't all have time to waste trying to hack away mindlessly at a level repeatedly trying to "git gud."
As I've mentioned, the character development here is rock solid, and a big part of that is the writing and the delivery of the dialogue lines. The sound design overall, really, is great. The chainsaw sounds as meaty as ever, and the explosion sound effects have the same impact to them that you'd expect from games in the series developed by Epic or The Coalition. The only aspect that I really found lacking was the visuals, and even that was only somewhat disappointing. The cutscenes look fantastic. The detail on the character models are every bit as good as I would expect from a game optimized for Series X (although I'll never stop being pissed about the lack of dedicated Series X releases in favor of this "Smart Delivery" garbage). What I feel could have looked better is the actual gameplay. The map details, the enemy designs, and the in-game character models all look good, but they don't really look a whole lot better than Halo Wars 2. Granted, part of that is going to be attributable to how zoomed out the game is when compared to other Gears titles, but even playing on Series X, it felt like I was looking at a game running Xbox One. There are some nice physics touches; when a character runs into a random crate on the map, for example, it goes flying and bouncing for a bit. It doesn't really feel "next gen" to me, though. That makes sense given that it's a last gen game that's just been polished, but with the emphasis they put on "Series X" for the console release, I was just a little bit let down.
Gears Tactics is a fantastic entry for the Gears series and a welcome foray into a new genre. Even on Series X, it doesn't feel all that "next gen" as it runs at the same resolution as One X, the only real difference being 2160p60 vs 2160p30, but the textures don't look any more detailed on Series X. Obviously the loading times are SIGNIFICANTLY improved on Series X thanks to the SSD, but that and the frame rate boost are really the only benefits over the One X; the games look identical. Regardless of platform, though, Gears Tactics is a fantastic game. It's not only a great strategy game, but it's a great Gears game. I strongly recommend fans of either of those things to give this one a shot; it may well be what turns a Gears fans into a tactics fan or what turns a tactics fan into a Gears fan. For folks like me who are already fans of both strategy games and Gears, it's basically a perfect concept, and while the execution may not be totally perfect, it's pretty damn close.
My Rating - 4 Neps
This review is dedicated to the memory of BronyCon. May it rest in perspiration and cringe.
Why does this game exist? Seriously, who sat down and thought, "You know what would make a great game? An endless wave shooter where every enemy is a neckbeard with PS2-era character models." If you read my review of The Last of Waifus, then you pretty much know what to expect here. Just replace cute waifus with cringy neckbeards, and that's this game.
Simp Slayer does something better than The Last of Waifus, and it does some things worse. Let's start with what it does better. First off, there are four stages here instead of the one single stage in The Last of Waifus. Each stage unlocks once you hit wave 10 in the previous stage. There are also different types of enemies as opposed to one single generic zombie-looking enemy. You've got your regular neckbeards, and there are a few different models for the regular simp that the game will use. Then you've got some creepy crawling simps that move faster, crawl on the ground like the chick from The Grudge, and do more damage. You've also got fat shirtless simps, e-girls, dudes wearing trilbies that Naruto run, "30 year old wizards" that look unsettling like Klansmen, and a giant fat final boss simp once you hit wave 10 on the last stage. I may be forgetting one or two, but honestly, none of the enemy designs are very good. Lastly, there's a Counter-Strike style money system that gives the mindless slaughter some very vague semblance of purpose (emphasis on "very vague"). When you kill simps, they sometimes drop money. That money can be used on the main menu to buy additional weapons or more ammo. There are six weapons total - pistol, assault rifle, shotgun, submachine gun, sniper rifle, and light machine gun.
That's about where the positives end. The gameplay is just as mindless and monotonous as The Last of Waifus, the shooting mechanics feel somehow worse, the weapons are even less interesting, and the whole game can be completed in less than half an hour. It looks like shit and doesn't even run well. Steam told me the game was running at an unbroken 60 fps, but it still felt like it was stuttering, and that's with visuals that would have been right at home on a budget PS2 game. I personally got a good bit of entertainment out of this game, but that's mostly because I love intentionally terrible games, and this game is definitely terrible. It's worse than Apartment 666, and that's one of the worst games I've ever reviewed.
Normally I'm less harsh on games that are intentionally bad whereas Apartment 666 was a game that tried to be serious and just sucked anyway, but Simp Slayer is SO bad that it's almost frustrating. It's a shooter that was probably made in an hour and relies completely on outdated memes and garbled voice clips for its humor. It missed the mark so badly that you'd think it forgot what the mark even was. I can, however, see one instance in which this might be an entertaining time; get three or four of your most easily entertained friends over, get extraordinarily drunk, and then take turns playing this. That's literally the only way I can see this game being actually enjoyable, and even then, it's a long shot.
My Rating - 1 Nep
Also available on PlayStation 4
Spider-Man: Miles Morales is the second game in Sony's current Spider-Man series following 2018's simply named Spider-Man. While some have called Miles Morales a stand-alone expansion or DLC for that game, I think that does it a disservice both because of how good the game is but also because of how distinct it feels. Plus you don't need to own Spider-Man to play Miles Morales, so I think the "stand-alone" nature makes it its own game.
You play as the titular character Miles Morales who was introduced in the previous game as he tries to fit into his own Spider-Man role to protect New York and especially his new home of Harlem. The core gameplay here is the same, but there are some changes and improvements that definitely give it a distinct feel. First off, the UI is different as are a couple of the combat mechanics. The "Focus" meter for finishers is gone and replaced with a "Venom" meter that you build up to use your bio-electric attacks. Finishers are now tied to your combo; a combo of 15 will net you a finisher move. There are fewer gadgets this time, but the gadgets you do get - the trusty web shooter, a remote mine, a holo-emitter to create holographic allies, and a gravity well - are super cool and feel more focused on quality than quantity. The whole combat system just "feels" more polished, too. It's still not quite as smooth or fluid as Arkham, but it's definitely a LOT closer than the last game was. Building and keeping combos is a bit easier due to that added combat smoothness.
In my Spider-Man review, I said that the world felt a lot more vibrant and alive than Arkham City. That's doubly true of Miles Morales. From beautiful street art murals to the snowy weather, Harlem feels like a living, breathing community in Miles Morales, and as you go through the story and side quests and interact with the denizens, you can't help but feel a connection with the game's world. Miles as a character lends himself to this as he, too, is relatively new to Harlem. He was always from New York, obviously, but had just recently moved from Brooklyn to Harlem when the game starts, so he's getting a feel for the area, too. His character is also very different from Peter Parker. Whereas Peter had been Spider-Man for several years by the time the first game took place, Miles had just acquired his powers. He also comes from a totally different background being a black teenager rather than a white young adult and still having his mother (and, until recently, his father) whereas Peter had been orphaned and raised by his aunt and uncle. While they both may be Spider-Man, they're very different Spider-Men with different powers and different personalities, and that helps this game stand out as something truly unique rather than just more Spider-Man.
The game also looks absolutely fantastic. The remaster of the first game looked incredible, but this game looks even better in my opinion. The performance mode, like with the first game, runs at a silky and solid 60 fps and looks amazing doing it, but the fidelity mode is even better implemented than it was in the first game's remaster. It looks truly stunning, and the frame rate is better on fidelity mode in Miles Morales than it was in the original's remaster. What really sets this above the original in my opinion, though, is the soundtrack. The first game had a nice but pretty typical superhero sound track; Miles Morales, on the other hand, has an absolutely brilliant hip-hop soundtrack. It feels modern and urban while still keeping some of that superhero feel. Truthfully I can't think of a way they could have possibly made this soundtrack more perfect for the game. It's a masterpiece of mood design.
One of the things I most appreciated about Miles Morales, however, has nothing to do with gameplay or setting or character development. Those things are all amazing, but it's the nods to real world events that really put the icing on the cake for me. Stan Lee's death, even for someone like me who doesn't care about Marvel or comic books, was a big deal. The man was an absolute legend, and you don't need to be a Marvel fan to appreciate the wake such an icon's death leaves. Seeing a big and beautiful bronze statue in his honor in the game was just perfect, and even I teared up at how perfectly it was done. It was glorious and spectacular but also unobtrusive, the kind of monument you could easily overlook because of how seamlessly it blended into the world. There's also the huge Black Lives Matter mural on one of the building exteriors in the game. At a time when black Americans are fighting just for the right to live and be treated as individuals rather than tokens or marginalized set pieces, seeing a stunning work of art like that with "BLACK LIVES MATTER" in big, bold letters in a game that features a young black protagonist in a genre oversaturated by white characters is the kind of social commentary and support that give me hope. Sure, you can say it was a marketing ploy to cash in on the BLM movement. Sure, you can say it's pushing some leftist "woke" political agenda. You could, but I think that kind of cynicism blinds you to what matters - that a game in a genre popular among younger gamers reinforces the idea that black boys can be superheroes, too. That black lives DO matter. That black characters are just as deep and complicated and multifaceted and conflicted as the white characters that populate most video games. Those are things that should be obvious, but in a medium that still struggles with achieving representation and doing it right, I think it's important to reinforce that idea in the ways that they can, and I applaud Insomniac for including the mural as well as the statue of Stan Lee. They don't affect gameplay or storytelling in anyway, but they make clear those two points; Stan Lee was a legend who will never be forgotten, and black lives matter.
So, social commentary aside (which, as a social justice-minded leftists, I eat up), the game is a damn masterpiece. It's MUCH shorter than the first game, yes, but a game's quality is not determined by its length. This game packs in the same brilliant Spider-Man experience as the first game; it just does it in a shorter time. I definitely wish the game were longer, but one thing no one can say is that it overstays its welcome. It tells its story, provides its experience, and then invites you to keep playing in the world or to move on. There are a couple of side quests that don't unlock until after the main game is finished, and I STRONGLY recommend sticking around for those as they're really important in building Miles's backstory. There's also New Game+ which unlocks a new suit and some new skills. All things considered, this is a brilliant game that matches the quality of the original and, in my opinion, surpasses it even if the length took a big hit. Whether you've moved on to the PS5 or are still rocking the PS4, don't sleep on Miles Morales. Sony hit gold with this one, folks.
My Rating - 5 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 4
Since it first came out on PS4 two years ago, Spider-Man is a game that I'd been meaning to pick up. It looked like Arkham style combat, and as a huge Arkham fan, that naturally appealed to me. I've never been big into comic books and superheroes, though, so it stayed pretty mid-tier on my priority list. When I saw that the follow-up, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, was launching with the PS5 and included the remastered version of the first game if you bought the Ultimate Edition, I figured that was a good time to get it and finally play. I think that was right call, too, as this not only includes all of the DLC but some seriously impressive enhancements courtesy of the PS5's extra horsepower. Now keep in mind that I'm approaching this review from a position of general apathy regarding Spider-Man and comic book heroes in general, so my take will likely differ from a long-time Spider-Man fan's.
The first thing that jumped out to me with this game is just how good the characters are. Obviously Peter Parker is a likeable character, but his portrayal here is top notch and super relatable. His quips in fights are hilarious, the voice acting is absolutely perfect, and the character model is fantastic. I honestly have no idea why the internet hated the new face. The dude is 23, and in this version, he actually looks 23; I've seen the original face used for the character model, and he looked like he was in his 30s. Definitely a good move with the new face. The world itself also looks stunning especially with the enhancements that the PS5 remaster gets. You get two visual modes, Performance and Fidelity. Fidelity has the game running in 4K with some spiffy visual effects like ray tracing with a 30 fps target, and good god, this mode looks phenomenal. The detail on the gym floor in the FEAST location where Aunt May works is detailed to the point of irrelevance - reflections, random bits of debris, dust, life-like sun rays, the whole nine yards. Performance, which is the m ode I played the game with, sacrifices those extra effects in favor of a solid and unbroken 60 fps. Normally I would have been really torn between the two, but with the fluidity of the combat and the speed and acrobatic nature of the movement in the game, I felt that the experience would be better enhanced by a higher frame rate than by spiffier visuals. The choice, however, is incredible, and it's a trend I'm glad to see becoming a mainstream feature so that each player can set it based on their own performance and visual priorities.
So, as I mentioned, you play as Peter Parker, a 23 year old dude working as a research assistant for Dr. Otto Octavius and who is in a committed relationship with chronic tardiness to work and routinely flirts with homelessness from rent delinquency. Norman Osborn, the mayor of New York and CEO of the massive corporation, Oscorp, comes in being a typical capitalist pig and flaunting his money and power around to get his way. That's strike number one against the game; there's a distinct lack of guillotines despite the perfect narrative opportunity. I'm kidding, of course. Mostly. Anyway, you work for Octavius, you help out your Aunt May at FEAST, a homeless shelter established by the always-in-a-spiffy-suit Martin Li, and the beat the hell out of thugs working for Fisk, the crime boss you bust and send to prison in the beginning of the game. From there, multiple webs start to spread (no pun intended, I swear) as the city slowly but surely devolves into chaos. After slowly devolving into chaos for a while, it sprints to the edge of the cliff and leaps headfirst into anarchy. Also, pro-tip for life: get you someone who looks at you the way Peter Parker looks at a pizza.
When I first started, I figured, "I'll spend a few nights on this, power through the main story, maybe do a side quest or two, and be done with it." Rome was like, "Na man, you're gonna end up doing everything and get hooked for a straight week." I snorted at the ridiculous notion. Here I am, a week later, things having played out exactly like Rome predicted. Once I started playing, it was a compulsion. I couldn't stop. I'd play till 3 am just to get up at 8 for work. Then I'd do it again. By the time I was actually done, I'd gotten 100% on the main game (including the Platinum trophy) and 100% in all three of the DLC stories. In the whole game, I'm only missing two trophies, and they're both side trophies that got added for the remaster and (obviously) aren't counted for the Platinum trophy. I was hooked completely and totally, and that's how you know a game is good. A big part of that addicting gameplay is relatively small stuff. The photo mode that lets you take pictures with different poses and effects and frames in the game world. The wide array of costume choices for you to unlock. The tokens needed to unlock and upgrade gadgets. The little bits of story elements and character development that you get through the optional side stuff. It's the open world action game equivalent of Civilization's "just one more turn" compulsion.
That doesn't mean it's perfect, though. The combat, while extremely fun, doesn't quite match Arkham's gloriously smooth flow in my opinion. There are some bugs, too, that force you to reload the last checkpoint; I once accidentally used a web power in the air while chasing a pigeon for a side mission and ended up freezing that pigeon in the air. That pigeon then attracted a swarm of pigeons flying around it at high speeds, so I basically created a pigeon solar system. Since I needed to catch that pigeon, I had to reload the last checkpoint. Little bugs like that mostly. Sometimes the controls and mechanics can be a bit overly finnicky with being close enough to a ledge to perch but not so close that you fall off or enemies that rapidly shift back and forth from "Safe" for a stealth kill to "Danger" (like, shifting back and four five or six times per second). All in all, though, the game is damn near a masterpiece.
Spider-Man is an absolutely brilliant game, and that's especially true of the PS5 remaster. The writing is fantastic, the voice casting is phenomenal, and the visual world and character designs are works of art. Combat is fun and addicting, and while it's not quite as buttery smooth as Arkham, the open world feels significantly more alive and interesting than it did in the open world Arkham games, so that more than makes up for it. I couldn't care less about comic book heroes, so for me to sucked so hard into this game and become so bent on 100% completing it is a testament to good game design; actual Spider-Man fans will likely be over the moon with this game, although I suspect most had already played long before I did. Even if you're just a fan of action games but not comic book heroes like me, this is still a game with an enormous amount of fun and content to offer, and the PS5 remaster contains all of the DLC. All of that plus Miles Morales for $70? Yeah, that's not even a choice. If you've got a PS5, you really need this on your shelf (or on your SSD).
My Rating - 5 Neps
As a big fan both of The Legend of Zelda as well as Koei Tecmo's musou series, I was really excited for the original Hyrule Warriors for Wii U. When that game hit, it was straight up Dynasty Warriors but with Zelda characters and a Zelda theme. I loved that, but at the same time, it looked more Zelda than it felt. Age of Calamity is absolutely a different beast. This game is so much more than just "another Dynasty Warriors game" with a coat of Zelda paint slapped on it. From presentation to controls to gameplay, this feel like a true hybrid of the two.
Age of Calamity is a prequel to Breath of the Wild. It takes place 100 years before Breath of the Wild but in a separate timeline. In the opening cut scene, you see a tiny little Guardian get flung into a portal as Hyrule Castle falls to Calamity Ganon that sends it 100 years into the past, changing the timeline into an alternate universe in which Calamity Ganon was defeated. There's some other time travel shenanigans in the game, but I won't divulge more than that.
As far as visuals go, the game looks pretty good despite the relatively low resolution. The game uses a variable frame rate. When docked, it hovers around 720p with a maximum of 810p and a minimum of 570p; handheld usually sits around the maximum of 540p but can dip as low as 380p. All things considered, it looks better than I would expect from a game that never hits full 1080p. The problem comes in with performance. The game targets 30 fps, but it frequently dips down to 20 with dips even lower during a handful of especially intense moments. Truthfully, the frame rate seemed to stay sub-30 more often than not. That was really disappointing for me, but it wasn't terribly surprising given how relatively underpowered the Switch is compared to the PS4 and Xbox One. Thankfully the frame rate drops are rarely drastic and abrupt, so it's pretty easy to get used to it, and after a while, I barely noticed that it hung around 25 fps.
As you go through the game, you'll be given a handful of opportunities to do side quests and resource drop missions. In the side quests, you do some shorter battles in exchange for experience and resources. Some of these quests will have specific limits - time limits, restricted characters, no healing, auto-fail if you take a hit, ect. The resource drop missions involve collecting and donating a specific set of resources in exchange for an upgrade. Most of these are upgrades for your characters like extra hearts, extra combos, and an extra special attack gauge. Others will be more general upgrades like shorter cooldown on your rune attacks, lower shop prices, or even unlocking a couple of optional characters. You can blow straight through the 20 campaign missions if you want, but you're missing out on the majority of the gameplay experience if you skip the optional quests.
When you finish the last story mission and beat Calamity Ganon, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the game is over. The last battle is epic, challenging, and it feels like the end of a long road. You're not done yet, though. There are new side quests, and a lot of them. If you want to 100% the game like I did, you've probably got another 8 to 10 hours' worth of gameplay ahead of you. When I finally finished the game at 100%, my game time clocked in at exactly 60 hours. There are a couple of extra characters that can't be unlocked until the post-game, and they're absolutely worth the extra gameplay. You would expect from post-game content, the side quests that unlock after finishing the main game get pretty tough, and the last one is downright brutal. The feeling of accomplishment, though, was well worth the effort in my opinion, and I'm hoping that Nintendo and Tecmo will do some DLC for Age of Calamity down the line.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity took the core concept of Hyrule Warriors - a crossover between Dynasty Warriors and Legend of Zelda - and refined it into something brilliant. The original game was good, but this is truly great. It's definitely a musou game at its core, but it feels different from any other musou game I've played. If you're a Zelda fan but didn't care for Hyrule Warriors, definitely give Age of Calamity a shot; it's unique enough that it might pique your interest. If you loved the original Hyrule Warriors, then DEFINITELY check out Age of Calamity. In every way, this game is better than the first, and that's not a knock against the first game. This one is just that good. It's not perfect; the performance issues are a big let down and definitely a problem. With that said, the overall product is still amazing in spite of the performance issues, and you're doing yourself a disservice if you let the less-than-ideal frame rate dissuade you from playing this otherwise masterfully crafted game.
My Rating - 4 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.