DLC Review – Resident Evil VII: Banned Footage Vol. 1 & Vol. 2

First, a disclaimer: The following might contain minor spoilers for Resident Evil VII, and will definitely contain some major ones for how I feel about the video game industry’s lecherous DLC practices. Mere weeks after the main game’s release, Capcom are already groping in your pockets for more cash, whispering sweet nothings in your ear about how much cheaper it would be to simply buy the season pass and have done with it. They’re probably right, but savvy gamers know that shelling out for such things ahead of time is a bit like bobbing for apples in a pool full of shark fins – you might come up with something tasty, but you’re more likely to get your face bitten off.

Still, here we are. Banned Footage, after a period of purgatorial PS4-exclusivity, is now broadly available as either two individually-priced three-part volumes, or, if you’re a daredevil, for free as part of the season pass. If you were hoping for a purchase recommendation, no such luck. Both are hit-and-miss enough that they’re equally worthwhile or worthless depending on both your disposable income, and which parts of the uneven vanilla game you found most appealing. Sorry about that.

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DLC Review – Assassin’s Creed Unity: Dead Kings

[This review contains a big spoiler for the main story of Assassin’s Creed Unity. You’ve been warned.]

In my rambling analysis of Assassin’s Creed UnityI didn’t mention anything about the game’s myriad performance problems. I didn’t talk about Arno getting stuck in the middle of a hay cart or hovering in mid-air. I didn’t complain about having to restart checkpoints or reset my console. That’s because I played a post-patch version of the game which had had most of those bugs and issues teased out. So I didn’t see any of that stuff. Aside from some rather glaring dips in framerate, and the occasional texture pop-in, Unity ran pretty smooth for me. No crashes, no lost progress – not much fun, admittedly, but for wholly different reasons.

Still, as compensation for shipping a game that was (allegedly, I suppose) thoroughly broken at launch, Ubisoft made a smart decision. They cancelled the game’s Season Pass and made the first planned piece of downloadable content, Dead Kings, free for everyone. I hadn’t even realized it had been released before my Xbox One had downloaded it, installed it, and thrown a little notification onto my screen with that all-too-familiar blip: “Assassin’s Creed Unity: Dead Kings is ready to play”.

Well, if you insist.

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“Memory Trouble” – On 007: Blood Stone

My review-writing process when it comes to video games has remained largely unchanged for as long as I can remember. It’s a simple system that I assume a lot of other writers use; it isn’t particularly imaginative, but it works for me and that’s all that matters.

First, I play the game. As I do so, I keep a notepad or a scrap of paper handy and scrawl rough shorthand notes with a pencil – not a pen, because I can’t remember the last time a pen didn’t run out on me when I needed it the most. When I’m done with the game, I type these barely-legible doodles into a Notepad file and expand them until I have a coherent summary of my experience. Then, I write the review. The lion’s share of what you’re reading in the finished piece is a final expansion of those initial, hastily-pencilled impressions.

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“Ghost Train” – On Metro 2033

Metro 2033 began life as a novel penned by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It told the tale of a post-apocalyptic Russia, and explored the lives of the survivors who sought refuge in the hermetically-sealed metro system beneath Moscow.

The video game adaptation of the story, developed by Ukraine-based 4A Games, was a spectacularly bleak and depressing affair that managed to capture a sense of bitter desperation within a world that was, in my mind, thoroughly believable. It’s one of those games which largely flew under the radar of the mainstream while still managing to develop something of a cult following, and with the 2013 release of a sequel – Metro: Last Light – and the 2014 repackaging of both games, it made sense to return to the original and explore what made it such a triumph.

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“Building Blocks” – On Bastion

Every once in a while, a videogame comes along that transcends the limitations of traditional criticism. In these times, when we are required to analyse these games and facilitate a discussion around them, we as critics are forced to start re-evaluating the very fundamentals around which we base our work.

The broadest definition of the word “review” is simply: A formal assessment or examination of something. Our experience with mainstream games journalism has conditioned us to expect a certain structure; a videogame must be judged on its core aspects – how it looks, how it sounds, how it plays, with the ultimate intention of answering the most important question of all: is it worth your money and your time?

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“Blood on the Sand” – On Spec Ops: The Line

I didn’t really know that I liked Spec Ops: The Line until the moment it ended. Often, the closing credits of a video game bring me a sense of relief. The names scroll upwards and I imagine them lifting the weight of the experience away with them. Sometimes I’m glad to be rid of it (I play a lot of bad games). More often, I just see it as the end. A conclusion. Another thing I’ve finished or completed or achieved – whatever you want to call it.

It wasn’t quite like that with this oneAs the assorted names of the Yager development team rolled away off the top of the television, I sat in a stunned silence and thought about everything that had led me to that point. I thought about life and death, about war and peace, about right and wrong. It occurred to me these are all themes that games tackle often; that my real life almost never does. Then, when the names had all but disappeared, and the final chords of Jimi Hendrix’s “A Merman I Should Be” rang out with finality, I realized there was more. The true end of the story laid beyond one more obstacle. That was the moment I realized how much I like this game.

To understand that moment, we should go back to the beginning.

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Completionist – Virtua Fighter 2

[This post is part of the Completionist series. Check out the other entries here.]

Is there any genre of video game which ages as gracefully as fighters? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. Of course there isn’t. And you only need to play a game like Virtua Fighter 2, a rereleased (and slightly tweaked) version of Sega AM2’s arcade classic, for proof of that. It isn’t just the shock of seeing a game released in 1994 look and animate so smoothly over twenty years later, although that’s certainly a part of it. More impressive is how satisfyingly deep and complex the game still feels; as much, if not more so, than any contemporary genre fare. For once, it has nothing to do with achievements (for the record they are very easy here, which is a good incentive to check it out, though you should really do that for the game’s own merits) and everything to do with history.

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