Tag Archives: Gaming

Completed #4 – Giana Sisters: Dream Runners

Ugh.

This isn’t very good. It isn’t a very good game, and it isn’t a very good experience for an achievement hunter, despite being quick and relatively easy, depending on how the game’s randomness is feeling at the time. It took me under an hour, which is the quickest I’ve ever done it, and it still frustrated me a great deal. These are the sacrifices I make so you don’t have to, I guess.

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Completed #3 – Forza Horizon 2: Fast & Furious

Well, this is alright.

I can’t say I was expecting all that much, either. Sure, I like Forza Horizon 2 as much as the next guy – finely-tuned arcade driving mechanics, that lovely balancing, a range of event types, a big, beautiful open space to speed around in. And this is basically just a slice of that; a bit like a demo for it, really, albeit one that mostly repurposes slabs of the game with the movie license awkwardly attached. Shameless cultural cross-promotion is what it is, and I’m not entirely keen, but at least you get a smattering of the movie’s cars and a whole bunch of tortuous, unskippable voice work from Ludacris.

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Completed #2 – NBA 2K17: The Prelude

I suppose there are two ways of looking at NBA 2K17: The Prelude, a free, downloadable mini-preview of NBA 2K17. The first is obviously how it was intended to function: as a surprisingly in-depth way for players to build the athlete they will eventually take into the full game’s MyCareer mode; allowing them customisation options, and the joy of seeing their character progress through a college career as their draft fluctuates with good and bad performances. There’s a story, too, one bolstered by real-life players and analysts, who show up to add some legitimacy to the proceedings. Ever wondered what your player might do in his downtime at college? Ever wanted him to see him play video games with his roommate, or call his parents to let them know which prestigious college team he elected to join? This is the experience for you.

Here’s the other way of looking at it: I’m here for the achievements, and I don’t give a shit about any of this.

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Review – Gears of War 4

What’s this?

I don’t want to alarm you, but despite quite clearly having the numeral “4” on the end of the title, Gears of War 4 is actually the fifth game in the respectable Gears of War franchise. And when I say “respectable” I’m not even being my usual, sarcastic, devilishly-handsome self. The first game was critically beloved, a commercial success by every possible metric, exceedingly well-designed, and became a rubric for cover-based third-person shooting to such an extent that the industry’s continued – and continuing – milking of the series’ saggy teats has led most people to retroactively taint the Gears games themselves. A shame, really, because they’re all pretty great. Except this one, as it happens. This one is merely fine, just in quite a tired, predictable, faintly desperate way.

Oh, no. We’re not doing the Halo thing, are we?

Not quite, although the business parallels are undeniably similar. Epic Games didn’t want to make Gears of War games anymore, much like how Bungie didn’t want to make Halo games anymore, and so in both instances Microsoft invented a developer with the specific mandate of making more games in those respective franchises. In Halo’s case, the property was handed over to 343 Industries, a phenomenally inept pack of corporate stooges who bastardized Halo’s core gameplay, plot and characters, and slapped them back together in a Call of Duty clone wearing Master Chief’s helmet.

Gears of War 4 has, admittedly, fared slightly better. Its developers, The Coalition, at least had the good sense to leave the fundamentals of a Gears experience largely unchanged. The problem is that they left them so unchanged that the whole thing feels like a knockoff, second-hand Gears experience without any of the creative verve that gave the original trilogy its unique appeal.

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Review – Castlevania Season 1

What’s this?

The result of almost a decade of development hell, which is fitting. In the four chewy, 22-minute episodes of Netflix’s Castlevania, written by Warren Ellis and based on Konami’s Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, from 1989, you get a lot of hell: swirling columns of hellfire; the gnashing teeth of bloodthirsty hellbeasts; and Hell’s very own Count Vlad Dracula Tepes, the lovesick embodiment of evil.

Four episodes? Doesn’t sound like a lot.

It isn’t, but luckily the beefier 8-episode second season of Castlevania was commissioned on the morning that this season was released so I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

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Review – Prey

What’s this?

Weirdly enough, it’s absolutely nothing to do with 2006’s Prey, a topsy-turvy sci-fi shooter that, if memory serves, had an arsenal of weaponry comprised of living extraterrestrial organisms that would belch gelatinous projectiles at the player’s foes. It also had a wrench, which means that, as a matter of fact, 2006’s Prey does indeed have something in common with 2017’s Prey, and it’s newer, shinier wrench, as well as 2007’s Bioshock, with its underwater, objectivist wrench, and even 1999’s System Shock 2, which had a blocky, pixelated wrench, and is a game to which all of those listed above owe a rather significant mechanical and thematic debt.

It’s another first-person sci-fi quasi-horror wrench-swinging RPG, is what I’m saying.

Could have just said that.

I could, yes, but – let’s be frank – these creatively-bankrupt titling practices are really starting to get on my fucking nerves. The old Prey isn’t even that old. And it hardly cemented itself as an iconic brand; it doesn’t seem to me that there’s much sense in slapping the name across what is, for all intents and purposes, a perfectly serviceable new IP. That’s Bethesda for you though, isn’t it? Never a thought spared for the lowly consumers like me who write themselves in knots trying to review the thing. It’s not even enough to specify that it’s another – all together now – “spiritual successor” to System Shock 2, because so is Doom 3 and Dead Space and, if we’re being honest, every sci-fi horror game released in this millennium. You also have to clarify that’s its set on a spaceship and it’s about an alien invasion and there’s a wrench in it.

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Review – Resident Evil: Vendetta

What’s this?

Resident Evil: Vendetta is the third CG movie in the series after 2008’s Resident Evil: Degeneration (which I reviewed here) and 2012’s Resident Evil: Damnation. You shouldn’t confuse it with Paul W. S. Anderson’s increasingly-belaboured string of live-action shenanigans, the most recent of which, The Final Chapter, brought that particular series to a spectacularly mediocre conclusion.

What’s it about?

A bioweapon, naturally. When I reviewed Resident Evil VII, I noted that the series’ viruses and parasites are the most malleable narrative tool that the property has, and nothing has changed since then. It’s called the A-Virus this time, and it has been engineered by a vengeful arms dealer (John DeMita) to only target specific unlucky sods of his choosing. On his trail are series favourites Chris Redfield (Kevin Dorman) and Leon Kennedy (Matthew Mercer), as well as series not-favourite Rebecca Chambers (Erin Cahill), who here has been reimagined as a well-regarded university professor with a plot-convenient specialization in vaccine development.

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