Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Ratchet & Clank PS4 Review: The Reimagined Rebooted Remake Remaster That's Also A Movie Tie-In?

I won't deny it, I have loved the Ratchet and Clank franchise for years. I also wasn't thrilled with All 4 One and QForce either, so I'm not going to be blinded by bias either. So then... how does this reimagining of the PS2 classic stand up despite being a movie tie-in?

I went into Ratchet and Clank on PS4 a bit skeptical. When I heard it was a movie tie-in game for the upcoming movie, I was thinking "Oh God, who has Sony hired to ruin this game?" and then I found out it was Insomniac Games themselves and I remembered QForce and All 4 One and later Nexus... and I was slightly relieved, but still was expecting a shoddy product. Thankfully a AU$54.95 price tag(Normally games are AU$99.95 in Australia) convinced me to buy it day one and boy... what a surprise.

First of all, WOW! The visuals are absolutely gorgeous! I mean sure, it ain't no The Order 1886 when it comes to realism, but graphically it's vibrant and highly detailed. I'm not one to focus on graphics, but these blew me away. This is the first time that a game on PS4 actually made me say "This is truly a PS4 title that is next gen!" and justified the purchase of a PS4... at least on a visual standpoint.

So the story is told through the perspective of an incarcerated Captain Quark explaining his side of the movie's story to a criminal called Shiv Helix. An interesting way to do it if you ask me. Having Captain Quark narrate every so often while playing was pretty neat.  The story itself is a bit different from the original though, but still follows the original plot. I guess you could say it's the same skeleton, different skin.

As mentioned earlier, the story is based on the film's story. Now unfortunately I haven't seen the film(not available in Australia until July sadly) so I can't compare the two, but the game does feature footage from the film at key moments throughout the game. Things is... the quality of the film snip-its are noticeably different to the in game engine's cutscenes. It's not Quantum Break's uncanny valley bad, nowhere near that. It's just proof that video games are still decades away from reaching that fidelity.

I guess I have to go over how it plays huh? Well I could just easily say that it's identical to the PS3 entries in the series and call it a day... but I'd be really lazy if I did that I suppose. It's a 3D platformer and a 3rd person shooter hybrid with a bigger focus on the shooting this time around, even more than other games in the series due to the sheer number of enemies that show up at times. Just like the other games, you travel from planet to planet and complete objectives, explore the stages hunting for secrets and blow stuff up. Same old, same old for the series.

So if you're a Ratchet and Clank fan, you probably want to know about the weapons right? Well this game's selection is more focused on celebrating the past then giving us something new. There are only a couple new weapons with the standout being the Pixeliser that turns enemies into 8-bit pixel blocks with a shotgun style blast. There are a bunch of old favourites that returned that should make people happy too. I'm personally glad the Groovatron, Mr Zurkon, Agents of Doom and of course the Sheepinator made a return. All the weapons level up like normal as you use them and you can upgrade them with Raritanium(that's not that rare really) to make them even more powerful.

There are a couple of sections in the game that aren't just shooting galleries. Clank gets a couple of minor puzzle sections to break up the action, but there's also the Hover board races(just like the original, but harder to make your own shortcuts) and a couple of aerial combat segments that remind me of Star Fox all range mode missions. They do break up the monotony of just blowing stuff up, but man do I wish there were more aerial segments! Maybe I just need to play more Star Fox 64 to satiate it?

Golt bolts are back to unlock cheats that are... ok I guess. They unlock other things like visual filters and the ability to change the appearance of stuff like bolts, your ship and your head. Usual stuff for the series, but they added another collectible to the mix in the form of trading cards called Holocards... oh joy! Holocards are an annoying collectible due to it's extremely random nature. On the plus side, you can trade duplicates in for new ones you don't have so it's not too frustrating. The problem with Holocards is that you need complete sets for collectibles drop rate increases and to unlock the Omega versions of weapons for Challenge mode(it's new game plus). Also the Ryno blueprints have been replaced with holocards, but are found just like the Gold Bolts within the stages and it plays music while firing just like some of the other models. I just love that so much!

So the game treads a lot of old ground, but is that such a bad thing? The Super Mario franchise does it and it's still beloved 30 years on, so why not Ratchet and Clank? There isn't too much to criticize in the game except one thing... the game's slow movement and 30fps frame rate! A lot of modern gamers are constantly complaining about frame rates and resolutions and this game's 30fps make it feel slower than it's PS2 counterpart... and it is! Yes, you can fix the speed with an unlockable cheat... but it takes a long time to get the Gold Bolts to unlock, even if you actively hunt them down as early as possible using a play guide. The speed and frame rate can become tolerated, but it is a glaring flaw to a fantastic game in this modern era of gaming.

Now I actually went back and played through the original for comparison(on PS2 to be precise). Wow the original aged badly! The controls and gameplay is much better on PS4(the PS2 version has no strafing!) and the visuals, even for PS2 standards are really bad! As for content... the PS2 has far more story and stages for sure, but it's far better in the reboot. The reboot has a better told story and far better level design, but it does seem to be less funny than the original. I think when it comes to the humor, it's two different types of humor and the PS2 version just has more opportunity to use it. Also a huge number of characters from the PS2 version don't appear in the reboot. It's no big loss, but that's my opinion.

Ratchet and Clank for PS4 is ultimately a mostly graceful remake. I loved every minute I've played of it(3 playthroughs is proof of that and I got the Platinum Trophy too!) and despite the 30fps frame rate and speed issues,  it's a fantastic game. Old Ratchet and Clank fans will love the nostalgic and new stuff, while newcomers will have a great starting point for Sony's major mascot to enjoy. The game could be considered a little short on a normal playthrough admittedly(5 hours on my second playthrough), but it's a game that's meant to be completed... not blazed through in an afternoon. The game just proves that tons of content doesn't mean a better game(which other companies should learn *cough* Ubisoft! *cough*). It's a cheap, fun game and was the most fun I've had with my PS4 so far in the short time I've owned it. Just go buy it... Go now!

Score 9/10

Xbox 360 has been given it's death sentence. My thoughts and experience on Xbox 360

The original console looked best.
So Xbox 360 will be discontinued later this year. Every video game blogger, journalist and anyone who's ever picked up a Xbox 360 controller has been dumping their thoughts online... so why not join the herd for once huh?

I got my first of many Xbox 360's back in 2006 with Dead or Alive 4 and Dead Rising, months before getting the superior Wii(Ooh poking the bear early!). When I say first of many, I really mean it. I have gone through 4 OG model Xbox 360's before I got an Arcade model with the HDMI port. So I went through 4 Red Ringed Xbox 360's for a couple years, like most Xbox 360 owners.

Now the console was awesome in design(unlike the S and E models) because it still looked like a gaming console, but could also blend in with an entertainment unit(assuming you're into that kinda thing). The thing is loud(not Dreamcast loud, but loud enough) and overheats in the summer(at least the original models did) and worked better standing up over laying on it's side. I used a 20GB hard drive for many years until I started playing Final Fantasy XI Online and upgraded to the 120GB one I still have today. I do love the controllers for the Xbox 360 too. Sure they aren't the best(Gamecube is best to me), but they worked well and were perfect for the games that Xbox 360 was known for.

The Xbox 360 is where I did most of my online gaming over the years... and because of it I avoid playing online for the most part. The community I encountered online when playing on Xbox Live were the most foul mouthed, racist, ignorant and unfair group of people I've ever played with or against. Now there were plenty of people who were nice and I enjoyed playing with, but they were far and few between unfortunately. I ended up giving up my XBL Gold after Halo 4 came out because I got fed up with it. I hardly played games online anyway and preferred the single player experience overall.

As for the games, they were the weakest part of the console sadly. The exclusives for Microsoft's Xbox were more plentiful vs the Xbox 360, so it's exclusive library was sparse. I loved a few of the exclusives like Lost Odyssey, Dead or Alive 4, Blue Dragon, Halo Reach, Halo ODST, Tales of Vesperia and Alan Wake... but there were so little made that as the years went on I just played the Xbox 360 less and less in favour of the Wii and PS3. Now Xbox 360 did have one advantage most of the time... better builds of games! Throughout the life of the Xbox 360, many games performed or looked better on 360 over the PS3 and I always bought the version that worked best. This got less and less as developers worked out how to program for PS3 however.

Now as for my Xbox 360 today? I haven't turned it on since Tomb Raider was a new release and was the last game I have played on it. It's not that I don't love my Xbox 360, it's just new games keep coming out on Wii U and PS4 and I just haven't had the urge to go back and play my unfinished games. It's just sitting under a dust cover for now, but it will get another day in the sun if more and more online only games get released and I have more free time.

So that's my thoughts on the Xbox 360. It wasn't a bad console at all and I had fun with it every now and then. It was the go to online multiplayer console and had a library of games it shared mostly with PS3. I don't regret owning a Xbox 360, but it is depressing how the PS3 and Wii managed to be more appealing to me. Now will I ever get an Xbox One? Not until it has full 360 backwards compatibility with the games I own and it has a game that finally makes me want it. I hope when the Xbox 360 becomes a retro gaming console, it is remembered fondly.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Xenoblade Chronicles X review: A whole new world... of Warcraft

Ok, I loved Xenoblade Chronicles on the Wii U and 3DS. Long story short on it is that it had a great story, huge world and it engaged me from start to finish. This game, the massive follow up chose to go big or go home... and I kinda wish it did go home a little. Yeah... I'm not singing this game's praises.

Xenoblade Chronicles X(by the way the X is actually a cross, like on the PlayStation controllers) is a bloated game. No seriously it's so full of padding it may as well be a 1:1 scale Snorlax plushie! There is so much you can do in the game and it can get, to put it simply... BORING! That's something you never want to here about any game. I beat the game and I honestly felt like I wasted over 100 hours of my life on stupid side quests and grinding!

So when you boot up the game for the first time the game lets you customise an avatar... yay? Silent Protagonist anyone? One of my first problems is that your character doesn't talk, despite the fact you can choose a voice when creating them. Choosing a voice is just for screeching attack names in combat and it's a waste of voice acting talent, especially for Shulk and Fiora's voice actors from the UK. Seems like a really terrible choice to me, but then again, I prefer my JRPGs with a focus on it's characters and story over the WRPGs choose your own adventure style.Yeah... it's got WRPG style dialogue choices and they pretty much are meaningless too.

"So what about the story?" you may ask. Well this is a sore spot for me. The story really feels like it was put on the back burner during development in favour of building the excessively large, waste of precious gigabytes world of Mira. The characters involved in the story are great don't get me wrong(Lin's my favourite), but the story itself for the most part just isn't very engaging. To make matters worse is all the walls thrown at you to make you earn the privilege of experiencing the story. if you haven't guessed it... mandatory side quests to unlock story! The game really loves to keep you on that hamster wheel all right.

"So there are job classes in the game, right?". Well yes, but they all suck! Classes only really dictate what weapons you're stuck with and your stats. The skills are actually dependant on what weapon types you equip and makes the classes meaningless once you master them. Yeah... once the final classes are mastered, you can equip any weapon and choose the class with the best stats. Just be warned... the grind is high!

As I've already mentioned, the game is full of padding. There are 100's of quests in the game to drive those of us with OCD absolutely crazy. To make matters worse is the affinity grinding needed to access certain missions just to flesh out your team mates personalities... and some of these quests are mandatory to gain permission to continue the story! The basic quests are literally just that, basic MMO quests you've probably experienced in World of Warcraft or any other cookie cutter MMO.

Speaking of World of Warcraft(personally I'd rather not, but many people are familiar with it), if you've played that game... you'll feel at ease here. hell, even if you've played Final Fantasy XII it'll seem familiar. One of the few things the game did right(unlike FFXII) was make MMO combat work in a single player experience... though credit for that actually belongs to it's superior predecessor.

"So what merits does Xenoblade X actually hold?". You'd think the Skells right? Boy did they want us to love them with all the promotional material huh? Well they dropped the ball there too! You don't get Skells until half way through the game and they are little more than a second set of skills and an extra health bar. Sure you can use them to help with exploring Mira, but in essence they are a second skin... and they are outrageously expensive!

The music... oh God the music gives me such mixed feelings! On one hand the music is used well,  but on the other hand the vocals ruin the experience constantly! The song's vocal track has this annoying habit of drowning out the story's voice acting, requiring you to have subtitles on so you don't miss a thing. I honestly wish the game had an instrumental option for the music so it doesn't overshadow the story moments... also the song lyrics are terrible and annoying!

Online features! Every game today as required by law(at least it feels that way) to have some sort of online connectivity. Yes, online features for those of you who don't like to be alone when playing games. Funny thing though, seems no one is really using them. Nobody seems to want to join other people's games and even when they do... connection speed is an issue. The only reasons to play online are to recruit A.I controlled versions of other peoples avatars and to earn those reward tickets to buy enemy drops... online based padding!

"What if you beat the game? Is there a new game plus or any real bonuses?". Well... not really. Elma gets a palette swap and new gear is unlocked...that you need to grind for! If there was a new game plus, I'd shut up... but NOPE! All the end game content exists for, is to keep completionists from throwing the game back at the EB Games for the AU$25 store credit... or AU$48-56 at CEX. You know what? I challenge Jirad the Completionist to complete this without getting bored of the game!

So if you haven't already worked it out... I'm not very nice to this game. While combat is as good as the original Xenoblade, everything else either doesn't live up to the same standards as the original or is rubbish. I wanted to love this game, I really did... but it's overly padded and underwhelming! Sure you can create your own avatar and the world is excessively massive, but without a decently engaging story... it all just feels like wasted potential. I honestly think it's heavy western influence is what knee capped it. The original kept to it's Japanese sensibilities while still being western inspired, but this just wanted to be World of Warcraft crossed with Mass Effect and Skyrim. At least the main characters are interesting right? look I'll admit I had fun with it at first... but it was short lived. If you must have the game, just beat the story mode and shelf it. It's a rabbit hole that isn't worth getting lost in.

Score 6/10

Monday, October 12, 2015

Transformers Devastation Review: Me Grimlock, kick butt!

Ok... I'll need to make this clear. I am almost 30 years old, which means I have a little bias towards G1 Transformers... I am also wearing a Transformers T-Shirt as I write this. So yeah, I'm an old school Transformers fanboy and that drew me to this game like a moth to a flame... also PlatinumGames made this and they made Bayonetta... and I LOVE Bayonetta! So... bias's aside, is Transformers Devastion more than meets the eye?

Transformers Devastation is actually more related to the Transformers Generation comics than the original Transformers... which was based on the original Transformers. Full circle huh? Like the old TV series, the story isn't very deep in this game. In short, Megatron is "Cyberforming" Earth with the power of the Proud Star, an ancient Cybertronian ship that crashed eons ago & the Autobots must stop him to save the world. The story feels like a lost episode of the TV series... but more action packed!

I love the combat in this game! The combat is so much like Metal Gear Rising and Bayonetta in it's design. It is a fast paced system that requires quick reflexes to maximize your score for high ranks. The game's style is in essence a reskinning of Bayonetta with it's mission structure, secret mission and linearity, but it helps keep the game focused and considering this is Transformers after all... what'd you expect?

So the game has only 5 out of the hundreds of Autobots as playable characters. Some people have already complained about the selection, but I don't really think it's a bad selection. You get to use Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Wheeljack and fan favourite... GRIMLOCK!! Each Transformer has their own stats and unique skill they can use in battle... but they all pretty much play the same. Grimlock is probably the only one who has any real variation... but it's only because he doesn't turn into a car. Also there is no Decepticon campaign and worst of all... no Starscream betrayal that makes him a temporary Autobot like in the TV series! I want to play as Starscream!

Scattered throughout each chapter are a series of collectibles. These can be both well hidden and in plain sight. Kremzeeks, Decepticon logos, letters and very hard to find Laserbeak's are the things you'll be searching for but here's the thing... they don't get you much at all. You pretty much get 2 trophies/achievements and an art gallery.

Throughout the missions you'll earn loot, yes loot. You'll earn so many guns and melee weapons while playing that you won't know what to do with them... at first. You can synthesize weapons to make them stronger or sell them for money(duh!). There is a surprisingly large variety of weapons for both melee and ranged weapons and they can also have elements and status effects too. You'll end up choosing your favourites obviously, but there's a lot to experiment with. My suggestion is to carry 3 guns each with a different element.

Speaking of money, the game throws money at you constantly throughout the game. You use money to buy items(duh), synthesize weapons, and even level up your stats. Yes... this game has a leveling system... and it doesn't effect the game that much, if at all. The funny thing is that you always need money! Seriously, leveling up higher grade weapons cost so much money and in harder difficulties will have you restocking items constantly! There are also some skills that you need to purchase from the lab and trust me... you need them as early as possible!

To top of the constant need for money, there are items you can make with the money you earn called T.E.C.H. T.E.C.H are equipable items that boost your abilities and can be both beneficial and useless.To top it off... making them is done in a quick timed event and the results are always random. I honestly haven't bothered putting much time into these because of the random nature of attaining them and the fact that they don't help very much from my experience.

I know I usually don't talk about graphics in video games, but I love the how authentic the Transformers themselves actually look. They just look magnificent! It's a shame the environments look like they were made for PS2 and are recycled throughout the game like the running scenes in the old Flintstones TV show. There's only 3 areas the game takes place in and 2 are recycled, maps and all throughout the majority of the game.

The game's length is a little... short. Unless you're like me and look for every collectible in every nook and cranny, you'll only get about 6 hours out of it on your first run through. Not to say that a short games is a bad thing, it's just a lot of people today want long and thick games... despite the fact that they don't know what to do with them... I just made a penis joke didn't I? To the game's advantage though, it's highly replayable because of trying to collect everything and getting SS rank in every mission... assuming you care about those.

Thrown in for good measure... and frustration is a Challenge mode. These are good for earning weapons, money and leveling up your Autobots, but ultimately lead to nothing. I honestly think the mileage in Challenge mode will vary from person to masochist. I honestly just couldn't bother stressing myself on these more than once per difficulty.

Transformers Devastation is a fun 80's nostalgia trip that is, in essence just Bayonetta once again. You can get a lot of fun out of this game if you love fast paced action and grew up with the Transformers, but it all depend on if you think the price is worth it. The USA has it for $50 and so does Australia. Us Aussie's got a good deal on it,  but the USA got screwed! The game does feel like a budget title you'd normally see for $20 on the digital stores, so why did Activision charge so much for it? THE BRAND! It's not cheap to licences the Transformers brand and they expect us nostalgic fans to empty our wallets for it. If you live in Australia and New Zealand, it's great for the price! If however you live anywhere else in the world, wait for it to drop to like US$30 so it's a reasonable price. Regardless, the game is fun and I love it. If you can rent it, do that.

Score 4/5 But don't pay US$50 for it!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Blade Kitten Full Game Review: She's back, she's bad, she's tough & she's mad!

It's been many years since the release of Blade Kitten episode 1 on consoles and PC. I'm sure most of you forgot it existed and those who remember probably keep bugging it's creator for episode 2 on consoles. Unfortunately... console owners will be chasing that cat up a tree for the foreseeable future. Luckily the PC version is on Steam for cheap and episode 2 is available there too and you don't need a beefy PC to run it either. I ran it on a AU$500 laptop with minor performance issues. The big question is... is the game any good and was the wait for episode 2 worth it?

The story of Blade Kitten is not too complicated. Kit Ballard is a Breaker(also known as a bounty hunter) who has come to Hollow Wish to take on work. After accepting a break for local wanted criminal Terra Li, she is ambushed by Justice Kreel(another Breaker) who takes her Breaker key(a Breaker's I.D and logbook for breaks) and blows up Kit's ship. Now Kit must get her Breaker key back, capture the criminal Terra Li and survive Hollow Wish.

Do you like Strider? I like Strider! Blade Kitten can be considered a modern clone of Stirder. The game has you climbing almost any surface to traverse the large levels. The levels in the game are fairly large, but ultimately linear... but they are littered with collectibles! The game was built with completionists and speed runners in mind with lots of collectibles to find within each level and easy to find paths that will easily beat levels in 10 minutes or less... and there's an achievement for getting all of the levels best times totaling less than 90 minutes!

Throughout the stages you'll collect Hex, the games currency. It's abundant and is used to upgrade Kit's health, stamina and used to buy new swords and outfits. There are A LOT of costumes in this game! Some can be bought, some are unlocked just by buying both episodes of the game and others require completing certain requirements. None of the costumes do anything to improve Kit's abilities, but it's still fun to change the outfit every once in a while. Weapons don't really seem different enough from each other to make too much difference at first, but in the end you'll choose the the one with the highest stats and never change.

Difficulty has been an issue for many a reviewer and player alike. The enemies A.I is not very intelligent, even the new enemies introduced in episode 2 have no improvement over the first one. Enemies aren't really meant to be something to defeat so much as an obstacle to avoid and the levels themselves aren't too difficult to beat either. There are a couple of mini bosses and boss fights in the game too... and they aren't to difficult either. All this makes the game sound easy right? Well... it isn't easy... but it isn't hard either.

The game isn't without it's flaws. The game has a ton of bugs that appear in the PC version I never encountered in it's console counterparts. Falling through the environment, blinding white glare during the final boss fight, busted scripted sequence that goes faster than it's suppose to be and getting stuck in various objects randomly. The game even crashed once on me because of the way I entered the area before a cutscene. There's also the floaty controls that a lot of people didn't like the first time around... it never bothered me, but I thought I'd mention it for those who hate it.

Despite the issues, the game's writing is very enjoyable. The dialog exchanges between the characters is enjoyable and I never tire of it. So many characters have such great lines! Fighting through the enemies can also be very satisfying, despite the bad A.I and the completionist in me had to obtain all the collectibles and all the trophies.

So... is Blade Kitten good? Yes... yes it is. Yes the game is not very difficult and seems buggier on PC then it is on the consoles, but it's cheap and you can finally play the whole game. You can get a fair bit of mileage out of the game and it's fun to try and beat your best times. I recommend you play through the game without hunting everything down in the first run, do a second run to find everything and them speed run like a boss! My opinion of the games hasn't changed much, but I still say it's a good game worth your time

Score 4/5