Video Games

The Division 2 PC Review (Embargo Broken)

Having gotten advance access to the full-fledged retail release of the sequel the world is dying to play, I couldn’t not go ahead and break the review embargo to provide you all with my thoughts on Ubisoft’s The Division 2. With online servers currently live for last-minute dev testing, I’ve gotten ample time to play through the experience in its entirety with a handful of other early access players. Here’s my review.

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The game opens to the sight of Washington D.C. in ruins, and I can’t help but feel the developers worked hard to paint this desolate, destitute depiction of the United States Capitol as some sort of political allegory for the state they feel the U.S. is currently in. Though it’s artistically depicted and nuanced in its commentary of modern day politics, I’m still shocked that the publisher and developer have gone so far as to include in-game graffiti on dilapidated D.C. monuments that reads “Make America Good Again.” You might not catch what this is referencing at first, but really double back and think about it. If you’re looking for political commentary, The Division 2 won’t leave you starving.

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The Game of the Year Award for 2016

The first few months of this year didn’t seem to exist, as far as video games were concerned. No relevant triple A releases, no worthwhile indie games, nothing. Between January and August, one of the only two new releases I purchased was The Culling, an early-access mess of a game that revamped every piece of in-game weaponry with new nerfs and buffs bi-weekly, to the point where you never knew what weapon would have what impact. Hence why I dropped it. What started out as a very tense Hunger Games-style multiplayer madhouse dissolved into overly long, drawn-out matches of poke the bad guy with a spear forty times until one of you gets bored and dies. Such a shame.

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The other new release was Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, a fine if unremarkable game. Terribly short but notably sweet, it’s nothing more than a faint whisper in my memory at this point.

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From there I snagged Deus Ex: Mankind Divided in early September, the best half-complete product I ever bought. If acts 2 and 3 of the story had been included and the overall narrative delivery hadn’t been so utterly pedestrian, this would’ve been my game of the year easily. Ah well, maybe the trilogy’s finale will feel like a complete product when it comes out in three to four years.

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Two disappointments and one neutral release in and finally the holiday heavy-hitters started to make their arrivals, kicking off with Titanfall 2. I still haven’t touched a second of the campaign, instead soaking up every last multiplayer match the dying community will afford me in the time it has left. Given the positive word of mouth circulating around the story component however, I’ll give this one the benefit of the doubt and say it’s a great purchase overall. We’re one for four now, those of you keeping tally at home.

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Next up came Hitman, the surprise show-stealer of 2016. Featuring insanely creative and aesthetically inventive levels, a refined and revamped mechanics set for Agent 47 and an overall sense of bold direction no other game this year had, the DRM-laden episodic caper from Square Enix comes out on top. Two for five.

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And lastly, at the twilight of 2016, after the horrendous PC launch had subsided and my unwavering love for Dishonored grew to a fever pitch, I picked up Dishonored 2. Having just gotten past the infamous clockwork mansion, I can attest to the game’s merits. It’s wonderfully inventive in its level design and gameplay structure. But its story is weak and contrived, its launch was terrible and because of these things I can’t grant it nearly the amount of praise I heaped upon the original.

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So where does that leave us? Nowhere, frankly. This year was a bust for games as I don’t see myself actively pitching any of the aforementioned titles to anyone simply because they’re “that good,” though Hitman comes close. Hell, I didn’t even mention Unravel, a cute little platformer I bought solely because the lead developer put on a good show at last year’s E3. I’ve played one level and it’s nothing to write home about, though it’s serviceable and deserves a mention on here for being heartfelt—something these soulless sequels and corporate cash-grabs could learn from. Notice how all of the major releases above have a literal or proverbial “2” at the end of their titles?

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My God.

I almost forgot the worst game of 2016. The absolute worst port in the history of PC gaming, as far as my firsthand experiences are concerned. It stuttered more than a nervous high-schooler with a lisp, screen-tore like an iPhone made of wet paper and shit the bed so frequently that its myriad of disabilities almost distracted me from the piss-poor narrative and lacking runtime lurking beneath the surface. The studio’s fallen since the heydays of Max Payne and Alan Wake.

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My Thoughts on Titanfall 2’s Multiplayer

Before we go any further, here’s the situation: I’ve played the first five minutes of the campaign and that’s it. Why skip out on the best new addition to Titanfall? Because the single player will still be there for me to explore long after the online community has dried up and died, meaning I need to hop on the already-decomposing corpse that this game touts as a multiplayer component before it’s gone.share-image.jpg

On PC, the community is small. Very small. Less than a month after launch only one game mode is ever reliably playable (guess which one), and even then, only barely at odd hours on weekdays and weekends alike. At most I’ll see 1,000-something players online in my region on a Saturday afternoon. It’s rough. And it’s sad because, just as was the case with Titanfall 1, it’s some of the most fun I’ve had in a multiplayer game this year.

Initially, Titanfall 2’s multiplayer feels like a step in the wrong direction from its predecessor. For a start, maps are bigger, introducing brief moments of nothingness that NEVER existed in the original. This couples poorly with the fact that wall-running is now less emphasized, which inadvertently jacks up the barrier to entry when versing the droves of players who’ve already figured out how to circumvent a map’s superficially slow design. Then there’s the increased danger of AI specters and grunts, resulting in actual deaths from what were previously useless computer-controlled minions. Throw these things together and you’ve got a recipe for a lot of frustration and shaken faith in the game’s quality—early on, that is.

Sink enough time into the game and overcome the steep learning curve that Titanfall 1 veterans such as myself had to suffer through and eventually you’ll discover Respawn knew exactly what they were doing. They’ve essentially shifted the focus of Titanfall multiplayer to be more centered around situational awareness rather than blazing fast reactionary processing, something I can’t say I’m a fan of but do understand the appeal toward. It’s a far more tactical affair, to say plainly.

While only one of TF2’s maps holds a candlestick to any of Titanfall 1’s extremely memorable multiplayer landscapes, be it the orange sands of Demeter or massive skeletons of Boneyard, the sequel focuses less on making memorable moments and shooting dioramas and more on increasing the game’s skill ceiling. Again, not my preference but it’s a welcome challenge. What IS my preference is the insane amount of customization they’ve added, not only cosmetically but also in terms of weaponry and equipment. Gravity stars are the best FPS addition in recent memory, sucking in opponents so you can whip out a pocket shotty and blast them while they’re trapped in a temporary wormhole. Shit’s lit.

In conclusion, while I fundamentally disagree with certain changes Respawn has made, I respect all of them and understand the vision behind the product. It’s a fun game, no doubt, which is why I’m sad to see such a small community. If you can get it for sub-forty U.S. dollars, snag it and hop in, the water’s fine—just a bit different than last time.

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Review of “Superhot” for PC

It’s super not.superhot5.jpg

For those of you who know the background info regarding this game, let’s get right to it: the “time only moves when you move” thing is a gimmick. It’s not a revolutionary mechanic. It’s an—admittedly, very entertaining—gimmick. It’s a single power-up that could easily be incorporated into any other FPS. Fun enough while it lasts, but hardly earth-shattering.

The campaign is meme-baiting, wannabe-meta nonsense and it lasts a short, sweet three hours at most. And while the inclusion of challenge modes is a nice gesture, it really doesn’t amount to much. The core of the game is hollow. The gimmick of Superhot isn’t enough to keep the game magnanimously heated or superlatively toasty; much as it wants to be.

And if you’re wondering why the short review, I’m just trying to simulate game length. In text.