My Top 5 Games of 2017

Game of the Year Edition!

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2017 was the year of the loot box.  Random chance to get something good in exchange for hard cash started cropping up every other game.  It’s not gambling though because the people making money from them say so.  The thing is though, 2017 was actually an incredible year for games.  You could exchange hard cash for pretty much any box in a game store this year and the chance of getting something good was pretty damn high.  That was a very laboured way of saying “Loot boxes suck” and “Amazing games came out”.

Overwatch
2017 in a single image.  Although this image isn’t actually from 2017…

I played surprisingly few of the big name games this year, so the bulk of the favourite games this year were lower tier releases.  Even then, narrowing it down to just five was very difficult.  At any rate, here are the best gaming experiences I had this year.  I’ve included all the games I’ve played down the bottom, just in case you think I missed something…

Get Even

Get Even

A story driven FPS/walking simulator with a bizarre, horror themed story.  You play Cole Black (he’s a manly man!) on a mission for find out where the hell he is and what happened to the girl with a bomb strapped to her that he was trying to rescue.  Within an hour, you find yourself in an abandoned asylum with a machine that allows you to enter your memories and begin to unravel just what the hell is going on.

Get Even
Most of the game isn’t terribly pretty, but it does have its moments.

Yes, the FPS sections are flawed, and the stealth doesn’t work quite as well as I might hope, but there really isn’t another game that plays like this.  There are events that play out differently depending on your choices without make these choices explicit, the game plays with interconnected memories in interesting ways, and the sound and music is fantastic.  It’s not perfect, but it’s well priced and I doubt you’ll have played anything quite like it before.

Stories Untold

Stories Untold

Damn I loved this one.  Four seemingly unconnected stories told in very different ways, culminating in a final revelation.  I won’t say more from a story standpoint as it really should be experienced with as little prior knowledge as possible on that front.  I will say that it’s a very well put together package.  It starts out as a text adventure that seems to have more power over you than you over it.  A bizarre point and click adventure and puzzle game involving microfilms follow before culminating in a walking simulator of sorts.

Stories Untold Episode 2
Part of the second episode. I will say nothing more about this.

I know, I’m not really selling it at all.  But it’s a great couple of hours for a low price and it’s very unlikely that you’ll have played anything quite like it before.  I have a soft spot for games that mess with your expectations, and this one certainly does that.  Plus, the intro music will stick in your mind for weeks after.

Super Mario Odyssey

Super Mario Odyssey logo

Look, I don’t want to jump on the bandwagon, but this is just a fantastic game.  I’ve never really been a big fan of the 3D Mario games, finding the controls a pain and the hunt for whatever the magic item is this time.  But this was a wonderful experience.  The environments are interesting and creative, it’s utterly beautiful, and the capture mechanic!  Taking over the body of you enemies (as horrifying that may be for a Mario game) was a masterstroke in creative platforming and puzzles.  The caterpillar creatures in the Lost Kingdon are adorable and fun the play as.

Mario Odyssey
Kidnapping Goomba towers is my new favourite thing.

At the time of writing, I haven’t finished the main story, but as I understand it, there’s a lot more high quality content after completing it, which is saying something when the content already there is quite so good.  I can see me spending a lot of time playing this.  I bought a Switch especially for this game, and I don’t for a moment regret that.

XCOM 2: War of the Chosen

XCOM 2 Logo

Yes it’s an expansion rather than a new game BUT I DON’T CARE DAMMIT!  I’ve kept it a closely guarded secret, but I’ll tell you anyway.  I really like XCOM.  I’m sure those War Log posts didn’t make it obvious.  Anyway, War of the Chosen is what an expansion should be.  It changes the game in so many ways, adding new ways to play and increasing your power, but also putting dangerous new enemies in your path.  The titular chosen can be a significant thorn in your side if you don’t deal with them, but dealing with them means you have to put off dealing with the greater alien threat.  Deciding what to do when is even more important than ever.

XCOM 2
The new factions give you some very powerful new abilities to play with.

To keep you in the game, you have access to new factions that grant you very powerful soldiers.  The sniper rifle wielding Reapers can detonate explosives at will, whilst the Skirmishers draw enemies in to finish them at close range.  Templars use psychic powers to control the battlefield by putting up new points of cover and making enemies more vulnerable.  The number of new options in this is fantastic, and when coupled with an already impressive base game you have yourself one hell of a package.

Nier: Automata

Nier Automata

I’m not going to pretend this is anything other than a stunning creative success.  Platinum’s trademark fast paced combat combined with the most bonkers yet simultaneously devastating story in a genuinely interesting world is one of the best things I have played this year.  For a couple of weeks all I wanted was to get home from work and play more.

Nier
This boss appears simply as a machine gone insane, but your second playthrough reveals something much darker about her as well as the game’s world as a whole.

I, like many others, had not played the original Nier.  Whilst the story here does tie into the previous game (and a number of others in fact) it isn’t needed in the slightest to enjoy this.  The cast of characters, the world itself, the brilliant combat that changes styles constantly.  And the music!  The music is incredible!  Being told I had to play through the game three times to see the real ending put me off this one for a while, but each playthrough is so utterly different that it makes each one feel like an almost new experience.  If you haven’t played it, play it.

SUPER SPECIAL BONUS MENTION!

Doki Doki Literature Club

Doki Doki

Oooooh if there’s one game this year that I would class as the most memorable, it would be this.  A few paragraphs back I mentioned that I have a soft spot for games that mess with your expectations, and this manages that and then some.  It’s a free visual novel in which you join the school’s literature club and find it run by a number of attractive girls!  This is a visual novel, so obviously you set about trying to impress them with your poetry.  I will say no more than this: I knew it was going to subvert my expectations (thanks to the Steam reviews), but the way it went about it thoroughly surprised me.

Doki Doki
For a free game, this is incredibly well put together.  Hell, for a full priced game this is incredibly well put together.

If you do play it (and you really should), it takes about 3 hours before things start to really happen, so do play through the early stages, even if you find them tiresome (I did).  And carry on playing even after it ends.  There’s a lot of great stuff here and I can’t talk about it without spoiling it!

Below is the list of games that I played this year.  It was stunningly hard to pick out 5 from a list of such stupendous games.  I didn’t want to overlook The Sexy Brutale thanks to its inventive puzzles and memorable music.  Late Shift was a genuinely enjoyable FMV experience.  Everspace combined rogue-lites with a space sim to create something quite unique.  The Evil Within 2 surprised me by not being nearly as bad as the first one and turning out to be a genuinely fun experience.  And that soundtrack!  2017 should go down as another one of those years that should be brought up when anyone asks what the best year in gaming was.

How about you?  What would you suggest for a list like this?  Have I got it utterly wrong?  Obviously I haven’t, but you’re welcome to argue.  Let me know!

The Sexy Brutale

Yooka-Laylee

Nioh

Resident Evil 7

Halo Wars 2

The Surge

Injustice 2

Everspace

Late Shift

Get Even

Little Nightmares

Slime Rancher

Sonic Mania

Stories Untold

Marvel vs Capcom Infinite

Nier: Automata

Torment: Tides of Numenera

Conarium

>Observer_

XCOM 2 WOTC

Doki Doki Literature Club

Ruiner

The Evil Within 2

Super Mario Odyssey

The Evil Within 2

Nothing says “festive” like muderous corpse monsters.

I shouldn’t have played this.  I mean, look at how much I disliked the original game.  With its wonky controls, broken mechanics, and wild difficulty spikes, I found it to be an experience I couldn’t enjoy in spite of the occasional successful horror moment.  So I shouldn’t have bothered with the follow up.  Not only that, but I heard that it had one of my least favourite things: open world gameplay!  But I heard positive things about it, and it was on sale for half price only a month after release, so I slapped down my cash and gave it a go.

The Evil Within 2
There are some nice visual tricks played here and there.

Sebastian Castellanos returns as a down-and-out former detective with an alcohol problem (because you’ve got to hit those clichés!) and finds out that his dead daughter may not be as dead as he thought!  His former partner Kidman returns to put him back into the STEM system, a digital world in which people connect themselves to the mind of a host.  Or something.  The original game really wasn’t terribly clear.  Anyway, it turns out this digital world has PSYCHOPATHS IN IT!  And their brains are really powerful apparently, so they can manipulate the world.  Which means there are monsters everywhere for some reason.  Anyway, killing the psychopaths is the main task this time, as you search for your missing daughter.

The Evil Within 2
The visuals are excellent, if a little nasty at times.

Ok, so the plot isn’t all that bad this time, but there are a lot of things that feel like they happen because they’re convenient rather than because it fits in with what’s going on.  The gameplay though, works much better this time.  At it’s core, this is a third person shooter in a semi-open world.  You’ll find yourself in a town that can be explored to advance the plot or simply discover secrets, complete side quests, or rescue people from death by monster.

The Evil Within 2
This gave me some Twin Peaks vibes. There were a few sections that felt influenced by the TV show.

The town is crawling with said monsters that can kill you rather easily if you let them gang up on you (or if you’re carless to be fair as they hit pretty hard), so stealth tends to be the order of the day (at least early on), and by god does the stealth actually work this time!  In the last game stealth kills would sometimes simply not work, or monsters would see you through the backs of their heads.  This time stealth feels like a genuine option for most of the game, with a variety of ways to approach most situations, and always the option to run away if you find yourself overwhelmed.  The enemy AI is fairly stupid most of the time (which is fitting with most enemies you face) and you can hide fairly easily if things go wrong.  Gunplay still feels a little loose for my liking, with aiming being not nearly as sharp as I’d like it to be.  Thankfully the shotguns seem to be very powerful this time, and the ability to craft ammo mid fight really helps when things get a bit messy.  The weaker AI, greater array of options, and more open environments make this game feel a fair bit easier than the first (which is a good thing to my mind).

The Evil Within 2
There’s absolutely not going to be anything nasty at the end of that hallway.

The enemies themselves are interesting, but there is a lack of variety.  The standard enemies are absolutely everywhere, and it’s only occasionally that you’ll see one that’s a little different.  Most will charge at you, or throw hatchets, but there are huge corpse monsters, exploding zombies (obviously) and the very creepy looking smoke monsters.  The bosses are fairly interesting in how they are presented (some of the imagery is great) and one or two have interesting mechanics during the confrontations.  The whole game took me about 15 hours to finish on Survival mode (medium difficulty) with a few deaths here and there, mostly during the boss battles.  The difficulty was spot on for me on this setting, and much more enjoyable than the punishing (read: frustratingly cheap) challenge of the first game.

The Evil Within 2
The look of these ones wasn’t nearly as unsettling as the sounds they make.

Visually, the game looks great, which is no real surprise considering the first game.  The environments aren’t as varied this time, but they do make a great deal more sense.  The world has some really interesting things going on in it if you look around the environments.  The characters are voiced very well for the most part (although the first main villain feels like he could be Goldman from House of the Dead 2), and the music is quite fitting, although not all that memorable.

The Evil Within 2
LOOK!

Now, the horror element is kind of important in a horror game.  Just like the first game, the focus is often on body horror here, with blood and gore flying all over the place.  The open world sections don’t have a huge amount of horror going on, but the feeling that you could be attacked from any angle does keep you on edge, as do the noises of creatures that are just out of sight.  During the more linear sections, the developers have done a good job of building tension through sound rather than visuals.  The more connected world this time means that there are fewer opportunities for bizzare and unsettling visuals, but the game does try from time to time.  I still wouldn’t call it horrific, but it does a good job of creating a creepy atmosphere in certain sections.

The Evil Within 2
There are some very creative visuals in some sections of the game.

The Evil Within 2 was developed by Tango Gameworks and published by Bethesda.  I played the game on Xbox One and would recommend this one over the original game.  Whilst playing the original would probably help you have even the slightest clue about what’s going on, this is by far the better product.  I’m glad I looked past my preconceptions on this one.

I’m Rob, and Here’s What I’ve Been Playing – 26/11/17

Video games mainly.

Everything in gaming has to be the Dark Souls of something right now, but Ruiner really did remind me of the series. It’s closer to Bloodborne really, as it’s very fast paced, has a huge reliance on stamina management (you have limited dodges), and the bosses are brutally tough.  Even the standard enemies can destroy you if you’re careless.  You really have to learn the bosses tells and set up your build carefully to have a chance.  I found it a little frustrating at times but I absolutely loved the experience.  The final battle was intense and thrilling and made those earlier frustrations melt away.  I finished it on normal mode and it was just on the wrong side of difficult for my liking, but I really enjoyed it.

Ruiner
I couldn’t get any screenshots of when it was all going crazy as you cam’t lose concentration for a split second.

XCOM 2 continues to fill up my PC gaming time.  You can catch up on the ever continuing campaign here if you’re so inclined.  The War of the Chosen expansion really does add a lot of content, with new enemies and different factions changing how you might approach a certain situation.  These changes really compound the challenge of the main game in which you have too many options and not enough time.  Still, more XCOM is always a good thing to my mind.

XCOM 2 Logo
Haven’t seen this image in at least 4 days.

I finished >Observer_ not so long ago.  Coming from the team that made Layers of Fear meant that I had pretty high expectations for this one.  It had certain things in common with it (the controls, the changing environments, and the shonky framerate) but it didn’t have nearly the same impact for some reason.  The story surrounds your character searching for his son in a locked down appartment complex.  You can enter the memories of different characters which leads to some genuinely interesting environments to explore, some of which were very unsettling.  I found the “real world” uninteresting to explore though, and often found myself feeling a little bit lost if only for a short while which broke up the pace for me.  It’s good, just not quite what I’d hoped for.

I also had a go at some of the “free” console games that have come out over the past couple of months.  Trackmania Turbo was fine, although the single player mode in it held very little interest.  There were some interesting tracks to download but I doubt it’ll hold my attention for long.  The same could be said of Just Cause 3.  I’m not a huge fan of open world games that have tons of filler content, and that’s exactly what this was.  Do a race, liberate a town, take over an outpost.  There were some great moments in which I would set off explosives to destroy EVERYTHING whilst escaping using a wing suit.  But with floaty controls, repetative content, and characters I couldn’t give a damn about, I was left with a game I doubt I’ll return to.

TM Turbo
It’s bright and colourful with a good sense of speed. I just didn’t care all that much.

I picked up The Evil Within 2 on the XBox Black Friday deals.  Surprisingly cheap for a game that’s been out barely a month.  I made my feelings on the original game fairly clear but I’ve heard that the follow up addresses most of the problems I had with it.  It’s not a huge loss if I don’t enjoy it, but time will tell on that front.  Here’s hoping for a good, solid, horror experience.

Evil Within 2
Well this looks like a nice friendly game.

Was I wrong about any of these?  More importantly, what have you been playing?  Something awesome no doubt.  Tell me about it!

5 Games That Outstayed Their Welcome

They go on and on and on and on and on and on an………..

I remember not so logn ago, that the internet was filled with arguments over value for money in games.  This often came down to how many hours of content was there for your £40 purchase.  There were a number of arguements over this in Call of Duty games due to their campaigns being rather short compared to other FPS games.  I felt that this wasn’t entirely fair as those games tended to have a rather extensive multiplayer mode in each release.  I suppose if you were only playing them for the single player aspect then that might be worth pointing out.  But I digress.

CoD
A game cover with a soldier walking towards the camera. How unusual!

As I get older I find myself valuing time more and more, so shorter games often get my attention more readily than ones that I will probably never have the required number of hours to finish.  I’m all for good, interesting content over a substantial campaign (so long as it actually is interesting and not just filler) or through other features in a game. However there are some really rather good games that just didn’t know when to call it a day.  Games that kept on going long after their mechanics and story had become a touch on the stale side.  Here are 5 such adventures that ventured on for a little too long.

Oh, and I’ve only included ones that I’ve actually played obviously.

Metal Gear Solid V

MGSV The Phantom Pain
Metal Gear Solid V (2015)

This was one of the first games I wrote a blog post about.  Interesting fact there.  If you read that in the past (or if you just gave that link a little click), you may have found that I really enjoyed the game when it let you get on with sneaking into enemy encampments and advancing the utterly bananas plot.  Solid mechanics and well made cut-scenes certainly helped too!

METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN_20160321200253
A vast open world that’s ready to be explored.  And then explored again.

Around half way through the game though, you need to complete missions to advance the plot (shocking in a video game, I know).  You can do this through sub missions or story missions.  Of course most gamers would go for the story missions, only to find that they were the same as earlier missions but with an added stipulation.  This broke the flow for me quite a bit and put me off carrying on with the game.  It got to the point where I just wanted it to be over.  Maybe the pain of carrying on was the real Phantom Pain…

Or not.

Assassin’s Creed: Unity

Assassin's Creed Unity
Assassin’s Creed: Unity (2014)

This was the death knell of the series for me.  I found Assassin’s Creed III fairly tedious, but I assumed the more focused environment of a city might help.  And to an extent it did!  I liked that everything was fairly close together (although the crowded map made finding things harder than it should have been) and that the movement and combat was still fairly fun if you weren’t hot by bugs.  It wasn’t horrible.

assassinscreedunityglitches6
Time to wheel this classic out again.

But I just did not care about the story one bit.  There were various famous histroical figures doing things because the plot demanded they did to make them good/evil, and characters died before I had any reason to care about them.  The reasonably engaging mechanics couldn’t hold my attention for long without a solid purpose driving me forward.  Before long I was rushing through story missions just to get the game over with.  Maybe Assassin’s Creed Origins will be more engaging for me.

Still Life 2

Still Life 2 game
Still Life 2 (2009)

Still Life was an interesting enough murder mystery point and click adventure (which was a sequel to Post Mortem, which has aged horribly).  The story followed an FBI investigator searching for a serial killer in Chicago.  Through flashbacks and investigation, you eventually confront and shoot the killer who manages to escape.  The follow up, Still Life 2, finds our investigator on the trail of another killer.  Due to the lack of resolution in the previous game, it seems reasonable to assume we’ll find out who the previous killer was here.

Still Life 2
The whole thing looks like it would fit into a Saw movie.

Still Life 2 starts well enough, with standard puzzles in a seemingly abandoned house.  But, as is often the case in point and click games, the puzzles become more and more obscure as you basically guess what the developer was thinking.  This, combined with the pace being unbelievably s-l-o-w meant that I didn’t bother getting to the end.  Once I ended up in an entirely new area that I would have to gradually find my way around, I decided that enough was enough.  Even the reasonably interesting plot couldn’t save this one.

Serious Sam 3: BFE

Serious Sam Before First Encounter
Serious Sam 3: BFE (2011)

I loved the Serious Sam games.  I remember staying up for hours upon hours one night playing the first game in the series.  The second one was pretty good too.  Fighting off literal hordes of enemies with powerful weapons was tremendous fun.  This entry in the series carried that on, but in a more modern way with finishing moves, more up to date (and realistic) visuals, and other such features.  And it’s fun for a while.

Serious Sam 3 BFE
You’d be forgiven for thinking this was any crappy Steam game released in the past 2 years from this screenshot.

It doesn’t half drag on though.  There are only so many combinations of enemies you can fight before it starts to get a little stale.  It’s around 10 hours long and could have done with being maybe two-thirds of that length because by that point I’d grown tired of stepping into another arena, fighting off a swarm of enemies before moving 8 steps forward and fighting another horde.

The soundtrack was pretty great at least.

Alien: Isolation

Alien Isolation
Alien Isolation (2014)

This game was scary.  The atmosphere was tense.  The robots were scary.  The xenomorph was terrifying.  There was even a good story in there that follows on from Alien too.  There was a crafting system that actually made sense in the game’s context!  Imagine that!  It shapes up for a pretty great 8-10 hour horror experience.

Alien
You’ll spend most of your time either using the motion tracker or the flamethrower. For 20 hours.

Then the second 10 hours kick in.  The alien is less scary now as you’ve seen tons of it.  The coridors looks similar no matter where you go (the bits outside the station are still pretty cool at least), you’ve crafted everything worthwhile, and know most of the story.  All that’s left is to slog through half the game to get to the conclusion.  This game is a perfect example of less is more, and for the first half it absolutely nails that.  Encounters are rare and intense, and you don’t even see the xenomorph until a good 3 hours in.  The second half forgets that and has used all the tricks it has.  Disappointing after such a great start.

A couple of games worth mentioning (but don’t quite fit).  Borderlands 2 became a bit of a slog for me towards the end.  This was more because I was trying to do all the side missions so the gameplay had started to become a little stale by that point.  Still a good game mind!  Most of the Warriors games could fit in here for me too (Warriors Orochi 3 is the one sticking in my mind) simply because the story mode goes on for so long in most cases.  But the story is never really why you’re playing those so it gets something of a pass.

How about you?  Any games you loved playing before they got beyond tedious?  Any that you gave up on through sheer boredom?  Tell me about it!

 

 

Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite

In which content is removed because mega-corporations act like babies.

One of my favourite Dreamcast games was Marvel vs. Capcom 2.  Tons of characters in a 3 or 3 fight to the finish, with fists, claws, lasers, and cactus men flying across the screen.  With over 50 team members to choose from, there were a huge number of possible combinations to play with, especially when you consider that each character had 3 different assist modes to choose from.  I was even pretty good at it!  At least I thought I was because I only played against the computer and friends.  Once I played the HD remake on Xbox 360 I got utterly destroyed online.  Still!  It was a fun package with a whole lot of content.

Presented for your consideration: Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite.  This is the latest entry in a series known, in its more recent entries, for 3-on-3 fights with a large roster of combatants.  In the interest of taking the series forward, there are now fewer fighters and 2-on-2 battles that no longer have character assists.  Less is more as they say.  Whoever they are.

Marvel vs Capcom Infinite
The roaster looks reasonable in size, but when you compare it to previous entries then it seems a little sparse.

This mostly comes down to Disney and Fox throwing their toys out of the pram.  Fox don’t want to share the licences they own and so Disney won’t include any characters from those licenses to avoid giving them “free advertising”.  So you won’t find any X-Men at all.  Nor Fantastic 4.  Spiderman manages to show up at least.  But this business spat means that the roster is a fair bit smaller than you may expect for a game in this series.  30 is still a reasonable number (36 once the inevitable DLC crops up, more on that later though), but coming from over 50, down to 36 (48 with DLC) then down the 30 is quite the decline.  I suspect the recuction from 3-on-3 to 2-on-2 is due to this smaller roster.

Marvel vs Capcom
My daughter likes playing as Firebrand for some reason. We’re banned from playing as Nemesis because he’s a bit too scary.

The story is that Ultron and Sigma from Marvel and Mega Man have teamed up to merge the different universes for EVIL REASONS that become apparent throughout the plot.  The campaign is standard comic book affair, with various simple plot twists and nice (mostly) well-voiced cutscenes featuring popular characters from both companies.  I enjoyed this aspect but did find I was spending a lot more time watching than fighting.  A very annoying aspect of the cutscenes though, was that you could clearly see which characters were designed for future DLC.  Black Panther, Sigma (one of the main antagonists no less), and Monster Hunter all appear fully animated and voiced in cutscnes but are not playable.  Want to play as them?  Get ready to open your wallet.  Strikes me as Capcom having crappy DLC practices once again, with characters being ready but held back behind a time/pay wall.  Suppose I should be happy that they aren’t day one DLC at least.

Marvel Vs Capcom Infinite
My Mega Man X jumping over my wife’s Gamora, shortly before she ruined me in this fight.

The important part of the game though, is the fighting.  And it sure is “alright I suppose”!  This is a series known for fast combos and plenty of juggling, but I felt that all the attacks I was making lacked impact.  Everything felt too light and floaty and lacked just a tiny bit of precision.  I’m not fighting game expert, but I think I may have been spoiled by Street Fighter V and Injustice 2 having weight behind their attacks alongside the very responsive controls.  This feels weak by comparison.  Still, landing a solid combo into a juggle, then switching in your partner to carry it on can be very satisfying.  You can also select and infinity stone to alter your gameplay.  The reality stone fires an energy blast whilst the soul stone steals a little of your opponents life.  They don’t feel overpowered as they take a split seond to activate so aren’t easy to spam with.  You can also charge them up to use and Infinity Storm that will grant you short term powerful bonuses, such as holding your opponent in place or allowing you and your partner to fight at the same time.

Marvel vs Capcom Infinite
You do get the occasional clipping oddity (Firebrand’s arm passong through Dante’s leg here) but the game moves so quickly you’re unlikely to spot it.

The game is very easy to get started with. You can pull off an impressive looking combo just by hitting the same button a few times.  This ease of access is great and allows even the most inexperienced player pull off some cool looking moves.  I found myself feeling not fully in control of my character because of this from time to time (more my problem than the games!) but it’s nice to have that feature.  Super/Ultra/Hyper/Whatever they call them now clso have an easy activation by simply pressing two buttons at once.  I’m not sure if there is a downside to activating them this way, but again I’m glad that there are ways for newer players to get involved.  In fact I’ve had more than a few games of this against my 4-year-old, and she can pull off some good looking moves with no tutorial whatsoever.  She managed to figure out how to do throws long before I did.

There is a tutorial available, although it’s a little bare-bones.  It allows you to learn a few basics but doesn’t really teach you the depth of the game.  There was also the odity that the game teaches you how to air dash before it teaches you to jump.  The mission mode is more useful for this as it trains you on each character’s abilities and combos.  The training menu can either show you the name of the move or the command for it, not both for some reason.

Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite.
The effects look pretty great when everything kicks off.

And that’s the thing with this game all over.  It could have done with another month or two of polishing.  Tutorials in the wrong order, features that aren’t fully thought out, arcade mode being hidden in a sub menu rather than being one of the first things you see.  This should be an excellent fighter (as previous entries had been) but it feels a little under done.  I get the feeling that I’m not the only person that feels this way too, as I have yet to have an online matchmaking fight in spite of many attempts to find one with a number of different settings.  Is the community for this already dead?  Maybe it’s just the Xbox One version that’s unpopular.  Either way, this is quite a crucial point, as if there is little to no online community, this game will likely not last too long.

Marvel vs Capcom Infinite.
There’s still an emphasis on air based combos. Wouldn’t expect any less from the series to be honest.

Visually the game looks good.  All the characters stand out well and have their own animations and moves that fit their game/comic personality.  There are multiple colours to unlock through playing the arcade mode (as is fairly standard) to give each character a few different looks.  Everything runs very smoothly from what I’ve noticed too, so top marks there.  The sound is pretty good too.  The various attacks and projectiles sound powerful (although the game doesn’t make them appear as such) and the music is good and fits the stages nicely.  The voice work is mostly good.  The man voicing Tony Stark is doing his best (and succeeding) to sound just like Robert Downey Jr. and Captain Marvel sounds great.  Morrigan just sounds a bit silly though, and Ghost Rider’s voice is quite muffled at times making him hard to understand.  A little hit and miss.

Marvel vs Capcom Infinite
I wasn’t a fan of Rocket. Found him very hard to use due to his speed and small size.

Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite was developed and published by Capcom.  I played the game on Xbox One and would recommend it in part.  There’s a good (although short) story mode and the fighting is fairly entertaining, but I just don’t think this will hold my attention all that long.  The lack of content and online community is a concern when there are more feature rich fighters available elsewhere.  Maybe this will be the last of the series.  I certainly hope it isn’t, but when you look at how content rich some of its competitors are then I think there may be a little cause for concern.

I’m Rob, and here’s what I’ve been playing – 08/10/17

I’ve been playing games mostly.

One of my all time favourite games is Baldur’s Gate II.  I played an unbelievable amount of it over the years after it released.  And whilst I tried a number of other games set in the same world, even made with the same engine, I couldn’t find anything that hit me in the same way.  With recently releases like Tyranny and Pillars of Eternity bringing back those classic CRPGs, I decided to give one of them a try (and a thank you to my wife for buying it for me).

Baldur's Gate 2
I haven’t played the Enhanced Edition, but any enhancement on perfection can only be a good thing.

So Torment: Tides of Numenera turned out to be pretty damn great.  The main plot and side stories were engaging, the characters were varied and interesting, and the gameplay allowed you to deal with situations in a lot of different ways.  Pity about the bugs and the occasional difficulty spikes.  Still, there was a world full of different (and often very creative) things to discover and I enjoyed my time there.

Torment
Torment is pretty great. I haven’t played the original so I don’t know how it ties in.

My wife bought me Nier: Automata for my birthday.  This is a game I’ve been wanting to play since release and now I might finally get around to it.  Pretty much anything made by Platinum grabs my interest by the simple virtue of my having never played a game made by them that I didn’t immediately adore.  Metal Gear Rising anyone?  I’ll get onto this one pretty soon I think.

Nier Automata
I’ve been very keen to give this one a try. Platinum tend to make very good character action games and I’ve yet to play one that’s disappointed me.

Another birthday present I received that I’m very keen to try is Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu.  Our family would play Pandemic a lot, so any opportunity to play more of it is welcome.  I had heard of this one but didn’t know anything about it.  Having read the instructions, I’m quite excited to give it a try as this feels like more than a simple reskin.  The game plays in mostly the same way but with some significant twists, such as Old Ones rising and altering the game’s rules in place of epidemics.  Plus the board looks gorgeous which certainly helps.

 

Cthulhu
Fear great Cthulhu! And my carpet.

I picked up Marvel Vs. Capcom Infinite at the weekend ago on a whim.  I enjoy playing Street Fighter V with my daughter and figured something with Marvel characters in might be fun.  We’ve enjoyed playing it together (although I regret playing as Dormamu at one point as he seemed to scare her a bit), but I haven’t touched the story mode yet.  Personally I find the gameplay a little too…floaty?  I don’t think that’s the right word.  But I feel like none of the attacks really have any impact.  I do enjoy fighting games, in spite of being terrible at them, but this one’s moment to moment action hasn’t grabbed me as well as I’d hoped.

Thanos
Still don’t want to get into a fist fight with this chap.

My new PC finally arrived, ready to take on some games that need a GPU more powerful than a cheese sandwich.  I’ve yet to really try anything particularly taxing on it, but I didn pick up the XCOM 2 expansion and I’m keen to give it a play.  Any opportunity to hop back into that game is one I happily take.

XCOM 2 Faceless
Hopefully my new computer will be able to run this at more than 30 FPS

Oh, and I downloaded and played Final Fantasy: All the Bravest.  But more on that another time…

So what about you?  Have you started up anything new and/or fun recently?  Something freshly released?  Or maybe back to the backlog or a classic that you’re returning to?  Let me know!

Gears of War 4 – When did chainsawing monsters become so tedious?

Gears for fears.

I have fond memories of Gears of War.  I remember finishing the first one on Insane with a friend from university online after a monumental tussle with Raam.  I remember playing Horde mode with my now wife.  I even enjoyed Judgement for its score attack elements (don’t hate me).  I didn’t think I’d get to the point that the game’s admittedly rock solid mechanics would become tiresome.  That’s not to say it doesn’t try anything new, it just doesn’t do enough to make it seem fresh again.  It might be time to hang up my Lancer.

Gears of War 4 New Group
Our new heroes: Del, Oscar, Kait (at the back) and JD. They’re quite likable, but rest assured that old faces will turn up as the game goes on.

It’s not that the game is bad, it’s just that it does very little new.  When the original game was released, its cover based shooter mechanics nigh-on revolutionised third person shooters.  Whilst this wasn’t the inventor of a lot of its mechanics, Gears of War had it polished to a mirror sheen.  What I like to call the Blizzard effect.  The series continued, introducing new mechanics and modes, and polishing off a reasonable story and tying up the loose ends.  Judgement came along and acted as a prequel, and whilst less popular, it did some things differently.  Now though, we have a game that is the definition of more of the same.  That’s not always a bad thing, but by now it has become a repetitive thing.

Gears of War 4 Locust Swarm
Oh hey! It’s the Locust again!

It starts off fairly promising, with a dash through a “Wind Flare” that sends chunks of scenery flying around, followed by a number of gun fights with robotic enemies.  This is a nice change from previous games.  Bright colours, new opponents and using the Fabricator (a device that lets you create weapons and defenses) to defend yourself and your allies.  But before long we settle back into the old routine.  The Locust turn up (now called the Swarm rather than the Horde), the dark environments return, and we return to cover based shooting that we’ve had for 4 games now.  Most of the game is spent following leads to rescue a character, and the story is pretty uninteresting until a pretty nice twist right at the end which sets up for the inevitable sequel.

Gears of War 4 Graphics
It looks even more gorgeous and detailed than ever.

There are a couple of sections that alter the game for a short while.  The Wind Flares force you to consider your aim more carefully based on wind speed and direction.  And the motorbike chase is rather exciting.  The final scene in the game attempts to change the game’s mechanics too (although it doesn’t really change the gameplay all that much, it does feel exciting).  There are also a couple of new enemies that can change how you approach certain battles by forcing you to keep moving or rescue kidnapped allies.  In spite of all of this though, you’ll probably still end up hiding behind walls with a Lancer and Gnasher.  That might be enough for some people, but I think I was hoping for a reinvention of the franchise on a new system.  If you’re looking for more Gears of War, then this will probably do just fine for your cravings.  At this point though, I worry that it’s becoming a bit Call of Duty, the same game but throwing in a new gimmick to hide that fact.

Gears of War 4 Motorbike chase against plane.
The bike section is a nice change of pace, but you’ll be back to the same action before long.

Horde mode is back and still enjoyable.  The Fabricator that allows you to construct and place defences where you wish alters your strategy somewhat and I’ve enjoyed playing it in splitscreen.  The multiplayer is as good as ever, looking great running at 60FPS.  The new game modes aren’t anything new as most have been seen elsewhere, but the 5 on 5 action is still solid.  It’s a perfectly fine game, it’s just the same perfectly fine game you played years ago, but a bit prettier!

Gears of War 4 Choice
As in previous games, there is an occasional choice of route in which the team splits up and you cover your allies. You can see a Wind Flares in the background.

Gears of War 4 was developed by The Coalition and published by Microsoft.  I played the game on Xbox One and I don’t know how to recommend this!  If Gears of War is something you dearly need more of, then this might be for you.  If not, then there are plenty of other third person shooters out there.  I for one felt disappointed, maybe I was hoping for something more, maybe I’m bored of the series now.  Maybe I’m just too old to enjoy this series as much as I used to!  Either way, I think I may be done with the series for now.