Sonic Mania Review

I have no idea what the hell went on with Sonic. Gone are days of creativity, endless hours of fun, and the basic love of rings. Instead, we’ve gotten Poorly Design Sonic (Sonic the Hedgehog 2006), Make it Stop Sonic (Sonic Unleashed) Vertigo Sonic (Sonic Generations), Steroids Sonic (Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric)

So when I heard SEGA was giving Sonic another spin, I cried unto the heavens screaming “why?” I hung my head in shame for what I expected would be one of the biggest gaming mistakes in 2017. It’s not often that I’m proven wrong, and it even less often that I’m willing to admit my mistakes, but this is a special case for a special game that has already captured my heart and won’t let my childhood memories die.

Sonic Mania is beautiful from the very beginning. Captivating my soul, it starts off with a 2D animation sequence that transports me to a world of the 90s and I’m a kid again… before everything went to crazy. However, Sonic Mania is more than a game. It’s a “thank you” for “hanging with SEGA despite the numerous times we’ve screwed you over.” It’s forgiveness for all the terrible things that have happened before. Though they can never promise they won’t do it again (Sonic Forces has yet to be released) here is a metaphoric rainbow.

Even the name, Sonic Mania is a perfect way to describe this game. Merriam-Webster defines “mania” as: periods of great excitement and euphoria. an excessive enthusiasm or desire; an obsession.

It’s a rare treat to see a game like this fall perfectly into this category. Why? Because while Sonic may have been created by SEGA, it feels like it was created by Sonic fans which technically is true. Developed by people who originally created Sonic fan projects, they’ve painstakingly created a homage to their childhood while adding in fresh ideas and clever gaming with an old-school flair.

As a massive fan of art, there was something special about the 16-bit Sonic and those bold bright colors. It never felt like it was trying too hard for your attention, instead, it was a sign of prestige and honor. From the very beginning, Mania has that same feeling when those bright and beautifully bold colors splash onto the screen like a Jackson Pollack painting. It whisks you away to Green Hill Zone where those familiar loops and golden rings await to be collected.

While previous Sonic games encouraged speed which often resulted in disaster for me, Mania takes the controlled chaos route. Yes, there are those uncertain crazy loops but the game also encourages you to take your time and explore. By slowing down, I’ve discovered newly added sections, secret coin locations, and opportunities to interact with the expanded environment (hey there, sexy wood chipper). There were moments when I was so lost in the game that I forgot that I had to complete the level. Once I did, I was greeted by another level that was even better than the last.

As a lover of movies and TV shows, I fell in love with the new Studiopolis level. Bouncing on film reels was a delight and the flashbulbs and music felt like a throwback to old Hollywood. Despite the randomness of the level’s inclusion, Sonic never felt out of place and the setting came off like an extension of the original game with even more exciting adventures to come.

One of my favorite new levels is easily the breathtakingly gorgeous Press Garden, which can only be described as magical. Light colors fill the screen as everything is covered with pink, airy and light colors. While I’m not a girly-girl, I was taken aback and enthralled with the level of charm that poured through my screen. Compared to Studiopolis’ darker, jazzy and more adult feel, Press Garden was screaming to whisk my troubles away onto the pink leaves that floated around Sonic. There were moments when I had to stop and just marvel at the game’s details, which quickly prompted Sonic to stare at me with his side-eye and the original “gurl, bye” foot tap (man, did I miss that stare).

As I continued playing, I noticed how easy it was to control Sonic. Previous games often made me feel reckless. Unable to figure out how to handle the controls, I would often crash into things, lose all my rings and spend wasted minutes memorizing how to jump. This game, however, even managed to get the controls right. Tapping into sense memory, Sonic was able to perform all of the commands without any issues. In fact, if I closed my eyes, I would have guessed I was playing on the SEGA Genesis.

Boss battles are the most delightful as they prove most innovative. While there are classic robots, SEGA has built upon their design and how each battle is executed, which keeps the game and each level refreshing. Ranging from weird to “wait.. what?,” there are puzzles, pattern memorization, wind speed, shooting and more. It’s very hard for me to pick my favorite battle because each one deserves to be recognized.

Sonic Mania is not perfect. Even though the good outweighs the bad, there are some frustrations and complications. Mania is much harder than those of yesteryear. While death is not an often occurrence because the boss battles are “unique,” there are moments where death is immediate. As a result, the game landed me back to the beginning, making me complete the stage again. Despite the stage checkpoints, through a series of trial and error, this was a common and annoying occurrence, which can be argued isn’t necessarily the game’s fault but something of my own failing.

Sonic Mania should be the reason why developers reboot games, not just because of money, but to witness how happy games make people. Instead of ripping the original formula apart, reboots should build upon a game success. It reminds people why they fell in love with gaming, while also introducing a new generation to that same passion a game can create. Sonic Mania does both and more, it’s a game that will have you fighting to play with others and possibly your kids. The last Sonic game i have enjoyed very well was Sonic Generations but before that game, you would have to take me back to 1994 for Sonic and Knuckles. I give this game a 9.5 out of 10

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Prey Review

Arkane have, in just a short amount of time, mastered their craft. The Dishonored games did a great job at throwing a bunch of tools at the player and letting them navigate rich deep worlds the way they want to. Prey feels the same, only amplified. Trading in swords and spirits for guns and neurological enhancements, Prey could be construed as Arkane’s take on science fiction. It hits some pretty familiar beats throughout, but Prey feels like a natural evolution of the Arkane trademark formula.


Prey itself takes place in an alternate timeline where John F Kennedy survived the assassination attempt in 1963, in turn directing more funding into the space program and sending us into space much earlier. In Prey, you are Morgan Yu, an employee for Transtar who presently owns the research space station Talos-1. Morgan wakes up with little to no memory of his past, but discovers that he himself is intrinsically tied to the station and its bizarre alien research.

 Prey-Screen-CorpsePrey’s storyline sounds pretty cliché and at times it is, though the story isn’t afraid to head into stranger directions than you’d normally expect. As the game began I wasn’t too keen to progress in the story, instead exploring the space station at my own leisure. Though as I got further in, Prey threw some twists at me that hooked me on the ideas it was selling. Despite this, I still found the playable character somewhat unlikable and the main villain quite forgettable. Still, Prey’s story hits the right beats at the right time to pique players’ interests. Think of it as a warped combination: Memento meets Dead Space meets BioShock.

When you play the first hour or so of Prey, more seasoned gamers will see where the game draws inspiration. You’re on a space station, it’s falling apart, you start off with a wrench, you use powers to defend yourself called psionics and you’re being lead along by a faceless or mysterious voice. Prey is woven from strong genes – taking inspiration from Dead Space, Dishonored, System Shock and BioShock. It’s a first-person game that isn’t afraid to have moments of quiet time to let you explore the sprawling space station that is Talos-1 at your own pace and leisure.

That’s really the name of the game with Prey. It’s an open world, that lets you explore areas of the space station in (almost) whatever order you wish. Everything is connected, whether you want to naturally get to an area using the winding corridors of the space station or you want to leave the station and re-enter it elsewhere while floating in space. Prey’s densely packed world, shortcuts and connections all come together to give the game a sense of having an open world without the barren filler environments that commonly come with it.

When you’re navigating the world of Prey you’ll be outfitted with a variety of abilities, weapons and powers that let you approach the playground of Talos-1 the way you want to. Most weapons serve a dual purpose – they can also be used to create platform on the walls to circumvent obstacles, or activate buttons from a short distance away. Each weapon having multiple uses encourages experimentation, as well as thinking outside of the box.

When you’re done with Prey once, I’d be surprised if you didn’t want to jump into it again. Not only because you’ll probably miss something while trying to explore the sprawling Talos-1 station, but also because you can change the outcome of the game based on your treatment of others throughout the story. It’s nothing totally revolutionary, but given Prey’s flexible systems, running through a second time is bound to be different to your first, intentional or not.

Your play style will greatly decide how long it’ll take you to run through Prey, though I’d estimate most players would get at least fifteen to twenty hours out of their first run. Perhaps even more if they explored the station thoroughly. This much is certain: Prey is a game that just begs to be played at least once more once you’ve finished it.

Taking a page out of Dishonored’s book, Prey features a stylised art style to bring its world to life. The result is something that never looks hyper-realistic but something more distinctive instead. Artistically speaking, Prey brings together retro designs with futuristic ones to create something not unlike BioShock’s Art Deco style. From a technical standpoint, the game is running on CryEngine which brings with it the usual caveats for consoles – namely longer than desirable load times. It’s not the best-looking game, especially compared to others, but Prey does its own thing and it does its own thing well.

Prey’s world is run down yet colourful, and the soundtrack perfectly complements the experience. Composed by Mick Gordon, the score is filled with sublime synth beats and strange, otherworldly noises and sound effects to create something eerie, atmospheric and tense. These pieces do an amazing job at elevating the already strong atmosphere aboard Talos-1, and is quite possibly one of the strongest soundtracks I’ve ever heard in a game.

Prey is another win for Arkane. It’s a game where everyone who plays it will have a different experience. One thing is certain though – that Prey remains a consistent experience from beginning to end. Providing players with intuitive gameplay systems with great synergy, freedom to approach combat how you want and game design that rewards creativity are just three ways that Prey succeeds. While BioShock was heralded as the spiritual successor to System Shock, Prey feels like a much more successful attempt. An absolute joy to play and experience.

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LEGO CITY Undercover Review

LEGO CITY Undercover was first released in 2013 exclusively to the Nintendo Wii U, with a similar release on the 3DS platform. This release is a port of the original game across all the latest platforms to a sharper, faster-loading version, which also introduces two player co-operative gameplay.


I’ve played many of the LEGO franchise games across a number of different platforms and LEGO CITY Undercover has a very familiar look and feel to its predecessors, in terms of the gameplay and the cutscenes providing the storyline in between gameplay. The game finds our hero Chase McCain returning to LEGO CITY to capture the notorious Rex Fury while also protecting Natalia Kowalski, who has entered a witness protection programme after providing evidence to put him behind bars before he managed to escape.


The first part of the game is heavily driven by cutscenes as it introduces the characters and gameplay to the player. For those familiar with LEGO games this does feel very laboured, as you’re probably itching to get started. That said, this part of the game does set the familiar humorous tone of the game, which in my opinion hasn’t grown tired at all; the detective briefing scene at the start of the game is great and features characters such as Starsky & Hutch, Sherlock Holmes and Columbo. An early level in the game takes Chase McCain to Albatross Island, which looks remarkably like Alcatraz, and the level centres around a plot line featuring numerous references to the film Shawshank Redemption. While some of the humour may be wasted on younger players, the game wouldn’t be the same without it and as an adult player it does maintain interest and puts a smile on your face.


The game may not be challenging to seasoned gamers as it’s not difficult to complete the levels, but there is plenty to explore in the 20 districts of the open-world LEGO CITY, so there’s plenty of longevity. I loved the scanner aspect of the game, which allows Chase to track the bad guys with some pretty neat tech. There are also elements of the city marked with blue and white bricks, which effectively allow our hero to perform some free running and cool slow motion action.


The game is a delight and the game will keep you entertained for hours. The open-world is great to explore and there’s plenty to achieve and unlock outside of the core storyline. There are many great elements to this game, all of which contribute to a great experience, so this comes highly recommended.

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LEGO Worlds Review

Traveller’s Tales have used the LEGO license perfectly by building Lego Worlds as a rival to Minecraft. The game is loosely tied to some rules but has a nice structure in itself to keep the players interested. The premise has the player as a space traveller who gets bumped onto the world and has his ship broken. So, he rebuilds his ship and sets off in pursuit of new words. In the way, he finds out various devices which help in building, replicating and demolishing.


There is Discovery tool which is largely used throughout the game. Just point it to a new object, hit X when it gets highlighted and the item will be added in your vast library of parts and people. You can then deploy these parts and people whenever their need arises. Going on in the game you will also get the opportunity to build an entire world from the scratch. But before that, you will get introduced to and well versed with all the rules, options and controls of the game.


You get to do amazing things and go on adventures including fighting to save a queen or saving cavemen from the wrath of volcanoes. The most amazing thing is that everything that is part of the game world is made of LEGO. So, you have almost entire control and can copy, paint, build, destroy, almost anything you want.


You can do anything you want to. Create a mountain, replicate a castle, or dig out treasure. Sometimes you may get guided by the game, sometimes you will just want to get your hands dirty and create something amazing. But learning to use the tools and getting used to its not so intelligent input manipulation is hard. Your buildings may get fiddly in the beginning, put some time into and you become an expert.

The only flaw in the game is its issue of frame rate and the camera which gets upset in congested areas. It gets especially annoying when you are moving too fast and the game loads up the terrain slowly. In local co-op mode, the game gets really patchy and may feel like everything is just disconnected from each other. But with the gameplay being of a very relaxed nature, it never becomes much of a problem.

The game has a feel that it is the first towards a much greater game. Just some tweaks here and there and Traveller’s Tales might get something outstanding in line. Still, kids can get easily lost in its world for hours and the offline and co-op mode further complement those possibilities. This game is easily a 4 out 5 for its unique experience.

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Build or Boom review

The object of Build or Boom is to be the first player to build the plans on the Blueprint Card. Once your building is done, smash your Boomer and your opponent’s structure comes down. If your tower matches exactly what’s on the card, score a point. Replace the blocks in the middle of the table and play again with a new Blueprint Card. The first Builder to reach 10 points wins.

Sounds simple, but is it really? At times, it can be, that is once the game has been played with for a while. Playing the game with my 5 year old, she and her friends struggled to get the pieces set up as pictured and it isn’t so easy to stack quickly with accuracy. For that reason, younger kids 5 to about 7 shouldn’t try to race until they really understand the game. It can be a super fast paced game that helps young children learn to react quickly and come up with some unique ideas, which is a great skill to learn. But, without the dexterity that older children have, it might make it downright frustrating to accomplish.

There’s 50 structures from the Blueprint Card deck to make. Build with speed but keep your buildings balanced. Some of these structures take some pretty careful balance. Ever build something several stories high on top of a cone before? You will now. Or boom goes the dynamite.

The game is well made from strong plastic and the packaging is sturdy. To optimize the game hopefully in future releases, they should rethink the platform by making it a flat concrete looking base and make the box from a cheaper material to cut on cost.

If you love games that are truly interactive, I give build or boom 3.5 out of 5 stars!

WWE 2K17 Review

After playing the game for about 5 days, I can honestly say I’ve played enough of this game to give some final thoughts on it. I doubt anyone personally cares what I think, but I decided “hey it’s the internet so ill post it because I can”. I’ve divided everything up into a few sections so can individually go over everything with some detail. prepare to read huge walls of text as i begin my review.

MY CAREER MODE

Out of everything that was hyped for 2K17, My Career Mode took the cake. The addition of Promos and the Paul heyman guy challenge shown in the trailers seemed to show us that the game was heading in the right direction. Upon actually playing the mode, however, you find out that its just as bland and grindy as the last two games. The lack of progression feels so awful when your fighting the same people every week, putting on the best matches you can with the likes of Fandango and Bo Dallas, attempting to create 5 star watches with jobbers just so you can move up the ranks. My career mode feels like a crappy version of Universe Mode where you have to grind until the end of time to increase stats, attributes or even to buy a decent finishing move pack. Overall, it’s a huge disappointment.


GAMEPLAY

Throughout all the wrestling games ever made, the last 3 have had the best gameplay by far. The addition of Roll outs, a better ladder setup system, new mini-game for ladder matches and the new OMG moments, have all created a very realistic feel to the game that is much needed. Many glitches do occur here and there and the overall pacing of the matches still seems a little too fast for my taste, none the less it’s the best gameplay we’ve had thus far.


GRAPHICS

This one seems to be a very debatable issue as certain aspects of the game look great, while others seem to fall very flat. I noticed pretty quickly that certain characters had more attention to detail then others, as if they just couldn’t afford a budget for other characters. The likes of Brock Lesnar, Goldberg, Finn Balor and some others have amazing lighting, attention to detail and overall great textures/models. Other characters, however, have gotten the “PS2 Graphics” treatment where they look like they were made in the character creation tool but look far worse. I’m not entirely impressed with the graphics nor am i really that disappointed in them as these most sports games have meh visuals.


UNIVERSE MODE

Out of everything that is wrong with 2k17, Universe mode seems to be what saves this game from being put in the bargain bin. Universe mode provides endless customization, playability, and overall player control. Where Career Mode seems to have its faults, Universe seems to provide the fix for them along with providing loads of content.


INTERFACE

Usually, this is something I could really care less about in most games, however, this interface is just awful. Universe mode specifically seems to be harder to navigate through, not to mention that once you start a show, you can’t go back to change any universe settings, check the calendar or reach basic universe functions like who holds the current title.

FINAL THOUGHTS AND VERDICT

WWE 2K17 provides more content then the previous game and delivers gameplay that certainty out matches any of the previous games. However, i don’t think this should be something 2k should be praised for. Many of the “New additions” aren’t even new at all. Backstage brawling and crowd fighting were done long ago with even more content included with it and in much more detail. The creation suite has loads of content to deck your character out with, however, past games have had a pretty fair amount of customization until 2k15 came out with its new gameplay engine. The honest truth is that a wrestling game like SVR 2007 and 2008 had loads more content then the current games do and even delivered massively in the My Career mode with full-voiced characters, customizing locker rooms and the ability to go through a full-blown story with a created character or current WWE Star. WWE 2k17 is playing a long game of catch up with older games and that’s disappointing. The only area 2k17 seems to evolve and capitalize on is its realistic gameplay, even then though it has trouble keeping it afloat. I will give this game an final score of 6/10

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Dark Souls 3 Review

The “Dark Souls” series has become synonymous with one thing: punishing difficulty. But the series isn’t just for masochists who crave a more difficult brand of video game. “Dark Souls 3” has a comparable difficulty to its predecessors, sure, but the experience is much more than a rigorous loop of trial and error. 

 
The “Dark Souls” experience is about discovery, progression and success that grants a sense of satisfaction that is severely lacking in much of the adventure genre. “Dark Souls 3” impeccably improves on the structure of the original “Dark Souls” and “Dark Souls 2” all while managing to make the experience more accessible to newcomers. 

 
“Dark Souls 2” introduced players to a vast open world, but one that suffered from flaws in its layout. In an otherwise excellent game, it had several new areas to explore that all branched from the central hub area. Having the hub at the center of everything meant that the player had to do a lot of backtracking, and never ventured far from home. There’s a psychology to that design that doesn’t mesh with the game’s tone. The “Dark Souls” experience is about exploring areas that feel inherently foreign. Each new environment welcomes the player with hordes of dangerous creatures and numerous twisting paths that lead to parts unknown. By design, each new area is supposed to feel alienating. Some of that feeling is lost when the warm, welcoming hub world is nearby. 


In “Dark Souls 3” the hub world can’t even be accessed on foot. It’s far away and can only be accessed by bonfire travel. The knight, or warlock or thief that you’ve created is on his or her own in the uninviting and terrifying world. Every step journeys farther away from a place of normalcy. “Bloodborne” perfected the art of an interconnected open world; one where progressing to new areas somehow linked to previous ones. “Dark Souls 3” shows that From Software recognizes that perfection. Discovering new areas in this game conveys a mix of reward and fear of what lies ahead that isn’t found in other games. 


 
The “Dark Souls” series usually has a front loaded difficulty. That’s especially the case with “Bloodborne.” The beginning areas are the most difficult while the player figures out what works and what doesn’t. Then things finally “click” and the player can breeze through future areas. “Dark Souls 3” is more balanced. The beginning isn’t as punishing. Actually, it is, but no more punishing from the rest of the game. 

 
The balance of “Dark Souls 3’s” combat is one of its most underrated achievements. Balance is as important to a game like this as it is to something like the “Street Fighter” series. There are many ways to approach its action. The game offers dozens of weapons to choose from throughout the journey, all which have different attack speeds and unique abilities. Different characters can rely on spells or arrows for ranged attack. It’s possible to make a character who relies on counter punching after a successful block or parry. I got hooked on “Bloodborne’s” style and never relied on a shield, and instead crafted a character with good agility for dodging. 

 
There isn’t a right or wrong way to approach a character in “Dark Souls 3.” Every type has their own strengths and weaknesses. There’s no exploitive easy button character. “Dark Souls 3” is designed to be challenging for every character class. My advice is to choose one path and continue it. Don’t start with a mage and change it to a knight halfway through the game. Don’t become a jack of all trades and a master of none. Specialization is key. 
“Dark Souls 3” is an excellent jumping off point for the uninitiated. The lore isn’t connected to the first two games, at least as far as one could tell during the review process. The “Souls” series is lore heavy, so there may be some deep-seeded connection between all three games, but newcomers won’t miss much in that department. More importantly, “Dark Souls 3” doesn’t assume the player knows the gameplay mechanics from the previous games. That’s partially because much of the core mechanics have been altered in the sequel. 
 
Hollowing is gone. The biggest annoyance and arguably the most punishing aspect of “Dark Souls 2” is no more. Hollowing used to mean the player’s maximum health decreased with each death. In a game like “Dark Souls” where one dies a lot, this can be a serious hindrance on progress. I always viewed it like the game was punishing me for even attempting a new area or boss. Fortunately, that mechanic is gone in “Dark Souls 3.” Well, it’s mostly gone. The player will lose some health upon death, but it doesn’t stack with subsequent deaths. The process can be reversed with ember items, which are comparable to human effigies from the previous game. Restoring humanity (it’s called harnessing the power of the Lord of Cinder in “Dark Souls 3”) with embers is also tied to the game’s co-op gameplay. 

Co-op phantoms can only be summoned if humanity is restored to the player. In other words, you’ll have to use an ember in order to summon help from a friend. Ember availability is close to how plentiful human effigies were in “Dark Souls 2.” They can also be purchased in exchange for souls in the hub area. Defeating any boss will also restore humanity without having to burn an ember usage.

Online play of the “Souls” series has always been unique. Summoning a friend is an easy way to get through a boss that has been beating you to a pulp for ten or more attempts. It’s the same in “Dark Souls 3.” There should be a limit on how many times one can summon a friend. It takes away from some of the game’s difficulty, which takes away from the satisfaction once victory is achieved. 

 
The game’s message system thankfully returns, which is one of the most genius uses of online play in any adventure game. Message senders are limited to what words they can leave for other players, but the game gives enough options to be descriptive. Each message is a helping hand from a nameless player going through the same tribulations that you are. It’s like the players are bound by the fraternity of “Dark Souls” and feel compelled to leave helpful messages to others in need. There’s hope for internet comments yet!

The “Dark Souls” series has an undeniable learning curve. There’s absolutely no way anyone will pick up a game controller for the first time and begin with a “Dark Souls” game. It’s an acquired taste that requires patience and appreciation for what the game asks of its players. Once that “eureka” moment happens, the game becomes one of the most rewarding experiences in the medium. Give it a chance, stick with it and make each death a learning experience. It might just become your new favorite series. 

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WWE 2K16 review 

WWE’s highly anticipated annual game, WWE 2K16 released today, and I’ve had an opportunity to play through this year’s edition. It’s refreshing to say that 2K and WWE didn’t eliminate much, if anything from last year’s title, something 2K15 couldn’t say. The additions, however, are noticeable. Although it isn’t without flaws, WWE 2K16 is a major leap forward for wrestling fans everywhere.
   
 

Before The Match
Right out of the gate, there were some unfortunate things that caught my attention. The audio on this game left plenty to be desired. In-ring commentary has never been good on a pro wrestling game, so that was no surprise. However, the ring announcing by Lillian Garcia was chopped up, and didn’t go together well as it should have been. That, coupled with the fact that the audience pops aren’t where they should be for entrances, it takes away from the experience before your character even gets in the ring.

  
Inside the ring
Once inside the ring, there were improvements and setbacks. I’m all for a simulation, based game, but the pace in which 2K has set for WWE 2K16 is incredibly slow, maybe the slowest of any pro wrestling game ever. I was glad to see that they seemed to increase the size of the ring, after reducing it last year.

Some of the movements are a little weird, and simple things like stomps can sometimes take too long, but an addition I really liked was that of the usage of the ropes. Wrestlers back one another into the ropes out of headlocks, lock ups, and things of that nature. You can choose whether or not you want to make a clean break, as well. Also, characters pull their opponents back towards the ropes before using an Irish whip, which was something I never knew I’d wanted in a game until WWE 2K16.

The referees are slow in this game. Really, really slow. Frustratingly slow. It sometimes takes three seconds for the ref to get on the ground to make the three count. It’s also pretty hard upon first play, for me at least, but I don’t consider that a negative in any way, shape or form, even though it did take me five tries to beat Sami Zayn with Seth Rollins, and he kicked out of three Pedigrees. I digress. The reversal system is a welcome change, as you now have a set number of reversals (you can earn more), and matches aren’t just an endless chain of reversal, reversal, reversal. There are also small things, like characters remaining in a seated position to sell after a kickout that really helps and adds a realistic nature to the game. Top rope moves also land with more fluidity than past incarnations.

The roster speaks for itself, the largest ever. This was something that had to be done after 2K peeved a lot of fans last year with the lackluster roster. Still, the exclusion of Bayley, Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch is inexcusable. Regardless of the weak reasons 2K offered fans for this, they have tons of NXT talent in the game. Fortunately there are 100 created wrestler slots, so I’m sure someone will make spot-on versions of these women to download.

I’m a big fan of having as many moves as possible in a video game (Fire Pro Wrestling Returns, y’all), and WWE 2K16 did an excellent job of adding that. Although moves like the piledriver have been banned from WWE TV, they remain in the games, and the Curb Stomp got the same treatment, which was nice. Many of the missing match types from last year have returned as well, giving the game a much more complete feel.

Customization and Career
   
  
 
Customization is a really cool part of WWE 2K16. If you want to throw a mask on Sami Zayn and make him relive his indy days, go for it. If you’d like to create your own supershow, have at it. Create-a-title is also back in the game, as well as create-a-diva. Create-a-finisher has not returned, but that mode had so many issues with it, there probably wasn’t much worth saving. You can also build your own arenas that compliment your custom shows, and use logos that fit them. The creation suite is worth checking this game out in itself.
The Steve Austin mode is fun. I won’t spoil anything, but you play through the story of Stone Cold Steve Austin all the way from his WCW days right up until today. Nothing has matched WWE Smackdown: Here Comes The Pain’s story mode (which had infinite flexibility due to it being text based, without commentary holding it back), but this is a pretty cool mode and worth playing through.

  
WWE Universe mode doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere, and a not a whole lot has changed with it. Fans have clamored for the return of GM mode, as well as the aforementioned Here Comes The Pain career mode, but it appears that WWE Universe mode will have to do for now. There’s nothing wrong with it, it just turns into an endless cycle fairly quickly.

  
My Career mode is a giant improvement, but that isn’t saying a lot, as last year’s edition (and the game as a whole) was one of the worst ever put forth by WWE. This year, you won’t work and work and work, only to have your game abruptly ended after reaching your goal. There’s plenty of improvements to be made, but it’s a way better experience this year.

One of the most infuriating things about WWE 2K16 is microtransactions. After you pay 63 bucks for the game, 2K asks you to spend upwards of 30 dollars more for additional characters, moves, features and things of the like. That’s just the way things are these days, but $100 for a complete game is a little too much to ask.

Closing Thoughts
All in all, there were significant improvements and fixes to this game. Last year’s edition was an all-time bad pro wrestling game, and WWE 2K16 is more than solid choice. I enjoy the realism of the game, but sometimes the gameplay gets too slow due to selling, which may end up being a good thing, since you can’t spam German Suplexes anymore. I’d recommend this purchase, even if you were jaded by last year’s terrible output.

Graphics- 8.5

Replayability- 7.5

Audio- 7

In-Ring- 8.5

Online- 8.5
OVERALL- 8/10

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METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN REVIEW

After spending fourteen days straight with Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, I can safely say it’s Hideo Kojima’s magnum opus. It’s quite simply the best game he’s ever done, plus the amount of freedom given to you throughout its entirety is absurd. If you’re a die hard fan of Metal Gear and are up to date with its timeline, Phantom Pain takes place during 1984 after the events of Metal Gear Solid V:Ground Zeroes (1975) and before the first Metal Gear (1995) on MSX. It has been 9 years since the tragic events in Ground Zeroes and Snake is a little worse for wear, having just woken up from his coma that nearly spanned a decade.

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After a prologue that sets up the rest of the game Snake is rescued by his comrade and friend, Revolver Ocelot, before continuing his war path for vengeance and freeing his former partner Kazuhira Miller from the clutches of Soviet forces in Afghanistan. I’m not going to spoil the story or talk about the plot points (I agree with Kojima Productions’ wish to keep it a surprise), but I will say that there are twists and turns, and it ranks as one of the best tales in the series yet.

There’s no doubt that this is the largest and most accessible Metal Gear to date, full to the brim with content. But it’s not just a case of quantity over quality, every inch of the game is meticulously detailed, and has a vast amount of replay ability. It’s also incredibly fun, which always helps! The tone is vastly different to any other MGS game, as there are no more overly-long cut scenes and most of the detailed narration is dealt through cassette tapes, which you can listen to at your own pleasure. If you’ve played Ground Zeroes and think you know what to expect, I suggest you put that taster behind you and get ready to embark on a journey with no half-measures.

Unlike the confined spaces found during other entries in the series, MGS V consists of two enormous maps, Afghanistan and Africa, each of which house a plethora of side-ops and main missions; enabling you to explore and complete objectives in a dynamic and natural way. Each mission is structured like an episode from a TV show, operating in bite-sized chunks like if you were watching hit TV shows such as Breaking Bad and Sons Of Anarchy. Even if you’re in the middle of a mission that leads into the next with a tense cut scene, a small “to be continued” caption will appear, sending you back to your base of operations to prepare. It was a bit awkward for me, because 5 seconds later I’d simply continue, but if people need a break and want to gear up/upgrade sufficiently, it’s actually a very smart move.

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Characters that will appear in this game:

Big Boss/Punished “Venom” Snake

Kazuhira Miller

Ocelot

Quiet

Skullface

Eli

Tretij Rebenok

Code Talker

Huey Emmerich

“Man on Fire”

There are more Characters and Groups that are in the game but I will not spoil the rest.

The variety of missions at hand will see you take out specific targets, gather Intel and garner more help. Funnily enough there isn’t a difficulty mode present, despite other titles encompassing tons of different options. Though I did find the gameplay pretty tough at certain points, it only made me want to upgrade further and try a different approach. Some people might get tired of a handful of repetitive missions, but I always had fun replaying them with a different tactic in mind. Being able to choose whether I operated during the night or day gave me a lot of flexibility, since enemy locations would alter depending on the time I chose.

Before setting off to fight it’s vital that you prep accordingly. Your Air Command Centre (ACC), gives you full control over all your upgrades and missions, tasking you to select which one you’d like to conduct first. As previously seen in Peace Walker, managing your Mother Base remains an integral part in Phantom Pain, allowing you to recruit staff and utilize resources for upgrades.

Acquiring items from the battlefield such as biological material and fuel canisters is incredibly important. These will allow you to develop extra platforms designed to boost your stats, including combat, R&D, support and medical. If you choose to focus on leveling up your R&D level and get the best Fulton, for example, you’ll then be able to extract entire containers of resources at a much earlier stage; reaping rewards much quicker and progressing more comfortably. You’ll also be able to extract vehicles as well, such as tanks or cars to take on missions.

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Staff management is also key, and you can automatically or manually assign your comrades to the best departments. Despite being able to systematically place staff in their most skilled department, I decided to fully focus on R&D first, which let me take advantage of more advanced upgrades a lot sooner. It’s not always the best option, but just like any part of MGS V, it’s up to you to decide on how to proceed. Furthermore, you can send staff on their own missions to obtain more resources or extra recruits. Whilst I did get into the habit of sourcing soldiers with higher skill ratings (via upgrading my scope), I often attempted to extract anyone and everyone, in order to beef up my units and unlock upgrades at a quicker pace.

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No matter what you try and accomplish, having the support of your army is always the heart of your experience. For instance, buddies can join you and aid your quest for vengeance in a multitude of ways. Bringing in a horse or bi-pedal Walker will allow you to traverse the environment more quickly – along with the other vehicles you’ve acquired as well. A dog can help distract your enemies or make you aware of their presence, and your comrade Quiet (who you can choose to kill or recruit) will aid you in combat, scout out maps and coordinate while dispatching enemies. Each aspect of a buddy’s armor and equipment can also be upgraded, such as changing Quiet’s cleavage with a little gold or silver paint. Lovely.

Your ACC can be used for mission briefs or organizing your army, but it also provides some vital support. As well as taking you in and out of missions, once on the ground you can also strategically place air strikes or smoke for cover, which can often be the life line you need in the midst of a firefight. There’s simply so much available to the player, no one will have the same experience. I constantly tested different ways to enter a mission, often resorting to complete stealth and learning from my many mistakes along the way.

After initially hearing about the absence of the veteran voice actor David Hayter in this game, it took me a while to move past the change in vocal chords. However, much like the constant change of actors playing Bond, I embraced the change and am now more than happy with Kiefer Sutherland’s portrayal. I have been an fan of him since the 24 TV show so I am used to hearing his voice and delivery of dialog. In fact, I believe Sutherland sounded more like an soldier than Hayter ever did. Exploring the beautiful vistas of Afghanistan is amazing, and the added jungle as you progress to Africa enhances the experience. The persistent image of a dusty wasteland is sometimes hard to muster. Having said that, the rest of the game’s extremely high quality means it doesn’t bother me. Now, where’s that remake of MGS 1 in Fox Engine?

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With Kojima Productions’ impressive Fox Engine powering the entire experience, everything looks suitably crisp and clean, packaging in a tone of detail. Despite this being released on older hardware as well, I’m impressed with the core experience and I don’t think it has been hindered on more powerful consoles as a result. Then again, the fact that its design and graphical fidelity has had to cater to equipment with less power, it does make me wonder what could have been should Phantom Pain have released exclusively to PS4 and Xbox One, and not their older siblings.

To me, Robin Atkin Downes as Kaz Miller was more enjoyable in this game than he was in Peace Walker and Ground Zeroes. His anger really shows during the cut scenes. I would be mad at the world if I lost my leg and arm so I understand why. Troy Baker as Ocelot to me, was his best voice acting in any video game since Snow from Final Fantasy XIII. And James Horan as Skullface  not only delivered an great and believable performance as an villain, but also made the player wanted to take him down for good. I can call him the Joker of the Metal Gear series since his and Big Boss’ upbringings kind of parallel each other.

Conclusion

Phantom Pain presents the most flexible gameplay in the series to date, and fills in unseen moments from the Metal Gear saga with style. I strongly suggest you pick this up and experiment with your own strategies, as you’re presented with endless possibilities. Grab your cardboard box, the world needs saving!

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follow me on twitter @julianexcalibur