WWE 2K19 Review

 

It is that time of the year again as WWE 2K19 is now in our hands. I got a review copy of the PS4 version of the game a few weeks ago, and now it is time for me to share my thoughts on this year’s installment of the game.

The cover star this year is the current WWE Champion AJ Styles as this year alone, he has proven to be “the face that runs the place” on the Smackdown brand. If you were to ask me 10 years ago when he was still wrestling for TNA if he would be on the cover, I would have said “not in a million years” but it happened this year as he is the MVP of Smackdown.

The roster this year is almost the same as last year with new additions to the 200 playable character roster such as The Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Kyle O’ Riley, and Bobby Fish), Andrade “Cien” Almas, The AOP, Bianca Belair, Riccochet, EC3, Tyler Bate, Pete Dunn, Lio Rush, Ronda Rousey, and Velveteen Dream. You can mix and match the current stars of today and from previous years in many matches to your desire. With the stacked roster this high, there is no reason for Tommaso Ciampa to be cut from the in game roster this year especially since he is the current NXT Champion.

This year, we got the return of 2K Showcase which was missing from the last two entries. 2K Showcase tells the story of the rise of Daniel Bryan in WWE. In between the matches, we are shown a video package along with narration of Daniel Bryan himself setting up what was going on storyline wise at the time before the match loaded up. It begins way back to his match with John Cena at Velocity from early 2003, all the way to his Wrestlemania return match from this year teaming with Shane McMahon going against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. All of those matches were great to play and I would have wished that we would have gotten to revisit the CM Punk/Daniel Bryan/Aj Lee love triangle and matches from 2012 but I understood why they could not do it. My only other gripe with this mode is that many of the matches can last up to 30 minutes due to the objectives that you have to do during the match.

For the first time, MyCareer mode plays like a WWE storymode from the past games. You start off in an independent promotion and then work your way up to the WWE Performance Center and from there, it is NXT and then the main roster of Raw and Smackdown. I love that this time, the WWE Superstars and even your own character is voice acted during the scenes. In fact, the scenes with “Woken” Matt Hardy during this mode is quite funny but you will have to see that for yourself. The learning curve during this mode can be frustrating at times due to you starting with a very low set of moves and abilities and most of them you will have to unlock via randomized lootcrates and even those are very expensive when you purchase them by in game currency so it is good that there are no paid micro-transactions, but this system needs to go in the next game for good.

The gameplay is much more solid than the last two entries as I rarely encountered glitches or bugs even when there were 8 men in the ring during a Ladder Match. The Cage Match has been reworked so you can escape easier along with fighting on the top edge of the cage. I wanted this feature for many years since it adds more drama to the match itself. The custom match creator this year can be saved in the option that you create it even in Universe Mode. The lightning and the entrances are on point and the presentation looks like if you are watching it on TV. The commentary has improved a slight bit, but at times I can hear repeated words during matches.

Speaking of Universe Mode, this year, you can finally assign managers to any superstar on your Universe Mode roster. You can also have up to 6 championships per show now which is great news for anyone that wants to have two mid-card championships on each show. On this mode now as well is the ability to choose who will be the Money In The Bank holder and which championship that either he or she will target. I wanted this feature way back in Smackdown vs Raw 2011 and it is great to finally see it being used in this game. Also, you can finally pick who wins simulated matches in case if you do not want to play the match and that lifted a huge weight off my shoulder. Universe Mode always needed adjustments since it was first introduced 8 years ago, but I felt that this year the developers made more effort to tweak it than any other game.

The Creation Suite’s features can have you there for hours doing customized things such as Create A Superstar, Arena, and Entrance but also for the first time this year, you can create a MITB briefcase with your own design as you please and use it on Universe Mode. You can also create block versions of WWE superstars or your own characters as well.

There is also an towers mode where you can face different superstars in different match situations. It starts off easy, but it gets hard with each match that progresses. It is like WWE’s version of Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter with their towers mode.

This year’s game has been a massive improvement from the last two games. The last overall game that I loved was WWE 2k14 and every year since then, it has not matched up to how fun a WWE video game is supposed to be and I can say that the fun factor has returned in this game. It is so fun, that they even added (by Xavior Wood’s request) a big head mode. I have not used this yet, but I know it was added in for nostalgia of silliness of 90’s games. Despite the hard learning curve of MyCareer mode and their lootcrate system, I fully recommend this game to pick up.

My score is a 8.9/10

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WWE 2K19’s Showcase Mode Is Putting The Spotlight On The Career Of Daniel Bryan

WWE 2K19 will see the return of Showcase Mode this year (which was missing for the last two games) and this time, we will get to relive the career of WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan. I think that this choice is a good one since he came out of retirement earlier this year and has had matches on the main roster ever since. He has reunited with his former tag team partner Kane and has had feuds this year raging from Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Big Cass, Harper and Rowan, to now The Miz which has been building up since Bryan was the General Manager of Smackdown over two years ago. Daniel Bryan and The Miz will finally have a match on this year’s Summerslam. So far, his year is shaping up to be a very good one for him and the fans are happy that he is back wrestling once again. Now it is time to dive down to the news that came out today.

 

While he has been back in the ring to create new stories and memories for fans to remember, 2K Games took the time to revisit his best feuds and matches from the past. There is said to be about 11 matches on this mode and some of them features his first WWE match ever with John Cena on an episode of WWE Velocity way back in 2003, his tag team title win against Kofi Kingston and R-Truth back in 2012, His street fight match against Randy Orton on Raw in 2013, and his WrestleMania 30 match with Triple H along with the triple threat match later that night that included Batista and Randy Orton which was also the height of the “Yes” movement. We do not know yet of the other matches, but there will also be a “surprise match” on this mode that was not shown yet so everyone including myself can guess on which match that will be.

I would like to point out that CM Punk was also in WWE during Bryan’s career and with the controversy that surrounded him after he quit WWE a few years ago, many fans wonder if his [Daniel Bryan] matches with Punk will be featured as well. Another person that is not currently under contract with WWE as well is AJ Lee and she was involved with the feuds between Bryan and Punk along with Bryan’s feud with Sheamus. Only time will tell before we know if those particular matches will be included of the 11 matches. In fact, what if one of the matches i just explained is the “surprise match”. Other notable superstars that were there while he was there are Ryback, Wade Barrett, Justin Gabriel, and John Morrison as they were all also involved with his run in WWE in the early 2010’s. We will know very soon as the video game is released this October on Playstation 4, PC and Xbox One and there is a collector’s edition with bonus material that features WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair.

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Dissidia Final Fantasy NT Review

Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is the long-awaited follow-up to Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy crossover titles that were released for the PSP back in 2008 and 2011. Although the game has been playable in its native Japan since 2015 in arcades, we’ve now finally gotten it released on the PlayStation 4 with a bunch of new content to boot.

If you’ve played the older Dissidia titles, you might imagine that you already know all about this new one, but you’d be surprised. While the core mechanics are still generally the same, there are some big shake-ups in how battle is done, largely to accommodate the now 3v3 setting the game defaults to.

While 2v2 and 1v1 battles are possible, it’s very clear that the game is built around this 6-player team-based format. Characters have been divided into classes. Fighting itself has been somewhat simplified, and some characters have had their movesets changed entirely from previous games, so your main might not work the way you’re used to. If the game still feels too daunting or confusing for you, there’s thankfully an extremely informative tutorial that’ll have you geared up and ready to go in no time.

These classes are: Vanguard, bulky up-close fighters with hard-hitting attacks such as Sephiroth; Assassin, quick-hitting speedy characters like Squall who’ll take you down fast if you’re not ready for them; Marksman, long-ranged fighters, for example Terra, who will make your matches very difficult from afar unless you brave their attacks and close the distance; and finally Specialists, like Vaan, characters who don’t quite fit into any of the aforementioned categories and have their own quirks that go beyond these roles.

The first thing you need to realize when picking up the game is that teamwork is an absolute must. You can’t just charge in on your own and expect to win, so the ideal way to enjoy the game is to have a couple of friends to go online together with, and try to best your foes with a solid gameplan, a balanced team setup, and proper communication. Of course, you don’t have to get so serious about it – Dissidia allows you to get matched up with random people online as well, though if you’re hoping for any success you should probably try your best to co-operate with others properly.

Although Dissidia Final Fantasy NT does bill itself as something of a reboot, especially with new developers at the helm, Square-Enix really are sticklers for continuity. As such, the story picks up after the previous Dissidia games, with earlier established relationships between characters intact, though you probably won’t feel lost in the game’s story even if you haven’t played them, just so long as you’re somewhat of a Final Fantasy fan.

The story is nice enough on its own, with diverging paths and fun interactions between characters, but the way to play it is a bit awkward; you’re required to play through online matches or the game’s single player modes against CPU fighters to unlock credits which will take you further in the story. Presumably, this is to make the story feel longer than it is, and while it might sound like a bit of a grind, it really isn’t that bad since the story continuously unlocks new Gauntlet challenges for you to conquer and this leads to more story credits unlocking at a smooth pace. It should be noted that while the story mode itself starts off fairly easy, and continues that way for the most part, there are a few boss battles where the difficulty spikes heavily, so be prepared to bring your A-game when you see them pop up.

One of the best thing about Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is the level of customization for characters, with loads of unlockable voice lines, different weapon skins, character skins, and so on that are all gained in-game without any monetary cost. Of course, the Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is no stranger to DLC, with 6 characters promised for release this year, but the game itself doesn’t feel incomplete at all.

While the game does have a fairly robust story mode and several single player modes that will earn you credits which you can use to unlock the wealthy amount of extras, you may well grow tired of it if you’re planning on sticking to offline only, as there’s no local multiplayer functionality. Playing online does feel like the game’s bread and butter, especially grouped together with friends, so if you’re averse to online gaming this might not be the fighter for you. For what it’s worth, the vast majority of online matches I played were a smooth experience, with a few choppy outliers and one single match that was entirely unplayable, out of close to a hundred matches played.

With 28 characters available at launch, there’s a wide variety of heroes and villains from the numbered Final Fantasy series to play as, and even two spin-off characters in the form of Ramza Beoulve from Final Fantasy Tactics and Ace from Final Fantasy Type-0. You’ll quickly notice that even within the four different fighter archetypes the characters are vastly different from one another. If, like me, you don’t have any of your absolute favorite characters in the game, settling for main protagonists or antagonists from your most beloved titles does just fine, and with the promise of future support by Square-Enix and Team Ninja, the characters you’re missing just might make the cut somewhere down the line, too.

In the end, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT gives you a lot to do, and is clearly focused on being a fighter that will have continued support for the foreseeable future. You might want to try it out at a friend’s house first to see if the gameplay jives with you, but any Final Fantasy enthusiast should at the very least give this title a shot. There’s a lot of love poured into the game, and seeing big team battles between Final Fantasy icons in familiar locales is bound to strike a chord with fans.

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Injustice 2 review

Injustice 2 follows on from the Injustice Gods Among us story. This time seeing team Batman vs Team Superman call a break to take on a deadlier approaching foe, Brainiac. Injustice 2 brings a slew of new characters to the fold. The thrilling story continues were better graphics and battle styles. But does it have enough to keep you coming back?

Gameplay

What surprises you at first is that for a fighting game the Injustice series has done pretty well in terms of delivering an A class comic book story that is actually an interesting narrative that keeps you glued to the screen. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised when I checked the time and noticed that I had lost track of time because of how engaged in the story I was. Injustice 2 and NetherRealm once again deliver a beautiful and engaging fighting game, one that could see people like myself who aren’t usually into fighting games, suddenly finding themselves thinking twice thanks to a compelling story, which you don’t often see in fighting games.

Story aside Injustice 2 is an excellent fighting game brought to us once again from NetherRealm Studios, who are the team behind Mortal Kombat. Combat is fast and fun and depending on your expertise level when it comes to fighters, each character now also tailors to how players handle a fight. I found myself a fan of using both Green Arrow and Flash as I felt their combos were easier to perform. Green Lantern on the other hand came off as a bit more of a challenge for me. Combos are the key to winning here, which is especially so at the online front of the game. On several occasions, I would find myself in a match where I was way over my head, but more on the multiplayer section later. Matches are filled with other environmental objects to help you take down your opponent. You can also destroy the environment sending your opponent through walls or other objects which then takes you to a sub part of that arena to fight in. A lot of what was present in Gods Among Us has been kept around in terms of world destruction and set up.

Injustice 2 handles a lot like its predecessor in terms of gameplay mechanics. You still have your special ability of sorts that sees each character perform some sort of chain of attacks in a cutscene. These are performed after filling your super meter, which can also be drained when performing other combos. I have to say that I wish there was more than just the one cutscene/special ability per character. Grows old seeing the same thing repeatedly. Especially when you can perform a special ability twice in a match, it would be good just to see more variety is all.

Thankfully though when it comes to variety Injustice 2’s character customization section is fantastic. From special suit accessories to the colour of the suit, you can make your favourite character to play your very own for the multiplayer section. Injustice 2 now includes a microtransaction system for anyone who may be interested in paying real life money to collect character specific items quicker than grinding for them. Players can buy source crystals with their own money to purchase certain other items to change the look of your favourite fighters. These are of course optionable. You don’t need to spend money. These are just for the players that want get them sooner than later.

Multiplayer

This is where the game really opens up. I do advise completing the single player story first however as it helps you get a feel for each character and helps level them up and by completing each chapter you are rewarded mother boxes. Mother boxes contain items of clothing or appearances for each character. There are several types of mother boxes and each contains a certain level of rarity for special stat carrying clothes and weapons. They also have levels so don’t go thinking you can use an epic bow on Green Arrow when you’ve just started playing online. There’s some work to be done first. It pays to work hard as each new article of clothing or accessory that you unlock from a mother box can help increase a certain stat for your character. These stats help you when you go against other players of the same level. You are also able to customize your card with different art works., much like Call of Duty for example. You also display your win/loss record so try not to perform poorly or your friends may see how good or bad you really are.

Graphics and Sound

Injustice 2 is a gorgeous game and the character designs are more stunning than its predecessor, including the world designs and clever use of arena objects that can be used as weapons. A lot of love has been put into the attention to detail here and it shows in every scene during the story and other offline and online fights. Injustice 2 has also some impressive voice actors. The great Kevin Conroy is back to voice as Batman which is always a treat to hear, as well as several DC voice actor veterans. While not getting into the story but as someone who reads the Injustice comics as well it was awesome to see it play out on screen and once again as it was beautifully presented.

Overall

Injustice 2 is a fantastic sequel to a much-loved universe. Another fantastic story is told while exceptional gameplay accompanies it. Injustice 2 is a gorgeous sequel that delivers on all fronts. While the story felt a little short to me and some of the ultimate attacks feel like they still could use some variation, I enjoyed my time here. Injustice 2 comes in a year chock full of Fighting games coming out left and right and I can say without a doubt that Injustice 2 deserves a spot on any comic fan or fighting fans gaming shelf.

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C2E2 2017 Cosplay Photos

Last week i had the chance to cover C2E2 and it was a blast. I have also taken a ton of cosplay photos which you can check out right here.


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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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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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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