Review: Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered (PS4)

RFRM_PS4While much of its color palette is about as utilitarian as the sledgehammer lead character Alec Mason swings around, Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered ($29.99) still delivers the goods (and how!) when it comes to its core gameplay. Mars may be the big hot spot some look to as our future home (ha!), but in this game, it’s one of the worst places off earth. The game itself is quite solid overall thanks to recent patching that fixed a few flaws, but getting the hang of weapon switching in the heat of battle is still some tricky business.

Developer KAIKO took Volition’s 2009 PS3/Xbox 360/PC game and added some nice modern visual flourishes such as revamped textures, lighting, and shadow effects along with a (mostly) smoother 60fps frame rate. The game also packs in all the DLC, including a side story set years before the main game featuring a badass heroine who uses some cool alien weaponry, so this package is going to be a treat for those who want additional solo and online play modes to pad out an already lengthy game experience.

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Annnnd just when you make that last payment on your ride, here comes Mason to check up on that repair or replacement clause.

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Review: Shining Resonance Refrain (PS4)

SFRR_PS4 coverAs a longtime fan of Sega’s Shining series (the import version of Shining in the Darkness was the first JRPG I completed way back in 1992), it’s been quite interesting (to say the least) watching the series evolve over time. While the first game, the assorted Shining Force entries, Shining Wisdom, Shining the Holy Ark and the portable Shining Soul have been the most engaging, some of the games localized after that point fall into the hit or miss category.  The last three I played, Shining Tears, Shining Force Neo and Shining Force EXA traded in the first person dungeon crawling found in SitD and Shining The Holy Ark and the more strategic play in the Shining Force games with seemingly simpler hack and slash action against some very powerful enemies that made combat quite challenging. While there was some enjoyment to be found in these despite a few flaws, the bloom was definitely not on the Shining rose during the PS2 era.

Shining Resonance Refrain ($49.99) isn’t quite the return to glory the series needs, but this enhanced port of the 2014 PlayStation 3 import manages to be quite enjoyable overall. Developer O-Two took the Media Vision original PS3 game and added an all new “Refrain Mode” that allows players to experience the game with two of its main foes as playable characters along with what seems to be a nice load of included  (on disc or as part of the digital download) DLC content added at no cost across all platforms. Yes, it’s best to explore Refrain Mode after you’ve played the main game, as plenty of spoilers abound. But if that’s your thing, you do you, I say. It’s also the first time a new game in the Shining series has appeared on current-gen consoles and PC and hopefully, it will do well among JRPG fans on those platforms.

 

 

The game hits all the expected notes many JRPGs take these days from lengthy expository scenes, a cast filled with familiar likable to annoying characters, a decent combat system, and more than enough strangeness that might knock the wind out of the sails of those new to these types of games when they see some of the game’s kookier moments. When your party members or enemies break out into song as part of an attack, it’s more than clear you’re not in Kansas anymore. But if you surrender, Dorothy, it’s all in good fun at the end of the day.

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E3 2018 (1): When The World is Running Down, You Make The Best of What’s Still Around

Soooo, so THAT’S What Death Stranding is about (that’s an in-joke, by the way).

Oh, now this is (not so) amusing. I wrote up about 2000 or so words on a few upcoming games shown at E3, but WordPress failed me in not saving my draft (I’m staring at the “! Saving of draft failed” note in the upper left of the screen as we speak, grrrr) so here we go again, but in shorter form because I’m a bit ticked off about needing to redo what was a pretty decent post and I’ve got a few other writing tasks to accomplish. Anyway, it’s really hard to enjoy gaming as much thanks to the real world madness creeping into the hobby side of things, but there are way too many interesting games on the way to avoid.

 

 
Yeah, death, DOOM, and gloom are all the RAGE 2, but it’s going to be a beautiful ballet of bullets and bombs bouncing all over. Bethesda’s presser was pretty amusing because Todd Howard knew how to balance self deprecating humor with the business side of things as the company poked fun at itself and some gamers who tend to either not have a clue about game development (it’s not an easy thing) or maybe think some franchises are a bit overworked. On the other hand, this is one of those always fascinating developer/publishers where sequels are eagerly anticipated each time one is revealed.

I have no clue what Fallout 76 will be about, but I’m going to guess it will feel like the Fallout Shelter (which just dropped onto the PS4 and Switch) but set in a world four times the size of Fallout 4 (which is pretty massive). As my laptop died, I eagerly downloaded it from PSN (it’s free) and ended up playing longer than I thought. Or: I ended up saving my game so I could take a nap. I woke up a bit later and accidentally clicked on the YouTube button on my Wii U and ended up catching the beginning of the PlayStation press event. I was very surprised that I liked pretty much all that was shown I’ll get to those in separate posts after the show), but Media Molecule’s Dreams stood out as a game I really need to try out. Well, that is if SCEA ever invites me back to a press event in NYC. They seem to have cleared out their press list and I don’t hear jack from them these days. Boo.

I didn’t watch Microsoft’s presser because I don’t own an Xbox One (too many awful experience with Xbox 360’s dying on me). But I did check out the plethora of game trailers and found they do look nice overall. I’m not much into the Halo games (although I own them up to ODST and have played bits of Halo 4 at a friends place), but that teaser for Halo 5 showed off a pretty impressive engine. As for the AAA developers (EA, Activision/Blizzard, Ubisoft, etc.) I’ll be looking at those trailers over the next week and maybe posting thoughts. A lot of AAA titles seems set in a certain reliable sector where you get what you expect (which is both good and bad based on your desire to pay for extra content, season passes and the like), but I tend to gravitate to single player games or those where playing with others is an option.

What else? Um… Namco Bandai, Sega, Xseed/Marvelous, Devolver Digital and a ton of indie devs have WAY TOO MANY GOOD GAMES COMING. To the point that it’s just daunting seeing what they’re doing and where everything is going. I need clones, stat. Capcom will make a bazillion dollars with that Resident Evil 2 remake (which means we’ll be getting RE 3: Nemesis at some point hopefully before the planet explodes. As for Nintendo? Yeah, yeah, I’ll get to them in a day or so. I know they tend to do things differently, so they’re going to get er, special treatment. The Switch is selling like hotcakes, third party and indie devs are filling the roster with excellent games and yes, the first party stuff is the mostly evergreen stuff they’re well known for. Back in a bit – I have a few demos to try out.

-GW

Review: Conan Exiles (PS4)

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Survival games come in a few flavors these days and Funcom’s mostly solid Conan Exiles ($49.99) has that interestingly coppery taste of blood, a bit of crunch from a handful of insects and a grassy finish, all wrapped in a hide of some sort that’s been smoked thoroughly. Or something like that. The game is a rough and tumble chunk of violent fun, complex crafting (that *really* needs streamlining), endless exploration and thankfully, offline play when those too packed servers are busy.

As with ARK: Survival Evolved, the massive open world sandbox element tosses you into things nearly naked and needing to gather resources quickly or die trying. Conan pops up at the beginning to free your user-created crucified character and wish you well before you’re left to your own devices. The game prompts you onward with small to large milestones and some fast level gains for small to large accomplishments. Drinking water, finding space for and creating that first shelter, crafting your first basic armor, figuring out the ridiculously complex cooking system and more all help you get a feel for the game right away. Or at least, you’ll realize that this is a game where you’ll need to pay constant attention to even the smallest thing lest you want to punt that Dual Shock 4 through your TV.

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Review: Fox n Forests (PS4)

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If Bonus Level Entertainment’s excellent Fox n Forests was released on a cartridge for the Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis back in the mid-90’s before both consoles were phased out in favor of newer systems, it would probably be a Game of the Year contender. Hell, it would even be a fine enough essential 2D platformer/RPG hybrid on the Saturn or PlayStation. Well, it’s out today and it’s a total blast from the past with excellent visuals, music and sound effects, replay value galore, and the perfect length (for those who know, most platform games weren’t over five or six so hours). The crowdfunded game arrives today on PC (Windows, Linux, Mac) and consoles (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch) and yes, is a must buy if you’re big on the retrogaming stuff (or just want a game that’s going to make you work hard in order to see everything).

It’s not a speedrunner at all (thankfully for us old and slow players!), so forget about direct comparisons to Sonic, Mario or other swifter mascot characters. The game combines its platforming with exploration elements out of the Legend of Zelda or Castlevania, but fans of classics such as the Wonder Boy games, Super Ghouls and Ghosts and Actraiser 2 will also see a few influences here. The Fox (i)n those Forests is named Rick and he’s conned into helping out the wise old sentient tree by a partridge named Patty he was planning to eat. Of course, that batty bird just so happens to own all the shops in the game, so guess who needs to spend his hard-earned gold coins at them?

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RAGE 2 Trailer: Mad Maximum, Coming in 2019

I really liked RAGE a lot despite it hogging up a load of space on my PS3’s hard drive and having a few slow moments here and there. With the upcoming Spring 2018 release of RAGE 2 teaming up original developer id Software and veteran developer Avalanche Studios, it’s clear that Bethesda is going for a sort of new gold standard that combines id’s FPS expertise and Avalanche’s penchant for massive and massively entertaining open world games with that post apocalyptic vibe that’s guaranteed to sell a few million copies right out of the gate.

I’ll say no more on this unless Bethsoft is planning a press stop here in NYC post-E3 so I can get some hands-on time and write about the experience. That said, I’m thinking I’ll like this a lot more than I liked that first game.

-GW

Moonlighter Trailer: Best of Show, Humor Award

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Okay, I don’t hand out awards at all. But if I did, this trailer for Moonlighter, the upcoming game from 11 bit studios and Digital Sun would take home a few trinkets and trophies. A direct poke in the eyeball to all those folks who get all frothy at the mouth over even the most subtle differences in cross platform games, here we see that yes, the perfectly solid pixel art in the game is exactly the same across anything it plays on. Lovely.

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By Crom! Conan Exiles Out Now on Consoles

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Or: By Crom, I think I’ll never see daylight again. Yes, Funcom has gotten it’s popular M-rated MMO/survival/crafting game Conan Exiles out today on PS4 and Xbox One along with a nice update for PC users. I’m going into this totally blind other than checking out a few official gameplay videos and trailers over the past year from the PC version. My money says death will come quickly for my poor character, but I’m going to try and survive as long as possible (well, as least until I can build a decent shelter). Granted, I’ll need to make it through the character creation system, as I’m still thinking up what sort of character I’m going to make. I like that the tips PDF I got notes that choosing Crom as a starting deity makes the character agnostic, but you also get NO benefit bonuses from choosing him (as it should be).

 

 

While I don’t plan to do any PVP stuff (as I want to enjoy the story and gameplay without pulling all my remaining hair out because my avatar keeps getting killed by belt-notchers out to grab scalps wherever they can), I may pop onto a server and check out how long I’ll last there. I really want to focus on the lore and seeing how well any story content is structured, as Funcom says it’s not an empty sandbox you’ll be playing in. That means I’ll be searching high and low for lore to the point where I’ll very likely get keelhauled by an enemy because I’m busy reading some digitally dusty tome I’ve located. As well.

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Back in a bit with a review which will probably be in at least two parts. See you then.

-GW

Red Dead Redemption II Trailer 3: Pow and Wow

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Didn’t I once say you can always trust Rockstar Games to never, ever let you down? This new trailer is absolutely gorgeous, isn’t it?

My jaw is on the floor somewhere and needs to be found, so go read this info from the press release while I go take care of that, won’t you?

America, 1899.

The end of the wild west era has begun as lawmen hunt down the last remaining outlaw gangs. Those who will not surrender or succumb are killed.

After a robbery goes badly wrong in the western town of Blackwater, Arthur Morgan and the Van der Linde gang are forced to flee. With federal agents and the best bounty hunters in the nation massing on their heels, the gang must rob, steal and fight their way across the rugged heartland of America in order to survive. As deepening internal divisions threaten to tear the gang apart, Arthur must make a choice between his own ideals and loyalty to the gang who raised him.

From the creators of Grand Theft Auto V and Red Dead Redemption, Red Dead Redemption 2 is an epic tale of life in America at the dawn of the modern age. Coming October 26, 2018 to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One systems.

So, yeah. Read Dead Redemption II is coming October 26, 2018 to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One systems. Sure, you can come over and watch me play, I guess. Well, provided I answer the door (which may not happen because I’ll be a tad busy back in 1899).

-GW

Trailblazers – The Future Comes At You Fast on PC, PS4, & Xbox One

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Futuristic racers are starting to repopulate the gaming landscape once again as a welcome subgenre, but developer Supergonk’s Trailblazers has a few fun things going for it that may set it ahead of the pack. Take a little F-Zero, a dash of WipEout, a splash of Splatoon and shake well, then release onto PC, PS4 (May 8) and Xbox One (May 9). The game’s got a more colorful look all over the place (it’s nice to see some of these newer games not go the industrial drab route) and those rides rock a solid retro sci-fi design with appropriately quirky drivers to boot.

 

 

Painting the track as you blaze along allows your tide to gain a speed boost when you drive on your own color. Naturally, you can paint over your opponent’s color (and yes, they can paint over yours), but you’ll very likely be doing your best to win at all costs when you’ve got friends over elbowing each other in the ribs because your couch is too small. Family friendly seems the way this one’s going (a great thing) and the game is set to pack in 10 tracks set over 3 wolds, couch co-op play (split screen is in!) and yes, online modes are also on board.

 

 

While it indeed looks like Supergonk and Publisher Rising Star do indeed have a solid hit here, that’s actually up to you folks to hop in and take this one for a spin. Go on, kick those tires and do the test drive thing. You know you want to. Heck, I certainly want to zip around a funky, colorful race course laying down bright colors and hoping for a supreme booth that blasts me past the opposition to a clean finish. Or a not so clean one – a win is a win (as long as you’re not cheating, right?).

-GW