Doors of Insanity (PC, PS4, PS5, SWITCH, XBOXONE, XBOX X/S)

“You’re Dead Bud.”

Doors of Insanity

A thank you once again goes out to Another Indie for sending me out a copy of the first 2021 release I get to review.

There isn’t much a story to Doors of Insanity and if their is it’s not told particularly well but the game can be forgiven for this as story is not really what the game is about. It’s a rogue-like card battler where you progress through a number of dungeons building your deck and equipment in order to beat the next bad guy/s around the next door. Then when you die (which you will do at some point) you start from the beginning with additional perks which can be bought by using gems or level ups collected from your last run.

I enjoyed Doors of Insanity. It is a system that is easy to pick up and gain a sense of competency in, you have a deck of cards with various effects, be them do damage, absorb damage or various buffs/debuffs and a set amount of mana which determines how many cards you can play in your round. Once the enemies are defeted you gain more cards and head to the next set of doors, then repeat. The art style is both cutesy and slightly un-nerving at the same time, reminding me a lot of very early Disney animation (such as Steamboat Willy) and more recently Cuphead.

I did find the character creation to be a bit limited with little choice but sex, hair and skin colour and a handful of different faces to pick from. Although if I did have control over what changes I would make to the game the first thing I would do would be to look at porting the game over to a more portable device. Doors of Insanity to me plays more like a casual game. I’ve sat down and played it a few times but never playing it for more than an hour or two each time before wanting to move onto something else. I feel the game would be strengthened it I were able to play it on my phone if I had a spare 15-20mins be it waiting for an appointment or on my lunch break at work.

So to recap, the game is very easy to get into and easy to play but has a tendency to start feeling a little repetative after a while, which is why I would prefer the games to be available on a more portable medium. Another strong outing from Another Indie and I wait in antisipation for what comes next.

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Shadow of the Tomb Raider (PC, PS4, XBOX ONE)

“That’s right! Run you bastards! I’m coming for you all!”

Tomb raider

Yes, the only reason I am review this is because it was free for PSPlus users back in January. I thought I would just get that out there. Since I am still without anything new to play and still without a PS5 to elevate my gaming into the next generation (not that there are many PS5 exclusives available). I’m still going through my backlog of games of at least minor relevance still. So to that end here is the 3rd installment of the rebooted Tomb Raider franchise. Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider still follows Lara Croft, still saving the world from the bad guys at Trinity who are still trying to use the worlds ancients doomsday devices to be up to no good because otherwise there would be no plot device. This time around for a change it’s Lara who accidentally starts the Mayan apocalypse before Trinity can do so, Lara must then take it upon herself to undo her fuck up and stop Trinity from capitalizing on it.

My relationship with the new Tomb Raider games have changed with each installment. If anyone would care to remember my original review of the Tomb Raider Reboot despite my gripes about it I did enjoy it. 5 years later we’ve seen some marginal tweaks, a few scenery changes and very little else. With the 3rd installment what felt like a breath of fresh air originally is now starting to feel a bit stuffy.

In the first game a lot of my problems with it were due to me feeling like I was mis-sold the experience. Going into the game I felt like it was going to be a lot grittier than the game ended up being. I was expecting a greater fight for survival, having to scavenge and hunt for food, find shelter from the elements and in essence do what was needed to survive. In the end all we got was some scavenging and hunting for resources for the arbitrary crafting system all games seem to require these days. Fast forward to the third installment and I kind knew what I was expecting. I went in expecting more of the same and that’s sadly what I got.

My main problem especially in this and the previous games is that of Lara herself. She has absolutely no growth as a character, she’s just as vanilla at the start of the game as she is at the end. At least in the original reboot she showed glimpses of evolution even if it did come with a truckload of Ludo-Narrative Dissonance (for more information on Ludo-Narrative Dissonance see link). At least in the original series Lara was a seasoned archaeologist and that’s exactly how she acted, the new series tries to make her relatable by making her more “girl next door doing what she needs to do to survive” but she’s scaling impossible cliff faces, shooting like a seasoned professional and absorbing mental trauma with absolutely no signs of PTSD. Therefore I must conclude that Lara Croft is either a sociopath or a psychopath.

I’ve noticed myself I’ve not really done much talking about Shadow of the Tomb Raider specifically. This is probably because there’s nothing about this game that is particularly good or bad, it’s all very safe. Crystal Dynamics seem to have a formula for the Tomb Raider series, it’s not a winning formula by all means but it’s one that’ll get anything they make across the finish line. In doing this they have made the series boring and generic. It’s OK, if you enjoyed the previous games you’ll also enjoy this one but you won’t gain anything from it. You won’t leave the game with a lasting experience, just something to kill some time between now and the grave.

As I’ve said previously and I really can’t say it enough, the series could have been so much more. It was there in my minds eye when I saw the trailer for the reboot. I saw a darker, grittier, more realistic Lara Croft where she would be fighting for survival and barely holding her head above the water, not just against her enemies, but against the elements and the very environment itself. Have her need to find food and fresh water and if she doesn’t make it so she can’t run as fast or climb as high, have her need to suture bad gashes, create splints for broken bones or find different medicinal herbs with different properties (e.g. pain killers, antibiotics, ointments etc.), have her need to find shelter and warmth to prevent hypothermia. These things would have improved Lara’s story immensely and as such build her as a character because you’d be able to really see her struggle and watch her come out the other side a changed person. Make her a true survivor like the games advertise her to be.

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Zero Escape Trilogy (Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, Virtue’s Last Reward and Zero Time Dilemma) (DS, 3DS, PC, PS4, PSVITA)

OK, This weeks review is one purely for self-indulgence. This was a series that I enjoyed playing back in 2018 and is one I believe has been somewhat overlooked by a lot of people. So with that in mind let me set the record straight.

The Zero Escape series consists of 3 games. The first is Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors in which 9 people are kidnapped & held hostage by an unknown figure calling himself ‘Zero’ aboard an ocean liner. It’s here he forces the hostages to participate in “The Nonary Games” where they must solve a number of puzzle rooms in order to reach door no. 9 in 9 hrs otherwise the ship will sink. The second game, Virtue’s Last Reward is of a similar style, 9 more people are kidnapped by ‘Zero Sr.’ and is set inside a warehouse facility where the only way out is to complete in another “Nonary Games” which involves more puzzle rooms but differentiating from the first games by having players participate in what’s called “the Ambidex Game” which is a series of prisoner dilemma scenarios where players get or loose points depending on their answer. The first person/s to 9 points can escape trapping those who do not in the facility forever. Any player who accumulates negative points is killed. The third game, Zero Time Dilemma takes place when a DCom (Dwelling for Experimental Cohabitation of Mars) experiment is hijacked by masked individual calling himself ‘Zero’, the 9 individuals are separated into teams of 3 who are forced into a death game where the only way to leave is to gain 6 passwords and open the exit. A password is revealed each time a player dies.

At first I played the games in the wrong order. I started with the 3rd one then a year later learnt of the existence of the other 2 upon their release on PS4. With that I made sure to play them through then replay the 3rd one. The gameplay is fairly similar throughout the 3 games, they are separated into 2 main segments. The first is where the story is driven forward by using story boards in the first 2 games and as full 3d cut scenes in the 3rd. These sections are broken up by escape room like puzzles which must be solved in order to progress the story. Jumping between these segments doesn’t do well for the pacing of the games but the story is gripping enough that it allows for some leeway in this department.

Speaking of the story, all 3 stories are based heavily around both scientific and philosophical ideas, some of the more heavily present themes are that of morphogenetic fields (telepathy-type interconnectivity between persons) and the Many-worlds interpretation (where each decision made splits the time line depending on our choices). The games (especially in the 3rd instalment) allow the player access to the entire timeline of the game allowing you to jump back to decisions in the game and change the outcome. In some cases when you jump back the character can do what’s called a “Spacetime Human Internal Fluctuating Transfer” (or SHIFT for short). This will transfer the consciousness of a character from one timeline to another opening up more of the game and allowing from the better endings. As you can imagine once you throw both the shifting and the other scientific and philosophical concepts into the mix the story can become very jumbled and out of place, especially if you are playing through the timelines out of order (which will be almost everyone who’s not using a guide).

If you can follow the story then you are in for a great time, the story has some absolute gripping moments. One that comes to mind is when one character is trying to kill another one with a chainsaw whilst they try to fend them off with a fire axe. Another is where one player is locked in a chair with a revolver to their head and another is inside an incinerator about to turn on. The only way to save them is for a 3rd player to pull the trigger on the revolver in which there are 3 bullets and 3 empty chambers. It’s Saw-esque moral choice dilemmas like these that push the human condition to it’s extreme limits that get me very excited indeed.

Overall if you don’t mind a bit of bad voice dubbing and the stop-start story telling then the games are defiantly worth a play. The third one is defiantly the strongest of the 3 but also the hardest to follow. That being said the first one I would say was the weaker of the 3 but the easiest to follow so makes for a good introduction to the series and knowing that the following games will only get better. Anybody who loves a good gripping story should defiantly check them out. I would also say that if you are going to play them, play them in order. You’ll know after the first one if the series is right for you and you will loose a lot of background knowledge in the later games if you don’t play the ones before.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PC, PS4, SWITCH, XBOX ONE)

This review has been sitting in my drafts waiting for a slow day for the past 3 months. However now that the games are starting to dry up So with that lets get down and dirty with our Witcher (in all aspects of the term).

In The Witcher 3 we return to the story of Geralt of Rivea, a witcher which (for those of you who don’t know) is a monster hunter for hire. After reuniting with his on-again-off-again lover, the sorceress Yeneffer. She tells Geralt that he has been summoned to an audience with the Emperor Emhyr ruler of the Nilfgaardian Empire. The Emperor tasks Geralt with finding his daughter Siri who is being pursued by the Wild Hunt. Given that Siri is also Geralt’s adopted daughter after having been awarded her when he evoking the Law of Surprise after saving Emperor Emhyr’s life in the past, he accepts. Geralt then travels the land picking up Siri’s trail and confronting the Wild Hunt on the way.

As previously mentioned in my Metacritic post all those moons ago, I didn’t have a lot of past experience with The Witcher series before playing the game, a couple of hours with the original game and binging the Netflix series. So I knew enough to get me through the first module but no where close to achieving my Bachelors in Witcher Studies. This was fine however, the game seems to understand that it was going to bring in new players to the series so the game includes a handy glossary detailing important people, places and events for the unknowing, forgetful or slightly confused. It broke up the flow of the game a little, like having to stop and read the ingredients list of each item I put in my trolley when I do my monthly shop, but the upside was I didn’t feel as if the game was shunning me for not being one of the cool kids. This is also true with the first area of the game being one long tutorial detailing every mechanic of the game and giving a feel to how the rest of the game was going to unfold.

All this contributes to one of the strongest aspects of The Witcher which is it’s ability to create an interesting and engaging gaming experience. The world is teeming with background and lore, which makes you want to explore each of the small villages between Novigrad and Babylon in order to learn more about the world, as well as finding more quests and things to do/kill. Truly immersing you into the Ronin-esque lifestyle of a witcher. Strolling into town, bartering your loot, tracking down the local monster that’s been terrorising the locals, kill it, mount it’s head on your horse, get paid then mosey on out of town without nary a wave or tip of the hat. Along with the addictive card game of Gwent and the treasure hunts; The world is packed full of things to do and see. Plus if you ever get tired of dicking about there is always the main story which is encapsulating and very well written, everything about it from the characters you meet to the monsters that you slay feels like it belongs in the world, nothing feels out of place.

That being said, just like every time I go out for ice cream, it is possible to have too much choice. The combat is a good example of this. There are so many bells and whistles that just serve as extra baggage. There’s a whole assortment of potions to brew with various effects as well as a multitude of spells and sword techniques to master. However, I managed to get through most of the game using mostly quick attack, dodge and the fire spell. If I needed healing I’d had enough food I’d bought from my travels between inns to open a small chain of restaurants. It must have got to the point that by the time I got to the end of the game I must have eaten enough roast chickens to label them an endangered species. Although I did start to use the weapon oils around the end of the game, mind you it was only because it wasn’t until I’d upgraded them to max level that they really had any major effect. Whist I’m ranting a bit, what are Geralt’s swords made of? I know one is supposed to be steel and the other is silver but given how quickly they break they might as well be made of polystyrene wrapped in wet newspaper. To finish off my list of gripes I have about the game, there were one or two technical issues I had with the game bugging out now and again, mind you they were no where near in number or severity of that of Fallout 3 (which is my go to example of buggy games) but there were enough to get my dander up.

Besides my small tirade of niggles the game really is one of the pinnacle open-world action adventure RPG’s, which is quite the praise especially given how dense I mentioned the genre is in my Horizon Zero Dawn review. It delivers the goods exactly where it needs to and does it with such gusto it’s not hard to see why people are calling it “The greatest game of all time”. I disagree with the statement but I’d defiantly place it much closer to the top of the list than the bottom. Overall I don’t think I could have bettered the levels of enjoyment I got from The Witcher 3 for the £13 I spent on it, except maybe with the exception of some Nitrous Oxide and the Black Books box-set.

The Last of Us Part II (PS4)

Finally. A fat, juicy AAA title to sink my teeth into that wasn’t a reboot. Sure it is a sequel but that can be forgiven as it is a sequel to one of my previous Game of the Year winners. Let us re-join Joel & Ellie in their post-apocalypse fight for survival in The Last of Us Part II.

Just before you proceed, thought you ought to know There will Be Spoilers.

So we start the game with the ending of the previous game conveniently retold to us by Joel and the massacre he made of the Fireflies in order to save Ellie from being dissected in order to find a cure for the Cordyceps fungus pandemic. Fast forward 4 years later and the two have settled down to life in Jackson, Wyoming. During a scouting mission Joel and his brother Tommy rescue a survivor Abby from a hoard of infected. Abby takes the two back to Abby’s group who unknown to the brothers are remnants the Fireflies who ambush the brothers. Ellie finds Joel just in time to watch Abby beat Joel to death for killing her father, one of the surgeons who died in Joel’s massacre. Ellie swears revenge against Abby and sets out to Seattle in pursuit of Abby and her gang.

Now I like to think that someone somewhere at Naughty Dog read my review of The Last of Us and thought “Yes, we must fix those niggles for our next game”. I think this because that’s exactly what they did. Unlike the first game I really managed to get absorbed into the game and feel immersed into the world. The stealth aspect that felt as thought it was at times either too sensitive or not sensitive enough has been evened out too. The game looks and feels superior to it’s predecessor.

From the very onset of the game the visuals are absolutely stunning. The detail of the environment and the fluidity of the characters movements and facial expressions show that a lot of time and effort has been spent polishing the game to such a finish that even Rhianna would complement it’s shine. This enforces the immersive capabilities of the game. You can’t help but feel tense as you sneak up on an enemy as you hope to your preferred flavour of deity that the poor bastard doesn’t turn round.

The immersion is also helped by the depth of the characters in the game. You get a sense that these are real people, feeling real feelings and having real struggles. However, I failed to sympathise with either Ellie or Abby during the game. Ellie’s sole goal is Abby’s death because she killed Joel, but Joel did a shitty thing and kinda deserved what he got. On the other hand Abby did a particularly shitty thing in killing Joel so kinda deserves what’s coming for her. All my sympathy was spent on the horses having to stay out in the cold as long as they did and later on getting blown up and shot, despite the fact they never killed anyone (that we know of). This makes the message of cause and consequence in regards to revenge and taking a life that the game is so obviously wanting to portray somewhat weaker with each enemy Ellie makes new neck holes for.

So we have established that the combat is good (actually looking back I haven’t, btw the combat is good, done, moving on) and the story telling is good. However, the parts in between them are a bit of a slug-a-thon. These are the parts in films that are usually skipped over, like how you never see James Bond browsing through duty-free as he waits for his flight to be called to continue to where the rest of the plot is happening. Usually these parts consist of move in said direction for a while, except for the little open world bit where Ellie must roam the central district of Seattle looking for gasoline.

So if Naughty Dog are reading this (as we’ve already established, they are) recommendations I would like to make for The Last of Us Part III are in short: a) More open world explore and b) A bit less Ludo-narrative dissonance please. Aside from them just do more of the same please.

What Remains of Edith Finch (PC, PS4, SWITCH, XBOX ONE)

This week I’ve not been in a position financially to pick up any new games. As such I went through my back catalogue of PSPlus games that I’ve downloaded when they were free and just not got around to playing them. This game peaked my interest more than the other so I decided to look into it. After a little research (checked the wikipedia page) and saw that it won the BAFTA for Best Game in 2017. That cemented my decision to give it a go and here is what I found.

What Remains of Edith Finch takes place on Orcas Island off the coast of Washington State. It tells the story of Edith Finch’s return to her old family home which she inherits after her mother passed away. She intends to return to the house in order to find out the truth behind the strange happenings and incidents that befell her family. The game plays through the tragedies that befell each of the Finch’s starting from her great grandfather Odin Finch all the way though to present day.

The tone of the game is set from the very beginning as you make your way up to the house. The feelings of isolation and apprehension that are instilled into the player as you walk through the woods up to the old, crooked house. You know at that point that the game is going to be very atmospheric and story driven and in no way is it going to be all rainbows and sunshine. The game-play is quite minimalist with only a few controls available to the player, move the player, move the camera and an action button. I find it very effective in allowing the player to concentrate more on the narrative.

The story is mainly told through narrations, mostly by Edith herself. The rest is done in segments by each of the Finch family moments before their tragic end. Each segment plays out very differently from person to person. For example, Sam Finch was an amateur photographer so his story is told through photographs while Barbara Finch was a child movie star so her’s is told in the style of a comic book. This makes each segment feel a bit more personal and stops the game from becoming stale. This is also helped by the length of the game, it being easily completed within a couple of hours. Although I’m not sure what to make of this. I left the game wanting more but there was nothing more to tell, like getting to the end of a box of Jaffa Cakes and being 2-3 cakes short of being completely satisfied.

To round it all up, I’ve seen a few reviews of the game stating it as a example of video games as an art form and I must confess that I do agree. The atmosphere and the environment do wonders to immerse the player into the role of each of the family members, however some segments are more immersive than others. For example I found Molly’s segment a little disjointed while Lewis’s on the flip side really stood out as being equally engaging and harrowing. In a sentence it’s a great story told in a great way and if you can find it for a great price… Great.

Detroit: Become Human (PC, PS4)

I originally started to write this review soon after I completed the game, which was a few days after it’s PS4 release but never got around to finishing it. I only discovered that it was half written after finishing my Persona 5 review and was looking through my drafts for something else to write about (I have a few drafts sitting there that I’ve been meaning to write about) and with it’s release on PC not so long ago I guess it makes sense to revisit it. So let me take you into a not so distant future where androids obey the will of their owners, unemployment has skyrocketed due to cheap android labour. Social tension is high, the city is at boiling point and revolution on the horizon.

A friendly warning before I start, from this point on Here Be Spoilers.

The story revolves around 3 main characters. First up is Connor, an android commissioned by Cyberlife (a leading android manufacturer) to aid the Detroit police to investigate how and why androids are becoming self-aware (known as deviants). Next is Markus, an android owned by a rich elderly gentleman to whom Markus acts as his butler, chef and general confidant. Finally there is Kara, another android owned by a dead beat, drug addict, child abusing father of one, to which Kara acts as general house maid and punching bag.

As you will know I am a huge fan of Heavy Rain (It actually being the first review that I posted) although less so with Beyond: Two Souls, but like Heavy Rain I was excited about it’s release so it was only natural to pick this up on release day. Although I don’t think it quite lives up to the height of Heavy Rain, I’d still rate it closer to that than Beyond: Two Souls. Much like it’s predecessors it’s graphically very well rounded and of the finest detail, the motion-capture is well worth a mention as it’d probably one of the best I’ve seen in video games. However, as is the problem with the previous Quantic Dream titles the game play is where the game is let down. The controls are still as clunky as ever and the characters seem to move with very little urgency even when faced with life and death situations, where you’d think moving fast would be of use. I mean they are androids, it’s not like they are going to get out of breath.

There does seem to be a lot more “cause and causality” in this game than in Heavy Rain or Beyond with many more branches to the story depending on action and relations with certain characters. In fact at the beginning of my first play through I refused to break Kara’s programming so didn’t play as her for the rest of the game and as such missed out on a fair chunk of the story. The characters are relatable, you can sympathise with them wanting to be treated as equals, especially in our current political climate.

There is also a greater emphasis on morality in Become Human, when Markus rises to lead the rebellion, the play can decide whether to approach things with violence and destruction to get what they want by force or whether to act peacefully and sway the court of public opinion to your cause. Either way I’d go into the game choosing one or the other as a half arsing it is only going to get you a bad ending.

Now for my final thought. It does seem that when it comes to Quantic Dream, “The more things change, the more things stay the same”. The game suffers from the same faults as all those that came before it. The story little depth and clunky game-play grinds whatever flow the game has to a slow trickle. With Heavy Rain at least the story was executed in a compelling way and had a goal to keep you playing through. Beyond’s story was so disjointed and the flow so poorly you’d think the the office intern knocked the original script off David Cage’s desk and hurry replaced them in whatever order he could grab them before anyone found out. Detroit had all the potential to be great, but lazy writing and poor scope prevented this. The game boasts about having 40 different ending like it’s a good thing. I’d rather have 3-4 well written, engaging endings than 40 poor developed ones. Like how I’d rather have 4 packets of Walkers Salt & Vinegar crisps as opposed to 40 packets of a cheaper brand.

God of War (PS4)

With things being a bit slow at the moment it’s given me the opportunity to make up for lost time and get something down for the most recent games I have played. With Spider-Man being the game I’m currently still playing, I’ll make my way down the list of past games. For my next trick we are in Midgard following the adventures of our favourite blood thirsty Spartan and his sprog. Here is God of War.

Our story starts with Kratos and his very manly beard cutting down trees for his deceased wife’s funeral pyre with his son Atreus, afterwards the pair set off on an adventure to fulfil her final request and scatter her ashes from the tallest peak in all the realms and in true God of War style if any deities happen to die on the way, so be it.

I was quite late to the God of War party, I didn’t play the first 2 until the HD editions were released on PS3 then played no. 3 as soon as I completed both of them which would have been a year or 2 later. However, you don’t need to have played the previous games in order to enjoy this one, you may miss a few easter eggs but nothing critical. The game has done rather a lot of growing up since the previous instalments, much like Kratos himself (and not just his luscious face bristles). The game play feels a lot more coordinated rather than the mash square and dodge now and again tactics of the past.

As you can tell from the art cover, Kratos has ditched his Chaos Blades of the past in favour for his cool looking Leviathan Axe, which has the power to be thrown and return to the wielder as well as the power over ice. These abilities make for interesting puzzles to solve in order to progress through the game, usually to do with hitting far away switches and freezing cogs. You also have Atreus helping you both in and out of combat, in combat he will use his bow hitting enemies from afar as well as using different magics to conjure different spirit animals to help either offensively or defensively. Outside of battle he will usually be used to crawl into small spaces or be thrown onto higher ledges to either drop a ladder for flick a switch.

Kratos has changed a lot in the gap between games, you can tell he has grown. He’s become more responsible for his own actions and has stopped blaming others for his own wrong doings, almost becoming ashamed of the person he was previously. A lot of that seems to be due to his son Atreus, you can tell that Kratos only wants the best for him and pushes him to be the best he can be in full Spartan style, this can be seen as Kratos being a bit cold to Atreus or harsh on him but as the story progress you see their relationship grown and develop, as Atreus proves himself and Kratos opens up to the ghosts of his past.

The world itself feels more open and reactive than the earlier games. Where previously you had a single route you must travel and one direction you must go in, in this one there is still one main route to follow, but there are several offshoots to visit option areas and take part in optional quests as well as being able to back track to a lot of previous areas either because the story demands it, to gather the collectables or beat optional bosses.

Now my final thought, I thoroughly enjoyed playing this game and do recommend anyone play it, even if you weren’t a fan of the original series. The game has so much more depth, is more well rounded and is a lot better written than any of the others. The characters are relatable and more human (strange given as most of the characters aren’t humans) and graphically is visually beautiful, I played it in 4K and was stunned by some of the scenery. Not only is the best game of the series, I’d would have probably named it my 2018 Game of the Year had I still been posting last year. So what are you waiting for, go play it… NOW!!

Marvel’s Spider-Man (PS4)

New site, new review. It’s been a while since I last posted, life has kind of got in the way of these things, but that’s what having a full time job and commitments will do. I would love to do this full time but sadly I wouldn’t be able to pay the bills and to be honest I don’t think you guys would be too bothered if I were more regular in my content. Any-who, lets crack on. This time we delve into super-villain soaked New York and follow the adventures of our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man.

The story is set in it’s own Marvel Universe (Earth-1048 I believe). Our adventure starts (funny enough) with Spider-Man doing what Spidey does best, fight bad guys and swing through New York city. During the tutorial mission at the beginning Spidey takes down Wilson Fisk (aka the Kingpin) and has him carted off to Ryker’s. The rest of the game is spent dealing with the aftermath that comes from the created power vacuum, coming face-to-face with some of Spidey’s most well known foes such as Falcon, Scorpion, Doc Ock and many more.

I remember not really being a fan of Spider-man during my youth, I watched the 90’s TV show but not religiously. Didn’t read the comics but did watch all the live-action films. Not that I didn’t like them, I just preferred doing other things, mainly playing video games. Although with the introduction of Spider-Man into the MCU I developed a fondness for the guy, plus the game was getting some pretty good reviews so I borrowed a copy and got to it.

The game is created by Insomniac Games, the same guys that made the Infamous games and you can tell with the way the game plays. Swinging around the map feels very similar to the grinding the rails in inFamous. It feels very natural, easy to pick up buy difficult to master (as some drone and pigeon chases will show). Building climbing is much easier than in Infamous, rather than having to jump from ledge to ledge you can just run up the side of the building and start swinging. Then the map itself is small enough that you don’t have to rely on fast travelling (I’ve played for about 20hrs and have only used the fast travel once) but big enough that map still feels big. You can spend enough time exploring and finding landmarks and collectables without getting bored.

The combat reminds me a bit of the Batman Arkham games. I don’t think it’s as fluid as Batman but then again they are in my opinion the best combat mechanics in recent history it’s not exactly a mark against it. There is a plethora of different combat skills and gadgets you can use but honestly I was quite happy against the minions using mash square and dodge now and again, however when it comes to the big baddies the game does want you to defeat them in a certain way, but given that you don’t really meet them until the end of the game you’ve got plenty of time to practice your fighting styles before you get to them.

Now for my final thought. It’s a decent game that will keep you entertained and engaged if you are already interested in the Marvel franchise but I can’t suggest that it will bring new fans to the Marvel Universe. The length of the game is just long enough that it will keep you busy for a few weeks but doesn’t have the replay value of any of my 100+hr games like Skyrim, but that’s ok. I was only looking for a short excursion rather than an expedition. Doing a quick look on the internet I found people saying the game can be Platinumed in about 20-ish hours which after playing the game sounds about right. So if you enjoy the Marvel comics/movies/video games/branded yogurts then I’d say you’d more than likely enjoy this too, if not you’re not really going to be missing out on much.

The Last of Us (PS3)

Thank you, Thank you. Yes it’s good to be back. I know it has been a very very long while since I did one of these (discounting Tomb Raider because I started that before my hiatus). I’ve been busy moving house and getting a dog and such, but please don’t think that it makes me unprofessional (a shout out to any potential employers as much of a long shot as it may be). This time I’m reviewing my favourite game of 2013. The reason it’s my favourite is probably due to the fact I didn’t play Grand Theft Auto V or Bioshock Infinite. Without further or do, The Last of Us.

The Last of Us starts before the outbreak. A young girl named Sarah wakes to find her farther Joel missing, he then appears barking like a madman and proclaims that they have to go. Her Uncle and his brother Tommy appears in a car and they proceed to escape the town. Car crashes, Sarah is shot and killed then the story skips ahead 20 years, to present day where a grumpy, middle aged Joel is working with a woman called Tess as smugglers in the militarised safe zone of Boston. During an operation Joel and Tess finds Marlene the leader of the terrorist group The Fireflies. She tasks Joel and Tess to smuggle a teenage girl Ellie out of the city and thus the story begins.

Lets get one thing straight right now. The Last of Us may have been my game of the year but it still falls short of the other holders of that title (Far Cry 3, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim & Heavy Rain). It does have a number of issues, my biggest one must be the lack of immersion. I just couldn’t get sucked into it. I’d stick it on, play for an hour or so and then find something else I’d rather do. I really wanted it to be one of those games I’d start playing at 7pm and find myself still playing it at 11am in the morning… 3 days later.

As regular readers will be aware I do like a good story well told, but to make a good game it’s got to be seamless with the gameplay, neither sacrificing one for the other. Sadly in the case of The Last of Us, it only get 2 out of 3 of these right. The story is very good and it’s told well (if a bit choppy at times), unfortunately it’s gameplay is the turd in the custard. Now I’m not the best person at playing video games but I like to think since I’ve been playing games for roughly 20 years I’d like to think that I’m defiantly above average. With that in mind, the amount of times I died because as I was sneaking up on an infected* only for it to miraculously know I was there and lunge with it’s unblock-able kill move, it’s controller snappingly frustrating. Ammo can be plentiful if you insist on resorting to melee or stealth and like the continual look of the loading screen, or fairly scares if your name is Nathan Drake. It gets easier the further into the game you get and the more guns and upgrades you have at hand.

The stealth engine as mentioned before can be overly sensitive, meaning enemies can pick up a sparrow fart from 5 miles away or the complete polar opposite and not notice a rhino charging through a china shop from which they’re purchasing a rather lovely vase. Some middle ground would be nice. This is just one of many examples of issues I’ve had with the gameplay, all of which effects the pacing of the story causing it to stop and start, stop and start constantly, which in turn effects how I feel about the story, which then has effect on my overall view of the game. A couple of tweeks to let the gameplay flow a bit more would have changed The Last of Us from a fairly good game to a rather excellent game.

Now for my final thought. Despite all the nasty stuff I said about The Last of Us, I have given it my “Game of the Year” badge over titles such as Papers Please, Tomb Raider, God of War Ascension, Remember Me, Metal Gear Rising & DMC. Sure had I played Bioshock Infinite, Grand Theft Auto V, Assassins Creed IV, Batman Arkham Origins, Saints Row IV, Beyond Two Souls, Total War: Rome II or Company of Heroes 2 I’d have given it to one of them, but the bottom line is this. Out of the 3 games I played last year that I’d recommend, The Last of Us I would recommend the most (the other 2 out of interest are Papers Please & Tomb Raider).

Finally because it’s a new year like last year I’ll share the game I am looking forward to the most this year. The nominees are as follows:

  • Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
  • South Park: The Stick of Truth
  • Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
  • InFamous: Second Son
  • The Elder Scrolls Online
  • Destiny
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition
  • Thief
  • The Walking Dead: Season Two
  • Watch Dogs

And the winner is:

Watch Dogs
Every trailer and every piece of game play footage I see gets me that little bit more excited each time. Graphically it looks amazing, it’s gameplay look smooth and seamless but most of all, it’s something new and something relevant to our modern way of life. That’s all for now and have a wonderful 2014.
* In this scenario, the infected does not refer to zombies but are human husks made from a mutated form of the ophiocordyceps unilateralis fungi which is known for infecting insects using their spores and take over their nervous functions.