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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BONUS CONTENT: Looking Back at The Sims (PC)

“Uhh shamoo ralla poo”

The sims

Can you believe The Sims has now existed for 21 years now? I surely can. The Sims was a game that I put in a fair amount of my teenage years being the somewhat of a social outcast I was. I thought with the original game now old enough to drink in the US it would be a good time to look back and reminisce about a simpler time.

The Sims was brought to us by Will Wright and his crew at Maxis & published by EA (before they became evil personified). For those who aren’t aware of the original PC meth addiction (pre World of Warcraft) The Sims allowed you to create and live your own little slice of suburban SimCity. You send your Sims to work or school, feed them pizza, put them to bed, bathe them, set them on fire and drown them. A typical Thursday. As your Sims worked, got promoted and made money you could improve their living conditions give them better shinier gadgets before they shuffle off to the grave.

When The Sims was released in 2001 it was an instant hit with a lot of different gaming demographics. From casual gamers to hard-core gamers, it seemed everyone was playing The Sims. I think it’s popularity lied with it’s simplicity to play. Anyone could sit down in front of a computer and pick up the game quite easily because of it’s simple aesthetics and ease of use. I too was drawn in by the simple charm of The Sims. My enjoyment continued into The Sims 2 as well, although by the time that The Sims 3 came around both me and the series had grown apart, becoming different from the people we once were.

It was about this time that EA’s corporate greed and contempt for humanity started to show. It seemed where most series would expand and incorporate new features. The Sims in contrast did the opposite, narrowed it’s field of household objects and creation tools. All in the name of packaging it up into DLC packs and charge the same price as the core game EACH!!! I wouldn’t mind it so much if there was 4-5 DLC packs but the sheer number of DLC packs is mind boggling. The Sims had 7 DLC’s, The Sims 2 had 18 (8 Expansions & 10 Stuff Packs), The Sims 3 had 20 (11 Expansions & 9 Stuff Packs). The Sims 4 currently has 37 (10 Expansions, 9 Game Packs & 18 Stuff Packs) with more still being released. So I’ve done the maths (so you don’t have to) and to buy The Sims 4 and all of it’s DLC’s at full price it would cost you over £600 for the privilege.

The Sims and to some extent The Sims 2 are a reminder of a time when EA actually wanted to market games that entertain and spread enjoyment. Although I can’t help but think that The Sims as a series is a victim of it’s own success. Maybe if the The Sims & The Sims 2 weren’t as popular as they were and made as much money as they did in DLC’s then EA wouldn’t try and ring as much money out of their clientele as humanly possible without resorting to muggings.

I’m sorry if you read this expecting a nostalgic return to a game that was much loved and was well deserving of that love and instead got a hate speech on the evils of EA. Although I do have a lot more to say about EA I’ll wait and dedicate a whole piece to them.

If you like what you read and would like to support further pieces then feel free to subscribe to my Patreon or Buy me a Coffee. Your continued support will be most appreciated. Also for regular updates please like and follow me on Facebook & Twitter.

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Crusader Kings III (PC)

It seems like it’s been forever since I reviewed anything fairly recent (The last one being my Tony Hawk remake almost 2 months ago), but now I’ve managed to get some use out of those Christmas Steam vouchers and decided on a toss up between this and Baldur’s Gate 3 I decided on this, mainly due to the price & the fact that Baldur’s Gate 3 isn’t ready yet. So we set off towards the known medieval world in that of Crusader Kings III.

I’ve had an interest in the game since it’s release. First off I am a huge fans of strategy games such as the Total War series, Age of Empires & Civilisation so given the game at a glance seems quite similar to the former I was intrigued. Second, the game was scoring excellent reviews from all over the place which made me interested & finally third I money burning a whole in my pocket. So with the trifecta in place I made the purchase and I have to say I was not disappointed.

First off, I did find the game to be rather complicated. I completed the tutorial but found it to be more of an overview of the games systems and mechanics rather than an actual teaching tool to play the game. I personally thought it could have done with at least a voice over explaining everything, but these are just tiny nit-picks. It took a bit of trial and error and a few restarts when making some game ruining mistakes, but 2-3 campaigns in I was getting the hang of things, however this is hindered by the sheer number of choices the game gives you. For example, The game gives some recommended campaigns and their relative difficulty but even in the vanilla version of the game you have the option to choose from almost any ruling house in Europe & North Africa all the way to Indi & Mongolia.

The game puts you in control of one of the middle ages many ruling families at one of three levels of rule, Earl, Lord or King. You control the head of your chosen house and rule the land as you see fit, to help in this endeavour you have a choice of 5 different lifestyles. Diplomacy, which is about making friends and gaining respect; Marshall, which is about having the pointiest stick; Stewardship, which is about making money; Intrigue, which is about spies and espionage & Learning, which is about knowing stuff and piety. The different styles of gameplay mean that each game is never the same as the one before it.

Overall, if you need something to scratch the strategy itch, something with a massive scope and masses of replay-ability and attention to detail then you can’t go much wrong with Crusader Kings III.

If you like what you read and would like to support further pieces then feel free to subscribe to my Patreon or Buy me a Coffee. Your continued support will be most appreciated. Also for regular updates please like and follow me on Facebook & Twitter.

Final Fantasy XV (PC, PS4, XBOX ONE)

As I write this it is currently coming up to Christmas and with needing to buy presents for everyone as well as earning just enough to stay poor, the flood of new games has crawled to a stand still. As such I am catching up on the backlog of games I have played that I can review, putting them in reserve for a later date. This time around another Final Fantasy in the form of number 15.

“Not so Final” Fantasy XV takes place in the world of Eos, you play Noctus, Prince of Lucis whom at the onset of the game is traveling to Tenebrae for his arranged marriage with Princess Lunafreya of Tenebrae. This being a condition of Lucis armistice with the Niflheim Empire. Accompanying Noctus on his journey is his royal guard and bestest-best buddies. As expected inn true Final Fantasy style not everything goes as smoothly as planned. Whist away from the capital the armistice signing is ambushed and Noctus’ father, the King is killed. It is then up to Noctus to gather the royal arms of past Lucis kings and take back his home & kingdom.

Final Fantasy XV was one I was quite excited about since it’s days as FF Versus XIII. It seemed like it was going to be a darker, more serious game than FFXIII. Although I was right on the money with this it still falls short of some of the other games in the series. One of my main grips with the game is the combat, when I say that don’t get me wrong, the change to a real time more fast pace combat style is defiantly a step in the right direction but in doing so they over simplified it. I managed to get through a fair portion of the game by only using attack and dodge, I didn’t bother with any of the magic crafting and barely used any of my team mates abilities. The game also suffers from an ailment I like to call “Fahrenheit Syndrome”, the main symptom of which is the game shitting it self halfway. In the case of Final Fantasy XV the game goes from having such an open expansive world to being coming a completely closed off corridor-fest. Although the game does have an expansive lore (e.g. The Astrals), it’s very much unexplored by the party during the events of the game, only accessible by reading books found in the game. This isn’t helped by the fact that later on the lore becomes a pivotal to the plot and unless you’ve been reading and learning along the way the meaning behind a lot of the happenings seems very nonsensical.

Now that I’ve gotten that over with lets get on to the better points of the game. To start with despite the group having as much character depth as a puddle on the pavement, there does seem to be a great chemistry between the 4 four of them. Their varying personalities makes each character unique and makes for excellent banter between them. Gladiolus is the stoic protector of the group, Ignis is the tactician and brains of the operation, Prompto is the ‘happy-go-lucky’ one & Noctis is a whiny bitch. The character design outside of the main party as well is worth a shout out too, each character feeling very unique with their own distinct personalities and quirks. The Kingdom of Lucis in which the majority of the game is beautifully varied, from the deserts of Leide, to the plains of Duscae to the rocky mountains of Cleigne. This sense of open luscious scenery however disappears once to leave Lucis, past this point the vast majority of the world is closed off to the player. I personally love a game where I can explore the world, finding new and interesting places (which is why games like The Elders Scrolls & The Witcher resonate with me so well), this longing to travel was sated for the first half of the game, be it with great annoyance as when I first played the game as off-roading wasn’t unlocked at that point. Upon leaving Altissia there was no more opportunities to explore despite being in a whole new land which judging by the map must be at least 50% bigger than Lucis being stuck to see the arid wastes, luscious green mountain ranges and icy vallys as the pass by through a train window.

A lot of my complaints about the game (besides the final third of the story) comes from material that seems to be missing from the core game. Depth of character for instance, each of Noctus’ companions motivations never get any deeper than “Because he’s my prince” & “Noctus is an entitled asshole”. I believe that the reason this game suffers is due to the developers desire to create the Final Fantasy XV Universe without creating a series of games. This means a lot of the material would be taken from the main game is taken and re-deployed in other media. Going back to the character depth, a lot of the characters background and motivations are found in the Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV anime and in the DLC packs. This waters down the main game and ruins it’s overall appeal as a single unit, it’s like being making an extremely weak glass of Ribena then have them hide the rest of the cordial in an abandoned library on a completely different plain of reality. From a marketing perspective I get it, “If you want the whole FFXV experience you must play all the games, read all the books, watch all the TV series, eat all the branded yogurts etc.”. This train of though breaks down when the core game (the gooey caramel centre to the whole story) doesn’t interest me enough to want to go beyond the core game. This was the same story with FFXIII. Final Fantasy X on the other hand was a game that stood up on it’s own but was enhanced by the introduction of X-2. The difference here was Square-Enix went into both XIII & XV wanting to create a universe with several elements or using several different mediums, but with FFX the aim was to create the game, it was only after the game was complete and on shelves did they start on FFX-2. Although this meant longer production times and costs but meant that the end products were better for it. This can be seen by calls for fans for X-3 18 years after the originals release, while nobody is asking for another FFXIII game.

BONUS CONTENT: Looking Back at Resident Evil (PC, PSone)

.This week I thought I’d us this time to take you on a trip down memory lane, back to where my love for games really took hold. A time when there were no Caramel Freddos, instead there was the Taz. A simpler time, a time when I could spend every single spare moment playing video games and nobody would moan. One such game from that period, Resident Evil.

Resident Evil begins with an elite tasks force of the Racoon City Police Department known as the Special Tactics And Rescue Service (STARS). After a series of cannibalistic murders take place in the nearby Arklay Mountains. Initially Alpha team are sent in to investigate. The story then starts with Bravo team being sent in to find Alpha team and help in the investigation. Upon finding the remains of Alpha team’s helicopter the team is attacked by vicious undead dogs, their pilot flees leaving the rest of the team behind. The remaining members retreat to a near by mansion not knowing that this is where it all began.

First and foremost, I’m going to put it out there that Resident Evil has not aged well. It’s story and dialogue resembles that of a Z-movie and graphically is almost unplayable, but for it’s day the graphics were top of the class and it’s dialogue was… still really cheesy (which is also how I like my Jill Sandwiches). However; The one thing that it did do very well and still does is create atmosphere. This is achieved by the harrowing soundtrack and gameplay. This made it just as enjoyable for anyone watching the game as those playing the game. I’ve mentioned in my previous Resident Evil reviews that the less you see of an enemy the scarier it is, the anticipation of an enemy is the scariest part and Resident Evil does that really well, with periods of quiet between each zombie encounter, as a new player not knowing if an enemy is going to be waiting around the next corner can be pants wettingly terrifying. This was an aspect that made Mr X from RE2 far scarier than Nemesis in RE3.

Resident Evil was the defining moment for the Survival Horror genre. It certainly wasn’t the first given that ‘Sweet Home’ and ‘Alone in the Dark’ are both classed as Survival Horror games and were released in 1989 & 1992 respectively. Resident Evil just took what came before it and did it better than anyone else, carving the rules of the genre into stone. The feelings of isolation and powerlessness, limiting recourses and in doing so forcing the player to make judgement calls such as “Can I spare this ammo in taking down this zombie or should I try to avoid them?”. This de-emphasises combat in favour of strategy and thinking around a problem rather than running in guns blazing like most shooters before it.

To round everything off, Resident Evil was a Concorde moment for the genre, nothing would be the same again after it. It’s just a pity that the series itself couldn’t build upon the genre that it had so truly defined. Each subsequent sequel loosing a little more of the ambiance and the player feeling a little less hopeless as the games go on until we got to the monstrosity that was Resident Evil 6. Although the remakes of both Resident Evil & Resident Evil 2 have told me that Capcom still have it in them to deliver survival horror as it should be, only to have the Resident Evil 3 remake remind me that a leopard never changes it’s spots.

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.

BONUS CONTENT: Looking Back at Final Fantasy X (PC, PS2, PS3, PS4, PSVITA, SWITCH, XBOX ONE)

With the release of the new Final Fantasy XVI trailer I can’t help but think about the series as a whole as well as my favourites of the series. I struggle to pick which is my favourite, that would be like picking a favourite child. I would never be happy carving a hierarchy into stone, solemnly decreeing that this is the definitive order and so shall it be for all time. I would probably make my list out of water as like water my opinions are fluid, constantly shifting from outside influences. Sure some titles will remain in familiar territory. Using the Premier League as a metaphor, FFXIII will always fall around the back of the pack and fight against relegation, FFXV despite soiling it’s underpants in the final third does enough to hover around mid-table with the likes of FFV, FFXII & FFIX, although the latter 2 do make it high enough now and again that they could qualify for the Europa League and the top spot is usually fought over by FFVII, FFVIII & todays subject matter FFX.

Final Fantasy X tells the story of Tidus (whom I always pronounced as Tie-dus, it was years later when I watched a making of documentary that it was pronounced Tee-dus), a young blitzball player from the large city of Zanarkand. His home is attacked by the gargantuan being known as Sin. After the attack, Tidus finds himself lost hundreds of miles from home. A chance encounter with the summoner Yuna and her guardians finds Tidus a way home.

The game really made you invest in and bond with the characters which makes the stories twist and the end that much more heart wrenching. As previously mentioned the world was also full, vibrant and rich, oozing with culture and lore. This is even before I mention blitzball which I spent more time playing than I care to remember. I would have loved blitzball to have been release as a FIFA-like spin off. Graphically too, FFX was a huge step up from the previous console generation and truly showed off the capabilities of the PS2 at the time.

Final Fantasy X may be a game that fights for the top spot but that doesn’t mean that it is without it’s flaws. It was the first Final Fantasy to ditch the world map for a series of smaller locations which made the world feel small and far too linear, not to the extent that XIII did but it was still an unwelcome change to the series. Also the sphere grid levelling system meant that because everyone can learn every skill & ability each character looses their unique feel in battle later in the game, with Overdrives and Yuna’s summon ability the only unique abilities left. This is not to mention some of the cringe worthy dialogue (The laughing scene in particular).

From the outset you can tell that Final Fantasy X is a very different breed from the Final Fantasy games that came before it. The use of voice overs, mo-cap & skeletal animation & 3D backgrounds being the most noticeable. This huge evolutionary leap is due in part to the series’ jump from the Playstation to the Playstation 2. The massive increase in hardware capability gave Square that unrestricted creative freedom to take the series away from the tried and tested Final Fantasy model. Although this does mean a few classic flavours of the series get left out in the cold, this however is the price of progress and whether you like it or not it’s happening. I brought up this same point in my Final Fantasy XIII review all those years ago and although I am for the evolution of the series and it’s modernising to introduce new players to the franchise I still yearn for some of the classic characteristics to come creeping back in, mainly a full explore-able world. We’ve not had one of them since FFIX. Imagine if Final Fantasy XVI comes with a modern fully rendered 3d world to get lost in, full of secret locations and optional cities and towns? If it does I think I will genuinely loose my shit.

BONUS CONTENT: Dungeons and Dragons and My New Perspective on Baldur’s Gate 2.

Despite the disadvantages that a global pandemic has on interacting with new people, I have been getting into Dungeons & Dragons. I have played a few sessions, even playing as Dungeon Master on some occasions and I have revelled in the experience, but what was I to do in the periods between? This is what drove me to revisiting Baldur’s Gate 2.

Baldur’s Gate 2 starts with the hero of the pervious game and a few companions captured by the elven mage Jon Irenicus in order to use his powers as a Bhaalspawn (A child of the God of Murder) for his own evil deeds. The player and his party must escape from Irenicus’s clutches and stop his horrible doings. Although between these two point a vast amount or very little can happen depending on the players actions.

I’ve never played the first Baldur’s Gate, opting to jump straight into the second instalment. I believe I first played Baldur’s Gate 2 in 2008/9 and I must admit I struggled in getting to grasps with the games lore and mechanics since I came in all fresh faced and bushy tailed. Although now coming back to it after a few D&D sessions I have a much clearer picture of the world and it’s workings (I originally didn’t get what the whole d4, d6, etc. thing was, I do now). To be fair I have been playing the Enhanced Edition recently which does have a few extra bits but for the most part it’s the same game.

My time learning how to play D&D has been a revelation in regards to my experience with Baldur’s Gate 2. The extra background knowledge meant I could properly tweak each party member to use specific gear and properly strategies combat so was no longer relying on blind luck and determination to get me through the game, this in term gave me a greater respect and appreciation of the game which is more than deserving of the critical acclaim it got at release all those years ago. The world is massive with so many side quests to do and different people to meet. The story is a true epic and with the Enhanced Editions graphical upgrade it doesn’t feel all that old despite turning 20 this year.

I’d defiantly call it a must play for any D&D or Western RPG fan, although since it has been out for the last 20 years I can imagine all D&D & Western RPG fans have already played it. It certainly makes me more excited about Baldur’s Gate 3 which has been on Early Access on Steam for a while now but at £50 for a game that’s not complete yet, it’s still a bit rich for my blood.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 (PC, PS4, XBOX ONE)

I think I stuck just as many hours into Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 on the PSone as I did on Rayman, Resident Evil 1 & 2, Metal Gear Solid, Command & Conquer, Command & Conquer Red Alert, Crash Bandicoot 1, 2 & 3, Final Fantasy VIII & Final Fantasy IX. In fact I’m pretty sure the only game I played more of on the PSone was Final Fantasy VII. So when news reached me that the first 2 games were being remade for the current generation I was pleasantly surprised. I never would have thought the games to be that sort after that a remake was in order (than again Metacritic names THPS2 as it’s top rated Playstation game of all time), so with The Last of Us Part II behind me lets grind some rails and Ollie some magic bums.

This is normally the part of the review where I write a description of the plot of the game. Given that games pre Tony Hawk’s Underground didn’t have a plot there is little to tell here. There are several different areas, you have 2 mins to complete any number of tasks for that area varying from score so many points, pull off a certain scored combo, find some items, destroy some stuff etc. Unlock so many and you can move onto the next area.

Right from the word go as soon as I appeared in the tutorial area everything came flooding back to me. Like riding a bike my muscle memory kicked in. It wasn’t long before I was building up combos and not falling on my ass. The controls feel just as tight as they did back in the Playstation era. The use of the joystick rather than the original D-pad means that the game easily mistake left or right with a diagonal, but switching to using the D-pad gave the game a bit more of a retro feel. Something that doesn’t feel retro however is the graphics, they are much, much, much improved. The lighting effects, the rendering, the modelling, the textures. All of it modernised for the 21st century.

The game feels exactly like what a good remake should feel like. When I started playing and the classic playlist starts I felt like I’d continued off from where I had left off with the original games all those years ago, despite all the aesthetical changes. With the likes of Resident Evil 2-3 & Final Fantasy VII, they felt like new games that gave nods or had similarities to the original & with Command & Conquer I was just playing the original. THPS1+2 is the games adapting to the current generation so that new fans can enjoy the same experience we did all those years ago.

Overall I hope that this is a resurgence for the Pro Skater franchise. It was a series that fell off of my radar after the Underground games, which was a shame as I really enjoyed the first Underground game. THPS gameplay with an underdog rags to riches storyline, sign me up. It may have been a bit cliché but it was a step in the right direction. I hope that with the serge of popularity developed with the remake we can expect delve again into a spot of storytelling.

BONUS CONTENT: Looking back at Half-Life (PC, PS2)

In my Witcher 3 review I mentioned that there were people in some circles that regarded The Witcher 3 as “The greatest game of all time”. As much as I enjoyed the game I whole heatedly disagree with it being the greatest game of all time. Although this did lead me to asking myself what I thought the greatest game ever actually was. I came up with a lot of strong contenders, Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Grand Theft Auto III, Silent Hill 2, Portal, but to name a few. I came up with Half-Life quite early on during my brain storming session and with each game that followed it, the less likely it seemed that I was going to be able to top it. So there you have it, Half-Life is the best game of all time and below I shall tell you why.

The story begins with our mute protagonist, physicist Gordon Freeman arriving late for work (I assume he couldn’t call it to work to let them know on account of him being a mute in the pre-email era) at the Black Mesa Research Facility. Once he finally arrives, a routine experiment on an other worldly material goes awry and causes gateways to another dimension to open spewing forth legions of alien creatures. It is up to Gordon and the other surviving members of Black Mesa to close the portals and save the world.

To me one of the reasons for Half-Life’s legacy is not so much the story but in the way it tells it. Previous 1st person shooters of the day (Doom, Duke Nukem 3D etc.) told a story not much further than, run down a corridor and shoot the things that are shooting you. This was not so much a story, but a brief followed by the game. Half-Life in contract had the story run through with the game, the world would develop as events escalated. Events witnessed by Gordon would drive the plot forward along with narrations by and between support characters.

Half-Life has immersion leaking out of it’s eyeballs. The game world, the narrative, the realism, everything about the game seemed like it was solely designed to draw in the player into a gaming experience never experienced before. The game abandoned the idea of levels for one continuous world, this made the world feel large in scope as in doing so it preserves the flow of the game. Guns and health would not hover aimlessly in mid air waiting for the player to pick it up. Health had to be gained by interacting with certain wall consoles, while guns and ammo were found either on dead soldiers/guards or found from armouries around the game. The world was interactive in ways never seen in previous FPS’s. One memorable example being at the beginning of the game where Gordon can interact with a microwave causing a casserole inside it to explode.

Even now, almost 22 years after it’s release it’s legacy stands with all the games that have come from it’s creation, both physically with the likes of Counter Strike, Team Fortress & Portal, as well as the countless number of games since that have been influenced by Half-Life’s innovation and narrative. Half-Life was the first great trail blazer that revolutionised the First Person Shooter and paved the way for others to push the boundaries out that little bit further. It was Issac Newton that said “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”. I believe that when it comes to video game innovation Half-Life is defiantly one of the giants in which the industry stands upon and because of this it is hard to deny that Half-Life is one of the greatest, if not the greatest video game of all time.