Friday, November 11, 2016

Friday Spotlight - Yooka-Laylee

Yooka-Laylee
Xbox One - PS4 - PC - Wii-U
Developer: Playtonic Games
Publisher: Playtonic / Team 17
Release Date: 2017




Banjo-Kazooie lives on as one of the most incredible 3D platformers for its time. A game that was challenging, inventive, and had so much personality that you never knew what would await you in the next world.

That development team has mostly disbanded, but many have come together for this latest buddy duo, Yooka Laylee:

Taken from their website [1]:

"Across more than five vast and beautiful game worlds, Yooka and Laylee will use their arsenal of special moves to tackle a huge variety of puzzles and platforming challenges in search of Pagies, the golden bounty used to unlock - and expand - new playgrounds, each jammed to the gills with oddball characters and hulking bosses. The magical Pagies will assist the buddy-duo in their ultimate mission to thwart corporate creep Capital B and his devious scheme to absorb all the world's books...and convert them into pure profit."

The overall charm of the game comes not only from the nostalgic look of previous 3D platformers, but the perfectly tuned soundtrack thanks to returning veterans David Wise (Donkey Kong Country) and Grant Kirkhope (Banjo Kazooie).


The trailer alone showcases mine cart segments, fantasy themed worlds strewn with collectible items, and a slew of gameplay mechanics to conquer various obstacles.

Yooka-Laylee is a bright, promising throwback that will be sure to appease Banjo Kazooie fans and newcomers alike. The game is currently set to be released first quarter of 2017.

[1] - Yooka-Laylee - Official Website - http://www.playtonicgames.com/games/yooka-laylee/ 

Monday, November 7, 2016

I Still Have Not Finished Witcher 3


Fifty-five hours on record...that includes side missions, restarting a campaign after reaching the first real story act to play on a harder difficulty, hours of Gwent, hunting down Witcher armor, and generally exploring the world.

I am nowhere close to finishing this game.

Consistently I have put it down to venture off and play Overwatch with friends when new content came out, or return to Destiny for the Rise of Iron Expansion. With so many titles that have been released and will soon be released, there is only so much time I can devote toward a single game. 

This is actually not a bad thing, as Witcher 3 is a much more enjoyable game when played in an episodic manner. The sole focus of Witcher 3 is locating Ciri, Geralt's former pupil and key to the story. I have chased her across two cities now, scouring the streets, working with local gangs, and even confronting fabled witches just for a glimpse of what she had encountered along her journey. Ciri has been this enigma, my sole focus of the game, and I feel when I finally meet her it will be more in line with Geralts' feelings of seeing a long lost friend. 

'World's Best Hide and Seek Player 2016'

Open world games are easier to plop back into as well. I am able to get a handle on the controls and powers a lot better simply wandering the world completing the miscellaneous tasks like fighting tournaments and horse racing. 

Just imaging how much content is left, including the DLC content, I cannot imagine finishing this game before the end of the year. As I enter the Skellige islands, I feel as though I am reaching the home stretch, but I am in no rush to complete the game. There are bounties to fulfill, several rounds of Gwent to be played, and a ton of monster nests left to explore. 

Witcher 3 is a game that is meant to be sipped and enjoyed like a finely aged bourbon, not chugged like a light beer on game day.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Overwatch Review - United We Stand

Overwatch
Score: 10 / 10
PC - Xbox One - Playstation 4
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Release Date: May 24th, 2016






Pros:
  • Games are fast and easy to pick up and put down
  • Heroes are diverse and each one has huge personality
  • Loot boxes are welcome rewards for continued play
  • Play of the Game never gets old
  • Active medals for your performance help gauge your contribution
Cons:
  • Highlight Reels are lost after exiting the game

Constantly during my games of Overwatch, my mind is at work. Who do they have on their team, what do we need on our team, is my performance working, should we push or defend? The mental game of tug of war in my head was playing out on the battlefield, as new Heroes presented new problems to overcome. The thrill of holding a payload inches from the objective, the satisfaction as you make the highlight reel for the play of the game, the feeling of accomplishment in fending off an opposing force; these feelings never lessened in the hundreds of games I played leading to this review. Overwatch has taken the simplest of gaming formulas and perfected it for one of the best multiplayer games in a long time.

The brilliance of Overwatch is its ability to prioritize the team over your self, and its encouragement for you to play with that in mind. Every Hero has a weakness of some sort to more than one Hero, meaning your continual barrage of attack will likely be countered by the enemy team. It does not matter how good you are with Tracer, if you run into a Roadhog or McCree, you are automatically at a disadvantage. Staying together is the only way to insure you have backup against these foes, and the constant game of rock, paper, scissors with the Heroes means going in with a healthy balance at the start will provide the greatest result. Even in the Hero selection screen you will see a tip of what your team is missing to better guide player choice.


Heroes share the core four roles to balance in a team, but each one is wildly different in play style to the last. If your team is lacking a damage dealer Tracer and Pharah are both in the Assault category, but Tracer is more of a poke damage player getting in and getting out, while Pharah is an AoE splash damage character that fires rockets from the skies. Torbjörn and Symmetra both act as builders, but his turret is more central and damaging and hers are more scattered and weak on their own. Every character houses two abilities and an ultimate ability that charges with in-game action, and the diversity and range offered promises that no matter the role you are required to fill in your team, there will be a Hero to match.

Your choice of Hero is a difficult one to make, thanks in part to some entertaining character design. The personality and quality of each character is reflected in their playstyle. Tracer is the poster child of Overwatch with her quirky attitude, it is easy to see why she is the speedster. Junkrat's maniacal cackle coincides well with his explosives, Zarya's bodybuilding strength reflects in her tanking, and Reaper's sinister presence compliments his flanking close quarters attack. There is so much life in every single character of this game, and the lore that is tucked away on each level gives only a glimpse into each of their origins.


Matches evolve as the game progresses on most maps, but you will likely be escorting a payload or fighting for a control point. Games play out as a veritable tug of war, as defenders respawn and scramble back to the front lines and attackers push to capture and hold a position. Each map has its own identity, be it the open streets and sets of Hollywood to the bright and sunny Ilios. There are areas where Lucio will shine in knocking players off, but others where Mercy has open paths to quickly burst to someone she must heal. No matter the map location, each feels unique and always offers branching pathways to really open up flanking and strategy. Plenty of games later, I am finding new items in the lobby rooms pertaining to its story, and new rooms and positions to set up for defense or utilize on attack.

The conclusion of the match showcases a plethora of stats to work off of, both personally and globally. The Play of the Game highlight reel is an absolute riot to witness the most intense moment of the game that you may have performed or been the victim of at some point. Additionally, four players are highlighted for their contributions ranging from most healing to most sentry turret kills. It is a fine way to give credit where credit is due to those who may have been healing in the background or shutting down ultimates all game.

Sound design is top notch and plays a pivotal role in the game itself. You learn the cues of incoming ultimates, cowering away as you hear McCree shout "It's High Noon" and pushing forward on Lucio's "Oh, Let's Break it Down" motif. Heavy footsteps means enemies nearby, the satisfying ping means a headshot was made, and the epic musical buildup as the clock winds down means the opposing team is sure to push for one last ditch effort. Even subtle hints when a player yells "turret destroyed" gives a cue that one big line of defense is gone without anyone uttering a word. Everything works in sync, and the attention to detail in something so easily overlooked is well appreciated.

Loot boxes are your reward for hard work and offer a plethora of customization. You can customize the line your Heroes spout, the victory pose they perform at the final shot of the team, and the skin used in battle. Everything gained from these boxes are simply cosmetic, and provide no real benefit to the characters as a whole besides a snazzy look or interesting highlight reel introduction. There is an option to purchase loot boxes, but the patient need not shell out anything additional.


The last time I awarded a game a perfect score was Uncharted 2. I had to ask myself the real cons of the game. You could complain the game is tailored to be played with friends and is tough on the solo player, you could complain about the lack of single player content, I could even gripe about the connection speed at times. But really, none of it was a big enough issue. No matter what little gripe I made, I want to go back and play. Even as I write this review I am figuring the hours I can spend with the game this weekend, I am looking into improving with Heroes I am weak in playing, and I am watching streams of other players to learn new approaches. The fascination and obsession with Overwatch is because for the first time since Team Fortress 2, I am hooked on a multiplayer game. I want to get better, I want to improve, and as the game ending screen fades away I find myself eager to improve the next match.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Sunset Overdrive Review - Embrace the Chaos

Sunset Overdrive
Score: 9.25 / 10
Xbox One
Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Release Date: October 28th, 2014



Pros:
  • Open world that encourages you to explore
  • Embraces the humor of the story in the gameplay
  • Movement is fluid and fast
  • Slew of collectibles, challenges, and missions to experience
  • Vast array of weaponry and customization 

Cons:
  • Co op's anarchy makes it difficult to follow
  • Interruptions of necessary fort defense can halt the flow of the campaign

Sunset Overdrive is wonderful chaos. A Saturday morning cartoon for adults, reflected in its over the top one liners and frantic gameplay. A game that encourages destruction and variety, and punishes the conventional. From the gun play to the character customization, Sunset Overdrive will tailor to the inner anarchist in every respect.



So many elements of other titles are melded together into a single cohesion of destruction and mayhem. Take the scoring and soundtrack of Tony Hawk, the weaponry of Ratchet and Clank, and the characters of Borderlands and you have Sunset Overdrive in a nutshell. The world is your literal playground as you grind along rails firing explosive teddy bears at hulking monsters. Complete missions ranging from donning a triceratops head and mauling enemies to chugging cough medicine to infuse leeches to use on a LARPer. The absurd is glorified in this game, and it turns fetch quests and enemy clearing into something entertaining.

The basis of gameplay revolves around keeping up momentum combining traversal and combat. Your style meter builds as you shoot and move at the same time, encouraging you to stay in motion and mix up your weapons. This is eased by the simplicity of transitioning. It takes a little bit to get the hang of, but thanks to the number of traversals you can keep a combo up forever if you wish to; wall running, grinding rails, and bouncing on the tops of umbrellas or cars keeps you moving and harder to hit. These are littered throughout the world, promising a chain to each move you do. Treating the game like a traditional third person shooter is doable, but much less rewarding and much more dangerous in the possibility of getting hit once the number of enemies picks up.


The world is an open city with few limits, and the content offered is immense. Challenge icons testing your ability to perform set actions or speedy traversals, collectibles ranging from shoes dangling from power lines to toilet paper strewn across light poles, and side missions to earn extra cash are everywhere. Every corner of the map is utilized in some way shape or form, to the point that if I felt like setting off to a new location I was sure to find new collectibles or points of interest nearby. Towering power plants, amusement parks, and dog parks are just a few iconic areas you will grind across in your adventures.

You cannot have a serious plot with the tone of those game, and as such Insomniac has created a self referential comedy. You play a down on his/her luck sanitation worker, who escapes the madness of a viral outbreak created by an energy drink, Overcharge. With the help of the locals, you act as one of the last few survivors who seek to escape the city. Stellar voice work gives life to a plethora of unique individuals you will assist along the way, and cutscenes always promise a laugh. While the games emotional appeal and dire necessity of escaping the city is lacking, it meshes well with the carefree attitude of the game.



Every action you do will make you more powerful in some way by rewarding experience, cash, or overcharge to spend. The weapons for purchase range from grenade launchers to freeze bombs to automatic rifles, each with a unique twist or attribute that can be further augmented with amps like freezing bullets or enemies that explode in confetti. Likewise, cash can be spent on your visual aesthetic, offering scuba suits to pimp hats in customizing your character to your preferred post apocalyptic look. With customization for your epic ability that triggers on style level 3 to tailoring your overdrive perks for more automatic weapon damage, there is a wide array of options to not only tailor your look but lean toward your preferred play style to match.

Chaos Squad is the game's multiplayer component that matches you up with seven other players for mission based mayhem, culminating in a defense night similar to the campaign. The mode is exactly what it suggests, as weapons and enemies are flying everywhere. Missions across the city are pretty straight forward but offer varying rewards for the defense night. The chaos is a blast, but also so much that you can hardly gain a sense of what is going on; additionally most players have varying degree of weaponry and some can clear entire groups with a single shot of their high powered weapons.

Sunset Overdrive is a game I am sad I missed out on at launch, but glad I made a priority to play later. It is easy to pick up and harder to put down as missions, challenges, and collectibles beckon your call. The simplicity of the gameplay and plethora of customization opens up a wide potential of possibility and experimentation. The over the top humor and action is a blast, and the momentum never slows as the game presses forward. Random, frantic, and explosive; it is a game worthy of your time.