Games of January 2019

2019 looks to carry the momentum of all the huge titles that arrived one after the other towards the end of last year. Rather than highlight everything slated for release, I want to go over what I’m personally looking forward to, as well as a few others.

Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition

Release: January 11

Platforms: XBO, PS4, Switch, PC

Originally releasing back in 2008 exclusive to the Xbox 360 and then getting a Japan only re-release a year later on PS3, Bandai Namco has finally granted the west a full English release of one of the most beloved “Tales of” games. New playable characters, additional voiced segments and visual upgrades round out a JRPG that’s aged very well. I haven’t played the series since Xillia 2, but I’m eager to evaluate how Vesperia stacks up against some of my favorites in the series.

Resident Evil 2

Release: January 25

Platforms: XBO, PS4, PC

Moving from re-releases to remakes, Resident Evil 2 is a gore-filled terror fest that I got to play back at San Diego Comic Con last year.  Capcom was able to provide a revamped horror experience when they released Resident Evil 7 almost two years ago, and this installment looks to provide just as traumatizing an experience. A “One-Shot” timed demo is currently available on all platforms, so give it a try if you’re on the fence like me and aren’t sure if playing games while stressing about jump scares every ten seconds is worth it.

Kingdom Hearts 3

Release: January 29

Platforms: XBO, PS4

So yeah, this game is actually real and we’re just weeks away from Square’s Disney crossover fiesta. Like Resident Evil 2, I walked away impressed from my time with the demo at Comic Con. I’m still trying to get myself to finish all the contents of 2.8, but I’m not finding it to be anywhere near as fun or interesting as the demo I got to play last July. I don’t think it’ll take any convincing on my part to get Kingdom Hearts fans on board, and I’ll be picking this one up just to finally see how this incredibly convoluted story gets wrapped up. A wise man once told me, back in 2005, “Chris, we will be in college and Kingdom Hearts 3 still will not have come out yet.” I was able to get his positive impressions on the demo just before his first semester of graduate school.

That’s not the entirety of January, however. Here’s a handful of other games you can look forward to this month:

  • Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr’s Journey (3DS): Jan 11
  • New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe (Switch): Jan 11
  • Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown (PS4, XBO): Jan 18
  • Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes (Switch): Jan 18
  • Life is Strange 2 – Episode 2: “Rules” (PC, PS4, XBO): Jan 22
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Spider-Man “Silver Lining” Review

(Warning: Full spoilers ahead)

What Spider-Man’s final DLC chapter lacks in Symbiote suits, it makes up for with challenging fast-paced sequences, a surprisingly humorous story, and a finale that excites me for what’s to come.

By now, if you’ve played any episodes from “The City that Never Sleeps” you can likely pencil out what to expect from “Silver Lining.” The story revolves around a specific character, Screwball offers you challenge missions to complete and the villain has warehouses around the city that offers wave after wave of goons to defeat and claim even more tokens.

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Arnold has seen better days.

What makes “Silver Lining” stand out however, is that it doesn’t leave you hanging. We’re at the finale and are rewarded with closure for several story lines. Screwball’s challenges don’t fall victim to repetition and instead end with us finally ending her streaming days. The villain warehouses (or sewers this time) introduce us to a character working for Silver Sable and give us insight into who he is, what his motivations are, and closes it in a satisfying fashion true to Spidey’s character.

One surprising and unique story that I didn’t expect to continue in this episode was Captain Yuri Watanabe’s. We know that she’s left the force in her vendetta against Hammerhead and his gang, but what we don’t know is the full extent of her fall from grace. We’re finally given an answer in the form of strange audio recordings that Spider-Man can find scattered across the city, similar to the backpacks from the main game. After discovering the final recording, we’re shown the full extent that the previous DLC had on her, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her in a villain role moving forward.

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I think this means no more Spider-Cop.

 

We’re also reunited with Felicia Hardy and although it seemed obvious that she never truly met her demise, she was still a surprising and welcome inclusion.

Everything “Silver Lining” throws at you has immense payoffs and play off of an phenomenally written story that fans have been invested in for months now. Alternatively, choosing not to pursue the side missions that I thought enriched my experience so much wouldn’t even be a detriment to the player. Silver Sable’s story colliding with Hammerhead’s was already a blast from beginning to end, and there were so many moments where I found myself either literally laughing out loud from the humorous moments between Spider-Man and Sable or sitting with a stupid grin on my face from discovering easter eggs or nailing a photo-bomb in a Screwball challenge.

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Who’s that anti-hero?

 

My favorite aspect of this episode was how Spider-Man handles Miles Morales’ desire to become a hero. It’s an all too common trope to have heroes shy away from helping their younger friends or family develop into budding crime fighters in an effort to spare them from the danger that comes with it. Instead, Spider-Man empathizes with Miles’ desire to use his powers to help people. He slowly develops Miles, encouraging him to stay eager but to not be rash and put himself into danger. Miles is recruited in this episode to help Spider-Man in a way that doesn’t involve going head-to-head with super villains and then at the very end, the two begin web slinging around New York. I look forward to playing as Miles in the sequel.

The Verdict:

“Silver Lining” learns from the past mistakes of the previous episodes. Repetition is at a bare minimum and stories we’ve been following since the first part are given closure or tease a sequel that I hope is on its way.

9/10

3 Games you forgot about in 2018

It’s new year’s eve, you’re probably almost halfway through Red Dead Redemption 2, gleefully spending half an hour riding your horse across vast wastelands and enjoying yourself.

Or perhaps you’re trying to get a low tier character into Elite Smash in Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Maybe you’re tying up loose side quests in Assassins Creed Odyssey or starting your 500th match of blackout in Black Ops 4.

Nothing is intrinsically wrong with any of these but in the wake of such an incredible density of triple A titles, there’s a couple of games I think most of you forgot about. Games that didn’t quite get the budget or marketing of the behemoths of the holiday season. Games that I think deserve your attention or at the very least want to introduce you to.

#3 Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom

 

Look Persona 5 R isn’t being officially announced until March and you’re on pins and needles in the last month leading into Kingdom Hearts III, I get it. But in the midst of all of this Bandai Namco already supplied us with a gorgeous Studio Ghibli inspired JRPG that should curb your appetite for JRPGs for a bit. It’s got a story full of heart and brings the whimsy of a Ghibli film to life, but most importantly it put the original game’s combat mechanics into the trash can and revamped it into something enjoyable. If you need more info on this check out my review.

#2 Dead Cells

 

I originally discovered this game after one of IGN’s new hires plagiarized his review of the game from a popular YouTuber and that’s probably one of the happiest accidents of my year. Unlike the Metroid series in 2018, Dead Cells was there for me when I craved fast-paced sidescrolling action. Dead Cells starts you off with a single sword and asks you to traverse its levels to the very end, picking up new weapons and unlocking secrets along the way. Perish, and you’re sent back to the beginning. It flawlessly weaves challenge and creativity into both its level design and its weaponry, making each run different as well as giving the player the feeling of being just a little more prepared than your last run through. There are sure to be a couple of important Metroid-vania styled games in 2019, but with the price of entry being so low and my enjoyment while playing this being quite high, this is an easy recommendation that I feel got buried by all of the large releases this year.

#1 Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon

What do you mean what is this game? Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon is a Kickstarter bonus for the upcoming title Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Bloodstained is being developed by Castlevania mastermind Koji Igarashi after breaking away from his underground prison cell at Konami, he finally got to fund what you may call a spiritual successor to Castlevania on his own terms.

Full disclosure: I am indeed a backer on his project, have met the guy, and may or may not be shamelessly plugging a game that is near the top of my “Most Anticipated” games list of 2019. Even though this may have been just a fun offshoot from the real game that is still in development, it still acts as a supremely challenging action sidescroller that may as well be a refined old school Castlevania title. With multiple playable characters, a killer soundtrack, and an aesthetic that hopefully won’t stay uncommon I urge you to check this one out as it is available to everyone for the measly fee of $9.99.

So there you have it. Maybe you didn’t forget about these. Maybe you all beat every Triple A title months ago and I’ve insulted your pride by assuming otherwise. If you’re looking for something different or just something to tide you over before the many games of January that are on their way, do yourself a favor and give these a look.

Thanks for reading.

Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee! Review

When the Pokemon Let’s Go! titles were first revealed, I among many other fans dismissed it as a spin-off title whose purpose was to hold fans over until the next core title due out in 2019. The Pokemon Go catching mechanic combined with the removal of Pokemon abilities and other aspects that have been staples for years surely meant that this wasn’t a “true” Pokemon title right?

As I played through Let’s Go, Eevee!, it became increasingly apparent that not only is this game not a spin-off, but a title that is worthy of fans’ time and attention.

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I forget too

Let’s Go ditches the traditional course of running into caves or tall grass to spawn Pokemon via random encounters in favor of Pokemon appearing in the overworld ready to be caught. While it’s purposefully emulating Pokemon Go to help ease new or returning players back into a core RPG title, I was surprised at how much I did not miss running into Zubats every ten seconds whilst exploring caves and scavenging for items. Pokemon walking around different routes in the game gave the area more personality and made the world feel like it was actually inhabited by Pokemon. Pokemon look lively and are animated thoughtfully, rounding out the core encountering experience nicely.

Speaking of catching, Let’s Go introduces a brand new controller peripheral called the Pokeball Plus. Built and shaped as a small Pokeball, it acts as a motion controller to simulate a more immersive catching experience. Additionally it’s equipped with a joystick and cancel button so that the entire game can be played with it. Catching a Pokemon prompts the controller to light up and vibrate just like a Pokeball in the show or game, and the signature screech of the Pokemon sounds off when they become caught. The motion controls while fun, can be inaccurate, and mapping the confirm button to clicking the joystick can cause some mistaken inputs. Motion controls certainly aren’t the main attraction of the game, and I did find myself playing in handheld mode for the majority of my playtime, but the Pokeball Plus controller was just another in a wealth of pleasant surprises that the game had in store for me.

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That could have been you, Eevee

Outside of a few minor differences Let’s Go, Eevee! plays largely like any main Pokemon title before it. Kanto is still a pleasure to explore and a Pokedex of only 153 (instead of 800+) motivated me to catch as many as I could. Team Rocket’s Jesse and James are finally included as antagonists in the story with Blue helping out you and your rival along the way. Throw in Pokemon following you (or riding on top of them if they are big enough) and traveling becomes even more fun. An even more impressive traveling mechanic awaits trainers who best the Elite Four.

Let’s Go also allows players to access their PC box from the main menu rather than forcing them to run to a Pokemon Center. This was the most profound and welcome change that I didn’t realize I wanted. This along with Pokemon following the player are mechanics that I hope become staples moving forward.

Rather than roam the Safari Zone, players now have the option to transfer their Kanto region Pokemon from Pokemon Go to this title. It’s not the most intuitive feature as it took me a few tries to connect my smartphone with my Switch, but it was nice to use what little I had in Pokemon Go and put it towards my Pokedex.

Eevee or Pikachu are the main attractions in the game, and they serve as a powerful and adorable companion throughout your journey. You can feed them, dress them up, use them in battle, or utilize them to affect the overworld with what were previously HMs. I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t evolve my starter Eevee, but with the character being so integral to the game’s mechanics and especially the cutscenes, it made sense that the option did not exist.

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Certain Pokemon will require a battle before they can be caught

The game is not without its flaws, however minor. Your Pokemon journey won’t be immensely challenging by any means, though swapping out most of my team midway through did increase the difficulty significantly while I was leveling them up to par. The post-game content also isn’t very expansive. The Master Trainers are a very fun inclusion, but outside of challenging them and catching them all , there isn’t too much more to do. If you’ve played through Kanto countless times before, a fresh coat of paint and mechanics may or may not be enough to warrant a return for all players, but I was more than happy to be back.

The Verdict:

Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee is one of my biggest surprises of the year. It’s previous features that I originally perceived as shortcomings ended up being some of the aspects of it I enjoyed the most. This entry is a standout title in the series that reminds me that Pokemon isn’t defined by it’s random encounters or competitive battling but by the characters themselves and their presentation. I still have a Pokedex to complete and Master Trainers to challenge, so it’s safe to say my 25 hours spent with the game so far are only going to increase.

9/10

“Do you have Fortnite?” A Parent’s Guide to Buying Video Games

The holiday shopping season is here and similar to last year, your child’s wish list is full of brand new expensive video games that only you can obtain for them. Unlike last year though, you’re prepared. You have pictures on your phone of exactly what you need, you know exactly what video game console they play on and your list is tucked into your pocket.

What could possibly go wrong? Unfortunately quite a bit. Let’s go over three small details that your child may have overlooked when giving you shopping instructions.

#1 Special Editions

We’ve parked the car and walk inside the mall on a mission to obtain Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee! Easy right? You walk up to the cashier and request the game, only to be asked a simple question, “Were we needing the Pokeball Plus Controller with our game today?”

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Don’t forget your controller!

Poke-what? What controller could little Johnny possibly need? He’s already got four. There’s now a $49.99 controller that works only for this game? Is that something he wanted?

It’s important to remember that some games will come with extra accessories designed to coincide with a specific design aspect that the game advertises. Additionally, games may come in packaging that include these bonus items, or additional digital-only bonuses that add more content to their game.

 

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Don’t forget to ask which version they want!

#2 Digital Only

Alright now that we’ve figured out all this special edition nonsense the next item on the list is something they never stop talking about. Fortnite is on the list but the shelves seem to be barren of any copies. We’re pretty sure that Fortnite is one of the biggest games around, but we can’t find it? And we know Johnny is already playing it all the time, why is this on the list? Upon further inquiry with a store associate we find out that there’s something new for Fortnite, the “Deep Freeze” bundle.

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There is no game cartridge or disc inside these physical cases

 

What Johnny is really wanting is the new digital content for the game, even though this “physical” package will suffice. It has a code within the box to grant access to all the new costumes and digital money they want. This can also be obtained via digital gift cards, but perhaps this will be more appropriate to wrap up so it can be opened during the holidays.

Remember that any season pass, or other digital packages are obtainable with digital gift cards. Not everything will have a pseudo physical package like Fortnite.

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Digital-only content (DLC) released over several weeks or months

#3 Pre-Orders

We’ve weathered the special edition minutiae, deciphered the digital pass enigma and we’re down to the final item on our list. Before we even have a chance to approach a sales associate with a question, we see a poster for just the item we seek!

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Release date: December 7th

There’s only one problem. Johnny’s most wanted item has not released yet. We could come back on that day, or we can see if the retailer takes reservations on games. It’s not the end of the world if we don’t reserve it. In fact, we may be able to come right into the store on the release day and pick it up without any issue. But the possibility exists that this is the battle plan of every other parent, and grandparent, and aunt, and uncle, and maybe everyone’s in-laws are trying to do this too. And apparently the location already has over 150 copies reserved for eager gamers?

Sometimes the biggest titles release in the very midst of the holiday season. It never hurts to double check when games are going to be available for purchase. Don’t forget to actually pick up the game as soon as it comes out! They won’t be held forever!

There are other oddities and details that can put a wrinkle in your holiday shopping adventures when it comes to gaming, but these are what I feel are the most common aspects that may confuse people. Happy shopping, and may the store’s inventory be in your favor.

 

Spider-Man: Turf Wars Review

(Warning: Some Spoilers)

The very first moments of Spider-Man’s second DLC pack “Turf Wars” immediately set a much darker tone for the story than what we’ve previously come to expect. Black Cat’s meddling with the gangs of New York have created a, well, turf war that involves notorious villain Hammerhead and the fight to stop them from acquiring the Sable tech that has been left throughout the city.

Upon infiltrating Hammerhead’s hideout, police captain Yuri Watanabe fails to stop Hammerhead before he kills her entire squad with Spider-Man arriving just a few moments too late.

Rather than tell more of Spider-Man’s story, “Turf Wars” is very much about a grieving Watanabe and the lengths she goes to for revenge on Hammerhead. Hammerhead hideouts act as a sidequest as we’ve grown accustomed to and clearing them prompts the help of Mary Jane to uncover the surprising past that Watanabe has with Hammerhead. Her reasons for revenge become clearer after finishing each hideout, and her motives are more complex than we’re originally led to believe.

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Darker in tone, darker in color palette

“Turf Wars” makes it a point to delve more into Miles Morales’ story as well. We discover that he’s still trying to become Spider-Miles in his own way as Peter tries to make up excuses to not train him, worrying about the dangers it could lead Miles in to. Miles’ also acts as a comic relief foil to the revenge story we’re plunged into with most of his phone calls to Peter involve him doing something silly. Jumping off a bridge in Queens and breaking his toe definitely isn’t one of his smartest moments.  Just the Facts with J.J. helps bridge the gap between downtime in the story, but no information on Harry Osborn or Black Cat was a bit frustrating, if not understandable.

Spider-Bot makes a return in arguably its most fun mission yet. The newest DLC finally gives us a mission that is interesting, plot related, and not disarming bombs. I hope to see more clever implementation of our robot companion in the next pack.

Although this expansion manages to avoid the horrendous repetition of the puzzles found in the last DLC and the main story, our live streaming amateur terrorist Screwball returns as the supplementary side missions to the Hammerhead hideouts spread throughout New York City, and it’s a huge disappointment. Apart from being annoying, this side mission feels thrown in, and her inclusion a second time in a row makes me wonder if we couldn’t have used a new character or even gave an old one a second appearance. I had almost no motivation to pursue her challenges, and unless you need the tokens, I would probably just skip it.

The length of the DLC may be a bit short once again, but the darker storyline kept me more engaged than I expected, especially with how impressive Black Cat’s implementation was in the previous expansion. We saw Watanabe and Spider-Man grow close and watched their friendship evolve in the campaign, which makes Watanabe’s dark turn so much more interesting to see.

Spider-Man’s greatest strength continues to be how well it understands the relationships in the spider-verse, both for friends and foes alike. Those who enjoyed Spidey’s relationship with Watanabe in the main story shouldn’t skip this expansion, even if it may be light on content.

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No Symbiote suit yet

The Verdict:

Turf Wars doesn’t answer lingering questions from the last expansion or seem to move things forward, but that’s not its purpose or it’s main attraction. Though we’ve seen revenge stories like this before, Insomniac understands exactly how to craft compelling stories between Spider-Man and his closest friends. A much more brutal and darker tone accents a DLC that is both worth your time and attention, even if that only amounts to a handful of hours.

8.0/10

Spider-Man: The Heist Review

(Warning: full spoilers below)

Spider-Man’s first DLC pack “The Heist” doesn’t answer the burning questions left by the end of the main campaign, or bring us any further to a costumed Miles Morales. But after playing through it, I found that it doesn’t need to.

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She’s got a point

“The Heist” begins with Spider-Man intercepting a robbery at a museum where he encounters ex-girlfriend Felicia Hardy, better known as the Black Cat. Cunning, deceptive, and flirtatious, Black Cat has some of the best chemistry and scenes with Spider-Man of anything that was even in the main game. Their cryptic past is investigated through bits of dialogue whilst chasing, tracking down, and even fighting alongside each other. This is blast from Peter’s past is further complicated by the inclusion of Mary Jane, who assists Spider-Man by tracking down leads and making hilarious remarks and inquiries regarding their old relationship.

Mary Jane also receives her own segment in the DLC. While central to the Heist’s plot, it felt too familiar to her previous missions from the main story, and was not very fun as a result. Hiding behind boxes and sneaking around gang members in order to get from point A to point B is a disappointment and I hope that the next two DLC packs give MJ expanded gameplay options and scenarios that aren’t stealth-based.

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Easter eggs abound

While we don’t play as or see Miles here, we do get a conversation with him calling Peter to ask for Spider-Man lessons. While not the tag team duo setup that some may be hoping for, it still continues where the two left off if only a little bit. If anything it may foreshadow a larger role for Miles down the line.

Challenge missions make a return featuring annoying F-list villain Screwball and her burning desire for likes and views on her social platforms. While some new challenges are fun such as being limited to combining two gadgets to take down hordes of enemies, others are borrowed from the main campaign and make it repetitive as a result.

Similar to the backpack tracking in the main story, Spider-Man can embark on a quest to track down Black Cat’s father’s old stolen items, which further expands on her backstory. I wish that the Screwball missions would have been replaced by something that further complemented the DLC plot like this mission, as every conversation that took place between Spider-Man and the soon to be retired police officer who tasks Spidey with this was interesting and gave me a new perspective on who this version of Black Cat is.

Just the Facts with J.J. returns as you patrol the city and his commentary on everything from kids’ social media usage to Spider-Man’s alleged romance with Black Cat is just as entertaining as ever and serves as a welcome return.

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Goodnight

Completing all the new challenges plus the main mission took me just over two and a half hours. “The Heist” doesn’t win any points for brevity but makes up for it with a fantastic final fight that has Spider-Man and Black Cat fight side-by-side and ends with a heavy cliffhanger.

Oddly, there seemed to be a handful of technical issues with this DLC as my game actually crashed during a Screwball mission. This was accompanied by multiple framerate dips when the fights that had multiple new enemies on screen at once. I played this on a PS4 Pro, so I was surprised to see these make their way into the final product.

The Verdict:

A short but entertaining return to Marvel’s Spider-Man introduces one of the best new characters to this game’s universe. Challenge missions are repetitive and the infamous analysis puzzles make a return, but it’s not enough to deter me from enjoying an ever evolving world that may yet answer the biggest questions that the story left us with. I’m eager to play the second DLC “Turf Wars” next month.

7.5/10

Review: Marvel’s Spider-Man

When I played Spider-Man for the first time at San Diego Comic Con this year, I walked away with questions that made me worry about the final product. I knew that they had nailed the swinging. Mere minutes with the game assured me of that. I knew that Yuri Lowenthal had nailed the snarky quips that Spider-Man is known for. I knew that I would be able to go almost anywhere in New York that I wanted, and tackle objectives as I saw fit. But other Spider-Man games before this have accomplished these without being very fun or memorable. What I did not know was if these unknown factors would be able to complete the package and make the final product live up to what everyone was hoping for.

Would the story be engrossing and engaging? Would Miles Morales and Mary Jane share the spotlight alongside Spider-Man? Will the combat be interesting?

The answer, which I arrived at well before eagerly completing  nearly every task, mission, and side mission the game has to offer was a resounding yes.

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It definitely did not take me 10 minutes to get this shot.

Peter Parker’s relationships with his friends are pivotal in transforming a generic New York City into one that feels like the Marvel universe. We see him struggle with changing careers with being on time to his commitments. We watch as he attempts to reconcile things with Mary Jane, and see Peter help strangers in his community. Combat may make some “feel” like Spider-Man, though I would argue that all of Peter’s relationships with the main cast make me feel like I’m “with” him throughout everything. I found my main motivation to keep playing and completing every quest the game threw at me was just to build and explore character interactions and watch Peter become a greater Spider-Man as a result.

Miles Morales and Mary Jane are not only central to the game’s story, but playable as well. Although they cannot engage in combat, they are creatively implemented to explore sequences and gameplay that really wouldn’t make a ton of sense if I was in control of Spider-Man.

Perhaps drawing inspiration from the Batman Arkham series, Spider-Man has hacked into the city’s radios, and as a result can listen in on J. Jonah Jameson’s conspiracy theory show where he talks to his listeners and brings people on so that he can trash talk Spider-Man, which changes depending on where you are in the game. This sort of touch made the world much more engrossing, and gave me an idea of how the world at large was reacting to the events around me.

NYPD captain Yuri Watanabe is in constant communication with Spider-Man and the two’s banter together quickly made their dialogue moments some of my favorite in the game and showcased just how much care went into the voice-over for the game.

A sizable rogues gallery is also on display and features some of Spidey’s most famous villains along with a new one made for the game.

Combat is something that ended up being more than my initial hands-on led me to believe. Just as the game is free roaming, so too is the combat. You are only limited by your imagination as you punch, kick, web, launch enemies into the air, dodge rocket launchers and then send them flying back at enemies. The possibilities are seemingly endless but it’s never overwhelming nor does it ever come across as unbalanced. I never felt that I was at a disadvantage for running out of ammo for a specific web gadget or if I did not have a full focus meter to activate my suit’s special power. I was only ever limited by my imagination. As cliche as that may sound, I truly believe that Insomniac created a fine tuned system that other developers can learn from.

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Like combat, photo mode is limited only by your imagination.

While there are many things that Insomniac has done right, there are a few annoyances. Though Spider-Man is an action game, many sequences require a puzzle to be solved in order to progress. The puzzles themselves aren’t difficult or boring, but there are only two kinds and we see them ad nauseam . The tediousness quickly became a negative and I hope that the upcoming DLC forgoes them altogether.

Another annoyance is stealth. Spider-Man is able to use high ground and distance to dispatch foes quietly with one button press. At any time I can see if my stealth take-down is “unsafe” and will alert enemies. However, once you clear everyone out, the game automatically triggers the next wave, who are already on alert and run straight for you. It’s strange that there’s little reward outside of fewer enemies to punch, and this made enemy hideouts a huge chore to clear out.

The game clocks in at just over 20 hours depending on how many extra missions you choose to accept and how quickly you can speed through everything. Overall the game feels short, but not to a fault.

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Is it cliche to describe the game as “Amazing” if it’s true?

The Verdict:

Spider-Man is a triumph by developer Insomniac Games and unsurprisingly earned the accolade of being the fastest selling PlayStation 4 title of all time. While there are occasionally small annoyances, the game is an absolute joy to play regardless of how much you enjoy superheroes movies or comic book stories. The combat and narrative alone make it among the most polished titles in the vast PlayStation library. I eagerly await the upcoming DLC missions.

Score: 9/10

 

SDCC 2018 Hands-On Impressions: Resident Evil 2

Resident Evil 2 is an anxiety-sustaining, panic inducing, stress producing terror simulator that immediately reminded me how awful I am with the survival horror genre. Make no mistake, this is not the action packed boulder punch of a game that Resident Evil 5 was nor is it similar to Resident Evil 6. Fans of Resident Evil 7 and the slower,  more methodical gameplay found in Reisdent Evil 4 and, to some degree, Resident Evil Revelations will find themselves right at home.

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Of course the demo would lead attendees into a literal dark room. Of course.

My demo begins with Leon utilizing his sense of duty to walk straight into the absolute disaster that is Raccoon City.  But we can’t just leave and get to safety, we have to walk through flaming cars and screams of citizens being eaten so we can save our fellow officers at the police station.

So we get to the police station, and the lights are off, and the headphones that are supplied for the demo let me hear literally every creaking board and potential lurking threat in my vicinity. I’m armed with what I can only assume is a standard issue handgun and Leon’s sense of justice to explore a police station that I know is teeming with zombies.

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We could go into the scary police station, or you know, we could just not.

I round a corner and I hear a shrill demand in the form of a scream, “Unlock the door!” I make my way over and attempt to pry my fellow officer from the bottom of a gated doorway only to listen to him die as zombies on the other side devour him from the bottom up. Nice.

Naturally this isn’t anywhere near enough to deter Leon from leaving and never coming back, so it’s time to return to the main room.  The dimly-lit hallway we just made our way through is now filled with zombies. Try as I might to mow them down with my underwhelming weaponry, I take two huge hits before I make a break for the other side.

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Our way out of Raccoon City was sitting in front of us the whole time.

Finally we make our way to the police lieutenant who has also sustained injuries from our undead pals.  He tasks Leon with utilizing a notebook we found earlier to solve a series of puzzles that will open up a door to make our way further into the station. In my inventory box that reminded me largely of Resident Evil 7, I’m able to shuffle my items on a grid, combine or use my herbs and double check my ammo. My key items are also on display and I can use the notebook’s hints to find the medallions needed for the unlock. Sadly my demo fades to black and a “Thank you for playing” screen informs me my 20 minutes are up.

My time with Resident Evil 2 assured me that it will be following in the footsteps of Resident Evil 7 and will be a true survival horror game, rather than go back to the action genre that some of the past titles adopted. If you like being terrified out of your mind and constantly worried that zombies are about to take a bite out of you from behind, Resident Evil 2 will be available on January 25, 2019.

SDCC 2018 Hands-On Impressions: Kingdom Hearts III

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I purposefully skipped cutscenes to maximize my playtime

After more than a decade of waiting, Kingdom Hearts III is not only real, but playable and on its way early next year. After happily stumbling upon a ticket to come back and play the game, I was ready to team up with Sora in the Toy Story world to kick the Heartless out of Andy’s room.

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Souveneir

Kingdom Hearts games have been plentiful on handheld devices that, while good games in their own right, lacked the technical power present in the current XBOX One and PlayStation 4 consoles.  The visual fidelity was overly striking and Andy’s room looked just the same if not as good as the Pixar film itself. Seeing Sora’s jacket rustle as I moved and Goofy’s ears flop about while spinning around with his shield showed just how far the presentation had evolved from the past entries.

Combat will feel instantly familiar to anyone who has played a previous Kingdom Hearts game. The command list lets you attack, consume an item, or cast magical abilities at your foes. Sora is still an acrobatic maniac with flashy keyblade strikes and combos that last for days at a time. My AI pals Donald, Goofy, Buzz and Woody however, definitely did their fair share of fighting and were much more helpful than companions in past games. Partner moves are still a main attraction in fighting in tandem with Disney legends. Running up to Buzz had him equip Sora with a giant toy hammer that let me pound into my foes at a surprising speed. It was both silly and immensely satisfying laying into the Heartless and a welcome change of pace from Keyblade strikes. I was also able to ride a rocket with Buzz and Woody, where we could take flight and then lock onto a grounded enemy and unleash the rocket straight at them. This was very reminiscent of the climax of the first film where Buzz and Woddy are trying to get back to Andy’s car whilst “falling in style.” It was a great addition and I cannot wait to see this sort of homage implemented into the other worlds in the game.

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Needs more Randy Newman

Another welcome addition that I discovered while playing was the sheer freedom I had in Andy’s room and in the locations that followed. Kingdom Hearts games in the past have had very fragmented worlds with many “rooms” with short loading times in between. I was able to traverse Andy’s room in any way I chose. I could jump on his bed and weave through his trinkets that were on top of his dresser. Kingdom Hearts has had  large areas previously, but this was definitely a different feel than what had previously been done.

After dismantling the Heartless, Buzz told us that we had to go down the street to the toy store. So I jumped out of the window in Andy’s room, fought more enemies on the rooftop, jumped down onto the front lawn, and fought my way to the toy store all with zero loading screens or separated areas in between.

Finally at our destination, Sora took command of a toy robot where I entered a first person point of view and could run, shoot, and punch my way through opposing toy robots. The pace of combat was very quick and frantic and there was never a lack of action on screen. Should my robot be defeated, I could attack an enemy and steal their robot to get right back into the fray. It was very plain to see that with combat being very familiar, the environment was tuned to make encounters diverse and more distinctive than before.

The other part of the demo included a portion of Olympus, but my time ran out just as I began playing.

I was originally hoping that the eagerly and long awaited Kingdom Hearts III was going to live up to fan’s expectations, but I’m now confident that it will. January 29th isn’t soon, but it definitely promises what has the potential to be the best game in the series.