iReview – MX VS ATV REFLEX

MX Vs ATV REFLEX (2009)

Publisher: THQ
Developer: Rainbow Studios
Platform: Xbox One Backwards Compatibility
Availability: Xbox 360, PS3, PC

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Released probably eons ago (actually 2009) by Rainbow Studios and THQ, MX vs ATV Reflex is the 3rd game in the MX vs ATV series.

The game has been made backwards compatible on the Xbox 360 and was recently made the Xbox Live Games With Gold free game. So I picked it up, and have been playing it a lot. A surprisingly amount actually, considering I have Forza Horizons 3 available, and I’d rather play this.


 

The game features Motocross Bikes, ATVs, Buggies, and Super Trucks, and you race out in the wilderness, over dirt, mud, water, and snow, or in an arena with jumps and obstacles. Throughout the campaign there are a few different modes. Waypoint, Nationals, Supercross, Freestyle, Omnicross, and then the Chmpionship races. Each series supports different classes of vehicles, whether they be, MX Bokes, ATVs, Buggies, or Super Trucks. The Omnicross mode which features all four types of vehicles, in my opinion, has got to be the most dangerous of all sports conceived – from the Bike’s perspective. You’re sharing the path with ATVs, Buggies, and Super Trucks. I think it would almost be impossible not to get killed. The trucks, in these latter modes seems to have a clear advantage over the smaller vehicles. They’re more stable, faster, and larger.

Each mode has a set of races that make up a series, and there are 3 series for each mode. They start easy, only 3 races, and then 5, and then 8. Each series more difficult, and longer, with the championship series having the longest races, and the most laps.

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There are also bonus races at the end of each mode’s series. These are either elimination style, or a solo time based checkpoint race, or races where you start as the person in last place, and try to win. The MX bikes also have a free style mode in an arena, or open area, with jumps and ramps, where you get scored on your tricks.

The big change this year is the handling mechanics. The left thumbstick will control your bike or vehicle, and the right stick controls the player’s body and balance. You can lean your body into the turns or jumps to get more momentum, or to right yourself if you lose balance. The right stick also allows you to pull off tricks while flying through the air.

From a course perspective, one of the notable key additions to the series is the real-time deforming ground. As more vehicles race around a track or path, the ground and mud will show the tire tracks, and the ruts will get deeper and more torn up, as the race continues. This can throw off the player’s balance when landing or cornering.

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The main issue I have with the title is the difficulty curve – specifically with the bikes. On Rookie or Moderate, the game is quite easy, and at times I found myself finishing a race 30-50 seconds ahead of the 2nd place racer. This is when I can get out ahead of the pack. If you get stuck behind, it can get very difficult to gain any placement, as the tracks and corners can be quite tight, and it is easy to knock into another racer, and fall off your bike. After a couple bails you’ll be at the back of the pack, and it will be difficult to fight your way through, to complete the race with a solid placement. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd advance, and only the championship series have multiple point rounds. This is especially notable in races where ATV’s and Buggies are racing beside you. They have no care for your well-being and will side-swipe you or knock you off the course as if you’re not there.

The game is easy on the achievements, and will tie up a lot of your time to complete all the races. As you get later in the series and championship races, they take about 10-15 minutes each to complete. The game is, however, surprisingly a lot of fun, and it feels really good when you can hit the jumps and land solidly on the other side, maintaining your rhythm and momentum. For the series that allow them, I would suggest you use the super trucks, instead of attempting the MX Bike or ATV, as you’ll be less frustrated in the end trying to compete against them.

One downside is that the game is old now, so the Xbox Live functionality has been disabled. Possibly one of the victims of THQ going bankrupts a few years ago.


Notable Achievements:
Coming on Strong (Lap an opponent in a race) – 15GLong Jumper (Land a jump of 300 feet or greater) – 15G

-iRogan

 

iReview – BATMAN ARKHAM KNIGHT

BATMAN – ARKHAM KNIGHT

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Platform: Xbox One
Availability: Xbox One, PS4, Windows

Batman Arkham Knight, possibly the final game in Rocksteady’s amazing trilogy, once again brings Batman out for one long night. The main villains this time around are Scarecrow (again), threatening to release his Fear gas across the whole city, and the Arkham Knight, a new villain, who is trying to take out Batman with his not-so-small army of tanks and drones.

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Some of the series’ standard villains return: Poison Ivy, Penguin, Two-Face, Riddler, and Harley Quinn. Some of the lesser, side-mission villains include: Firefly, Man-Bat, Deathstroke, Professor Pyg, Deacon Blackfire, and Hush.

The game takes place in Gotham City, and on Halloween, one year after the death of the Joker. Scarecrow has made threats against the city. He’s planning on releasing his Fear toxin by means of explosive devices littered around town. The city has since been evacuated, and all that’s left is the bad guys.

After a brief boss battle with Scarecrow early on, Batman finds himself trapped, trying to disable the Fear gas bombs in an enclosed chamber. He does this, knowingly risking his own health, and against the better judgment of dear ol’ Alfred. As a result of this event, Batman has directly exposed himself to the Scarecrow’s Fear toxin, and for the remainder of the game we now have our long-lost friend The Joker, in our brain. The story is that the Joker, before he died, injected Batman (and a few others) with his own blood. This, combined with the Scarecrow Fear toxins, has fully revived the Joker, but only in Batman’s head. This is the best part of the game. When continuing along with the rest of the story, it seems that whenever you turn around, Joker is waiting for you, and talking away. You can turn and face the other way, and he’ll follow.

The idea and technology behind this mechanic is awesome, as the Joker always seems to appear out of nowhere, and more than once startled me with his presence.

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Like the previous Arkham games, the city is wide open. In this version of Gotham, the city is split into 3 islands. By wing, you can coast and fly to each one, but you’ll have to progress through the story to lower the bridges, so that the Batmobile can follow. As well, the story progression will see you come up against the main supervillains and the Arkham Knight himself, but there are plenty of other side missions to complete along the way. Each mission requiring a certain number of completed tasks before coming up against that specific side boss directly. With Firefly, you’ll need to extinguish burning buildings and rescue firefighters, Two-face is robbing banks, Penguin has bomb stashes that need to be destroyed, etc.

The Gotham City Police Department building plays a bigger role in this game as well. You’ll find yourself driving here a lot to meet with the Commissioner or other story characters. The interesting, and very cool part of this building is whenever you enter, you first have to walk through the convict holding cells, and as the night progress, watch them slowly fill up with the villains you capture. It’s just the nice little touches that Rocksteady adds to the game that make it amazing.

The Riddler is always around, this time with 250+ trophies littered around. Additionally, this time, he’s captured Catwoman, and you need to complete a number of races involving the Batmobile, and fight off waves of enemies to save her life.

This brings me to the two big additions to the game: the Batmobile, and Co-op fights.

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The Batmobile is the best addition to the series. Bar none. This game was exclusively released for the next gen consoles, and PC in mind, with an upgraded engine and visuals. The map is big enough to justify the Batmobile, and it’s a blast to drive. It’s beefy, and can drive through walls or pillars, so when speeding down the seedy Gotham streets, not much will stop you. It can be called to your location on a whim, and it is spectacular to watch it drift into view, filling the game camera, highlighting the intricacies and sheer detail of the design as Batman leaps in. Furthermore, Batman can eject himself out of the seat and into full speed wing mode. The Batmobile has a tether cable to hold on to contextual object, or pull down walls or pull itself up walls, and it has a dual function Tank mode. In Tank mode, it can drive in any direction and has beefy artillery with a 360 degree view.  The Arkham Knight has an army of tanks at his disposal, so throughout the game, you’ll find yourself in these wars, completely outnumbered, but luckily not out-gunned. The Batmobile can also be controlled remotely, when within range, guns and all.

The second big addition to the series is the co-op combat fighting. Throughout the game you’ll be paired up with Robin, Nightwing, or Catwoman, to fight again a large group, or multiple waves of enemies. Both heroes are fighting simultaneously and it’s incredible to watch it play out so seamlessly. But, at any time, you can switch perspective to the other hero, and take full control as them. This also allows for two-on-one beat downs or co-op maneuver. You almost feel sorry for the bad guys at the end of the fight, as the moves are so perfectly brutal.

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Rocksteady has done an amazing job of seeing this Batman trilogy through to a satisfying conclusion. This final effort is a beautiful game, and nearly perfect in every aspect. The standard villains are there sure, but this time around, some new faces get a shot in the spotlight. The addition of Harley Quinn as a main player in the story is also a huge boon for me, and the mind-job the Joker causes during the playthrough is still memorable.

As far as Batman games go, I don’t think this one can be topped.

Good for those that like all things Batman, Bats, Punching Bad Guys and Tanks

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Achievement department has the standard affair: story related, completing all the necessary tasks for each side villain, collect the Joker trophies (nope!), AR challenges, and Tank battles. Nothing truly memorable though.

Notable Achievement:

The Real Deal (Takedown 20 moving cars without using the Batmobile) – 5G

-iRogan
 

iReview: ASSASSIN’S CREED: UNITY – Another Year, Another Assassin

ASSASSIN’S CREED: UNITY

Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Platform: Xbox One
Availability: Xbox One, PS4, Windows

It’s a hot summer day in Paris, France. Its 1789, in the heat of the French Revolution, and Arno Dorian gingerly slips through the amassing crowds. The people are angry, hungry, and burning effigies. Guards canvas the area making sure that the protest doesn’t get out of hand. With his target in sight, Arno passes behind unaware guards, silently slipping the Assassin blade into their neck or back, leaving them wobbling, dying, before passing onto the next. His target is within sight, gesturing towards the throng of people, arms wide. Arno has the means and the tools for his escape at the ready. The roar of the crowd hides the immediate shock towards the dead guards. The distance nears, he vaults up the platform, and pounces on his victim, penetrating the beating heart with his hidden blade. The whole world shudders, colours dilute, and we see the history that lead us to this moment as our victim dies.

This is the setting of Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Ubisoft’s eighth major installment in the series. Like its many predecessors, Unity shares the common formula: target, Kill, Escape, Repeat.

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Unity is the first Assassins Creed title to usher in the new console generation, and with it came better visuals, larger crowds, heavily detailed buildings, and new navigational game play mechanics. Most notably: controlled descent.

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Before we ‘dive’ off into the game play, let’s break the story down a bit. We start Assassin’s Creed Unity as a game tester at Abstergo, using a new gaming device called a Helix. So now we’re playing a game within a game. Through this device we get to experience different genetic memories. The Assassin Brotherhood, always fearful that Abstergo is a bunch of Templars – that they’re using this new device to data mine the past for clues – hijacks the memory sequence, and implores the player to join them as an initiate. What follows is a story about love and heart-break, betrayal and time travel.

The featured Assassin this time around is Arno Dorian, and we join his memory already in progress, as a child, and he’s waiting for his father to conclude some meetings. As we wait patiently, innocently, a tricky young girl named Elise De La Serre happens upon us, and coerces us to steal away among the palace corridors, causing all the mischief only two kids can. When we return to our seat, we find the corridor filled with people, and our father, who was an Assassin, dead on the ground, murdered. The story skips ahead 13 years, and we’ve been adopted by Elise’s father, who is a Grand Master of the Templars. Arno has grown very fond of Elise. In the next mission, Elise’s father is found dead at a party, and we are mistaken to be the killer, and imprisoned in the Bastille. Escaping the Bastille with another Assassin, we get invited to be a part of the Brotherhood.

From here, the story moves at a quick pace, it takes place during the French Revolution and the mass revolts against the King of France, King Louis XVI, all somehow orchestrated by the Templars.

At key points during the story, the memories will breakdown, and the hackers in the real world will check in, trying to repair the glitches. These points have us traveling through time to certain parts of Paris’ history, especially the occupation by Nazi Germany during World War II. These parts are done very well, and mix up the game a bit, and even have the player scaling the Eiffel Tower and fighting off World War II fighter planes.

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The city of Paris itself is Unity’s best feature. It looks just gorgeous, behaves as you would hope, and there are a ton of people just strolling around, going about their lives. Because of the Revolution, certain parts of the city have different patrolling guard types, depending on their allegiance, and there’s areas walled up. Some of the key buildings will also have a mass of crowds around it, not so much rioting, but expressing themselves. They’ll have effigies burning, and they’ll be screaming, pressing up against the guards watching the gates. The only issue is this situation never changes unless something triggers it, like a sword fight perchance, or a smoke bomb. Then everyone scatters. It’s quite fun to watch.

The larger buildings are designed with immaculate attention to detail, and even on street level, a lot of the buildings have open doors or windows that allow you to enter, or run through when chasing someone.

With the updated engine, some of the game play has changed, with a few additions, but mostly omissions. Biggest addition would be to the navigation, and the controlled decent. No longer will our Assassin just vault off a building in the wrong direction just because the direction we wanted to go didn’t suit. Our Assassin is very agile, and can scale almost any building, or incline, with ease, and scale it down just as easy. With the same controls. It’s all very fluid, with realistic animations. We can also jump through windows or slide under desks or fences. The down side to this is its not perfect. When running, it is very easy to get caught up on objects like desks and chairs. And then you just look like a fool, squatting in a chair, with the other civilians just looking at you.

Choosing a different weapon has changed a bit, and gone are the non-lethal fist fights. At all times you’re equipped with either the hidden blade or a weapon of some kind. Stealth take-downs from behind are the only way to take someone out without killing them. Also gone is the ability to move bodies and dump them in hay carts.

The big selling point with Unity was the inclusion of its co-op elements. Many missions and side stories are relegated to this mode, and unfortunately I didn’t get to spend a lot of time testing it. The one mission I did successfully join had me start across the city from my co-op companion, and then the whole game subsequently froze. I didn’t bother trying the multiplayer again.

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When the game was originally released it suffered tremendously from bugs, glitches, online issues, and complaints towards its companion mobile app. To the extent that Ubisoft pulled its season pass, refunded players, and gave away the Dead Kings DLC for free. They also practically neutered the mobile app, and just ended up unlocked everything in-game instead of having the player continues to suffer.

Unity turned out to be a big learning lesson for Ubisoft. In what the player’s want and that maybe annual release aren’t the best plan without rigorous testing in place before. They released the next Assassin’s Creed, Syndicate, a year later (as the title was already well into its development), and have since taken a break to refocus. Maybe to re-energize, maybe because they realized there were big problems with their current model, or maybe it was to give a window for their movie. Who’s to say?

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In the achievement section, they are all very rudimentary: complete the chapters in the story, perform a specific number of take downs, collect collectibles, and there’s an unfortunate amount of co-op related achievements. I might have to try and load the multiplayer back up again.

Notable Achievements
Patron of the arts (Watch a play in the Caf) – 10G

-iRogan

iReview – CALL OF DUTY: ADVANCED WARFARE – Another step forward

CALL OF DUTY: ADVANCED WARFARE

Publisher: Activision
Developer: Sledgehammer Games
Platform: Xbox One
Availability: Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, Windows

I’m always a little behind when playing Call of Duty games. I used to buy them eagerly upon release, back when the single player campaign was the primary focus. This was back when Infinity Ward was in their prime, making the Modern Warfare titles. Back when there was one good Call of Duty developer, and one not-so-good developer. Modern Warfare 1 was great, Modern Warfare 2 was great and Modern Warfare 3 was a hack job, scrambled together by the gutted remains of Infinity Ward after Vince Zampalla and Jason West jumped ship/were forced out, along with a lot of the other senior creative talent. With the help of Sledgehammer Games, Infinity Ward was able to release a feeble conclusion to the Modern Warfare trilogy and move on to their next Call of Duty game, Ghost.

After the releases became muddled, with three separate developers working on their own Call of Duty titles, and Activision’s focus on Multiplayer and Zombies took precedent, I started to lose the insatiable drive to pick up the games on release, and resigned myself to get them later on in their life, around the time the next iteration is announced.

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So that brings us to 2014’s Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. The first Call of Duty title to usher in the new console generation, releasing simultaneously on the Xbox 1/360 and Ps3/Ps4. This was Sledgehammer’s first go alone at a Call of Duty game, and the results are pretty impressive, even considering they are working in the three year development cycle now.

Advanced Warfare pushed the series forward into the next-gen visuals, and for the first time since Call of Duty 2, used a game engine that had its majority re-written and built from scratch. The game’s story also pushed the franchise further into a futuristic setting, taking place between 2054 and 2061. Call of Duty Black Ops 2, Treyarch’s first step towards a futuristic game, was set in 2025.

The story follows one playable character, Jack Mitchell – as opposed to previous titles which followed multiple – and makes use of pre-rendered cinematic cutscenes to tell the story in between missions. After a mission in North Korea, and losing his friend in the fight, Jack is offered a position in Atlas Corporation, which is a private military organization. Following a series of terrorist attacks, the world turns to Atlas – who holds no country or government allegiances – to stop them. After a year of fighting, watching as the terrorist groups attacks becoming increasingly sophisticated and deadly, Altas – essentially for-profit mercenaries – has emerged as the dominant military force in the world, showing that they are the key to holding back the terrorist attacks and aiding countries around the world.

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The story jumps forward a couple of years, and we start to find information linking the Atlas leader, Jonathan Irons (voiced and acted by Kevin Spacey) to the ongoing attacks, showing that he has been deliberately allowing the attacks to occur to continue Atlas’s reputation, profit, and power throughout the world. When his devious plan is revealed, Irons takes to the United Nations General Assembly, reveals his plan to remove all politicians, and declares war on the world. And there isn’t a country with a big enough military to stop him.

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Coinciding with the futuristic theme in the story, drones, and other futurist technology play a big part in the game, and gameplay mechanics. The player is equipped with an exo-skeleton suit that allows for boosting in different directions, or long falls and a soft landing. It allows for additional strength as well, for melee combat, and moving large objects, like cars; ripping the door off a car and using it as a shield is pretty fun. There are also a few instances where a mute charge is used, when taking part in a breach-and-enter. Everything in the zone of the mute charge is silenced, and is an interesting event to watch unfold. The guns in the game are updated as well, and offer different types of scopes – some of the hybrid type, allowing for different levels of zoom, or thermal views. The player also has unique types of grenades: one type highlights all the enemies in the area, and another is a drone-like grenade, that will propel towards the closest enemy grouping.

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Visually and gameplay-wise, I think Advanced Warfare is a positive step for the franchise. I still have to go back and play Black Ops 2 to see how that last-gen game pushed the boundaries. Story-wise, the game didn’t break much new ground, aside from using a famous Hollywood actor – nothing that hasn’t been done before. I do see that as the future of some games, as mo-cap and 3D rendering gets more and more advanced, and the production quality and story telling visuals become parallel with Hollywood movies. We’ve seen it already now with EPIC Games latest announcements towards their Unreal Engine being used to render Animated Movies.

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Overall, a great step forward for the franchise as they truly break ground into the latest gen. The new types of combat add a lot to the series, and the technology of the new engine, and consoles allows for bigger, more detailed level design and creative destruction. The exo-suit allows for some verticality to the levels as well, and while somewhat limited during the campaign, Multiplayer allows for full use. The story is also a little more coherent, although it does jump ahead a few years at a time. I thought Ghost was a step forward, but Advanced Warfare just leaps ahead, and is breath a fresh air to a franchise, that was starting to grow a bit stale.

Now to move ahead again, and try me some Call of Duty Black Ops 3… but I promised I would play 2 first.

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The achievements in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare are very standard for the franchise. There are those for completing each level, and those unique achievements for each level. There are those for each new gameplay mechanic, killing a certain number of enemies using said mechanic. And then the Intel collection and Multiplayer types. Nothing really memorable.

Notable Achievements:
Never Saw It Coming (Boost jump, dash forward, and then air stomp an enemy) – 10G
Carma  (Kill and enemy by throwing a door at them) – 10G

-iRogan

IReview – CONTRAST -Shadows Within Shadows

CONTRAST

Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Conpulsion Games
Platform: Xbox One
Availability: Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, Windows

Contrast is a game of shadows. Set in a noir type atmosphere, we play as Dawn, an imaginary friend to Didi, who is a little girl. Dawn and Didi are the only two characters in the game who appear as full 3D figures, and the rest of the cast is made up of shadows. The key gameplay mechanic in Contrast is Dawn’s ability to move between the 3D physical world, and shadows, the 2D world. Sounds like an interesting mechanic, right?

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The story follows Didi who has led a troublesome childhood. Her mother is a cabaret singer, and recently separated. Child support has threatened to take Didi away her mother if she doesn’t find stable work; that or reconciles with her husband Johnny. Johnny has been kicked out of the house due to his association with gangsters and racking up dept, which is not healthy behaviour for a family. Didi sneaks out one night to watch her mother perform at the Cabaret, and it is here where we watch the interaction between a shadowed Johnny and Didi’s mother Kat discuss their failing marriage and Johnny’s big plans to improve all their lives

Wanting to help her mother and Johnny reconcile, Didi follows Johnny to the bar where we witness the meeting between Johnny and Vincenzo, a famous illusionist. Johnny is trying to convince Vincenzo to perform at his new circus event. Simple enough, but Johnny doesn’t have enough money, so he returns to the gangsters to borrow more.

What follows is a tale of Didi and Dawn following Johnny throughout the night, and fixing his blunders, ensuring that his circus project gets off the ground, and that he makes good on his debts.

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The game is a puzzle platformer. As Dawn, we have the ability to transition between the real 3D world, and the shadow world. Using projectors, spotlights, and other maneuverable light sources, we have to navigate the streets and building interiors, getting from one checkpoint to the next.

The game is broken up into three chapters, the first being the largest and lengthiest. This chapter sets the stage and introduces all the mechanics, and tells the bulk of the story. Chapter two fixes the conflict revolving around the circus, and its three attractions that are of course broken or in disrepair. The last chapter concludes the events of the story and wraps up the relationships of the primary characters. This chapter ties all the mechanics together into more challenging and sometimes time-sensitive puzzles.

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The game is short in length and shallow in concept. And while it was released across both Xbox’s and Playstation’s platforms, it’s only OK looking. The noir theme and character design is fine, but the environments were fairly lifeless and stale. And just lonely, as Didi and Dawn are the only two physical characters in the world.

The shadow concept was unique, and I found it especially amusing that you can’t die in the shadow world – unless you fall off a platform – but in most instances you just get squeezed back into the 3D world.

But the platforming mechanics were not as smooth or refined as they could be. Oft times jumping led to falling as the character animation, and Dawn’s model in particular is not that agile to maneuver. The story was short and the gameplay was clunky. Some of the puzzles were excellent in design though, where the player has to maneuver two or three different light sources to cast shadows on the wall, that they then have to scale.

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In the category of achievements, this game made the list of Xbox One’s games easiest to 100%, and for good reason. Play it and you’ll acquire a nice 1000G. Only a few of the collectibles are actually hidden, where the rest are out in plain sight, and each part of the story will net you a couple hundred G’s

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Notable Achievements:
To The Heroes Among Us (Unlocked when the player finds the hidden Extra Life 2012 logo) – 25G
Not The Kind of Game (Unlocked when the player tried to enter the XXX door) – 10G

-iRogan