Looking through my 2018 history, I did zero video game reviews…

Let’s change that.

These are games I completed in 2018, some of which may not have released in 2018. I’ll put the initial release date in parentheses.

Mafia III (2016): Mafia 3 has a really solid story. Upon release it was hindered with game breaking bugs. This hurt sales and reviews. I got the complete edition on discount which included all the DLC and it was worth the price of admissions.

Quantum Break (2016): I bought this game in 2016 and then sat on it. This was a mistake. One of the better games I played this year. Mechanics were really cool and story was interesting, with live action episodes spaced between the game chapters.

STEEP (2016): I waited on this game until it was cheaper. This was a good decision. It is a very cool snow sport game, but not worth full price. Olympic’s DLC was too expensive but it did add a rocket powered wing suit.

Mass Effect Andromeda (2017): I rarely, if ever abandon games mid-playthrough. Mass Effect Andromeda falls into this category.

Need For Speed Payback (2017): A solid racing game through and through. One of the first games that got to utilize my Xbox One X and 4K TV. This game made news because of how poisonous the video game community can be towards developers sometimes, when they don’t get what they want. Like the delayed release date for the Skyline dlc car. (See: Dissapointed in the community – needforspeed – reddit)

Far Cry Primal (2016): I sat of the fence with this game, because although I’ve always enjoyed the Far Cry games (from 3 on…), the concept of this one made me apprehensive as it was a close quarters combat (no guns) game taking place in 10,000 BC. Story ended up being really good. I did miss the long range options, but spears turn out to be pretty brutal weapons.

The Witness (2016): A very intriguing and smart puzzle game. Too smart for me.

Sea of Thieves (2018): What’s bad about being a pirate in the open sea? When there’s nothing to do and you don’t have many friends. On launch this game struggled with repetitious grind and lack of content. They’ve added more but the content requires more crew members. Like, more than 2 which is a shame.

Injustice God Among Us: I don’t typically pick up and play fighting games. But this one really impressed me. So much so, that I got Mortal Kombat X and Injustice 2.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (2018): This game is a shorter, intense story game (6 hours) focused on mental health and multiple personality traits. Gorgeous visuals and puzzle and combat gameplay. Recommended to play with surround sound headphones 🎧 to fully experience voices in your head.

Mortal Kombat X (2015): after playing and being impressed with Injustice, I figured I’d get NetherRealms’ other fighting games. I was not disappointed.

A Way Out (2018): A very story focused mandatory-co-op game with some unique elements. Both players are shown on the screen at all times in a split screen format. The game also comes with a guest pass so if you are playing online, the other party doesn’t need to buy a copy.

Injustice 2 (2017): See Injustice 1 and Mortal Kombat X

Tekken 7 (2015): Thinking I might like other fighting games, I tried Tekken 7 while it was free for a 72 hour weekend. I beat the story in one night. It’s awful. Don’t play it.

Mirrors Edge Catalyst (2016): Nice looking but wasn’t able to recreate the uniqueness and identity of the first game.

Destiny 2 (2017): Again like Mirrors Edge, this game is gorgeous compared to its predecessor. But wasn’t able to recreate what made it Destiny 1 special. Still, I played this solo, and really enjoyed the new story and gameplay changes. Played both the expansion packs but haven’t gotten to Forsaken yet.

Ori and the Blind Forest (2015): A stunning side view platform game. Difficult at times (where at one point during the final level escape my game crashed when I was able to finally succeed.)

No Man’s Sky (2018): Originally released on PS4 and PC, I waited for it to be released on Xbox after a big, big update to the game. The game has good ideas but many issues. They added coop which I appreciate, but still can’t grab my interest.

The Crew 2 (2018): Better looking and with more variety than Crew 1 (See: Boats and Planes and Hovercrafts and Bikes and Monster Trucks). But they did away with the story and they added fast travel from the start which makes the map feel immediately smaller.

God of War (2018) PS4: Game of the year from a technical and game direction stand point (See: Video Game Award 2018). How they pulled off the whole game with a seamless, no-cuts camera still amazes me. More grounded than previous God of Wars and a more humanized story. Outstanding in all categories.

Forza Horizons 4 (2018): Best in the series, which is saying a lot because the series has been stellar since its inception.

Spider-Man (2018) PS4: My personal game of the year. Tell me I’m wrong. (Then See: You’re wrong).

Red Dead Redemption II (2018): I haven’t quite finished this yet but like God of War, this game is a technical marvel from game play to visuals. Rockstar has always paid incredible attention to the most mundane of details. It means their games take 5-6 years to make. But the time pays off.

Top 5:

Spider-Man

RDR 2

Quantum Break

Ori and Blind Forest

Mafia III

-iRogan

Mafia III Achievement Thoughts

Youd think you’d get both of these at the same time.

Technically you’re doing the former by doing the latter.

-iRogan

Working Myself To Death

The game is Black The Fall. A title like Limbo or Inside. Side-scroller puzzle game with no dialogue. Only many traps and many deaths. 

The Achievement is appropriately titled “work yourself to death”. At the start of the game you have to jump (press and hold “X”) on the bicycle that opens the door to reach to the next area. Instead of advancing, just ride the bike. Forever. 

No problem. 


-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.

524827

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.

///

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.

///

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.

///

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?

///

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 – NEED FOR SPEED – What Once Was Bare is Now Complete

NEED FOR SPEED (2015)

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Ghost Games
Platform: Xbox One
Availability: Xbox One, PS4, PC

Calling Electronic Arts‘ Need For Speed 2015 edition a “reboot” is kind of a misnomer. The annual series is not a continuity, in name or form. Each iteration stands alone, and doesn’t share anything that the previous release showcased. Each game is different, with different play styles being highlighted each year.

maxresdefault

The Underground pair (’03 and ’04) showcased an open city focused on street racing and car modifications. Most Wanted (’05), open country, was about out-running cops. Carbon (’06), urban setting, was about crew and drifting. ProStreet (’07) went away from the street racing and focused on closed courses – to mixed reviews. NFS Undercover (’08) brought back the story lines and open city, where we play an undercover cop chasing down street racers, trying to recapture the Underground glory days. This is also where the series would shift between different developers each year.

NFS Shift (’09) and Shift 2 (2011) brought back the closed course circuit races, highlighting pure racing and drifting, and focused on authenticity, with the returning dash-cam. Hot Pursuit (2010) brought back the open city and cop-centered chases. At this point Criterion, known for their Burnout series, took the helm as developer, and takedowns and crashes became a key point in the series for alternating years.

NEED FOR SPEED WAS SLIGHTLY LIMITED AT ITS OUTSET

NFS The Run (2011) switched to the Frostbite Engine and focused on a break-neck story as the player sped across the United States in a cannon-ball run. Featuring a mix of highway and city races, and big action pieces, with a story, and cut-scenes. Then the series switched back to their roots with another Most Wanted (2012) and Rivals (2013). Again, focusing on chasing or being chased, and taking down opponents.

EA then took a year off in 2014, after Rivals was released, to ‘refocus’ their brand, to figure out what Need For Speed really meant. To ‘reboot’. But calling it a reboot seems odd. Anyways, as it turns out, what Need For Speed really means is: Speed, Style, Crew, Build, and Outlaw; the pillars of the series. Mash them all together and you have Need For Speed (2015). And then just add a gorgeous new engine, and tack on Live-Action cutscenes, composited over real-time CG backgrounds. Now you’re set.

///

As its first “true” next-gen NFS game, EA‘s Need For Speed 2015 was slightly limited at its outset, its catalogue of cars left a lot to be desired when you compare it to Forza Horizons 2, and it hosted an online city with not a lot of online options. AND its actual races were not that diverse. You have your time trials where you drift around corners. You have your points-focused drift races, where you drift around corners to earn points. There’s the group races, checkpoint or free roam, where you face off against anywhere from one to four opponents, and drift around corners. And then you have group drift races, where, as a pack, you tackle the hills, and drift around corners to earn points. The closer you remain as a group, the higher the point multiplier.

Then the cops show up, sometimes even during the races, where you’re asked to escape. Each race, as you progress through the story becomes a little bit more difficult. But as long as you have the right car for the race (checkpoint or drift) then you actually remain fairly competitive throughout. Minor upgrades to your engine parts is all it takes.

need-for-speed-announce-01

So, repeat that a hundred times, and that’s the scope of the game. There are collectibles thrown around the map as well, vistas, doughnut spots to ruin your expensive tires, and car parts.

The map is fairly large, comparable to other NFS open-city games. There’s not a lot of traffic, and you may come across a handful of other online racers competing in a race of their own, or running away from cops. Similar to NFS Rivals, NFS 2015 hosts an online-only world, filled with leaderboard tracking and friend suggested races. Having only a small grouping of other online players in your world is a nice feature, but I’m glad its limited as the online world is persistent. So when you’re competing in a race, you’ll likely see another player drive by, or through your race. The game takes place primarily at night, on rain-slick roads, so corners or other traffic isn’t always easy to see. Some parts of the city, oddly, as you drive through may suddenly be lit by the dawning sun, and these instances are sudden and jarring, like opening the door of a dark lit, blinds-closed room, into the morning sun. Like we’ve been racing all night, and suddenly realize that it’s morning, and should probably get some sleep. Not like we have a job or anything.

YOU WON’T FIND ANY TIME-LAPSE VIDEOS OF NFS’ DAY AND NIGHT CYCLE

Aside from the jarring sunrise, visually the game is absolutely stunning. A lot of love has gone into the cars and designs, and effects. The rain slick roads, reflections, and lighting at night are all life-like. The city has a lot of destructible elements, and some that are frustratingly not, which as a result will have you looking at the slow-motion spectacle that is you crashing your car. The city streets and buildings are nicely textured, but the buildings especially are somewhat plain to look at. But the developers at Ghost Games probably aren’t expecting you to be looking at the low-poly box buildings for long.

Need for Speed™ (6)

As mentioned, the game’s story focuses on the 5 pillars that define Need For Speed, and you play a part in a small group of racers waiting to be noticed by the 5 real-world motorsport and street racing icons, who each represent one pillar. As you race through the story, and earn reputation in each focus, you then get to face off against each icon. The final races have you facing off against all the story characters and each Icon to become the Ultimate Icon. Happy ending. Fin.

///

There’s been a lot of bemoaning about the story in Need For Speed, and how it’s told through terribly acted Live-Action cutscenes. Everyone is super hyped, or super jealous, and they live out of trailers, or auto work-shops, listening to Dead Mou5, and drinking Monster. It’s terribly cliché, but it doesn’t actually detract or distract from the game.

The game is still fun. Sure it feels like all the races are exactly the same. And there are some gripes about the loose handling, or that in designing the game in Frostbite, the developers have turned the vehicles into four million pound bricks that can hardly take a jump. The lack of interesting things in the city did make the trips between each race kind of tedious, and instead, I found myself just transporting to the start line, as the loading times were minimal.

unnamed

Since its release last November, the game has seen some free love from EA and Ghost Games. They’ve made some of the Icon cars playable, added a race tournament, they’ve bolstered the player’s vehicle garage from 5 to 10 store-able vehicles, added Drag style races, and some Roadster vehicles, as well as improved some of the online functionality, adding the ability to challenge other racers on the fly, or invite them to take part in the campaign races. They’ve also added a photographer mode to capture your vehicle, and your beautifully hand-crafted artistic wraps, in-game. Almost like they knew they were releasing the game less than full. Extra effort has been put into the online functionality and competitive racing scene.

Now, after release, the game feels complete, and a better positioned contender for your harddrive’s storage or internet’s bandwidth than in November. Not to mention, at a lower price point.

///

In the Achievement department, the game is very generous. Most are story related, and will be unlocked by just completing all the races. Every new DLC addition adds new achievements as well, to encourage people to come back, as these are overly generous in Gamerscore numbers.

Notable Achievements
Choo Choo! (Complete the drift train mission with the Risky Devil crew) – 30G

Wrap It Up (Download a Shared Wrap) – 80G
Filter Addict (Take a snapshot with a filter in the Snapshot Pro Mode) – 80G

See? Super generous.

-iRogan