Baldur's Gate 3 Review - Let Freedom Reign

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Baldur's Gate 3 pushes player freedom to the absolute limit. That unparalleled level of freedom can be found in nearly every aspect of the game, from its character creation to combat, and after two full playthroughs and a dozen ongoing campaigns, I've still barely scratched the surface. No two experiences are alike, and every character I've created feels unique. While the game can't always keep up with the spontaneity of a real-life Dungeon Master, it manages to offer plenty of agency while also ensuring that its vast, web-like narrative is compelling from start to finish.

Baldur's Gate 3 begins in the belly of a Nautiloid, a Lovecraftian spaceship piloted by a squid-like race known as illithids. After you create your avatar and pick a class, you are infected with a parasite that slowly (and painfully) turns its host into a tentacle-adorned mind flayer. You and the other affected members of your party must find a way to remove the parasites before the transformation is complete. It's a wonderfully dark setup that allows Larian Studios to pull together an eclectic batch of characters with a wide array of beliefs, dispositions, and backgrounds and give them a common goal. These characters aren't adventuring together out of friendship (for the most part), but necessity. In many cases it's an uneasy allyship rife with internal drama and conflict.

Baldur's Gate 3 regularly puts its characters first, and it's better for it. While the narrative isn't all that interesting on its own and basically amounts to "purge the parasite and save the world," the diverse cast of characters makes it so much more memorable by creating an extra layer of nuance that grounds the entire experience with more personal stakes. Karlach is a hot-headed tiefling barbarian with a heart of gold, Astarion is a pompous and flamboyant rogue with just enough charm to win you over, and Lae'zel is a battle-hardened warrior that puts an interesting spin on the fish-out-of-water archetype. There are 10 potential party members in total, and each one is backed by sharp writing, impeccable acting, and spirited animations.

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Wild Card Football Review - Undrafted

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In the US, autumn belongs to football. The sport takes over pop culture in a way no other can match, and after decades of growth, it seems to still be getting more popular. So surely there's room for a second licensed football game on the market, especially when the industry leader is itself so polarizing. That's where Wild Card Football hopes to exist: in the abundant space devoted to football fandom that could host either a Madden alternative, or more likely, a side attraction. Unfortunately, this much more cartoonish take on the sport doesn't quite make the roster, though it's not without a few highlights.

Wild Card Football is an arcade-style football game in the vein of NBA Playgrounds and WWE 2K Battlegrounds. In fact, it comes from the same studio, Saber Interactive, and is billed as part of the broader Playground Sports brand. Somewhere between the enjoyable basketball game and the severely lacking pro wrestling game sits this third take on the format.

Wild Card Football is played in teams of seven, and though it doesn't have a licensing deal with the NFL, it does have one with the NFLPA, meaning current players from every team make up the game's complete roster. Jerseys and team names are legally distinct, but a football fan can easily deduce that Team Mahomes is the Chiefs, Team Hurts is the Eagles, and so on.

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Forza Motorsport - Before You Buy

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Forza Motorsport - Before You BuyForza Motorsport (2023, PC, Xbox Series X/S) is the latest update to the long-running racing simulation franchise. Subscribe for more: ▼ Buy Forza: Watch more 'Before You Buy': #forza #forzamotorsport

EA Sports FC 24 Review - New Name, Same Game

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Aside from the new name and logo being emblazoned on almost every menu screen in sight, you'd be hard-pressed to distinguish EA Sports FC 24 from the latest FIFA game. In short, EA's latest football sim introduces a number of subtle improvements to its on-pitch action while sprinkling in some incremental additions to long-standing game modes like Ultimate Team and Career. It still offers an exciting, albeit familiar, game of back-and-forth football, but the demanding yearly release schedule isn't doing the series any favors. Even with the fancy new rebrand, EA FC is an expected follow-up to FIFA 23, offering a slight evolution rather than anything revelatory.

As is often the case from one game to the next, the pace of play in EA FC 24 feels a tad slower compared to last year. If history repeats itself, this is likely to change in the coming weeks--particularly once superpowered cards are more prevalent in Ultimate Team--but creating openings via slick passing moves is currently the best way to break down a stubborn defense. It helps that player movement is ultra-responsive, to the point where it's possible to wiggle out of danger without needing to utilize the game's agile dribbling mechanic. This is easier to do with a diminutive and agile player as opposed to someone like cover star Erling Haaland, but he excels in other areas, often bulldozing right through defenses. Either way, the movement of players--and their noticeable differences--looks much smoother than in the past; the connective animations between disparate movements flow together seamlessly. EA adds a deluge of new animations every year, but those in EA FC 24 lend the game a more natural look and feel that's immediately palpable in the way you move across the pitch.

Unfortunately, other areas of the game remain unchanged, much to the game's detriment. Goalkeepers occasionally try to save shots by diving sideways into the goal, which usually results in them either punching the ball into their own net or letting it sail over their heads. Passes will sometimes veer wildly off target, and defending can be frustrating when successful tackles regularly bounce back to attackers, especially when it puts them in a much more advantageous position than they were in before. It doesn't help that off-the-ball AI still has trouble tracking runs, and referees are wildly inconsistent in regards to what is and isn't a foul. I've already encountered a few baffling red-card decisions--although one could argue this is sadly authentic. The removal of driven lobbed-through passes also takes some getting used to, but this seems to have been done in service of EA FC 24's new PlayStyles mechanic.

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Detective Pikachu Returns Review - Soft-Boiled

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Pokemon has flourished as a series in part because it crosses generations. The main series of creature-collecting RPGs and popular TCG are simple enough for children just starting to learn about role-playing-game mechanics, but with enough complexity and depth to support a flourishing competitive scene for adults. Pokemon's spin-offs, on the other hand, are usually more narrowly targeted, and that's the case for Detective Pikachu Returns. The narrative-heavy adventure game certainly has its charms, but it's so gentle and simplistic that only younger pocket monster fans need apply.

Like the first Detective Pikachu, you play primarily as Tim Goodman, the college-aged son of renowned detective Harry Goodman, who has gone missing since before the first game. You're accompanied by Harry's partner, a Pikachu in a deerstalker cap who considers himself a great detective. Tim is the only human who can communicate with Pikachu, and while neither of them are officially part of any police force, they find themselves embroiled in investigations surrounding strange happenings in Ryme City. And naturally, Tim is still searching for answers about what happened to his father.

In classic adventure-game style, most of your investigations revolve around searching around environments for evidence, talking to witnesses, and ultimately reaching a conclusion based on what you found. The crimes here are relatively low-stakes and child-friendly--a jewel heist, wrongful arrests of innocent Pokemon, and so on. For a series that has built its name on battling, there's shockingly little violence between Pokemon themselves. If two Pokemon are coming to blows, or even threatening to do so, it's treated like an emergency. That's because in Ryme City, Pokemon are treated like fellow citizens, and the city prides itself on peaceful coexistence between humans and the creatures.

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