After Us Review - Abstract Dystopia

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Nothing quite compels you to buy into a game's stakes like happening upon the decaying carcass of a dog who's starved to death. This is the first of several emotional moments in After Us. The surrealistic set dressing of this 3D platformer is regularly morbid but it makes for quite a compelling dystopian world to explore, if only to satiate an innate curiosity--how did the Earth end up like this and is there anyone left? The simple combat and good-but-not-great platforming mechanics bog down the experience a bit but After Us' incredible environmental storytelling of a doomed world clinging to a feeble hope more than makes up for it.

In After Us, you play as Gaia, a young spirit tasked with tracking down and salvaging the souls of the last creatures on Earth. These include animals like the aforementioned canine, the last dog who died of hunger, and coming across others lead to plenty of somber moments of human cruelty--the last eagle caged and plucked, for instance, and the final whale to be harpooned. There's a present-day storyline that runs parallel that isn't all that interesting as it's difficult to relate to the mostly-silent Gaia, who displays small signs of emotion during certain cutscenes but seems to largely view the world around her with passivity. The history of this Earth's past, which you uncover in your pursuit of the lost animal souls and optional collectibles, is far more captivating and works as a strong narrative backbone for the platformer.

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Running and jumping are Gaia's primary ways of navigating the world, and these actions are complemented by other platforming staples like hovering, rail-grinding, wall-running, and dashing. She's a bit too floaty and loose to control in certain platforming segments--there were quite a few moments where a frustrating mistiming meant I accidentally leaped over a floating chunk of freeway and plunged to my death or sprinted a step too far and skidded off the top of a skyscraper. Most often, failure was the result of the controls working against me, not my own mistakes. Thankfully, the checkpoint system in After Us is relatively forgiving so even the most irritating of deaths are only small setbacks.

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Lego 2K Drive Review - Oh Snap

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Lego thrives on versatility and variety. The brand has become associated with everything from model towns to outer space to licensed franchises like Star Wars to original IP like Bionicle and Ninjago. Lego 2K Drive is relatively narrow compared to the wide array of Lego iconography, but that laser-like focus works in its favor. The team at 2K and Visual Concepts has made a great racing game first, allowing the Lego elements to organically add both an astounding amount of customization and flavorful visual flourishes to make a lively and enjoyable open-world driving experience.

Under the hood, Lego 2K Drive is a combination of open-world racing games like Burnout Paradise or Forza Horizon and kart racers like Mario Kart or Sonic All-Stars. The main campaign has you exploring three big biomes, each with their own wide variety of activities and events, punctuated by kart races against rival drivers who run these regions. But part of what makes both exploring and racing so fun is how toy-like it feels, thanks to some smart systems that remove any possible friction from exploration.

When driving around in a typical open-world racer, you may have to set a waypoint to your next objective and spend a few minutes making your way over by following the roads. In Lego 2K Drive, your vehicle auto-switches from roadster to off-road vehicle to boat based on whatever you need at a given time. The click-clack of your vehicle instantly reconstituting itself into something new when you hop from a road to a river just feels great every time. A generous nitro boost and a dedicated jump button mean you can hop over obstacles and scale hills with ease. Other cars or small buildings in the way? No problem, just smash right through them and they'll explode into a thousand Lego bricks, building your boost meter in the process. This effectively makes the whole world your playground, letting you carve paths through it. There's almost never a hard barrier between you and the fun.

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Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun Review - Purge And Tear

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The Boltgun is perhaps Warhammer 40,000's most iconic weapon, yet it took until now for a video game to really nail its pulverizing impact. The Space Marine's Bolter (as it's commonly known) is not the machine gun equivalent it's often portrayed as in other games. This powerful firearm is essentially a rapid-fire rocket launcher, capable of penetrating almost any armor and then blowing up the Imperium's enemies from the inside out. Developer Auroch Digital clearly understood the assignment with Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun, as the eponymous weapon is tremendously fun to use as you rip and tear your way through eight hours of '90s-inspired first-person shooting. The Bolter roars with an emphatic racket, and each pull of the trigger packs an almighty punch, ferociously propelling these explosive rounds through flesh and bone until the battlefield is little more than a crimson pile of viscera and sinewy chunks.

Classic retro shooters like Unreal Tournament and Quake are obvious inspirations behind Boltgun's fast-paced and frenetic combat, but it's the original Doom that feels like the principal source of reverence. The use of 2D sprites alongside 3D environments, color-coded keycard hunting, and garish, over-the-top violence all harken back to id Software's seminal title. Boltgun is unashamedly a Doom clone with a Warhammer skin, but Auroch has sprinkled in some modern touches, too, from the dizzying amount of particle effects on screen at any one time, to the intricate level of detail found on each and every weapon, to the sheer scale of some of its environments. Verticality is also heavily emphasized, with a jump and mantle animation giving you the chance to scramble and leap off ledges, much like in 2016's Doom reboot. All of this leads to Boltgun managing to capture a tangible sense of nostalgia while also tapping into the fluidity and pacing of a contemporary shooter. It's a familiar but potent mix, resulting in a viscerally satisfying game that's relatively easy to pick up and play.

The story is suitably paltry, however, providing just enough setup to explain why you're on a distant planet mowing down anything that breathes in the name of the Inquisition. As battle-hardened Space Marine Malum Caedo, you're dispatched to the Adeptus Mechanicus Forge World of Graia to investigate some concerning goings-on. As it turns out, the Ad Mech were running experiments that have predictably gone awry and spawned a Chaos invasion. After a botched landing leaves you as the lone survivor, you're put to work cleansing the forces of Chaos armed with an ever-expanding supply of powerful weaponry.

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Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom - Before You Buy

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Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom - Before You BuyThe Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (Nintendo Switch) is the follow up to Breath of the Wild with tons of new systems and experiences. How is it? Let's talk first impressions. Subscribe for more: http://youtube.com/gameranxtv ▼ Video by Jake Baldino Buy Zelda: https://amzn.to/3I9OuOy Watch more 'Before You Buy': https://bit.ly/2kfdxI6 #zelda #tearsofthekingdom

The Last Case Of Benedict Fox Review - Fair Deal

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Like my favorite metroidvania games, The Last Case of Benedict Fox is built around solving a mystery. It can go too far in its efforts to be deeply mysterious, especially in its first half, but engaging puzzles and unsettling art direction pull you along, even when mediocre combat and platforming mechanics get in the way of the fun. There's an interesting story in The Last Case of Benedict Fox, one wrapped up in an interesting world of supernatural intrigue that I want to know more about. It just takes a while to fully uncover its best parts.

In The Last Case of Benedict Fox, you play as the titular detective, who breaks into a strange manor in order to investigate a ritual he wants to perform. The answers he seeks, unfortunately, reside in the minds of a young couple who are now dead. Thankfully, Benedict is connected to an eldritch-like demon who grants him supernatural powers, including the ability to go into the minds of those freshly dead. Going into Limbo--as Benedict calls it--transports you into a space of sprawling mind palaces, each filled with the deceased's worst nightmares, insecurities, and traumas transformed into physical monsters. As you explore further and farther, you find the necessary memories to unlock new parts of the manor in the real world and piece together the steps to the ritual.

If all of that sounds a little convoluted and leaves you with many questions, that seems to be what The Last Case of Benedict Fox is going for, simply dropping you into a densely layered situation without the necessary build-up to fully grasp what's going on. The game holds its cards too close to the chest, unfortunately--going so far as to hide for the entire first half of the game what exactly the ritual that Benedict is researching even does and why he's looking for it. The plot swings way too far past intriguing and mysterious into confusing territory for the first half of its runtime. This makes for a deeply unwelcoming opening, which sets up a story and character motivations that are difficult to parse, with names, dates, lore, and jargon quickly thrown at you with little in the way of explanation. Once you manage to get a ways into the game, The Last Case of Benedict Fox graciously begins answering a few of the questions it poses, giving you more of a reason for wanting to explore its riveting Lovecraftian-inspired world, but it still just takes way too long to get there.

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