El Paso, Elsewhere Review - You Keep Going

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The idea of a vampire fighting against its base nature to uphold modern morals is one that has been explored before, but not exactly through the same lens as in El Paso, Elsewhere. This third-person shooter takes inspiration from some of the best in the genre but eschews expectations with a thrilling love story between a vampire and vampire hunter, exploring the complexities of the pairing as the world is crumbling around them.

You play as James Savage, a pill-addicted monster hunter living in a secluded hotel in El Paso and on a mission to save the world from his ex-girlfriend, Draculae. This version of the famed vampire has enacted a ritual that brings about the end times. More specifically for Savage, it means a rip through the fabric of reality that sends him from the stained carpets of the motel down a warped void filled with visually diverse levels. At first, El Paso, Elsewhere focuses on Savage, delving into his destructive personality and vices, whether it's popping pain pills or relishing the violence he's engaged in. It takes a while, but eventually the true scope of the story comes into view, with new locales and fourth-wall breaking narration exposing this game's novel take on the mythology behind vampires, and how the relationship between Savage and Janet Drake, known later as Draculae, fits into that.

The voice acting for both Savage and Draculae is exceptionally captivating. Their blossoming love is thoughtfully conveyed through audio logs you find throughout your journey, with playful exchanges (like a conversation about how Transformers procreate) doing an excellent job at establishing a relationship you never get to see. Later, when the two characters exchange words directly, the absence of this warmth is noticeable. There's clearly still love between the two, but it's separated by a gap in morality that neither can compromise on. These exchanges are short but sharp, each word a stake one is trying to lay in the other, all the while Savage barely maintains a grip on the enormity of the task waiting for him at the end. It's a compelling dynamic that gets an equally satisfying conclusion, but it is a pity it takes a handful of hours for it to really get going.

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Payday 3 - Before You Buy

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Payday 3 - Before You BuyPayday 3 (PC, PS5, Xbox Series X/S) marks the return of the multiplayer heist shooter. Despite some server connection issues at launch, it's a nice upgrade so far. Let's talk. Subscribe for more: http://youtube.com/gameranxtv ▼ Buy Payday 3: https://amzn.to/3Ly2sLI Watch more 'Before You Buy': https://bit.ly/2kfdxI6

Pokemon Scarlet And Violet - The Hidden Treasure Of Area Zero Review In Progress

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Editor's Note: Pokemon Scarlet and Violet's expansion comes in two parts and can't be purchased individually. Because of this, we've decided to share our impressions of Part One and will update it with a full review of The Hidden Treasure of Area Zero when both parts are available. The score attached to this review is subject to change based on this.

The fan reception to Scarlet and Violet's launch varied wildly within the community. Every Pokemon fan seems to know what's best for the series, and they were happy to share their opinions on Scarlet and Violet with anyone who would listen. Some fans decried the bugs, the struggling frame rate, and other technical problems, while others appreciated the new mechanics, open world, and story enough to make peace with these issues. Whichever side you fell on, the community was split as always.

However, the further we get away from release, the more the community cools off. And those who've stuck around for the long-term, namely competitive players, have dug their claws deep into the meta. This is where Pokemon is at its best, and The Teal Mask bolsters that side of the series through new and returning Pokemon, more TMs and moves, and some welcome quality-of-life changes. This is all wrapped up in a rich new region with a heartfelt story. While The Teal Mask doesn't do much to address Scarlet and Violet's poor technical performance, its changes and additions offer an exciting first part in a larger expansion.

The Teal Mask is billed as a class field trip. A handful of students are randomly selected to study abroad in a new rural Japan-inspired region called Kitakami. Your character is among the lucky few, and you're whisked away to the countryside. It's a punchy introduction that gets you to the new area quickly and has you catching new and returning Pokemon right away.

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NBA 2K24 Review - Breaking Ankles, Breaking Banks

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Some sports game franchises often have their problems attributed to a lack of competition in their respective genres. Fans will proclaim that certain sports sim series would be better if only they were up against a similar product when players went looking to buy one. NBA 2K hasn't had a consistent competitor for most of the last decade, and it's been a reliably fun simulation of basketball regardless. That is still largely the case in NBA 2K24, but the eminently enjoyable on-court sim is hampered more than ever by the game's pay-to-win economy.

In NBA 2K24, the mainstays of MyCareer, MyTeam, and MyNBA return, and even last year's Jordan Challenge gets a pseudo-sequel in Mamba Moments, shifting the spotlight from the GOAT to Lakers legend Kobe Bryant. But Mamba Moments winds up emblematic of some of 2K24's issues: It's noticeably less interesting and less involved than that which came before it. Maybe some of that is owed to the fact that Bryant's career achievements can't quite stack up to Jordan's, so the figurative ceiling for a mode that lets you recreate some of his greatest career moments isn't going to be nearly as mesmerizing.

Mamba Moments is a fun addition to the game, but it can't stack up to last year's Jordan Challenge.
Mamba Moments is a fun addition to the game, but it can't stack up to last year's Jordan Challenge.

But even then, Mamba Moments lacks some of the attention and care this studio normally pours into its new toys. Unlike Jordan Challenge, Mamba Moments doesn't feature interview segments with players, coaches, and broadcasters who were pivotal to each chapter of the Jordan Challenge's story. Bryant's legacy mode doesn't get the same documentary-style treatment, and only about half as many games--seven--are playable this time. That makes it a shorter and less robust mode, though other fun details like era-appropriate presentation and well-researched in-game commentary remain. I was impressed when the color commentators started talking about a travel delay the Lakers suffered due to inclement weather some 20 years ago. As ever, this studio has done its homework, and it shows.

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Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty Review - The Songbird Sings

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The appeal of Night City was in its impressive scope and dazzling visuals, which painted a bleak neon-lit future dictated by technological exploitation and unfettered capitalism. Within that were tragic, human stories to pull at your heartstrings and a whole lot of violent action often perpetuated by its gameplay systems. But what if you took the best parts of Cyberpunk 2077 and condensed them into a tight, cohesive package for a heart-wrenching political action thriller? That's what Phantom Liberty does in an expansion that seamlessly fits into the original game.

Phantom Liberty showcases the full potential of Cyberpunk 2077 with a new, captivating story about the faults of loyalty, reckoning with your past and its consequences, and self-preservation in a tech-fueled dystopia. These are familiar themes, for sure, but Phantom Liberty is intimate, raw, and earnest--all told through the lens of a strong cast of characters elevated by poignant writing and delivered through sharp performances. It's able to execute on these narrative ambitions because, more often than not, the missions that drive the plot feature top-tier action set pieces that let the revamped RPG mechanics sing, then break the pace with a variety of tense and well-crafted non-combat scenarios, which gives the experience a constant and steady momentum.

More than anything, Phantom Liberty goes above and beyond with not one, but two finales that are wildly different yet equally stunning--hell, you could even argue it's three when counting the added ending for the original story. It's a fantastic mix of nearly everything you could ask of Cyberpunk. And after taking 30 hours to experience all of its content--both main story routes, the new ending, all the side missions and gigs, and more--I can't imagine Cyberpunk 2077 without Phantom Liberty.

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