Assassin's Creed: Mirage - Before You Buy

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Assassin's Creed: Mirage - Before You BuyAssassin's Creed: Mirage (PC, PS5, Xbox Series X/S) is a simple, shorter Assassin's Creed game modeled after the classic style. How is it? Let's talk. Subscribe for more: ▼ Buy Assassin's Creed Mirage: Watch more 'Before You Buy': #acmirage

Assassin's Creed Mirage Review - Back To Basics

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Back in 2020 when I reviewed Assassin's Creed Valhalla, I talked about how much that game's story had a real sense of finality to it, bringing together and concluding dozens of narrative threads from across the franchise. Although it serves as somewhat of a prequel for Valhalla, Assassin's Creed Mirage doesn't push the series' story in new directions, opting instead for a narrative that is heavily dependent on you already knowing Basim's story in Valhalla. Mirage does get back to the basics that first defined the series by refocusing on social stealth and making it fun to learn about a city's history, but a weak cast of characters keeps it from reaching the same heights as some of its earliest predecessors.

Ubisoft Bordeaux's vision of ninth-century Baghdad stands out as the most compelling part of Mirage. While I can't speak to its authenticity, Baghdad's colorful, multi-layered architecture creates a playground of possibilities, offering numerous avenues for navigating the city, sneaking past guards, and reaching your objective. Freerunning is intuitive, though occasionally clumsy in its design, with Basim sometimes getting snagged on corners or leaping off rooftops in a way I didn't intend. These mishaps are thankfully not very common, allowing you to focus on strategizing how you want to get from one building to the next.

But most of all, Baghdad feels alive in its history, incorporating pinnacles of the city--like the House of Wisdom--into main story missions and highlighting every discovery and fresh face with new pages in an expansive codex that details the history, culture, and importance of the setting. In the earliest days of the franchise, Assassin's Creed helped me pass my History classes by making European history fun to learn about, and Mirage does the same here for Baghdad, highlighting the golden age of a city and culture not often touched on in world history and certainly not in modern media.

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Forza Motorsport Review-in-Progress - Hitting The Apex

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Forza Motorsport is nearly as old as the Xbox brand itself, but it's had a surprisingly extended absence since its last entry in 2017. In its place, the less simulation-focused, open-world Forza Horizon series has flourished, despite not offering the technical track racing that the core series of the franchise once excelled in delivering. Forza Motorsport is a reset of sorts for the series, with the time away from the track used to refine its scintillating racing and fine-tune its progression system. The result is a streamlined simulation racer that puts all of its focus toward on-track action, delivering one of the most exhilarating racing experiences you can find on any platform.

Forza Motorsport wastes no time getting you on the track, throwing you behind the wheel of its cover car, the 2024 Corvette E-Ray, on the tarmac of the Maple Valley Raceway, a throwback to the series' oldest fictional track. This short showcase, somewhat similar in presentation (but not tone) to the openings found in Forza Horizon, makes it immediately clear how much work has been put into Forza Motorsport's visuals. The golden sunset lighting and autumnal colors around the track contrast beautifully against the glinting blue metal of the roaring hypercar at your fingertips, with the subsequent race at a cherry-blossom-laden track in Japan showcasing gorgeous nighttime lighting as dozens of polished liveries careen around corners. Each one of Forza Motorsport's faithfully recreated cars is a treat to behold when out on the track, while equally standing up to scrutiny when you take the time to investigate their intricately recreated interiors. If you obsess over the finer details of exceptional automotive engineering, Forza Motorsport raises the bar for what you will now expect from other games in this genre.

Both in the showroom and on the track, Forza Motorsport is accentuated by an attractive implementation of ray tracing, which is even featured in one of the game's performance modes to mitigate any feelings of compromise to enjoy the game looking its finest. While it's difficult to appreciate accurate reflections at breakneck speeds, the collective effect helps to ground each car to the track in a way that makes previous iterations seem a bit strange by comparison. It's not a faultless implementation--there were numerous instances in rain-soaked conditions where reflections would routinely break when ray tracing was enabled--but there's no question it's a transformative change that elevates Forza Motorsport's presentation to new visually pleasing heights.

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Cocoon Review - A Bug's Strife

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I've always been equal parts fascinated and terrified by bugs. These seemingly contradictory sentiments most likely stem from them being a bit contradictory themselves. They are everywhere yet feel foreign, vital to our world's operations yet seemingly insignificant, and small yet capable of improbable feats, whether that be carrying objects 50 times their weight or rendering homes inhospitable. They are disarmingly complex creatures--and it makes them the perfect subject for a game just as intricate as they are.

Cocoon, the debut game from Geometric Interactive, is a surreal and intimate puzzle game that is also beautifully complex. Considering the pedigree of its gameplay designer--Jeppe Carlsen of Limbo and Inside fame--perhaps this shouldn't be too surprising, but it didn't stop me from continuously being in awe of just how tight and intelligent the overall experience was. This, paired with fantastic sound design and art, both synthetic and organic--lush yet scarce--makes for a memorable experience.

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Cocoon sees you take on the role of a cicada-like creature moments after it emerges from a womb of petals. Without fanfare, exposition, or any guidance, this creature is thrust into an orange, arid, and largely desolate world. There are few enemies to be found in Cocoon, to be sure, but all of them are relegated to closed off arenas, where you must use quick thinking and evasion to get the best of them. While some of these boss battles are incredibly engaging (and others, not quite as much), combat is not the focus in Cocoon--it's exploration.

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Resident Evil 4: Separate Ways DLC Review - Where Does She Get Those Wonderful Toys?

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Capcom's Resident Evil 4 remake takes one of the greatest games of all time and rebuilds it into a masterpiece that stands right alongside the original. Helpfully, Capcom had excellent source material to work from, which isn't the case for the original's add-on, Separate Ways. Don't get me wrong, Ada Wong's solo outing was a fun excuse to re-enter the dilapidated world of RE4, but the original add-on did little to differentiate its gameplay from the main campaign and didn't make itself essential to the overall experience from a narrative perspective either. The remake of Separate Ways, however, is the opposite, adding several new tools to its core gameplay, shaking up familiar environments with completely new set pieces, and fleshing out the story. Far from being a throwaway add-on, Resident Evil 4 remake's version of Separate Ways makes an already phenomenal game feel even more complete.

The foundation of Separate Ways' premise remains the same as in the original: You step into the high heels of antiheroine Ada Wong and act as a spy to hunt down a biological weapon for longtime Resident Evil antagonist Albert Wesker. Her allegiances, however, are ambiguous, with Ada playing multiple sides in the story, sometimes working against Wesker and assisting Leon on his mission to save the president's daughter Ashley Graham or partnering up with suave biologist Luis Sera. She has a dual motive for nearly everything she does. But this time around, the stakes have been turned up a notch, as Ada is also infected with plagas--the same parasitic disease that's infected the villagers, Leon, and Ashley in the main story. This additional layer gives Ada a stronger motive for working alongside Luis, who is the answer to finding a cure. This, in turn, merits a whole lot more welcomed screen time for our charismatic and ever-charming Spanish biologist too.

As a spy, Ada is equipped with many gadgets that transform the core gameplay, most prominently her grappling hook, which she can use to zipline to higher ground and over obstacles, or to pull herself toward enemies to deliver a badass swirling kick. Additionally, she has access to an augmented-reality implant that allows her to see footsteps or fingerprints, both of which are used to track characters like Luis or reveal button presses, acting as mini-puzzles to bypass locked doors. It's a bespoke gameplay system for Ada that adds an extra wrinkle to her campaign and emphasizes a detective-like quality that we haven't seen in any previous Resident Evil. The inclusion of these mechanics adds much-needed texture to Ada, painting her as the capable and resourceful spy we've always been told she is, but have never seen firsthand. Usually, she appears at the most convenient moments to help another character out or provide a weapon, but now we get to see how she uses her own skills to track characters down and complete missions from the shadows.

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