The Finals Review - An Explosive Game Show

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I wasn't sold on The Finals after playing my first match. A single game obviously isn't enough time to come to any worthwhile conclusions, but still, after playing through its brief tutorial--which does a poor job of explaining the game's concepts--I initially felt lost and underwhelmed. Fortunately, this feeling didn't last, and after a few more games, The Finals had its hooks dug in deep. As a fan of the Battlefield series, this wasn't much of a surprise; The Finals is a team-based first-person-shooter with an emphasis on destruction and mayhem, developed by Embark Studios, which counts a number of Battlefield alumni among its ranks. The two games aren't at all similar in a broader sense, but Battlefield's DNA is present throughout, from its snappy shooting to its chaotic destruction.

One key difference between The Finals and most other competitive shooters is that it pits multiple teams of three players against each other, either in 3v3v3 or 3v3v3v3 matches. This multi-team setup leads to a consistent stream of dynamic firefights as each squad vies for control of The Finals' all-important cash. You end up fighting the defending team as they desperately try to hold on, while also scrapping with your fellow attackers, contributing to the game's palpable sense of outright bedlam. It's a vibrant and colorful shooter, too, augmenting its over-the-top action with a game-show-infused style, featuring a rambunctious crowd and excitable play-by-play announcers. Think 1987's The Running Man but with frantic gun battles. The controversial implementation of AI voicework is the only sore topic relating to the game's aesthetic. It's not particularly noticeable, but each line is fairly one-note so the AI doesn't have to extend itself, and either way, its use still feels gross.

There are currently two main modes to facilitate all of this chaos. Quick Cash sees three teams battling for possession of a vault filled with money, which must then be taken to a designated Cashout Station to be deposited. It's kind of like a mixture between Capture the Flag and King of the Hill, typically resulting in all three squads converging on one location for an all-out slaughter. Whoever inserts the vault into the Cashout Station starts a timer that'll bank all of the cash when it runs out, but any of the other teams can steal the deposit without resetting the countdown's progress. This quickly establishes a thrilling sense of forward momentum, primarily because it eliminates the possibility of a stalemate and ensures that the action maintains its rapid pace. There are few moments as satisfying as managing to steal the Cashout Point at the last possible second and banking all of the winnings for your team. The only thing that comes close is successfully fighting back the hordes and defending the point for a prolonged period of time as the world comes crashing down around you.

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Arizona Sunshine 2 Review - The Walking Shred

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The first time I played Arizona Sunshine 2, I left feeling a bit nauseated, but I soon realized this was due to my time spent away from playing VR games. The second time I played Arizona Sunshine 2, I was quickly overwhelmed by its hordes of undead and left feeling like the game was perhaps unbalanced. By the third time I put on my Quest 3 headset, I'd rediscovered my proverbial sea legs, I'd mastered the art of zombie crowd control, and I enjoyed the game for what it is: an arcadey trek through the apocalypse.

In the VR-exclusive first-person zombie shooter Arizona Sunshine 2, you'll take on the role of the original game's hero for another excursion through an undead hellscape of airports, sewage tunnels, and rooftop parking lots, each of them loaded with ammo and "Freds"--the too-jokey protagonist's word for zombies--in similar quantities. The game's intentions are clear right away: This isn't the sort of game where you'll need to worry about ammo reserves very often. This is a power fantasy, though not without plenty of tension, too.

Arizona Sunshine 2 shines brightest is in those moments when you're tasked with clearing out intimidatingly large hordes of zombies. As mentioned, at first I found this so difficult that I assumed I failed to account for something--a skill move, or a control option, or something. It turns out I just needed a little practice. Like a lot of VR shooters, you can do yourself huge favors by mastering the reload animation. Initially I fumbled around with that mechanic, which caused me to take more than a few bites to the jugular, but it didn't take long before I mowed through undead like a John Wick Halloween spin-off.

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Avatar: Frontiers Of Pandora Review - The Good Blue Man Group

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Before starting Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, I was reminded of what I think of when considering any open-world game: Killscreen's review of Fallout 4 by Chris Breault, and the opening line, "Here comes the trashman!" Breault discusses an experience of constantly picking up and covering yourself in the garbage scattered around that game's massive world. It's a description that feels highly applicable to most open-world games--huge, but full of refuse that you spend endless hours picking through and carting around, only to replace it with newer, better garbage. Most open-world games are too concerned with filling their worlds, both literally and metaphorically, with a deluge of needless stuff, and it’s why I find the genre can be off-putting.

It's the fear of that torrent of trash that made Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora surprisingly refreshing and also endearing. Frontiers pushes aside some of the concerns about sifting through heaps of junk and clearing incessant icons from your HUD by keeping your screen clear so you can appreciate its gorgeous vistas and strange creatures, thus encouraging you to take in and understand the world around you. Though it still has a lot of open-world staples, like numerous activities and an expansive crafting system, it manages to incorporate them as systems that enhance an overarching feeling of exploration and discovery, and it never bombards you with them. These elements feel like they're meant to help you experience the world itself, instead of just filling it up with more litter.

Two things make Frontiers of Pandora work: its incredible setting and its alien protagonist. I've never had much more than a passing interest in the Avatar films, but Pandora, the lush alien world on which they take place, is an outstanding location to set a video game. It's an enormous and strange place, filled with alien plants, creatures that glow in darkness, and wildlife that towers over the landscape.

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Thirsty Suitors Review - "I'm Jala Goddamn Jayaratne!"

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At a glance, Thirsty Suitors is a game about revenge. Its story follows the recently heartbroken Jala Jayaratne, who returns to her hometown only to be relentlessly attacked by a league of evil exes. But it is also so much more than that. As the story progresses, we come to discover that none of these exes are evil per se, and Jala herself is incredibly fallible. She left scorched earth in all of her previous relationships in Timber Hills, and her only option now is to reconcile and take accountability with each of these exes. Her attempts to make good take the form of turn-based combat built upon RPG progression that has a unique flavor and is fun to engage with. There's even a surprisingly enjoyable skateboarding mechanic. In so many ways, Thirsty Suitors is unique and creative, but when all is said and done, what makes a lasting impact is a personal, vulnerable, and culturally nuanced tale about making things right.

As previously mentioned, you will be fighting each of Jala's exes throughout the game in turn-based combat, leveling up stats, learning new skills to make fights easier, and using summons that can be unlocked through sidequests or the main story. Each fight is a conversation, a puzzle, and a battle in one where the objective is to discover the weakness of an opponent through a process of trial and error. Once you've identified that weakness, you can inflict status ailments or deal additional damage to chip away at their health. The RPG mechanics and the process of exploring and exploiting weakness are presented as a back-and-forth between Jala and her interlocutor where old wounds are reopened and issues are hashed out until the dynamic between them evolves or resolves. This system manages to work in the foundational element of RPGs but cleverly rethinks it to also give it narrative weight. The trial and error process is one of picking dialogue options, and these can have an impact beyond the battle too. Make the right decisions and you'll come up with a plan that'll pinpoint the enemies' weaknesses through taunts, so you can easily trounce them with the use of the correct skills.

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Jala's initial ambition and awareness of her wrongdoings are unique for the main character of an RPG, let alone one spearheaded by a queer South Asian woman. Jala conveys her self-awareness by internalizing that she is the one at fault in all of her previous relationships, which manifests in the game as a banter between herself and a narrator. The narrator is a voice she has conjured up that is reminiscent of her sister, Aruni, in looks, voice, and tone. This, it turns out, is also a way for Jala to grapple with her strained relationship with her sister while still having guidance internally. The dialogue between them had me laughing throughout the game's 17-hour runtime. The snide, direct, and reassuring nature of this narrator figure allows Jala to convey her struggles effectively by presenting these challen

CoD: Modern Warfare 3 MP And Zombies Review - Selling Nostalgia

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It's a weird year for Call of Duty, as Modern Warfare 3 arrives with mostly recycled content in a game that is looking to sell you on nostalgia. However, despite being a hodgepodge of old ideas and content from previously launched games, this continuation of the rebooted Modern Warfare series still manages to deliver lots of exciting multiplayer with fast-paced movement and an extraction-style Zombies mode that keeps you hooked on the gameplay.

On paper, Modern Warfare 3 sounds like it should be suffering from a chaotic identity crisis, as it's cobbled together with many parts of previous Call of Duty games. It's a direct sequel to 2022's Modern Warfare 2, but the standard map pool at launch exclusively consists of the full map set from 2009's original Modern Warfare 2. Additionally, the game's third game mode is a Treyarch-developed Zombies experience, which plays on Warzone's upcoming battle royale map with tons of features pulled from Black Ops Cold War.

New Call of Duty games typically launch with multiplayer maps inspired by the game's campaign locations, but other than the airport map "Terminal," most of the other multiplayer maps don't tie into the campaign settings in any way. Releasing solely with old maps doesn't really do the multiplayer any favors, as longtime players like myself don't have new areas to explore and it creates a very noticeable disconnect that reminds you what a patchwork job Modern Warfare 3 really is.

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