The Talos Principle 2 Review - Machine Learning

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Video games often deal with the end of the world and thinking about how cool it might be. Like, sure, it sucks that most everyone has to die horribly for the end of the world to take place, but those of us who survive might get to shoot evil marauders or rotting mutants or giant bugs. Or maybe there are evil marauders, rotting mutants, and giant bugs who are trying to bring about the end of the world, and you can shoot them to prevent it. In any event, the idea of finding fun settings that let you dispense death without really worrying about the consequences tends to bring something of a positive spin to the apocalypse.

The Talos Principle 2 isn't just about the possibility of the end of the world, but the real, legitimate, logical fear of it--one based not on religious abstraction or a distant extrapolation, but an understanding of past mistakes. It doesn't use that possibility for a fun setting with monsters to blast or a villain to chase and instead leans into a more peaceful and serene conception of impending doom. How best to prevent bringing an end of our own making to the world, it asks, even if it's currently theoretical or decades in the future? When is it worth the risk? What values, what comforts, what aspects of ourselves are important to us, and which of them do we consider so intrinsic that to exist without them would be no existence at all?

It's also a game about puzzles. The puzzles are really good.

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RoboCop: Rogue City Review - I'd Buy That For A Dollar!

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RoboCop: Rogue City is a love letter to the 36-year-old sci-fi franchise. Teyon, the studio behind Terminator: Resistance and Rambo: The Video Game, clearly has a soft spot for '80s action movies, and this reverence is woven into the very fabric of Rogue City's design. From the environments to the soundtrack to the satirical style, it captures the look, sound, and vibe of the first two RoboCop movies with exceptional aplomb, while also making you feel like you're fully embodying the titular supercop. Pistons whir with each heavy footstep of your titanium frame as you shrug off damage and methodically dispatch criminal scum with the lethal precision of a machine. There's something admirable about this adherence to authenticity, yet being a near-unstoppable force doesn't always make for the most compelling video game. Rogue City often appears as though it's stuck at a crossroads between being faithful to the source material and presenting an enjoyable first-person shooter, and it only sometimes strikes a satisfying balance.

Rogue City's story feels genuine by etching a brand-new tale into the series' familiar narrative framework, but this is another area where Teyon sometimes sticks too closely to the original two movies' vision. Set between the events of RoboCop 2 and RoboCop 3, Rogue City sees you play as Old Detroit cop Alex Murphy--with Peter Weller reprising the famous role--who's been rebuilt as the cyborg RoboCop after being fatally wounded in the line of duty. The game opens with a satirical news segment that would feel right at home in Paul Verhoeven's 1987 film, establishing the crime-riddled state of Old Detroit. Nuke, the highly addictive designer drug introduced in RoboCop 2, is still proliferating on the streets, and now there's a new crime boss in town who has the rest of the city's gangs lining up to work for him. Putting a stop to this new wave of crime is your prime directive, but the story also explores a number of sub-plots with mixed results.

At the conclusion of the game's first mission, for instance, RoboCop malfunctions in a dangerous hostage situation and begins having flashbacks to the life he used to have as a loving husband and father. Mega-corporation Omni Consumer Products (OCP) is eager to fix its faulty hardware, even going as far as to hire a therapist for RoboCop to talk to. The original movies explored themes of control and free will and touched on the dichotomy of RoboCop's very existence, but these moments were often clumsily handled and never reached a particularly satisfying conclusion. Rogue City allows you to delve deeper into Murphy's psyche by choosing various dialogue options during your mandated therapy sessions. You can toe the line and say you're just a machine or that it doesn't matter either way, or you can opt to dig further and explore Murphy's relationship with his humanity and personal identity. There are some interesting moments that arise from these conversations and the way your answers influence how others perceive you, but it also doesn't say anything we haven't heard before, either within RoboCop's own fiction or in other media. As a result, Rogue City feels like it's simply retreading old ground and falling into the same pitfalls the movies once did.

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WarioWare: Move It Review - I Am Merely Okay To Move It Move It

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WarioWare is a series built on gimmicks. The very idea of "microgames" on the Game Boy Advance was a silly, novel idea, and every iteration since then has tried to match that gonzo style. At this point, the real measure of a WarioWare game is how well the new schtick works to deliver its frenetic rapid-fire games. For WarioWare: Move It, Nintendo has repeated the pose-based games from the Wii's WarioWare: Smooth Moves. But while the games are as wacky as ever and frequently hilarious, many of the poses (or "Forms") themselves are too complex--which creates friction for the players and sometimes even for the Joy-Con controllers.

The unusual nature of the pose mechanic is apparent right away when the game asks you to acclimate yourself to holding the Joy-Con controller in a wonky sideways position: face buttons inside your palm or facing outward, controller turned to the side so that your thumb is positioned to hit the ZL or ZR button. If you imagine you're on a gameshow like Jeopardy where the contestants have buzzers, that's basically how this feels. You can't really reach the face buttons, but you don't need them. Instead, everything is controlled by motion, sometimes also involving the ZL and ZR button, and very rarely, the SL and SR buttons located on the rail.

The odd hand positioning appears to be in service of better motion sensing, allowing for a wider range of poses than we saw in Smooth Moves on the Wii. And to its credit, the gameplay does get a lot of mileage out of finding new ways to integrate these poses into different types of competitions. You might be asked to switch from holding your forearms perpendicular to your body (Choo-Choo) to putting your hands up at your cheeks (Lovestruck) to posing with one hand at your head and another at your side (Fashionista). What's most impressive about the array of poses is how often Move It makes them feel natural in the context of the microgames. The game won't know if you aren't playing along fully, but you'll naturally perform the motions better if you commit to the bit.

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Star Ocean: The Second Story R Review - Back to the Future

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The Star Ocean franchise has been an underappreciated one within the Japanese RPG genre. Despite being around for more than 25 years, it's never had the breakout success that elevated it to new heights, as something like Persona or Tales have had in more recent years. Many longtime fans consider 1999's Star Ocean: The Second Story to be the best entry, and now Square Enix has remade it for modern consoles. Star Ocean: The Second Story R is a remake that manages to not only have the retro feel of its older PS1 and PSP incarnations, but also make it feel fresh with new battle mechanics, as well as audio and visuals updates. It may not be the big break that’ll finally make the Star Ocean franchise explode in popularity, but it’s a fine Japanese RPG on its own terms.

The Second Story's plot follows an energetic young man named Claude C. Kenny and a caring young girl named Rena Lanford. After disobeying his father's orders and touching a malfunctioning piece of teleportation equipment, Claude accidentally lands on a backwater planet called Expel, runs into Rena, and has to protect her from a monster. These two characters are the core focus of the story, and their respective motivations and situations make for great plot drivers. In an effort to find a way to return home, Claude agrees with the local village to investigate the Sorcery Globe, a mysterious meteor-like object that crashed into Expel, causing the surrounding area to be infested with monsters. As he’s from a technologically advanced society, he thinks that the object could provide clues on how to get off of Expel. Rena, meanwhile, is an orphan and hopes to uncover more of her own past, as she is the only person on Expel to be blessed with natural healing powers.

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Alan Wake 2 Review - A Miracle Illuminated

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Calling a game ambitious can come with an implied caveat. A game with great ambition can be something that reaches high and far, but can also be one that doesn't quite get there. Alan Wake 2 is one of the most ambitious games I've ever played, but don't misconstrue that, as it doesn't fall short of its lofty goals. On the contrary, Alan Wake 2 achieves virtually everything developer Remedy Entertainment set out to do. It's a game that feels novel and risky that is executed with confidence and a clarity of vision. The end result is a one-of-a-kind sequel that redefines its series, blazes trails in video game storytelling, and stands as the monument to a studio that has unlocked its potential to the fullest.

Picking up 13 years after the original game's events, Alan Wake 2 is made with two audiences in mind: those who may be new to its mystery-laden plot and those who have been decorating figurative cork board with red strings in their minds for over a decade. This is a smart way to broaden appeal to a bigger audience that Remedy executes by splitting the game into two campaigns, both unfolding using an unconventional structure.

In one campaign, FBI special agent Saga Anderson arrives at the once-quaint Bright Falls, Washington to investigate a series of disappearances and ritualistic murders. Saga is joined by her partner, Alex Casey, and becomes the perfect proxy for the uninitiated as she is soon enveloped in the juxtaposition of Bright Falls' understated but haunting atmosphere and its quirky and often upbeat townsfolk. Turning over crime scenes in an unsettling forest rich in folklore, Saga's storyline combines the rustic foreboding feelings of The Blair Witch Project with the unflinching grit of a Fincher-esque dark crime drama. The other campaign, meanwhile, sees you play as the titular Alan Wake and picks up in a nightmare realm called the Dark Place, where Alan has been trapped since the end of the first game. This malevolent space feeds off of art and memories alike, creating a personalized prison for all who enter it.

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