United Front Gaming http://unitedfrontgaming.com Metal Gear Survive /microsoft/post/metal-gear-survive Tue, 20 Feb 2018 12:00:00 Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus <p>Reviewed By: Kenneth Seward Jr.<br />System: Xbox One (Also on PS4, PC)<br />Genre: FPS<br />Rated: M<br />Players: 1<br />Cost: $59.99 <br />Release Date: 10/27/2017<br />Publisher: Bethesda Softworks <br />Developer: MachineGames<br /><br />One of the things I loved about the MachineGames <a class="external" href="http://unitedfrontgaming.com/post/2353/wolfenstein:-the-new-order">Wolfenstein: The New Order</a>, was the juxtaposition of absurd happenings and the realistic treatment of characters. It featured bombastic gameplay where the player could duel wield rocket launchers, battle giant robots, and eviscerate unsuspecting Nazi soldiers while traversing a space station. Crazed villains would survive grievous wounds, as if it was their destiny to monologue one more time before dying. This sort of thing was nestled by quieter moments, where the heroes mourned their fallen. Bouts of laughter would erupt during celebrations, however short lived. Conversations between NPCs weren&rsquo;t wasted on idle chit chat; they spoke about their lives, past and present, while incorporating recent developments brought upon by the player. This balancing of extremes brought about something grand, providing a refreshing experience that hasn&rsquo;t really been matched till now.</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/wolfenstein-ii-the-new-colossus-screen-2.jpg" alt="wolfenstein-ii-the-new-colossus-screen-2" /><br /><br />Following the events of the last game, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus opens with William &ldquo;BJ&rdquo; Blazkowicz (the protagonist) being rescued after successfully destroying Deathshead&rsquo;s fortress. This sizable blow to the Nazi regime left Blazkowicz in critical condition. He was so messed up that he fell into a coma &ndash; a predicament not unlike his fourteen-year stint in the psychiatric asylum in The New Order, only this time he&rsquo;d awaken months later on a stolen U-boat. Explosions rock him out of his coma as crazed Nazi commander, Frau Engel&rsquo;s forces attack via a flying ship. Armed soldiers board the boat and force their way into the lower decks. As the bullets are flying, Blazkowicz fights back while confined to a wheelchair; he literally rolls up on his enemies before opening fire. And that&rsquo;s the sane part. &nbsp;<br /><br />The gunplay is still over-the-top in all the right ways. It&rsquo;s fun sneaking through an environment to silently dispatch enemies. Blazkowicz is mean with an axe, able to surgically remove limbs before burying it into a Nazi&rsquo;s skull. Going in guns blazing is also an option. Lasers, shrapnel spewing grenades, and hand cannons are just some of the tools used in the field. Each instrument of death is upgradable with scopes, fiery bullets, armor pricing rounds that&rsquo;ll blow holes through cover. All of which are needed considering how good a shot the Nazi&rsquo;s are. Robotic dogs that breath fire and mechs outfitted with rocket packs &ndash; even alligators will make the going tough.</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/wolfenstein-ii-the-new-colossus-screen-5.jpg" alt="wolfenstein-ii-the-new-colossus-screen-5" /><br /><br />This isn&rsquo;t the easiest shooter. Old school mechanics (like needing health packs) will keep players on their toes. It never gets too frustrating and there are multiple difficulty settings for those of us that just want to see how the narrative unfolds.&nbsp; The upgrade system helps keep things entertaining, regardless of your skill level &ndash; the play-based perks system has returned from The New Order.&nbsp; Snag enough stealth kills and you&rsquo;ll become sneakier, move faster while crouching, etc.. Take out multiple bad guys with explosives and you&rsquo;ll eventually unlock armor upgrades, reducing the amount of damage you take from grenades and such. The system basically encouraged you to play your way. &nbsp;</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/wolfenstein-ii-the-new-colossus-screen-3.jpg" alt="wolfenstein-ii-the-new-colossus-screen-3" /><br /><br />The combat can be exhilarating, to say the least, but the interactions between characters is what really sells the drama. Because the Nazis were able to catch Blazkowicz with his hospital gown open, he and his crew had to find help. This leads to them rescuing a resistance group in the ruins of Manhattan, swelling the cast quite a bit. All of the important roles push the narrative in intriguing ways. Take the militant Grace Walker, an African-American woman who helps lead the group, for example. She&rsquo;s a tough character. Quick to sound off on any jive turkeys; she provides a bit of humor with dialogue that inches ever so close to a bad stereotypical depiction of an angry black woman. But before she crosses that line, she&rsquo;s reeled back in by moments of authentic emotion. Grace&rsquo;s demeaner can be campy yet, she&rsquo;s always believable.<br /><br />Actress Debra Wilson did a fantastic job bringing Grace Walker to life. The same can be said about the other cast members. Their voice acting and motion capture work provided many a memorable moment. Then there are the NPC&rsquo;s not directly linked to our hero BJ. The things they say are nuanced, offering up more story for anyone willing to wait around and listen. Take the secondary American characters who wanted to defect to the Nazis. It was disconcerting to see these men trying to fit in with their oppressors as they practiced derogatory chants in German. Though it was hard to hear, their depiction (and how people around them were affected) mirrored past and present happenings in the US in thought-provoking ways.</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/wolfenstein-ii-the-new-colossus-screen.jpg" alt="wolfenstein-ii-the-new-colossus-screen" />&nbsp;<br />I could talk for days about how MachineGames&rsquo; handling of racial issues made me feel. The long and short of it: whether it was through the game&rsquo;s brutality or the feelings of the supporting cast, they wanted to be clear on how they felt about Nazis, white supremacy, and racism in general. And while I don&rsquo;t condone violence, outside of defending oneself, my thoughts are aligned with the developer. The right side won WWII! <br /><br />Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is more of the same. A hodgepodge of retro and modern elements, realistic displays of emotion and ridiculous happenings &ndash; I&rsquo;m amazed at how well it all works together. MachineGames also added more content without padding the experience; optional side missions and scattered collectibles encourage longer play. At the same time, it&rsquo;s a much better game than The New Order. I cared about Blazkowicz and his extended family. I felt their anger and their joy. It was a rollercoaster of awesome! <br /><br />Gameplay: 10<br />MachineGames has outdone themselves once again; they&rsquo;ve created an interesting drama while staying true to Wolfenstein&rsquo;s campy roots. <br /><br />Graphics: 10<br />The game looks really good!<br /><br />Sound: 10<br />Solid voice acting from everyone involved. The music and sound effects were great as well. <br /><br />Replay Value: 10<br />The New Colossus if fun enough to playthrough more than once. And while I normally don&rsquo;t include DLC when weighting this category, having the option to experience more of Blazkowicz&rsquo;s world is favorable. <br /><br />Final Score:<br /><br />10<br /><br /><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/ufg2final-without-background-copy.jpg" alt="Medal of Honors Award" /></p> /microsoft/post/wolfenstein-ii:-the-new-colossus Tue, 16 Jan 2018 12:00:00 L.A. Noire (Remastered) <p>Reviewed By: Andre Thomas<br />System: Xbox One (Also on PS4, Switch) <br />Genre: Action Adventure<br />Rated: M<br />Players: 1<br />Cost: $39.99<br />Release Date: 11/14/2017<br />Publisher: Rockstar Games<br />Developer: Rockstar Games/Virtuos<br /><br />Before we received our review copy of L.A. Noire, I was just a typical Xbox One owner. You know&hellip;a person who enjoys the current landscape of games while also contemplating buying an &ldquo;evolved&rdquo; version of that console. When I received word that I would be reviewing Rockstar&rsquo;s remastered version of L.A. Noire, I was beyond stoked to jump back into fictional 1940&rsquo;s Los Angeles crime scenes. This was especially true considering its updated visuals; I thought the original version looked incredible when it was released years ago. Long story short, I ended up buying an Xbox One X in order to experience the game in 4K. And while I wouldn&rsquo;t advise anyone to upgrade just to play L.A. Noire, I certainly feel like the purchase was worth it; the game looks freaking gorgeous! &nbsp;<br /><br /><em>I won&rsquo;t delve too deeply into the story because this is a remake, but here&rsquo;s a gist of what the game is about. You are Cole Phelps, a World War II veteran turned LAPD officer trying to find his way back into civilian life/find something meaningful after being in a war. As you rise up the ranks in the force, you&rsquo;ll need to survive a failing marriage, mobster hits and corrupt officials &ndash; all while trying to solve some of the most mind-boggling crimes ever written in fiction.</em></p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/l-a--noire-reboot-screen-3.jpg" alt="l-a--noire-reboot-screen-3" /><br /><br />Team Bondi (the original developer) and Rockstar not only brought about an amazing narrative but also the means of delivering a sense of realism not seen in any other game at that point. That isn&rsquo;t hyperbole, as L.A. Noire was the first video game ever to be shown at the Tribeca Films Festival due to its story and the advancement in facial animation technology in games. A character&rsquo;s facial expressions have never been more important than they are in this game&hellip;<br />&nbsp;<br />What made L.A. Noire such a huge hit was how much detective work was actually required to solve a crime. This isn&rsquo;t your typical cop game where you have a linear finish to every crime. You will have to search for you own evidence and pay close attention to every person you come across during an investigation. Yes, there are action sequences and such but it isn&rsquo;t GTA. You are a detective, so you are solving already completed crimes which don&rsquo;t usually involve interaction with the criminals themselves until they are being interrogated. That said, I enjoyed finding clues and interrogation even more than the action sequences due to the amount of depth that is put into each investigation.<br /><br />What&rsquo;s also great is how well each role is voiced, with awesome acting made more believable via facial animations. There is so much emphasis put on eye contact, emotional changes during a conversation, etc. that you can&rsquo;t get caught up in the norms of today (like checking your twitter) while interacting with people in-game. I took my eyes away from the screen once to chase my son and apparently missed a suspect smirking a bit while lying about part of an investigation.</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/l-a--noire-reboot-screen.jpg" alt="l-a--noire-reboot-screen" /><br /><br />This attention to detail was lauded back in 2011. Now imagine the enhanced 4K version; I nearly skated through the game once I obtained my Xbox One X as I could easily read almost every single expression on each character&rsquo;s face. With updated button prompts now saying &ldquo;Good Cop&rdquo;, &ldquo;Bad Cop&rdquo;, and &ldquo;Accuse&rdquo; (as opposed to the vague Truth, Doubt, and Lie options) there was significantly less room for error when choosing the proper line of questioning. This meant that my wife and I could be sure of our assumptions as we examined facial expressions after asking questions and/or revealing our acquired evidence. I say &ldquo;we&rdquo; because of how inviting L.A. Noire is. The story and voice acting can be enjoyed even if you aren&rsquo;t the person holding the controller. <br /><br />Rockstar games does an incredible job of making sure every one of their titles feels similar yet completely different from one another. Most of them feel &ldquo;real&rdquo; even if their narratives are farfetched. Their usual treatment of an open world &ndash; though with adjusted gameplay focused on detective work &ndash; fits perfectly with the backdrop of the 40&rsquo;s. Similar to Mafia III, the city looks and feels like a place in time where I wouldn&rsquo;t have been able to live as freely as I do now (being a person of color). I say that with certainty because L.A. Noire does a fantastic job of showcasing the issues people faced back then. There are still some campy elements of course. Like charming characters that while based on real people, are also caricatures of their real-life counterparts. All of it blends into a memorable experience, even years later.</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/l-a--noire-reboot-screen-4.jpg" alt="l-a--noire-reboot-screen-4" /><br /><br />If it isn&rsquo;t obvious enough, L.A. Noire is just as great today as it was when it originally released. The enhanced visuals, alone, makes the game worth the price of admission. They could have just gave me the original game and I would have been totally fine. But to make gameplay adjustments and 4K enhancements&hellip;their desire to improve on what came before says a lot about Rockstar (beyond gearing up for a possible sequel, if the game sells well). It&rsquo;s a no brainer for me, L.A. Noire was great before. Now it&rsquo;s a classic!<br /><br />Gameplay: 10<br />L.A. Noire is just as entertaining as was years ago&hellip;even more so!<br /><br />Graphics: 10<br />The game looks great on the Xbox One. It looks amazing on the Xbox One X! <br /><br />Sound:10 <br />The voice acting is on par with a Hollywood film. The soundtrack and sound effects are great to as they literally play a part of every crime.<br /><br />Replay Value: 8<br />Once you have figured out how to solve the crimes, it&rsquo;s a bit of a breeze. But playing though it again in black and white changes the overall feel. Plus, this version comes with all of the previously released DLC, giving you more reasons to keep playing.<br /><br />Final Score:<br /><br />9.5 <br /><br /></p> /microsoft/post/l-a--noire--remastered- Tue, 28 Nov 2017 12:00:00 The Evil Within 2 <p>Reviewed By: Kenneth Seward Jr.<br />System: Xbox One (Also on PS4, PC) <br />Genre: Survival Horror<br />Rated: M<br />Players: 1<br />Cost: $59.99<br />Release Date: 10/13/2017<br />Publisher: Bethesda<br />Developer: Tango Gameworks<br /><br />A developer doesn&rsquo;t have to reinvent the wheel when creating a sequel to a popular game. That&rsquo;s not to say that a developer can&rsquo;t learn from previous efforts, building on what worked while discarding the rest. Just that their sole reason for making a sequel shouldn&rsquo;t be to outdo what came before; if they focus on telling the best story or developing the best experience possible, they&rsquo;ll naturally make a better product. This seems to be the case with Tango Gameworks and their Evil Within series!<br /><br />The Evil Within 2 opens with a dream sequence &ndash; our protagonist, Sabastian Castellanos , relives the house fire that resulted in the death of his daughter and disappearance of his wife. Moments later he is seen awake, drinking his sorrows away in a seedy looking bar. Three years have passed since the Beacon Mental Hospital incident. In that time Sebastian has done all he can to track down the shadowy organization called Mobius. Like Jill Valentine trying to warn people about Umbrella, no one believed his claims; his superiors thought he went crazy, which is why he&rsquo;s no longer employed. Things couldn&rsquo;t get much worse. That is until his former partner and Mobius double agent Juli Kidman walks into the bar. As you can imagine, Sebastian wasn&rsquo;t happy to see her. The only thing that saved her from a bullet was the revelation that Sebastian&rsquo;s daughter Lily was still alive. Mobius faked her death in order to cover up the apparent kidnapping &ndash; she was to be used as the Core for a new STEM system.</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/the-evil-within-2-screen-4.jpg" alt="the-evil-within-2-screen-4" /><br /><br />STEM is a device that allows for a shared consciousness experience, where a Core (the mind of one individual) is used to create a virtual world. Similar to the Matrix but shaped by one person. Unfortunately, these artificial environments can be altered by individuals with strong mental capacity, specifically those of the psychotic nature. This explains how Beacon was transformed into a hellish place filled with monsters. Apparently, this is also happening to Union, the town created by Lily&rsquo;s mind. Things seem worse this time around though. Lily has gone missing and Mobius has lost contact with their operatives that went into Union to retrieve her. This is where Sebastian comes in. Mobius wants him to head into the deteriorating town and find Lily before it&rsquo;s too late. <br /><br />The plot is rather intriguing despite following a familiar path. A secretive corporation&rsquo;s experiment goes awry, besieging a small town before rendering it to ruins. At the center of the chaos is a small child; she appears to be the key to combating whatever is causing people to turn into the Haunted (fast moving zombie-like creatures). I can name more than a few games with a similar tale. Thankfully, there are unique elements sprinkled about that help to elevate the story above the been-there-done-that feeling. <br /><br />Interesting characters are abundant in this installment. Some are psychotic, and therefore have the ability to twist and bend sections of Union into corrupted extensions of themselves. Whatever the case, everyone is looking for Lily. Being the core, she can unlock a path leading to freedom, boost a person&rsquo;s powers within Union, or worse. What ties these people together (besides Lily) is how they all seem to be suffering in one way or another. And because they are all trapped in Union, these issues can literally manifest right in front of them. This is true even with Sebastian. His feelings of guilt and regret weighs heavily on his shoulders, giving a certain antagonist a means of manipulating him.</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/the-evil-within-2-screen.jpg" alt="the-evil-within-2-screen" /><br /><br />The overall story is not quite as convoluted this time around. There are some confusing parts, most of which are explained as things progress, and sections that seem to act as padding to extend one&rsquo;s play time. The story hinges on Mobius&rsquo; desire to control the world using STEM. I won&rsquo;t go into specifics on how they planned on achieving this feat, only to say that it doesn&rsquo;t make much sense. The events taking place in Union don&rsquo;t affect the real world beyond someone&rsquo;s death; if they die when plugged into STEM, they&rsquo;ll die in real-life. Even worse was a perplexing move to link with STEM on a more &ldquo;personal&rdquo; level. It was laughable in a deus ex machina type of way&hellip;<br /><br />Aside from some odd choices, the story is mostly solid/easy to follow even if you&rsquo;re new to the series. I for one, really enjoyed how things played out. Especially with Sebastian, who somehow grows as a character despite not having much of a personality. Though his dialogue leaves much to be desired, his eventual reunion with select characters is heartfelt; he goes in with all of this baggage and comes out better on the other side. It&rsquo;s an emotional ride to say the least.</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/the-evil-within-2-screen-3.jpg" alt="the-evil-within-2-screen-3" /><br /><br />The plot isn&rsquo;t the only place to learn about these characters. The environment is just as important in conveying what went down in Union. Which brings me to a concern I had before starting up the game. Just how convincing would this new world be considering I know that it&rsquo;s a simulation? I mean, for the first game, there was no notion of STEM early on. Things felt real for the lack of a better term. There was also the fact that Union is mostly an open environment. The claustrophobic corridors of Beacon Hospital and odd village-like surroundings have been replaced with store fronts and lawn ornaments; there are some interior locations that are similar in design but for most of the game, I was out in the open. To my surprise, Union is a worse place to visit than Beacon (but in a good way)!&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;<br /><br />The streets aren&rsquo;t exactly littered with the Haunted&hellip;at least not early on. There are pockets of them, usually surrounding an overturned car &ndash; feasting on the remains of a Mobius solider &ndash; or wondering through someone&rsquo;s backyard. This perpetrates a false sense of safety. If I stay clear of the mob, I&rsquo;ll be fine. Not true. Tango made sure to place these horrid individuals in the sneakiest of places. There was one time when I was making my way past a group of them. I noticed some weapon parts by a parked car. Thinking I could grab them and quickly upgrade my pistol, I wandered over. As soon as I got near them, a Haunted woman crawled from underneath the car. I panicked, firing off a few shots (missing all of them) telling the rest of her kin that a human was nearby&hellip;I died seconds later.</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/the-evil-within-2-screen-5.jpg" alt="the-evil-within-2-screen-5" /><br /><br />The Haunted would burst through doors, crawl from under things, and just seemingly pop up out of nowhere. This uncertainty made me second guess exploring my surroundings. &ldquo;Do I really want those bullets? That corpse over there looks shifty.&rdquo; I made sure to keep quiet, ducking behind cars and darting down allies &ndash; the game didn&rsquo;t have to force me to play stealthily. Even in the daytime, I was uneasy about being out in the open. Things really got crazy after completing a certain side mission. Using Sebastian&rsquo;s communicator to pick up radio waves, I was able to find an echo or a past event that&rsquo;s been &ldquo;burned&rdquo; into the environment. This person&rsquo;s echo made mention of a ghostly presence that haunted her. Minutes later I was transported to an abandoned hospital and hunted by a giant apparition named Anima. I managed to escape that place, landing back in Union, but the ghost followed. I&rsquo;d occasionally run into her hours later; the temperature would drop and I&rsquo;d be shrouded in fog. I&rsquo;d then hear her humming Clair de Lune as she slowly walked around, her footsteps shaking the ground. <br /><br />The Evil Within 2 has some of the most grotesque looking creatures in survival horror. One of which, the Guardian, assembles herself using multiple dead bodies &ndash; not body parts, but whole bodies sewn together to form her torso and limbs. The good news is that Sebastian has dealt with this sort of thing before. You can silently take down the Haunted by sneaking up on them, something I&rsquo;d recommend. Icons representing sound and sight indicate how alert your enemies are. If seen, your best bet is to deal with them quickly (so they don&rsquo;t alert their friends) or run. Actually, running away is a viable option in most situations. In some cases though, you won&rsquo;t have a choice as a few encounters will require you to fight swarms of monsters. Smart use of the environment will help mitigate your dwindling resources. Kicking over a barrel and shooting the oil that spills out will engulf nearby enemies in flames while firing electric bolts into pools of water will stun them.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/the-evil-within-2-screen-2.jpg" alt="the-evil-within-2-screen-2" /><br /><br />Though I was cautious when it came to exploring Union, it was still necessary to search for resources. Things like bullets or health syringes are hard to come by. That said, if you find enough weapon parts, medicinal supplies, and other materials, you&rsquo;ll be able to craft needed items at various crafting tables (located in safehouses). It&rsquo;s possible to craft when out and about, but you&rsquo;ll use more resources when doing so. Deciding whether or not to wait till you get back to a safehouse before crafting can be tough. Especially if you&rsquo;re a long way off from the nearest one and your path is blocked by the Haunted. <br /><br />Deciding how to level up Sebastian is also challenging. Though he&rsquo;s an ex-cop, he isn&rsquo;t in the best of health. His stamina is laughable, just like in the last game. Raising this stat is will allow him to run for longer distances. Adding more health will help him to survive more hits. If you fancy being sneaky, you can increase his crouching walk speed or unlock the ability to pull an enemy from around a corner. This was came in handy during one awesome segment where the game went from third to first person. There are some skills you&rsquo;re going to want to build up regardless, given how you level up. Killing enemies and collecting the gel they leave behind is the only way to do so. It might behoove you to better Sebastian&rsquo;s aim for those times when stealth fails but you still want to score some gel. <br /><br />Surviving the horrors of Union can be tough. Thankfully, Tango listened to the feedback that was given about the first Evil Within. Unlike that game, you won&rsquo;t find super frustrating sections that seem unfair; they designed this game with a decent difficulty curve that slowly ramps up overtime. They also added three different difficulty settings based on how you want to play. Maybe you&rsquo;re just interested in the story and not the &ldquo;survival&rdquo; part or perhaps you want things to be insanely challenging, you can choose what&rsquo;s right for you. My choice was in the middle, which allowed for a tough experience with low amounts of ammo and such but nothing that would cause me to quit in a frustrated rage.</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/the-evil-within-2-screen-6.jpg" alt="the-evil-within-2-screen-6" /><br /><br />When it comes to survival horror, there hasn&rsquo;t been a sequel that totally eclipses its predecessor like The Evil Within 2 does since Resident Evil 2. I don&rsquo;t say this lightly. It&rsquo;s understandable if this statement is taken with a grain of salt given how critically acclaimed the original Resident Evil was; Tango&rsquo;s title was nowhere near being as genre defining as that title. Still, this herculean jump in quality is the closest we&rsquo;ve gotten to matching what happened when RE2 was first released! <br /><br />Gameplay: 9<br />The Evil Within 2 is much better than its predecessor. Its plot has a few wonky parts and there is some padding towards the end though.<br /><br />Graphics: 9<br />Most of the time, things look great. A few close ups reveal how bad some of the characters look at times though. <br /><br />Sound: 10<br />A great use of ambient sounds helps sell the horror. The dialogue, sound effects, music&hellip;they aren&rsquo;t bad either!<br /><br />Replay Value: 8<br />The multiple difficulty settings, unlockable modes, and the new game plus offer enough reasons to return to Union.<br /><br />Final Score:<br /><br />9<br /><br /><br /></p> /microsoft/post/the-evil-within-2 Tue, 14 Nov 2017 12:00:00 Elex <p>Reviewed By: Andre Thomas<br />System: Xbox One (Also on PS4, PC) <br />Genre: Action RPG<br />Rated: M<br />Players: 1<br />Cost: $49.99 <br />Release Date: 10/17/2017<br />Publisher: THQ Nordic<br />Developer: Piranha Bytes&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;<br /><br />There isn&rsquo;t much more frustrating than playing a game that feels incomplete. Exemptions like Early Access titles aside, some games just shouldn&rsquo;t be on the market before their bugs have been worked out &ndash; developers are seemingly using software patches as a crutch to allow games to come out before they should. I don&rsquo;t believe that to be the case with Piranha Bytes. That said, I feel that Elex is a prime example of how to ruin a great game by sending it out &ldquo;incomplete&rdquo;.<br /><br />Now of course, developers aren&rsquo;t out to sabotage their reputations with poorly received titles. And I totally understand needing to release something in hopes of recouping some of the money that went into creating a game. But when deliver an experience that&rsquo;s filled with technical issues, you risk alienating your customers. Or at the very least, make them weary of your future titles. &nbsp;</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/elex-screen-5.jpg" alt="elex-screen-5" /><br /><br />Elex has some promise. Set on a Maglan &ndash; a planet that was nearly destroyed by meteor &ndash; where multiple factions battle one another for survival. The key to outlasting their rivals is a substance called Elex that provides power for machines and magic. Most use it for forge a future in this bleak world. Others, namely the Albs, were transformed after ingesting Elex; they&rsquo;ve become powerful, emotionless beings. Our protagonist hails from this group. After experiencing a tragic event, he was able to change his ways (sort of speak) before joining a different faction. What follows is a memorable journey through the wastes with charming characters, deadly monsters, and interesting if not fully realized mechanics. <br /><br />Things start out rough. Due to the lack of Elex in our hero&rsquo;s system, he&rsquo;ll start to feel emotion that he couldn&rsquo;t beforehand. One would think he&rsquo;d start down the path of self-enlightenment or be pissed after being left for dead via the tragic event I mentioned earlier. The thing is though, I didn&rsquo;t know what he was after. Though the plot is engaging, the character development for the protagonist is awful &ndash; after several hours of play, I still don&rsquo;t know what his true motivations were. Well, besides my personal choices (like choosing who to side with). In a game like Fallout: New Vegas, the player chooses how the story unfolds. At the same time, the focus is always on getting answers from Benny, the mobster that tried to kill you at the start. That&rsquo;s not the case here. There is a plot but nothing that could be tied only to the protagonist on a personal level.</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/elex-screen-4.jpg" alt="elex-screen-4" /><br /><br />The gameplay doesn&rsquo;t make up for this shortcoming. Moment to moment fighting, switching between melee and ranged abilities can be fun. But poor camera angles, balancing issues, and troublesome AI hurts the experience. Enemies will randomly go from putting up a decent fight to being nearly unbeatable. This makes not fights where I can&rsquo;t properly see what is attacking me worse; not only is this dodo bird-turkey-monster fusion thing hard to kill but I can&rsquo;t rightly land my attacks thanks to the camera angle. My AI partners were no help as they often failed to acknowledge enemies who were hell bent on killing us. <br /><br />On top of all this were poor quality of life systems and rampant technical issues. For instance, at certain points, the game won&rsquo;t show you where to go next. I spent over an hour in a faction&rsquo;s zone, being told to &ldquo;find people in the camp to help&rdquo;, with no direction on who to talk to in order to begin these missions. When I was presented with a location of interest, sometimes the game wouldn&rsquo;t recognize I was there; it&rsquo;s super frustrating to go to a place only for a bug to stop the game from triggering an event. Other times Elex would glitch, causing the wrong thing to occur. I wasted 20 minutes in a tavern speaking with the owner expecting to eventually get a mission based off the conversation we were having, just for him offer me a drink that I never received. I see him pour a glass, I get the option to pick it up, and then the tavern owner and other people in it treat me like I stole the drink. My wife and I sat there in utter confusion as I ran out of the tavern and reloaded from my last save point so I could reenter the camp.</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/elex-screen-3.jpg" alt="elex-screen-3" /><br /><br />I don&rsquo;t need hand holding but I would like some indication of what I&rsquo;m supposed to do. And when I get to that location or finish a task, it would be nice if the game recognized it for what it was &ndash; me completing a mission. Odd design choices and bugs like these were everywhere, which made it difficult to complete Elex. The premise is cool &ndash; it&rsquo;s like Fallout with magic &ndash; and it&rsquo;s visually pleasing at times. The story isn&rsquo;t bad either, sans your character. But the rest of the game felt rushed. It isn&rsquo;t exactly broken, but it does feel like it could have used a few more months of polish. Here&rsquo;s hoping Piranha&rsquo;s next game doesn&rsquo;t follow suit. <br /><br />Gameplay: 4<br />It can be fun, sparingly. The technical issues/bugs and odd game design hurts the experience.<br /><br />Graphics: 6<br />The game looks like a current gen title, but that&rsquo;s not saying much.<br /><br />Sound: 7<br />The voice overs and sound effects are decent. <br /><br />Replay Value: 5<br />There are different endings and such. Personally though, one playthrough was enough. <br /><br />Final Score: <br /><br />5.5&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;<br /><br /></p> /microsoft/post/elex Tue, 7 Nov 2017 12:00:00 Battle Chasers: Nightwar <p>Reviewed By: Kenneth Seward Jr.<br />System: Xbox One (Also on PS4, PC) <br />Genre: RPG<br />Rated: T<br />Players: 1<br />Cost: $29.99<br />Release Date: 10/03/2017<br />Publisher: THQ Nordic<br />Developer: Airship Syndicate<br /><br />It takes a skillful developer to balance nostalgic gameplay mechanics with modern elements, classic remakes notwithstanding. The idea is to bring back what was entertaining while eschewing the flaws and poor design choices that the industry has outgrown. This is something I&rsquo;m sure Airship Syndicate, which is made up of ex Vigil Games employees, are capable of. Unfortunately the quality of their first title, Battle Chasers: Nightwar doesn&rsquo;t seem to showcase this ability. <br /><br />Based on the fantasy comic book series Battle Chasers, Nightwar acts as a spin-off of sorts. It still follows the story of Gully, a little girl whose father leaves her with magical gauntlets after suddenly disappearing one day. It doesn&rsquo;t continue the arc established in the comic though. Instead, Gully and her companions are shot down over a mysterious island by a band of pirates. Their case of &ldquo;wrong place at the wrong time&rdquo; turns into a lengthy adventure, featuring magical artifacts, ancient cults, and powerful monsters.</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/battle-chasers-screen-5.jpg" alt="battle-chasers-screen-5" /><br /><br />The premise is decent. Fans of the comics will be right at home, recognizing favorite characters like the swordsman, Garrison. Newcomers aren&rsquo;t left in the dark though. There&rsquo;s just enough information to get them invested despite not being aware of what happened prior. Regardless of what camp you reside in, the early goings should be intriguing; the questions surrounding Gully&rsquo;s attackers and an evil sorcerous keep the wheels spinning for a few hours. The plot does start to run dry after a while though. Without giving too much away, things go from trying to find or rescue missing companions to stopping Destra (the sorcerous) from resurrecting powerful enemies. The game essentially has you chasing this one person all over the island, going from one boss fight to the next, with very little to go on. Stopping her from unleashing an unstoppable force upon the world isn&rsquo;t the worse goal to have, but that alone doesn&rsquo;t create a compelling story. &nbsp;<br /><br />The cast of characters are interesting to say the least. Though our heroes fit nicely into the normal RPG roles &ndash; the rouge, warrior, mage and so on &ndash; they can be rather charming. Conversations had during overnight stays in a local inn offer background information, elevating the group above walking stereotypes. The overall plot doesn&rsquo;t do much with these characters though. It would be nice to hear more about Garrison&rsquo;s demons or to learn more about his ties to Gully&rsquo;s father. Instead we get light banter right before a battle, decent fireside chats, and some implied motives &ndash; great literary devices to have when introducing these characters, but nothing that would lead to any real character growth.</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/battle-chasers-screen-6.jpg" alt="battle-chasers-screen-6" /><br /><br />It&rsquo;s a shame really. Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a lengthy game, as most turn-based RPGs tend to be. One would assume that there was plenty of time to present a more fleshed out story. Especially, with Joe Madureira, the creator of the comic series, as the CEO/Creative Director at Airship Syndicate. Expectations aside, what made the surface level plot harder to endure was the grindy gameplay. As you go about hunting down Destra, you&rsquo;ll end up trekking to new areas that continually introduce opponents several times stronger than your crew. Surviving these encounters can be tough, prompting a return to a previous location to level up. Unfortunately, none of the enemies you&rsquo;ll face offer much in the way of experience points. Even after successfully taking down a large group of monsters that were three levels above me, I got maybe 500 xp for my trouble. Which wouldn&rsquo;t be bad if that number wasn&rsquo;t divided between my chosen heroes; it took thousands of points to level one of them, let alone my entire three-man party. The absence of true side quests doesn&rsquo;t help either. There are special bosses you can fight via hunts that offer decent loot and a ton of coins but very little experience. Outside of rare cases where defeating one can unlock a new Burst (more on that later), fighting them wasn&rsquo;t very beneficial. &nbsp;<br /><br />Other design choices add to this problem. Items in shops cost a lot of money but coins aren&rsquo;t dropped very frequently from dispatched opponents. Dungeon interiors are randomly generated each time they are beaten. Not completely, as each room is mostly the same, just placed in a different order while housing different items. This includes forges used to craft better gear. Meaning that unless you forgo completing a dungeon once a forge was found, you&rsquo;d have to go back and search for another in these randomized areas to craft. That is until you can upgrade one of your shops to include one in the main town. But then that goes back to the lack of coin issue. Certain hunts (the only thing resembling side quests) can only be started by obtaining an item that randomly spawns in a particular dungeon. And because the dungeons interiors are randomly generated&hellip;well, you can see where I&rsquo;m going here. Money, experience, crafting stations, even the means of doing a side quest can be hard to come by.</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/battle-chasers-screen-3.jpg" alt="battle-chasers-screen-3" /><br /><br />In order to complete Nightwar, I had to grind completed dungeons over and over. Some of which had to have their difficulty settings raised so I could potentially get better loot. I hunted nearly all of the special bosses, equipped two of the most powerful items in the game (I unlocked Gully and Red Monika&rsquo;s legendary weapons) and I still had trouble leveling up enough to face the game&rsquo;s final bosses. While I certainly felt accomplished by the time the credits rolled, that feeling was overwhelmed by my need to be done with the game. The adherence to old RPG staples, mainly the grind-heavy gameplay, bleeding into most of the game&rsquo;s mechanics sucked out all of the fun. And given Airship&rsquo;s <a class="external" href="http://community.airshipsyndicate.com/t/steam-and-gog-new-patch-is-live-oct-12-2017-v-23098-update/3428">announcement of a patch</a> to adjust these balancing issues, it would seem that I wasn&rsquo;t the only person complaining. Add in some glitches &ndash; one of which that often crashed the game right before a certain boss fight &ndash; long load times and frame rate issues and perhaps one can understand why I wanted to cut my time with this game short.</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/battle-chasers-screen-2.jpg" alt="battle-chasers-screen-2" /><br /><br />Of course, there were some highlights. Little things like no random enemy encounters, a cool system that rewards you for finding/reading lore, and great turn based combat helped to stave off some gameplay fatigue. I especially enjoyed all of Nightwar&rsquo;s strategic elements, including the awesome &ldquo;overcharge&rdquo; mechanic that allows you to build extra energy for casting strong abilities. This is tempered by a turn-based system that changes a character&rsquo;s position on a time line based on how they attack. It works like this: normal attacks are instantly executed when picked. Though they are weaker than special abilities, they provide overcharge per use. This overcharge provides a buffer to your mana pool and is used first when performing certain moves. So instead of using 20 mana points to heal your party or summoning lighting, you&rsquo;ll use however many points of overcharge you&rsquo;ve built up first. Ideally, you&rsquo;d want to use a few normal attacks before a stronger one in order to save mana. That changes if you&rsquo;re in dire need of something (like a heal). <br /><br />Regardless of what you choose, the time it takes to act must be considered. The strongest moves usually take the most time, pushing a character further down the line &ndash; enemies who might have attacked after Gully completed her turn, can do so beforehand. Sometimes it&rsquo;s better to go last though. When an enemy starts casting an ability, like you, they&rsquo;ll be repositioned on the time line. This is because it takes a turn to set up these larger moves and another to unleash them. Using a stun ability will stop them from casting, wasting their second turn. Meaning that they&rsquo;ll need to take two more turns to attack if they choose to do that move again. <br /><br />Then there are the Bursts. These are powerful moves that can change the tide of battle &ndash; like the limit breaks from the Final Fantasy series. Taking and receiving damage slowly builds a burst meter. Each level of the meter allows for a different Burst per character. These moves are great because not only are they really strong, they are also performed instantly. Everyone in your party shares from the bar, so if one character uses all three levels during their turn, you&rsquo;ll have to build it back up before using it with another. The balancing of Bursts adds another layer of strategy on top of everything else, giving players a well-rounded arsenal to play with. This is somewhat bittersweet as a strategically thrilling battle still leaves a bitter taste when it is rewarded with little XP to share between my characters and minimal additional loot&hellip;</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/battle-chasers-screen-4.jpg" alt="battle-chasers-screen-4" /><br /><br />There are plenty of things that I&rsquo;m neglecting to mention. That said, none of it changes how I felt when playing Battle Chasers: Nightwar. This title exceled at producing intense fights, where strategic thinking is needed in order to win. It is visually pleasing, with aesthetics reminiscent of its comic book origins. And the musical score is enchanting, often altering the mood of an event with a change in melody, but not so much so that it alienates itself from the larger theme. Outside of these positive attributes, Nightwar struggles. The game&rsquo;s design philosophy seems to be stuck in the past. As if the point was to make the player grind in hopes of padding the experience, a notion supported by how lackluster the campaign is; the plot can literally be summed up with &ldquo;Thank you heroes! But Destra has fled to another labyrinth&rdquo;. All of this is coming from someone who really wanted to enjoy this game. As the landscape became flooded with shooters, open world experiences, and shoddy survival games, I rooted for this turn-based RPG. Sadly, it did not meet my expectations! <br /><br />Gameplay: 5<br />The turn-based combat is the saving grace. Most of everything else is either riddled with glitches or poorly designed mechanics, none of which is helped by the poor plot. <br /><br />Graphics: 9<br />I like the comic-book stylings.<br /><br />Sound: 8<br />The soundtrack is well done.<br /><br />Replay Value: 1<br />Even with the optional New Game +, I had very little reason to keep adventuring once the credits rolled. <br /><br />Final Score: &nbsp;<br /><br />5.8<br /><br /></p> /microsoft/post/battle-chasers:-nightwar Wed, 1 Nov 2017 12:00:00 Dishonored: Death of the Outsider <p>Reviewed By: Kenneth Seward Jr.<br />System: Xbox One (Also on PS4, PC) <br />Genre: Action/Stealth<br />Rated: M<br />Players: 1<br />Cost: $29.99<br />Release Date: 09/15/2017<br />Publisher: Bethesda<br />Developer: Arkane Studios<br /><br />The Dishonored series is known for empowering the player. This was done by utilizing multiple systems that would alter the world based on our choices during different events. The biggest example of this came by way of the chaos system, which tracked how many characters were slain over the course of the game. Killing everyone standing in your way or opting for a more humane way of dealing with enemies meant the difference between a negative or positive ending. <br /><br />While this was deemed a good thing by critics and fans alike, I have always felt that Arkane was being a bit unfair. That the sense of urgency I had in how the plot unfolded was corrupted by the chaos system for two main reasons. The first was that the world was negatively impacted by killing people; the higher levels of chaos didn&rsquo;t just give you a bad ending, it made the game more difficult. The second reason was this notion of a &ldquo;good ending&rdquo; &hellip;which, if you look closely, means true ending. This is evident in Dishonored: Death of the Outsider as the entire premise was made possible by one of the endings of Dishonored: The Knife of Dunwall &ndash; Billie Lurk&rsquo;s current behavior and personality is directly tied to that expansion&rsquo;s level of chaos&hellip;</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/dishonored-death-of-the-outsider-screen-2.jpg" alt="dishonored-death-of-the-outsider-screen-2" /><br /><br />Basically, there was never a choice. I mean, you can choose your own path. But there was pressure, psychologically/subconsciously to push you towards a certain play style. At least, that&rsquo;s the way I felt &ndash; who doesn&rsquo;t want to see the &ldquo;real&rdquo; ending when playing a game &ndash; which is why when I learned that Arkane had removed the Chaos system in Death of the Outsider, it was freeing. I still made morally sound choices that ultimately affected the story. But I felt better about making them; there were no arbitrary mechanics &ldquo;forcing&rdquo; me to do &ldquo;the right thing&rdquo;. The difficulty didn&rsquo;t change if I chose to kill someone or couldn&rsquo;t find a way to get rid of them without killing them. Just a change in a newspaper clipping, a change in the guards. But nothing that made things so difficult that it hindered my enjoyment of the game. No increased infestations of rats or blood flies.<br /><br />Other changes, like removing the need to find magic elixirs and granting every ability upfront, supplements this new found freedom. Instead of focusing on gaining certain abilities, I was able to more immediately concentrate on the mission at hand. Taking down the Outsider is a lofty goal. That&rsquo;s not to say our protagonists, Billie Lurk and her mentor Daud, aren&rsquo;t talented assassins. It&rsquo;s just that the Outsider is like a God &ndash; he&rsquo;s the one who&rsquo;s been bestowing dark magic to select individuals for centuries. Thankfully, a cult called the Eyeless worship the Void (the place where he resides). They&rsquo;ve compiled all sorts of artifacts, ancient text, and more in hopes of one day meeting the Outsider. It&rsquo;s possible that they also know how to kill him or at the very least, found a way to reach the Void. Infiltrating their secret meetings and learning all I could was a tricky, yet entertaining endeavor thanks to some of the game&rsquo;s new abilities.</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/dishonored-death-of-the-outsider-screen.jpg" alt="dishonored-death-of-the-outsider-screen" /><br /><br />Billie&rsquo;s bread and butter is the Displace ability. Similar to Blink, Displace allows her to teleport a short distance away. The difference though, is that it creates a marker that needs to be placed in the environment. What&rsquo;s great is that Billie can teleport to the marker even if it means going through solid objects; as long as she has line of sight on the marker she can teleport to it. The trick is to find a way to place the marker on the other side of these objects. This is where another ability called Foresight comes in. Using it will cause you to safely &ldquo;ghost&rdquo; around the level, spectating where all of the nearby enemies are for a few seconds. It can also place a marker in areas your physical body can&rsquo;t get into. For instance, it&rsquo;s possible to use Foresight to move through a vent into a locked house and place a marker inside a bedroom. You could then use Displace to teleport through the bedroom&rsquo;s window, even though there are bars blocking your access.<br /><br />My favorite ability is called Semblance. This one allows you to take the face of a living NPC (after knocking them out of course), disguising yourself in hopes of entering an otherwise, inaccessible area. The catch is that if someone sees you attacking someone, the person&rsquo;s body who&rsquo;s face you stole is found, or if you switch abilities you&rsquo;ll blow your cover. Not only that, but it constantly drains power. Meaning, you&rsquo;ll need to get where you&rsquo;re going in the fewest steps possible. <br /><br />These powers help to sidestep some of the obstacles found in other Dishonored titles. To keep things challenging, Arkane thought up some interesting problems for Billie to solve. Environments are littered with guards, traps like electric floors prevent easy access to objectives, and interesting architecture make maneuvering around without being seen difficult. Curve balls like dogs who can sniff you out even when using Semblance are thrown in from time to time. All of it cultivates an engaging experience &ndash; where the going can get tough but in a way that allows you to seek out unique solutions using all of Billie&rsquo;s powers. &nbsp;</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/dishonored-death-of-the-outsider-screen-3.jpg" alt="dishonored-death-of-the-outsider-screen-3" /><br /><br />Stealthy traversing seedy environments while searching for clues and dispatching enemies is as entertaining as ever. Even more so thanks to the removal of the chaos system. I only wish the story wasn&rsquo;t so ambiguous. By the time the credits rolled, I knew the gist of what was going on and why Billie sought out the Outsider, but I still had a lot of unanswered questions. For instance, I found out how the Outsider came to be but not the why. And the why is really important because it acts as one of the supporting elements that holds up the story; the entire Dishonored universe hinges on what happened to this character. Not explaining things completely makes the ending(s) feel less impactful. Your final choice will make sense for the most part but it won&rsquo;t matter as much as it could have if this missing information was present. <br /><br />It&rsquo;s ironic how vague I have to be in hopes of not spoiling anything, while criticizing how vague certain parts of the story are. The truth is though, the expansion wasn&rsquo;t created just for gamers to don the shoes of Billie Lurk. I assume it was also created to shed some light on the more enigmatic elements of the Dishonored world. Namely the Outsider. Now to be fair, it&rsquo;s possible that I missed some lore found in a discarded note or a random book. That said, I shouldn&rsquo;t have to search through archives to find clarity on an important plot point. Death of the Outsider is definitely still worth checking out of course. It just isn&rsquo;t a great as it could have been! <br /><br />Gameplay: 9<br />Dishonored: Death of the Outsider encourages player agency in ways that the other Dishonored games couldn&rsquo;t. It&rsquo;s an entertaining romp that is only hindered by a vague narrative. <br /><br />Graphics:&nbsp; 7<br />The same as Dishonored 2: the stylized world and pastel colors work well together but the finer details struggle to stay in focus. <br /><br />Sound: 10<br />The voice work and music were great, again. <br /><br />Replay Value: 8<br />Complete the game once and you&rsquo;ll unlock a Game + mode that allows the use of powers featured in Dishonored 2. This in turn creates a reason to go back through the game; you&rsquo;ll be the most powerful character besides the Outsider. <br /><br />Final Score: <br /><br />8.5<br /><br /></p> /microsoft/post/dishonored:-death-of-the-outsider Sat, 7 Oct 2017 12:00:00 Songbringer <p>Reviewed By: Kenneth Seward Jr.<br />System: Xbox One (Also on PS4, PC) <br />Genre: Action RPG<br />Rated: T<br />Players: 1 <br />Cost: $19.99<br />Release Date: 08/31/2017<br />Publisher: Wizard Fu Games <br />Developer: Wizard Fu Games<br /><br />Nostalgia has a weird way of tricking fans into liking something. You see, many of us really just want more of the same when it comes to our video games. Sequels, prequels, remakes and such. Every so often we&rsquo;ll venture out to find something newish &ndash; an attribute usually offered by indie titles. In my experience though, even the most unique indie games are usually innovations on old concepts, therefore feeding our need to be entertained by the familiar. <br /><br />Take Wizard Fu Games&rsquo; Songbringer, for example. It features a sword wielding protagonist named Roq, who&rsquo;s stuck on a strange planet. Surviving random encounters with unruly monsters is his main priority. Finding a way back to his ship is a close second. To do this, he or rather the player, will need to explore the large maze-like environments for any means of escape. This is easier said than done given how the hostile terrain closes off sections of the world. The key to moving past the obstacles lying dormant in dark dungeons, guarded by tricky puzzles and tough bosses; emerging victorious grants Roq with more health points and a new artifact (weapons or gear) needed to venture on. His adventure is captured from an overhead view with scrolling landscapes &ndash; new areas slide into view anytime Roq touches edge of the screen.</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/songbringer-screen.jpg" alt="songbringer-screen" />&nbsp;<br />Saying that Songbringer is basically The Legend of Zelda would be both a true statement and a misnomer. Wiz Fu&rsquo;s sole developer, Nathanael Weiss, clearly wears his inspiration on his sleeve. At the same time, Songbringer offers something a little different. For one, the entire world is procedurally generated. Thanks to a cool naming system, players will seed their world at the start of a session; your six-letter word will determine how the planet looks, which enemies are seen, when and where dungeons or secrets are placed. Entering the same word always generates the same world (allowing friends to share their &ldquo;creations&rdquo; with others). It&rsquo;s a neat trick that provides a sense of newness with each playthrough. <br /><br />The reason I say trick is because you don&rsquo;t get an entirely different planet. I mean, the landscape changes (i.e. from being rainy to desert-like) and the placement of items and enemies change. But for the most part it&rsquo;s the same experience, story beats and all. This isn&rsquo;t a bad thing mind you. Being able to go through an entertaining game with a different layout certainly extends the replay value. It&rsquo;s like having multiple Dark Worlds in A Link to the Past, without encountering stronger enemies.</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/songbringer-screen-3.jpg" alt="songbringer-screen-3" /><br /><br />Exploring each world is wildly entertaining. This is due to the clever placement of secrets and how the game hints at their whereabouts; an intangible wall that looks slightly off during certain instances can be an exciting find. With just a few melee and ranged attacks, the combat isn&rsquo;t as complex as it could be. Though things get better when new items, like bombs, are acquired. And while I didn&rsquo;t care too much for the overworld enemies, the dungeon encounters were often thrilling. Usually the dungeon monsters were more menacing, grouped in larger numbers, and had alternate modes of attack. The bosses were even better. With tough patterns to spot and large life bars (I assume given how many times I had to whack them before they died), they proved to be the highlights of the game. &nbsp;<br /><br />The plot isn&rsquo;t very compelling, so the challenging gameplay is what kept me going. The game can lean too hard toward being difficult though. Songbringer will show its teeth sooner or later depending on where you go early on. This is because even though it isn&rsquo;t meant to be a linear game, the dungeons do go in order. If you find say, the fifth dungeon before you find the first one, you&rsquo;ll have a hard time completing it. Many dungeons have puzzles that seemed to require specific artifacts, to begin with at least. Certain combinations of weapons and abilities help to balance the scales. Combining my dash with an ice item allowed me to freeze enemies when I ran by them. This also made it possible to freeze water, giving me a way to circumvent certain obstacles.</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/songbringer-screen-4.jpg" alt="songbringer-screen-4" /><br /><br />It&rsquo;s also possible to run into tougher enemies sooner than later. My first world populated in such a way that I didn&rsquo;t come across certain monsters until I had gained more hit points. That wasn&rsquo;t the case on my second one. Within moments of obtaining my sword, I ran into a horned warrior that usually resided in dungeons. The main reason I created a new world was because of the last boss. This powerful enemy had multiple forms, hard hitting abilities, and a crazy amount of life. Even after finding a weakness &ndash; taking a certain item when he goes intangible eliminates an entire segment of the battle &ndash; he still proved to be too much. I don&rsquo;t know if I missed something along the way, an item or ability that would have helped, or if my techniques were flawed. <br /><br />So, I started a new world and set out to see if I could do better. Maybe locate a more powerful weapon. The rougher start washed away that notion, leaving me with few options. Go back and try to complete a frustratingly tough fight, try again at creating an &ldquo;easier&rdquo; world, or stop playing. I chose to stop playing&hellip;for now. I&rsquo;m sure I&rsquo;ll come back and slay the fowl beast later. It&rsquo;s just that, hitting a brick wall at the very end just sucked all of the life out of the experience for me. And with a nonexistent plot, the only incentive for me to finish the game would have been an achievement.</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/songbringer-screen-2.jpg" alt="songbringer-screen-2" /><br /><br />Songbringer is entertaining. I believe the main reason I enjoyed (most) of my time in-game was due to how it reminded me of Zelda though. And while the game seemed balanced up until I hit the final boss, I don&rsquo;t feel compelled to keep playing despite how the procedural aspects encourage multiple playthroughs. Again, that&rsquo;s not to say that it&rsquo;s just a Zelda clone. Wizard Fu Games should be proud of what they created, regardless of why their game was well received. &nbsp;<br /><br />Gameplay: 7<br />Songbringer is provides an engaging experience, but it falters with balancing difficulty ranges, thanks to the procedural aspects. <br /><br />Graphics: 9<br />The retro inspired graphics are quite charming to say the least. <br /><br />Sound: 8<br />I dig the music.<br /><br />Replay Value: 7<br />The procedural element helps in this regard. Most of the important stuff is the same though; you won&rsquo;t see new enemies or special bosses when creating different worlds. It really comes down to how much you enjoyed the base gameplay. <br /><br />Final Score: <br /><br />7.8<br /><br /></p> /microsoft/post/songbringer Sat, 23 Sep 2017 12:00:00 Destiny 2 <p>Reviewed By: Andre Thomas<br />System: Xbox One (Also on PS4) <br />Genre: FPS<br />Rated: T<br />Players: 1-8 Online<br />Cost: $59.99 <br />Release Date: 09/05/2017<br />Publisher: Activision<br />Developer: Bungie<br /><br />Our head editor, Kenneth Seward, Jr., wrote something profound at the start of his review of <a class="external" href="http://www.unitedfrontgaming.com/pc/post/3895/absolver">Absolver</a>. He said that we should be reasonable when it comes to our expectations of highly sought-after titles. An obvious, yet astute sentiment; gamers routinely fail in this regard. He went on to hint at the fact that some of our excitement come by way of insincere information.<br /><br />I have admittedly given this franchise a rough time. Bungie set a high bar each time it showed the game off at E3 or otherwise. Yet, it wasn&rsquo;t long after Destiny&rsquo;s launch that a large portion of us were let down. The consensus was that the story was underwhelming at best. And while the gunplay/competitive options were fun, the absence of certain elements hurt the experience. I won&rsquo;t get into what was what, you can read my review of the <a class="external" href="http://unitedfrontgaming.com/post/2580/destiny">first game</a> for that. These points were brought up to offer a comparison. Destiny 2 is the game we should have gotten back in 2014! &nbsp;</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/destiny-2-screen.jpg" alt="destiny-2-screen" /><br /><br />Expansions and such slowly molded the original title into a better game. The sequel starts out in better footing. For one there is a plot. Like a real one. Our world that we have fought so hard to protect is now being decimated by Cabal elites called The Red Legion. Lead by Emperor Dominus Ghaul &ndash; a powerful enemy who feels that the Light bestowed to the Guardians from the Traveler belongs to him &ndash; this rogue faction attacks the Last City. Things quickly go from bad to holy hell. Not long after that, the connection between the Guardians and the Traveler are cut and the player is tossed from Ghaul&rsquo;s ship like the trash he believes us to be. Yeah&hellip;it&rsquo;s safe to say that the antagonists are playing ZERO GAMES with earth this time around. <br /><br />The major news out about Destiny 2 announcement was how all of our work from the previous two years of Destiny would be essentially erased. The character itself and stories about them will carry on in game, but all powers, armor and weapons earned would be scraped for this title. If you are anybody like myself who spent way more time in this game then I probably should have, this was some of the most heartbreaking news you&rsquo;ve ever received. Well&hellip;in relation to this series (not like, in real life or anything). Personally, it felt like a cash grab from Bungie and Activision. A way to get us to buy an entirely new game instead of just releasing an expansion to the original. I needed far more than &ldquo;they&rsquo;ve taken your powers and now you must earn them back&rdquo; as an answer because that would be too convenient of a reason for a sequel. That isn&rsquo;t the case though. I mean for one, Ghaul is easily the most striking villain we&rsquo;ve ever faced. He isn&rsquo;t just a large boss positioned at the end of a mission or raid. Some thought went into his motives. Ghaul actually thinks that he is the good guy in all of this, which in turn makes him more interesting. &nbsp;</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/destiny-2-screen-2.jpg" alt="destiny-2-screen-2" /><br /><br />The same thing goes with our leaders/the Vanguard (Commander Zavala, Cayde-6 and so on).&nbsp; With the new focus being on developing a cohesive plot, players are able to learn a lot about the characters we met two years ago. Really, most of the NPCs we meet is a joy to be around no matter what their demeanor is. This is because they are no longer just people with missions; my attachment to them grew exponentially through the conversations with my character, which continued well beyond the completion of the story. <br /><br />Who knew adding simple things like cutscenes and background information could significantly improve the game&rsquo;s base experience? Probably the same people who decided to include quality of life adjustments. Trivial things, like not having to beam back to your ship floating in space before selecting a mission or guided games &ndash; the ability for clans to grab a solo player to join in raids &ndash; makes Destiny 2 way more enjoyable. What I found the most intriguing though, was how the environments were better designed this time around. In the original title, we landed on a planet and essentially just drove or ran straight until we hit our destination and started a mission. It was, hands down, the most disappointing part of the last game for me. I was excited to explore Destiny&rsquo;s worlds after seeing footage telling me I could reach a mountain way off in the background (remember the "it&rsquo;s all playable terrain" video?). Not possible with the final product. This has been addressed in Destiny 2&hellip;somewhat.</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/destiny-2-screen-6.jpg" alt="destiny-2-screen-6" /><br /><br />The environments in Destiny 2 aren&rsquo;t tremendously bigger. That said, by adding different levels of depth, things feel spaced out. For example, on Titan we are fighting on what seems to be a battle worn rig that has been overtaken by enemies. It may not be the longest going straight forward, but there is so much to this level above and underground. Between these areas are small towns with NPCs who can give missions that shed light on what&rsquo;s been going on. Hidden amongst them are dungeons called &ldquo;Lost Sectors&rdquo;. These places, once found, provide unqiue boss encounters and rare items to loot. All of these things help to keep things from feeling one dimensional. Where going off the beaten path might lead to something grand as opposed to an arbitrary &ldquo;out of zone&rdquo; death.</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/destiny-2-screen-3.jpg" alt="destiny-2-screen-3" /><br /><br />We got a decent story and better environments. Great. The moment to moment gameplay and eventual grind is where it&rsquo;s at though. Bungie knows how to make a shooting weapons at colorful enemies entertaining. Also, the 4v4 competitive modes are a blast (no pun intended). When it comes to the grind, it isn&rsquo;t as grindy as before. In that I mean, the difference between me falling in love with this game and growing tired of the last one had to with how our character progressed. If you played through the first Destiny, you remember hitting max level and having your light level solely determined by collected armor. It&rsquo;s the same case here but more streamlined; it is far easier to gain legendary to exotic engrams through battle now.</p> <p>I have conversed with some Destiny fans and there are mixed emotions about the change. If you love the grind of an RPG title and repetitive gameplay, then you had no problem with the original because you fought for days to earn what you are wearing. It was an achievement. On the other side, mainly for the people who spend the majority of their days working/taking care of families, that set up didn&rsquo;t give you a way to catch up with your friends who had more time to play.</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/destiny-2-screen-7.jpg" alt="destiny-2-screen-7" /><br /><br />You will notice that there are far more drops in this case then in its predecessor. That doesn&rsquo;t guarantee that these drops will be better than what you already have, especially once you have reached level 20, but that at least gives you better chances than before. Also, the random stat rolls on rare items is gone (thank God!). This means that if you and your friend both get a rare weapon, you won&rsquo;t have to worry about getting stuck with the weaker version. On top of that, everything in your inventory adds to your light, whether they are equipped or not. And lastly, your faction rewards you earn give great engrams and they grow with you as you play. So even if you are extremely committed to the game or just able to play casually, you should be able to reasonably keep up with your more dedicated friends. <br /><br />Before I close out, I have to talk about this incredible soundtrack. I haven&rsquo;t played a game with composed music as epic as this since the original Halo series. Every single orchestrated sound in the game sets the stage for each encounter in game. From the moment we begin fighting the Red Legion, the music gives you an adrenaline rush that helps push through some of the game&rsquo;s most difficult points. This is what really puts the icing on the cake for this title and sold me as a gamer. <br /><br />Without question, Destiny 2 is worth the money. There is so much more to do in the base game, so many little and big changes that it couldn&rsquo;t have been an expansion. I mean, it could have been. What I&rsquo;m saying is, I didn&rsquo;t feel robbed playing this installment as opposed to another Taken King. The short campaign is entertaining, the side missions and Lost Sectors are great, and the competitive modes are better than ever. As it stands, I&rsquo;ll continue to hunt down rare armor with my friends on console until the monster version comes out on PC. What&hellip;you know it&rsquo;s going to be better on PC, at least visually. <br /><br />Gameplay: 10<br />Destiny 2 is much better than Destiny, at the base level. Here&rsquo;s hoping it continues to be great!<br /><br />Graphics: 9<br />It looks better than the first game.<br /><br />Sound: 10<br />Decent dialogue, great explosions, fantastic music.<br /><br />Replay Value: 9<br />The grind for better loot isn&rsquo;t so bad this time around. Competitive players will certainly enjoy the PvP modes.<br /><br />Final Score: <br /><br />9.5<br /><br /></p> /microsoft/post/destiny-2 Thu, 14 Sep 2017 12:00:00 Agents of Mayhem <p>Reviewed By: Kenneth Seward Jr.<br />System: Xbox One (Also on PS4, PC) <br />Genre: Action<br />Rated: M<br />Players: 1<br />Cost: $59.99<br />Release Date: 08/15/2017<br />Publisher: Deep Silver <br />Developer: Volition<br /><br />I do not envy Volition. Trying to produce a follow up to <a class="external" href="http://www.unitedfrontgaming.com/post/1891/saints-row-iv">Saints Row IV</a>, arguably one of their best games isn&rsquo;t an easy task though. Or at least, it doesn&rsquo;t seem to be. Their latest title, Agents of Mayhem, is a spin-off of the Saints series. It features over-the-top antics, imaginative characters, and bombastic gameplay &ndash; basically, the things that made Saints Row IV such a great game. Unfortunately, things didn&rsquo;t quite work out as well this time around. <br /><br />Agents of Mayhem takes place in an alternate, future timeline where whacky villains and obnoxiously named organizations are up to no good. The League of Evil Gentlemen Intent on Obliterating Nations (L.E.G.I.O.N) for instance, has taken over Seoul, South Korea. One can assume they&rsquo;re trying to conquer the world and Seoul is the best place to achieve such a lofty goal. Their leader, Dr Babylon has an assortment of schemes, none of which make much sense outside of an 80&rsquo;s cartoon. Whatever the case, the Multinational AgencY Hunting Evil Masterminds (M.A.Y.H.E.M) was on the scene to foil his plans. Their agents would teleport into Seoul just to shoot it out GI Joe and Cobra style. Only with real bullets and a lot more swearing.</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/agents-of-mayhem-review-screen.jpg" alt="agents-of-mayhem-review-screen" /><br /><br />An action game styled like a Saturday morning cartoon for adults is an easy sell for me. Especially, if the plot is penned by Volition; I just knew it was going to be a hilarious parody of sorts. And while I wouldn&rsquo;t use the word &ldquo;hype&rdquo; to describe how I felt as we got closer to launch, I was a little more than excited when we received our review code. That feeling faded after just a few hours in. To be fair, there was some good stuff sprinkled about; nods to classic shows and movies, cheesy one liners that made me smile, and absurd happenings that were fun to watch. For the most part though, there wasn&rsquo;t much of a story here. LEGION&rsquo;s lieutenants had goals they wished to accomplish, like controlling teens using VR headsets or using a giant crystal to power a laser. But there was no cohesiveness to their endeavors. Outside of some events towards the end of the game, all of it seemed random. <br /><br />While it would have been nice to experience more of the witty writing Volition is known for, this set up isn&rsquo;t really an issue in and of itself. If the point was to be like a cartoon and just give us episodes featuring a different villain with each level, I&rsquo;m cool with that. What made this problematic for me is that it felt like a missed opportunity to provide an exciting plot in a unique way. Moreover, the overall experience was worsened by a repetitive mission structure and underutilized characters. All twelve of Mayhem&rsquo;s agents are interesting when they&rsquo;re first introduced (usually done in an animated cutscene). You got Daisy, an ex-roller derby player with a sailor&rsquo;s mouth and a mini-gun. She loves fighting, drinking and fu&hellip;er&hellip;fighting some more. Red Card is a soccer fan/hooligan with a gun that transforms from a shotgun into a rifle. He also has a serious temper, so much so, that his super ability is spontaneous combustion. My favorite is Yeti, a Russian soldier who was subjected to the &ldquo;Cold Warrior Project&rdquo;. He&rsquo;s like Ice-Man if he had Captain America&rsquo;s origin story. Cool right (heh)?</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/agents-of-mayhem-review-screen-2.jpg" alt="agents-of-mayhem-review-screen-2" /><br /><br />The issue is that I don&rsquo;t really know anything else about them. There isn&rsquo;t any extra information about them besides a few tidbits on select missions. Each one gets two solo missions where they talk to their handler, revealing a little more about themselves. None of it is really meaningful. It may be funny to know that Yeti can&rsquo;t &ldquo;be&rdquo; with a woman because he&rsquo;s like a walking popsicle, but that doesn&rsquo;t explain how he personally influences the plot. A few interchangeable lines, a brief background and a muscled physique aren&rsquo;t enough to build an interesting character. I mean, why create these distinct characters if you aren&rsquo;t going to do anything compelling with them? <br /><br />All of this can be forgiven of course, as long as the gameplay held up. It doesn&rsquo;t. You see, AoM lives and dies on a gimmick that allows you to switch between three agents at will while on missions; being a one man, woman, man (and any combination thereof) mini-army and all that. The idea is that you&rsquo;ll swap when one character loses a lot of health or when you want to utilize different skills/weapons. While this certainly sounds like a neat thing to do, in reality, it isn&rsquo;t much different from the games that feature a solo character with multiple weapons. For one, each agent has a very limited arsenal &ndash; one weapon and two special abilities. Meaning that most players will choose their squad based on what weapons are needed and not because they liked the agent&rsquo;s persona; I liked Yeti because he can freeze people with his ice gun. Then there&rsquo;s the leveling system. When agents level up, they are given experience points to increase stats pertinent to their abilities and gadgets to add some flare. Head shots do more damage (stats). Grenades won&rsquo;t just do damage, they&rsquo;ll also blind foes (gadgets).</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/agents-of-mayhem-review-screen-4.jpg" alt="agents-of-mayhem-review-screen-4" /><br /><br />What I&rsquo;m getting at is there&rsquo;s no reason for the swapping mechanic to exist. A lack of information makes it hard to grow attached to an agent beyond their look and their abilities are so one dimensional, that they fail to evolve past their weapons. Basically, instead of making multiple characters that bring nothing to the story, we could have had one character with multiple weapons, each with their own skill trees. The only reason I can see to change characters would be to allow the wounded to heal, which is something that can be substituted with health recovery items. <br /><br />Even though it feels pointless to swap characters during play (essentially just to get a different weapon), the actual moment to moment shooting is entertaining. Silently dispatching foes with Scheherazade&rsquo;s sword or riddling everything in sight with holes using Daisy&rsquo;s chain gun can be exciting at times. I mainly wish that the missions weren&rsquo;t so repetitive. Majority of the game&rsquo;s missions are just infiltrate a lab, kill bad guys, hack a computer, and escape. Sometimes you&rsquo;ll have to rescues hostages, destroy LEGION equipment or defend an area from enemies. Even then, you&rsquo;ll eventually head towards a lab with a computer to hack. The same goes for the game&rsquo;s activities &ndash; the mini-games or side missions that are supposed to provide a break from the campaign. A few of them were different (delivering cars to a designated spot, racing on foot through the city). The rest either followed the same kill, hack, escape pattern seen in the story or offer bit sized versions of the rescue/defend missions. The aforementioned solo exploits try to change things up by removing the swap feature, I assume to help us become better acquainted with each Agent&rsquo;s playstyle. What makes these solo missions bad is that you&rsquo;re stuck using one Agent, thereby using one weapon. Worse still, these missions don&rsquo;t cater to that Agents abilities; the stealth based character with a sword is forced to contend with snipers perched on buildings.</p> <p><img src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/unitedfrontgaming/files/agents-of-mayhem-review-screen-3.jpg" alt="agents-of-mayhem-review-screen-3" /><br /><br />One of AoM&rsquo;s saving graces are LEGION&rsquo;s lieutenants. Unlike our protagonists, these villains were given backstories. We get to see how/why they joined LEGION, their motivations and more before finally confronting them. Some are quite humous, if not a little out there; one guy hoped to marry an advanced AI, made up of five women named Aisha (they formed a Korean Pop group). Facing them in boss fights is also fun; they tend to be the most challenging aspects of the game. Some require you to do some platforming while others will toss special enemy types at you. Most will require you to do more than just shoot. The battle against Aisha takes place in a virtual realm that changes with each woman&rsquo;s personality and ends with you fighting a giant robot. <br /><br />There are other mechanics I haven&rsquo;t covered yet. Like crafting and the global contract system, where players can share in special missions collectively &ndash; killing 500 enemies or collecting a set number of something within a few hours. To me, none of the &ldquo;extra&rdquo; content would compel someone to keep playing; I wanted to quit well before the end credits. At first, I thought this was because of my expectations of Volition. My love of Saints Row. The more I played though, the more I felt this would have been the case regardless of the shared universe and/or developer. With mission after mission of the same thing, a lackluster plot, and no real likeable characters (aside from the villains), I grew bored. Don&rsquo;t get me wrong. I don&rsquo;t think Agents of Mayhem is a bad game. It just feels uninspired, as if the only thing Volition aspired to do was get the swapping mechanic right. Cleary, that wasn&rsquo;t enough to win me over, Saints fan or not. <br /><br />Gameplay: 5<br />The action can be entertaining. Things go from exciting to boring very quickly though, thanks to the repetitive mission structure. <br /><br />Graphics: 8<br />I like the cartoony vibe. <br /><br />Sound: 8<br />The explosions sound nice. The voice work isn&rsquo;t bad either. <br /><br />Replay Value: 4<br />After completing it, I had no desire to return to Seoul. <br /><br />Final Score: <br /><br />6.3<br /><br /><br /></p> /microsoft/post/agents-of-mayhem Tue, 15 Aug 2017 12:00:00