Cyberpunk 2077

Biological experimentation? Physical therapy tubes? National gold exchange convention?          Nah, it’s just the most exclusive club in Night City!

Game Name: Cyberpunk 2077 (2019)
Developer: CD Projekt Red (Witcher 3 – maybe my favorite game of all time)
Platform: PC, PS4, XBox One, Stadia, PS5, XBox X/S  (reviewed on PC, PS4 controller)
Categories: Single Player, FPS, 1st/3rd Person Driving, Fantastic Vehicle Selection, Gorgeous Lighting, RPG Conversations, Meaningful Relationships, Emotional Investment, Philosophy Subtext, Subtle Repercussions, Social Commentary, Engrossing Setting, Corporate Militarization, Dystopia, Rogue AI, Man/Computer Integration, Hacking, Interactive Holograms, Stealth, Forensics, Mercenary Life, Multiple Intros, Multiple Endings, Internal Wiki, Reputation, Clunky Crafting, Street Samurais, Urban and Desert Biomes, Tacky Clothing Aesthetics, Staggering Music Selection, Excellent Acting and Voice Work, Slick Combat, Run ‘n’ Gun, Viable Playstyle Variance, Loot Hoarder, Numerous Missions, Scant Filler or MiniGames, Impressive Skill Progession System, Ambitious Beyond Means, Buggy Upon Release, Incomplete but Fun, Controversial Production Ethics, Playstation Refunds, Hypersexual, Extreme Violence, Disturbing Themes, Jarring Special Effects

May Appeal To: perverts, philosophers, CDPR Lapdogs, dice-rolling tabletop fanbois, and Keanu groupies. If Fight Club is in your top 10 movies of all time, give this a look.
May Repulse: prudes, console players, epileptics, and any who agree that Mr. Reeves is one of the stalest actors of this generation and fell ass-backwards into some incredible movie opportunities (seems like a nice guy though).

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Battletech (HBS)

Me and the squad are going to wreck someone’s day.

Game Name: Battletech (2018)
Developer: Harebrained Schemes (Shadowrun, Golem Arcana, Necropolis)
Platform: Windows, OS X, Linux (reviewed on Windows, some screenshots from DLC)
Categories: Tabletop > Video Game Translation, SciFi Feudalism, Space Opera, Pirates, Mech Customization, Autocannons, Lasers, Pyrotechnics, Salvage, Turn-Based, Dot Grid, Pilot Advancement and Skills, Budget Balancing, Risk/Reward, Open-Ended Progression, Story/Career/Multiplayer Modes, Variable Difficulty, Kickstarted, Beautiful Concept Art, Acceptable 3D Visuals, Legendary Soundtrack, Limited Maps, Attempts at Mission Variety, Power Creep, Glitchy Release, Long Loads, Sluggish Pace, Dumb AI, Jordan Weisman

May Appeal To: my fellow lancemates, mech commanders, mercenary managers, battlebot designers, number crunchers, statisticians, gamblers, and anyone else who thinks that a millennia of technology and weeks of FTL travel should always culminate in a bipedal tank punching another in the face over a border dispute.
May Repulse: the antsy, the unfocused, the instant gratification demanders, and space drama-phobic invulni-gamers disillusioned that this plays like MWO or Mechwarrior 5. Forewarning: this game is a slow burn and skirting the edge of being poor and small decisions paying out in dividends is the primary attaction of investing time in it.

Comparable To: Starcraft II’s HQ navigation and specialist subscreens, Crusader King II’s random events, Front Mission’s melding of mech customization and battle execution, a turn-based Mech Commander at reduced scale, a less faithful and broader-appeal version of MegaMek. This game has a soundtrack to surpass even Mechwarrior 2, has almost the same number of mechs as MW5 (50+) and half of MWO’s (100). Lastly, Harebrained Scheme’s Battletech is so analagous to the pacing, cinematography, and design of XCOM: Enemy Unknown that I have little doubt the initial game pitch included a direct reference to that title by name. (Even the overlapping dates for progress results and R&D is similar though Battletech retains the robust mech customization -with hardpoints- from MWO/MW4.)

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Horizon Zero Dawn

There’s never been a more likeable, bow-toting redhead – including Disney’s “Brave”.

Game Name: Horizon Zero Dawn (2017)
Developer: Guerilla Games (Killzone series, Shellshock: Nam ’67…. Is that it?!)
Platform: PS4, Microsoft Windows (reviewed on PS4)
Categories: Native American vibe, Apocalypse, Open World, Robot Utopia, Bandits, Corrupted Lands, Feuding Tribes, Fetch Quests, Light Conversation, Arena Challenges, Too Many Collectibles, Combat Centric, Elemental Attacks, Traps/Bombs, Bows/Arrows, Great and Complementary Arsenal, Weapon Upgrades, Animal and Bot Hunting, Gathering/Crafting, Material Hording, Limited/Quick Skill Progression, Shallow Armor Options, Memorable/Impactful Story, Convincing and Gorgeous World, Heavy Exploration, Uncanny Valley, Beautiful Score and Sound Effects, AAA Title but Inspired and Heartfelt

May Appeal To: survivalists, hunters, crafters, map sweepers, bow and arrow fans, sparkle-eyed believers in our ability to shape the future…. but also post-apocalypse nuts (sorry, judging holistically, it’s a positive reboot on humanity).
May Repulse: haters of the open-world formula or anything that isn’t Assassin’s Creed, the bloodthirsty, cinema-skippers, item collecting-shunners, those that blame the combat system instead of practicing, and anyone who is vehemently opposed to reading data logs.

Comparable To: the frenzied bot-exploding action of Binary Domain, the fluid terrain mobility and tribal weapons of Monster Hunter World, broad story concepts of Fallout 4, some Last of Us crafting, Mass Effect’s penchant for in-world wikis and NPC interactions, a heavy dose of cliff scaling from Prince of Persia (2008) or Uncharted’s environmental set pieces, and a heapin’ helpin’ of the detective modes from Arkham Asylum or Witcher 3. (This is a game well-versed in its ancestry.) And yeah, there’s influence from Assassin’s Creed in the form of stealth takedowns, elevated viewpoints, and a tendency for techno-overlay glimpsed through the old Animus imagery.

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Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty

The crater extends into that space?! Grrr. You’re going to make me cancel the selection, manually move my units, and build halfway off the foundation aren’t you? -_-

Game Name: Dune II : The Building of a Dynasty (1992)
Developer: Westwood Studios (Command & Conquer, Emperor: Battle for Dune)
Platform: Amiga, MS-DOS, Sega Genesis  (reviewed on Sega Genesis emulation)
Categories: Old School, Real Time Strategy, Back to Basics, Challenging, Base Building, Research, Fog of War, Resource Harvesting, Turrets/Walls, Protracted Blob Warfare, Superweapons, Poor UI, Tedious Unit Selection, Infantry, Tanks/Vehicles, Iconic Audio and Visual Design, Level Codes, Multiple Factions, Multiple Campaigns,
Worm Sign the likes of which even God Has Never Seen

May Appeal To: cavemen who haven’t upgraded their computers in a looong time or had their head stuck in the sand about how cool the franchise is.
May Repulse: gamers with strategy game options and experience. Anyone that cringes at the idea of selecting units without a bounding box or is decidedly opposed to the deliberate, sluggish pacing of the original movie are forewarned to steer clear of Dune II.

Comparable To: other Westwood products, which was par-for-the-course in the ’90s. Command & Conquer/Red Alert followers will slip into the familiar routine immediately though this game throws curveballs in the form of hostile environmental factors like sandworms, spiceblows, and degraded building health (similar to the harmful Tiberium fields and visceroids in Tiberian Sun). Warcraft, similarly, had unwieldy unit selection and an unmanageable scale of battle during its worst moments. Despite all the cool stuff in Dune II, Dune 2000 ultimately bested it across the board with a modernization of identical concepts into a slick, memorable (and controllable) experience. Fast forward a few hardware generations of improvements and you might have Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance, which is essentially this classic game mainlining horse steroids.

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Top Gear

Wielding the bare essentials with finesse, Top Gear pushes your needle to the limit.

Game Name: Top Gear (1992)
Developer: Gremlin Graphics (Guantlet, Hero Quest, Jungle Strike)
Platform: Super Nintendo (reviewed on SNES emulation)
Categories: Heart Throttling, Adrenaline Pumping Racing. Blinding Speed, Epilepsy Warning, Consistent Framerate, Always Split Screen, 2 Players, 4 Cars, Fuel Tracking, Manual/Automatic Transmission, Excellent Tunes, Level Passcodes, Slight Control Lag, Variable Difficulty, AI Loser Assist, No Damage, Nitro Boosts, Photo Finishes, “Realism”

May Appeal To: bots, artificial constructs, video game endurance champions, people with naturally moist eyes, and those with minimal thumb latency.
May Repulse: the tired, lethargic, and any who haven’t cast off the human need to blink.

Comparable To: Super Mario Kart but with less personality or replayability; this game has a fantastic sense of speed like in F-Zero but the tracks feel narrow and more difficult to navigate; Stunt Race FX had worse framerate and was incredibly difficult to control. Cruis’n USA’s topography and locales come to mind despite the tone being completely different. Continue reading