Last of Us: Part 2

Last of Us: Part 2

You brought nameless goons to a protagonist heroine fight?!

Game Name: Last of Us: Part 2 (2020)
Developer: Naughty Dog (Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter, Uncharted)
Platform: PS4
Categories: Waist-High Cover Shooter, Limited Stealth, Adventure/Exploration, Survival, Horror,  Post Apocalypse, Real-Time Crafting, Weapon Enhancement, ‘Shroom Zombies, Bandits, Seamless Cinematics, Stunning Vistas, Incredible Mood, Haunting/Chilling Audio, Commendable Acting, Non-Linear Story, Multiple Playable Characters, YA Cast, Depression, Torture Porn, Gore and Violence, Jaw-Dropping Concept Art, One Ending, Built-In Cheat Options, 3D Model Viewer, Useless Collectibles, Funky Save System,
The Best Difficulty Customization, Sequel Syndrome, Hype Train, “Woke” As Fuck

May Appeal To: wrist-slitting emotional teens and any who’d prefer that Nathan Drake be driven exclusively by bloodlust. If you get your jollies from depression, I have a game for you! Other than that, everyone drawn in by crafting/survival mechanics should be pleased.
May Repulse: die-hard fans of the original, crotchety adults, Tarantino haters, peaceniks, and those that get upset if an ending is telegraphed and unfurls in slow-mo.

Comparable To: Crash Bandicoot…. in no perceptible way. Uncharted, with its level design and combat/exploration balance, is pretty darn close (though “TLOU2” could use some Xanax by comparison). While I crawled on my belly, learning enemy search patterns and executing stealth kills in the forest, I was reminded of MGS3:Snake Eater’s infiltration (and also MGS4’s final fistfight). Some sequences had strong elements of building dread like with the whole Silent Hill series. Horizon: Zero Dawn has inspirational terrain similarly rife for exploration. Red Dead Redemption shares sentiment with the loneliness, danger, and hostility of a wild frontier. Resident Evil 4’s weapon selection, tone, bullet-counting survival gameplay, and tandem sidekick team-ups resonate strongly with this and the last game. Just like SpecOps: The Line, TLOU2  comments on the futility of war, PTSD, and a warrior’s psyche under duress. Continue reading

Monster Hunter World

Monster Hunter World

Alright fine, I take it back – Wyverns have ears!

Game Name: Monster Hunter World (2018)
Developer: Capcom (Streetfighters, Resident Evils, Megamanszs, Devil May Crys)
Platform: PC, PS4, XBone (reviewed on PC -> PS4 controller, and w/ ICEBORNE DLC)
Categories: Single Player Origins, Multiplayer (Rarely Required), Fantasy Violence, Creature Stalking, Crafting and Preparation, Traps, Bombs, Nets, Tranquilizers, Fishing, Beast Mounts, Dozens of Weapon Types, Combos, Power Moves, Bows/Arrows, “Miniguns”, Hulking Mobile Cannons, Massive Swords, Aerial Combat, Evolving Playstyle, No Experience Levels, Personal IRL Growth, Gorgeous Environments, Lighthearted Tone, 20-50 Minute Sessions, Deceptively Complex, Wilderness Exploration, Arena Battles, Classic/Dated Sounds, Cat Pal Customization, Collectibles, Inventory Management, License Crossovers, Grinding Galore, Tribal Aesthetic, Worthwhile DLC, Seasonal Events, Post-Release Freebies, Unlimited Missions/Challenges, Lame Story, Deliberate Controls, Vivid and Enthralling Monsters and Environs, Customizable Gear with Endless Possibility

May Appeal To: OCD grinders, stat crunchers, meta gamers, tag team warriors, those that only want sporadic 30 minute romps against colorful, frightening boss monsters.
May Repulse: the opposite of whomever this appeals to!

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Cyberpunk 2077

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)

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

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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