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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Fallout 4

Alright Fallout 4, you beast. Let’s review this.

Game Name: Fallout 4 (2015)
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios (Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout 3)
Platform: PC, PS4, XBone (reviewed on PC)
Categories: Clunky 1st/3rd Person Shooter, One Player, Junk Hoarder, Nukes, Drugs, BFGs, Robots, Mutants, Zombies, Alternate Timeline Apocalypse, Base Building, Settlement Networking, Weapons/Armor/Provisions Crafting, Lockpicking, Password Hacking, Faction Missions and Alignment, Multiple Endings, Gorgeous Open World, Labyrinths and Locales, Primarily Combat, Targetable Body Parts, Hyper Violence, Repetitive Gameplay, Long Load Times, Buggy Missions and Visuals, Bad Pathfinding, 1950s Tunes, Extensive Voice Acting, Atmospheric Experience, Highly Moddable, Survival Mode, Customizable Power Armor!, Weak RPG Elements: Dialogue, Mission Resolution Options, Plot Branching, Unimportant Personal Stats, and Infrequent Ability Growth.

May Appeal To: Fallout newcomers, tinkerers, collectors, looters, explorers, crazed crafters, retro-future fanatics, trigger happy gore lunatics, and the twitchy FPS crowd.
May Repulse: long time followers of the Fallout series, pretty much. The guns/drugs use, glitches, body horror, PC graphics reqs, and a lack of multiplayer may chase off others.

Comparable To: the gun totin’ shootfest that is Borderlands 2, but with anti-radiation meds substituting the need for Adderall. Fallout 4 has less “RPG qualities” than all of its predecessors but is the prettiest to date. The map is smaller and more dense than New Vegas, easier to navigate than 3, and is less clever and humorous than 1 or 2 (which are completely different genres at this point). The default dialogue tree and “choices” are very much Mass Effect. Skyrim had interesting characters and quests vs checklists though it had less believable rules regarding competing factions as this applied to gameplay. TES: Oblivion had more tasks at the expense of being more repetitive while Morrowind allowed for some truly unique character builds and retained storylines that the average player never even discovered due to the world’s depth. Fallout 4’s crafting and networked base systems for attracting NPCs and generating scrap/revenue is a Bethesda first though it has some mild correlations with Terraria and Starbound the longer you think about it.

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Simple concept: win the war by throwing a lone zombie daredevil pilot with a vision disorder headlong into a grid of enemy tracer fire. Brilliant!

Game Name: Luftrausers (2014)
Developer: Vlambeer (Nuclear Throne, Ridiculous Fishing, Yeti Hunter)
Platform: PC, Mac, Linux, PS3, Vita, Android (reviewed on Vita)
Categories: Shoot ’em Up, Bullet Hell, Inertia Physics, 2D Looping Scroller, MonoChrome, Minimalist, Unlockables, Crazy Plane Combinations, Short Sessions, WWII Propoganda Newsreel, Chinese Shadow Puppetry Visuals, Looping Audio, Repetition, Impossible Mode, Indie Production Values, Addictive

May Appeal To: would-be ace pilots, the deaf, gamers on the go, and the twitchy.
May Repulse: actual WWII pilots, the colorblind, depth divers, and the sluggish.

Comparable To: a fast paced R-Type, a less demanding Stardust, or an immensely simplistic Enter The Gungeon. This game has the looping battle arena of Odin Sphere, the anachronistic experimental tech of the classic 194X series, and the general layout/feel of a beefed up Asteroids with gravitational pull. Continue reading