Category: Reviews

16 Oct

South Park: The Fractured But Whole Review


In South Park: The Fractured But Whole, the fantasy theme of its predecessor gives way to the equally popular subject of superheroes, parodying the current state of comic book-to-film oversaturation we see today. This shift is complemented by the change in the combat system, which proves cerebrally satisfying despite the juvenile sight of your main character using flatulence to overpower and outsmart everyone from ninjas to a red wine-enraged Randy Marsh. And when you add town exploration that awards practical character benefits, the resulting game is a delightfully fart-tinged journey that delivers satisfying gameplay and surprising absurdity in equal measure.

Like many South Park episodes, The Fractured But Whole's story kicks off with Eric Cartman cooking up a self-serving scheme: the search for a missing cat so he can use the reward money to fund a movie franchise for his troupe of superheroes. Yet, this is South Park after all, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that what develops goes way beyond a simple feline rescue. We're talking about police corruption with Lovecraftian twists and having to stomach debased attacks by pedophile bosses. As you once again play as the New Kid, you promptly join Cartman's team, Coon and Friends, engaging in a host of bizarre stories that play fast and loose with crude humor and sensitive topics alike.

This is South Park through and through, where outrageous and unpredictable plot developments contrast against the day-to-day goings on of seemingly normal suburbanites. There's also the typical smattering of references to recent real-life events, from the Black Lives Matter movement to Morgan Freeman running a taqueria. But the game follows the franchise blueprint of lampooning pop culture and society without in-depth commentary, typified by the non-combat difficulty slider where being black is supposedly the hardest setting, and being white is the easiest. It's an opportunity to present something meaningful left half-realized as a flyby gag.

Seemingly more care was put into the game's more benign comedic touches, starting with game title itself. 'The Fractured But Whole' isn't a mere excuse to hide 'butthole' in a game title; it's also a clever take on Captain America: Civil War, relevant since the game's story involves two rival superhero teams. The Fractured But Whole is a consistent chucklefest where genuine laugh out loud moments are spread thin, which is forgivable for a playthrough that can last over 20 hours. Thanks to fast travel, completing missions comes at a steady pace, which means you're only minutes away from a new scene that would warrant a chortle at the very least. That could be Mr. Mackey's disturbing inquisitiveness about your sexual preferences or the City Wok staff moonlighting as ninjas. And even in the more private settings of a stranger's bathroom, the minigame of dropping a deuce offers its own flavor of hilarity.

Your arduous rescue mission is filled with hostile encounters against everyone from sixth graders to the elderly. As a welcome change to the precision demands of the Stick of Truth's RPG-inspired mechanics, Fractured But Whole employs tactics-style combat, prioritizing strategy-driven thoughtfulness over adept reflexes. While those new to tactical RPGs won't have to worry about the intricacies of terrain effects or improving chemistry between squadmates, you're nonetheless rewarded for thinking a couple turns ahead. Moreover, the modestly sized combat grids give the initial false impression that only rudimentary battle planning is needed for success. In actuality, these sometimes cramped spaces force you to think carefully on how to efficiently navigate your characters around the field, ideally to capitalize on their powers.

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It's a superbly balanced combat system that values smart thinking while also offering the flexibility of personal preference when choosing your character's class and abilities. Whether you like supporting and buffing friends or want to be the most powerful tank possible, you can complement your strengths with the many superfriends you amass over time. While it's a stimulating challenge trying to make a great team, it's even harder to come up with a bad one. For every hero that has a potent attack that can knock back enemies, there's a buddy who can heal and buff. Another advantage is the accessibility of craftable health-restoring mexican food. This can turn the bulk of encounters into easy victories, though The Fractured But Whole offers its share of optional encounters above your fighting weight--as measured by your squad's Might level--not to mention a number of challenging boss fights.

Growing your team's Might is inextricably tied to every bit of forward progress you make, whether that's wrapping up a story goal or completing the myriad side quests assigned by familiar townsfolk. From building a follower count on social media via the Coonstagram app or collecting gay romantic manga for Mister Tucker, experience earned through those missions accumulate to increase your levels and unlock slots for Might-boosting artifacts.

As you head to any map-marked objective, the various unexplored homes and businesses along the way are well-peppered with practical crafting items and side-mission collectables. Thanks to a number of quality-of-life conveniences, exploring seldom feels like a chore. Accessible drawers are well-marked with yellow handles, backpacks you've sifted through remain open, and when you've completed various collection missions, you're rewarded by the quest giver immediately, saving you the trip to physically hand the goods. These benefits far outweigh The Fractured But Whole's slight annoyances such as not knowing what attacks in battle result in friendly fire and the tiny font of your app updates.

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Aside from exploration and battles, South Park is loaded with environmental puzzles that--while hardly brain teasing--can elicit more than a giggle depending on how a hurdle is overcome. The most challenging obstacles are surmounted by your legendary farting abilities and select friends you can call in for an immediate assist. By combining your flatulence with the flight ability of Human Kite (aka Kyle's superhero persona), you can reach higher, previously inaccessible areas. Toilet humor transcends to depravity when you fire Butters' rodent out of your butt, launching it to reach and sabotage open electrical panels. While The Stick of Truth had its share of gassy gags, this sequel doubles down on farting as an essential multipurpose game mechanic, powerful enough to bend space and time at your whim. Not only does it prove useful in solving puzzles, it's also invaluable in preventing enemies from using their turn in battle.

Much like The Stick of Truth, The Fractured But Whole can be appreciated as a standalone adventure, accessible to those who've fallen off the TV series over a decade ago. Fans who have kept up will appreciate the handful of recent call backs to the show plus at least one timely spoof that creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone previous said they would not tackle. And if there's one aspect of the show that hasn't changed in its 20-plus years, it is the endearing qualities of the kids' reality-breaking imaginations. This is best exemplified in the classic pronouncement that the floor is lava, which is represented by initially impassible red building blocks strewn throughout the town.

Fractured But Whole succeeds as an interactive South Park mini-series, while effectively emulating the show's current style of adult-targeted entertainment and satirization of political correctness. In other words, it's consistently amusing and provocative without the edginess the series used to be known for. Both the game's combat and explorative strengths effectively bridge the many comical plot developments, which range from mildly amusing to downright hilarious. It's an accomplishment that this game will wholly entertain devoted fans while delivering a heap of jokes that won't fly over the heads of casual viewers.


13 Oct

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13 Oct

Pokemon UltraSun/UltraMoon Will Be 3.6 GB


Pokemon ExtremelySun/ExtremelyMoon Will Be 3.6 GB

That’s just a little bit greater than Pokemon Sun/Moon.


pokemon ultrasunultramoon trailer finally brings the hype 1 1 - Pokemon UltraSun/UltraMoon Will Be 3.6 GB

While cupboard space concerns are usually not as a lot of a difficulty on the Nintendo 3DS, a platform the place most recreation gross sales are digital and a platform the place most video games are literally fairly small by way of file dimension, there is no such thing as a doubting that even essentially the most disengaged 3DS proprietor may now be working out of area. The system itself comes with no on board reminiscence (although Nintendo bundles a 4GB SD card with every of them)- which, because it seems, goes to be simply sufficient so that you can purchase and set up Pokemon ExtremelySun or ExtremelyMoon to yours digitally.

Amazon Japan has revealed the file dimension for the extremely anticipated upcoming Pokemon recreation on the system, confirming that it is going to be 3.6 GB (or 29,500 blocks within the 3DS’s ridiculous parlance). For reference, Pokemon Sun/Moon took up three.2 GB- so I ponder the place the additional 400MB are coming from.

Pokemon ExtremelySun/ExtremelyMoon are due out solely on the Nintendo 3DS on November 17.

[via NintendoSoup]



13 Oct

Xbox One X ‘Launch Lineup’ Shown Off In New Video


1506782530 90 when is the right time for the ps5 to launch - Xbox One X ‘Launch Lineup’ Shown Off In New Video

The Xbox One X will not be a conventional console technology launch, so it won’t have a launch lineup in a standard sense; nonetheless, there are sure video games that may showcase it and its energy greater than others, most of which occur to be launching across the similar time as it- these will represent the system’s “launch lineup.”

Today, Microsoft confirmed that lineup off in a model new video. This contains Assassin’s Creed Origins, Forza Motorsport 7, Minecraft, Cuphead, and Middle-earth Shadow of War. Future video games which are proven off embody Crackdown three, State of Decay 2, and Sea of Thieves. So that’s a wholesome smattering of video games obtainable to leverage the added energy in your new system immediately.

You can take a look at this video, showcasing what Microsoft claims is its largest and most various lineup of video games ever, for your self beneath. The console is because of launch in lower than a month now, on November 7.



13 Oct

The Evil Within 2 Review


Innovating within the bounds of horror's familiar tropes and rules is a difficult task, but one that The Evil Within 2 handles with grace. Developer Tango Gameworks cleverly introduces old-school horror design within the confines of a semi-open world that ultimately makes for a refreshing trip into a world of nightmares.

Picking up several years after the first game, we find the former detective Sebastian Castellanos in dire straits, still wracked with guilt over the loss of his family and haunted by his last visit into a nightmare version of reality. When a shadowy organization gives him the chance to set things right with his past and rescue his daughter from the dangerous and unstable world of Union, he willingly re-enters the haunting realm despite his residual trauma.

Right from the beginning, there's a sense of deja vu as Sebastian wanders the eerie and unreal locations in Union. Despite being one of the few survivors from the first game, he oddly finds himself falling for the same tricks and set-ups that the world and its inhabitants lay out for him. While this could be chalked up to a simple retread, much of these instances make a point of illustrating some key differences from this game and the last.

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There's generally more of an adventurous feel compared to the original's isolated levels. With more side characters to interact with--opening up moments of dialogue that flesh out the story--and optional events scattered around the world, there's a level of freedom and variety in The Evil Within 2 that was largely absent from the first game. However, there are a few notable sections where backtracking is required, which slows the pacing and sense of progression to a crawl.

Despite this, exploration is consistently enjoyable, rewarding treks to the places tucked away, where you can find details about Union's history and meet other characters looking to survive the nightmare. With so many little details that add a lot to atmosphere, there's a clear respect for The Evil Within's world. The many nods to original game feel more impactful for it, giving a renewed appreciation for Sebastian's previous adventure.

Compared to its predecessor's singular levels in unique chapters, The Evil Within 2 possesses a more organic and interconnected set of places to explore--focusing on several large maps with multiple points of interest. While there's still plenty of mind-bending and perspective-skewing set pieces, such as a tentacle creature with a large camera for an eye, the explorable spaces are the real standout. In many ways, it's like traversing through a demented amusement park filled with hideous creations, forcing yourself to face past horrors. Adventuring to places not marked on the map often yields valuable resources, and also leads to some surprising encounters with obsessive ghosts and multiple unnerving, fourth-wall breaking events.

It takes more than just going for the head to take out some of the tougher enemies.
It takes more than just going for the head to take out some of the tougher enemies.

Over time, environments descend into chaos when Union inevitably grows unstable, turning a small town into a horrifying and unnerving shell of its former self. Streets vertically upend, and fire and blood exude from places they shouldn't. The visual design of The Evil Within 2 successfully juxtaposes vastly different settings and aesthetics, and presents them in a bizarre package that illustrates the erratic and unpredictable nature of the world.

While Sebastian felt more like a mere sketch of a hardened and weary protagonist in his first outing, he feels better realized and more grounded in this sequel, giving a certain gravitas to his struggle. Showing bewilderment and confusion throughout the first game, he's more confident and determined this time, even throwing in some fitting one-liners that poke fun at some of the dangers in the last game. The supporting cast of villains also feel more active in the ongoing events, and have a greater sense of place this time around--particularly with the eccentric serial killer artist who photographs his victims upon their deaths.

The Evil Within 2 successfully juxtaposes vastly different settings and aesthetics, and presents them in a bizarre package that illustrates the erratic and unpredictable nature of the world.

While there's occasional moments of cheese and humor throughout--such as the inclusion of a goofy shooting range and collectible toys related to other Bethesda games--the levity never feels out of place, which is an accomplishment considering the game's pervasive macabre atmosphere.

Putting a greater emphasis on the survival aspect of survival horror, The Evil Within 2 demands resource management and bravery in its relatively spacious world. While common enemies are fewer in number compared to the original game, they're far more threatening alone and can easily manhandle Sebastian. There's a thoughtful approach to engagement and progression this time around, which means you'll have to think twice about whether or not to engage a group of enemies. With that said, you have a sizable arsenal of weapons and gear--including the return of the Crossbow with six different ammo types--to take on the enemies as you see fit.

Some encounters will pull out all the stops to prevent Sebastian from making progress.
Some encounters will pull out all the stops to prevent Sebastian from making progress.

Throughout his journey, Sebastian carries a communication device, allowing him to keep track of main objectives, along with points of interest and intel on the fates of side characters in the area. How you go about dealing with these characters and exploring is up to you. Similarly, whether you avoid conflict with enemies or take out as many as possible along the way is down to your preferred playstyle. The Evil Within 2 accommodates those that prefer action as much as those that like to be stealthy. Combat is robust, thanks to improved weapon handling and character upgrading that allows you to focus on the specific areas of Sebastian's skillset to enhance stealth, combat, and athleticism.

Sebastian can return to the safe haven of his mind to upgrade weapons and skills, and review case files and intel on various characters. With the Green Gel collected from fallen enemies--and the new Red Gel that unlocks upper tier upgrades--the core upgrading system has been greatly improved. Going beyond simply increasing damage of melee strikes and stamina length, new special perks can be unlocked such as the ever-useful Bottle Break skill that uses bottles as self-defense items when grabbed by enemies. Along with the expanded weapon upgrade system, using only weapon parts, the systems of progression feel far more nuanced and open.

Sebastian will have to scavenge for supplies and other materials to make up for the lack of ammo boxes and health items. While this may seem like it can make things easy, efficient crafting can only be done at dedicated workbenches, whereas crafting in the field via the radial inventory menu should be done a last resort as it costs twice as many materials. This crafting element adds a bit of a survivalist feel to The Evil Within 2, where you're scrounging around corners to find materials, all while avoiding packs of enemies looking to pummel you.

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Though the game is challenging even on its standard difficulty level, it's not unfair, and there are options for multiple playstyles. The standard Survival difficulty mode is manageable, and you won't find yourself hitting a way due to lack of resources. However, the Nightmare mode raises the stakes, featuring slightly altered combat encounters, harder enemies, and fewer resources to find. If you're up for a challenge of a different kind, the unlockable Classic mode will disable auto-saves, upgrades, and limit you to a finite amount of saves. In addition to extra unlockables for completing the tougher difficulties, the experiences they offer is more in keeping with the true survival horror experience, where resources are hard to come by, and the enemies are deadlier than before.

There's a clear respect for the horror genre in The Evil Within 2, with a number of references to classic films and games. The game channels that style and tone into combat that feels brutal and raw, stealth that has an air of suspense, and unsettling confrontations with dangerous, otherworldly creatures. The Evil Within 2 doubles down on the core of what makes survival horror games great: the focus on disempowerment and obstacles, and the ensuing satisfaction that comes with surviving a harrowing assault.

Though there's some occasional technical hiccups that result in some particularly frustrating moments and weird pacing issues, this horror sequel elevates the tense and impactful survival horror experience in ways that feel fresh and exciting. What this cerebral horror game does isn't totally new, but it rarely feels routine, and offers plenty of surprises. Coming in at a lengthy and surprisingly packed 15-hour campaign, the sequel does an admirable job of ratcheting up the tension and scares when it needs to, while also giving you the freedom to explore and proceed how you want. It's a tough thing to balance, but The Evil Within 2 does it remarkably well, and in a way that leaves a strong and lasting impression after its touching conclusion.


12 Oct

The Flame in the Flood Review


Survival games challenge you to gain control of treacherous worlds. You typically start with very little, and need to scavenge for supplies and resources in order to craft the tools needed to help you avoid death. Success usually means having enough power to establish yourself in a higher place on the food chain, or hunkering down and building a fortified space strong enough to keep the rest of the food chain out. The Flame in the Flood doesn’t allow you to achieve either of those goals and is a consistently gripping experience as a result.

Set in a rural post-societal America, The Flame in the Flood is a procedurally-generated survival game that focuses on constant movement and improvisation. The entirety of the game’s world consists of a large, overflowing river that has engulfed the countryside, destroyed man-made infrastructure, and isolated parts of the geography, turning them into islands.

The Flame in the Flood’s audiovisual presentation is integral to establishing its strong sense of place. The art direction invokes the aesthetic of a gothic storybook. The atmospheric sound design is ever-present. The rush of the flowing river is refreshing, and the heaviness of the thunderstorms is frightening. The musical score is an excellent array of Americana, ranging from mournful blues harmonica, cheerful acoustic guitar fingerpicking, wistful mandolins, and rough alt-country vocals. Together, they give The Flame in the Flood an aura of both despair and quiet beauty.

Your protagonists are a seemingly immortal dog and a survivor whose main concerns are keeping her hunger, thirst, body temperature, exhaustion, and any major injuries under control. Because the survivor can die from neglecting any of these concerns, players must keep them at bay by either scavenging or by crafting a variety of items using resources obtained from the land. But because of the game’s narrative conceit, you’re only able to scavenge on small islands with severely limited offerings. Finding the right components to create items you need often means exploring multiple islands as you traverse the river on your makeshift raft.

Your raft can be upgraded at marinas, provided you have the right components.
Your raft can be upgraded at marinas, provided you have the right components.

There are two major constraints that make this task both interesting and difficult. The protagonist can initially carry only a dozen items in her backpack, and you’ll only be able to dock at one or two islands in a cluster of many before the current pulls you further downriver. This design is frustrating at first--the impulse to grab every item and explore every area will cause you to waste far too much time and energy rearranging your backpack and paddling against the current. But once you embrace the idea of “going with the flow” so to speak, The Flame in the Flood becomes an engaging exercise of short-term prioritization and impulsive decision-making.

Though it will take a number of failures to understand the ecosystem, learning which items are universally useful and avoiding long-term hoarding are the key to staying alive. For example, keeping uncommon fire-starting materials in order to have a method of staying warm, dry, and being able to build a safe place to sleep is more vital than hoarding food--food eventually spoils, and edible flora is common enough in certain ecosystems to snack on as you come across it. Working out your priorities and having the courage to leave valuable things behind is a stimulating challenge. The Flame in the Flood keeps you on your back foot at all times. This feels like true survival.

Unfortunately, the user interface can prove to be a source of frustration. Essential tasks, like sorting your inventory and getting a broad idea of your current crafting options feel unnecessarily taxing because of the number of steps required. All pertinent information is kept within multiple subcategories accessed from a single screen. Inventory management and crafting existing in separate subcategories, and the recipes for different kinds of craftable items are separated into subcategories under that. Finding out what components are missing for a particular tool can be tedious because of the need to flip between menus and scroll through multiple entries to reach the information. Even after hours of play, I was still wrestling with the menu system, especially when using a controller. In fact, I began switching to mouse and keyboard exclusively for menus to make navigation a little easier.

Sure. I'm cold, wet, starving, exhausted, and lacerated all over. But man, what a view.
Sure. I'm cold, wet, starving, exhausted, and lacerated all over. But man, what a view.

But switching to mouse and keyboard is not something I want to do because movement, especially piloting your raft, is far more precise and satisfying with a controller. Travelling to new locations via raft requires deft avoidance of rock formations, remnants of human infrastructure and floating debris. Lightly flowing waters regularly turn into violent rapids, which are as treacherous as they are fun to navigate--impacts are devastating on both your raft’s integrity and your own vitals. Using the last of your stamina bar to push your raft just shy of a large, jagged outcrop is consistently thrilling, and when things quiet down, gently steering your raft through the remains of drowned towns at sunset while a haunting lap-steel melody plays is a sublime experience.

The Flame in the Flood encourages you to put long-term goals aside and live in the moment, to make choices and overcome short-term problems with risky but satisfying spontaneity. Despite the awkward menu system, it’s an absorbing game that lets you experience a journey in the present, and fully appreciate the sights, sounds, and joys of floating down the river in its alluring world.

Update: The Flame In The Flood’s arrival on Nintendo Switch as a “Complete Edition” comes with the mechanical refinements and feature upgrades that have been added since the game’s initial release. These include quality-of-life tweaks to crafting, an insightful developer’s commentary, and more importantly, an alternate dog companion to choose from. While the visual fidelity noticeably lower on the Switch and there are some minor hiccups in performance that aren’t present on other platforms, The Flame In The Flood still remains a unique and absorbing survival game. We have updated the score to reflect our experience with the Switch version. - Edmond Tran, Fri. October 13, 2017, 9:00 AM AEST


11 Oct

NBA 2K18 Review – GameSpot


NBA 2K18 is a hardcore sports simulation. If you want to get good, you have to put in the work. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to improve your skills no matter how you want to play. And the fact that there's so much to do is a bonus, because on the court, NBA 2K18 is also an amazingly well-crafted experience.

The first thing that strikes you is how it looks and feels like a real-life professional basketball game. The 2K series' attention to detail has always been incredible, and this year is the best yet. Using the default camera, it's almost hard to discern between the game and an actual NBA broadcast. Great, varied commentary and the three-way chemistry of Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O'Neal during halftime make it feel like a Thursday night ballgame on TNT.

NBA 2K18 is also on Nintendo's less powerful Switch, but don't discount that version: it still looks great for what it is, even if it falls short of its bigger brothers. Of course, there's the added bonus of playing in portable mode, which also helps diminish graphical flaws given the Switch's small screen.

NBA 2K18's controls remain largely the same since the introduction of the Pro Stick setup in 2K14. Movement is handled with the left stick, and the right stick controls things like shooting, where you finish your lay-ups, and ball handling. Alternatively, buttons can also be used to pass and shoot, so if you don't like shooting with the stick, you don't have to. But the stick controls are satisfying, especially when you cross over your defender and drive to the hoop for a layup. You feel like the ball is completely in your control.

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Succeeding in NBA 2K18 has always taken a certain level of basketball IQ. You need to not only be able to spot open teammates but also know when to pass and what type of pass is best for the situation. It's also about setting screens, running hard defense, and understanding your players' strengths. Thankfully there is a great way to learn everything you need to know through 2KU. This tutorial and training mode lets you learn everything from bounce passes to screen plays. It's very robust, with freestyle and scrimmage options, and is super helpful in perfecting your game without having to rack up losses in one of the other modes.

There are numerous ways to play, with each game mode having several choices to ball. Play Now has choices to play one-off games against the AI, online, in the streetball Blacktop mode, or against friends. MyCareer lets you compete against other players in what was known in previous NBA 2K games as MyPark, a game of pick-up streetball now found in the MyCareer Neighborhood. They serve as fun ways to hone your skills, take some pressure off, and advance your experience and VC earnings.

MyTeam is a card-trading fantasy league where you build a team by unlocking cards with players, boosts, playbooks, and uniforms. It's still the same solid NBA 2K18 basketball on the court, with the added twist of deck building. It's also place to spend real-world money, if you so desire.

This year's big hook is the expanded MyCareer, the story-driven create-a-player mode with the new Neighborhood central hub. You pick your position, favorite team, and then tweak the look of your player before the story begins. MyCareer starts off with a streetball tournament, where you try to prove your worth to team scouts. It has the same teammate ranking system as in past years, where your grade with your team goes up or down depending on your performance.

Outside of the court, MyCareer has a fairly typical rags-to-riches story, with you guiding your player from unknown rookie to much-hyped superstar. When you aren't playing, you're in the Neighborhood, a new addition that lets you wander around a few city blocks, playing games, practicing, buying clothes and shoes, and more. It almost feels like an MMO when you first drop in. You're surrounded by other 2K18 players and their avatars, wandering around the neighborhood and working on achieving the ultimate 99 overall rating, known as OVR.

There are two general ways you can climb your player to the highest NBA 2K18 heights: you can train, play, and practice, or you can just spend a bunch of virtual currency and skirt the whole thing. A 99 OVR puts your player on-par with LeBron James, Magic Johnson, and perhaps the greatest to ever play the game, Michael Jordan. But getting there requires an enormous amount of work--unless you're willing to pay, of course.

There's a gym--excuse me, a "Gatorade Power Center"--in the Neighborhood that lets you build level and experience towards badges and increasing your next OVR level. The mini-games in the gym are exceptionally un-fun. They mostly involve alternating button presses or stick movements. Just starting a mini-game takes longer than actually playing it, as your character shakes their arms and gets into place in an excruciating, unskippable animation each and every time you do any of the workouts. If only there were a better way to build up your OVR and boost levels.

Oh right, microtransactions. You build up VC by playing games in MyCareer, which is standard 2K fare. But the amount of VC and experience you earn feels miniscule, even during sessions where you play at the top of your game. In past years, VC flowed more freely, so buying VC with real money feels almost like a necessary evil now. The game is too stingy on its own, which makes earning enough to advance your character a long and lonesome hill to climb.

Past iterations rewarded skilled players with difficulty multipliers. NBA 2K18 does away with all that. You can increase your earnings by having a great game, making baskets, sticking to your defensive assignment, and generally playing well. But there's no reward for playing at the higher difficulties.

It's also hard to build up your earnings early on in the MyCareer season because, as an unproven rookie, you don't get a lot of minutes on the court. That lack of playing time severely limits your earning opportunities. There are other chances to earn VC, like answering trivia questions in loading screens, but the most you might earn is 500 VC if you manage to get every question correct. It's not just stats that cry out for VC. Shoes, shirts, tattoos, even haircuts require you to spend virtual currency. It's impossible to ignore how much easier it is to break out your credit card than to play your way to the top. It's the difference between walking miles to work, or hiring an Uber.

Basketball is a way of life, and each year, NBA 2K is a big part of that cultural movement. Real NBA players worry about their NBA 2K ratings. This year's entry is incredible in so many ways, from graphics, to soundtrack, to the different modes and ways to play hoops. It becomes clear early on that the fastest and easiest way to progress is by spending real money, slightly marring an otherwise tremendous experience.


10 Oct

Figment Review – GameSpot


Figment taught me that it's often easier to fight the phobias in our heads when they're singing catchy ditties and while dancing and spewing pseudoscience. Consider “Plague,” a spindly boss representing a fear of filth.

"I've got a vaccine for germs like you, full of autism, nausea, and flu," he chants. How rude.

But that’s why the fight’s so satisfying. Figment literally lets me toss his filth right back at him and vanquish him by forcing his big, toothy mouth to take a shower. I'm pretty sure this isn't what generations of philosophers had in mind when they told us to face our fears, but I imagine they’d be hard-pressed to disapprove.

So goes a typical five minutes in Figment, a colorful isometric puzzler that’s gently reminiscent of Bastion. Beyond that, it's a psychological study that invites you to spend around six hours puzzling through the left and right halves of the brain of a person struggling with depression and trauma, all while tolerating horrid puns and manipulating fart clouds with windmills powered by dragonflies. Suffice it to say, Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice this is not. That's not to imply that Figment doesn't pack a similar emotional punch in its commentaries on mental illness, but its methods differ. It's short enough not to outstay its welcome, but long enough to craft a believable tale of deliverance from mental squalor.

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Figment doesn't spend too long on the details of the background--only a few seconds of audio without visuals; a family's car wreck that ends in a child's screams. The vagueness feels intentional, as it lets you see the following hours as a metaphor for our own (potential) struggles with depression, inadequacy, and apathy. As such, it seems determined not to scare away any players who might benefit from its message, slamming you not with graphic imagery but with vividly colored storybook landscapes channeling Escher, Dalí, and Maurice Sendak. Personality abounds, whether it's the bright greens of the creative side of the mind or the clockwork and steam of the logical left. It creatively embraces music beyond the song-and-dance routines of the bosses, right down to French horns jutting from cliffs or ukelele plants that strum in harmony with the soundtrack as you pass. By the time it decides to get gloomy as you’re navigating through stacks of unpaid bills and spilled coffee near the conscious mind, you’re ready to face it. It’s a beautiful transition.

Our hero? A mopey fellow named Dusty, who's decked out in what looks like Max's getup from Where the Wild Things Are. He’s the personification of the mind's courage, but when his gushingly happy bird friend Piper shows up, he's got little desire to do anything besides find some ice for his cocktail. Above all, Figment is the tale of how he regains his confidence, and the action kicks off after a nightmare runs off with Dusty's scrapbook that's been keeping him mired in the past.

It's not a hard puzzler, but neither is it easy. Figment generally achieves a nice balance, apart from times when the aforementioned "waves of despair" seem a little too difficult to dodge.

Dusty and Piper’s extreme personalities would get annoying on their own, but they serve as foils for one another, and their contrasting banter is one of Figment’s great charms. Brace yourself, though, for lines like "The diarrhea dude is close" and "I smell the ending of this." Figment also gets a little heavy-handed when it wants to make sure you understand this is all happening in the brain, as when Piper explains how picking up little metal orbs from fallen enemies will help increase Dusty’s health pool. “Look, the mind’s reward system just released a bunch of endorphins,” she exclaims. Pipe down, Piper. We get it.

Dusty does a bit of fighting with a wooden sword and some dodge rolls against creatures like "barf rats" infesting the mind, but these moments are rare and a little simple, serving mainly to provide a respite from the game's puzzles--the meat of the gameplay. They're remarkable in that they rarely repeat and fit the themes of the three big regions of the mind Dusty journeys through. Sometimes he'll have to push around enigma blocks or figure out how to scare a thieving bird by tying a maraca to a snake's tail. Sometimes he'll have to shuffle batteries or help a train barge through multiple zones, or use "shell creatures" to block literal "waves of despair." The best moments, though, are the boss fights, where the puzzles and combat all neatly work in tandem while the boss belts out a tune with off-color lyrics that might make Disney cringe.

It's not a hard puzzler, but neither is it easy. Figment generally achieves a nice balance, apart from times when the aforementioned "waves of despair" seem a little too difficult to dodge. Most of the puzzles demand more patience than brainpower, and the approach fits the theme. Again, this is the tale of someone who's learning how to have faith in himself again, and punishing puzzles that leave us banging our heads on our desks likely wouldn't have the intended effect. As it is, it's easier to believe Dusty's relatively quick transition from mopey drunk to nightmare-slaying guardian because we've experienced those little mental victories along the way as well. Much as in Portal 2, the beauty of Figment’s puzzles is that they make you feel smart.

Some bugs still skitter through the mind, and not just the one representing arachnophobia in the middle act. On five different occasions Figment's loading screens locked up while I jumped from one zone to the next, and once a floating platform I was on suddenly became intangible, sending poor Dusty to his doom. Nothing a reload wouldn’t fix, though. You shouldn't take that as an excuse to miss out on Dusty's journey, particularly since it ends on a surprisingly moving note after all the fart clouds and puns like "Holy molar!" Worth pursuing, too, are the little hidden items you can hunt down after finishing the game, which offer glimpses into the life of the person whose head you've been travelling through the whole time.

Figment is at once lighthearted and deep. It reminds us that dark things may lurk underneath otherwise pleasant surfaces, that grumpy egos may populate the shuttered houses of an otherwise beautiful mind. Sometimes Figment seems a little too silly for its ambitions, but that frivolity never manages to fully drown out its overarching message--that if we persevere and have a little faith in our abilities, things will likely turn out well in the long run. Or, at least, we'll learn how to live with the pain.


10 Oct

WRC 7 Review – GameSpot


Rallying is not only stunningly difficult, it’s terrifying. Barreling down narrow stretches of bumpy, loose-gravel roads lined with huge rocks, trees or sheer cliff faces at speeds nearing 140mph is about as butt-clenching an experience as you can imagine. It’s a sport that requires pure talent, but those who do it professionally manage do so with the same elegance and grace as a dancer performing a heavily choreographed routine. Watching them react to their co-drivers calls with a flick of the wheel and some fancy footwork can be mesmerizing. And with WRC 7: World Rally Championship, KT Racing has delivered a solid and focused test of off-road skill that, despite a few rough edges, puts you firmly in those dancing shoes whether you’re ready or not.

For the unfamiliar, Rallying is a series of time-trials run over three days, with each day consisting of a number of stages. At the end of the event, the driver with the fastest time across all three days takes home the championship points and the glory. Set on treacherous, narrow roads which can combine snow and ice, tarmac and gravel, teams utilize co-drivers to describe the road ahead using pace notes. It’s a tough, challenging sport that requires total concentration as missing a call can easily see the car launched violently off the road. WRC 7 leans hard into this mentality, taking it more towards the simulation end of the spectrum, and it shows.

Cars themselves can be a real handful. Without assists, of which there are few, you’ll need to be on top of your braking and steering, which feel very sensitive by default. Turning down the sensitivity helped alleviate this somewhat, but even with the assists on, you’re still in for a huge challenge. A few more player assists like stability control, or stronger effects applied to the ones already available, would have gone a long way in making the game feel more accessible.

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In a time where video games focus on making themselves pop with fancy special effects and extra side content, WRC 7 takes a more direct approach to both its presentation and gameplay. All the real-life teams, cars and sponsors are represented across the three tiers of competition; Junior WRC, WRC2 and the WRC, giving you the full gamut of options to choose from when taking on a single rally stage, an entire three day event or a full custom championship.

You can jump into a multiplayer rally, but chances are you’ll need to find some friends with the game in order to get the most out of it. Otherwise the best option for those who want to test themselves against others is via the leaderboards and the challenge mode, which picks a car and track combo and challenges you to put down your best time compared to others. The difference between this and the standard leaderboards being that you potentially earn the most points for your first attempt, and fewer points for each subsequent shot you take. It’s by far the easiest way to get your multiplayer kicks.

Each of the 13 different rally locations from this year’s World Rally Championship are represented, and they are easily the stars of the show. From the densely lined, snowy forest roads of Sweden to the rocky, sun-drenched gravel of Argentina, each of the different locales and stages has a real feeling of character that, while proving an incredible challenge, also serves to visually satisfy. Special stages are deeply packed with foliage, adding a quality and detail to the environment seldom seen in other rally games. Despite some minor shadow pop-in and objects in the distance lacking finer detail, it’s hard not to be impressed by the individual character of each venue.

While not quite as awe-inspiring as the numerous locales you plow through, each of the game's 55 different team cars have all been modeled to accurately reflect their real-life counterparts. Slightly less spectacular are the cockpit interiors which, while matching the bare-bones structure of a beastly rally car, fail to live up to the finer level of environmental detail. Similarly, weather effects are present but unspectacular, particularly when driving in snow, which never manages to stick to your windshield.

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WRC 7’s mainstay game mode is the career, which lets you create a driver and sign them up to a team in the Junior WRC category with the goal being to rise up through the ranks. If you do well enough, you might be given an early shot for a single rally at a team in one of the higher tier championships. Better yet, earn a good finishing spot in the championship and rival teams from the other categories will swoop in and attempt to sign you up for next season.

There’s no upgrading your team, car parts or skills. You are a driver, and that’s what you’re here to do; drive. Your performance can change your team's morale, which affects how efficiently they perform car repairs in the service area at the end of each day. Team morale is also affected by how well you match their preferred approach to racing: some want you to go all-out, pushing hard to go as fast as possible without too much cause for concern about damage. Smaller teams, though, may want you to protect the car, asking instead that you make sure to bring it home in one piece.

Although this is a nice idea in theory, in practice it doesn’t show much of an effect, if any, and it would be good to see more in terms of consequences for either failing or succeeding in sticking to the game plan. In line with this, car damage is forgiving both visually and mechanically, despite the ease of which you’ll find yourself rolling end-over-end after clipping an embankment. If you beat it up enough, parts will eventually fail or fall off entirely, but the cars can generally take a good beating before you need to worry too much.

For all its minor faults and bare-bones nature in comparison to others, WRC 7 is still an enjoyable, but seriously challenging rally title. It’s not the most welcoming game for newcomers, and even experienced racers will find some of the rougher stages tricky. But ultimately, that’s also the point. Rallying isn’t easy, and KT Racing have taken that much to heart.