- DOOM (Xbox One): $0 (used store credit)
- God of War III Remastered (PS4): $17.20
- Life is Strange (PS4): $9.99
- Warp Shift (iOS): $2.99
- Lara Croft Go Costumes (iOS): $1.99
YTD Total: $925.26
- DOOM (Xbox One): 5h 23m
- Mr. Crab 2 (iOS): 2h 10m
- Assassin’s Creed Rogue (PS3): 1h 23m
- God of War III Remastered (PS4): 1h 10m
- Bastion (Vita): 1h 20m
- Warp Shift (iOS): 27m
- Double Dragon Neon (Xbox 360): 22m
- Assassin’s Creed Chronicles (Vita): 16m
- Double Dragon II: The Revenge (Arcade): 15m
- Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS1): 12m
- Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (PS4): 7h 3m
The highest highs in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (PS4) rank among the best experiences I’ve ever had in video games: The flashback to Drake’s childhood early in the game. The quiet moment with Elena and Drake at their home. The show-stopping vehicle chase that marks the game’s halfway point. The gripping clock tower sequence. And of course, the epilogue, which I won’t write a word about here, beyond saying that it is perfect.
The grappling hook is a great proxy for Indiana Jones’ whip, and far more useful – it becomes such a satisfying part of the gameplay loop that it’s hard to return to the first three games and go without it. Climbing and platforming feels better than ever, alternating vertigo with exhilaration.
Every inch of terrain is richly detailed and impressively animated, and the story is best-in-class. The actors’ performances are on par with what you’d see in movie theaters.
So, lots of good stuff. It’s a must-play game. But it’s far from perfect.
IGN was right to point out that the last third of the game drags. Once you reach the jungle, the pacing slows significantly, and you’re served up more box-moving puzzles than any action hero should have to endure. Environments occasionally become impenetrable mazes, leaving you running around in circles until white text pops up asking if you need help.
The gunplay hasn’t evolved. It’s capably delivered, but the combat zones quickly become stale. You’re working through the same types of obstacles and enemies that you’ve encountered countless times in the past three games. To make matters worse, the game’s increased emphasis on sneaking is tied to a surprisingly limited stealth system. Why can’t I whistle to distract guards? Or throw rocks to grab their attention? Why doesn’t Nate have any tranquilizer darts in his inventory?
Looked at as a whole, Rise of the Tomb Raider is a better game. Its pacing is more confident, and its combat is more compelling. But Uncharted 4 offers a more impressive next-gen aesthetic, a better story, and astonishing water cooler moments that we will all be talking about for years to come. You’re cheating yourself if you don’t play both. My grade for Rise of the Tomb Raider was an A, and I’m giving Uncharted 4 an A-.
No game has surprised me more this year than DOOM (Xbox One). On its release date, I skipped it, because review code was not given to critics in advance. This almost universally means that the game is going to suck. Buzz was not good coming out of the open multiplayer beta, either. But then, my friend Phil Theobald could not stop raving about it on the Player One Podcast. This is a guy who doesn’t purchase shooters like Call of Duty or Halo… but somehow DOOM won him over. I had to find out why.
The game rethinks the fundamentals of the first-person shooter by going back to basics. It moves at a breakneck speed, just like the 1993 original. You’re sprinting the entire time, even when you’re attempting to heal. Story is as bare bones as possible – id doesn’t want anything distracting players from the game’s highly aggressive, visceral combat.
There are no iron sights in the game, but given the ease with which you can run into battle, fire away at enemies in close range, dodge counter-attacks, and pull back, you won’t miss that Call of Duty convention. You never have to reload – once your current gun runs out of ammo, the game instantly swaps it out for the next-most-powerful weapon in your arsenal. This setup lets you spray a constant stream of bullets when the game’s kill rooms get too crowded for comfort.
The developers even revert back to the colored key card convention for opening doors. It’s ridiculous to see blue door locks in a photorealistic video game world, but it suits this game’s retro approach. Unlike the plodding, po-faced Doom III, this reboot is not afraid to poke fun at itself. Nothing is taken seriously – everything is in the service of providing the player with a constant flow of gore-induced dopamine hits.
This approach has made the game’s campaign more fun to me than anything recently released by Sledgehammer, Bungie or 343 Studios. It’s worth checking out.
My infatuation with Mr. Crab 2 (iOS) lead me to start a new blog series focused on awesome spend-capped games. In that weekly post, I take a look at a brand-new spend-capped game, as well as a classic. This next week, I’ll be covering Warp Shift (iOS), a slick new puzzle game, and Implosion: Never Lose Hope (iOS), one of the best mobile action games on the market.
Assassin’s Creed Rogue (PS3) has kept my attention for a second week. The story is shallow when compared to Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, and the protagonist is a lot less appealing than Kenway, but the ship combat is every bit as good, which is all I need to stay engaged. It’s a great game to play through Playstation NOW, mapping perfectly to any control configuration that the service supports – including VITA.
I picked up God of War III: Remastered (PS4) on sale at Gamestop. The jaw-dropping Poseidon battle at the start of the game pulled me right back in, and now, I’m alternating between playing this and DOOM, two great tastes that taste great together. The new 60fps frame rate makes a big difference. It’s not a true next-gen experience, but it will definitely suffice until we get a new God of War – hopefully optimized for the PlayStation NEO (4.5).
Guilty admission: I never played Bastion (VITA). I experienced my first hour with the game this week, and I love it. The easy-going combat is perfect for portable play, and the cross-save functionality between the VITA and PS4 versions make this one of those few games that you can play and enjoy wherever you happen to be. This is the type of seamless handheld-to-console experience that I hope the new NX delivers on with all of their next-gen games.
My fun with the Double Dragon series continued this week with Double Dragon Neon (Xbox 360), the Wayforward reboot. It is now playable on Xbox One, thanks to 360 compatibility. I love the look of the game, but the checkpoint/continue system is pretty brutal, which has discouraged me from investing more time. Perhaps I’ll drop it down to the easiest setting, just so I can blast through and see all of the nostalgic sights and sounds that the game has to offer.