No Man’s Sky Next Review – Doesn’t fix all of the launch issues but finally brings the game in line with original vision

Developer, Publisher: Hello Games

Released: August 12th, 2016 (original), July 24th 2018 (Next update)

Reviewed on: PC; Available via: Steam

Testing specifications: Core i5-6500 3.2 GHz, 16 GB DDR4 RAM, GeForce GTX 1070

The hype surrounding No Man’s Sky was one of the biggest generated throughout the entire gaming industry, but when it released in 2016, it lacked many of the promised features, and underperformed on delivering the expected experience. This resulted in a wide community backlash, where negative reviews encompassed positive comments, but development on the game wasn’t finished. Hello Games spent the next 2 years providing consistent updates to the game, which expanded on what players could do and aligned the game with original design vision. No Man’s Sky gives players a massive universe to explore, filled with a myriad planets, star systems, and space fleets, now enabling cooperative play throughout the entire game. The Next update, coupled with previously released improvements, brings No Man’s Sky to the next level, and while players won’t be able to escape the tedious structure of its survival mode, it provides ample opportunity to create fun moments. With so many elements introduced post-launch, this feels like the game Hello games should have made at the start, although doesn’t feel vastly different from its original build. Thankfully, all the updates came at no charge, enabling early adopters to experience a fresh take on survival in a vast universe.

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Far Cry 5 Review

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal, Toronto; Publisher: Ubisoft

Released: March 27th, 2018; Reviewed on: PC

Testing Specifications: Core i5-6500 3.2 GHz, 16GB DDR4 RAM, GeForce GTX 1070

Available via: Steam, Ubisoft Store

Playing a new Far Cry game at this point feels like slipping on a familiar pair of shoes, and despite minor token innovation throughout each release, extensively feels like going through the same motion. Far Cry 5 may be the biggest step away from the series’ usual tropes so far, yet I can’t escape the feeling I’ll be doing precisely the same stuff in a different setting. It’s a new region to explore, a new story, a new villain – yet feels very much the same as the games that came before it. Retreading familiar ground, Far Cry 5 throws players into an isolated region, tasked to liberate it from an oppressive cult. It’s wearing a new coat again, although this time Ubisoft made some welcome changes to make the experience less redundant. Don’t expect full blown progress, however, as we’re still playing by the same rules established in Ubisoft’s sandbox titles back around when Far Cry 3 came out. That said, there is a reason many enjoy the series, and won’t leave that comfort zone for innovation. Far Cry 5 is a solid entry once more, but four games in, the magic of its experience is starting to wear off no matter what Ubisoft attempts to change for a new release.

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Subnautica Review – Take a tour of an alien ocean

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Developer, Publisher: Unknown Worlds Entertainment

Release Date: January 23rd, 2018; Reviewed on: PC

Testing Specifications: Core i5-6500 3.2Ghz, 16GB RAM, GeForce GTX 1070

 

Exploring the beautifully crafted underwater world of Subnautica is an experience that’s both awe-inspiring and absolutely terrifying. The vast expanse of the ocean planet you crash land on just begs you to explore its biomes and venture out further beyond safe shallows, but is quick to remind you that this world can also easily kill you. Subnautica is the most approachable game in its genre, and it doesn’t take much to survive, although deeper layers are woven into the experience and hide just underneath the surface. The mystery of the ocean will keep you coming back to explore its biggest depths, all the while crafting better survival gear to tackle its various challenges. The game never gets stale, and I kept coming back for more and more without burning out on its survival genre tropes.

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Danger Zone 2 Review

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Developer, Publisher: Three Fields Entertainment

Released: July 13th, 2018; Reviewed on: PC

Testing Specifications: Core i5-6500, 16GB RAM, GeForce GTX 1070

 

Few racing games allow players to freely crash through traffic, but to fill that niche comes Danger Zone 2 from Three Fields Entertainment. The second iteration of the follow-up to the Crash Mode introduced in Burnout Revenge expands in a few key areas to create a far more engaging experience and introduces much sought-after diversity. At its core, the purpose of Danger Zone 2 is executed well and there’s plenty of thrills to find in smashing through loads of traffic, although not all of its ideas live up to full potential.

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Ghost Recon: Wildlands Review

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Developer: Ubisoft Studios; Publisher: Ubisoft

Released: March 7th, 2017; Reviewed On: PC

Testing Hardware: Core i5-6500 3.2GHz, 16GB RAM, GeForce GTX 1070

 

From the start of its plot, Ghost Recon: Wildlands tells you “Do whatever it takes” and follows in that philosophy until the very end of its 45 hour runtime. Giving players complete freedom in approaching its objectives, this tactical sandbox shooter drops you into a representation of Bolivia with one overarching objective to work towards – destabilize the Santa Blanca cartel. The game is bad at plot exposition, but that isn’t really what you’re here for. Instead, you’re dropped into a massive sandbox filled with missions, and choose how to approach each objective in whichever way you prefer, co-op or single player. Ghost Recon Wildlands has a few strengths, but ultimately falls into a generic sandbox experience that does little to engage the player with either its world or story bits. Its main course relies on co-op play, where up to four friends can team up to mess around its sandbox and create thrilling personal experiences. By yourself, you just wouldn’t find as much fun in the game’s repetitive sandbox missions, which often feel like going through an extremely long to-do checklist. While it’s impressive in scope, Wildlands falls short on many gameplay aspects, and this isn’t quite the direction I’d want a Ghost Recon game to take in an open-world setting, although it can engage on gameplay level.

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Vampyr Review

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Developer: Dontnod Entertainment; Publisher: Focus Home Interactive

Release Date: June 4th, 2018; Reviewed on: PC

Testing Specifications: Intel Core i5-6500, 16GB RAM, GeForce GTX1070

Available on: Steam

 

Striking a vast contrast with developer Dontnod’s other games, Vampyr is a dark and gritty adventure set in Victorian London. With a unique spin on player choice, the game presents an interesting dilemma for players in both story and game design aspects. Doctor Jonathan Reid is a renowned surgeon trying to help those in need, but at the same time happens to be a newborn vampire with a thirst for blood. Vampyr thus makes players question the nature of their actions. Will you try to heal everyone in one of its districts? Or will you let the city succumb to complete darkness? It is an interesting setup rarely presented in gaming, although execution of such vital choice is often lacking. Nonetheless, Vampyr is an engaging adventure game well worth playing for its intrigue, mysterious characters and exploration.

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