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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Euro Truck Simulator 2 Review

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Take a tour of Europe in this incredibly detailed driving sim and build up your own continental transport empire.

Developer, Publisher: SCS Software

Release Date: January 16th, 2013; Reviewed on: PC

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

Get it from: Steam

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Wreckfest Review – A proper FlatOut sequel you’ve all been waiting for

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Developer: Bugbear Entertainment; Publisher: THQ Nordic

Released: June 14th, 2018; Review Platform: PC

System Specifications: Core i5-6500 3.2GHz, 16 GB DDR 4 RAM, GeForce GTX 1070 8GB

Get it on: Steam

I never imagined riding a lawn mower on a race track will be so much fun, as those vehicles tend to be far from fast or entertaining in real life. The new game from Bugbear proved that it very well can be, especially when you put 24 mowers against each other in demolition derby. Wreckfest has been stuck in Steam Early Access for such a long time that I’ve entirely forgot about the game’s existence up until its recent full release. The developer Bugbear Entertainment, which many would remember as creators of the FlatOut series, announced this title back in 2012 as Next Car Game. Through lengthy development, numerous delays, and finding a publisher, Wreckfest has finally released on PC, and its long time coming looks to have paid off very well. With a career mode, custom events, mod support and a varied selection of cars, this is a proper FlatOut sequel many have been waiting for, and a realistic damage model is icing on top of the cake. Bugbear have delivered an excellent demolition derby racing title packed full of fun moments, and its numerous release delays really paid off to finish work on this game. Now that the game left Early Access, there is a lot to enjoy about Wreckfest, and long time fans of demolition racing games got a well-made release, even if the developer no longer has the rights to the series’ name they’re well known for.

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Resident Evil 7 Review – Return to Survival Horror roots

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Developer, Publisher: Capcom

Released: January 24th, 2017; Review Platform: PC

System Specs: Intel Core i5-6500 3.2GHz, 16GB DDR4 RAM, Gigabyte GTX 1070 8GB

 

Unlike its recent predecessors, Resident Evil 7 is a truly horrifying game experience. By reintroducing survival horror gameplay into its stale series, Capcom brought back the things everyone loved about the series in the first place. However, to adapt to modern horror tropes, Resident Evil 7 features a first-person perspective that brings it closer to likes of Outlast and Amnesia. While it does take some inspiration out of those, the game also sets itself apart by handing players guns to remove the feel of playing hide and seek for hours on. And unlike the action-oriented RE5 & 6, the 7th installment doesn’t shower you with loads of ammo and explosives, which here are very scarce. With twisted villains that are not only terrifying, but also very dangerous, I always felt on edge crawling through sprawling locations and scavenging for any bits of ammo I could find. Resident Evil 7 ultimately returns to survival horror roots and is both the best Resident Evil game by far and one of the greatest entries in the survival horror genre.

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First appearances are usually deceiving

One of the game’s major highlights is the first-person perspective, which brings out the best in the atmosphere and art design. Resident Evil 7 is very grim, and it’s creepy locations are filled with various traps and enemy encounters. While new to the series, the first-person view is a very welcome change of pacing, especially given how well it integrates into the Resident Evil formula. If you own a Virtual Reality headset, the VR Edition is the best way to go, however is not necessary to fully enjoy the title. Even if you play it on a regular screen, Resident Evil 7 packs in enough visceral animations and creepy tension to unnerve even the most resilient. The sight of your protagonist getting his leg cut off with a chainsaw, for example, is one of the most brutal scenes in horror gaming, and that’s only one of many.

Set in rural Louisiana, Resident Evil 7’s setting is unnerving from the moment you get there. With seemingly abandoned houses that you soon learn are not quite empty, the atmosphere is very grim. Developers paid particular attention to level design, which shines at every step with environments filled with incredible detail. Resident Evil 7 also brings back the series’ focus on exploration, with supplies scattered throughout and some emphasis on puzzle solving. The latter aren’t particularly inspiring to those who love RE 1 just for those, but are fun in their own way, even if simple. As there are countless challenges to face getting to particular keys or items, solving those is not exactly a walk in the park.

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Ethan, why did you not bring a weapon with you in the first place?

The plot is established as something entirely new for the series, however features some subtle references from the overarching Resident Evil universe. I appreciated having an entirely different protagonist from the rest of the series, even if Resident Evil is not a franchise I got into until recently. Ethan Winters doesn’t have military training or troops at his disposal, and ventures out to the Baker mansion simply for reasons to find his wife. Missing for three years, she sends out a video message to Ethan warning him to never look for her. While his ignorance of the warning may seem like a bad starting point for the plot, especially given how he goes there without any means of self-defence, it transitions well into a much bigger story. Without spoiling further, I’d point out that the story is very much worth paying attention to. Long time fans of the series would also appreciate game design references, where the Baker property itself is fairly similar to the Spencer mansion of the very first game.

The members of the Baker family that oppose the journey of your protagonist Ethan Winters are twisted beyond measure. Their introduction scene is one of the best in gaming at setting up villains, and each is absolutely out to get you. Jack Baker, who I almost believed could never be killed, follows you whenever you go in the introductory act and takes up a third of the game with some of the best moments. Just when you think he is gone, he shows up again at most unpredictable moments, and getting rid of him is beyond satisfying. Then there’s Marguerite, who unleashed deadly swarms of bees. Lucas, who sets up wicked traps to challenge players beyond logical measure, rounds off the act and is deadly in his own way. The game feels noticeably weaker in its latter third when you deal with the Baker family, which is somewhat of a shame as they are a major highlight.

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Jack Baker wouldn’t care its his own son’s hand he’s cutting off

While Resident Evil 7 provides plenty of weapons to deal with enemy threats, I never once felt overpowered in my playthrough. Ammo is very scarce , and bosses are heavily resilient to damage, which makes enemy encounters intense. To fill the gaps between villains, Resident Evil 7 brings in standard enemies, which aren’t particularly inspiring in their motions, or scary. In latter part, they feel like a design drag and the game tends to stumble at overloading you with ammo as well. While having guns in your arsenal doesn’t particularly provide for a sense of security, they are a great mechanic to have. In the genre full of games that don’t provide players with the means of defence, Resident Evil 7 strongly succeeds. It could have been tempting for developers to overload players with guns and ammo, their limited use doesn’t ruin the pacing by any stretch.

Exploring RE 7’s locations is an experience filled with tension throughout the 25 hours it took me to complete the story. Without ever forcing jump scares onto players, the game’s pacing is ideal for survival horror titles. Enemy encounters are frequently broken up by exploration of both it’s indoor and outdoor locations. While running into foes rarely took me by surprise, other interactive elements provided for some spectacular horror moments. To flesh out some of the backstory, and also aid in discovering clues, are videotapes hidden in a few spots. These not only allow to progress through certain sections, but also feature some intense moments. Without wishing to spoil, I found these to portray some gruesome and surprising moments, which enhanced the experience further. For exploration purists, Resident Evil 7 features coins as a certain form of currency, which are few in the game, but unlock some high-end weapons and upgrades. Finally, the checkpoint system is very similar to that of Alien: Isolation, where players can only save during certain points in the game. This necessitates careful exploration as the protagonist is still very fragile.

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Limited inventory makes item choices meaningful

Resident Evil 7 is an excellent addition to the long-running survival horror series, and brings the experience back around to the “horror” part. While aside from the first-person view it doesn’t deliver anything we haven’t seen from the series, it is a much needed departure from the few recent titles in the Resident Evil universe. An emphasis on limited supplies and careful exploration keeps players on edge, and the game is packed with terrifying sequences throughout the entire campaign. This isn’t just a hide-and-seek affair either, as Resident Evil 7 features guns to help you progress, however these never ruin the pacing due to ammo scarcity. A decent variety in those also allows to experiment over multiple playthroughs, and the game is one of the best horror experiences to keep coming back for more. If you somehow haven’t picked this title up yet, I’d encourage doing so, as Resident Evil 7 ranks among the best horror games currently on the market. It is also the best Resident Evil game by far, and offers a welcome change in perspective, as well as a good departure from the action-focused 5th and 6th entries.

Dying Light: The Following Review – Improved Zombie Slaughter

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Dying Light: The Following sets an example of how game expansions should be done, and almost feels like a proper sequel rather than DLC content. Set in the outlying countryside of Harran, it provides a vast landscape entirely different from dense urban regions of the city. With vast stretches of open road, the expansion leans on its newly introduced vehicle gameplay, which sets it apart from main game’s parkour-focused action. Players are free to jump into it at any point in time, as The Following is accessible from the main menu screen, however I’d recommend diving into it at least halfway through Dying Light. Progression carries completely over, so time investment in the main game pays off, and provides you with better equipment and skills. With addition of the buggy, The Following integrates well into the existing framework, and new elements feel like they’ve always existed in the first place. An interesting plot and a vast open world set the back tone for this expansion, which proves to be an excellent improvement over the main game’s central mechanics. With a diverse set of additions, this expansion is worth taking a look if you enjoyed Dying Light’s diverse set of action and survival mechanics.

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Assassin’s Creed Origins: The Hidden Ones Review

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Developer: Ubisoft Montreal; Publisher; Ubisoft

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

PC Specs: Core i5-3500 3.2GHz; 16 GB DDR4 RAM; Gigabyte GTX 1070 8GB

 

Assassin’s Creed Origins: The Hidden Ones adds a 10-hour chunk of additional content to the base game’s progression, although it doesn’t offer radical improvements or unique content that can’t be found across the vast map of ancient Egypt. With a short and simplistic premise to its plot, the Hidden Ones lacks the surprises I’ve seen in the original main questline, however I wouldn’t call the story here boring by any particular standards. Along with a new region, The Hidden Ones brings the same activities from the main game: treasure locations, enemy camps and side quests are plentiful, and once again, revealing the map is done by entering a region. The Sinai oasis doesn’t differ much in types of biomes present on the map from the base game, however it is a significantly more mountainous region which sometimes necessitates more climbing than one would like. All in all, it is more of the same like the main game, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as Origins is an excellent game to begin with, but The Hidden Ones perhaps plays it too safe for the most part, and won’t offer players any radically new content. But if you wanted more of Assassin’s Creed: Origins, then The Hidden Ones offers a new plotline spread across Sinai’s 3 sub-regions and with added exploration and side questing, offers around 7-10 hours of additional content for the game’s fans to enjoy.

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The Hidden Ones takes place 4 years after the conclusion of the main plot, and tasks Bayek with travelling to the Roman-controlled peninsula of Sinai to assist the Hidden Ones (or the Assassins’ Brotherhood in this game) in distress. The plot’s premise starts fairly basic, with 3 main targets to eliminate from the offset across 3 main quests (which I should add are very generous with the amount of XP they reward the player with), and then grows a little more through a few additional quests that lead to the head of the 3 main bosses from before. There are few surprises along the way, and the Hidden Ones has some interesting twists, but other than that, it is a very familiar structure to the base game, but the plotline is much simpler. The recommended starting level for the Hidden Ones is level 38, which only takes a few levels to get to upon completion of Origins’ main plot, however I’d point out that the best time to start this DLC Is around level 40-41. The main quests go from level 39 to level 43 in a quickly manner, so some might want to start the DLC at a later point in character progression, as enemy camps usually feature enemy captains at +2 levels than the main character, at least in my playthrough.

The new region of Sinai is comprised of 3 sub-areas, with 2 village settlements and numerous unknown locations to visit, which range from destroyed temples to large-scale Roman citadels up in the mountain ranges. Visually, the location is no different from any other region in AC Origins, although due to the base game’s vast diversity in regions, the DLC feels rather bland given its made up of mostly mountainous regions. These might be minor complaints, but considering it is a DLC piece, smaller diversity would be expected. No major cities exist in this region, which feels a bit like a step back as there is no detail to be found in the game’s settlements apart from the vastly-detailed temple in the upper settlement on the map. Still, given that the following DLC Curse of the Pharaohs features a large-scale city, as well as plenty of supernatural elements. The Hidden Ones plays by the book: kill 3 bosses followed by eliminating their over-arching leader. As I’ve mentioned above, the Hidden Ones doesn’t offer anything radically new to the player, however it is still a solid piece of additional content for those who may want to enjoy more of the Origins gameplay but have completed 100% of what the game had to offer.

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The exploration aspect still remains interesting, as are additional quests the player can pick up to level up before the next main quest. There are still quite a few question marks to find across the region map and many enemies to fight along the journey. The enemies are exclusively Romans, however enemy diversity is still all accounted for, ranging from weak archers and topping out with giant guards with towering shields. The tension of infiltrating enemy camps in stealth still remains, especially if you aim to avoid detection entirely, and increases when you do screw things up. Combat requires precision and skill just like before, but in a fort, you’re sometimes bound to be stuck up against 7 enemies with shields along with a group of lesser foes (it happened to me once and I barely avoided getting killed). The Hidden Ones really doesn’t differentiate much from the base game, and while it does offer a few more hours of plot and the same exploration and challenges of the base game, this DLC plays it completely by the book, which is still not a bad thing. There isn’t much else that comes to mind when talking about the Hidden Ones, and it is just a short chunk of content for those who wanted more of AC Origins, which brings me to wrap up this review.

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The game’s Photo Mode allows to capture some incredible screenshots

Despite some complaints I have with the Hidden Ones, it is a very well-rounded piece of additional content to enjoy, and completing its additional tasks is still as interesting as before. Side quests are designed in the meaningful way, which is where AC Origins really shines, and very few include the annoying escort quests we’ve come to expect from Assassin’s Creed, however NPCs in this title certainly have the courtesy to match the player character’s pace. The new region doesn’t offer anything new at all, and looks quite the same as the base game’s biomes, but it is not a bad thing for a small DLC pack. The region of Sinai still packs plenty of enemy camps and different tombs to explore, and with all side questing, takes roughly 7-10 hours to complete that counts as a considerable chunk by usual DLC standards. All in all, it’s worth getting if you really enjoyed Origins and there is plenty of content on offer for the price, but don’t expect it to offer any radical improvements or the mystique plot available in Curse of the Pharaohs. While the Hidden Ones plays everything safely by the book, it still succeeds at what Origins did best and that is never a bad thing if you did enjoy Origins. It’s a decent chunk of additional content that offers more of the same, but given how well the base game has been made at the start, I’d take more of AC Oigins anytime and would recommend it to others.