Welcome To Empire Bay

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1945. Vito Scaletta returns to Empire Bay from World War II. Vinny hooks up with his old pal Joe Barbaro and they start doing some jobs together.

I instantly notice how dated the graphics are. This is far worse than Red Dead Redemption. Screen tearing is immediately noticeable as well, and is omnipresent during any interior location. It’s quite bad.

An early mission deals with breaking into a heavily guarded federal building to steal Gas Stamps. Upon retrieving the stamps, it is determined that the stamps expire at midnight. Off I went to each gas station to sell off the stamps. A few missions later, one of the gas station attendees rats me out to the Feds. Next thing I know, I’m doing 10 years in a federal penitentiary. Vinny meets some contacts in prison through Joe that will protect him if he fights inmates. This section of the game reminded me of the Shawshank Redemption and Goodfellas. I appreciate when games take a detour from the norm like this. I only wish my time in prison would have been longer, and focused on more of the day-to-day experience instead of just fighting inmates. Anyway, Vincent’s contacts in prison were able to get him out of Jail early. They knocked about 4 years off of his sentence. Vinny is released to a different world : the 1950’s. Cars, clothes, music….everything is a lot different now.

Mafia II is almost too realistic of a game. The game is set in a semi-realistic 1940’s & 1950’s universe. The cars, music, and setting are all incredibly accurate. In fact; the game is so real that there’s an actual speed limit. I can’t seem to go over the speed limit without alerting the police. This was a bit of a bummer; as I really wanted to hear a lot of these babies purr. Pressing Square puts a speed limiter on to help avoid attention from the police. If that wasn’t strange enough…the cars can run out of gas. Seriously. You have to refill your tank at gas stations around the map. Why is this a part of the game?

The voice casting and storytelling are top-notch in Mafia II. The game has this sort of cinematic feel to it. I was constantly reminded of my favorite gangster films like The Godfather and Goodfellas.

Vehicles in Mafia II are a great representation of cars from the time period. 2K did a fantastic job nailing this as well as the featured music. Radio stations play hits from Bing Crosby, Fats Domino, Little Richard, The Everly Brothers and more.

In terms of weapons, Mafia II features pistols, shotguns, machine guns, rifles, and grenades. My favorite gun was the .357 Magnum, as it sounded just like the one Harry Callahan used.

In a world of “GTA clones”, games usually do alright in copying the open-world aspect, but the driving always seems to be second-rate. There’s just something about the driving in Grand Theft Auto that’s just so perfect. It can’t be touched, and no other team has been able to compete with it. It’s almost as if so much has gone into the process of creating the world, and then there wasn’t enough time / resources / space to make other things work well. That’s why most of them seem to fail at grasping the concept of an open-world game, compared to Grand Theft Auto. For Mafia II, I felt that the driving was actually quite good. The cars are from the 40’s and 50’s, so they function a bit differently. The cars tend to fish-tail, but they still handle very well for not having power-steering!

Mafia II features the best collectible items I’ve ever seen in a video game : Playboys. That’s right; each Playboy magazine has a different centerfold from the time. I can’t confirm whether these are actual centerfolds from the time period or not, but they sure fit! I had originally planned on collecting all of them, but I didn’t.

Mafia II’s Director’s Cut includes three DLC stories, and vehicle & clothing packs. While I found the vehicles and clothing to be fine, the DLC stories were quite lackluster. Two of the stories feature a character named Jimmy, and the story-based missions are replaced with timed arcade-style missions. Yeah; putting a time limit is a great way to entice me to play. It’s safe to say that I didn’t spend much time playing. I probably did a mission or two, but my patience grew thin. Then, I checked out the final DLC installment, Joe’s Adventures. This DLC is at least a bit more familiar. Joe’s Adventures of course stars Joe Barbaro, and takes place during the time Vinny is sent to prison. Joe sets out to find the ones responsible for ratting out Vinny. I found the first few missions to be fine, as the gameplay went back to the story-based missions. Then, after a few missions, the gameplay switches over to the timed arcade missions again! This is where I said “to hell with this game!”, and played some Titanfall 2. I’m sorry….you know what? I’m not sorry. No one likes time limits in games. There’s nothing more stressful and frustrating than having to meet a time requirement in order to continue playing. I’ll give you an example of the last mission I attempted to play : Let’s make players drive to retrieve a stolen Limo, and then drive all the way back across the map. The second the Limo is stolen, the player will be chased by Police (who are easy enough to evade but will re-alert anytime they see you). To make things even more difficult, the person who wants the Limo needs it in mint condition, so you also have to go to the shop and repair any damage. Now imagine doing all of this under a very unfair time crunch. Fun, right? Sure; it may be challenging, but I’m not playing Mafia II for a challenge. I’m playing for the STORY. There’s no interest if the STORY is replaced by CHALLENGES. It gets worse. Instead of entering locations or meeting people to start the mission, there are just little cheap looking logos on the map. You walk up to them, and press X to start the mission. What is this? a PlayStation 1 game? I figured the arcade-style missions were just for the first two installments. Joe’s Adventures started out great. I figured the trouble was over. This wasn’t the first time I’ve been wrong, and it most certainly won’t be the last. My question is, why change the pace right in the middle of everything? Why start out with story-based missions, and then switch to the timed arcade crap? Ugh. Perhaps you can sense my frustration. I look forward to playing DLC, as it’s (usually) an extension of what I loved in the base game. It allows for that craving for more to be satisfied. I enjoyed playing Mafia II, but these DLC offerings made me crave something else to play right away, and I did just that. It’s a shame that the last thing I experienced from Mafia II was negative, because that’s the last thing I wanted to happen.

All in all, Mafia II isn’t a terrible game. It does have its flaws when it comes to the game mechanics and screen tearing, but the story and solid voice-acting combined with the look and feel of the 1940’s-1950’s make up for it. I was crushed with the ending of the game. I hope somehow Joe made it out alive and makes an appearance in Mafia III. The biggest problem with Mafia II is that it’s a big open world full of nothing to do. The game is quite short, with a mission or two for each chapter. Each mission will have you traveling to locations all around the map, and when you’re done, you are forced to go home and go to bed to continue the story. Again, why is this a part of the game? Things were added to the game in an attempt to make Mafia II seem more realistic (such as speed limits and gas tanks), but in the end they just make things more annoying. Personally, I think that’s a few steps too far. That’s too realistic. When I’m forced to drive slow and fill my tank up, I’m not playing a game anymore.  Anyway, once all of the story missions are completed, there are no side missions to complete, and there is no way to free-roam around the city. Loading up the last save takes you to a checkpoint in the final chapter. The only way to continue roaming around the city is to replay a chapter. Other than a few vehicles and clothing items, the DLC is a complete waste of time and can not be recommended.

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Manhattan’s Last Stand

The Division is the story of a group of Government-activated agents tasked to be the last line of defense for the United States. After a massive viral outbreak in Manhattan on Black Friday, it’s up to these agents to find out the source of the virus in order to create a cure before all of New York (maybe even the world) is wiped out. I don’t want to go into detail about it, but the outbreak is quite scary because of how easily it could actually happen. Basically, because of the Country’s fears of going to the doctor, people went about their daily lives, infecting even more people in the process. When the time comes, The Division are activated. It could be your brother, your sister, your co-worker, the person you sit next to on the bus. These are the people who become activated and answer the call. They are The Division. The first wave of Division agents have gone rogue, so the game focuses on the second wave as they restore order.

THE DETAILS

I fell in love with The Division essentially right away. I pre-ordered the game months ago in order to receive access to the closed Beta. Two weeks later, I jumped back into the open Beta; this time with some friends. Graphically, this is one of the most gorgeous games I’ve ever played. Beautiful graphics. New York City has been totally recreated in video game form. Many of the famous New York landmarks are present. The entire city was preparing for the holiday season coming up; there are lights and decorations everywhere! The Division also features an incredible day-night cycle with dynamic weather. The sun shines bright, flurries trickle down, and blizzard-esque snowstorms take away almost all visibility. Snow even piles up on your clothes if you stay in one place long enough. Now that’s detail.

The Division plays like a typical Tom Clancy game, which are primarily tactical third-person cover shooters. However, The Division comes with a twist; it’s also heavy in RPG elements, most similarly to games such as Destiny, Borderlands, Fallout, Dying Light, and more. Just about everything in The Division is upgradable, from guns, to gun parts, to skill trees, to armor. Each item collected has its own personal stats so they can be compared to the other things in your backpack. The stats are like most RPGs; green arrows pointing up are good, and red arrows pointing down are bad. You should only (and always!) use items which will increase your stats.

The Division is a cover shooter, and a great one at that. There’s a grid that sort of surrounds the player whilst in cover. Moving the camera around will show other available cover spots ahead, with a path lit up in white. Hold down the X button to quickly run to the next cover spot whilst staying in cover as you run. I didn’t discover this until the last day of the closed Beta. You can also sneak around the corner of the object you’re using as cover by holding the left stick in the direction you want to go.

The Base of Operations is where players will take on missions, purchase or sell weapons, mods, gear, and craft new items from collected materials. The Base also has three wings (Medical, Tech, and Security) which can be upgraded by completing specific missions. By completing these missions, a skill, skill mod, or talent will be unlocked with each upgrade built.

The Division’s recreated map of New York is split into level sections by the different districts. Each district has a specific level of difficulty which you should reach before entering. Within each district is a safe house. Each safe house can be unlocked upon entering, which allows for fast-travel. Each safe house provides side missions which reward the player with credits to upgrade the three different wings (Medical, Tech, Security) at the Base of Operations. This part of the game is quite repetitive because the player is tasked with doing the same 5 or 6 things for each district’s safe house. There really isn’t much of a variety when it comes to these side missions : rescue the hostages, support the JTF, defend the supply drop, all while defeating waves and waves of enemies. Ugh.

As side missions are completed, more collectables will appear on the map. These collectables include ECHOs (hologram playback), cellphone recordings, missing agents, crashed drones, survival guides, and incident reports. These collectables are all over the map and are very tedious to collect. Some of the collectables can’t be activated until the end of the game.

Each player has a primary weapon, a secondary weapon, and a sidearm. Each weapon has multiple parts that can be modified, such as scopes, magazines, barrels, suppressors, and skins. The player’s inventory Overview represents the Primary weapon’s DPS (Damage Per Second), Health (Toughness), and Skill Power. Each weapon has its own set of stats, represented by DMG (Damage), RPM (Rounds Per Minute), and MAG (size of the clip). These weapon stats either benefit or take away from your DPS, Health, and Skills. You’ll continue to find new weapons as you level up and progress through the game. It’s always good to find a weapon you’re comfortable with. Make sure not to have your primary and secondary as the same class, as you’ll be sharing the same ammo for both. There are six weapon classes : pistols, sub-machine guns, shotguns, carbines, assault rifles, and light machine guns. Try to find a nice balance (or not, it’s totally up to you on how you play The Division). I used an assault rifle as my primary weapon, and a marksman rifle as my secondary weapon for the entirety of my play-through. The Carbine can have scopes that deal a certain percentage in headshot damage. In other words, one-hit kills. There’s a scale for weapons that are more on the rare side. These are almost always depicted in different colors for most RPG’s that I’ve played. They’re usually colored blue and purple. In The Division, Standard is green, Specialized is blue, Superior is purple, and High-End is a yellowish orange. There is also a separate green gear color and a gear score that becomes prevalent in the post-game experience. Some weapons will be better than others. Visiting vendors or playing missions on “Hard” or “Challenging” difficulty will usually net you some good loot, but the Dark Zone is where the best items are. More on that later.

Looting is very important in The Division. Loot can be collected in a variety of ways. Enemies drop them, they can be found in abandoned houses, in secret areas during missions, and especially, in the Dark Zone. Looting outside of the Dark Zone mainly consists of weaponry, clothing, tools, and crafting components. Looting within the Dark Zone? Not always a piece of cake…

ALONE IN THE DARK (ZONE)

The Dark Zone is The Division’s largest contaminated area, spanning a chunk of central Manhattan. It’s best to only go there with friends, but even then it’s not always safe. Why? Because the Dark Zone is where you’ll encounter other players, and they’re not always friendly. The rare loot you’ve collected in the Dark Zone? They want it, and they won’t hesitate to kill you for it. Items from the Dark Zone require an extraction via helicopter. That is, of course, if you survive long enough for it to arrive.

I took a three month hiatus from The Division to play Uncharted and DOOM, and the Dark Zone is a much scarier place than I remembered, and much different from the Beta version. Rogue players are always present. It’s a very horrifying feeling to know that anyone could turn on you at any second. You always have to be watching not only your back, but your surroundings, and of course, the maps. Most of my Rogue encounters resulted in my death. This happened quite often. Players who go Rogue have to wait for a timer to expire before they can go back to being a non-hostile again. Rogues like to use this to their advantage. They’ll kill and steal, hide out until the timer expires, and then repeat. Some Rogues will even camp right outside the Dark Zone checkpoint and saferoom entrances and prowl on unsuspecting players. Rogues who do enough bad things will have a longer timer and a Manhunt will be executed. If Rogues are in a group, it’s best to stay far out of their way. They like to hunt players down, especially if an extraction flare is lit. Like a moth to the flame, extractions draw silent Rogues to the players who are just trying to safely get some new items.

TROPHIES

After a three-month hiatus, I returned to The Division to tackle the remaining trophies for the Platinum. I had to replay all 16 missions on hard, complete a mission on Challenging, finish up the last few remaining collectables, and worst of all : Dark Zone trophies. I hadn’t even stepped foot into the Dark Zone yet. Actually, I hadn’t been in the Dark Zone since the Beta(s). To make things worse, I was playing by myself. For the Dark Zone trophies, I had to :

Extract an item at all 8 locations – This proved to be quite a challenge. Some extraction areas are easier than others. The problem is that enemies hang out there and more enemies appear when the extraction flare is lit. The two areas I had the most trouble with were near the top of the map. In DZ03, there is an extraction area in a park that is loaded with enemies and a Named Elite. Another area in DZ05 was very difficult because it included Level 32 Purple and Yellow enemies. However, I found a very interesting method to get this final extraction. Flamers make their patrol rounds near this extraction point. When they come near the area, the two rival factions fight each other. I was able to sneak my way in, light the flare, and extract, without killing a single enemy.

Kill 10 Named Elites – This wasn’t too difficult. I just spammed the Named Elites that were in DZ01 for the trophy.

Kill 20 Rogue Agents – This was my final trophy, and definitely the most difficult one. As stated before, Rogues are no joke. I spent the majority of the past week and weekend attempting to stalk and kill Rogues. I only managed to kill about 5-7. Honestly, it’s a miracle I was able to get that many. Luckily, my friend was able to help me boost for the rest of the kills to wrap-up.

CONCLUSION

The Division is an open-world that’s full of things to see and do. Whether you’re saving New York by completing missions and side missions, or discovering story elements through Intel such as Echos, incident reports, cell-phones, and survival guides ; there’s enough to keep the player busy. It’s also a game that best played with friends. Venturing into the world alone isn’t for everyone; especially the Dark Zone. I played The Division a bit differently from others. I stayed away from the Dark Zone until after I maxed out at Level 30. I spent most of my time grinding to Level 30 by doing the main missions and the side missions for each safe house. Doing these side missions helped me level up rather quickly. I felt that the main story missions were a little off on the recommended levels. For instance, I found it was easier to play them at one level above the recommended level. Playing them at the exact recommended level was quite too difficult. I played The Division for a total of about a few days. There are 16 main missions in total. I found the final mission to be very anti-climactic. The end-game material is comprised of replaying the missions on different difficulty modes for better gear, free DLC updates, paid DLC updates, and the Dark Zone. After Level 30, the game introduces a Gear Score. The higher your gear level is, the better your Gear Score will be. The paid DLC content adds a brand new leveling system on top of the pre-existing ones. Either way, it’s a long grind that I don’t really wish to experience anymore. My friends and I had our fun with the game, and may return once in a while. For the most part, we got what we wanted out of it. I got what I wanted out of it. Besides, I’ve got a backlog of games that need my attention! I can’t spend forever on a single game. As nice as it is that Ubisoft Massive has added free updates and daily missions, The Division is not a game I can see my friends and I coming back to very often (like GTA Online and Rocket League). The Division is, however, a great game, and a very beautiful one. The Division managed to reel me in and keep me satisfied, where Destiny failed (although, I believe it deserves a second chance). I did enjoy my time with the game, with the exception of the Dark Zone. I’d like to see a sequel that takes places somewhere else and follows the spread of the virus as it works its way throughout the United States. if not, it appears Wildlands may be able to whet my appetite.

Enjoy the slideshow of collected screenshots below. The pictures are mainly to show off how gorgeous this game is. I didn’t take pictures during enemy encounters for obvious reasons, so there won’t be much action in these. These screenshots are basically just things that I discovered whilst playing the game. They might not sell you on the game itself, but they may make you realize how special the graphics are, and how there’s something eerily beautiful about the sudden collapse of a central city.

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Leap Of Faith 


Mirror’s Edge tells the story of a group of runners who act as couriers. The story is told from the prospective of one of the runners named Faith. Faith and her sister are framed for murder when a family friend is killed.

Mirror’s Edge plays as a first-person parkour game. Essentially, it’s Dying Light without the zombies. The controls feel just as “right” as they did in Dying Light too, albeit a bit dated seeing as this was made in 2007.

The game starts with a neat tutorial that showed me everything I needed to know. Not all of the challengers are simple; some require precision. Ledges that are higher up need a combination of a wall-jump, 180 turn, followed by another jump.

The cutscenes shown in-between missions are done in an animated style. I actually haven’t seen Faith as she’s depicted on the cover. Faith isn’t actually shown this way until the very end of the game, which I thought was odd. The game went to such lengths to create a rendered model for the game, and then they totally abandon it for an animation. Odd, to say the least. Perhaps it’s just me, but I really dig Faith’s look. I guess that means I like Asian chicks, tattoos, and bob hairstyles. Who am I kidding? I LOVE Asian chicks, tattoos, and bob hairstyles! I’m a sucker for a bob.

My main gripe with the game is that there’s a blurred line between non-confrontation and combat. The game almost forces you to run away from threats, and then decides to give these threats guns. It’s almost impossible to finish parts of this game without killing enemies, and then using their guns to kill other enemies. I couldn’t play this game any other way. I had to take out the people shooting me in order to figure out where the hell I was supposed to go.

In the end, I didn’t really enjoy Mirror’s Edge as much as I thought I would. It was just okay to me. Decent. However, I am interested in checking out the sequel, which I hope will be much, much better.

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Is This The Real Life? Is This Just Fantasy? 

A young Brazilian boy named Quico walks through a portal to a colorful new world. Joined by his friends Monster and Lula, Quico is following a girl named Alejandra. He must complete puzzles that open up the paths in order to reach her.

Papo & Yo is very much like a cat & mouse game between Quico and Alejandra. It reminds me of Sonic 3, where Knuckles would always appear and just ruin things for Sonic & Tails. Alejandra’s also sort of a Sour-Patch Kid. Sour, then sweet. At one point, she takes one of the puzzle blocks away from Quico, and runs around with it. Luckily, Quico can play that game too, and activates a switch which locks Alejandra in a box. Of course, most of the time Alejandra disappears into the floor or a wall, and pops up somewhere else. She does become more helpful later on in the game, though.

I appreciate that Papo & Yo focuses on the story. The puzzle elements are challenging yet simple enough that I didn’t get stuck on figuring them out. They were mainly there to help Quico reach his goal.

Quico’s giant pink friend, Monster, helps Quico reach new areas. He feeds on coconuts that can be used to lure him to a spot (which opens up a new spot). Eating too many coconuts causes Monster to fall asleep, allowing Quico to jump on his belly and be catapulted in the direction he chooses. Monster likes coconuts, but he likes green treefrogs even more. If he eats a frog, he turns angry and charges Quico. Quico has to capture Monster by making him stand on certain highlighted spots, and then collecting pieces to the rotten fruit that will turn Monster back to normal.

Quico also has help from Lula, his toy robot that has the ability to fly. Lula allows Quico to hover for a small period of time. Quico can also direct Lulu to operate certain switches that are farther away and out of his reach. Lula acts as a mother figure for Quico; she cares for him and makes sure that he is always protected. During one part of the game, Lula sacrifices herself against a raging frog-infused Monster to protect Quico.

Alejandra tells Quico of a a temple where Lula can be revived, by luring Monster into traps. Each trap removes a piece of Monster’s anger and brings life to Lula.

The final step of the process is to visit the Shaman, who can fully cure Monster. Quico and Monster begin their journey to the summit, which sort of works like a ski-lift. Lula is the key to powering the way to the summit. She can’t protect Quico anymore. She has to stay behind to operate the lift. It’s a heartbreaking scene. The journey to the summit takes a few minutes and there are a few changes during this time. The biggest change of course is when Monster transforms into Quico’s father. The two are separated by what almost seems like prison cells during this lift to the summit. The two are separated. There’s no conversing or even an acknowledgment between the two. Complete and utter silence.

The two reach the peak and search for the Shaman. Up the stairs  are four statues of Monster, with a giant spiral staircase standing in the middle. Quico runs up the stairs, which makes the stairs go underneath the ground in a corkscrew motion. Quico reaches the top of the stairs (which is now level with the ground), to find that not only is there no shaman, but there is no cure for monster either. As Quico rotates the four statues of Monster, the truth is revealed. The statue of Quico jumping turns into Quico playing with Lula. A statue of Monster eating frogs turns into Quico’s father consuming alcohol. A statue of Monster eating Alejandra turns into Quico fighting with his father. A statue of Monster chasing Quico turns into Quico’s father pulling his belt off to beat his son. These statues help to compare the differences between fantasy and reality. Quico’s father killed a man in a car accident, which further excelled his drinking. The more Quico’s father drank, the angrier he became.

Papo & Yo has quite a sad story, especially when it’s realized that Monster is not a friend, but a representation of Quico’s alcoholic and abusive father. The anger consumes Quico’s father, eventually representing Monster. Deep down, Papo & Yo is all about letting go. There was no cure for Monster. Quico had to let him go. He had to let those bad memories go so Quico would not have to live in fear any longer. The world was created by Quico as an escape from his repressed memories of his father. Sometimes it’s easier pretending to live in a fantasy world. Quico uses the world to escape from reality, just like many people (myself included) play video games, watch movies, or partake in other hobbies to help escape from everyday life.

Papo & Yo is a very special, albeit an emotional, video game. It’s almost hard to believe that this game was developer Minority’s very first game. It’s a masterpiece, to say the least. Papo & Yo is one of the greatest PlayStation 3 games I’ve ever played. I hope that more developers make games like these.

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Good Ol’ Christmas Duck. 

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Over 3 years ago, Gone Home hit the PC market to rave reviews. I’ve always wanted to play it, having high hopes that it would make its way to the PS4 at some point. After a while, Fullbright started working on their next game, Tacoma, and no progress was reported about the console ports for Gone Home. I became sad at the fact that I may never get to play this game. Fortunately, Fullbright came to their senses and with some help from Midnight City, Gone Home : Console Edition was finally released on January 12th. I can’t wait to start playing this game!

Okay, time to play. While I won’t be necessarily spoiling Gone Home’s story, I will be including early character details from things I’ve found, mainly to keep track for my own memory. I would hope that whomever is reading this has already played Gone Home, but that is not always the case.

Here I go…

Gone Home takes place on June 7th, 1995, outside of a house. I’m assuming it’s my house. I don’t know. I push the touch pad, and open up the Items section to see my passport and my boarding pass. Okay, I’m playing as Kaitlin Greenbriar, who I overheard leaving a message for her parents as the game started. She said something about getting a late flight and that she’d find her own way home, that her parents didn’t have to pick her up. Boarding Pass shows that I had been traveling in Europe for a year. I departed from Amsterdam to Portland, and then transferred to Cincinatti. Now I’m home in Portland.

I’ve just started, but I gotta say, this game is freaky in how realistic it appears. In many ways, it reminds me of how BioShock’s atmosphere affected me. Then I remembered that three members of the Fullbright staff previously worked at 2K Marin on the Minerva’s Den DLC for BioShock 2.

I’m going around the house searching for clues and notes. Pretty soon, I start receiving journals from Kaitlin’s younger sister, Sam. The house is full of boxes; the family just moved to Portland, I guess. Sam made these journal entries for Kaitlin since she was traveling around Europe and hard to get a hold of.

Sam learns that her house is known by all the kids at school as the “Psycho house”. Apparently the previous owner, a man named Oscar Masan, died in the house. As it turns out, Mr. Masan bequeathed the home to his nephew, Mr. Greenbriar, in his Will.

The father, Terrence, seems to be obsessed with writing fictional thriller stories about JFK and a character named John Russell who saves him. It appears he’s having trouble finding a publisher, and is working freelance writing audio / visual equipment reviews. The Mother, Janice, works for the forestry service as the Senior Conservationist. She is supervising a controlled burn at a National Forest. A forest ranger (“Ranger Rick”) was transferred to aid Janice with the controlled burn. It appears that Janice and this “Ranger Rick” are having a secret fling. Between Terrence’s failed attempts at being an author, Janice’s possible affair, Kaitlin being gone most of the time, and Sam quickly approaching college, it would appear that this family is falling apart.

One room in the house is full of recordable VHS tapes. Some of the labels can be read, and it’s pretty good stuff; Robocop, Blade Runner, Top Gun, James Bond, etc. There’s also quite a few mentions of Street Fighter and Nintendo. Samantha loved Street Fighter and played a lot of video games at her old neighbor Daniel’s house. Well, really, she was just Daniel’s friend because he had all the good Nintendo games. I think we’ve all been guilty of doing that.

Samantha is also obsessed with this punk girl named Lonnie at school. She has pink hair, sometimes wears military clothes, and also loves Street Fighter. Sam tries to find ways to introduce herself, to have an excuse to talk to her. Lonnie and her friends play Street Fighter at the 7-11 everyday after school. One day, Sam plays Street Fighter at the 7-11 and Lonnie is there. She asks to see the “Psycho House”. Of course, Sam obliges. To Sam, Lonnie is someone who she can finally feel normal around. Lonnie even made her a mixtape!

I have to say that this house is enormous. It’s enormous! I’m constantly finding new rooms to explore and checking out hidden items that I didn’t find in the previous playthrough. The game basically entails walking around the huge house and and looking at items. Some items will include an audio diary from Sam about certain situations in her life.

Gone Home has a fairly simple 100% trophy completion rate. The only real challenging trophy requires beating the game in less than a minute, but once you know your way around the house, it’s not that hard. There’s very little room for error, however.

I can’t express enough at how happy I am just to be playing something new and different. Gone Home was a welcomed change. I really enjoyed exploring every nook and cranny of the house. Each time I played, I found something new. Gone Home also really nails what it’s like to live in a creepy old house. The story, however, didn’t really resonate with me. Without going into spoiler territory, the story deals with love for another person. Outside of my family, I can’t say that I’ve felt love in my life (yet). If I had experienced love, I probably would’ve enjoyed the story more because I would have understood what these characters were feeling. I highly recommend Gone Home, even if you haven’t experienced some of its themes.

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Hail To The King, Baby!

Babes. Beer. Guns. Pig cops. Aliens. Duke Fucking Nukem.

Duke Nukem 3D includes the main game with 3 expansions (Duke It Out In D.C., Nuclear Winter, and Duke Caribbean : Life’s A Beach).
There really isn’t much of a story for Duke Nukem 3D. The goal is to go from level to level obliterating anything in sight, solving puzzles, finding key cards to progress, discovering secret areas, and then tip some stripper babes. Pretty simple concept.

Duke has an barrage of weapons at his arsenal, such as a pistol, shotgun, explosives, ripper (mini-gun), grenade launchers, and an RPG. Duke also has inventory items he can use, such as a jetpack, night-vision goggles, portable medkits, scuba gear, protectable boots, and a hologram Duke. The DLC expansions change the weapons slightly (by how they appear and what they’re called), but that’s about it.

The Megaton edition is a bit of a mess for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita. I’ve heard the PlayStation 3 version is almost unplayable with its constant lag and freezes. Upon learning this, I decided to play Duke Nukem on the system that has less problems, the Vita. I haven’t run into too many issues. The game occasionally lags. I have found that sometimes the game just closes out, deleting any progress made. I have to save (and cross-save) very often to work around this problem. The most frustrating issue is when my save file became currupted after I was really on a roll. Sometimes the save would screw up at the end of a level, and the game would completely crash.

Duke can interact with all sorts of things within the game, but the audio is so patchy. It sounds like Duke would sound on a Nintento game. Much like Wolfenstein 3D, the game looks dated, but it looks much better than it did originally.

This was the first Duke Nukem game I had ever played, and while it’s not the worst game I’ve ever played, it’s not the greatest, either. It does suffer from a bit of repetitiveness. I quickly wanted to move on to another game. As trivial as it was, I stuck with Duke Nukem until the end. It ended up taking me over two months; mainly because I was busy and really didn’t enjoy playing this very much, but I did it. I can’t tell you how excited I am to play something new.

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Greatness From Drake’s Beginnings

 

 

Sorry I haven’t posted lately. In September, I started a new shift at one of my jobs. Needless to say, my work schedule is sort of…all over the place. I only have one day off a week now. To put it lightly : I haven’t had a lot of time to do anything else but work. When I get home from work, I’m so tired that I just want to crash. When I do manage to put some gaming time in, it’s only for a few hours. I’ve been sitting on this review for about a good month. I’m not really happy with it, but it just sits there staring at me unpublished and I’m tired of it. Sometimes I feel like my mind isn’t functioning properly, making these reviews difficult to really convey how I feel about the game. I often have trouble finding the words, let alone the right ones.

So, as Nathan Drake would say,
“Here we go…”

I’ve recently been busy playing the new Uncharted Collection, which has been meticulously crafted for the PlayStation 4. It was a lot of fun revisiting the first two games in the series. Uncharted 3 would be my first time playing.

The story starts with a trade for Nate’s prized possession (Drake’s ring) that goes wrong, leaving Nate and Sully for dead. The story then flashes back 20 years earlier to a young Drake, who is obsessed with Sir Francis Drake. He finds the ring at a museum in Cartagena, Colombia, and meets Sully for the first time.

Uncharted 3 once again follows an expedition of Sir Francis Drake, as well as T.E. Lawrence (A.K.A. Lawrence of Arabia). Sir Francis Drake discovered the Iram of the Pillars (or the “Atlantis of the Sands”) during his circumnavigation, but kept it a secret. Players get to see a young Nate and how his obsession with Drake began.

Naughty Dog has always had a knack for challenging environmental effects that really help to graphically push their games. The first two games focused on water and snow. The focus for the developers during Uncharted 3 was the fire and sand effects and making them as realistic as possible. They have succeeded. Naughty Dog devs actually programmed Oxygen into the game and then they had the fire follow it around the environment. It’s incredible how realistic it appears.

Drake’s Deception features heart-pounding action scenes, such as escaping from an old abandoned chateau that caught on fire, jumping for my life from platform to platform as they begin to collapse, or hanging out of the cargo bay of an airplane mid-flight.

It has been said that Uncharted 3 has the easiest Crushing mode in the trilogy. I can’t imagine how that’s possible. I played on Normal and it was very, very difficult at times. The enemies flank to your position like never before. There really isn’t much of a  point in using the cover system of the past games. The enemies will come from both sides and just start punching you. Speaking of punching, there’s entirely too much emphasis on hand-to-hand combat. That got old real quick. Back to the combat sections. I felt powerful in the first two games; able to handle any situation placed before me. However, I absolutely dreaded the combat scenarios in Uncharted 3. Where do I start? It’s totally unmatched. I’m thrown into situations where there’s laser sights coming from four separate directions, there’s enemies with grenade launchers, there’s heavily armored guards with shotguns, machine guns, or mini-guns. Not enough? Let’s add in some enemies using turret guns! This is all happening at the same time. The hit detection that was pitch-perfect in the last two games is long gone here. I’m aiming and shooting right at an enemy; why is nothing happening? “Frustrating” doesn’t begin to describe my experience. But this is Uncharted. This is Naughty Dog. How could this happen???

In the end, Uncharted 3 delivers a satisfying, yet somewhat disappointing experience. Although this game featured some of the greatest action sequences from the trilogy (soon to no longer be a trilogy), I felt Unchared 3 was a step back instead of a couple steps forward. However, the trilogy as a whole is still very solid. There’s no doubt that these games are masterpieces.

To close out this review, I thought I would gather all of the fantastic screenshots from the very special Nathan Drake Collection :

 

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In other news, I started playing Fallout 3 (yes, you read that correctly). Seven years late to that party. Anyway, I started playing it, but I think that game is just going to take too long to complete. I could finish several games in the time it would take me to finish Fallout. So for now, it’s on hold, and I’m not sure when I’ll pick back up on it.