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Review: DOOM

doom-cover
via Pinoy Tech Blog

DOOM (2016)

PC / Rated M

First-Person Shooter

Publisher: Bethesda, Zenimax Media

Developer: id Software, Certain Affinity, Escalation Studios


DOOM doesn’t waste any time before throwing you right into the action.  There’s a demonic invasion…and it’s your job to kill every single demon that falls in your path.  DOOM is a constant thrill ride from start to finish, turning the notch of intensity up with every level you play.  I’ve only played the game’s campaign, but that was all I needed out of this experience.  I just needed an excuse to kill a lot of demons…and DOOM delivered in every way.

doom-1

id Software has created a game with a hell of a lot of style.  (Pun certainly intended…yay for bad jokes!)  The game’s initial moments, which have you donning the iconic suit of the Doom Slayer, immediately set the mood and tone for the rest of the game.  As you make your way to an elevator, the main theme starts to play and we get the game’s title sequence.  Perhaps the best part of it all is the final beat of the song, which perfectly syncs up with your character cocking his gun, ready for the hell-bent mission awaiting him.  It’s the perfect introduction for the game, immediately putting you in the right mood.  It’s always important for a game to nail its initial moments, and DOOM’s first impression is outstanding and wild.

Understandably, the story tends to take the back seat for most of the game.  DOOM takes place on Mars where a UAC facility is being invaded by the evil and demonic forces of Hell.  You play a man who wakes up on an alter in the bowels of the UAC facility.  Upon freeing yourself from your chains, you quickly find your Praetor Suit, the suit that turns you into the Doom Slayer.  You then begin to realize that the facility’s demonic invasion has been enabled by Dr. Olivia Pierce, the game’s main antagonist.  With help from Dr. Samuel Hayden and the facilities’ VEGA system, your mission is to prepare yourself to stop Hell’s forces and end the demonic onslaught for good.  There’s nothing complex about the plot which mainly serves as an excuse for you to make your way through the Martian facility and eventually the pits of Hell.  It’s hard to knock the game because of its story since the game clearly knows what it is all about and why people are playing it.  You’re here to kill demons and DOOM clearly recognizes that, which is a good thing.

doom-2
via ONRPG

Besides the campaign’s objectives and waypoints, the other force that drives you through the game is the metal soundtrack that accompanies your every action.  Unlike most games where the soundtrack is mostly passive, DOOM’s soundtrack is an active soundtrack, one that really motivates you to kill the demons that step in your path.  The soundtrack, written and composed by Mick Gordon, is full of gritty and electronic metal.  It pairs with the game perfectly and does a great job at painting the game’s atmosphere.  There were many times where I was bobbing my head to the beat of the music while murdering hordes of demons onscreen.  It just felt right.  It made for some kick-ass moments.  It’s an example of a well-realized soundtrack that really jives with the game it’s accompanying.

When it comes to the actual act of demon slaying, this aspect of the game felt great as well.  The combat is extremely smooth and fast, which worked perfectly for this game’s style and feel.  The game runs nicely as well, which also enhanced the gameplay.  There’s a variety of guns that you unlock as you make your way through the game.  These guns all felt right and the upgrades that you acquire through skill points that you collect also make for more varied gunplay.  The shotgun and the heavy machine gun are your best friends, but weapons like the Gauss Cannon and the rocket launcher are a good way to go when battling tougher and beefier enemies.  I never felt like I was using the same weapon for too long.  I was constantly switching weapons to give myself the advantage when battling certain enemies, which is great from a game design standpoint.  There are also glory kills, which allow you to “finish off” enemies when they are low on health.  The advantage of performing a glory kill is that the enemy drops health when performed.  These kills were a novelty in the beginning, but they begin to grow old as you advance in the game.  The variety of these kills tapers off quickly and they become quite repetitive.  I never stopped performing these kills because of their benefits, but it’s a shame id Software didn’t do anything to change up the formula.

doom-3
via WCCF Tech

There’s no shortage of demons for you to kill in the game.  The game relentlessly throws demons your way left and right, which makes for a thrilling experience.  It’s non-stop action from start to finish with little bits of respite sprinkled throughout.  The enemy variety is great, starting you off with a couple of measly demons.  As you progress your way through the game, more enemy types are thrown into the mix, each with different strategies and move sets.  By the time the final level comes around, all the enemy types are joining forces to get a piece of you, making for some hectic late game firefights.  In addition, there are only a couple of boss fights in the game (three to be exact) which were a little underwhelming.  The three boss fights, including the final boss, were epic and grand in scale, and a lot of fun, but I would have liked to see a little more.  There were a good deal of open rooms with waves of demons coming your way.  It would have been nice if some of these rooms were actually boss fights, especially earlier on in the game.  This is only a minor complaint with the game however, as the action is still very relentless and a ton of fun.

I only played the campaign, so I can’t speak on the multiplayer modes or the Snapmap functionality, but the campaign alone is enough for me to recommend this game to anyone who hasn’t already taken the dive.  DOOM’s campaign is extremely polished and it has a ton of style which is established right from the get-go. The combat is great and only made better with the superb soundtrack that drives you through the experience.  At the end of the day, I came to DOOM because I wanted to kill endless scores of demons, and I can’t think of any other game that nails this experience better than DOOM.  Get ready to kill a lot of demons…Doom Slayer.

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Review: The Last of Us

via Taringa.net
via Taringa.net

The Last of Us (2013)

Rated M / PS4

Shooter / Action / Adventure

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Developer: Naughty Dog


I finally see why The Last of Us is regarded as possibly one of the best games ever.  When Naughty Dog released the game on the PS3 back in 2013, they instantly had a wildfire hit on their hands.  After some time, they released a remastered version on the PS4, which seemed to be the way to fully experience the game.  After not knowing anything about the game, I decided to give the game a run for its money.  It was by far one of the best decisions I have made, roaming the infection-ravaged countryside with two great characters.

These two characters I’m talking about are Joel and Ellie, voiced and mo-capped by Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson respectively.  Joel is a man in his 50’s, who has already felt the pain of loss due to the deadly infection that has been spreading throughout the land.  Ellie, a younger orphan girl, has also been changed by the recent events, having survived an infected bit on her arm.  It’s Joel’s goal to get her to the Firefly’s, a rebel organization opposing the government, in hopes of possibly finding a cure for the infection that has been spreading throughout the country.

via playm.de
via playm.de

The journey that you take with these two wildly different, yet strangely attached, characters is a harrowing one.  During the course of the game, you travel across a good portion of the United States, only to see a place completely torn apart by death and destruction.  There is also an abundance of infected, as well as desperate humans that provide some tough opposition along the way.  It’s a tough adventure, with a lot of hardships that ultimately brings Joel and Ellie together.

It is hard not to get immediately attached to the characters that you meet along the way.  Naughty Dog did a fine job with the writing and overall storyline.  A lot of the dialogue comes in the form of natural reactions to the world that they are traversing.  They often try to make light of the situation, whether it be Ellie’s joke book or Joel’s wise cracks with some of the supporting characters.  It made the characters ultimately seem more relatable.  It is probably how I would react if I was thrown into the crappy situation that they have to endure.

via games.it
via games.it

I am also surprised I made it this far without talking about how gorgeous the game looks.  Granted, I experienced the adventure with the remastered version, which is exponentially better looking than its PS3 predecessor, but both versions look amazing nonetheless.  The apocalypse did some nasty things to the locations that you explore, but everything has a visual pop to it.  Being from Pittsburgh, I could not help but get all excited seeing the striking familiarities that the Pittsburgh section of the game contained, whether it be the big hulking yellow bridge in the distance or some of the other surrounding buildings and structures.  Naughty Dog but a metric-ton of detail into each and every location in the game, and their hard work pays off.  The remastered version even contains a “photo mode,” which gives the player some nice tools for creating some fantastic looking snapshots of some of the game’s greatest moments.

The third-person gameplay is executed nicely and feels great, but that was not too much of a surprise given the studio’s past work with the Uncharted franchise.  What makes this game different however is the lack of items that they give you.  Bullets are hard to come by and crafting using the various scraps and materials you will find around the world will largely save you in the end.  Every shot that you make counts, which makes combat situations a little tougher.  The game gives you options with each encounter that you face.  If you have an abundance of supplies, and your just feeling like a badass, you can go in guns-blazing.  You can also take the smarter and generally more effective stealth approach, taking your enemies out in silence.  You will quickly learn that silence is a beautiful thing in The Last of Us, because causing a lot of commotion can make your day go to hell real quick.

via IGN
via IGN

The enemy variety is alright, but could have been better.  You will encounter three types of infected along the journey, including Runners, Clickers, and Bloaters.  You will also fight a good number of humans as well, which provide a bigger challenge.  The infected AI is pretty easy to work around if you know what you are doing, but the humans are smart, and tend to give you more of a challenge.  It would have been nice to have a little more variety in terms of the infected enemies, because by the end of the game, it is pretty easy to dispatch the infected that they throw at you.

The Last of Us also included a multiplayer mode called Factions, which lets you side with either the Firefly’s or the Hunters.  There are three 4 v 4 modes; Supply Raid, Survivors, and Interrogation that all had their moments.  The combat is pretty much carried over from the single player mode, making familiar players feel right at home.  The multiplayer provided some fun, sure.  However, it is not something to write home about.  It’s your average run of the mill multiplayer mode that just feels tacked on like most games these days.  If you are playing The Last of Us, the single player adventure is probably all you really need.

via ae-infinite
via ae-infinite

One of the perks of playing the remastered version was the inclusion of the Left Behind DLC that went along with the game.  In this short but sweet experience, we get to see Ellie’s relationship with Riley, a good friend of hers from the military boarding school that they grew up in.  The DLC is mostly set in the locale of a local mall, which makes sense when you think about it.  What other place would to pre-teen girls want to go to?  The ending however leaves you speechless, and it hits you with such blunt force.  It is a curveball that you do not expect until it hits you hard.  The DLC also sheds light on Ellie’s first encounter with the infected as well.  It’s definitely worth the money and extra time if you have not dived into it already.

In terms of the greatest gaming experiences I have ever had, The Last of Us is definitely one of them.  I am not exactly confident in saying that it is my favorite game OF ALL TIME, but it ranks high on my list of top games that I have played.  The game takes you on an emotional adventure, full of thrills and hard moments that are sometimes hard to swallow.  The game looks amazing and the combat ranks high as well.  The Last of Us is a 1-2 knockout punch that will change you as a person, or at least how you look at games as a whole.  If you have not given the game a fair shake yet, do yourself a favor and educate yourself on one of the generation’s greatest games.  Do it.

the last of us score

Review: Nidhogg

via Giant Bomb
via Giant Bomb

Nidhogg (2014)

PS4 / Not Rated

Action / Fighting

Publisher: Messhof

Developer: Messhof, Code Mystics


Brilliant.  Insanity.  Chaotic.  Tense.  Exhausting.  Fun.  Anxiety-Inducing.  Simple.  Complex.  Thrilling.  These are all words that describe Nidhogg, a simple 2D indie game from Messhof.  What exactly is this weirdly titled game?  It’s basically a side-scrolling game of fencing.  All you have is a sword and your tactics.  It’s very simple but extremely complex at the same time.

Your main goal of the game is to defeat your opponent by getting to your respective final screen, where the winner then gets eaten by the Nidhogg as tribute.  It’s actually quite depressing when you think about it.  As for tactics at your disposal, you have a jump, a swing, a parry, a cartwheel, a divekick, and an ability to throw your sword as a ranged attack.  It’s important to utilize all of these skills if you want to defeat your enemy and get to the end screen.  When you kill your opponent, the screen starts shifting in your direction signaling that you have to make a run to your side of the 2D level.  You can either be nimble and dodge and vault over your opponent or you can go on the offensive.  Either way, if your opponent gets to you and kills you, the screen shifts once again.

via Digital Spy
via Digital Spy

It’s this back and forth action that makes the game thrilling and exciting, as well as stressful.  There would be points where I would get to my final screen, only to get defeated and taken all the way back to the middle.  Sometimes it seems like a long grind to get to your side of the level, but its all the more satisfying when you finally overcome your opponent and get eaten alive with pride.  It’s almost like a game of tug-of-war, except much more enticing.

This is pretty much the entire game.  There’s nothing else to it.  This might seem like a bare-bones package, but that’s far from the truth.  It provides endless amounts of fun, especially when you have a couple of friends around.  There are four different stages that include a castle, the clouds, the wild lands, and the mines.  There are also a good amount of variants like boomerang swords and turbo mode (to name a few) that change up the original gameplay.  My only complaint would be the small number of stages.  However, it didn’t take too long for me to get over this small gripe.  You will most likely be satisfied with the stages that you have.

via Nerd Swole
via Nerd Swole

There are a couple of other modes worth mentioning.  There is a tournament mode that can support up to eight players.  This is a great mode for when you have a bunch of friends rearing for a fight.  There is also online play that lets you test your skills among some of the better players out there.  I tried it for a little bit, but got my ass kicked most of the time.  If you don’t have any friends around, have no fear.  There is also a short little single player mode that pits you against a lineup of (challenging) fighters.  There’s no story, just fights.  Getting through the gauntlet of characters is a pretty decent test of skill.

Nidhogg is a game that is best experienced with friends.  It’s hard to think of a better couch multiplayer game that has been released recently.  It’s a perfect blend of simplicity and complexity that should make it easy for any player to pick up, but fun to master at the same time.  Some of the best moments just came from watching others play.  It’s almost like watching a boxing title match.  You ooh and ahh, and mostly scream, every time the screen scrolls in a different direction.  You cheer when a player goes on a big run and then rip your hair out when that run comes to an end, just feet from the end.  Its a roller coaster of emotions, and that’s just from watching it.  Imagine playing it.  Yeah, its crazy.  Play it.

nidhogg score

Grief in the Minecraft Social Sphere

Minecraft has been the source of a lot of wasted time for a lot of gamer’s ever since the game was first released. This is because the game does a lot of good things, obviously. It gives players basically an endless sandbox where they can build and construct anything they want, from unique cavers, castles, airships, and everything in between. The inclusion of both survival and creative modes also give players different ways to play to fit each gamer’s respective play style.

However, Minecraft doesn’t get everything right. Multiplayer, a chance to interact with other players in the game, falls short of being an acceptable form of social interaction. In fact, it has probably been my worse social experience in games. Why? When you give someone a lot of creative power in the game world, sometimes they don’t use that power the right way.minecraft characters

For example, a term that is often brought up when talking about Minecraft multiplayer is ”griefing.” Griefing is the act of destroying someone else’s creations in the game world. This happens a lot, an annoying amount of times. The game puts people on different servers, where they can collaborate with other players, or go solo, in creating whatever creations they want to make. It’s almost like single player, except there are other people besides creepers that roam the world.

This leads to people coming on to a server with the sole mission to grief everything in sight. I would often get into a multiplayer server and get my creations destroyed by some idiot who has decided that my mansion that I built would be better burned to the ground. Sometimes this would be a couple of hours of work, being burned to the ground. The player usually gets booted from the server, but by this point it doesn’t matter. The damage has, quite literally, been done.

good minecraftYou also get the issue of skill level. When players join a server, it usually doesn’t matter what skill level they are. This is because Minecraft doesn’t really have a way of measuring a players skill. This leads to someone, who doesn’t really have to much experience with the game going into a crowded server of skilled craftsmen, building exquisite masterpieces. A lot of the times they would have a nasty attitude towards these players, usually resulting in that player being forced to leave the server.

A lot of the times that inexperienced player was me. I am not going to say that I am bad at Minecraft, I just don’t have the skill, and patience, that some of the other people on the servers have. I often found myself on a server filled with a bunch of jerks who basically tell me to get off the server because I can’t contribute anything to their work.

There is a lot of shortcomings in the multiplayer that often lead to a frustrating experience. I usually don’t play to much multiplayer, unless I am playing with friends, because of how bad and flawed it is. However, most broken things can be fixed, and there are definitely places where the multiplayer aspects of Minecraft can be improved.

First off, I am sure that the people at Mojang, the creators of Minecraft, have a way of keeping track how many times someone gets kicked off a server. I am also sure that they could figure out a way to figure out a reason why they get kicked off. It might be beneficial to them, and lots of other people if they restrict these people who go on to these servers to grief to certain servers that contain other people who grief. That way, they could have their fun on their own servers, destroying each others creations endlessly, without bothering the people who actually want to play the game the way it was intended.stop griefing

This might be hard to implement, but it is definitely doable. If someone were to be kicked off a server for griefing x amount of times, then they would be thrown into these “griefing servers”, a place away from everybody else. It might be harsh, but it is something they deserve if they want to destroy someone’s hard work.

The other fix to the problem, the problem of skill level however, may be a little harder to fix. The game, right now, has no scoring system or prestige level for the players. However, there might be a way to implement a rating system. By that, I mean that people could upload screenshots of their creations to a website, or even on the multiplayer interface itself, and then ask other players to rate those creations. If someone continually were to get a lot of good ratings, then they would have a higher “skill level”.

serversThere are wrinkles that would have to be ironed out however. Not every player will upload their creations. If this were the case, that player would only be allowed to join servers with other people that have not uploaded their creations. These servers would basically be considered “neutral ground”. There would then be servers for the different skill levels of players. Players with high ratings on their creations would get into prestigious servers while players with lower ratings can go into their servers to harness their skills and get better. This is just one way to fix the problem, even though it may be a little tough to work it out.

Minecraft multiplayer is flawed in a lot of respects, but there is definitely improvements that can be made, and they are not to hard to implement. If Mojang can take further steps into creating a better social experience for their game, it could bring a lot of people back to multiplayer.