Tag Archives: Post-Apocalyptic

Review: Horizon: Zero Dawn

horizon cover
via Amazon

Horizon: Zero Dawn (2017)

PS4 / Rated T

RPG / Action / Adventure

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Developer: Guerrilla Games


In the months leading up to Horizon: Zero Dawn’s release I thought it was just a unique third-person action game starring a very capable female machine hunter named Aloy roaming around a seemingly post-apocalyptic open world full of tribal inhabitants and bad-ass looking robotic dinosaurs…or whatever you want to call them.  It just looked like a cool third-person action game and I did not think twice about it.  It was an anticipated title of mine but I did not think it was going to blow me away like it did.  Like damn…this Guerrilla’s first foray into this genre of games really impressed me on almost every front.

horizon 1
via US Gamer

Aloy’s tale begins during her days as an outsider, living off the land with her father Rost.  The two having been together for the better part of her formative years, until the day Aloy decides to put her skills to the test by participating in the trials, with the goal of joining the tribe that shunned her and her father years ago.  After a successful day at the trials (among other things that I will not spoil) she becomes a member of the tribe and soon begins to learn secrets about who she really is, and the deeper mystery that blankets the world of Horizon.  It is the looming mystery of this semi-familiar post-apocalyptic world that acted as the driving force that kept me playing through the game.  The game’s scope starts off small but as you begin to meet new characters and venture farther into the world, things start to open up and things get crazier as you begin to learn about the machines, why they exist, along with a host of other mysteries.  There are a lot of crazy ideas and concepts boiling under the game’s surface…more than you would initially imagine.

The best part of it all?  These crazy plot points that you encounter later in the game are extremely satisfying.  Any writer can throw together some hogwash that connects the dots and explains why things exist the way they do, but Horizon’s writers give some satisfying answers that are actually plausible…all things considering.  It is a fantastic bit of science fiction that comes to an end in a pleasing way.  I would be fine with the story ending the way it did, but I would be open to another iteration in the series, in whatever form that would take.  The game has done very well for Sony at this point, so I would not be surprised to see a sequel in the future.

horizon 2
via Forbes

Now let’s talk about powerful and capable protagonists.  Aloy serves as the backbone for the entire story.  If there was no Aloy…the game’s story would only amount to a withering skeleton.  I was infatuated with her character, as she was tough but also smart.  Over the course of the game she unravels a whole bunch of eye-opening revelations that would make the average person nauseous.  The way in which Aloy interprets what she sees is what makes her character so fascinating.  She is a very well-written character that deserves utmost praise.  The rest of the game’s cast were also strong.  I was most intrigued by the game’s various social structures that they present to the player.  Maybe it was just me, but the ratio of women to men leaders far favored the women.  In fact, this is probably one of the most diverse games I have ever played in terms of its various characters.  That is not necessarily a selling point for me, but it is certainly a breath of fresh air from some of the other games out there.

Perhaps the game’s biggest draws at a surface level is its combat, specifically versus the hordes of deadly machines that you will come across in the world.  You fight a fair share of human enemies while overtaking bandit camps and other locations, but the lion share of combat involves those dope machines that you have seen from the trailers.  What makes these machines unique are the various components and weak points on their bodies.  It is a fool’s errand to rush into a fight, spraying and praying with your bow-and-arrow.  Each machine has a strategy that works best for taking them down.  Using Aloy’s focus ability, which is a scanner attached to her ear, you can analyze the machines and plan the most viable fight strategy.  Perhaps tripping a machine with a tripwire and then sending a barrage of arrows in its direction towards its weak point is the way to go.  Shooting a machine’s cannon of its back might be a better approach.  Nothing is more satisfying than giving a machine a dose of its own medicine.  There are many different strategies you can take, which is a sign of engaging gameplay.  I love these types of games where tactics are just as important as the weapons you bring into battle.  You can have the best weapons in the game, but could have your ass royally handed to you on a platter by one of the Behemoths if you do not know what you are doing.  Another aspect I adored about the game’s combat is its sense of scale.  The machines you fight in the beginning are small and manageable, but as you discover new monsters they begin to get bigger and more terrifying.  It makes taking them out on your own that much more rewarding.

horizon 3
via Imgur

Horizon’s world is chock full of collectibles and side quests for Aloy to partake in.  However, this leads me to one of my minor gripes with the game, and that is its side quests.  I was never bored during my time with the game’s side quests, but a good bit of them fell short in the writing department.  Some quests are just your basic “go kill x number of x machines,” while some are a little more substantive and provide some interesting stories.  Unfortunately, a lot of these quests just fall a teeny bit short of greatness.  There was one quest in, for example, involving a father and his estranged daughter.  It starts off as a simple “find my daughter” quest, but then it evolves into something a little more distressing.  The game’s writers had something great on their hands, but did not do anything with it.  They set up a remarkable story, but then proceeded to swing and miss on its execution.  There were several ways the quest could have gone down, some more impactful and darker than the others, but the game’s writers took the easy way out wrapped the quest up prematurely.  This is just one single (and vague for fear of spoilers) example of some side quests that did not quite hit the mark.  This small shortcoming is what sets this game apart from games like the Witcher 3 and the Fallout series, where the side quest writing is stronger.

To no surprise, the game looks very beautiful.  I mean, they did not put a photo mode into the game for decoration.  There are a lot of different environments that you will explore, ranging from dense forests to arid desert plains.  Each of them look stunning at various times of the day.  I often found myself marveling at the incredible vistas that were a commonplace.  The character models looked just as beautiful, but I found that there seemed to be some technical issues during scenes of dialog.  There were some prominent lip-synching issues that were hard to not notice and the character animations during some of these scenes looked too robotic.  There were times were their upper-body movement did not seem natural and at times it felt like I was watching two animatronics at a Disney Theme Park.  Fortunately, aside from these issues, Horizon looks remarkable.

horizon 4
via iDigital Times

All my expectations for Horizon: Zero Dawn were met and sometimes even exceeded.  It is one of those games where I will instantly recommend it to you if you own a PS4.  If you own a PS4 and have not played Horizon yet…I do not know what you are even doing with your life.  I do not think the game unseats Uncharted 4 as my favorite PS4 exclusive, but it sure does give Naughty Dog’s masterpiece a run for its money.  Bravo to Guerilla Games for delivering an absolute barnburner of a game.

horizon score

Advertisements

Fallout 4: Far Harbor Impressions

Because of the nature of the article, spoilers might be littered throughout.  If you haven’t gone through the DLC already, proceed with caution.

Here it is, the Fallout 4 add-on we have all been waiting for is finally here.  The two previous pieces of extra content, Automatron and Wasteland Workshop largely centered around the main game’s workshop component.  While this necessarily isn’t a bad thing, their certainly a far cry from Bethesda’s normal post-launch content rollouts.  The two pieces of DLC had some cool stuff, but they pale in size to Bethesda’s normal expansion content.  The latest piece of DLC, Far Harbor, is the first piece of major story DLC that adds a substantial questline, Bethesda’s largest landmass for a DLC, new characters, and new enemies.  Like I said before, this is the DLC that most fans have been anticipating since it was first announced, alongside Automatron and Wasteland Workshop.  Now that it’s out, I have spent some quality time with the new content and I have some thoughts…some positive and some negative.

far harbor 1.png
via Find My Soft

Your adventure begins when a new case gets sent into the Valentine Detective Agency.  It involves a young woman who has run away from home, leaving her parents in distress.  It’s up to you and Nick Valentine (a companion I highly recommend bringing along with you for the adventure) to get to the bottom of her disappearance and the reasoning behind her wanting to leave home.  Upon arriving at her coastal home, clues lead to her whereabouts in Far Harbor, a deadly island in Maine that’s enveloped with the Fog, a radioactive nightmare.  This thus kicks off your boat ride to Far Harbor, where you discover a deeper conflict, much bigger than the case of Kasumi Nakano, the girl you are tasked with finding.

There’s three main factions that call Far Harbor their home, the harbor men and woman of Far Harbor, the synth colony of Acadia, and the Children of Atom.  Upon setting foot on the island, it doesn’t take long to grasp the amount of tension brewing between the three groups.  There all at a standoff, and it’s up to you to bring peace or to cause chaos.  There’s a variety of different endings that result from your actions.  If you play your cards right, you can leave far harbor with all three factions living in a sort of harmony.  You can also leave with all three factions destroyed.  Let’s just say that it’s insanely easy to mess things up if you’re not careful…which is where I found myself upon Far Harbor’s ending.

far harbor 2
via Attack of the Fanboy

When you give a visit to Acadia, you meet the synth named DiMA, the weird-looking synth that you probably saw from the trailer.  He seems like a nice, peaceful synth who doesn’t want to cause trouble, but you soon learn that there’s a darker secret he’s keeping from you.  Upon unearthing some of his dirty deeds, I demanded that he travel to Far Harbor and fess up to his deeds.  During my play-through of Fallout 4, I was a big advocate for the truth.  I didn’t like to lie if I didn’t have to.  I thought having DiMA be honest with the citizens of Far Harbor would be the right thing to do.  Unfortunately, this is where I was sadly mistaken.  The harbor men carried out the justice that needed to be done for DiMA’s doings, but despite my pleadings, they also found Acadia, and all the innocent Synths (including Kasumi) within, guilty as well.  Before I knew it, DiMA and Acadia were brutally murdered and wiped from existence…all because I thought the truth was the way to go.  One of the island’s main factions was destroyed, and I was only two hours into the DLC.  What have I done?

This bothered me.  After kissing up to the different factions, I made the decision that I wanted Far Harbor and Acadia to survive to the end, while the Children of Atom could be destroyed.  I understood that there were some innocent souls in the Children of Atom, but they seemed like the bad guys with the bad intentions of wiping everyone off the island.  In my eyes, they had to go.  But here I was, two hours in, and Acadia was killed right before my eyes.  I then had to carry out my mission of destroying the Children of Atom, which left the citizens of Far Harbor the sole survivors on the island.  This isn’t necessarily a “bad ending,” but it felt pretty depressing.  Especially since when all was said and done, I had to travel back to the Commonwealth and break the news to Kasumi’s parents that their daughter was brutally murdered in cold blood because of one synth’s actions.  At least that’s what I told them.  How was I supposed to tell them that it was my actions that killed their daughter?  In my pursuit of honesty and truth for Far Harbor, I ended up telling a lie in the end.  It’s this kind of irony that sucks…  In the words of Nick Valentine, “case closed.”  It wasn’t the way I wanted things to turn out, but the truth was indeed found and Kasumi was brought home…in a body bag, unfortunately.  Just another cruel day in the wasteland.

far harbor 3
via 4Players

As a result of my choices, Far Harbor was sort of a bummer for me.  There’s nothing wrong with the story, in fact, Bethesda did a fantastic job with the story.  There’s a lot of great and interesting ways in which you can resolve the island’s issues…it’s just unfortunate that my way, which in my eyes was the right way, turned bad…pretty quickly.  Sure, I could load up an old save and replay the events to work more in my favor…but that’s just not my style.  I live with the decisions that I make and move on…it’s what makes these games so great.

Despite the story’s strength’s I did have some issues with some of the smaller aspects of the story.  For instance, DiMA’s monologue about synths and their identity didn’t really hit home like it probably should have.  At one point she even poses the question, “are you a synth?”  It made me step back and think…but then I realized the holes in DiMA’s thinking.  The player was clearly alive before the bombs fell, a time in which synths weren’t even in the picture.  You then black out in cryo-sleep in the vault, waking up years later, but c’mon, does the game really expect me to believe that in that time the player was switched out with the body of a synth?  I don’t think so.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s an inherently interesting idea, but it’s also half-baked, especially considering the fact that it was never once mentioned again for the rest of the story.  A thought cast into the wind.  There’s also issue with the game’s ending.  After destroying the Children of Atom by setting off a nuclear bomb in their facility, the DLC was essentially brought to a close.  I “cleansed the land.”  After traveling back to Far Harbor, where I expected to get greeted with fanfare, I was instead met with silence and…well, nothing.  Everybody was carrying out their own business, with not a care in the world to talk to me.

far harbor 4.png
via PS4 Daily

Umm…guys, did no one notice the gigantic nuclear explosion to the west?  No?  What about the whole, “Let’s destroy the Children of Atom!” thing?  Yeah…I did that!  I took them out, just like you wanted.  Does no one care?  Hello?  Oh god…someone talk to me so I don’t go crazy…

Okay, maybe it was a bug or an issue with the game, but it still dampened the experience.  I was expecting the bow to be tied on the story…but instead I was left to my own devices.  There was no closure.  Just a “quest completed” notification.  I didn’t let this get to me too much, but I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed…even if it was just a bug.  I also understand that I might be in the small minority that was bothered by this.  That doesn’t make it right though.

But enough of this negativity, huh?  Let’s talk about where this add-on really shines and that is with its locales and its enemies.  The island of Far Harbor is by far the biggest landmass Bethesda has ever created for a DLC.  To give you an idea of how big it is, I’d say it is probably around a fourth of the size of the Commonwealth.  The environment hearkens back to another piece of Fallout DLC, which was Point Lookout.  There’s a lot of coastal locations mixed with swampy bogs as you make your way towards the mainland.  Although some areas seem to be recycled from some of the main game’s locations, like the bowling alley, there is still a good bit of variety in the island’s landmarks.  Probably one of the coolest places for players to explore is Vault 118, a full-size vault hidden away under a cliffside resort.  It marks the first time Bethesda has put a full-scale vault inside one of its expansions.  It’s also home to a quest which might be one of the best parts of Far Harbor.

far harbor 5
via Imgur

Then there’s the creatures that roam the island.  Far Harbor is no walk in the park.  It’s a hostile place with a bunch of new monsters that want to have you for dinner.  Some of the new enemy types are rehashed versions of Mirelurks and Ghouls, while others are completely new, including Anglers and Gulpers.  There’s also some larger enemies that will mess your day up if you’re not careful.  There’s a hermit crab that uses the back of a bus as its shell.  It’s as terrifying as it sounds and it made for a pretty lengthy encounter.  That’s just a sampling of some of the enemies that you will encounter during your travels.  Want to know a pro-tip?  Maybe pack some Radaway before you leave for the island, because you will surely need it.

Far Harbor left me conflicted in the end, but I still can’t deny that I had a lot of fun with Bethesda’s first major expansion pack for Fallout 4.  The story is engaging and the characters that you will meet along the way are just as great.  You will even get a new companion, who’s old but still a bad-ass.  There’s plenty of places to explore and things to do, with around ten to twelve hours of content to tackle.  It’s without a question that this is the best piece of DLC that the game has to offer right now and it makes me excited for what’s to come in the next three add-ons.  Just promise me Bethesda that you leave the workshop expansions at home…please.  We need three more add-ons like Far Harbor.

far harbor 6.png
via Find My Soft

Fallout 4 Automatron: Robots, Robots, and More Robots

fallout 4 automatron coverFallout 4 might have been released last November, but the game is far from being drained out.  New content is on the way, starting with the latest piece of DLC for Bethesda’s post-apocalyptic RPG, Automatron.  The add-on is small when you compare it to the DLC that was released for Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas, but there is a substantial bit of content that adds some pretty cool features to the base game.

fallout 4 automatron 1
via 3D Juegos

Robots get the spotlight in Automatron.  The DLC is all about robots.  During the add-on’s first moments, you stumble upon a fight in progress between a caravan of wasteland survivors and a band of rogue robots.  You lend your fighting skills to the battle, but ultimately can’t do anything to save the caravan.  You defeat the robots, but the only survivor from the battle is a robot companion named Ada.  She informs you that the rogue robots are a product of the mysterious figure known as the Mechanist.  The Mechanist has been developing a high number of heavily armed robots and setting them free across the Commonwealth to help the people they come across.  Misinterpretation can be deadly however, as the robots take it upon themselves to “kill” the people of the Commonwealth, instead of “help.”

With your newfound robot companion Ada at your side, it becomes your mission to investigate who this mysterious Mechanist is and why he is doing what he is doing.  The new DLC contains a short little quest line, consisting of four new missions.  The quest line is short, requiring only about two-three hours of your time.  The story is short, but sweet and tells an interesting story that wraps up pretty nicely.  It’s nothing mind-blowing, but it will keep you entertained.  It will give you a chance to revisit some existing locations as well as some new areas, including a new RobCo facility full of deadly robots that want your blood.

fallout 4 automatron 2
via PS4 France

The quests and storyline that that DLC provides are nice, but let’s get into the aspect that everybody comes for; the robot building.  Yep, the DLC gives you the ability to modify Ada or construct your own robot.  As you make your way through the DLC, you will pick up various robot parts that you can use to customize your own robot.  You can modify things like armor, weapons, special abilities, and the paint job of your robot.  There’s a lot of customization tools at your disposal, giving players the ability to make some intense looking robots.  The customization and modding pretty much works just like the base games’ weapon and armor customization, so familiar players should feel right at home.  There’s not too much you can do in terms of paint jobs, which is a little unfortunate.  Players have the ability to give their Power Armor some pretty neat paint jobs, so I was hoping it was going to be the same for the robots.  Base colors make up the only paint jobs you can give your robot…which is a small bummer.

During my play-through I only modified Ada, so I can’t speak too much for what it’s like to create your own robots.  However, it was a lot of fun and had enough tools to let you be creative in the type of robot you want to make.  You can develop Sentry Bots, Mr. Handy Robots, Assaultrons, and other robots similar to what you can find in the world.  Speaking of robot enemies, there’s a plethora of new robot enemies that you’ll encounter in Automatron.  They range from simple junk bots to massive, and slightly terrifying, Sentry Bots with skulls for faces. These new robots will prove tough to fight and there were a number of battles were getting overwhelmed was pretty easy.  The game sets the level requirement to 15, which makes sense.  Any level one player will get mowed down in seconds.  The robots aren’t too tough, but they will put up a fight unlike some of the other enemies from the base game.

fallout 4 automatron 3
via Softpedia

A mark of a good DLC is if it enriches existing content in addition to providing something new.  New stuff is always nice, but if the DLC doesn’t give you a reason to go back to the base game, then what’s the point of making it an add-on?  Automatron gives players a whole new set of customization tools that give the incentive for you to go back through the wasteland to collect materials for your new robots.  I was a little lukewarm at first when the first two Fallout 4 add-ons were small little experiences, but Automatron proved its worth pretty quickly.  The pack’s price, $9.99 (the price if you didn’t pick up the Season Pass), is worth it if you are hesitant on picking up the, now more expensive, Season Pass.

Review: Fallout 4

fallout 4 cover
via Giant Bomb

Fallout 4 (2015)

PS4 / Rated M

RPG / Shooter

Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

Developer: Bethesda Game Studios


It’s been almost seven years since Fallout 3, one of my favorite games of all time, was released by Bethesda.  The game included massive amounts of exploration in a rich world with stories and adventures around almost every single corner.  It was impossible not to get lost in the Capitol Wasteland.  The novelty of seeing familiar historic landmarks with a post-apocalyptic lather over them was also unique, especially for an RPG of Fallout’s size.  It was only this past summer when Fallout 4 was introduced to the masses and it took gaming fandom by storm.  It’s pretty rare these days to have a game announced the same year that it comes out.  Excitement and speculation were everywhere leading up to last month’s release.  However, what’s the one downside of massive amounts of hype?  Overhype.  Luckily, Fallout 4 met most of its expectations and delivered one of the year’s best experiences in gaming.

fallout 4 1
via Inquisitr

One of the most unique and different aspects of this iteration in the series is the game’s introductory sequence.  In past Fallout games, you only saw what life before the war was like through billboards or posters that could be found around the wasteland.  In Fallout 4, you finally get a glimpse into what life looked like before the bombs dropped.  You play as a married military veteran (man or woman) with a kid named Shaun.  It’s just a normal day in Sanctuary Hills when things start to go south really quickly.  Your personal Mr. Handy, Codsworth, alerts you to the television where news of nuclear fallout starts to rear its head.  It’s then a full on sprint with your newborn child in hand to nearby Vault 111 where you will wait out the Great War.  Unfortunately, things are not so happy and cozy in the vault, as you emerge from the vault 200 years later as the sole survivor.  I’m not going to sit here and spoil what goes on in the vault, but it’s pretty easy to draw conclusions.

After you gain the knowledge that your child Shaun was taken from the vault, your mission to find your son begins as you take your first steps out of the vault into the harsh wasteland, courtesy of a couple of nuclear bombs.  (Sound familiar to the plot of Fallout 3?  Well, just switch out “your son” with “your father” and bam, you have the same exact plot.)  As you explore the wasteland, you’ll find settlements and factions that will help you with your quest to find your son.  There are four factions in the game, including the Minutemen, the Railroad, the Brotherhood of Steel (which should be familiar to anyone who has played Fallout), and the mysterious Institute.  Each have their own motivations and enemies and it’s up to you to decide which faction you want to carry on with to the end.  This promises four different endings, with minimal differences between them, aside from the Institute ending.  The story is not the strongest aspect of the game, but’s its serviceable and it acts as a device to get you exploring the world, which is in my opinion the best part of any Fallout game.

fallout 4 2

Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are the home of Fallout 4.  Its immediately apparent that the nuclear bombs did not do a number on the city like they did Washington D.C.  Boston still lays in ruin, but the scenery is much more colorful and there’s an abundance of buildings that are largely intact, including some tall skyscrapers.  For one, it makes the world a lot more enjoyable to explore.  The boring drab atmosphere of Fallout 3 got old after a while, but Fallout 4 changes it up a bunch with locations ranging from metropolitan sprawls to swampy marshes to coastal beaches to rural farmland to suburban neighborhoods.  The map is also massive with tons of locations and points of interest.  The best part?  None of it seemed to be filler.  Almost every nook and cranny had a story to tell.  Bethesda has managed to create a living and breathing world where NPC’s do their own thing and random events happen all around you.  My story exploring Boston will most likely be totally different from another player’s experience, which is a good indication that you have done something right.

Fallout 4’s gameplay and combat mechanics have also gotten a massive overhaul.  Combat is actually more fun this time around.  In previous games you had to rely on V.A.T.S. (Vault Assisted Targeting System) to take out your enemies because aiming with your gun was a joke.  Although the game does not compare to your modern FPS, Fallout 4 manages to make it easier to aim you gun and play the game like you would a normal shooter.  A more updated, and now dynamic, V.A.T.S. system is in place (and still highly recommended), but you can use your sights again.

fallout 4 3
via Softpedia News

Dialog options have received an overhaul as well.  Gone are the days of scrolling through a menu of dialog options during a conversation.  Instead, you have four options which are paraphrases of what you are going to say.  You now have options like “Sarcasm” or “Threaten,” but without the exact words that you would utter.  This dynamic system also allows you to leave a conversation at any time you want by just walking away mid conversation.  This dynamic system seemed cool at first, but it had its troubles.  I often found it hard to determine if I was in a conversation with someone because the classic conversation camera zoom from the previous games is gone.  I often found myself walking away from characters who would then get annoyed that I was ignoring them.  It’s too bad there wasn’t an “Apologize for Being Rude” option, because I would have used that one a lot.

The level up system has also changed, giving you a chart of all the perks in the game right up front.  Depending on your initial stats that you set in the beginning of the game, you can place your points that you receive from leveling up into the different perks, ranking them up to get more advanced versions of those perks.  This allows for more customization based on the way you want to play.  Some people have been put off by this new approach, but I found it more enjoyable.  Finally, there are a lot more options for modding your weapons and armor.  Now, all the junk that you find in the world has a purpose beyond just populating the world.  You can use the junk and materials that you find to develop more advanced versions of your weapons and armor, giving you the advantage in battle.  There was a surprising amount of customization options for your guns, armor, and power suit.

fallout 4 4
via US Gamer

This leads me to one of the craziest parts of the game which is settlement building.  Fallout 4 gives you the tools to create your own settlements from the ground up using all of the junk that you find throughout the world.  You construct buildings with beds and then defenses and power.  You also have to make sure you provide your settlers with water and crops as well, keeping them happy.  The mechanics can get pretty deep, especially when you start talking about trading between your settlements.  You can create trade lines between your settlements, which in turn give you more supplies and resources.  Although some of the mechanics and systems are a little janky and hard to use, I spent way more time then I originally imagined I would in this mode.  There’s no real point to creating big settlements, but it was still fun anyway.  It’s something that you can show off to your friends.

My only real complaint with Fallout 4 are the bugs and jank that are scattered throughout the game.  It’s hard to fault a game as large as Fallout for technical glitches and hiccups, but it’s still frustrating.  I imagine the QA process for a game like this is a nightmare but I still think it’s inexcusable for a game to be so buggy in this day and age.  Look at a game like The Witcher 3.  That game rivals Fallout 4 in size and scope and still manages to look better and run better as well.  It leaves Bethesda with no excuse for why their game is technically less superior.  Fortunately for them, the game’s other aspects more than make up for these problems.  However, future Fallout games need to clean up their act.

fallout 4 5

I have put a borderline unhealthy amount of hours into Fallout 4 because the game basically combines the best parts of the previous Fallout games with more updated and modern mechanics.  Anyone who has played the previous games will feel right at home while new players will find the game to be a nice springboard into the rich and engrossing world that Fallout 4 has to offer.  In a year that has been full of great games, Fallout 4 caps off the year just like a bottle cap on an ice cold Nuka Cola.  Okay, that was a bad Fallout joke…

fallout 4 score

Also available on PC and Xbox One

The Terrifying Nightmare that is Dismaland

via U Funk
via U Funk

I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that Banksy has created a dystopian version of Disneyland.  Over the years, the English graffiti artists and political activist has given his fair share of political and social commentary in the form of satirical street art and other eye-opening exhibitions.  However, this time Banksy might have outdone himself.

via TMZ
via TMZ

Dismaland is Banksy’s newest exhibition, set in the confines of an old seaside resort in Weston-super-Mare, UK.  Don’t let the famous lettering of the park’s entrance gate fool you, Dismaland is not as happy as your favorite mouse’s theme park.  The exhibition, which not only features some of Banksy’s art but 50 other artists’ including Damien Hirst and Caitlin Cherry, is running for five weeks, starting tomorrow.  It features a bunch of familiar themes from Banksy’s past works including anti-consumerism and anti-corporate messages.  The place looks like a product of Walt Disney’s nightmares.

No seriously, somewhere Walt is turning in his grave.  Just look at the place…

via Design Boom
via Design Boom

dismaland 3

via Cool Material
via Cool Material

Looks fun doesn’t it?  Yeah I didn’t think so.  The park features everything from Cinderella’s castle, which has seen better days, to a mangled looking Ferris Wheel.  There’s also a bunch of other little attractions like a creepy little sandbox for the younger crowd and a midway full of your favorite fairground games, although they will most likely be impossible to win, because it’s Dismaland.  There’s also statues galore featuring the artwork of a multitude of different artists.

via Western Daily Press
via Western Daily Press

Other notable attractions include a Stallion built from used scaffolding, a cinema displaying a wide range of various short films, a circus tent full of Gothic sculptures, an odd statue of two tankers called the “Big Rig Jig,” and various other scary looking atrocities that you would find at a post-apocalyptic amusement park.  Surprisingly, there is no mouse to be found within the dark walls.

via Colossal
via Colossal

In order to gain entry to the park, you have to go through some weird NSA style screenings, which proves to be a hassle.  You then quickly get lost in the park’s undeniable allure and dark fantasies.  You get so lost that its almost hard to find an exit to leave.  Don’t bother asking any of the parks disgruntled employees, because they won’t provide much help at all.  They don’t even look they want to be there.  Dismaland is a weird place with a shock value that get’s its bleak message across with ferocity.

dismaland 6

Perhaps what makes this place more interesting is the blanket of secrecy that was cast over it as Banksy and other artists were hard at work developing the nightmarish park.  The place was walled up for a long time with no access granted to any press or the public.  The location was toted as being a filming location for a new movie titled “Gray Fox.”  It was convincing, but the mystery drove fans to new heights in anticipation.

via Cool Material
via Cool Material

Dismaland is a fascinating creation that has a lot of bold things to say about not only Disney, but the culture of theme parks and consumerism.  I guess it’s only fitting that such a place is going to have performances from Pussy Riot and Massive Attack.  Dismaland is probably not the place you would want to take your kids on your next vacation, but it is still definitely worth checking out.  I am not super interested in art exhibitions, but this sort of exhibit is something that I would make an effort to see for myself.  I wonder if any Disney execs will be making the trip out there?   …maybe not…

via Cool Material
via Cool Material

dismaland 9

via ITV
via ITV
via Huffington Post
via Huffington Post

Review: Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture

via gamers.vg
via gamers.vg

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (2015)

PS4 / Rated M

Adventure

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Developer: The Chinese Room, SCE Santa Monica


If there is one game that PlayStation has been hyping up all summer, it has to be Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.  Like the studio’s previous game, Dear Esther, The Chinese Room has developed a game that requires no major interactions at all.  Instead, you walk around the empty and lonely streets of Shropshire, a rural town in England.  Whenever I first started seeing the game, I instantly grew interested in what the final product would turn out to be.  Unfortunately, the hype levels might have been set to high, because the game does not deliver on the amount of expectation that it was given.

via Gamers Network
via Gamers Network

It’s pretty clear that something bad happened to the residents of the quaint village but the game does not outright tell you, leaving you the player to pick up the pieces.  The game does not explicitly tell you who you are.  Your just a passive being, roaming around the remains of Shropshire collecting bits and pieces of story through radio recordings, phone messages, and little balls of light that provide visuals of conversations between some of the town’s residents.  In a recent interview, Steve Gaynor from Fullbright Games (Tacoma, Gone Home) used the perfect term to describe this form of storytelling, which is “Forensic Storytelling.”  This type of gameplay worked well for Gaynor’s Gone Home, but it did not have the same kind of effect in Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.

Gone Home follows the story of one girl walking around an empty house, picking up the pieces of the story by exploring every nook and cranny.  Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture gives you a full set of characters with their own stories, making it hard to gain an attachment to the stories put in front of you.  The game’s pace in which it feeds you story is slow to begin with and it is broken up into small pieces depending on the places that you explore.  Conversations between characters are the only form of story that the game gives you which makes it really hard to genuinely care about the characters and what was happening.

via vg247
via vg247

I have to admit, the overall story is gripping.  As you roam around the locales and listen to the conversations between the residents, you start to gather questions about the mysterious event that caused the entire population of the town to disappear.  The promise of “the big reveal” at the end kept me edging around town trying to pick up the one piece of information that would break it all open.  Unfortunately this never really happens.  There are some moments of revelation here and there, but the effect is minimal.  The ending was kind of a downer in that it really did not give me “the big reveal” that I was hoping for.

Perhaps the game’s biggest detriment is the way that it handled exploration.  Shropshire is full of homes to explore, gardens to walk through, and parks to play around in.  There is so much to look at and poke around in.  The game looks absolutely gorgeous, thanks to the power of CryEngine 3.  With the town being so large, it’s a shame that you’re walking speed is veeerrrryyyyy sloooowwwww……  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for the speed of the Tasmanian Devil, but I would have at least liked a simple run button to help with backtracking.  The game makes it a chore to go back to places farther back in the game because it would probably take you hours to get back to where you wanted to go.  It was revealed yesterday that there is indeed a “run button.”  If you hold R2, your speed becomes a little quicker after about seven seconds.  This helped a tiny bit, but it really didn’t make that much of a difference.  What was even more bizarre is that the game didn’t even tell players about the option.

via Techno Buffalo
via Techno Buffalo

Every bone in my body wishes that Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture was a better game.  I was really looking forward to the promise of the game’s eerie nature and semi-dark story, but it failed to have a profound effect on me like Gone Home did, a very similar game in nature.  The game looks absolutely stunning, which makes the game worth a play through just to experience a journey through the quaint old town of Shropshire.  (As long as you are not in a hurry, because it will take you a while)  It’s unfortunate because I thought that The Chinese Room had a pretty cool game in their hands, but the story just didn’t do it for me.  I also understand that my opinion is not of the majority, but I will stand by my opinion.  The mystery that you have to solve is interesting in nature but fails to have a lasting impact.

everybodys gone to the rapture score

Fallout 4 Welcomes You to Post-Apocalyptic Boston

Vault hunters, the wait is officially over!  Fallout 4 has been officially revealed this morning after what seemed like a long 24 hour countdown.  What greeted us at the other side of that countdown was a very good looking cinematic trailer introducing us to what looks to be Boston, along with some other things.

via Techno Buffalo
via Techno Buffalo

The trailer begins with the camera zooming out of the TV with some classic jazz playing in the background, a familiar sound to any fan of the series.  The camera than moves around what looks to be a destroyed house, fizzling in between shots of pre-apocalypse and current day.  Over a radio, we hear a man talking about Vault-Tec, but we do not hear to much as the man starts to sound more worried as the trailer goes on.  Perhaps they have a hand in what happened.  We also get to see a German Sheppard walking through the house, which makes it seem like he could be one of our trusty companions.

via Techno Buffalo
via Techno Buffalo

Things take a turn for the worse as the bomb alarms start to go off and people start to panic.  We hear the iconic, “War. War Never Changes,” as people scurry to and fro in attempt to make it to the vaults.  What we see in the trailer is a shot of Vault 111, which looks to be the vault that players will start from at the beginning of the game.  This is evidenced by a shot of a vault hunter exiting the vault after all is said and done.

via Techno Buffalo
via Techno Buffalo

What he sees is a wide expanse of war-torn wasteland, in what looks to be the Boston metropolitan area.  The fact that the game is taking place in Boston was not explicitly stated, but some shots of various landmarks as the trailer goes on reveals that the game will in fact be taking place in Boston, and possibly some surrounding areas.  Other things we see as we view some shots of the wasteland is what looks to be a futuristic looking pirate ship.  We also see a huge dreadnought looking thing fly high over the sky towards the end.  I would not be surprised if this has something to do with what Vault-Tec was working on before the war, but we do not know for sure.

via Techno Buffalo
via Techno Buffalo

Finally, the trailer ends with the dog walking up to a abandoned gas station, which holds a lot of familiar sites for Fallout fans.  We see a Nuka-Cola vending machine, along with a Vault Boy bobble head and some comic books that we have seen from previous games.  The centerpiece of the shot however is the piece of Power Armor that hangs in the middle of the garage.  The trailer ends with a Vault Hunter walking down the road, crossing path with the dog.  The hunter bends down to pet the dog, and the two venture off into the sunset.  Trailer ends.

via Techno Buffalo
via Techno Buffalo

It was everything that we were expecting from the heavily anticipated trailer.  We did not receive any information in terms of release date, but that will most surely come at their press conference on June 14th, along with a 20-30 minute demo.  However, we did find out that the game will be coming out for the PS4, Xbox One, and PC.  Pretty much expected.

via Techno Buffalo
via Techno Buffalo

The trailer obviously leads us with some questions…and a whole bunch of excitement.  I am already on board as I am sure a lot of other people are as well.  More info will be coming in the foreseeable future, but in the meantime, we have this trailer to watch over and over again…

Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

via The Reel World
via The Reel World

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

R / 120 min

Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult

Director: George Miller


There is always those scenes in a movie that involve intense car chases and long-winded action sequences that lead to people walking out of the theater saying, “yeah, that was kind of amazing.”  I mean, all you have to do is look at the Fast and Furious franchise and you will know exactly what I mean.  These action sequences are a staple of summer blockbusters and they provide what movie goers long to see.  With that being said, I am going to recommend a movie to you.  It’s called Mad Max: Fury Road and the entire movie is one big action sequence.

What’s cool about this movie, which has been in production for a while now, is that it is being directed by George Miller, the guy behind the previous Mad Max movies.  It has been a while since these movies have filled theaters, which makes it crazy that Miller decided to bring back what can almost be considered a revival to the franchise.  I have not seen any of the previous Mad Max movies, but I have only heard good things.  After all the talk about the breed of movie that Fury Road is, I decided to give the movie its due process.

via Screen Rant
via Screen Rant

The title role of Max Rockatansky is played by Tom Hardy, who most people probably know from some of Christopher Nolan’s past movies.  He is a man of little words with his actions taking the place of most of his words.  Fury Road begins with Max, broken and reflecting on his past.  He ends up getting caught up with a bunch of bandits that end up taking him to The Citadel, a place ripe with greenery and water; two hot commodities in a desert wasteland that is hot and unforgivable.

The Citadel is run by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), who has the look of a clown mixed with the body of a seventy year old.  He is a weird and scary looking fellow that has a lot of weird ways.  The movie is quick to establish this weird villain as a quirky and slightly insane character.  His prized possessions?  Perhaps his five wives who act as breeders played by Zoe Kravitz, Rosie-Huntington Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abby Lee, and Courtney Eaton.

via Movie Pilot
via Movie Pilot

However, the character that basically steals the spotlight for the movie’s entire runtime is Imperator Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron who dons a shaved head and a mechanical arm.  She’s a rough, but skilled, driver who is in charge of one of Immortan Joe’s supply runs.  Furiosa has her own plans however and uses the run as a smuggling mission to get the five wives out of The Citadel and into freedom on a quest for hope.  Thus begins the almost two hour-sand covered action scene.

Furiosa was one of my favorite characters because she turns out to be one of the movie’s biggest bad-asses.  Max ends up escaping from his captor Nux (Nicholas Hoult, who also happens to be another intriguing character), and joining forces with Furiosa, but he does not have the same flair that Furiosa brings to the table.

via Black Film
via Black Film

Fury Road is the definition of a high octane summer blockbuster, siding with thrills and explosive excitement rather than a story and fleshed out characters.  This would be a pretty big problems with most movies, but Fury Road knows what it is doing and it never tries to accomplish more than it can handle.  You know the countless explosions and flipped cars that you see during the movie? (Not to mention a pretty sweet looking flaming guitar)  Yeah, those scenes were done primarily with practical effects.  What makes this movie even more appreciable is its use of practical effects over the visual effects that dominate the medium.  I often found myself marveling at the sights and sounds, and wondering how they were able to accomplish this kind of madness in practical nature.

A movie like Fury Road is a big risk in this day and age, but George Miller pulled his vision off with his fiery spectacle of a movie.  It’s a movie that might not be for everyone given its heavy emphasis on action over story, but that is okay.  It seems like Fury Road knows its audience and gives them one hell of a concentrated dose of what its audience wants, which is flaming car upon flaming car flying through the air in a lovely orchestrated manner.  Both Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy give two great performances, while the five wives, played pretty much entirely by super models, surprisingly serve as another key addition to the movie, despite some minor flaws in character.  Fury Road is one long (literally) ride through a sand-stricken wasteland, and I liked every minute of it.  Its dumb insane fun at its finest.

fury road score

Review: The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season

via Fone Arena
via Fone Arena

The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season (2012)

PS4 / Rated M

Adventure

Publisher: Telltale Games

Developer: Telltale Games


Thanks to recent success, Telltale Games has become a household name among gaming fans.  They are now a well-oiled machine that is putting out their now famous brand of adventure games, with a focus on storytelling, at breakneck speeds.  Contrary to what you might assume, most of these games are actually pretty good.  The game that put Telltale on the map and started their second wind was their episodic adaptation of The Walking Dead.  It was a game that was highly regarded among critics and fans alike, garnering a massive following.

What made this game special for people was two things.  First, the two main characters that you follow through the story were extremely well done.  Lee Everett is a good man that has another side to him.  We first see him being hauled away to the slammer due to a mishap in his relationship.  On the way to prison, the police car runs into a zombie on the road and they are propelled into the nearby grass.  The action begins.  Lee manages to escape the site, only to stumble upon a house that seems to have another soul in hiding.  Cue the introduction of Clementine, a rather young and shy little girl that has been hiding away in her house for a while now.  Her parents are gone and she would not have survived if Lee did not stumble upon her house.

via Games N More
via Games N More

Telltale does an amazing job from the get go of making you really care about the two characters.  Lee is faced with a big challenge in helping Clementine with finding her parents, as well as survival.  Clementine should not be painted as a deadweight, but instead as a lightbulb for Lee.  Lee has some trouble coming to grips with the morality of some of the decisions that he has made in his life, and Clementine acts as a moral compass from that point forward.  The two grow quickly attached to each other just as fast as the player gets attached to them.  The scenes involving the two lead characters were by far some of the best scenes from the whole series.

The other thing that really makes the game special is Telltale’s style of adventure game that they instituted with this release.  When the game came out, gone was the format of the traditional adventure game and in with Telltale’s new format of quick time events and heavy decision making.  There is a greater emphasis on story this time around and every dialogue option that you choose in the game has an effect on how things play out, whether big or small.  They do not give you a whole lot of time to make these decisions either.  I often found myself making impulse choices and saying things I did not mean to say.  That might be frustrating to some, but it only makes complete sense.  With the world in shambles due to the zombie outbreak and its people facing immense danger every day, there are going to be a lot of impulse decisions being made.

via Pure Xbox
via Pure Xbox

Each episode of the five episode season has a set of tough decisions that you have to make, and boy do these decisions live up to their name.  Some hit you right in the face in terms of toughness, but others do not seem like they make a big difference at the time, but they end up influencing the story in ways you could not imagine.  There is a moment towards the halfway mark on the season that was tough to swallow for a lot of reasons.  I am not going to spoil anything, but anybody who has played the game should already know what I’m talking about.  What happened was out of my realm of control, and it made me feel helpless.  The game gives you a chance to react, and I acted impulsively, and maybe a little irrationally, when faced with the decision of dealing with a character.  I have never felt that kind of feeling before in a game, and it was great and infuriating at the same time.

via What Culture
via What Culture

The supporting cast of characters that you tag along with during Lee’s journey with Clementine all bring a lot to the table in terms of greatness.  The game was almost flawless in getting me to somewhat care about all the characters that it gave me.  The last two episodes of the season after things are shaken up in the middle leave players with, in my opinion, some of the weaker links when it comes to characters, which made the decisions I had to make a little easier to stomach.

Once again, I am not going to spoil anything in terms of story, but the finale takes what’s left of your heart strings and rips them out with ferocity.  The game twists and turns and plays with your emotions, leaving you tired by the end.  The final moments of the game, where it’s just Lee and Clementine together, make for some tear-worthy moments.  I am not one to cry during any form of entertainment, but I have talked to people who have.  It’s a rough portion to play through, and it wraps everything up in a hard but satisfying way.

via Giant Bomb
via Giant Bomb

The complete edition comes with the DLC that was released with the game called 400 Days.  It tells the story of a wide variety of other people in the form of short playable chapters.  I thought it was a nice little break from the main story, but given how quickly the game runs through the stories, I found it hard to get attached to these characters like I did in the main offering.  The decisions that they gave you in these chapters did not have the same effect as a result.  The special episode ended in head-scratch worthy fashion, with a confrontation that I was not expecting.  Overall, 400 Days gives players a fun little experience in the world of The Walking Dead, but it is not necessary.

The Walking Dead does a ton of great things that were sometimes tainted by some technical problems.  There was a lot of hitching and sometimes the game chugged along in terms of performance.  These are minor quibbles on a masterpiece of a game, but it’s a game that is not going to win any awards in the technical categories.  This might not be your traditional adventure game, but it was a milestone for Telltale, setting a foundation for their future in the game industry.  The Walking Dead was a game that tried a lot of new things, telling an amazing story.  If you were ever on the fence, make time to play through this gem of a game.

the walking dead s1 score

Also available on PC, Mac, PS3, PSVita, Xbox 360, iPad, iPhone

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